On Travel: Jasper, Alberta, Canada

I needed a getaway, a short escape to clear my head and refocus, when just by happenstance, my friend Jacques called and told me he was just about to complete his 3-month stint working at the Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge (JPL) in Jasper, Alberta.

Photo Taken in the Great Hall

You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I made a request of Jacques that he host me at his JPL staff accommodation for a few days. Now, Jacques and I have stayed together before, if you’re a regular to my blog, you’ll know that for a few months I lived on Big White Mountain in BC in 2020, shortly after COVID-19 hit Canada and I wasn’t able to depart on my year long adventure traveling all over South East Asia … who knew COVID would become a 24+ month pandemic?

You can read about my BC adventures in these blogs:

  • To read more about the time I explored an abandoned copper smelter you can read this blog here
  • To check out my search of the Ogopogo Monster you can click here
  • If you’re interested in driving from Big White (or Kelowna, BC) to Greenwood BC, you can read about that drive here

Being the great friend that he is, Jacques accepted my request, and I immediately hopped online looking for a good flight. I wasn’t sure I’d find one given we were fast approaching March Break in Ontario, and I ended up finding an amazing deal of $135.00 return! Yes, you heard me correctly, $135.00 return – BOOM! With the current price of petrol, I couldn’t drive to see my family up north for that.

I’ve been to the Rockies before. I’ve been to Banff, and Lake Louise and driven from Calgary, AB to Invermere, BC following the Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W to AB-93 S the views are nothing short of spectacular! Even flying over them as I headed to BC to visit my daughter and her boyfriend in 2018 was incredibly beautiful. Hiway 93 is also known as the Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful journeys on the planet. It’s rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveller. The Icefield is a 232 km stretch of double-lane highway winding along the Continental Divide through soaring rocky mountain peaks, ice fields, and vast sweeping valleys.

Getting a bit ‘technical’ the Canadian Rockies comprise both the Alberta Rockies and the B.C. Rockies. They are the Canadian segment of the North American Rocky Mountains. The Canadian Rockies are the easternmost part of the Canadian Cordillera, the collective name for the mountains of Western Canada. They form part of the American Cordillera, a continuous sequence of mountain ranges that runs all the way from Alaska to the very tip of South America. Ok, enough about that geological stuff … (although I find it super interesting).

Whistlers Mountain

Five national parks are located within the Canadian Rockies: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho. They were declared a single UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. And, Jasper … is located smack dab in the middle of Jasper National Park. It extends over 11,000 square km and is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies.

I only have a few days in Jasper. When I went to Japan and Vietnam I wrote my blogs more journal style, but when I went on other trips like to Vancouver or Churchill for instance, I documented by things I did and my thoughts on them. I’m feeling this is more of a ‘things I did type’ blog, you don’t need to know the depths of my soul searching – ha!

I booked my flight via Flight Hub; I always seem to get the best deals through them, and this trip was no exception at a whopping $135.00 return! I flew out of Pearson International Airport in Toronto and flew back into my hometown of Kitchener – bonus!

Whistlers Mountain in the Backdrop

I flew into Edmonton rather than Calgary as it was still ‘wintery’ and I didn’t know what condition the Icefields Parkway would be in, and the flight deal was better, so that was a bonus. I arrived at Edmonton International Airport at 12:55 AM. I was tired and ready to call it a night … there’s a 2-hour time difference from eastern standard time (EST) to central standard time (CST). My shuttle bus to Jasper didn’t leave until the next day at 3:00 PM, so I opted to stay at a nearby hotel on the cheap since I was just using it for sleeping purposes … and it had a super cool, retro vibe so I am going to add it to my things I did list …. here we go!


Crystal Star Inn Edmonton Airport

Crystal Star Inn is located close to the Edmonton Airport

The Crystal Star Inn is situated in Leduc. Lowest price near the airport by far. Since I paid $54.99 for the night; I had no expectations whatsoever. When I looked at the reviews, they were decent, so I went with it, it was just for 1 night to tide me over until my shuttle to Jasper the next day. The Crystal Star Inn has a 3.9/5 overall rating on Expedia.ca.

The hotel is dated and clean. My room had a retro Austin Powers kind of feel to it with the red/orange plasticky leather chairs nestled up to a black tiled outdated fireplace. The room was clean and functional.

Room was clean and functional. Dated with an Austin Powers kind of feel.

Check-in was easy and quick. Available shuttle from/to airport.

Due to COVID (still?) breakfast was brown-bagged and consisted of yogurt, a clementine, a muffin, and a juice box. Coffee was served in my room in the in-room coffee maker (my fault, I missed the breakfast pick-up time).

Wi-Fi is included, although that’s basic nowadays.

The staff was meh – the night front desk staff was helpful. The morning staffer was less helpful and deflected when our shuttle wasn’t booked as it should have been. Also, he kept talking to the gentleman that was waiting with me, as if I wasn’t even part of the conversation. Other than that, it was decent for the price.

Overall: Decent and a good price for a night before flight or shuttle elsewhere.


Sun Dog Tours

To get to Jasper from Edmonton I booked the Edmonton to Jasper Bus via Sun Dog Connector.

The Edmonton to Jasper Bus offers daily transportation between Edmonton, Edson, Hinton, and Jasper. Service is available from West Edmonton Mall and Edmonton International Airport 7 days a week. The bus cost from/to the airport to Jasper Park Lodge was $89.00 (each way).I pre-booked online via the website. They pick up at Gate 10, arrivals if you’re picking it up at the airport.

Stops from there are West Edmonton Mall, Edson, and Hinton. Bus was comfortable.

Overall: Recommend, especially if you’re not looking to make the drive and just want to enjoy the view.


Alberta Highway 16 (Edmonton to Jasper)

Commonly referred to as Highway 16, it is a major east–west highway connecting Jasper and Edmonton. It forms a portion of the Yellowhead Highway, a major interprovincial route of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1). Highway 16 spans approximately 634 kms from Alberta’s border with British Columbia in the west to its border with Saskatchewan in the east.
In good conditions, it will take just under four hours to travel the 365 kms from Edmonton to Jasper on the Yellowhead highway (AB-16). It’s a pretty dull ride until you hit Hinton, AB which is located in Yellowhead County, 81 kms NE of Jasper, that’s when the mountains come into good view. The sides of the roads are sometimes frequented by wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera/phone ready. There is a lot to see along the way as you get closer to Jasper National Park.

Edmonton to Jasper takes under 4 hours (in good conditions)

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a luxury hotel on an exemplary property with amenities for days. With impressive lakefront views of Lac Beauvert, on-site restaurants, a spa, health club and a heated outdoor pool . This spectacular lodge is located in Jasper National Park. The 700-acre year-round luxury mountain resort wraps around the shores of the pristine spring fed Lac Beauvert and Canada’s #1 Golf Resort Course.

This resort is very worth the splurge, and I did not have to splurge to take advantage of the amazing views and amenities that this luxury resort lodge has to offer. I stayed with my friend Jacques in staff quarters.

Great Hall Gastropub & Emerald Lounge

They boast that you can “enjoy a classic lodge setting with modern Canadian gastropub fare at the heart of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge”. However, one of the best things about this restaurant is the stunning views of Lac Beauvert and Whistlers Mountain.  

Great Hall at Jasper Park Lodge
Food I Ate: 

Chicken Wings | $17 – Maple Whiskey BBQ. These were good, they were full wings (i.e. wingette and the drumette). I loved the Maple Whiskey BBQ flavouring. I could have eaten another serving of these.

Crispy Mushrooms | $13 – They are served with a chipotle aïoli, it was mediocre, mediocre is being kind, they were horrible. They had no taste, the chipotle aioli that came with them also had no taste, it was bland, to the point I had to ask for hot sauce just add some flavour, they brought me a side of Frank’s Red Hot.

Crispy Mushrooms

JPL Burger | $26 – Cheddar cheese, shaved red onion, tomato, butter leaf lettuce, 1000 Island dressing, bread & butter pickles, brioche bun. Served with your choice of side.  For $26 I’m expecting something yummy and juicy and big, that you can’t wait to bite into … this burger was dry, the Caesar salad had no taste, and the onion rings were hard. Disappointing.

JPL Burger and Side Caesar Salad

Spicy Pork Noodle Bowl | $25 -Other than the wings, this was the only other good thing I enjoyed – it’s made with Roasted Pork Belly, Charred Scallions, Potato Glass Noodles, Pork Broth, Napa Cabbage, Miso Fermented Daikon. Would recommend.

Spicy Pork Noodle Bowl
Cocktails I Enjoyed

Jasper Park Lodge Lager 18oz Draught | $11 – Loved this, a light lager enjoyable any time of day or night.

JPL Lager

Maple old fashion | $18 (2 oz)  – Loved this very much. Made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Maple Syrup, Angostura & Orange Bitters.   

Maple Old Fashion

Em to Go

I’m not a big breakfast eater and when I do eat breaky, I’m not one for a big sit down meal. This day I wanted to head out on a hike around Lac Beauvert so I opted for a bite to go at Em to Go, which is conveniently situated in the Great Hall.

At the suggestion of my barista, I opted for the Mountain Morning Sandwich | $10.00, which is Turkey and Saskatoon Berry Sausage, Apple, Smoked Cheddar, Egg, Chipotle Aioli on a Brioche Bun. Sounds delectable doesn’t it? It wasn’t! It was cold, mushy and didn’t really have a taste to it …

First bite of my Mountain Morning Sandwich

I don’t know what it is about the food in this place and why it was so hit and miss while I visited. I’m a huge foodie. I LOVE FOOD, which is why I was so disappointed about the overall food vibe here. To be perfectly honest, the staff has better meals down at The Bean … where I enjoyed some Butter Chicken and Aloo Gobi (and Tomato Soup).

Heated Pool & Sauna

I arrived in Jasper midweek, away from the rush of the prior weekend and just before the Devour! The Canadian Rockies Food Film Festival taking place over the coming weekend. Because of the timing of my arrival, I was fortunate enough to have the heated pool to myself for a full 2-hours … the pool sits against the backdrop of Canada’s Rocky Mountain paradise, and is heated to a wonderful 90º.

The pool area has a bar with a few select alcoholic beverage on offer. I chose a Grizzly Paw Gin Squeeze since we don’t have these in Ontario, they are yum!

This is a MUST DO, even if you’re not staying at the JPL, day passes are available. Didn’t bring your bathing suit? Not a problem, the hotel has ‘disposable’ bathing suits for purchase for $20, I’m wearing one in the photo below. You can wear them up to 8-9 times. This is excellent otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this spectacular opportunity.


Jasper

As a mountain town, Jasper is relaxed and unpretentious with good food and drink, as well as endless outdoor wilderness at your doorstep. Jasper is also the world’s largest dark sky preserve making for stunning star gazing. There’s an observatory at the JPL. I would describe Jasper as the far-less-touristy cousin of Banff – it attracts a different kind of traveler and has fewer amenities to offer, but is none the less massively inviting and way more my vibe!

Jasper is surrounded by Mountains

Olive Bistro & Lounge

At the recommendation of the concierge at the JPL we enjoyed dinner at the Olive Bistro and Lounge in Jasper. The Bistro features a tasty selection of plates. Inspired by the Mediterranean, there were contemporary and classic cuisine with flavors from France, Greece, Spain, and Italy … combining a Canadian Flare.

It boasts the ‘Best Happy Hour in Town’ from 4pm-5pm every Saturday & Sunday offering $6 Cocktails, Craft Beers & Wine as well as $4 Domestic Bottles!’ Wasn’t able to take advantage of that as our reservation seating was for 6:00 PM.

The Olive Bistro & Lounge Jasper

To start we enjoyed the Kefalotiri Saganaki (Oregano, Brandy, Lemon) served with naan bread which of course came flambéed table side. If you’re not familiar with saganaki it’s cast-iron fried cheese and it is salty and oh so good!

For dinner, I chose the Crispy Chicken & Brie Burger (Crispy Fried Chicken, Brie, Tomato, Pickles, Honey Dill Aioli on a Brioche Bun) served with Shoestring Fries. This would be the Canadian flare part of their menu. I loved the burger, especially because I love honey dill sauce, however, the shoestring fries did not appear to be homemade and were hard and too well done for liking.

Overall: Recommended.

Patricia Street Deli

Jacques recommended this little hidden gem of a deli while we were in Jasper. In short, I was thrilled with my wrap from Patricia Street Deli. It was absolutely delicious, and the service was top notch. The owner was a delight, and the sandwich was healthy. Good variety of wraps and sandwiches made with freshly baked bread.

Located at: 610 Patricia St, Jasper AB

I Chose a Black Forrest Ham Sandwich

Overall: Recommended. Excellent sandwiches made by friendly, helpful staff! A bit pricey for the size of the sandwich at $13.75/ea.


Maligne Canyon

This is one of Jasper’s most popular and impressive winter adventures. I booked through Sundog Tours (same company that has the Jasper/Edmonton Shuttle service). Our guide assisted us in getting to the bottom of the Maligne Canyon, the deepest accessible canyon in Jasper National Park, where we had the opportunity to explore frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and incredible ice formations.

Maligne Canyon Icewalk

The Icewalk covers approximately 3.5 kms and is mostly downhill.  We started at the Fifth Bridge, which offers fairly easy access to Maligne Canyon.  In the winter the thundering waterfalls are transformed into sculptures of ice. The hike along Maligne Canyon’s upper rim, crosses bridges that allow access to many spectacular view points. The views of ice sculptures and frozen waterfalls cascading deep into the Canyon.

At the bottom of Maligne Canyon

The waterfall that runs through the canyon only flows from May to December. Come winter, most water in the canyon drains away and/or freezes. And that means the canyon boasts some terrific natural ice sculptures in winter. Its steep walls of giant frozen waterfalls create terrific sights!

The water that courses through Maligne Canyon isn’t just beautiful — it also has a secret. Our guide explained that before arriving through the canyon’s many springs, much of the water has travelled via an underground cave system all the way from Medicine Lake, located 14 km away. By using red dye, scientists discovered that the journey took 12 to 24 hours in the summer and 5 to 9 days in the winter.


And with that my 3 days in Jasper came to a quick end … I really loved Jasper and the JPL, the only thing I was not fussy on was the food. Maybe it was the Chef working? Maybe if I went back again my food experience would be different? Who knows. Either way, I’m already planning my return Jasper, this time in the Summer – lots of hiking I want to do and things I want to be able to experience in the warmer months.

Have you ever been to Jasper? If so, let me know what your top things to do are.

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