The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper is an alpine wilderness. Spanning more than 11,000 square km, Jasper National park has a natural and untouched beauty. I first visited Jasper in May 2018 with my sister. We spent 3 days in Jasper exploring glaciers and canyons, canoeing on the alpine lakes, and hiking rugged backcountry trails.
Since then, I’ve been back twice and have been lucky enough to explore even more of this beautiful national park. I’ve put together this 3-day Jasper itinerary to give you a taste of what awaits in Jasper National Park.
At the end of the article you’ll find all the information you need to help you plan your own trip. This includes how to get to Jasper, where to stay, as well as practical information such as safety tips.
Please note: This post contains some affiliate links which means if you follow a link and end up making a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks in advance for supporting my blog – Steph
3 Days in Jasper Itinerary
Explore the town of Jasper and its neighbouring lakes
Take the Jasper SkyTram and relax at Lac Beauvert
Discover Maligne Lake, Spirit Island, and Maligne Canyon
THE ULTIMATE 3-DAY JASPER ITINERARY
With an abundance of alpine lakes, jagged peaks, rushing waterfalls, and local wildlife, it’s easy to see why Jasper National Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve been to Jasper three times over the past two years, both for leisure and for work, so I’ve created this guide to share my recommendations.
Whether you’re already planning a trip or are just curious to know what makes this national park so special, this Jasper itinerary will give you some ideas on how to spend 3 days in Jasper National Park.
At the end of the itinerary you’ll find a map with all of the places listed here. To save the map to “Your Places” in Google Maps, just click on the star on the right hand side of the title.
Day 1: Explore the town of Jasper and its neighbouring lakes
The rustic town of Jasper is nestled in the heart of the national park surrounded by soaring mountains. It’s less commercial than its neighbour Banff and you feel like more of a local than a tourist as you walk around the town. Take some time on your first day to stroll around the quaint streets and browse the shops, before leaving the town to explore Lake Annette and Lake Edith.
LAKE ANNETTE AND LAKE EDITH
These two lakes are located 8.1 km from the town centre. You can drive to the parking lot which sits between the two lakes in 11 minutes, or if you prefer, you can walk instead. It takes about 1 hour 40 minutes to walk to the lakes but it’s an incredibly picturesque walk through the woods and along the Athabasca River. My sister and I walked there and although it’s a long walk, it’s very peaceful walking along the river and is a lovely way to see more of Jasper National Park.
The trail is frequented by wildlife so be mindful as you walk along the river. Elk are often seen near the river banks and can be aggressive, especially in spring as they are protecting their new born calves, and also in autumn during the rut (mating) season. If you do encounter them, do not approach them, give them plenty of space, and change your path if need be. I’ve written more later in this guide and you can read more on the Parks Canada website.
Both lakes offer stunning panoramic views of the majestic snow-capped Rocky Mountains. On a still day the mountains are reflected perfectly in the turquoise water which is an incredible sight.
Pyramid Lake and Patricia Lake
In the afternoon, drive up to Pyramid Lake. Situated just 5 km from the town of Jasper, Pyramid Lake is one of many small lakes which were left behind by the retreating glaciers in the Pyramid Bench area. It’s a very picturesque lake and is a popular spot for fishing and canoeing.
If your legs aren’t too tired after this morning’s long walk, take a gentle stroll around the lakeshore trail and you’ll find the wooden foot bridge that Pyramid Lake has become famous for. The footbridge leads to a small island and has become a popular spot for photos!
Patricia Lake is located right next to Pyramid Lake so you don’t have to venture far to see another of Jasper’s pretty lakes.
If you have time during your Jasper itinerary and the weather conditions are just right, both lakes are a great place for stargazing. Jasper National Park is actually the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world at 11,000 sq. km so there are plenty of opportunities for astrophotography during your 3 days in Jasper. On a clear night, you may even be lucky enough to see the aurora borealis!
Day 2: Take the Jasper SkyTram and relax at Lac Beauvert
Start your day by riding the Jasper SkyTram up Whistlers Mountain to explore one of Jasper’s most accessible alpine environments.
Located just 7 km from the town centre, Jasper SkyTram is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada and offers easy access to some beautiful hiking trails.
The SkyTram climbs 2,263 metres in less than 10 minutes and gives you a brand new perspective of Jasper National Park. Depending on weather conditions, it usually operates from May until October when it closes for the season. Tickets cost $52 for adults and $27.50 for children aged 6 to 15 years old.
The panoramic views from the top are staggering. The Summit Trail to the peak of Whistler’s Mountain offers unobstructed 360-degree views of the alpine ranges, including Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a sight that can’t be missed during your 3 days in Jasper.
Grab some lunch at the Summit Restaurant on the second floor of the upper station before taking the SkyTram back down and heading to Lac Beauvert.
Lac Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge
Spend the afternoon relaxing at the picture-perfect Lac Beauvert which is located next to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
There is a scenic walking trail around the emerald green lake and through the wooded grounds. There are lots of viewing decks along the trail which offer a nice place to sit and soak up the rugged mountain vistas. If you have time explore some of the other trails around the resort which take you past Mildred Lake and along the Athabasca River.
No Jasper itinerary would be complete without at least one day of fun on Jasper’s crystal clear lakes. Canoeing at Lac Beauvert was a magical experience and of my favourite memories from my first trip to Jasper with my sister. You can rent kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and stand-up paddle boards from the boathouse during the summer months which is a lovely way to explore this beautiful glacier-fed lake.
Day 3: Discover Maligne Lake, Spirit Island, and Maligne Canyon
If you have 3 days in Jasper, don’t miss the chance to visit Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon, two of the most beautiful places in Jasper National Park.
Both the lake and the canyon are located down the picturesque Maligne Lake Road. The road cuts through quite a remote part of Jasper National Park so it’s a great place to spot local wildlife. Make sure you drive slowly and keep your camera nearby as it’s not uncommon to see elk, bears, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. On our Banff and Jasper road trip in October, I actually saw my first moose on Maligne Lake Road which was an amazing experience!
As Maligne Lake is situated at the end of the road, I would suggest starting there and doing Maligne Canyon on the way back.
Stretching approximately 22 km, Maligne Lake is the longest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies, and the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world. Set against a back-drop of snow-capped mountains, it’s a photographer’s paradise.
The water is too cold for swimming but you can hire canoes and kayaks from the Curly Philips boathouse and paddle on the lake’s gorgeous jade blue waters. There are also plenty of hiking trails along the lake and around the surrounding area. The easiest trail is the Mary Shaffer Loop (3.2 km) which follows the path along the lake shore and offers panoramic views of the mountain ranges.
Maligne Lake is also home to one of the most photographed spots in Jasper National Park: Spirit Island. The island is a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and is only accessible by boat. You can canoe or kayak to Spirit Island which takes 5 – 8 hours, or you can book a 90-minute Maligne Lake Cruise with Pursuit which takes you directly to Spirit Island.
Once you reach Spirit Island, you can disembark and follow the short nature trail which leads to some lovely viewpoints.
Once you’ve explored Maligne Lake, drive back down the road to Maligne Canyon and spend the afternoon walking around the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park. There is a network of self-guided interpretive trails which lead you through the canyon and explain the geological history.
It’s a beautiful trail which offers incredible views looking down into the canyon. It’s a fairly accessible trail which crosses over 6 bridges. The 6th bridge is quite a long hike and can be difficult in places. If you are looking for a gentle stroll, the first and second bridges are not too far and offer wonderful views of the canyon’s powerful waterfalls.
When I went in October, the weather was beginning to change and we even had a light dusting of snow. The canyon is impressive all year-round, but maybe even more so in winter when the water freezes, creating giant frozen waterfalls, icy caverns, and incredible ice formations.
If you have 3 days in Jasper in winter then this should definitely be on our Jasper itinerary. You can join a guided Ice Walk tour or you can explore on your own. Just make sure you have the right gear (ice cleats and a helmet) and dress appropriately as it is very cold in the canyon.
If you have time after exploring Maligne Canyon, I’d highly recommend driving to Athabasca Falls which is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies.
The falls are located 33 km from Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. This highway is one of the most scenic drives in the world and stretches 232km from Jasper to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. It passes through sweeping valleys, jagged mountain peaks, glaciers, and icefields. Depending on where you are coming from, you may end up driving the Icefields Parkway to get to Jasper. I’ve written a detailed guide about the Icefields Parkway, which includes all the best stops and attractions along the way.
When you arrive at Athabasca Falls, you can explore the interpretive trail along the boardwalks. There are lots of viewing platforms where you can witness the sheer power of the falls and get some incredible photos.
Hiking Trails in Jasper National Park
From lakeshore strolls to alpine hikes, Jasper National Park has a vast network of hiking trails. If you want to extend your Jasper itinerary and spend longer exploring the national park, here are a few hikes you may want to try:
Edith Cavell (8.5 km roundtrip)
This is a beautiful hike that takes you to a viewpoint overlooking the Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond. It continues to climb uphill over the rocky terrain through the subalpine forest before reaching the meadows. During the summer, these meadows are covered with colourful wildflowers. This trail is usually closed from October until mid-July until it dries out.
Valley of the 5 Lakes (4.5 km loop)
This trail is a nice gradual walk with minimal elevation gain. You’ll pass by five different coloured lakes, all of which are a unique shade of blue and green. On a calm day, the surrounding mountains and pine trees are reflected perfectly on the water which makes for some beautiful photos.
Wilcox Pass (9.3 km roundtrip)
This is one of the more moderate hiking trails in Jasper but it offers incredible views of the peaks and glaciers on the eastern side of the Columbia Icefield. The first kilometre is quite steep but it does level out. If you don’t fancy doing the whole trail you can just hike to the first viewpoint which is only a 2.4 km roundtrip. The area is frequented by bighorn sheep in the meadows so be alert.
JASPER ITINERARY LocationS
Here are the locations of the places listed above. You can save the map by clicking on the star next to the title so you can use it to plan your own Jasper itinerary.
3 DAYS IN JASPER: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO PLAN YOUR TRIP
How to get to Jasper
If you’re flying to Canada, the two closest international airports to Jasper are Edmonton and Calgary. You could also fly in to Vancouver but it’s further away. Edmonton and Calgary airports are still 4 to 5 hours away from Jasper so you have two options:
The easiest way to get to Jasper is to hire a car and drive. The drive from Calgary International Airport (YYC) takes just under 5 hours and takes you along the Icefields Parkway. It’s a very scenic drive and there are lots of beautiful places to stop along the way. From Edmonton International Airport (YEG), the drive is just under 4 hours.
If you’re travelling to Jasper between October and April, make sure you have winter tires and your car is prepared for the cold weather conditions.
If you are driving to Jasper, you’ll need to buy a Parks Pass which contributes to the upkeep of the parks. There are ticket booths along the highway and at the park entrance where you can purchase one so you don’t need to worry about buying it online in advance. You can find more information on the Parks Canada website.
If you would prefer to get public transport, Sundog Tours run a daily shuttle service between Edmonton International Airport and Jasper which takes just over 5 hours. They also have a service from Calgary International Airport to Jasper which passes through Banff and Lake Louise. This service runs from October to April. Brewster Express takes over from May to October.
Where to stay in Jasper
Jasper has a variety of accommodation to suit different budgets and tastes. Here are the places I’ve stayed on my last 3 trips to Jasper which I would highly recommend:
Something luxurious: Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Located on the shores of Lac Beauvert, Jasper Park Lodge promises a luxury mountain getaway. The resort is made up of cozy log cabins set over 700 acres, and is also home to an award-winning golf course and a luxurious spa. The hospitality is impeccable and the staff go out of their way to make your stay unforgettable.
Something central: Chateau Jasper
Located in the town just off Connaught Drive, Chateau Jasper is a short walk from the shops and restaurants. It’s an environmentally friendly hotel and has a modern gym, indoor pool, and a hot tub. Wifi is included and the rooms are very comfortable.
Something affordable: Maligne Lodge
Maligne Lodge is located on the outskirts of the town and is a more affordable option if you plan to spend 3 days in Jasper during the peak summer months. It has good facilities in the room and also benefits from a sauna, indoor pool, and outdoor hot tub.
Wildlife in Jasper National Park
It is very likely that you will come across wildlife during your 3 days in Jasper. Many of the places on this Jasper itinerary are in the wild so you need to take certain precautions and make sure you are fully prepared.
Jasper has a large elk population and the river banks are a popular grazing ground. Whilst they are usually harmless, May to June is the spring calving season and female elk can be aggressive as they are defending their young. Look out for any lone females and avoid them as they may be guarding a young calf hidden in the trees.
During my first time in Jasper National Park we saw 5 black bears and one grizzly bear with 3 cubs. It was an incredible experience but fortunately it was from afar. Bears can be very dangerous so use common sense and make sure you know exactly what to do if you come across a bear to that you don’t endanger the bear or yourself. Make lots of noise when hiking to alert them to your presence and always carry bear spray and make sure you know how to use it safely.
Best time to do this Jasper itinerary
Jasper is a wonderful destination all year. In the summer months (July to September), the lakes are a brilliant turquoise colour, the meadows are filled with wild flowers, and most of the hiking trails are open. It’s a popular time to visit so accommodation can be more expensive and you’ll need to book certain attractions like the Maligne Lake Cruise and Jasper SkyTram in advance to guarantee a spot. That being said, Jasper never feels as busy as Banff and you’ll still be able to enjoy the trails peacefully.
From October to April, Jasper becomes a winter wonderland. Although many of the hiking trails and attractions shut in October, there is still plenty to do. From exploring the frozen lakes and waterfalls, to cross country skiing and snow shoeing. The Icefields Parkway is open year-round; however, all services (restaurants, accommodation and the only fuel station) are closed from November to April. There is also a lot of snow clearing and maintenance on the highway which sometimes results in temporary closures.
Jasper has such a natural and rugged beauty and is one of my favourite places to explore. There is so much to see but even if you only have 3 days in Jasper, you can still cover a lot in a short space of time.
If you’re thinking of visiting Jasper as part of a longer trip around the Canadian Rockies, you may want to read my Vancouver to the Rockies itinerary which details our road trip around Yoho, Banff and Jasper National Parks. I also have a guide to Banff National Park which might help you plan your trip.
I hope you found this Jasper itinerary useful. If you have any questions about Jasper and need some help organising your trip, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!