Rockin’ in the Rockies-Part 2: Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

We spent a fabulous week at Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, camping in the beautiful Whistlers Campground. Not as well-known as its southern cousin, Banff National Park, Jasper is less-crowded and more full of accessible wildlife than Banff. Wildlife lovers take note: Jasper at the beginning of June is a terrific place to observe grizzly bears (including cubs), black bears, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, bald eagles, osprey, and more. And we were treated to guided tours (and completely spoiled) by our friends Howard and Jacky, who knew just where to go to find the critters. So we’re organizing this blog not by days, but by critters and events (because Jasper is also a beautiful place to hike).

Our RV camped in Whistlers Campground

Grizzly Bears:
We came to Jasper for the grizzlies, and it did not disappoint. Early June is the time to view these amazing creatures as they are ravenous after coming out of hibernation. We thought we had gotten our fill of grizzlies/brown bears in Alaska, but Jasper proved that to be false. Almost every morning we would leave the campground by 6:30 a.m. to go look for these elusive mammals, and we usually found them. Then we would return to some of the same spots in the evening to look again. Here were some of the grizzlies we saw.

This guy was our most common sighting--notice the paint on the side of his head where the rangers tried to chase him from the campground.
One of our few sow and cub sightings in Jasper. Here's the mom.
And here's Mom with one cub (not a newborn this year--probably a year old).
The biggest and scariest grizzly we saw. We were a long ways away, but he was keeping an eye on us.
Bears like to eat dandelions, so we often saw them in fields of yellow.

Black Bears:
Not always black, and quite a bit smaller than grizzlies, black bears were also plentiful in Jasper. Often munching dandelions by the side of the road, these striking cousins to the grizzlies were fun to spy on, and often oblivious to the cars and people nearby.

Black bears also like dandelions.

Elk and deer were also a delight to watch in Jasper, including in our campground. We were astounded at how close the female elk would come as they munched on grass right next to our campsites.

Female elk were often in the campground.
An elk calf
Enjoying our Mexican food truck dinner in the campground with an elk eating its dinner behind us.

The male elk with antlers were less common to spot, but always eye-popping when we did.

Velvety antlers at this time of year will continue to grow and harden as the rut approaches in early fall.

Bighorn sheep:
I find these creatures fascinating. In Jasper we saw a lot of males with their curly horns. Unlike antlers, horns do not fall off each season but stay with the animal throughout its life. (We may spot some females and lambs in other parts of the Rockies yet to come.)

We did see a few other critters in Jasper…

Columbia ground squirrels were frequent campground visitors.
Black-billed magpie

Hikes and Sights:  We didn’t just drive around looking at animals in Jasper, really! We also got to do some amazing hikes. Here are some highlights:

Maligne Canyon and several bridge lookout spots: Our very first morning we headed out to explore this popular route. Stunning views of this deep, skinny canyon kept us going on this 3-mile hike.

Our first hike in Jasper--Maligne Canyon
Hank and Cindy at second bridge?
Maligne Canyon
Howard, Hank, and Jacky at fifth bridge
A totem pole in town, where we stopped for lunch after our hike.

Lake Annette: The weather continued to get better throughout the week, and this easy walk around Lake Annette gave us beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, though not as many wildflowers as we remember from our 2008 trip with Cindy’s mom and aunt (though Hank found a few).

Hank and Cindy at Lake Annette--the setting is so beautiful it looks fake!
Jacky and Howard at Lake Annette
Eastern fairy-slipper

Athabasca Falls: This was a short (busy) hike, but the falls were absolutely worth the 20-minute drive south of our campground.

Athabasca Falls

Sunwapta Falls: These falls were also inspiring to observe, and we added a rigorous short hike to Lower Sunwapta Falls to help our fitness level (all uphill on the way back).

Sunwapta Falls
At Lower Sunwapta Falls

Valley of the Five Lakes: Wow! Just wow! On a sunny day, this hike is a must-do. We did the 3-mile short version, and those lakes are absolutely gorgeous (except for Lake #2, which didn’t have much water in it right now).

Early on the hike, no lakes yet...

Maligne Lake: This lake (and the mountains that frame it) is used in a lot of classic Jasper shots, and though we had a rather cloudy day, we enjoyed a fun drive, and an easy walk along the lakeshore.

Though an overcast day, this view of Maligne Lake was still amazing!
Canadian national parks are famous for their red Adirondack chairs, these at Maligne Lake.
A 5:00 a.m. sunrise over Whistlers Campground
One of many gorgeous mountains we could see from the campground in Jasper
Another view from our campground in Jasper

We packed a lot into our six days in Jasper, and we’re already talking about coming back next year. If you love wildlife or beautiful mountain scenery, or both, you need to come to Jasper National Park!

From here we head to Jasper’s famous cousin, Banff National Park. Stay tuned…And thanks for reading.

Leilani loved Jasper too! (Danno not so much)

22 thoughts on “Rockin’ in the Rockies-Part 2: Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada”

  1. Extraordinary! I do want to go. Such an array of wildlife so accessible to campers.

    Photography is spectacular.

    • Thank you, Diane. Jasper made it easy to get good photos–you should plan a trip there. You’d love to paint those scenes, I’m sure.

  2. Hank and Cindy,

    Simply WOW! You guys capture the best of every adventure…we love your blogs to say the least !!!

    Marleen and Q

  3. Thrilling! Your photos and descriptions are most inviting. I like how you take time to see and experience and then share on here,

    • Jacky and Howard have told us that the bear viewing is not the same at the end of August. Just FYI. We would hate for you to be disappointed. But it will still be beautiful then!

  4. I am feeling homesick. I’ve been to so many of those places. What gorgeous sights and experiences. I am way overdue for a visit to Jasper. So glad you had a great visit to the Canadian Rockies. They are spectacular. Thanks for sharing.

    • We hope you can get back to Jasper in the near future, Lori. Though we were here once before, this has been a totally different experience, thanks to your amazing sister and brother-in-law!

  5. Beautiful!! We are in the midst of deciding about drive from North Cascades N.P, to Jasper or to Mt. Rainier NP. This is most convincing!

    • I think you would love Jasper, though it is a bit further away than Mt. Rainier! We only scratched the surface of all there is to do in this area.


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