This week’s dream: Going all the way in the Canadian Rockies
So many people who visit Jasper, Alberta, do it all wrong, said Alan Solomon in the Chicago Tribune. “Everyone, once they get out here, seems to love it.” But most vacationers with a hankering to experience the Canadian Rockies spend all or most of their time in better-known Banff National Park, lured by its relative proximity to civilization. Granted, “there’s nothing wrong with Banff”: The scenery is beautiful and the town loaded with great shopping and dining. But as the manager of the Jasper SkyTram told me, people who visit Banff and then make the 180-mile drive always seem to regret they hadn’t scheduled more time farther north, in a setting that’s even more awe-inspiring. “They get up to Jasper, and they just realize, ‘[Mild curse word]!’” Sure, the guy who runs SkyTram has a dog in this fight. “But he’s right: mild curse word.”
About those 180 miles: The fact that 144 of them are on the mountain-lined Icefields Parkway is “a good news/bad news proposition.” The good news is the scenery—and so is the bad news, because you may want to stop so often that the drive could take most of a day. You’ll surely want to stop 65 miles south of Jasper at the magnificent Columbia Icefield, the mother of eight glaciers and one of the largest nonpolar ice fields in the world. Nearby, the Glacier Skywalk offers a chance to stroll out on a cantilevered pathway and gaze through the glass floor at the spectacular valley below.
Jasper National Park surrounds you at this point, so the things to see and do multiply: “mountains and waterfalls and trails and lakes and rental canoes and, of course, bears and elk and bighorn sheep.” Motorcycle tours can by booked in Jasper, and that SkyTram lifts passengers 7,500 feet up Whistlers Mountain, leaving a rewarding 600-foot climb to the summit. At Jasper Park Lodge, you can rent either a room or a cabin of your own. The town itself, fortunately, never experienced a building explosion. It’s “still mellow, relatively unrushed”—and one of the Rockies’ best-kept secrets.
At Jasper Park Lodge (fairmont.com/jasper), peak-season rooms start at $530.