Go Whitewater Rafting on the Athabasca River
Whitewater rafting down the Athabasca River with Maligne Adventures was our favourite tour in Jasper National Park. We booked the Class 2+ Athabasca Canyon Run with Maligne Adventures and had a blast! At first, my youngest (5) wasn’t so sure about being plummeted down rapids but he did absolutely fine. There is a minimum age of five or six years old for Class 2 whitewater rafting adventures (depending on the tour company), and it’s important that kids are comfortable with waves, big splashes and the possibility of being thrown overboard. The one tip I have is to book your family rafting adventure in the afternoon. Mornings in the Canadian Rockies tend to be cool – brrrr!
Relax in the Warm Waters of Miette Hot Springs
Miette Hot Springs is located 60 km north-east of Jasper, AB. This popular place has four pools of various temperatures: two hot and two cold. For more information about pool hours and fees visit the Miette Hot Springs website. My kids had a blast moving from pool to pool. It was quite busy when we were there (a weekday afternoon in July) but it was so nice to soak our sore muscles. There are also several hiking trails in the area, including a short hike to the old hotel ruins and natural hot springs.
Take the Jasper Sky Tram and Hike to the Peak of Whistlers Mountain
Whistlers Mountain is located about 7 km west of Jasper, AB. It’s a 6.8 km hike up the mountain which doesn’t seem too bad until you factor in the 1200 metre elevation gain! My kids, especially my youngest, aren’t quite ready for that kind of climb, but luckily the Jasper Sky Tram bring tourists to the top of the mountain (almost). There’s still a 1.2 km climb to the summit and a 200 metre gain but it’s very doable with kids. Riding the Jasper Sky Tram is a bit pricey ($112.85 for a Family Pass in 2017) but well worth it. Tickets can be purchased online, which I would recommend to avoid line-ups and waiting. Also, the weather at the top of the mountain is quite a bit cooler and can be unpredictable. We were glad to be wearing pants, sweaters and hiking boots.
Cool Off in the Misty Spray of Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls is located about 30 km south of Jasper, AB. This popular tourist stop is worth visiting early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the crowds. If that isn’t an option, it’s still worth going, even for a quick stop. We stopped by on our way out from a popular rock climbing area and it was packed. We still managed to slip through the crowds and cool off in the misty spray of the crashing waterfall.
Jump into the Refreshing Waters of Horseshoe Lake
Horseshoe Lake is a small u-shaped lake located 28 km south of Jasper, AB. This small lake is the perfect spot for cliff jumping into refreshingly cool water. If you stop by on a sunny summer afternoon expect it to be packed. If crowds aren’t your thing try going in the morning, late in the day or when the weather is cool. When we arrived, I was surprised by how busy it was but once the storm clouds rolled in everyone left and we had the place practically to ourselves.
Gaze Down into the Impressive Maligne Canyon
Maligne Canyon is located about 10 km north-east of Jasper, AB. This is a popular tourist destination, and for good reason. Maligne Canyon offers dramatic views deep canyon walls and rushing waters. Most people drive right to Maligne Canyon. However, you can hike all the way to Maligne Canyon from the sixth bridge (watch for the turn-off along Maligne Lake Road). The hike from the sixth bridge to first bridge of the Maligne Cayon Trail is about 3.5 km (or 7 km return). While Maligne Canyon itself is impressive the portion of trail from the sixth bridge to the fifth bridge was our favourite. Fewer people hike this part of the trail and there are many little brooks and streams that make this portions of the trail feel magical.
Discover the Turquoise Lakes at Valley of the Five Lakes
Valley of the Five Lake is located about 10 km south of Jasper, AB. The trailhead is located just off of Highway 93 (Icefields Parkway). There is a 1 km trail into the valley that junctions and forms a loop around the five picturesque lakes. We completed the loop hiking clockwise and took a dip into the cool clean water of the fifth lake before hiking back to the parking lot. There entire trail from the parking lot (return) is 5.7 km, but sure to wear hats and bring plenty of water if your hiking this trail on a hot day.
Enjoy Camping Life at Wapiti Campground
There are quite a few campgrounds located in Jasper National Park. One of our favourites is Wapiti Campground, located about 6 km south of Jasper. This is one of the bigger campgrounds but we like it because it has some hiking trails along the Athabasca River as well as great family-friendly biking trails that go right up into Jasper.
Step onto Athabasca Glacier and Explore the Glacier Skywalk
Brewster Travel Canada offers guided tours of popular tourist destinations in the Canadian Rockies. The tours are expensive but by purchasing tickets in advance you can save 10% off the regular rate, or 20% off if you purchase a combo package. We purchased the Jasper Explorer Combo, which included the Glacier Adventure and the Maligne Lake Cruise; however, this package is no longer available on their website.
Glacier Adventure Tour
The Glacier Adventure tour is definitely unique. It isn’t often that you have the opportunity to ride in a massive Ice Explorer and stand on a non-polar glacier!
Tour Description: The tour starts at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre which is located 105 km south of Jasper, AB. The Discovery Centre is a bustling place that reminds me of an airport, complete with cues and line-ups. From there, tour groups are ushered onto buses that drive across the highway to the all-terrain Ice Explorers. These slow-moving vehicles then take tourists down to the glacier, while an excellent guide offers tidbits of information about the surrounding vista. On the glacier, everyone has about twenty minutes to walk around and take pictures. Then it’s back on the Ice Explorer, to another bus that brings everyone to the Glacier Skywalk. The Glacier Skywalk, a quick five minute drive away, is a one kilometer interpretive stroll that takes you to a glass platform that hangs precariously over a 918 foot drop. Tourists are welcome to explore the area to their hearts content before catching a bus back to the Discovery Centre. The entire tour takes about two hours.
Now that I’ve given you the lowdown on what happens during the Glacier Adventure tour here’s are a few thoughts and tips about bringing kids. First, a quick disclaimer, I am not a huge fan of crazy touristy areas and this is one of those spots. We booked our tour first thing in the morning, which helped, but it was still busy. Now, granted, we did this tour in July which is high season for tourists. Nevertheless, this is one of those tours that’s worth bringing your kids on at least once and here are a few tips that will make it a little easier.
Tip #1: Order Tour Tickets in Advance.
Purchase tour tickets on the Brewster Travel Canada website. Not only will you save money by ordering your tickets in advance but you’ll reduce the wait time too. Double win!
Tip #2: Dress Warmly.
It’s chilly up on glaciers. If you really want to enjoy your time up there then dress warmly. Dress in shoes, pants and at the very least a warm sweater (or coat).
Tip #3: Use the Bathroom Before the Tour.
From the start of the tour (going up to the glacier) to the end (leaving the Skywalk) there are no bathrooms! So, make sure your kids use the bathroom beforehand and avoid drinking too much water on the tour. We practically ran through the Skywalk because our kids had to go.
Tip #4: Pick the “Right” Seat.
Pick a seat on the right side of the Ice Explorer (righthand side while looking to the front) on your way to the glacier and you’ll enjoy better views on the way down. When leaving, sit on the left side of the vehicle.
Tip #5: Bring a snack.
If you want to take your time on the Skywalk I would recommend bringing a little snack for the kids. Unless, of course they have to pee, then the snack won’t help much.
Tip #6: Use the Personal Audio Tour Guides.
At the beginning of Skywalk get each of your kids to grab a free personal audio tour guide. There are 60 separate audio points on those gadgets and they kept my younger kids entertained long enough for my husband and I to chat a bit.
If your child has asthma I recommend bringing their inhaler. The ride on the Ice Explorer can be dusty and can aggravate sensitive little lungs.
Take a Leisurely Boat Ride on Maligne Lake to Visit Spirit Island
The Maligne Lake Cruise is another tour offered by Brewster Travel Canada that we purchased a part of a combo package. For this tour, groups board enclosed boats that sail 14 km to Spirit Island and back again. At the destination tourists can disembark for fifteen minutes, walk along a short trail and take pictures of Spirit Island. Nobody is permitted to walk on Spirit Island.
When we travel we make a point of having some down time planned into our trip and this boat cruise was definitely relaxing. On the cruise the tour guide supplied us with many interesting facts about the area. The scenery, despite the smoky haze, was breathtaking. We only wish we could have been to have a few more minutes to admire Spirit Island. Fifteen minutes felt a bit rushed.