Continuing forward from our last post The Canadian Rockies – Calgary, Banff National Park, we talk about some places in Banff and then move on to Jasper.
There is only one hotel in this location, The Fairmont. Developed by CPR(Canadian Pacific Railway), it is a property over 100 years old.
A person has two options for their visit to this place :
Option 1 : Stay for a night at The Fairmont and check out the lake in peace and admire it at different time frames and shades of the sky.
Option 2 : Drive to Lake Louise, spend good time here and drive back to Banff Town.
We were welcomed with a hailstorm here, that lasted for quite a while, after which it got super cold and breezy. After freshening up, we left for a walk at the lake. The Fairmont has been kind enough to prepare a trail besides the lake, that one can take to get to the other end of the lake and explore some waterfalls beyond the lake. The trail is about 2.5kms in length one way.
The water in the lake is different shades of blue, thanks to the varied depths and plants beneath, and beyond the lake are some frozen waterfalls, that are really beautiful!
This is one of those places where you can sit on a bench with a good coffee and gaze at the lake and other surroundings for hours. The lake also offers boating services to get the real experience of the lake, but this is a tricky business, especially during a cloudy day. Something about getting wet with no place to run in zero degrees isn’t too exciting for me.
The next day, The Fairmont had the most amazing breakfast buffet, one of the biggest spreads I’ve ever seen!
Jasper National Park :
- Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Jasper Town
- Pyrmaid Lake
- Patricia Lake
- Maligne Canyon
Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre
From Lake Louise, we left for Jasper Town, but only after taking a couple of pitstops in between.
The first pitstop was the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. The route being so beautiful as always, we were blessed to see a snowfall. It was really exciting to see a forest full of lush green pine trees turn white within a matter of minutes, a similar sight, just like spraying your pancakes with powdered sugar.
The weather was in a mixed mood. It was a bright sunny day, yet the temperatures were close to 6-7 degree celsius and there was snowfall at the same time.
The icefields are divided into 2 parts again:
1. The Athabasca Skywalk
2. The Colombian Icefields/The Athabasca Glaciers
One must abandon their vehicle in the parking lot, and head towards the center and board the local bus services provided. First leg, The Skywalk is a small semi circled balcony hanging on the top of a valley with glass flooring for one to see down into the valley.
Personally, this wasn’t a very rich experience for me for a few reasons. The glass flooring is scratched and worn out and one cannot get a very clear view of the depth of the valley, which really robs you off the thrill. Also, I had already been to a similar skywalk in The Grand Canyon and at the top of the Macau Tower which were newer and hence more thrilling experiences for me.
The second leg, the Icefields. Again, one must take the local bus service which takes you midway to a checkpoint from where, you board an Ice Explorer. It is an extraordinary vehicle, which has tyres of about Five and half feet height, with tractor tyre like grids. One vehicle costs nearly Rs. 8 crores. Find out more about the vehicle here.
There are 23 Ice Explorers in the world, 22 of which are used for the tourists here and the other one in the Antarctic for research purposes. The vehicle takes you to the ice field, where one can play with the ice and then get back in the same vehicle. It is about a 15 minute cycle. There’s no cell reception, so you’re off the grid completely, also, this place is about 7000 feet above sea level.
Athabasca Falls is a waterfall in Jasper National Park on the upper Athabasca River. A powerful, picturesque waterfall, Athabasca Falls is not known so much for its height of 23 metres (75 ft) as it is known for its force due to the large quantity of water falling into the gorge, which can be substantial even on a cold morning in the fall, when river levels tend to be at their lowest.
Sunwapta Falls is a pair of waterfalls of the Sunwapta River located in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. The falls have a drop of about 18.5 metres (61 feet). Sunwapta is a Stoney language word that means “turbulent water”. The falls is most spectacular in the late spring when the spring melt is at its peak.
Jasper is a small beautiful town in itself. It has a population of about 3000-3500 people. The surplus population here simply comprises of tourists or are people on seasonal employment thanks to the surplus of tourists. Snow clad mountains all around, the sunrise and sunsets in these towns are so pretty, one cannot get enough of it.
Banff and Jasper are like those small happy and peaceful towns from animated cartoons or movies. They have their own small school, their own markets and are completely self sustained. Most of the locals here know each other, mainly because the town is so small and limited. Although the weather is like all of Canada, upto -40 celsius in January and 25-26 degrees in June.
May to August is the most ideal time for tourists here. Most roads in Canada run through forests or national parks, so its quite normal to see a foxes, cougars, deers, elks, etc.
Fun Fact : There are some specific types of flowers and other kinds of vegetation that grow specifically besides the roads, which is the food of choice for the bears right before they go into hibernation. So it is quite common to find a bear running along the road while driving.
We made stops at the Pyrmaid Lake, Patricia Lake and Maligne Canyon. It gets the name from a small island within the lake that is the shape of a pyramid. A small bridge has been made to go on to the island.
Patricia Lake is a smaller lake, again with beautiful mountains on each side and water as blue as it can be. The route to The Maligne Canyon is through a small trail. The path goes along a canyon and a couple of small waterfalls. It is a mile to the lower falls and a couple of miles to the upper falls. There are more than 4 entries and exits to this area, so one must remember their path while going back. Take the wrong path and you’d end up in the wrong parking lot, hours from where your car is parked.
There’s some rafting and boating activities in Jasper, although it is operational only during June and July, to avoid the super chilling water. The route from Jasper to Whistler is about 13-14 hours. So we ended up taking a nights stay in Kamloops.