This March, a couple of friends and I had the opportunity to visit two National Parks in Canada: Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.
Below are a few places we hiked, explored, and fell in love with.
Abraham Lake. The man-made lake is known for its crystal-like formations caused by frozen methane bubbles trapped below the surface of the lake. The drove up from the city of Banff was so scenic. We took the 93 highway, made a right on the 11 highway, and drove for an additional 30 miles until we reached Cline River. Getting to the lake required a short hike through a quiet and secluded forest. Sadly, when we were here, the water wasn’t nearly frozen enough to walk on and see the bubble (which isn’t normal for this time of year). Nevertheless, the surrounding scenery made it worth the visit!
Athabasca Falls. This was one of my favorite memories from the trip. A short 1.5-mile round trip hike, from beginning to end, Athabasca Falls hosted many viewpoints for us to stop, stare, and soak in all that Canada’s beautiful turquoise blue water had to offer. At the end of the trail, we walked along the edge of the forest and into a clearing (pictured below!) where we got to see the river up close. It was unreal.
Columbia Icefield. As we made our way up to Jasper National Park from Banff, we got to drive along the stunning Columbia Icefield. My friends and I made a quick stop to hike the Athabasca Glacier, a place where soft snow and hard ice meet to form the beauty that is pictured. I read a bit about the history of the glacier when we got home. Today, Athabasca Glacier is tremendously smaller than it was many years ago. Makes me sad to think that one day this beautiful place may be no more due to climate change.
Next, we saw a few lakes and a waterfall as we drove along…
We also saw a herd of caribous hanging out by the road. Jasper is a great place to see wildlife!
Jasper National Park is also a wonderful place to venture to if you want to catch the Northern Lights, but don’t want to travel too far up north. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s definitely a solid shot. Winter months from December to February offer the longest hours of darkness, while the months between autumn and spring are likely to offer more stable weather conditions that are often better aurora activity.
Overall, I loved spending a part of my winter week in Canada. There are fewer crowds at this time of year, offering up the perfect time for a little bit of solitude.
If you’re planning a trip to Jasper National Park, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Buy plane tickets 1.5-5.5 months before flying out if you want to save money on flights. We bought our March tickets at the end of February, on a Tuesday night, on Expedia. The total came out to $279 for a single round trip ticket (sweet deal).
- Hotel fees are a lot cheaper during the off seasons months, too.
- The town of Jasper is quite small and businesses close rather. If you’re in the mood to do any shopping or eating out, aim to go before 5pm each day. There are a couple of breweries around, but that’s about it for city life. We didn’t mind it though. It was a lovely town and we were usually too tired from our explorations to do much else.
- Renting a car? No need for an international license if you’re coming from the states.
- During the latter half of winter (around March) car chains are not required, but still good to have. We didn’t have to buy/rent any chains because the main roads were well maintained, even when it snowed the night before. Most roads leading to trailheads were closed for the season, but we were able to park nearby and walk to the trailheads. Check trails to see if they are opened on this Parks Canada Trail report.
- Park fees are as follows: Adult $9.80, Senior $8.30, Youth $4.9 Family/Group$ 19.60.
- Don’t forget to layer up! We each had on a base layer, mid layer, puffy jacket, waterproof coat, gloves, beanie, and extra socks.
- Bring sunglasses and sunscreen! Sunburns caused by the reflected snow is real.
Read about our Banff National Park adventures here.