Planning a winter vacation to Jasper? Here we have some of the best things to do in Jasper during winter.
Jasper is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alberta, Canada.
While it is enjoyable all year round, winter is when Jasper truly shines.
During winter, Jasper is transformed into a wonderland of winter activities and landscapes.
To best enjoy this time of year, we have compiled this list of the best things to do in Jasper in winter.
In a hurry?
Here is an overview of the most important things to know before visiting Jasper.
- Where to stay: Fairmont Jasper park lodge (luxury hotel), Jasper Inn & Suites ( comfortable hotel), Hi Jasper hostel ( basic hotel), Bear’s Den ( vacation home).
- Renting a car? Check out Rentalscars.com and Discover cars Edmonton and Discover Cars Calgary.
- Need insurance for your Jasper trip? Be sure to check out quotes and coverage with our recommended partner WorldNomads.
- What to pack for your Jasper winter trip: Ice cleats, fleece-lined hiking pants, or winter hiking leggings.
Best things to do in Jasper in winter
Find out what to do in Jasper in winter.
Maligne Canyon ice walk
One of the best winter activities we did while being in Jasper, was visiting the Maligne Canyon.
Maligne Canyon is a naturally carved limestone canyon that fills with roaring water during summer but freezes and becomes a unique structural display during winter.
It is a popular place for ice climbing and the ice walk through the canyon is a magical experience.
With dramatic walls of ice and steep cliffs, the ice walk is an amazing way to take in the breathtaking beauty of nature during winter.
You can visit on your own or as we did, join a guided tour.
The advantage of joining a guided tour is that you will learn more about this unique canyon and its relation with nearby Medicine lake. The guide will also point out things you otherwise miss. In addition to that, while it is perfectly OK to hike the upper trail on your own, it’s recommended to join a tour when you descend into the canyon.
Check prices and availability:
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
Ski or snowboard in Marmot basin
Marmot Basin is a ski resort located on Marmot Mountain in Jasper National Park.
With a base elevation of 1698m, it is the highest ski resort in Canada.
There are 91 ski runs on 4 different mountain faces with a range of difficulty levels available.
For those who like to take it easy, the scenery visible from the mountain looking out over Jasper national park is amazing.
For those who like it a bit faster, there is a great variety of ski run types, allowing you to try out different techniques or try snowboarding instead.
With a lack of large crowds and lines for the lifts, Marmot Basin is an ideal place to go for a day of skiing or snowboarding.
Cross country skiing
If you’re looking for something more than just skiing, how about cross-country skiing?
While it may seem similar, cross-country skiing is actually quite a different experience.
It’s a great way to explore further and really take in the surrounding scenery while enjoying a new activity.
Cross-country skiing is also great because you will find trails that are easy to enjoy regardless of skill level. Experienced skiers won’t be disappointed either as there are trails that will challenge them as well.
Snowshoeing is another fun and interesting winter activity.
There are hundreds of trails in Jasper to explore while snowshoeing.
It is a great way to see all the beautiful nature of Jasper beyond simple hiking trails.
Snowshoeing is also a very family-friendly and beginner-friendly activity, without requiring as much previous experience or as steep of a learning curve as skiing and snowboarding.
We did the Mary Shaffer Loop and Athabasca River Loop and found both to be beautiful and unique trails.
The trails were well-maintained and there is even the possibility of seeing wildlife while on the trail.
Snowshoeing is a great way to spend a fun, easy afternoon in Jasper.
Go ice skating
Ice skating is a quintessential Canadian winter activity and so is a must-do for any winter vacation in Jasper.
There are a number of frozen lakes with well-maintained rinks to go skiing in the Jasper area.
Some of these include Lake Mildred, Lake Beauvert, and the consistent favorite, Pyramid Lake.
The Pyramid Lake rink is multi-purpose, as there is a large oval for general skating in laps and an inner rectangle for ice hockey.
This clever utilizing of space means there is plenty of room for everyone to participate in their chosen activity. The lake is also very picturesque as it is overlooked by the enormous Pyramid Mountain.
When it comes to accessing ice skates, there are many rental shops in downtown Jasper.
If you are staying in the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, you are also able to arrange rentals in the winter activity center, however, it is necessary to check the opening hours since we found they are only open during certain times of the day.
Jasper is one of the best spots for wildlife viewing with a wide variety of different animals frequenting the area.
The beautiful natural surroundings makes a perfect backdrop for seeing wildlife in their native habitat.
Some of the animals in the area include elk, moose, bighorn sheep, marmots, mountain goats, coyotes, and a variety of different birds.
Although normally getting away from the busy areas and exploring quieter trails is the best way to see wildlife in Jasper, we saw a lot of elk around the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge or near the train tracks in downtown Jasper.
One option is to join a wildlife discovery tour where you can learn from a local expert about the geology and ecology of the area while they lead you to the best areas to see native wildlife.
Go hiking in Jasper
One of the most popular activities in Jasper is, of course, hiking.
The beautiful national park full of amazing trails is a hiker’s dreamland. It’s perfect for both experienced hikers looking for advanced challenges and beginner hikers looking to try something new and experience the scenery.
There are a range of hiking trails available in various areas of the park.
When hiking in winter it is important to research ahead of time the level of difficulty of the trails you are intending to hike to make sure they are suitable for your and your groups’ expertise level.
Due to the possibility of sudden weather changes, it is also important to check the trail reports from Parks Canada before setting out.
Drive Maligne Road
Maligne Road is a pristine 50km stretch of road just north of Jasper towards Maligne Lake with beautiful ice landscapes on either side.
There are wonderful areas to stop along the way, including Maligne Canyon, as mentioned earlier. The Maligne Lookout offers stunning views over the canyon.
Another place worth stopping is Medicine Lake.
Maligne Lake, the ending point, has some hiking trails.
We drove this road several times and it was never really busy. We did see bighorn sheep, moose, and even a bald eagle.
It’s easy to spend the day in this area spotting wildlife, hiking some of the trails, and enjoying the impressive scenery.
Make a stop at Medicine Lake
When driving along Maligne Road to Maligne Lake, one of the best stops along the journey is Medicine Lake.
This lake is actually part of the Maligne River, although it appears like a lake.
However, in winter, it actually appears to be completely gone.
It is sometimes referred to as the ‘disappearing lake’ as the water drains through sinkholes in winter and it appears like a normal snowy surface.
This is an interesting phenomenon to witness and with the dramatic background of high peaks and mountains, it is an ideal photo spot.
Admire the frozen Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls is a short drive out from the Jasper main townsite on the Icefields Parkway.
The canyon of around 24m is well-known for the force of the water rushing through it.
However, in winter this water freezes to create beautiful and interesting ice formations.
With an impressive backdrop of Mt Kerkeslin and a short walking trail with many different viewpoints, the Athabasca Falls are a unique sight to see and a must-do stop for photographers.
The bridge across the canyon is great for getting the perfect shot.
Appreciate the frozen Sunwapta Falls
A short drive past Athabasca Falls is Sunwapta Falls.
While we stopped at the Sunwpata falls on our way to Lake Louise, you could easily visit these two falls together.
Sunwapta Falls is very different from Athabasca Falls, making them both worth visiting.
Sunwapta Falls is a series of waterfalls with many small tiers.
The area is actually divided into the upper falls and lower falls, with the upper falls being the largest of the waterfalls, often frozen into a dramatic sheet of ice in winter, and the lower falls being the smaller tiers, which are uniquely frozen in a way that appears to still be flowing.
There is a short hiking trail to the upper falls with several viewpoints.
A 2 km trail leads from the upper to the lower falls.
This trail is usually not cleared in winter but you can see where it leads because that path is cleared of trees.
As a backup, you can also follow the river bench. This makes the area great for exploring without any worries of getting lost or running out of time.
Because the path to the lower falls is not cleared and also not heavily trafficked you might need to wear snowshoes.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93, connects the two national park giants of Canada, Banff and Jasper national park.
It is a 3-4 hour trip when driving straight, but we advise you to set aside one day for the drive due to the great number of places to see and things to do along the way.
With beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and more, the drive is a photographer’s dream.
There are also various short hikes at some of the stopping points, which is a great way to stretch your legs after driving while taking the beautiful surroundings.
To see more information on how to approach the Icefields Parkway drive in winter, see our full guide here.
Explore downtown Jasper
While exploring the greater park area of Jasper is the main attraction, it’s also important not to skip the charming main town of Jasper.
The town has a cozy, welcoming atmosphere with many local restaurants, shops, and independent businesses.
The mountain town charm is very present in Jasper, perhaps more so than in nearby Banff and Canmore, with their much larger populations.
The smaller crowds, fewer people, and lower rate of commercialization have helped Jasper to keep its authentic, small-town shine.
If you’re visiting Jasper, make sure to set some time aside to explore downtown Jasper.
Relax in a heated pool
Arguably one of the best things about skiing, snowboarding, or any winter activity is the accompanying hot tub relaxation that can often be found nearby.
Perfect for after a day in the snow, a hot tub can ease your muscles and help make your holiday even more relaxing.
In Jasper, a number of places have hot tubs available, with one of the best being the heated pools at Jasper Park Lodge.
The sheer size, breadth, and accompanying view make these pools an amazing experience for any visitor to Jasper. The large pool looks out over the snowy expanse to the forests and mountainous backdrop.
It is truly a postcard picture backdrop to a perfect relaxing activity.
Check prices and availability for the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge:
Have a beer at Jasper Brewing Company
The Jasper Brewing Company opened in 2005 as the first National Park Brewery in Canada.
With the three founders as Jasper locals, the company was focused on the community from the very start.
Since then the company has gone from height to height and even expanded into Banff.
They are well-known for their high-quality beers, Alberta-style cuisine, and community events.
The company is heavily focused on creating the best craft beers that truly belong to the community.
Spot stars and see the Northern Lights
Jasper has been officially certified as a Dark Sky Preserve, meaning it’s ideal for stargazing and viewing the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights as it is commonly known.
It is actually the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world and with so much area, there is a huge variety of spaces to go to view the Northern Lights or for general stargazing.
Some of the most popular spots include Pyramid Lake and Edith Lake.
The reflection of the Northern Lights off the calm surface of the lake provides a stunning image and a once-in-a-lifetime view.
Visit Jasper planetarium
If you are interested in the stars and Northern Lights but want to go beyond what is visible from the ground, Jasper Planetarium is the place to go.
With one of the largest telescopes in North America, you can look further into the stars than ever expected.
The planetarium also has trained guides who can take you on a virtual tour of the galaxy and explain various natural phenomenons.
The planetarium is a great way to get more information and understanding about the stars we see and often take for granted.
It is also good for learning more information about the aurora borealis and how and why it exists.
Go ice climbing
Ice climbing is a unique and adventurous winter activity for those looking for something a bit different on their winter vacation.
The various frozen waterfalls around Jasper in winter make for the perfect ice climbing locations.
There is a range of difficulty levels available in different climbs as well as different tools/climbing styles.
Some of the most popular locations include Tangle Creek Falls, Maligne Canyon, and Edge of the World.
There are many ice climbing guides and guided experiences available, making it accessible to even complete beginners.
Go on a dogsledding tour
While in Jasper you can try out something different with dogsledding.
While dogs aren’t a common form of transport, there are some areas of the world where dogsledding is a regular and necessary part of life.
In snowy areas, dogsleds are perfect for traveling across large areas of wintery ground.
Just outside of Jasper you can experience a dogsled tour.
Several tours are available.
Some are just 60 minutes and are excellent to get a first impression of what dog sledding is all about. There are also longer tours where you can learn how to drive your own team of dogsled dogs.
After the lesson, you have the opportunity to experience driving a team of dogs, or you can tag along in someone else’s sled while they drive the dogs.
Take a sleigh ride on Pyramid lake
If driving a team of dogs isn’t your style, perhaps a horse-drawn sleigh is.
The Pyramid Lake Resort offers sleigh rides in meticulously crafted, comfortable sleighs drawn by well-trained horses.
There are throw blankets available to help keep out the cold. With the matched horses, ringing bells, and sleigh, this is truly a winter wonderland experience.
Another interesting activity to take part in while in Jasper during winter is fat biking.
So named due to the wide tires, fat biking involves exploring on a mountain bike with tires almost twice the size of regular summer tires.
The size combined with low air pressure in the tires makes the bikes ideal for going over terrain that is not usually suited to biking, including snow.
This means rather than pushing through the snow, you can cycle over it.
There are many different trails available for fat biking in Jasper national park and many shops in the area offer rentals for a few hours or even a full day.
Visit the Jasper museum
Jasper Museum is a small museum in the main town area of Jasper. It is sometimes known as the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives.
The museum features a range of exhibits covering various aspects of the area’s history.
This includes aspects of the fur trade, railway, and even some of the first explorations of the area.
There are also regularly changing exhibits that focus on a particular aspect of history.
Some examples include exhibits of historical artists or in-depth histories of a particular feature in the area.
Visiting the museum is an interesting way to learn about the area while taking in the history.
Join a food tour
With food being far from the main attraction of Jasper, this means it is often underappreciated.
There are many amazing local restaurants, cafes, and bars serving wonderful food which can easily be missed.
One of the best ways to make sure you don’t miss out is by joining a food tour.
Jasper Food Tours offers a 3 hr tour covering 4 carefully selected local restaurants with only around 1.5km of walking.
The meals are pre-chosen by the guides who have been to the restaurants so many times they know the best parts of the menu.
However, they are able to cater to most dietary requirements.
Check prices and availability:
Jasper downtown Food Tour
Admire the Canadian Rockies from above with a helicopter tour
For a different way to really experience the Canadian Rockies, how about a helicopter tour?
With no better view than from above, these helicopter tours circle over various mountain ranges and popular locations.
There are a range of different times available (20min, 30min, 60min tours) with each time length following a different path and exploring a different part of the Canadian Rockies.
Some examples include Fiddle Mountain Range, Miette Mountain Range, Talbot Lake, Athabasca River, the Valley of Five Lakes, and more.
The tour starts in the town of Hinton, which is about a 50-minute drive from the main downtown area of Jasper.
Check prices and availability:
Scenic helicopter tour
Attent the Jasper in January Festival
Jasper in January is an annual festival taking place in Jasper after the peak Christmas/New Year season.
It is an ideal time to visit Jasper as there are many deals and packages offered, and the whole town is filled with a festive atmosphere.
With plenty of winter activities – snowshoeing, ice walks, wildlife spotting, as well as popular festival activities – live music and art exhibits, Jasper in January is a great all-rounder festival, able to suit all.
Visiting Jasper in winter is a great way to set up the ideal holiday.
With beautiful landscapes, interesting scenery, and fun things to do, any vacation in Jasper is sure to be enjoyable.
However, with so many things to do and see, it can be hard to narrow down the absolute best, especially if you are visiting in a limited amount of time.
We have created this list to help you decide the best things to do and see while on your next vacation in Jasper.
Check out our web story that accompanies this post.