After a night at Honeymoon Lake Campground – in which our camping gear mostly dried out – it was time to continue our journey northward. We hopped back on the Icefields Parkway, poised to spend a day exploring the central section of Jasper National Park. Our first stop, just a short distance up the road, was Athabasca Falls. A very large volume of water travels over this 80-foot waterfall. It’s incredibly powerful! The parking area for the falls just off of the Icefields Parkway on Route 93A, and we walked a short distance in order to view the falls.
From the falls, we continued traveling along the Icefields Parkway, parallel to the Athabasca River, until we reached Wapiti campground, located just a couple miles south of the town of Jasper. Wapiti campground is huge. There are 350 sites and free hot showers, and this was our home base for the remainder of our days in Jasper. Wapiti is the Cree word for elk, and roughly translates to “white rump.” I don’t recall seeing any elk in the campground, but we did see some elsewhere in Jasper.
After setting up, we headed out to continue our explorations. In my mind, this area of the park is the area of lakes. And not just ordinary lakes. Beautiful, clear, brilliantly colorful lakes. We stopped first at the large, shallow Beauvert Lake, located within the town of Jasper. This is quite possibly the clearest lake I’ve ever seen anywhere, and the bright sunlight only intensified the color of the water. It’s incredible!
After a picnic lunch near the lakeshore, we headed out of town on Maligne (pronounced muh-LEEN) Road, which travels south along the Maligne River to Maligne Lake. On the way, we stopped to hike along the extremely deep, extremely narrow Maligne Canyon. Here, the Maligne River has cut a gorge that is 160 feet deep in places and sometimes no more than 6 feet wide. Standing on a bridge over the canyon and gazing down at the water 150 feet below was fairly disorienting. Maligne Falls is located deep within the canyon; it was very difficult to capture it in a photograph, but my best attempt is below.
Continuing down Maligne Road, we stopped at Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake. Medicine Lake is part of an extremely unique geological phenomenon; just downstream of the lake, the Maligne River disappears underground for a stretch. In the spring and early summer when snowmelt is heavy, the river backs up here, forming Medicine Lake. In fall and winter, when snowmelt is rare, the lake disappears and all that can be seen is the leisurely flowing waters of the Maligne River.
It was along Maligne Road that we saw a mama black bear and her two cubs and also stopped to let a herd of bighorn sheep meander across the road right in front of our car. I haven’t talked much about the wildlife in these posts, mainly because I don’t have many photos of them. But we saw a few bears throughout the course of our trip, as well as some deer, elk, and many species of birds. I think I’ve probably seen more bears (on an average-per-day basis) in the Canadian Rockies than anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s not at all unusual to find them fairly close to the road, which is always pretty neat!
Maligne Lake was our final destination of the day, so after our explorations we spent some time walking around the town of Jasper before heading back to Wapiti Campground for the night.
To be continued…
The Important Stuff:
- Getting there: Jasper National Park is located west of Edmonton, Alberta and directly north of Banff National Park along Highway 93/Icefields Parkway
- Fees & passes: $9.80 CAD/person/day or $19.60 CAD/car – this is good for Jasper and all the surrounding Canadian Rockies parks; Parks Canada Annual Pass accepted
- Camping: We stayed at Wapiti Campground, located 4 miles south of the Jasper townsite. 350 sites, showers, $27.40 CAD per night; reservations necessary
- Hiking: Athabasca Falls is an easy, 0.6-mile round-trip hike; the length of the Maligne Canyon hike can be up to 5 miles round-trip, depending on how far you want to go; there are trails at Maligne and Medicine Lakes too but no hiking is required to view the lakes
- Other: watch for wildlife in this area!