Town of Jasper
At the top end of the Icefields Parkway, 280 kilometers (174 miles) north of Banff and a 3.5-hour drive west of the provincial capital, Edmonton, the town of Jasper is the service center of the park. For you the visitor, Jasper is the wonderfully underrated counterpart to its neighbor, Banff. Jasper has just half the population of Banff, but it’s also less commercialized and its streets are a lot quieter. Part of the town’s charm is its location at the confluence of the Athabasca and Miette Rivers, surrounded by the rugged, snowcapped peaks of Jasper National Park.
Connaught Drive, the town’s main street, parallels the rail line as it curves through town. Along here, you’ll find the park information center, the bus depot, the rail terminal, restaurants, motels, and a series of parking lots. Behind Connaught Drive is Patricia Street (one-way northbound), which has more restaurants and services and leads to more hotels and motels on Geikie Street.
Behind this main commercial core are rows of neat houses—much less pretentious than those in Banff—and all the facilities of a regular town, including a library, a school, a swimming pool, and a hospital.
The residence of Jasper’s first superintendent, a beautiful old stone building dating to 1913, is now used by Parks Canada as the park information center. It’s right downtown (Connaught Dr., 780/852-6176, www.pc.gc.ca, summer daily 8:30 a.m.–7 p.m., the rest of the year daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m.). The staff provides general information on the park and can direct you to hikes in the immediate vicinity. Also within the building is the Parks Canada Trail Office (780/852-6177), which handles questions for those going into the backcountry and issues the relevant passes.
Jasper Tourism and Commerce (780/852-3858, www.jaspercanadianrockies.com) also has a desk in the building, and the friendly staff never seem to tire of explaining that all the rooms in town are full. As well as providing general information on the town, they have a large collection of brochures on activities, shopping, and restaurants.
Beside the main Parks Canada desk is the Friends of Jasper National Park outlet selling topographic maps, books, and local publications. Look for notices posted out front with the day’s interpretive programs.
Getting to Jasper
Getting to Jasper by public transportation is easy, although the closest airport handling domestic and international flights is in Edmonton, 360 kilometers (224 miles) to the east. Jasper is on the transcontinental VIA (800/561-8630, www.viarail.ca) rail route, with trains running each way three times weekly. The railway station is central to town at 607 Connaught Drive. Lockers are available for $1 per day. Car-rental agencies and a café are here, too.
The railway station also serves as a bus depot. Greyhound buses (780/852-332 or 800/661-8747) depart Jasper for all points in Canada (except Banff), including Vancouver (three times daily, 12–13 hours), Edmonton (five times daily, 4.5 hours), and Prince Rupert (once daily, 18 hours). The main carrier up the Icefields Parkway from Calgary and Banff is Brewster (780/852-3332 or 866/606-6700, www.brewster.ca). This company operates a shuttle between Calgary International Airport daily May–mid-Oct. ($134 each way).
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition