By Ashley Materi
This New Year marks Canada’s 150th birthday, and with it, the Discovery Pass that allows entry to national parks from coast to coast is free. This makes 2017 the perfect time to explore more of our beautiful country, and making a stop in Jasper National Park is a must.
The Locals are Wild
Prepare for a variety of wildlife encounters as you make your way through the park and around the Jasper townsite. Wild bighorn sheep are often spotted around the craggy hills alongside the highway, and you’re likely to share the sidewalk with the large herd of resident elk. I was lucky enough to observe a small pack of wolves stealthily make their way through the trees as I drove by.
Watch the Seasons Change
I did two trips to Jasper a few weeks apart, and what a difference it made! The first time I went, there was very little snow on the ground. I took advantage of the clear pathways and headed down to Athabasca Falls. A 20-minute drive south of the townsite brings you to the most powerful waterfall in the Canadian Rockies, and it is truly a sight to behold. In the warmer months, the water thunders its way through the gorge, and in the winter, the falls freeze into magnificent natural ice formations. There is a kilometre-long interpretive trail that explains how the falls formed, the plants and animals found in the area, and the science of why the water colour changes with the seasons.
Bucket List Worthy
The second time I visited Jasper, I was delighted to see snow covering the park. It meant I could finally cross dog sledding off of my bucket list. I set up a tour with Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding, which meant making a trip 120 kilometres west of Jasper into British Columbia. The drive takes you past Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
The tour itself was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. Every tree was frosted, and the thick snow was a beautiful contrast to the bright green river that snaked its way alongside the path. The dozens of excited dogs barked and yipped while they waited to go, but once we took off, suddenly all was silent. The entire tour felt like running through a beautiful postcard, and I was thrilled to have the chance to both guide and ride in the sled.
The tour ended with a warm cup of apple cider and some home-baked goodies brought by the wonderful staff. There are multiple tours and each is customizable to suit your desires, including adding an interpretive snowshoeing hike or a campfire lunch. If you’ve ever been curious about the experience, stop wondering and just do it! You’ll be so happy you did.
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