There is something whimsical about standing in a forest that spans thousands of square kilometres. One where you look up and catch the sun peaking through a canopy of trees. Pine needles line the trail, and with each step you feel them crunch beneath your feet. The crisp air is enveloping, and from a distance the roaring of water crashing onto rocks hundreds of feet below can be heard. From where you're standing, only the snowy caps differentiate the mountains from the sky.
This is Jasper -- an Alpine town in Alberta's west, best known for its spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies and mesmerizing glacier-fed lakes. The area was first inhabited by hunters and fishers and is now home to Jasper National Park, one of Canada's best-known natural attractions. The cost to enter is about $10 a day, per adult.
It's not uncommon to spot wildlife in Jasper National Park. Elk, moose, goats and sometimes even bears can be seen poking out of the forested areas, near busy highways. Tourists should stay a safe distance away.
Maligne Canyon is less than 15 minutes northeast of town. The hike through the six bridges is touted to be among the most scenic canyon trails in the Rockies. The nearly four-kilometre path caters to hikers of all experience levels: if you start at the first bridge you'll be hiking down to the sixth. Hiking in the opposite direction is a more challenging uphill path, comparable to climbing about a dozen flights of stairs. Horse trails off the beaten path are often less busy and provide a unique view of the Rockies.
For thrill-seekers, the Glacier Skywalk is a must-see. Located just over an hour southeast of Jasper, the glass-floored platform lets you stand more than 900 feet above the ground. The walkway overlooks valleys, waterfalls and glacial vistas. Tickets are $32 and are available for purchase at a chalet south of the lookout. If you dress warm enough, you can buy a pass to visit both the Skywalk and the Columbia Icefields in one day.
About halfway between Jasper and the Skywalk, you'll find Athabasca Falls. The site is part of Jasper National Park and is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. Most spectacular is the clear blue colour of the water and the cavernous pockets worn out of the solid rock walls.
A 10-minute drive southeast of town takes you to the Jasper Skytram. Likely one of the most popular attractions for tourists, this lift takes you more than 2,000 metres off the ground to the top of Whistlers Mountain. The trip will cost you about $40 and provides a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Rocky Mountains. At the top -- a boardwalk and a hiking trail to the summit.
The town of Jasper is quaint, lined with little bistros and boutiques. Like most ski towns, the people are friendly and its long summer days make it the perfect place to spend an adventure-filled weekend.
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