Jasper National Park: Miette hot springs, Maligne Lake and Jasper town

On our 5th day in Canada we headed to the mountains.  I was very excited about this day. Jasper National Park was mostly unknown to me and I assumed it to be less touristic and busy than Banff.  Yet I had somehow wrongly assumed the park to be closer to Edmonton and therefore with less hours of straight road ahead of us. As soon as we took the right highway out of Edmonton, Waze told us to continue for 350 km straight ahead and then turn right and left for our hotel in Jasper. Ha...not much need for a GPS system here :).

After more than 2 hours driving we stopped in Edson, one of the only towns on our road exactly halfway Edmonton and Jasper. We bought food for a picknick and we visited the local historic museum to learn about the "local" mining history (near the Rockies that were nowhere to be seen yet) and the railroad.  By the way, it has a free coffee corner.

We stopped at Obed Lake Provincial Park for our lunch at the borders of Obed Lake. It is a small park along the highway giving access to the large lake hidden behind, so don't miss it.  For the first time we were back in bear country.  And I breathed in the vastness of the nature next to us.
(I can recommend travelling with a map of all provincial parks in both provinces...they are very practical to plan in excellent (lunch) breaks ).

After lunch we had another quick stop in Hinton before we reached the Rockies. We fueled up the car in the assumption that gas would be cheaper outside the national park than inside the national park...we were wrong!  (but for anyone travelling from Alberta to British Columbia, due to different tax rules, gas is always cheaper in Alberta than BC so do fill up the tank before leaving Alberta).

As of Hinton we saw the mountains rising up out of nowhere, as they do here when driving from east to west in Alberta. We entered Jasper National Park and just then our children were sound asleep in the back of the car.

Miette Hot Springs

We took the first turn off and drove to the Miette Hot Springs.  The winding road through the woods passes along an impressive rock range but beside one nice look-out area there's not much to do here until you arrive at the hot springs.  At the parking lot a group of mountain sheep walking by, formed the welcome committee of the park.

The current hot springs complex is a new location and we decided to take a small hike to the old bath's location and the sources of the hot springs. Following a nice little trail starting at the end of the parking lot we quickly found the ruins of the old bathing buildings that have served many tourists in previous century. They were in use until 1984 when they got replaced by a newer current complex at an easier location.

A bit further we noticed here and there little green smelly flows bubbling up out of the ground...and with a touch of our finger it got confirmed: these are very hot springs. The biggest source was quite impressive and smelly like rotten eggs.

Beertje using his pine cone phone which worked remarkably well in the mountains and which was quickly in use by the entire family to have long phone conversations in the car.

Talbot Lake

Before reaching our destination we had another stop at the lookout spots near Talbot Lake. We took a little tour to read the interpretive boards about forest management and we played a hide and seek with the shy ground squirrels popping up when they thought we were not around.

Jasper town

After checking in in our hotel, we took the time to stroll through town and get to know Jasper. It's a small town with a touristy but casual laid back atmosphere. Nothing fancy but just a lot of people that want to come to enjoy the outdoors and explore and that are enjoying free time.

Quite central was the train station with some old models on display but also one of the only active passenger train stations I've seen in the west of Canada. If you ever have the money for a train ride vacation from Vancouver to Calgary, you'll have a long stop in Jasper. It was weird not to only see freight trains.  Beertje's fascination for the Canadian trains just grew, so we did our best to be around whenever one had to pass through the valley so we could wave.

We also went to have a look at the well-known Fairmont Park Jasper lodge but the hotel wasn't as impressive as its Lake Louise and Banff counterparts, maybe because it seems to sit scattered in too many cabins around. I already said that Jasper is a bit more casual and relax.  And so was this elk, resting at a few 100m from the hotels parking lot. 

Medicine Lake

The next day we headed to Maligne Lake, 50 kms away from Jasper town. Right after taking the exit from the highway, we saw the "you are in bear country" warning sign and ...guess who casually came hobbling by to reinforce the sign? Yep, our first bear sighting...always very very cool. 

While our destination was Maligne Lake, you must drive along Medicine Lake which is also quite stunning. We had a good view on an eagle's nest on top of one of the trees along the lake and some more mountain sheep came posing for a picture. 

Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake was probably the most beautiful spot that I newly discovered on this trip. The lake and surrounding mountains are just stunning. You can take some boats on the lake but we did a small hike to a tiny lake hidden a few kms in the woods from Maligne Lake. Despite the name "Moose Lake", the warning signs (where we hid carefully our tingling bear bell at our backpack) and our concentrated silence time with our binoculars, the moose did not show up for our appointment. Bummer. 
So we returned to Maligne Lake for a stroll along the borders of the lake and a lunch in the lodge.

Maligne Canyon

Almost back on the highway near Jasper, we stopped at one of the parking lots for Maligne Canyon. Where Maligne river coming from the lake approaches the Athabasca River, it has carved out a canyon into the lime rocks.  It is the deepest canyon in the Rockies, reaching down 50 meters at some points.  There is 6 bridges across so you can walk a shorter or longer walk as you wish to discover the canyon. In winter time you can walk into the frozen canyon but now we just glanced from above.

We stopped near the first 3 bridges and took that walk from bridge 1 to 3, which is the deepest part of the canyon and also shows one of the waterfalls. 

Pyramid Lake

In the mean time the weather had changed. The sky had some cloudy fog and a burnt smell: the smoke from the heavy out-of-control forest fires in Northern Alberta had invaded the valley (and a lot of Canada!).  The view on the mountains became a foggy and by the evening the city seemed to be in a flat valley with no mountains around. Weird.  Fortunately it did not seem to impact our breathing or close-by view.
We went to have a small stroll near Pyramid Lake and explored the beach area which was a bit disappointing to me, even though the boys were actively involved in a big phantasy play with thieves to be caught etc. and had lots of fun.

We ended the afternoon with another drive around while the children fell asleep in the car. We headed to the closed ski-area as in our experience deserted summer ski hills are excellent spots to spot bears but we had no luck as the road was completely closed before reaching the resort. Also the Mount Cavell road was not yet opened at the end of May.   And our attempt to go visit the Athabasca Falls failed as a ranger asked us to turn around due to a big accident ahead of the road.   Oh well, we'd call it a day and go and have a nice beer in the Jasper micro brewery while we cheered for the Toronto Raptors in their NBA final.  Nice end of quite a fulfilling day in stunning scenery (for as long as the smoke didn't hide it).  A newly discovered place I want to return too!


Le petit requin said…
Oh, nu wil ik terug om Maligne lake te kunnen zien :)
En zeer goede herinneringen aan de Miette Hot Springs, die we deden na drie dagen Skyline Trail (42km met 15-20kg op de rug, dus onze benen waren leeg :) ).

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