Jasper in 2 days, a fun-filled family itinerary

You’ve planned a trip to Jasper this summer…. but you’ll only be here for a few days. How do you decide what to do?  This can be a hard decision as there are so many great sites and activities to do in Jasper National Park.  But if you’re ready for a fun-filled two days, this is what I suggest.

This itinerary has been created with family travel in mind.  These are kid friendly activities and locations and travel time or break in activities will let everyone rest and recharge. 

A Quick look at the 2 Day Jasper Itinerary:

Icefields day

A full day of driving from Jasper townsite down to the Columbia Icefields. Here are your suggested stops:

  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Goats and Glaciers View Point
  • Tangle Creek Falls
  • Stutfield Glacier View Point
  • Icefields Center
  • Walk to Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
  • Optional Tours: Bus ride onto the Glacier or Skywalk
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Take Hwy 93a back to Jasper townsite

Top sights and family fun day

Based on your family’s preferences and the weather, pick 2 or 3 of these activities to fill your day:

  • Take a ride up the Jasper Skytram, hike and explore at the top of Whistler’s Mountain
  • Visit Edith Cavell for a short walk, or hike up into Cavell Meadows for a longer adventure
  • Explore Maligne Canyon
  • Visit a lake for some beach fun, a picnic, or paddling
  • Rainy cool-weather alternative: hang out at Jasper Park Lodge, swim in the heated outdoor pool
View of mountain tops and clouds from the top of Jasper Skytram, text reads 2 days Jasper National Park

The Icefield Parkway Day:

This day’s suggested activities bring you from Jasper townsite down to the Icefields and back to town again.

If you have to do the drive between Banff and Jasper because of your trip travel plans, consider adding some of these stops to that day of travel instead of taking a whole day in Jasper to go back down to the Icefields center. If you make the stops on your day of travel then you can add other Jasper attractions like Maligne Lake or Miette Hot Springs to your visit!

The Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park
The Athabasca Glacier in the summertime.

Icefields Parkway (Highway 93)

Grab a map: You’ll want to head south on the Icefields Parkway early in the morning. Grabbing a park guide at the information center in town or at one of the park pass gate booths will help you keep track of upcoming view point pull-overs as you make your way down the highway.

Bathroom Breaks: There are numerous scenic pull offs along the side of the road, many have outhouses and a few also have picnic tables.  If you’re looking for an actual bathroom with heat and running water, you’ll want to visit the washrooms at Sunwapta resort (by Sunwapta falls), or you’ll need to wait to use the washrooms at the Icefields Center.

Check your gas tank: You’ll want to make sure you have enough gas to get down to the Icefields center and back again. You’ll also be without cell service for most of this day’s adventures as well.

Food and Snacks: Sunwapta Resort and the Icefields Center are the only places along this route that will have snacks and food. If you are continuing on south from the Icefields Center, your next bathroom, food stop option is at Saskatchewan Crossing.

Drive safely: As you drive the parkway stay alert to both animals along the side of the road and to other drivers paying too much attention to the scenery instead of the highway. Watch the posted speed limits as they can change along the drive to account for animal-frequented areas and traffic hazards.

Make sure to visit the Colombia Icefields when visiting Jasper National Park, Canada | #Icefields #JasperNationalPark
Spectacular views from the Icefields Parkway in Alberta Canada

Distance: If your intentions are to make it all the way down to the Icefields Center, plan for that drive to take about 1.5 hours. It is about 100km from Jasper townsite to the Information Center. Stopping at sights along the way will make the trip much longer.

Animals: Keep your eyes open for bears grazing on the open grassy hill sides and in the ditches along the side of the roads. Mountain goats are sometimes spotted around the Goats and Glaciers view point as they are drawn to the minerals exposed from the rocks in that area.

The views: I’ve been doing this drive for more than 20 years and I’m still awestruck by the views!

A few of the view points worth stopping at:

Sunwapta Falls

Unless you’ve gotten off to an early start, I’d suggest skipping Athabasca Falls and instead catching Athabasca falls on your way back to town as this can be a very busy place around mid-day. But, you should plan a stop at Sunwapta falls at some point on your drive.

A waterfall surrounded by forest with mountains in the distance
Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park

Sunwapta falls are a quick 10 minute walk from the parking lot down an inclined paved path. You’ll find yourself on a bridge high above the water below, looking out at the falls.

There are some walking paths here worth exploring if you (or your kids) need to move around a bit. If you explore the area close to the parking lot (instead of heading down to the falls) make sure to look around for curvy tree trunks. When my kids were little they loved hunting out these trees!

kids climbing on a curved tree trunk, other trees in the forest also have curvy trunks
Curvy trees at the Sunwapta picnic area

Tangle Creek Falls

Tangle Creek Falls are right beside highway 93 and are a good place to stretch your legs. Visitors like to explore the falls and it’s easy to climb around here. Just please make sure to check for traffic if you’re going to park here and cross the road to the falls.

Tangle falls coming down through rock and trees
Tangle Falls, Jasper National Park

Athabasca Glacier & the Columbia Icefields

Arriving at the Columbia Icefields you can just sit and enjoy the view, pondering the greatness of Mother Nature, or you have a few more activity options:

Snow and Ice are cold: Keep in mind that you are visiting a glacier… a very very large chunk of ice and snow.  You are also quite a bit higher in elevation.  So, while it could be a lovely warm day in the town of Jasper, it could actually be snowing at the glacier.  Be prepared with coats, hats, gloves, and sunglasses.

Walking up to the toe of the Glacier

You’ll drive to a parking across the highway from the Information Center. Follow the path up towards the Athabasca glacier. Do stay on the trail and pay attention to the signage because once you get to the glacier, it can be very dangerous to explore onto the ice.

kids crawling through the snow, mountains and glaciers in the background
A cold visit to the Athabasca Glacier in October
kids wearing red jackets running towards a large piece of ice, the toe of the athabasca glacier
Another October visit to the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park

Icefields Tours: Bus ride onto the Athabasca Glacier and the Skywalk

Both of these tours are operated through Pursuit out of the Icefields Information Center. I’ll leave my review of these attraction for the full review article. But, I will say this: consider your time, your budget, and your priorities. While both these tours are good, they’re not my top recommended activity.

If you don’t have mobility limitations and are wanting to visit the glacier, I’d suggest just taking the walk up to the Toe of The Glacier. For views similar to views from the Skywalk, stop at the Stutfield Glacier view point pull off.

mom and kid sitting on the glass skywalk overlooking a deep valley and snow capped mountains in the distance
Sitting on the glass skywalk in Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls and Highway 93a

On your way back to Jasper, stop at Athabasca Falls if you didn’t do so earlier.  The falls here are very impressive and you can get nice and close on the walkways to feel the spray on your face!  Your stop here could be a quick 30 minute visit or you could explore around and spend up to 1.5 hours.  You’ll find plenty of outhouses here and a few picnic tables and benches.

You might be able to get down to the falls with a stroller, but this attraction can be very busy and has many stairs so exploring further with a stroller is not really appropriate.

waterfalls cutting through a canyon with a mountain in the distance
Athabasca Falls, Jasper Alberta Canada

I’m sure you’ll be safe while visiting the falls… but every time I’m there I see people jump the fence and walk out onto the rocks.  Don’t do this!

Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, Canada
Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, Canada

From Athabasca Falls, continue back on 93a to experience some different scenery.  Meetings of the Water is an inviting pull off by the river, a good choice for some late afternoon snacks.

I assume that by the time you arrive back in Jasper, everyone will be eager for supper. So, go grab a bite to eat (here’s a top 5 family restaurant list to check out).  Refueled by pizza or souvlaki, now is the time to buy an ice cream cone and explore around town and check out some local shops and attractions.  Many of the stores will be open until 8pm (if not later).

Day 2, choose your own adventure:

I had a really hard time narrowing down the selections… what I would ultimately suggest for your particular family would depend on so much: the weather, the age of your kiddos, the season, your preferences for walking or sight-seeing, etc. And, so because of all these variables, I think I’ll leave the decision making up to you. But, I’ve added lots of details to help you decide.

For the second day I’d suggest choosing two (or three) of these four ideas:

  • A trip up the Jasper Skytram
  • Visiting Edith Cavell, possibly a hike into Cavell Meadows
  • Exploring Maligne Canyon
  • Beaching, Boating, and/or Picnic-ing
  • Rainy day alternative: Go hang out at Jasper Park Lodge and swim in the heated outdoor pool!
Marmot sitting on a rock, looking towards the camera
Marmots frequent the boulders atop Whistlers Mountain, at the Skytram, in Jasper National Park

Jasper Skytram

You will want to book your ‘flight’ (buy your tickets) online so that you are not waiting too long at the station to get a ride to the top.  In the summer months it will be busy and tickets do sell out.  Once at the top there are trails to explore, rocks to sit on for great family photos, awesome views, and a little restaurant.

A word of caution:  It can sometimes be amazingly windy up there.  You may want to bring along hair ties or headbands.  It is also higher and can be cooler than Jasper townsite. So, hats that cover the ears and jackets are recommended.

From the top of a mountain, looking down to see the trail, tram building, lakes and mountains in the distance
View from the first summit hiking up from the Jasper Skytram station, Jasper National Park

Please respect the alpine fauna up here and don’t leave the trails.  With younger kids you will likely stick to the upper tram station and main trail. The trail is graveled and only the first bit is appropriate for strollers. With older kids you can explore the peak and ridge of Whistlers mountain.

At the top of Whistler's mountain, Jasper Skytram
A hazy, windy day at the top of Whistlers, riding the Jasper Skytram

Getting there: To get to the Jasper Skytram head south from town on Highway 93 and turn right on Whistlers Road.  The Skytram parking lot is only a 10-15 minute drive from town. Watch for bears on this drive especially if you’re going early in the morning or late in the evening.

The Jasper Skytram is often open late into the evening making this an easy late-afternoon or early-evening activity (if you don’t plan to do the hike at the top). To just go up, explore a bit and come back down, you’ll need about 2 hours of time. If you and your kids are more adventurous and ready for a longer hike, you could be up there for hours!

A marmot, small hairy large rodent, sitting on a rock
Another Marmot because Marmots are great!

Edith Cavell

Get up close and personal with geology here.  From the parking lot take the sloping, paved trail up towards the hanging glaciers.  You’ll end up overlooking a tarn (small body of glacial meltwater).  Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to see some huge chunks of ice floating in the water or spot some delicate alpine flowers.

Path of the Glacier Trail: This is the main path taking you right to the bottom of the hanging glacier. This walk will take about 1 hour, is 1.6km with minimal elevation gain.

Stroller? This main walk, Path of the Glacier, is doable with a stroller if you have an off-roading stroller and don’t mind a bit of bumping around and possibly maneuvering a few stairs, depending on your route.

Cavell Meadow Hike: If you have older kids who are up for a hike, you could go up the Cavell Meadows trail. It’s a bit of a climb, but a beautiful open alpine meadow overlooking the glaciers is your reward at the top. This hike is about 6 km with 500 meters of elevation gain… it does feel like you’re just walking up and up and up forever… but then it opens into a beautiful wide meadow that you can explore further or just enjoy before heading back down.

No dogs on the Cavell Meadows trail: In the past dogs have not been permitted on the Cavell Meadows trail. Assume this will be the case still.

READ MORE about these two Edith Cavell trails from Jasper National Park’s trail page here

Angel Glacier and the blue Glacial Lake at Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park
Views at Edith Cavell

Pikas! Do make sure to spend some time watching the rocks for small furry pikas (about the size of a guinea pig) running and gathering grass.  As much as I love the scenery here, the pikas are my favourite attraction.

Who is Edith Cavell? Make sure to stop and read the sign all about why Edith Cavell is named this… spoiler alert, it’s named after a nurse, but you should read about it there!

How much time do you need? The drive up to Edith Cavell will take about 30 minutes. At Edith Cavell, you might spend 1-2 hours exploring? So, three hours should be a fair time estimate.

Seasonal openings: The Edith Cavell road is usually open early June to early October. Check the Jasper National Parks’ road conditions page before heading out.

Important Note: If you plan to visit Edith Cavell on a busy summer day, the parking will be limited.  Also, the road up to Edith Cavell is long and windy with many switchbacks and I’ve known both kids and adults to feel nauseous after this drive.

Vehicle Restrictions: Because of the tight switchbacks, pulling a trailer or driving anything longer than 7.5 meters (25 feet) is not permitted. There is a parking lot on 93a, just at the turn off for the Edith Cavell road, where you can leave your trailer for the day.

View of Edith Cavel, (Jasper National Park, Canada) as you approach the glacial lake.
The Path of the Glacier trail at Edith Cavell

Getting there: To get to Edith Cavell, head south from town on 93.  Turn right on 93a after the park gate.  Turn right again when you see the sign for Edith Cavell Road.

Interesting tidbit: Way back in August of 2012 a huge chunk of Ghost Glacier came crashing down into the lake causing a tsunamis which took out the outhouses, uprooted all the trees and even destroyed half of the parking lot and much of the road leading into Edith Cavell. The entire area was closed for a few years following this incident in an effort to repair the damage and assess future risk. Luckily this happened in the very early hours of the day and no tourists were visiting… otherwise it would have been a very different and tragic event.

Now when you visit, there’s a sign suggesting you don’t go down to the lake for danger of falling chunks… but, people will be people…

Danger sign alerting people to falling ice and avalanche with a glacial lake in the background
Danger sign warning visitors to not approach the glacial lake at Edith Cavell

Maligne Canyon

Exploring Maligne Canyon is an easily adaptable activity. You could just visit the first bridge look out, a short walk from the parking lot. Or, you can do the entire 4 hour hike following the canyon all the way down and back up again. Or, any distance in between.

When I’m touring visitors to Maligne Canyon we tend to do either of these:

Leisurely stroll to the first bridge and back again: takes about 15 minutes, can do this with an off-roading stroller

Steeper walk down to the second and third bridge (from the main parking lot) for continued dramatic views of the canyon and return to the main parking lot: takes about 30-45 minutes. This longer walk has many stairs and can be slippery when wet or in the winter. But, it is safely fenced the entire way.

Getting there: Maligne Canyon is about a 15-20 minute drive from the Jasper townsite. You’ll take Maligne Lake road, just east of Jasper townsite. Watch for signage and you won’t miss it.

Amenities: You’ll find outhouses at the Maligne Canyon parking lots. The main parking lot at first bridge has a restaurant and gift shop. The restaurant is actually very lovely with beautiful views and an outdoor patio eating area.

Beaching, Boating, and Picnic-ing

If you are lucky to be in Jasper on a hot weather day, there’s really nothing I love more than to visit the beach! If you have little kids they’ll love to dig in the sand and splash about in the shallow waters. Or if you’d rather more of a family activity, you could rent a canoe, kayak, or paddle boards (or bring along your own).

Beach toys: If your littles absolutely can’t go to the beach without some toys, check out the General Store on Patricia. You’ll definitely find something worthy of beach play there!

Beaches: The popular beaches are at the Lake Edith and Lake Annette picnic day use area, about 10 minute drive from town. I find Lake Annette has the better beach and faces south, giving you full sun. If it’s super hot and you’re wanting shade, head to the beaches on Lake Edith.

clear blue lake reflecting a snowy mountain from the distance
View across Lake Annette in Jasper National Park

In between these two lakes are various parking lots, a playground, many picnic tables, BBQs, and some covered cooking shelters.

Lake Annette walking trail: There’s a relatively flat, paved path circling Lake Annette which is great for strollers and small kids on scooters or push bikes. Big people bicycles are not permitted on this trail. This loop is about 2 km around.

If you’re wanting to make yourself a picnic dinner at the beach, try wraps from Patricia Street Deli, take-out from Lou Lou’s, or stop by the grocery store for hotdogs and marshmallows to roast in a BBQ pit.  Spend your evening watching the sun go down while the kids play in the sand and shallow (but cold) waters, climb and swing at the playground, or take a family stroll around the lake.


Jasper has a handful of beautiful lakes that you can explore if you have your own equipment. Pyramid and Patricia Lakes are my favourites for paddling. To get to these take Pyramid Lake road north out of town. Lake Annette and Lake Edith are also very lovely lakes as well though.

Boat rentals: If you’re wanting to try paddle boarding, head over to lake Edith and visit Translucid’s Paddle Board Rentals. Or, if you want to rent canoes, you can do so at Jasper Park Lodge and Pyramid Lake Lodge. I think Pyramid Lake Lodge also has paddle boats and kayaks for rentals too.

An alternate suggestion for a rainy, cool-weather activity

If an indoor venue is more your style, go check out the main floor of Jasper Park Lodge.  The lodge has huge picture windows looking out onto the lake where you can enjoy dinner, drinks, or a treat.  The lodge does have a pricier menu but kids under 5 (and sometimes older, depending on your server) eat for free, bonus!

Locals Tip: For older kids, you may want to bring along a board game, cards, or books to enjoy after eating. You could even bring swimsuits and play in the heated outdoor pool after supper or send your teenagers to do that while you continue to enjoy the cozy lodge and views (with or without a drink in hand!).

Make camping easier with these free printable camping lists. They're useful and cute!

To sum this up:

Looking back over this, seeing all of Jasper in two days sure will be fun-filled… and you’ll still leave not having experienced it all!  But if your family is one which finds ‘filled’ less than fun, then you’ll just need to plan a longer visit!  I know, unfortunately, that may not be possible, so just take it easy, pick your favourite suggestions above and make the most of your Jasper in 2 days.

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2 thoughts on “Jasper in 2 days, a fun-filled family itinerary”

  1. Wow. That is a lot of stuff to do in two days!! Kudos to you guys!! Sounds like a true nature lovers paradise.

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