canadian rockies
jasper national park
Jasper

If you’re going to the Canadian Rockies, give yourself enough time for Jasper. This is a really pretty little frontier style town, founded early in the 19th century, yet its population is under 10,000 and it still has a feeling of being on the edge of settlement. Take the kids to the historic train station to watch the trains come in.

Take a ride to the sky – Open in warmer months, Canada’s highest aerial tram is the Jasper Tramway just outside town. A seven-minute 3,300 feet ride takes you to an altitude of 8,000 feet. A guide tells the history of Jasper as you look out over spectacular scenery. Take advantage of the cafeteria or viewing restaurant (very reasonable menu) at the top, and the knock-out view of six mountain ranges. Look for Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The summit is well laid out with guard rails, but if you want to see more, follow hiking trails starting at the summit (you may have to share paths with bighorn sheep.) Ask about Canada Parks guided interpretive hikes (fee).
Ride the ice– If the river outside of Jasper seems a little odd, well, maybe it's the first time you've seen a river flowing north (to the Arctic Ocean). The Athabasca River gets its waters from the ice fields so in the spring it's cloudy white with icy chunks and late in the summer it's crystal clear. Try floating up the river in a 20-person raft that even a kindergartner old can handle (the Athabasca has only gentle "rapids.") You'll drift past wide open spaces and see anything from wild deer and bears to soaring eagles. A great way to see the land without worrying about how far short legs can go. Older kids may prefer rougher rides in smaller 6 person rafts.
Maligne Lake – Malign Lake is about half an hour south of the Jasper town. Start at the Maligne Lake Lodge, overlooking the lake, where you can relax on the deck with a drink or a meal and plan out your next adventure:
Take a hike – Ask for trail maps at the Tourism Office in Jasper, or sign up for any one of a half-dozen guided interpretive hikes. Choices range from an hour long hike that will teach you about local flora and fauna to four-hour treks (lunch included) for heartier souls.
Grab a paddle – Find your way to the Curly Philips Boathouse on Maligne Lake (a historic building) and choose between canoes for smaller kids or kayaks for bigger kids. Just in case you don't want to worry about drifting too far on those icy blue waters, you can also rent boats with "trolling motors."
Go fishing – Want to make 'em work for their dinner? Rent fishing rods and buy bait at the boathouse.
Saddle up – In warmer months, join one of the morning or afternoon trail rides that head out from the Maligne Lake Lodge to the top of the Bald Hills. Since the rides are from three to four hours long, this is best for older kids, who will also appreciate more the wildflower covered meadows and views of ice-capped mountains along the way.

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