Fall Into Jasper: Alberta’s other mountain town offers an amazing array of sights and tastes for local travellers

It is, without a doubt, one of the prettiest drives on the planet.

The stretch from Banff to Jasper remains one of those truly stunning travels — a few hours where the untouched wonders through the windshield are all the entertainment you need. (The radio-silence stretch from the 93 turnoff from Highway 1 to the township all but ensures that for the ill-prepared.) 

The colours, the countryside, the clarity, all come into focus when you make that four-ish-hour trek — when Calgary is your base — to one of the world’s most beautiful and relatively subdued and sincere mountain towns you’ll find anywhere where the peaks are high.

If you add a little autumn into things: wow.

Perhaps that’s why there are pull-off spots seemingly every kilometre during the drive, so you can snap a postcard-picture-perfect shot of a lake, waterfall, wildlife, mountains, glaciers, not to mention an early morning dawn, stunning sunset or the stars above.

We often take it for granted, but because of Ma Nature’s adding fall colours to her palette, her paintbrush makes it all the more vivid and inviting to journey in the late-September to early November months.

Blissfully mindless of the rest of the world and refreshed is how you’ll generally arrive in Jasper for a one-, two- or however-many-days stay. Hell, if you’re going to drive eight hours roundtrip, you’re going to want to make it worthwhile and wind right down.

Right now, the town is also starting to wind down from its busy summer season just before kicking into a white winter so the plentiful hotels and inns are starting to offer deals and drop their prices, which are fit for any budget — with, again, most of them switching over from their hot- to cold-months rates.

A couple of recommendations: the beautiful Chateau Jasper or the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre — both with sensational restaurants (Walter’s and the Silverwater Grill, respectively) that offer especially hearty and satisfying breakfasts to get your day going — or the centrally located and the very comfortable The Crimson, which is the town’s newest hotel.

Actually, pretty much every room for rent in Jasper is a fairly great and handy, considering most are on or just off the main drag and commercial heart Connaught Drive, which features an array of gift shops, stores, restaurants and, of course, the Jasper Brewing Co.

It also means you’re a 15-minute drive from a couple of the most picturesque destinations in the surrounding area.

In one direction, you have the quick jaunt up the road to Patricia and Pyramid Lakes. The autumnal colours and crisp skies make it all the more spectacular, but at any time of year it’s ridiculously scenic.

As with the drive to Jasper, itself, you might as well make even the quick trips worth it, by sticking around and taking in the tastes after taking in the sights.

Pyramid Lake, just outside of Jasper, AB.

In this case, it would be acclaimed restaurant The Pines in the Pyramid Lake Resort — open for breakfast and dinner — which is on the shores of the beautiful body of water.

The food is a fantastic mix of rustic and refined, a Canadian-inspired menu featuring a “unique selection of fish, meats and fresh local produce.”

And the view? There’s a reason the resort and dining room are a popular wedding setting. And right now, the scenery is all the more enticing, which is why The Pines is offering the Stargazers Lakeside Dinner, a “three-course culinary delight before heading outside to Jasper Planetarium’s telescopes under the dark skies.” The chicken breast, beef short rib or arctic char options make it a pretty difficult decision, but one you won’t regret no matter the entree choice, no matter the area of sky you point your scope in later.

The other direction’s 15-minute trip outside the town is just as bountiful in the region’s picture-snapping and culinary pursuits — Maligne Canyon, which “is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, with a depth of more than 50 metres at certain points.” 

As promised, “hikers of all abilities can explore this incredible natural landmark by crossing six bridges built across various points of the canyon.” Be it for half an hour or a couple, it’s a manageable walk among yet another natural wonder.

Maligne Canyon just outside of Jasper, AB.

And when you’re done, or, even to get you going, you’re going to want to hit up the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen, the kick-off point to the excursion.

They have grab ’n’ go lunches, with tasty artisanal sandwiches and wraps, which you can take with you or enjoy in their dining room or on the peaceful patio.

Or, you can plan accordingly and make a reservation for a post-hike Kitchen dinner. Highly recommended for the hungry carnivore is the shareable Wilderness Platter, featuring house-smoked crispy-grilled chicken thighs, smoked beef rib, brisket and Kuterra salmon, with sides of garlic parsley french fries, house pickles, green beans, beet gnocchi and fry bread.

A true gut-buster.

At this time of the year, like their Pyramid Lake sister, they’re also offering a Stargazers Canyon Dinner, which features a different three-course meal telescope experience with Jasper Planetarium.

It will be something to remember on the prettiest return to Calgary you’ll ever have.

(Note: before heading there, please check out each venue’s websites for their COVID protocol.)