0900: Today is Day 2 of our Canadian Road trip (Read about Day 1 here). We are going from Kamloops, British Columbia to Jasper, Alberta.
We headed out of Kamloops after a quick coffee in the morning as we were keen to get to the Rockies “proper”. Heading out of Kamloops you have to go north on Highway 5 towards Jasper. The road was pretty flat and we spotted the Rocky Mountaineer train in the distance.
1115: Stopped in Little Fort for a late breakfast at a small service station. Saw this advert selling 5 and 10 Acre plots of land around a lake, and we spent the next half an hour discussing whether we should move here. I for one, was seriously tempted!
1150: Back on the road. The North Thompson river starts running parallel to the road here.
and the landscape starts to get interesting…
The rail track also criss-crosses the route from time to time.
1330: Arrived in Blue River – a small village halfway between Kamloops and Jasper. It is popular for outdoor activities, but we are going on a River Safari to hopefully see some bears! I’ve written a separate post about the whole adventure here.
1530: After the bear adventure, it was time to hit the road again. From this point the road got decidedly more dramatic. You get some picture postcard views.
Before long, we got to Valemount. Valemount is the nearest village/community to the West of Jasper National Park and to Mount Robson Provincial Park, which is home to Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Valemount is a good place to spend time if you are a fan of outdoor recreation, but we were only here for a pit-stop (and to buy tooth paste).
Soon after Valemount, you turn East on to Highway 16 (also known at the Yellow-Head Highway) towards Jasper, and this is where it gets really breathtaking. You start to see the imposing Mount Robson in the distance.
As well as being the highest in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson is also the second highest peak entirely in British Columbia, behind Mount Waddington in the Coast Range.
From Highway 16 (where we were), the South face of Mount Robson is clearly visible and unsurprisingly, one of the most photographed features along this route. As we were approaching it from the West, the peaks were covered in mist.
and a little later:
It is no doubt the most scenic drive of our trip so far. We even saw some deer by the side of the road, and at Junction 6 – A black bear! No photos, as given my shoddy timing, by the time I got the camera sorted, it had run away.
Soon we crossed the state border into Alberta – Wild Rose Country. One of the main differences you start to notice is that in Alberta, the road signs are in English and French both. (British Columbia only have English signs).
Soon after you enter Alberta you come across the gates to the Jasper National Park. Unless you have one already, you need to buy a “Park Pass” here. There are various rates available, from 9.80 CAD per adult, per day to 136.40 CAD for a family or group (consisting up-to 7 people) for a year. The pass covers ALL the national parks in Canada. So if there’s at least two of you and you are spending more than a week per year visiting Canadian National Parks, it’s definitely worth buying the annual pass. Although we are only here for 5 days, we opted for the annual pass as it was only a bit more expensive (and we were hopeful of coming back). Also, as an added Bonus, entry to national parks in Canada in 2017 is free (!), so our pass is valid for two years rather than the usual one year. More details here. The pass is essentially a small card which needs to be clearly visible from your vehicle. We hung ours from the rear view mirror.
1815: We arrived in Jasper – and went straight to the hotel. We are staying at Chateau Jasper – about 15 minutes walk from the main town centre.
1915: Without realising, we’d jumped ahead by an hour, as Alberta is on Mountain Time Zone. (British Columbia is on Pacific Time Zone).
We headed out to explore Jasper and to get some dinner. It was closing time for most shops, but we were able to get some nice pictures of the town.
Jasper is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. It is ~225 miles West of Edmonton and 180 miles North of Banff, Alberta, at the intersection of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) and Highway 93 (Icefields Parkway).
It is what I would describe as a small town. We were here early in the season, but you could tell that in peak season this is a town that would get very busy. The town itself is in a valley surrounded by several mountain ranges. There are many hotels and guest houses mixed in with the homes of the residents. The main street is a myriad of restaurants, souvenir shops and outdoor shops.
We had dinner at a restaurant called Syrahs, which although on the pricey side, did an excellent Sockeye Salmon.
All in all, it was another beautiful day in the Canadian Rockies. Tomorrow we are exploring Jasper National Park. There is no doubt that finally, we are in the Rockies “proper”.
- Drive from Kamloops to Jasper is 441 km, and takes about 4.5 hours non-stop.
- Services: No large service stations, but plenty of small villages and communities along the way, so that you can easily find place to park up, refuel (car and self) and stretch your legs
- Wildlife spotting count: 5 deer (on the side of the road), 3 black bears (2 on river safari, 1 on the side of the road)
- Things to see and do on the way:
- River safari to see bears (and other wildlife). See separate post.
- Numerous outdoor activities (hiking, kayaking, camping, mountain biking etc).
- Wells Gray provincial park – again, a lot of outdoor activities and home to the Helmecken falls. We didn’t have time to go the the falls, as we chose to see the bears. But it is on my list for next time!
Wondering what you could be doing in Jasper National Park? Read my post about the Miette Hot Spring and Maligne Lake to find out. Or may be you would like to continue Down the Icefields Parkway on to Lake Louise…