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Living in Edmonton, we are blessed to only be 3.5 hours away from Jasper National Park, and I’ve been going there regularly since I was a kid. Jasper’s towering peaks and gorgeous, easy-to-reach lakes are truly the stuff of dreams, making it one of the most compelling places to visit in Alberta with kids.
Now I’ve got kids of my own, and I’m slowly rediscovering Jasper as a parent who happens to love planning fun trips for my kids (also see my similar guide to visiting Banff with kids!)
We’ve already done several trips to Jasper with our kids, in both winter and summer, and even as a day trip from Edmonton. In this article, I’m going to combine the best summer and winter activities for kids in Jasper, so that you can plan an unforgettable Jasper family road trip, no matter when you’re planning to go.
I’m going to start out with the best kid-friendly hikes in Jasper, because we feel that’s the best way for little ones (and adults!) to experience the Jasper. Next, I’ll cover our most memorable Jasper winter activities with kids, including the awe-inspiring Maligne Canyon Ice Walk.
Finally, I’ll give more suggestions for things to do in Jasper townsite with kids, the best family-friendly restaurants in Jasper, and finally other suitable places to visit in Jasper National Park with kids.
I hope this helps you to plan a trip that your kids will remember for a lifetime. You can also read about Alberta’s four other national parks here!
Where to Stay in Jasper with Kids
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda) is Jasper’s most iconic hotel, and if you don’t mind to splurge, they’ve got all kinds of kid-friendly tours and children’s activities available.
Staying in a cabin is a quintessential Jasper family experience. Pochahontas Cabins (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda) near Miette Hot Springs and the entrance to Jasper National Park (coming in from Edmonton) are a popular choice that we’ve stayed at several times. They’ve even got a swimming pool & hot tub.
Closer to town, we’ve also stayed in a cabin at Jasper House Bungalows (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda) at the start of the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93, which connects Jasper and Banff National Parks).
Best Jasper Hikes with Kids
If you’re visiting Jasper with kids, I would highly recommend going on one if not several hikes. We feel this is the best way to experience Jasper National Park, and hiking is always the focus on our Jasper trips with our kids. Luckily, there are several easy, family-friendly options.
As a safety note, always remember to carry bear spray when hiking in Jasper, with or without kids!
Also see my guide to the best hikes for kids in Kananaskis country!
Valley of the Five Lakes
The stunning Valley of the Five Lakes trail is often cited as the best hiking trail in Jasper to do with kids. The hike is located on the Icefields Parkway, just 10 kilometers south of Jasper townsite.
What makes Valley of the Five Lakes trail so good for kids? Well, it’s easy and only has some mild up-and-down.
Yet, the trail is long enough to give the kids a sense of accomplishment, especially if they make it to all five lakes.
An adult can do the trail in one hour; we spent 2.5 hours (kids aged 5 and 7), and that’s a leisurely pace, with lots of stops to see chipmunks and even take a swim at the First and Fifth Lake.
At the trailhead, there’s a large parking lot with washrooms. The lot often fills up at peak times, so I’d recommend coming early on a weekday if you can. The trail begins with an easy stroll through the forest, then crosses a long boardwalk.
Next, if you follow the trail guide I linked to above, there’s a little uphill section and then you’ll turn left at a fork, walking between lakes 1 and 2. After enjoying the view of First Lake, the trail veers to the right, above the shores of lakes 2, 3, and 4.
Reaching lake 5, there’s a dock, and some people even go for a swim here. The kids and I made it in to our waist in the chilly water, but it wasn’t a super hot day, so that’s as far as we made it!
Overall, our kids REALLY loved this hike. The time needed and level of difficulty were perfect. And with views like this, it’s no wonder Alberta is considered the most beautiful of Canada’s provinces!
If you love mountain lakes, then also read my guides to the best easy-to-reach lakes in Jasper, easy-to-reach lakes in Banff, easy-to-reach lakes in Kananaskis, and my tips for visiting Waterton Lakes National Park.
Edith Cavell Trail
Edith Cavell Meadows Trail is a more difficult trail (it’s rated medium), but the first section of it is super easy, kid-friendly, and incredibly scenic.
In only about 20 minutes (and that’s kid walking speed), you’ll reach an absolutely stunning glacial lake, Cavell Pond. High above on Mount Edith Cavell, Angel Glacier hangs off the mountain, with several waterfalls pouring down from it into the lake.
Even at the peak of summer, there are large chunks of ice floating in the lake. Our kids got a real kick out of picking up pieces of ice and seeing how long they could hold them.
For me, the view of Cavell Pond and Angel Glacier wasone of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in the Rockies. We spent a good half hour playing around by the lake before walking back down.
One thing to know about this hike is that it requires a long (about 20-minutes each way) drive up a winding road from the Icefields Parkway. If your kids are prone to getting carsick like mine are, be prepared for this.
Also, bear sightings are VERY common on this hike. Several reviews of the hike mentioned spotting a grizzly mama with two cubs in the days before we went. So don’t forget your bear spray, and keep the kids close by.
Like Valley of the Five Lakes, this hike is also very popular and the large parking lot usually fills up by mid-day, even on weekdays. We went around 9 a.m. on a weekday, and there were only about a dozen cars, but by the time we finished, it was almost full.
You can read more about Edith Cavell Meadows Trail here.
Edge of the World Trail
If you’re already doing Valley of the Five Lakes or Edith Cavell Meadows, it’s simple to add on Edge of the World Trail, an easy, 20-minute-return hike to a somewhat scary lookout point.
The hike itself is super easy, but with kids of course you’ll want to take care at the lookout point, as it’s basically on the edge of a steep cliff. You can easily enjoy the view without going right up to the edge.
After the lookout point, the trail descends a few more minutes to a creek that cascades down the mountain. Be especially careful if you venture to this point.
The hike starts at the final bend in the road before reaching Marmot Basin Ski Resort. There’s a tiny parking lot just before the bend, where you can park then walk a few minutes up the highway to find the entrance to the hike.
Horseshoe Lake is a small lake on the Icefields Parkway, 25 minutes’ drive south of Jasper townsite and 12 minutes’ drive south of Valley of the Five Lakes.
The lake is especially known for swimming and cliff diving, so older kids will especially love it. The easy Horseshoe Lake Trail follows the lake shore and can easily be done in less than an hour with kids.
As a known swimming spot, the lake can be especially busy on hot summer days.
Athabasca & Sunwapta Falls
Athabasca & Sunwapta Falls are two of Alberta’s most famous waterfalls and some of the nearest big waterfalls to Edmonton (. They are both on the Icefields Parkway; Athabasca is 30 minutes south of Jasper townsite, and Sunwapta is another 10 minutes past it.
Both waterfalls are highly suitable for visiting with kids. Athabasca Falls is only 250 meters from the parking lot and has walks to various lookout points. Sunwapta Falls is even closer to to its parking lot, but also has a 2.8-km return walk to a lower set of falls.
Maligne Canyon, the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, is a magnet for visitors. It is one of the most popular attractions in Jasper, especially for families.
A walking trail leads through the canyon, including six bridges across the river, with the most dramatic section of the gorge located between First and Third Bridges.
Most people park in the large parking lot at First Bridge and walk (downstream, and downhill), usually going as far as bridges 4 or 5 before turning and walking back uphill to their car. With kids, you could budget a couple hours to do this.
If you happen to have two cars in your party, you could leave one at the parking lot at Fifth Bridge and then drive up to First Bridge, then you could just walk down the canyon one-way and not have to walk back up.
With young children, walking back uphill at the end can be very tiring. Therefore, I recommend that you park at the bottom of the canyon (the parking lot at Fifth Bridge). Then you can walk uphill first, and enjoy the easier downhill walk back to your car. If you don’t make it all the way up to First Bridge, well, you can drive up there after.
Because we actually did Maligne Canyon with our kids in winter, I’ll share all our kid pics in the “Jasper Winter Activities” section below.
For a super easy walking trail in Jasper with toddlers or even a baby, I’d recommend Pyramid Island Trail on Pyramid Lake.
Pyramid Lake is a pretty lake only 10 minutes’ drive north of Jasper townsite. It is backed by Pyramid Mountain, one of Jasper’s most iconic and easily recognizable peaks.
From the parking lot, a short trail crosses a bridge to the island and does a loop around it. It’s less than 1 kilometer in total, but with kids, you could easily spend an hour or more exploring the small island and enjoying the views.
With older kids, there are several longer hikes that begin from the shore of the lake.
Other Easy Hikes for Kids in Jasper
A few other kid-friendly hikes in Jasper include the following:
- Jasper Discovery Trail: a large loop that does a complete circle around Jasper Townsite. You can access it from various points, and easily just do one section of it.
- Lake Annette Loop: An easy walking trail around a beautiful lake near Jasper townsite. The trail is stroller friendly, takes around one hour, and there’s even a beach (which I’ll cover below) on the parking lot side.
- Old Fort Point: This is a slightly more difficult hike suitable for older kids or ones who are a little more experienced at hiking. The hike ascends steadily to the top of a hill with an amazing view looking down on all of Jasper townsite. It’s only a few minutes’ drive out of town.
Other Summer Activities for Kids in Jasper
Besides hiking, there are many other family-friendly outdoors activities in Jasper, including kayaking, canoeing, SUP (stand-up paddleboarding), white-water rafting, fishing, star gazing (Jasper is an official dark sky preserve), cycling, and more.
Jasper Winter Activities with Kids
If you are lucky enough to visit Jasper in winter with kids, you’ll encounter a winter wonderland landscape, hardly any crowds, cheaper prices, and loads of fun winter activities to enjoy.
When we took our kids, the temperatures were especially cold, dropping down to -30°C and lower on a few days we were there. Yet we still managed to do a fair bit; we just spent a little more time in the car and hotel. Make sure to get one with a hot tub!
Maligne Canyon Icewalk
Doing the Maligne Canyon Icewalk was easily our most memorable experience in Jasper with our kids. The Icewalk is a section of the Maligne Canyon trail where you can walk right on top of the frozen river, through a narrow gorge past several frozen waterfalls and ice formations. The Icewalk can be accessed from a gate between bridges 4 and 5, and goes upstream to around Bridge 3 before you need to turn back.
I must admit it was the activity I was the most worried about, but in the end, I can proudly say that our kids conquered this one like champions.
As I mentioned above, if you plan to tackle Maligne Canyon with kids, especially in winter, I highly recommend parking at the bottom of the Canyon, in the parking lot at Fifth Bridge.
Otherwise, if you park at the top, at First Bridge, you’ll have to finish the day with a steep, slippery walk uphill back to your car. And trust me, our kids were totally out of energy at the end of this one!
Another strong suggestion I have is to get ice cleats or spikes for everyone in your family. For kids, we found simple slip-on ones from Mountain Equipment Co-Op. They were helpful on the main path of the Maligne Canyon Trail, but absolutely essential once we got to the Icewalk portion.
From Fifth Bridge, the trail follows Maligne River gently uphill. Within 10-20 minutes, we reached the first gate that provides across to the creek and made the mistake of taking it.
This gate did take us down to the frozen river, and we walked on it for a ways, and it was indeed beautiful. However, after about 10 minutes, we reached a rocky ledge, the dry bed of a small waterfall. It was difficult to climb up, and we almost gave up, but finally managed to get ourselves and the kids up it.
After conquering that climb, a few minutes later, we reached a much larger frozen waterfall, a total dead end. We ended up having to climb a steep snowy trail up the side of the canyon (see pic below) to get back to the main trail.
So the point of the story is: don’t take the first gate! Instead, wait for one of the later gates to access the river.
The correct gate is quite obvious, because from it, you can see an incredibly beautiful frozen portion of the river right below, and most likely, there will be several people exploring the ice there already. You can see what that part looks like in the below photos:
From there, we walked upstream on the creek for about 15 minutes, surrounded by jaw-dropping scenes of frozen waterfalls and enormous hanging icicles.
Although the walk seemed to go further, we decided to stop and turn back after we managed to climb right behind one particularly stunning frozen waterfall. Perhaps it got even better after that, but this point was a climax for us, and we wanted make sure the kids would have enough energy to make it back.
I was honestly amazed with our kids for completing this tough, chilly hike. It was nearly -20°C that day, and they don’t have much hiking experience, especially in winter. At the start, they weren’t super enthusiastic, and climbing up that slippery ledge scared Lavender quite a bit.
But after we conquered that, the kids got a boost of energy and confidence. They literally bounced (or rather slipped and slided) the rest of the way, and wanted to go even further at the end. By the time we made it back to the car, though, they were completely pooped.
One final thing to note is that the Icewalk can be very dangerous when the ice is too thin at the start or end of the season. It’s important to only do this at the peak of winter after some long stretches of extreme cold. There is a rushing stream below the ice, and if you fall in, well…
It is also possible (and safer) to do a guided tour of the Icewalk.
Ice Skating on Pyramid Lake
While Maligne Canyon Icewalk was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, ice skating on Pyramid Lake was up there as well.
Skating on a frozen lake backed by towering mountains is truly an iconic Canadian experience. Our kids loved it, even though it was quite cold that day, and they still talk about it fondly many months later.
The skating rink at Pyramid Lake is maintained by Pyramid Lake Resort (see on Booking / Tripadvisor / Agoda). It’s free to use, and there’s a small parking lot and washroom there. The resort also arranges horse sleigh rides.
If you don’t have skates, you can rent them in town at Jasper Source for Sports.
Besides Pyramid Lake, you can also go ice skating at Mildred Lake, which is maintained by Jasper Park Lodge. They even offer hot chocolate and there are lights in the evening.
Frozen Athabasca & Sunwapta Falls
Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls, which I already described above in the summer hiking section, are also great to visit in winter with kids.
We went on a particularly cold day, so we had just enough time to see both falls from various angles before we got too cold and had to return to the car.
Scenic Drive to Medicine & Maligne Lake
On another day that was especially cold on our winter visit to Jasper with kids, our options for things to do were quite limited, so we decided to go for a drive up Maligne Lake Road, past Maligne Canyon, to Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake.
In summer, Maligne Lake is especially popular for its lake cruises to Spirit Island, one of the most famous scenes in the Canadian Rockies.
In winter, almost nobody drives the road. The scenery along it is beautiful, and there’s a high chance of spotting wildlife.
Our first stop was at a small rest stop between Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake (watch for a small parking lot and restroom on the right side). There, we found a pair of Parks Canada red chairs with an inspiring view of Maligne River.
Reaching Medicine Lake, we were for a short walk down to the lake. It was extremely cold that day, so we didn’t last long, but the kids loved sliding down the stairs and sinking deeply into the snow.
At Maligne Lake, there wasn’t much to do besides walking out onto the deep snow covering the lake, but the wintery views were stunning.
Other Winter Activities for Kids in Jasper
With older kids or teenagers, adventurous families will find numerous activity options in Jasper. These include snowshoeing, skiing at Marmot Basin, cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and tobogganing.
Things to Do in Jasper Townsite with Kids
Since most hotels are located in Jasper townsite, there’s a good chance you’ll be staying there. While there aren’t any activities in town aimed specifically at kids, Jasper is a laid-back mountain resort town with some interesting shops and family-friendly eating options.
Note that there used to be a small animal museum under Whistler’s Hotel called The Den Wildlife Museum, but it is permanently closed.
Munch on a Beaver Tail
This classic Canadian treat can be enjoyed at BeaverTails in Jasper. Beaver Tails are a flat piece of deep fried dough with your choice of sweet toppings. This is always a hit with our kids.
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Jasper
You aren’t going to find restaurants with indoor playgrounds or anything like that in Jasper. Just choose what you want and bring the kids along!
We loved our meal at Alba, a traditional Italian restaurant. They have a few interesting options beyond the usual pizza & pasta (and a decent wine list), and Sage & Lavender loved their kids’ meals. The restaurant is casual and reasonably priced.
For brunch, we also enjoyed an excellent meal at Harvest Food & Drink.
If you prefer to dine in your hotel room (sometimes that’s just easiest with kids), we recommend Jasper Pizza Place. They have both thin and thick wood fired pizzas, and they are one of the only places in town that will deliver to your hotel for free (just make sure to order direct).
For your ice cream fix, try Scoops & Loops, or sample waffles and other creative sweet treats at Wafflato.
Centennial Park Playground
No matter where we travel to in the world, our kids always need to find a playground at some point to get some playing energy out.
In Jasper, there’s a good playground in Centennial Park, a few blocks off the main road. There’s a parking lot and washrooms on site.
At first glance, it didn’t seem like the small Jasper Museum would be suitable for kids, as it mostly focuses on history.
However, I’ve since seen some reviews mentioning that the friendly staff arrange a small scavenger hunt for kids, so we’ve put it on the list for the next time we visit!
Tourism Jasper Visitor’s Centre
It’s worth stopping in at the Visitor’s Centre if only to pick up a free national park activity booklet for kids. Our kids always enjoy them and it helps to pass them time between sights, plus they get to learn about some local plants & animals.
Annette Lake Beach
Annette Lake has one of the few sandy beaches in Jasper National Park, making it a perfect spot for families. Sure, the lake is chilly, but it’s not as ice-cold as some of the others in the park.
Besides spending time on the beach, you can walk the path around the lake in about an hour (stroller friendly). Watch out for Ochre Lake, a quicksand-filled lagoon beside the northeastern shore.
The parking lot for the beach is between Annette Lake and Edith Lake. There’s also a small playground in the parking lot and several picnic tables.
Located at Faimont Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper Planetarium will appeal to any kids interested in space.
The main experiences on offer are a 40-minute show in a domed theatre and evening sky and sun viewing with telescopes. The minimum age for both is 4.
Other Places to Visit in Jasper National Park with Kids
Beyond Jasper Townsite, there are a few essential experiences you’ll want to consider adding to your Jasper itinerary with kids.
Jasper Lake Sand Dunes
If you’ve ever driven from Edmonton to Jasper, you’ve probably passed by the Jasper Sand Dunes without even realizing it. They are right beside the highway but out-of-sight as you pass by.
This makes for a great little stop with the kids when driving into Jasper. Our kids had a blast climbing and sliding down the dunes and soaking their feet in the lake.
The sand dunes are found on a thin strip of land that the highway crosses between Jasper Lake (actually a wide stretch of the Athabasca River) and Talbot Lake. The largest dunes are on Jasper Lake, but there are some on Talbot Lake too.
Even though Jasper Sand Dunes is marked on GoogleMaps, finding the right spot to park is trickier. Driving from Edmonton toward Jasper, after you pass the spot marked “Jasper Lake San Dunes” on GoogleMaps, about one minute later, there will be a small parking lot on the left (opposite, Talbot Lake) side of the road with an outhouse. Watch carefully for it, because there are other stops before and after it on Talbot Lake.
At this small parking lot, there is a sand dune leading right down to Talbot Lake. To find the main sand dunes, you’ll need to cross the highway (be careful!) to Jasper Lake then walk north for a few minutes along the shore. You can’t miss them!
If you reach a large parking lot on the right (Jasper Lake) side with tons of cars, you’ve gone too far. This is a popular spot for people to stop and admire the view of Jasper Lake, but from there it would be a much further walk along the shore of of Jasper Lake to reach the sand dunes.
Miette Hot Spring
Miette Hot Spring is the only developed hot spring in Jasper National Park. It is a 20-minute drive up the mountain from the highway. The turnoff is at Pochahontas Cabins, just inside the entrance gate to Jasper National Park when driving in from Edmonton.
Miette Hot Spring is suitable for kids and is surrounded by gorgeous mountain peaks. Unfortunately, though, it is only open from mid-May to mid-October, as the road becomes unsafe in winter.
Jasper Skytram is a gondola that whisks passengers up Whistler’s Mountain (the mountain is named after the whistling sound that marmots make) a few kilometers southwest of Jasper townsite.
The large gondolas fit about a dozen people and depart once every 20 minutes or so. I’m going to be completely honest here and say that we didn’t have a good Jasper Skytram experience with our kids.
For starters, even though we booked in advance and arrived 20 minutes early as recommended, we got bumped to a later flight Apparently they gave away our spots to people who missed their earlier flight, plus they overbooked ours.
In the end, we stood waiting 45 minutes to board. By then, our daughter was in a bad mood and decided she hated the experience, even though I was able to sneak this cute photo of her:
At the top, it was quite cold and incredibly windy (even in summer, but we were prepared for that). Most people do the hike from the Upper Station to the actual summit of Whistler’s Peak, and yes, the views are incredible.
I think if our kids had been in a better mood and the weather was nicer, we could have done it, but on that day, they just wouldn’t have it.
Overall, we had a far better experience on the Banff Gondola a few days later. The view was better, you get a gondola to yourself instead of sharing with strangers, there’s almost no wait, and the overall experience is much better for kids.
The Banff gondola even has activity booklets and free snacks for kids, a kid-friendly museum, and the walking trail at the top is better for kids.
If you’re only going to Jasper and not Banff, do consider the experience, but be prepared for cold & windy weather at the top (even in summer) and a possible long wait. For us, it just wasn’t worth the high cost of the tickets, and we had much a better experience hiking (for free!) for our views in Jasper.
The only thing we all agreed that we loved about the Jasper Skytram was the super cute pikas at the top. There are also marmots up there, but we didn’t spot any.
Athabasca Glacier & Columbia Icefield Skywalk
If you drive the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff National Park, the last stop you’re likely to make in Jasper before entering Banff National Park is at Athabasca Glacier.
Athabasca Glacier is a finger of the Columbia Icefield, the largest ice field in the North American Rocky Mountains.
It is possible to park your car and walk to the foot of the glacier for free. For the full experience, you can take a ride in an Ice Explorer (large vehicles that drive on the glacier) and walk right on the glacier on the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure.
This guided tour also includes a trip to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, a glass-bottomed viewing platform, or you can buy a Skywalk-only ticket.
To be honest, based on reading many reviews, we think the Skywalk is overrated, not to mention our kids would probably be scared of it. What’s more, in 2020, one of the Ice Explorers tipped over and three people died.
For these reasons, we haven’t done either the Ice Explorer ride or Skywalk, but both remain extremely popular activitiesamong visitors. At most, you may consider walking to the foot of the glacier with your kids, but it can be very crowded. Or just do like we did, and catch a glimpse of the glacier as you drive by on the highway!
An optional side trip from the Icefields Parkway, if you’re visiting in winter, is to go see the famous frozen ice bubbles at Abraham Lake.
Well, that brings us to the end of my guide to visiting Jasper with kids. Thank you if you read this far! If you have any questions, or if you make it to Jasper with your kids, let me know in the comments below how it goes!