If you really want to avoid wilderness national park tourist craziness, go to Jasper in early October. Be warned: I’ve never been there during summer and don’t feel like going there then, to challenge my own claim.
Just know that Banff National Park received a bumper crop of all-time high of tourists 2018-2019 (data probably cover Apr. 1018-Mar. 2019) over 4 million, while 300 kms. north, Jasper got 2.4 million visitors.
So we set off by bus, over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in mid-October when a lot of the autumn tree colour had faded. Hotel rates were cheaper. Not a huge deal, since magnificent mountains along the trip were always there.
Enroute, at the Columbia Icefields where the famous bowl-shaped mountain glacier looms ahead, a woman mused wistfully how much of the glacier had disappeared from when she last saw it over 30 years ago.
We climbed out for a short 10 min. scamper onto the wintery snow dusted walk bridge, to snap a few shots.
At Jasper, we marvelled over the lack of snow during that time, warmer air compared to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Parks Canada staff confirmed this for us.
So we rented mountain bikes for short rolls outside of the town.
We wandered up the de rigeur Fort lookout rock point and short hiking trail overlooking the pristine blue-green Athabasca River winding to the north.
Sweeping views like this, underscore just how much of Canada’s land so much is still wilderness. In a few weeks, no doubt people will hang here at night and hope for possible flicker of northern lights. Jasper is promoted as having expansive night sky for star-gazing and northern lights.
After some broken sleep for me due to Canadian Rail freight trains shunting during the night, across from the hotel, we biked off a few kilometres to Maligne Canyon. We spotted a few elk near our quiet road since it was elk rutting season where the males mate and are aggressive. I took off while Jack snapped a few photos.
We hiked the quiet path along the Maligne Canyon and could see the turquoise Maligne River tumbling northward deep in the canyon. Like a long ruffled aqua silk scarf, buffeted by limestone rocks, the clear river twisted through the limestone rock cleavage. The lightly crisp air was peaceful and fresh with a hint of evergreen.
We dropped by the Jasper Yellowhead Historical Society Museum where display photos featured amongst the miners, a Silk Train that Canadian National Railway ran this far north in Canada from Vancouver to Ontario to ship silk from Japan. Prior to CNR was the Intercolonial Railway line that ran over 1,000 km in this area and into the U.S.
Later we relaxed for our Thanksgiving dinner at restaurant, facing the mountains as the sun dipped slowly, burnishing the mountains and town with its fall golden touch.