One of the biggest reason’s people love to come to Jasper National Park is to see the wildlife. It’s literally like driving through an open zoo (except of course the animals are wild!). Each Summer tourists are stopped on the side of the road with their camera’s out ready to snap pics of these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
I’ve lived in this area for 40 years. I've explored many areas of the park while pursuing the outdoor activities of hiking, snowboarding, biking, soaking in natural hot springs and rock climbing. Along the way I've seen a lot of wildlife and in this post I narrowed down a few suggestions for wildlife viewing on your Jasper Park vacation.
At the end of this post I also give some suggestions on how to do this safely and some points to consider if you are not used to seeing wildlife so close. Please read these carefully for both your own protection as well as the animals.
1. The Miette Hot Springs Road
The closest I have ever been to a bear has been on this road. Twice from the safety of my car and once on my mountain bike. Because this road is so narrow and goes right into the mountains when a bear is on the side of the road you are literally right next to it. As you can see in this picture I took from the safety of our car & a zoom lens. I would never get this close to a bear outside my car.
The one time I rode my bike up to the Hot Springs from the Overlander Lodge and a similar situation happened where the bear was on the side of the road and people were stopped to look at him. Since I was just on my bike I waited until he seemed disinterested then rode past him. My heart was beating so fast. I'm sure he couldn’t care a less but of course the thought was there that he might run after me.
At the top of the Miette Hot Springs road is of course the hot springs but another chance to see wildlife is surprisingly right in the parking lot. Often there are mountain sheep hanging out eating the grass and licking salt off the cars. You can get really close to them but as will all wildlife make sure to keep a safe distance since they are wild and unpredictable.
3. Maligne Lake Road
Wildlife Jams we call them. Basically everyone stops to check out the animals and all traffic awareness goes out the window. People park in the middle of the road and then get out with their cameras. While I highly recommend you don’t do this the spot this is most likely to happen is the Maligne Lake Road. Again you are driving through breathtaking mountain scenery in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. There is a really good chance you will see some wildlife as a result. Plan to take your time and enjoy the moment. At the end of the road you will be greeted with this.
4. Pyramid Lake Road
Often you can see wildlife right in the town of Jasper but if you don’t want to go too far you can make your way up to Pyramid Lake and watch out along the way. The road leaves from within the town of Jasper and heads up into the hills winding it’s way to the beautiful Pyramid Lake. On the way you will pass Patricia Lake as well as some trails. Since it’s such a short drive and easily accessible it’s worth taking a drive up to see if you can spot some Elk, Deer or maybe even a Bear. Be warned this road is narrow and often people are stopped so although it is a short drive it can take longer than expected. Be careful when passing that someone isn’t coming around the corner.
5. Marmot Basin Road
Growing up as a snowboarder I have driven this road hundred’s of times. It was here that I saw my first and only Lynx. In the Winter the road is busy with skiers but in the summer the traffic slightly dies down and makes for a nice drive. It’s relatively close to other attractions like the Athabasca Falls and the Tonquin Valley which you might want to add in for a full day. The roads to both of those places will provide slightly off the beaten path opportunities for wild life viewing as well.
Jasper National Park is full of wildlife. There aren’t many places left in the world where you can see the animals naturally like you can here right from your car. As more and more people visit Jasper the amount of “tourist jams” increase. This is when you have many people and cars all stopped. In the excitement people often forget the following two points. Please read them over and consider them when you come across wildlife on your trip.
Oh and then 1 more!
The Overlander Mountain Lodge
When I was managing the Overlander there were days I couldn’t get away for a mountain bike ride or a climb so I would just sneak in a quick ride at lunch. You would think that I wouldn’t see much being so close but I ran into everything from bears, moose, elk, deer you name it. We’ve also had many “visitors” of the furry kind come right through the property. This is one of the benefits to staying with us. You’re so close to the nature. It’s literally right out the doorstep. Click here to see the rooms and learn more about the Overlander Lodge Jasper Park’s hidden gem.
1. Don't Forget You Are On A Road
When people spot an animal they often forget they are still on the highway with cars driving by
I’ve seen people slam on their brakes in the middle of the highway, put the car in park, then get out to take pictures. I know it’s exciting especially if you haven’t see wildlife like this before but for your safety, the other drivers and the animals please follow these tips. Although a lot of the people on the roads are tourists many are not. These people are commuting or on their way to work and are used to seeing animals so will need to get by and on their way. If you are going to stop then pull to the side of the road and exit your car carefully.
2. Don't Forget These are Wild Animals
When you first see an Elk it might have the same demeanor as a Cow on a farm. But there is one key difference. The Cow is domesticated and the Elk is wild. Some of the stories I could tell you about how close people get to these animals would shock you. To get close is not in your best interest, your family or the animals. Keep a safe distance and allow the animals their space. Zoom in for that shot rather than walking in.