Mention Canadian Rockies, and most people instantly think of Banff. As main tourist destination in Rockies, Banff is very much a commercial town geared to tourism. But for those who like their Rockies a little quieter, 250 kilometres north is paradise - town of Jasper.
July and August are peak times to visit Jasper, but if you don't mind colder weather and like your lakes frozen, you can avoid some of tourists by visiting in few months either side. The weather can be haphazard, so allow a little flexibility in your plans.
Six kilometres south of Jasper is Whistler Mountain. If you visit early or late in day, you will most likely hear melodic sounds made by whistling marmots living on lower slopes of mountain. Early birds can also get cheaper tickets on Whistler Mountain gondola. The terminus is at 2,500m, with spectacular views south to Columbia Icefields, and west to Mount Robson.
For those who prefer to look up at mountains, there are plenty of beautiful lakes close to town, all surrounded by snow topped peaks. Patricia and Pyramid Lakes, 8km north-west of town, are small and quiet. They have beaches just begging for picnickers to sit on them and admire view after a tranquil lunch. Herds of elk and deer roam area, and if you're very lucky, you may spot a coyote or a black bear.
Maligne Lake is south of Jasper, and is largest of glacier fed lakes. A boathouse from 1920s completes storybook setting. There are a couple of excellent hikes in area, taking full advantage of beautiful scenery.
Nearby is Maligne Canyon, a narrow cleft through rocks filled with roaring water during spring thaw. It's also home to a very active herd of big horn sheep, who can jump out of nowhere to startle tourists.
For those visitors who like more leisurely pursuits, it is possible to swim in Lakes Annette and Edith near town. Situated at around 1000m, they are popular during summer months, although it's still not advisable to take a lengthy swim in icy waters.
After a few hard days of sightseeing, go for a leisurely drive about 40km towards Edmonton. At sleepy little town of Pocahontas (she certainly got around!) take turnoff to Miette Hot Springs. The renovated spas contain two pools, and are a welcome respite for tired bodies. On way there you may be lucky enough to see mountain goats beside road, although they're more likely to be perched on a cliff high above you.
Another excellent drive is route 93A, which was original road heading out of Jasper towards Banff. Now preserved as a scenic route, road offers a number of interesting stops. Keep your eyes open, particularly during quieter times early and late in day, because wild life abounds here. Mother bears with their cubs have been seen chomping on berries right beside road!
The aptly named "Meeting of Waters" marks place where two rivers join together. During spring thaw this meeting can make for spectacular waterworks. Further along, it is worth taking time to visit Moab Lake. A pleasant walk ends with magnificently sited lake, mountains hovering in background.