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ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Jasper in December

ULTIMATE Guide to Visiting Jasper in December

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Jasper, Alberta is a fun place to visit in the wintery month of December. This cute mountain town sits right in the middle of Jasper National Park, and besides the obvious outdoorsy things to do, there are plenty of reasons to visit Jasper in the month of December.

From skiing to delicious food to cozy log cabins, Jasper in the winter is perfect. And in December, it’s even better when you add in the festive events of the season. Christmas lights are everywhere and you can bet on a great NYE party.

So if you’re thinking about visiting Jasper in December this year, then look no further. This blog is all about everything you need to know about visiting Jasper in the month of December including the best events, activities, and so much more!

Why Visit Jasper in December

Malign Lake in winter
Maligne Lake near Jasper in December.

I’m not going to lie to you here, Jasper is one of those destinations that’s truly epic all year round. There are so many things to do in Jasper that you’ll find yourself busy no matter which month you choose to visit.

But December is special in Jasper.

You’ll get to experience the winter wonderland that is Jasper National Park as well as celebrate the most festive time of year! Sing some carols, wear a Santa outfit to Marmot, or if you want, attend a special Christmas feast put on by one of the many hotels around Jasper.

Jasper Events in December

christmas tree in the snow with lights
Winter in Jasper is so festive!

One of the best events in December is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge’s annual Festival of Christmas. This event usually starts about a week before Christmas and includes tons of different Christmassy events to get you in the holiday spirit. There are plenty of family-friendly activities including visits with Sanada, skating with elves, cookie decorating and so much more. Of course, the events change each year so be sure to check their website for the most up-to-date info.

Many hotels also offer special Christmas feasts on both Christmas Eve and Day. Hotels that have been known to do this in the past include The Lobstick, Marmot Lodge, and Chateau Jasper. Of course, this changes annually so be sure to ask your hotel if they’re offering a Christmas dinner and if not, if any others nearby are.

You can also hit the slopes at Marmot Basin every day in December including Christmas Day! Just be aware of the shorter hours, on December 25, Marmot is only open from 10am to 3pm but you’ll only pay for a half-day pass that day – bonus!

Otherwise, you can expect some great deals in Jasper town for Boxing Day.

Things to do in Jasper in December

1. Go skiing or snowboarding at Marmot Basin

A lady skis at Marmot Basin in Jasper during winter
Hitting the slopes has to be one of my favorite winter activities!

The border between British Columbia and Alberta is made up of the very epic Rocky Mountains. These mountains make for some of the best skiing and snowboarding around! When in Jasper, the place to go is Marmot Basin

Marmot opened up back in the 1920s and has been the outdoor playground in the area for the last century. The mountain offers a huge 3,000 feet of skiing and snowboarding over 1,720 acres of runs and terrain. It’s known for excellent snow conditions, with an average of 450cm of light and fluffy snow annually.

Marmot Basin is very accessible if you’re staying in town, as it’s located just 20 minutes outside of Jasper.

Marmot is open every day in December including Christmas Day (shorter hours from 10am to 3pm.)

2. Do the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk 

A lady on the Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper
This has to be the best icewalk in Canada!

If you’re looking for something really unique to do in Jasper in December, the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk is a great option! This tour will take you on a half-day adventure to the Maligne Canyon, which is one of the deepest canyons in the Rocky Mountains.

With expert direction from your tour guide, you’ll explore ice caves, frozen waterfalls, and other icy scenery. The price for this frozen hike is $74.31 CAD and includes all equipment needed, including boots, to ensure safety. The tour will also provide hotel drop-off and pick-up, making it a stress-free adventure!

Related Read: There are some other great icewalks in Banff (Johnston Canyon) and in Canmore (Grotto Canyon.) Read our blogs about the best things to do in Banf in winter as well as Canmore in winter for more info!

4. Visit Athabasca Falls

Lower part of Athabasca Falls in winter
Lower Athabasca Falls in winter!

There is a lot of hiking in and around Jasper National Park that’s perfect even in the winter months, and one of the most popular trails is Athabasca Falls. The trail is just 1km with minimal elevation gain, so it’s a great option for all fitness levels. It is accessible year-round, but some hikers might choose to wear snowshoes for additional grip.

The views along the hike are stunning, with it culminating in the falls themselves. The Athabasca Falls are impressive and there are viewpoints of it along the way. It can get busy with visitors, so try to go early to catch a spot in front of the falls for a picture!

5. Explore Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls in winter
TYou can;t see the waterfall that well but the surrounding canyon and water is beautiful

After visiting Athabasca Falls, it’s time to head on to the next amazing waterfall destination! Sunwapta Falls is a 3.2km trail with 143m of elevation gain. It’s still fairly easy, but because of the elevation, you might want to bring snowshoes or crampons to walk in the snow and ice during the winter. 

The falls consist of a lower and upper section. The upper falls can be viewed from the parking lot, and the lower falls are accessible via an enjoyable hike. To access the trailhead, you can turn off to Highway 93 (the Icefields Parkway) at the sign, about 54km south of Jasper.

This is a winter wonderland in December and a top attraction in Jasper.

6. Indulge during a food tour

two pizzas from the Jasper Pizza Place
Yummmm!

Jasper might not be considered a foodie destination, but it should be! Joining a food tour is one of the best ways to learn more about an area, both through food and culture. 

This half-day walking tour takes you on a culinary adventure through Jasper. You’ll stop off for four different courses and four alcoholic beverages. The tour guide will walk you through different restaurants and bars while also informing you of Jasper’s history and culture. 

The tour is $127.45 CAD and is all-inclusive of food, drinks, and tips. You’ll join a tour with up to 12 people, so this is also a good choice to meet some new friends to hang out in Jasper with.

7. Enjoy craft beer 

Bailey enjoying her wings at Jasper Brewing Co while I get ready to eat my chicken sandwich!
A lovely mid-chew photo at Jasper Brewing Co.

If you’ve read any of our other blogs, you know that seeking out some good craft beer in a new town is always a priority! In Jasper, there are a few great options.

Jasper Brewing Co. was founded by three friends who grew up in Jasper. They opened up Jasper Brewing with the intention to create community and provide high-quality, local beer and food! They are located in downtown Jasper and have a large tasting room to come and hang out in.

Another popular craft brewery is Folding Mountain Brewing, which is located close to Hinton, Alberta, about 55km away from Jasper. The only thing that can compete with their creative and tasty beers is the amazing views of the Rocky Mountains from their tasting room! 

Both of these breweries have large indoor seating areas – perfect for escaping the cold in Jasper in December.

Hot Tip: If you’re heading out to Folding Mountain Brewing, plan to spend a night at the onsite hotel the Overlander Mountain Lodge. This way, you can drink as much as you want before walking back to your breautiful room to enjoy mountain views and the stary night sky.

12. Get the best coffee and treats at Bear’s Paw Bakery

After a day of exploring Jasper National Park, the best place to relax is with a coffee and pastry at Bear’s Paw Bakery. This place has seriously got the best desserts – apple pie, carrot cake, cookies, white chocolate scones… Add a coffee to it, and you’re in for a real treat!

Bear’s Paw Bakery is located right in downtown Jasper, within walking distance from most hotels and places to stay.

13. Go Cross country skiing 

Cross country skiing
Cross country skiing is a great way to get some exercise in Jasper in December.

Cross country skiing is such a fun way to get outdoors, explore an area, and get some exercise! It’s also a fairly easy sport to pick up, so great for all skill and fitness levels.

There are a number of cross-country ski trails in Jasper, both beginner-friendly (i.e. flat) and more challenging ones. A full list of available ski trails and their conditions are kept up to date on the Jasper National park website, so check it out before you go. 

There are a few places to rent skis in town, including Pure Outdoors or Totem Ski Shop. Rentals cost between $12-$20 CAD to rent, depending on how long you go for.

14. Stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Who doesn’t need a little luxury in their life? To take your Jasper winter trip to the next level, try staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. It’s the perfect place to stay during the winter. 

The Lodge has a number of cozy log cabins where you can bundle up and stay warm, enjoying the winter wonderland of snow outside! The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge also has a spa right on-site, so you can bliss out and have some quality me-time. They also have a well-stocked Activity Centre so you can enjoy a variety of sports and activities like cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, and tobogganing!

This is also the most luxurious hotel in the area – perfect for couples on a honeymoon in Jasper looking for a romantic stay!

17. Explore Pyramid Lake and Island 

Pyramid Lake winter
A winter wonderland!

Spending a day at the lake is usually reserved for the summer, but Pyramid Lake is an awesome wintertime destination! There are a lot of outdoor activities to do here, including fat biking and snowshoeing. There are also cross-country skiing trails around the Lake as well.

In the middle of the lake sits Pyramid Island, connected by a beautiful bridge. There is an amazing view from this bridge, so take a moment to stop and marvel at Pyramid Mountain and Mount Edit Cavell in the distance. 

Pyramid Lake is just 5km from Jasper, connected by some trails, so you can actually hike or bike there, too!

18. Learn how to ice climb 

Calling all adventure seekers! Here’s an activity you probably haven’t done before: ice climbing! That’s right, you can join a tour like this one, and spend half a day climbing up the ice sheets and frozen waterfalls in Maligne Canyon!

The tour costs $236 CAD and comes with an expert guide to show you the ropes (literally!) and all safety gear and equipment needed. Because you’re going on a tour, you’ll be able to access sections of Maligne Canyon that would be missed if you went on your own! The climbing is geared to beginners, so it’s a great opportunity for any skill or fitness level. 

19. Satisfy your sweet tooth 

A man makes candy at the Candy Bear Lair in Jasper
You won’t leave without buying way too much candy and chocolate!

Towns that attract a lot of tourists – like Jasper! – have all the best dessert shops. They just know what we like! So, when in Jasper this December, make sure to hit up some of the local spots to get a sweet treat. 

If you’re looking for a true Canadian dessert, try BeaverTails, a delicious sugar-covered pastry. Or, maybe you prefer some homemade fudge and candy, so try out Candy Bear’s Lair! Having a craving for ice cream? Try Scoops & Loops!

Alternative plan – just wander the streets and you’ll find something! 

21. Go dog sledding

two people are pulled in a dog sled near Canmore, Alberta
Look at us go! We actually went dog sledding in winter in Canmore, but the experience is more or less the same in Jasper too.

Dog sledding is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure! And since we’re talking about epic things to do in Jasper, this has to make the list! 

Sun Dog Tours operates dogsledding tours in Valemount, British Columbia. Valemount is a 90-minute drive from Jasper through the Yellowhead Pass. Once you arrive at the staging area, you’ll enjoy a ride through the beautiful winter wonderland, traveling by dog team! You’ll learn all about how dog sledding works and have a chance to drive yourself. 

Prices vary for tours based on duration, with the 3-hour tour starting at $399. The price includes a lunch cooked over an open campfire, complete with hot apple cider and some treats! 

22. Venture out snowshoeing

Bailey from Destinationless Travel snowshoeing
Time to go snowshoeing!

Snowshoeing is such a fun way to get outside and explore. It lets you get out and enjoy some hiking trails at higher elevations that would be normally inaccessible during the wintertime. 

There are tons of places to snowshoe in Jasper. Patricia Lake has a 4.8 km loop around the lake, with just 75m of elevation gain. This makes for a relatively easy snowshoe, and you’ll enjoy the scenery along the way. 

Next to Patricia Lake is Pyramid Lake, which also has a number of trails. There’s the Edge of the Beach trail that is just 4.2km, or the longer 8.6km loop to Virl, Dorothy, and Christine Lakes. 

You can also get out of Jasper along Highway 93A and the Icefields Parkway (the road that connects Jasper with Banff) to enjoy some snowshoeing. A full list of available snowshoe trails is located here.

24. Visit the Jasper Planetarium

Stargazing is magical. Stargazing in Jasper is even more so! The Jasper Planetarium offers a variety of experiences to take in the most amazing starry night skies. You can join them for a 40-minute presentation ($29 CAD) inside the dome theatre with staff teaching you all about local constellations, views of the Northern Lights, and what the Rockies look like from space!

If you want to level up your experience, check out one of the telescope experiences. These tours give you the chance to see real-life magic through the most powerful telescopes in the Rockies. If you combine the telescope experience with the Planetarium, the price is $59 CAD. 

Finally, you can book a lakeside dinner and stargazing combination. The cost is $139 CAD for a three-course dinner and some epic stargazing. Pretty good date night idea, if you ask me!

Be sure to check in for special events at the Jasper Planetarium too – they often have something special on.

29. Go shopping downtown 

Whether you enjoy window shopping or are looking for a souvenir, downtown Jasper is a great area to explore! There are a lot of souvenir shops, so you’ll definitely be able to find something to remember your time in the Rocky Mountains by. 

There are also a lot of local boutique shops so you can find unique gifts and items. Bombshell Boutique has some cute, curated women’s clothing, while Wild Mountain is a go-to outdoors wear shop. There is also a full-service flower shop, Elysion Florals, and Ana Lea’s Candy Lane for some sweets!

Take some time to wander and explore the quaint downtown Jasper area.

30. Drive the Icefields Parkway 

Icefields Parkway in winter
This road is stunning!

The Icefields Parkway, or Highway 93, is a 232km stretch of highway between Jasper and Lake Louise. It is often considered one of the top scenic drives in the world!

You can drive this route as a little day trip road trip, or you might drive it en route heading south towards Banff, Lake Louise, or even towards Calgary. No matter the reason you drive it, make sure to budget some time to stop at some of the sites along the way. 

Some of the great stops along the Icefields Parkway including multiple waterfalls (Athabasca, Sunwapta, Tangle Falls), the Jasper Glacier Skywalk, the Columbia Icefield, and the Mistaya Canyon. But, that’s just some of the great stops!

Since you’re visiting in winter, make sure to drive carefully, as conditions can be difficult. Make sure you check local news sources for closures and driving conditions as well.

Related Read: Once you arrive in Banff National Park you’ll need to figure out what you want to do. Read my blogs about visiting Banff in winter, Lake Louise in winter, or, even Banff in in the Christmas season!

Where to Stay in Jasper in December

The spa at the Whistler Inn in jasper
What a view! This photo is taken from the gorgeous Whistlers Inn.

When compared to Banff (and the dozens of hotels in Banff), there actually aren’t that many to choose from in Jasper. That’s right, accommodation in Jasper is limited, and therefore it’s important to book your stay as far in advance as possible!

Here, I’ve handpicked some of my personal favorite hotels in Jasper suitable for any type of traveler with any type of budget!

Jasper Downtown Hostel (Budget Backpackers)

Jasper Downtown Hostel is the best place to stay for those on a tight budget. The central location, shared facilities, and friendly atmosphere makes it a great place to stay. They offer budget dorm beds as well as affordable private rooms.

You can book Jasper Downtown Hostel on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Patricia Lake Bungalows (Moderate Budget)

Patricia Lake Bungalows are a great place to stay if you want a comfortable stay for a reasonable price. There are some standard rooms as well as some units with kitchenettes. There is a hot tub on-site as well as a playground for children and the location is close to town, but far enough that it is quiet and relaxing.

You can check prices and book Patricia Lake Bungalows on Booking.com.

Whistlers Inn (Moderate to High Budget)

Whistlers Inn is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for a nice escape right in town and only a short walk from popular bars, restaurants, and attractions in Jasper. They also have a rooftop hot tub (pictured above) – need I say more?

You can check prices and availability on Booking.com.

Pyramid Lake Resort (Luxury)

This place is beautiful, and it is set in an even more beautiful location! Pyramid Lake is the perfect place for hiking, swimming, kayaking, or even skating in the winter. Pyramid Lake Resort doesn’t cut any corners and it’s a highly rated hotel. It’s also a popular place to stay for those visiting Jasper on a honeymoon!

You can check availability and book on Booking.com.

Canada Winter Travel Essentials

A lady all dressed up in winter gear in Canada
All rugged up and ready to explore!

If you’re planning to visit Canada in winter then there are a few things you should pack – things we never travel without. Some you may already have, but others you may want to pick up before you leave. This is especially true if you want to enjoy some of the best outdoor activities!

Here are some of our must-have winter essentials:

Crampons/ Ice Cleats: This is the one item I have that I use so much. If you love the outdoors and enjoy short walks and hikes, crampons are a must! The best part is, the pair that I own is only $29 CAD. They aren’t the best pair out there but they’re perfect for the everyday explorer/traveler.

Insulated water bottle: In the summer you want to keep your water cold but in winter, you want to keep it from freezing. That’s why I always carry an insulated water bottle. This Iron Flask Water Bottle is perfect because it doubles as a thermos so it’s great for carrying hot water for those winter hot chocolates! I have the 32-ounce bottle in pink but I wish I had one of the multi-colored bottles!

Merino wool socks: Cold feet can ruin your time exploring the great outdoors during winter. Please do yourself a favor and get a good quality pair of socks. Even just one pair with come in handy but I myself carry three of these COZIA Wool Socks. They’re 80% Merino wool and really warm. The best part is they are only $15 each! When I’m skiing I can even double them up if it’s -30 °C.

Thermal layers: Staying warm begins from your first layer. Life outside during the Candian winter is much more comfortable with thermal layers. There are a lot of great products in this space but look out for Merino wool products – they’re the best in my opinion!

Ski Gloves: Did you know ski resorts in Canada don’t rent gloves? That means you’re going to need to bring your own. I get really cold hands so I love these new heated rechargeable gloves. They keep your hands warm in the coldest temperatures. Although expensive, you’ll never wear another pair of gloves again.

Polarized sunglasses/ ski goggles: People often forget that on a sunny day in the mountains, the sun can really hurt your eyes when it reflects off the snow. For around town, check out these polarized sunglasses and for in the mountains these ski goggles.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. During the winter though, it’s perfect for keeping my nose and cheeks covered from the cold especially when skiing or hiking. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Renting a Car in Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to the best attractions within them requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada and using crown land and campsites you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Before you go…

A lady on a chairlift
Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great time in Jasper in December!

Jasper National Park is a point of pride for Alberta and Canada as a whole. It’s a beautiful place to stay, visit, and explore. And visiting it during the winter, especially in December, it’s simply magical. There are so many fun outdoor activities to try in addition to attractions, restaurants, and shops in town. 

I hope this list helps you plan an awesome vacation to  Jasper in the winter! No matter how you spend the day, I know you’ll love it here!

If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out the rest of my blogs about Jasper, Banff, and Canada in general. Some you might particularly like are:

Things to do at Maligne Lake in Jasper

The Best Things to do in Canmore in Winter

What to do in Calgary in Winter

19 EPIC Things to do in Fernie in Winter
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