You may have hiked the Old Fort Point Loop Trail in Jasper National Park, but have you cooked and eaten a gourmet meal at the top? Last October, I stood on top of Old Fort Point gazing out at an incredible view while I made homemade cheese using a camping stove at a real table. Making cheese is something I never imagined myself doing. Having a gourmet cooking lesson on a mountaintop was even more inconceivable.
My husband and I thought we had seen and done just about everything in Jasper National Park, but we were wrong. Last fall, we decided to be tourists in our own backyard and we found tours and experiences we had never tried before. It was a chance to support local businesses and to step outside our comfort zone — something we now realize we should do more often.
Have a Peak-Nic with Jasper Food Tours
The Peak-Nic experience with Jasper Food Tours can be done for lunch or dinner. We did ours at lunch. The hike leads to a beautiful viewpoint overlooking Jasper. Our guide, Estelle Blanchette, shared information about geology, plant life and history as we hiked up the 3.8-kilometre loop trail. When we reached the top, we set up the table and had a backcountry gourmet cooking class. We learned how to make paneer cheese from dried powdered milk and citric acid. Then we used our cheese to make a delicious curry dish that we ate with yeast-free naan bread that we also made from scratch. The food was fantastic and the view from the top made it one of the most memorable meals we’ve ever had.
Rock Climbing with Jasper Hikes & Tours
The view from the top of the Morro slabs in Jasper National Park is breathtaking. And the view as you rappel down or climb up these huge rock slabs perched above the Athabasca River is equally striking – albeit a little nerve-racking. It’s a great place to learn to rock climb and it’s where Joy and Sean Prockter take guests on novice climbing tours with Jasper Hikes and Tours. The pair have many years of experience as hiking guides and climbing instructors and can offer experiences for beginners as well as advanced climbers. “We try to empower people,” said Joy as she taught me how to tie a climbing knot. “We have our guests tie the knots and learn the basics of climbing, so they can do it on their own.” By the end of the tour, I had climbed the slab at least a half dozen times and had learned a technique called “smearing” to scale a particularly challenging section.
Retractable Roof Jammer Bus Tours – Jasper’s Newest Adventure
The newest sightseeing tour in Jasper is in a completely refurbished, 1939 “Jammer” open-air sightseeing bus with SunDog Tours. The bus was used for sightseeing in Yellowstone National Park before it was purchased and completely restored. We enjoyed a private tour with a picnic lunch – definitely one of the most romantic and fun ways to get around the park. While we saw the sites, we learned the fascinating history of Jasper and got out of the vehicle at several scenic spots. Photographing wildlife was easy with the top rolled back and we got some nice photos of a massive bull elk just off the main road.
Guided Hiking on the Athabasca Glacier
If you want to have a real adventure, take a guided hike on the Athabasca Glacier with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures. The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield, a 300-square-kilometre mass of ice perched on the Continental Divide. Hiking on the glacier is one of the best ways to really experience the glacier up close. The only safe way to hike on the glacier is with proper equipment and the help of an expert guide. “People walk on the glacier and it changes them,” said our guide Chris Girard during the hike. “You can see the mighty forces of nature up close when you’re hiking here.”
See Jasper from a Motorcycle Sidecar
Half the fun of a motorcycle sidecar tour with Jasper Motor Cycle Tours is dressing up in black leather. If you don’t know how to drive a motorcycle, a sidecar tour is a great way to see some of the most scenic sites in Jasper and experience the thrill of riding a Harley. When there are two guests, one rides behind an experienced driver and the other rides in the sidecar. When you stop at a scenic spot, you can change positions.
Debbie Olsen is an award-winning Métis writer and photographer and a national bestselling author. Follow her at wanderwoman.ca.