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Jasper gets very booked up in July and August. If you arrive in town without reservations, you run a risk of not being able to find a vacancy and having to drive an hour or so to another town that might be able to provide you with accommodation. Accommodation in the town is most likely to "sell out" on holiday weekends in the summer - in which case, there is also a chance the other nearby towns (Hinton, Alberta, Mt. Robson, Tete Jaune and Valemount, B.C.) may also be sold out - so if you are coming at a particularly busy time, it is best to avoid any problem by booking ahead.
“Early bird” travel planners start making enquiries for the upcoming summer around January. At that point, there is a full selection of accommodation available. If hotels tell you in January that they are booked up for the summer, it is because they are holding blocks of rooms for tour companies. Contact them again in February or March. The tour companies have deadlines by which they have to confirm and pay deposits on rooms, or release them.
Around March / April, the selection of accommodation for the upcoming summer starts dwindling. There is still plenty of accommodation to choose from, but at this point you may not get your first choice.
From about May onwards it becomes more difficult to find accommodation for July or August, all the more so if you are looking for something that is moderately priced.
Although it can be risky to show up in Jasper without a reservation in July or August, a last minute cancellation occasionally does create a vacancy. Also, some private home accommodations do not take reservations, accepting guests on a day-by-day basis when their accommodation is available. If you don’t have a reservation, your best bet is to go to the Visitor Information Centre, the rustic stone building in the park across from the train station. A list of vacancies is posted every day. There is one list for hotels, motels and cabins, and another for private home accommodations and B&Bs. Tourism Jasper has provided two free phones so that you can call around to book something.
The Visitor Information Centre is open until 9:00 p.m. in the summer, but the earlier in the afternoon that you arrive, the better your chances of finding a vacancy. Visitors tend to arrive in town from 4.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m., and you will improve your chances if you beat the rush. If you arrive with the main crush of people, the Visitor Information Centre will be crammed, and there will be line ups at the phones.
May – June and September – early October are the shoulder season. There is a fair amount of tourism, but things are less busy than they are in July and August. Jasper tends to be quite full on the weekends during the shoulder season, and you would be well advised to have an advance reservation if you want to visit the area on a spring or fall weekend. If you arrive without a reservation on a week day, you have a reasonable chance of being able to walk into lodgings “off the street” (but keep in mind that there is always the risk that you won’t find a vacancy, and will have to drive an hour or so to find one).
As is the case in summer, the Visitor Information Centre is your best resource if you arrive in Jasper without a reservation in the spring or fall. You can go there to find postings of vacancies at hotels, home accommodations and B&Bs, and you can use one of the two free phones for local calls. Even during the shoulder season you are better off arriving at the Visitor Information Centre earlier rather than later, say 4:00 p.m. or earlier.
The advantage of not booking ahead during the shoulder season is that you may pay less. There is usually some flexibility in walk-in room rates. (Don't expect as much flexibility from B&Bs or home accommodations, though, as their rates tend to be about half of what hotels charge to start with.) This gamble usually works out in the visitor’s favour, but occasionally it does not. If you just happen to arrive when the town is full, you may only be able to find accommodation in a higher price range.
Late October and November often bring grey skies. Daylight hours are short, and there may not yet be snow to brighten things up. Temperatures can be quite pleasant and mild, or they can be very cold.
The advantage of visiting Jasper in late October or November is that you basically have the place to yourself! There are a few restaurants that have closed for the season or to give their owners a much needed vacation after the summer tourist season, but there are still plenty to choose from. Accommodations are pretty much wide-open, so prices are "softer" than in high season.
Yet the mountains are still beautiful, and there are no crowds at the waterfalls or Maligne Canyon . While the bears are hibernating, most of the rest of the wildlife is down at lower elevations, so you will see deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and maybe moose, wolves or coyotes.
Winter is ski season. Jasper is busiest on weekends, when there is an influx of skiers. The Christmas and New Year school holidays, and "spring skiing" in March and April tends to be the busiest periods in the ski season. Booking ahead is recommended if you are coming on a spring weekend, or during a school break during the ski season.
Most of these properties are located in Jasper townsite. The notable exception is Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, which overlooks a little lake and a golf course 7 km (4 miles) from the town. If you are looking for self-catering accommodation, a few hotels offer suites with kitchenettes.
Hotels appear on the Hotels and Lodges page of the Tourism Jasper website.
These properties are outside of Jasper townsite. Several of them are in the 2 – 5 km (1 – 3 mile) range from the town, but a few of them are quite a bit further afield – as far away as 50 km (35 miles).
If you’re looking for self-catering accommodation, many of the chalet-style properties include kitchens.
The chalets that are just outside of town are very popular in the summer months. Some of them have two-night or three-night minimum stay requirements, particularly during holiday weekends.All of these chalets close for the winter (as a condition of their leases with the federal government). Most of them close right after Canadian Thanksgiving, which is the second Monday in October, and re-open by the Victoria Day long weekend in May.
You can find a list of chalets in the Cabins section of the Tourism Jasper website.
Private home accommodations (PHAs) and B&Bs in Jasper run the gamut from "budget" basic accommodation -- a small basement bedroom with a shared bath -- to full, luxurious suites with private entries. The home-owner lives in the home, and can assist you with local information.
Home-owners are limited to offering three guest rooms to visitors, to a maximum of eight guests. Most homes offer one or two rooms, however. If you are travelling with a group larger than eight, your host may be able to assist you by recommending neighbouring home accommodations.
Price is usually a good indication of where they fall in the spectrum (from $55 - $70 per night for two people in high season, at the low end of the price range, to $150 - $200 at the high end; the range in low season is about $40 to $120). PHAs and B&Bs usually are around half the price of a hotel - or less - and in addition, you save a further 11% in taxes - 5% federal GST, 4% Alberta Tourism Levy, and 2% DMF (Destination Marketing Fee) - which hotels charge, but private homes do not.
The homes offering breakfast book up earlier, as do units with private baths. Many of the nicer accommodations also have two-night minimum stay requirements (there are even a few requiring minimum three-night stays - so you can be sure that these ones are in high demand).
Of the approximately 150 licensed homes in Jasper, about 15 offer breakfast service. Most of them offer a "self-served continental" breakfast - that is, the breakfast is stocked in your room's kitchenette for you to serve yourself. There are two homes in the town of Jasper offering a served continental breakfast. If you are looking for a full hot, served breakfast, there are several homes offering this in the town of Hinton and at Jasper East, a hamlet just outside the east gate of the national park, about 30 or 40 minutes drive east of the town of Jasper.
The Jasper Home Accommodation Association website has a search feature if you are looking for specific amenities (full kitchen, pets allowed, etc.). Their website also includes a "Frequently Asked Questions" page, with more information about private home accommodations and B&Bs in Jasper.
Don't be afraid to ask potential hosts lots of questions (either by e-mail or by phone). If you sense any irritation with your questions, that's probably not a place where you want to stay. However, if you don’t receive a response to your e-mail enquiry, do not automatically assume that the PHA or B&B host is ignoring you. Sometimes spam filters reject e-mails from B&Bs - check your "deleted messages" folder (or trash can) or try contacting the PHA again.
It is common for PHAs and B&Bs to require deposits on advance reservations. Some PHAs and B&Bs accept credit cards, but many do not. If the PHA / B&B host does not accept a credit card, a North American guest may be asked to mail a cheque (check). It is complicated for an overseas guest to send a deposit. He/she may have to mail a money order or bank draft in Canadian dollars. Alternatively, he/she may be able to send the money through one of the Internet foreign exchange services such as HiFX or XE. However, a PHA or B&B host may be more inclined to trust a foreign visitor and waive the requirement for a deposit. After all, the overseas traveller will have made extensive and expensive commitments to his/her trip, so is likely to cancel only in exceptional circumstances. It is the local tourist who is more likely to take a casual approach to the reservation and end up being a no-show. Of course that puts the PHA or B&B host in an awkward position. He/she may have turned away several people who had made enquiries about that date, and may not be able to fill an unexpected vacancy at the last minute.
If the PHA or B&B accepts payment for your room in cash only, you will have to pay with travellers cheques (travelers checks) or else withdraw cash from an ATM. Some posters on the discussion forum have expressed concern about withdrawing a large amount of cash from an ATM and then carrying it back to the PHA or B&B. They have been afraid that they'll be attacked if they carry a large sum of money. There is no reason to fear that kind of thing in Jasper. It is a small, friendly town, and violent crime is rare. Yes, there is occasional petty theft from cars, and you would be well advised to keep your luggage in the locked trunk of your car, but you do not have to be afraid of withdrawing cash from an ATM to pay your B&B host.
PHA/B&B hosts are required to issue a receipt to you for payment received. This is a condition of their business license.
Travellers often want to know how to find "vacation rentals" - that is, an entire vacant house or condominium unit - in Jasper. It is not possible to rent a vacant house in Jasper by the night or by the week. All residential properties must be occupied by someone working or running a business in the park. This is because Jasper is in a national park and all development is strictly controlled. To ensure that the park remains as wilderness, the boundaries of the town are fixed by federal legislation; the town cannot grow any larger. Almost no land is available within the town for further residential development, and housing is already scarce (and expensive) for those who live and work in the town. Consequently, all residential property leases require the occupant of the property to have a "need to reside" in the park - or to have worked in the park for at least five years before retirement.
Vacation rentals may be available outside the park at Jasper East or Hinton.
The main Jasper hostel, HI-Jasper, is located just 7 km (4 mi) outside the townsite on the road up to the tramway. Other hostels are located both nearby (Maligne Canyon) and at scenic locations throughout the national parks (such as Mt Edith Cavell, Athabasca Falls). While some are quite rustic, with outdoor toilets and bunkhouses to sleep in, others have more modern facilities. The hostel network offers an inexpensive alternative for travellers who are more self-sufficient, charging rates of from $25-30 per night, but with a limited number of beds, they fill up quite quickly during busy periods. Reservations can be made at http://www.hihostels.ca/
There are 10 campgrounds in Jasper National Park, all of which are operated by Parks Canada. The two main ones, Whistlers and Wapiti, are a short walk or bike ride to town, while others are located along highway 16, or down the Icefields Parkway. Based on distance from town, these are:
Whistlers (3km south)
Wapiti (4km south)
Snaring (11km east)
Wabasso (16km south)
Kerkeslin (36km south)
Pocahontas (46km east)
Honeymoon lake (51km south)
Jonas Creek (77 km south)
Columbia Icefield (109km south - tenting only)
Wilcox (111km south)
While most campgrounds in the park operate on a first-come / first-served system, reservations can be made for Whistlers, Wabasso, Pocahontas and Wapiti campgrounds. The reservation system opens for the season every April 1st, and is accessible by visiting www.pccamping.ca , or by calling 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783). Reservations can be made at least 24 hours in advance, but if you know when you're coming, it's a good idea to reserve as far ahead as you can.
People travelling to Jasper by RV should note that there are only 120 full hook-up (power, water, and sewer) sites in the entire national park, and all of them at the Whistlers campground. For these campsites, reservations are strongly recommended.
There are also 162 electrical hook-up sites (without water/sewer) available in Whistlers, 40 in Wapiti, and 51 in Wabasso. Sani-dump and fill-up stations are available at Whistlers, Wapiti, Wabasso and Wilcox.
Whistlers is the largest campground in Jasper National Park, with a total of 781 sites open from May to October, including numerous pull-through sites; Wapiti has 362 sites in total. Both campgrounds have washrooms with flush toilets and are the only campgrounds in the park with showers.
Fire pits are available at all campgrounds, and can be used with the purchase of a fire permit, which includes unlimited use of split wood on site. Campfires are not permitted during quiet hours, from 11 pm to 7 am.
Winter Camping: 40 electrical sites, heated bathrooms and showers are available for winter camping at Wapiti, while Wilcox offers primitive winter camping for self-sufficient vehicles.
Quiet hours at all campgrounds are from 11 pm to 7 am. During these hours, a ban on the consumption of liquor is in place and is enforced by Park Wardens. Campfires are also not permitted during quiet hours.
Jasper is centrally located in Jasper National Park , and provides the majority of tourist services for the park (hotels, restaurants, shops, gasoline stations, train station, etc.). When you want to specify that you are referring to the town rather than the national park of the same name, it is customary to call it Jasper townsite or the Town of Jasper .
Jasper East is a hamlet just outside of Jasper National Park’s east gate. It is about 30 – 40 minutes’ drive from Jasper townsite. It has a couple of B&Bs, and at least one vacation rental house. Although it is further away from Jasper townsite’s restaurants and other amenities, some visitors like the peace and quiet of the more rural atmosphere. Jasper East is also closer to Miette Hot Springs than the town of Jasper is.
Hinton is about 15 minutes further out than Jasper East, so about 50 – 60 minutes’ drive from Jasper townsite. Hinton has some useful shops and services, but it was not planned as a resort town and is not particularly attractive. The main industries are the (sometimes smelly) pulp mill, forestry, oil and gas exploration, and coal mining. There are views of the mountains to the west. Hinton itself is in the rolling foothills.
Most of the information on this page has been copied from krp329’s posts (with some minor edits) in the following discussion threads on the TripAdvisor forum.