This is the Overlander Mountain Lodge, on the edge of Jasper National Park, between Jasper and Hinton. I had no idea it existed. Generally when we head to Jasper, it’s up highway 93 from Calgary. This time we decided to take the long way home from Tofino, heading back up the 5 from Kamloops and then turning off into Alberta, and Jasper.
I’ve been to Jasper a lot in the winter, and a few times in the spring and early summer (this year we went in May, and the weather was perfect) and they are, obviously, completely different experiences. While I love climbing through the mountains in ten feet of snow, I also love being able to hop in a canoe and paddle around Lac Beauvert.
Whether or not you’re staying there, it’s worth a stop at the JPL to sit on the patio and have a few cocktails, and have dinner at the new Orso Trattoria – stunning food, and an equally stunning view. (It’s no secret that the JPL has become one of my favourite places in the world.)
In winter, the lake makes the craziest space laser sounds when you bounce a rock across, and is so clear you can see straight to the bottom through clear ice. In summer, it looks like this.
If you are staying, the outdoor pool is open year-round, which is particularly cool when it gets dark early, the stars come out, and you can float and stargaze while the kids (or grownups) jump, steaming, out of the pool, throw snowballs at each other and hop back in once the cold starts to set in, baby polar bear-style.
And in summer, coffee by the pool is pretty sublime.
They’ve got a sangria for winter and summer, so you’re covered. (There’s a sangria for that.)
It doesn’t get much more Canadian than canoeing with Canada geese.
I mean look at the colour of that water! No filter required.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been going up to the JPL for 14 years, and have spent very little time in town – because while you’re at the JPL, there isn’t much reason to. (Have I mentioned the spa? Best ever. You can stroll back to your cabin in your robe. Heaven.)
But. This time we came in a new way, and explored the town a bit more, stopping in at Snowdome for Fratello coffee and homemade cookies – and since we didn’t have any laundry to do (the coffee shop is actually inside an old-school coin laundry), we read the pay it forward wall, covered with sticky noted good deeds.
If you head toward Edmonton, it’s a gorgeous drive past new-to-us mountains, lakes and swimming holes.
We wound up, about 20 minutes out of the town of Jasper, at the Overlander – a cozy place with small cabins and a gorgeous main cabin an enormous patio and stunning views, a good wine list, and interesting food. After a long drive, we had some wine, mushroom soup with Brule Lake foraged morels, and smoked sturgeon with radishes on homemade biscuits.
The keychains! Sold. Also, they like dogs.
A shelf of books and movies. (Tea and coffee beside it in the morning.)
And did I mention the view?
We just sat in the grass and watched the sun go down. Who needs an ocean?
And if you’re heading back to Calgary, pull off to check out Athabasca Falls – another spot we’ve driven by dozens of times, and finally pulled over. It’s on the upper Athabasca River, about 30 km south of the townsite – it’s not a high waterfall, but is the most powerful – it’s a huge quantity of water falling into the gorge, over a layer of hard quartzite and through soft limestone, carving smooth grooves and potholes. It’s a short, easy, stunningly beautiful walk.
And if you head toward Edmonton, the highway will take you through Hinton! A town much bigger than I realized. It was pouring rain, and mostly we zipped by on the highway, peeking in. But we did turn off and find a bake shop – Opa’s, run by a friendly family of bakers who made pies and butter tart squares and those peanut butter marshmallow confetti bars.
And bars and brownies big enough for three. We nibbled as we whizzed past farms and fields of bison. It was an interesting visual transformation from BC back into Alberta.
I love showing off my home province – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words, images and opinions are my own.