Set in the middle of the Canadian Rockies and surrounded by lakes and lush forests, Jasper started out as a small railway town. Today this laid-back mountain destination is a mecca for nature lovers, hikers and skiers who come to visit its vast wilderness. Spanning nearly 11,000 square km, Jasper is the largest national park in these mountains. The town is also known for its LGBT-friendly attitude – you'll find welcoming accommodation and coffee hangouts, and Jasper has its own Pride Festival each spring.
You can stay in a rustic Jasper hostel that deliberately doesn't provide internet so guests switch off and socialise. For a true back-to-nature encounter, many Jasper hostels are also without electricity and running water. However, there's usually a fridge and a self-catering kitchen, a BBQ and propane or solar lighting – and the benefits of seeing masses of stars as there's limited light pollution. Looking for other comforts? Certain hostels in Jasper have a cosy lounge for swapping fireside tales with fellow travellers.
One key area of Jasper National Park is the Icefields Parkway. In this 232km expanse of forest and valleys, you'll find more than 100 ancient glaciers alongside lakes and rushing waterfalls. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the hottest springs in the Canadian Rockies – at 54°C – emerge at Miette Hot Springs. The water in the pool is cooled to 40°C so visitors can lie back to take in the panoramic views. For a 1,000km trail system, look no further than the park's huge backcountry.
There are year-round activities and events in Jasper, including the Dark Sky Festival in October which celebrates the stars and skies, plus cultural festivals around books, films and indigenous traditions. Make the 50km trip from Jasper to visit Maligne Lake – flanked by a circle of mountains, it's home to bears and moose. To see the Canadian Rockies from above, you can opt for the Jasper SkyTram experience.
The nearest airport to Jasper is Edmonton International Airport. It's a four-hour drive or five-to-six-hour train ride away. If you're arriving by train from Vancouver, it takes around 20 hours to reach Jasper Train Station. Travelling by bus? The closest town is Edmonton (about a five-hour Greyhound trip). You can also catch a bus from Vancouver that takes 12 hours. For days out, there's a daily shuttle from Jasper to Maligne Lake. There are also taxis available in the town.