5 Awesome Photo Locations in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is a amazing place filled with inspiring landscapes and abundant wildlife. I dreamed about visiting the area since childhood; it is a privilege to live so close. This short list is in no way comprehensive - the information here barely scratches the surface. There is so much left to explore beyond any guide or blog post. You should use this article as a jumping-off-point for planning your shot list for your Jasper adventure. For the sake of simplicity and convenience, I've selected a few easy-to-find and iconic photo spots that I often visit. Don't be afraid to leave the beaten path; some of Jasper's hidden gems can take days by trail or canoe to reach.
Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies is a great place to visit year-round. Spring and Fall are best for wildlife sightings, Summer is great for wildflowers (but is to be avoided if you don't like crowds), and Winter is very peaceful and provides opportunities to wander the parks trails (in snowshoes or crampons) in relative solitude. As long as you book in advance, the options for overnight stay are as simple and cheap as camping or as extravagant as luxury lodges or five-star hotels. In between are hostels, rental cabins, and Airbnb's. Be sure to book early- finding accommodation in the Canadian Rockies can be nearly impossible on a whim.
Those are subjects for another time, however. Let's get down to the reason you're here, fellow traveling photographer. Below are 5 awesome photo locations in Jasper National Park.
1. Talbot Lake
Talbot Lake is located along Alberta Highway 16 (aka the Yellowhead Highway) not far from the park entrance. It's nestled between two high mountain ranges. Because I come from Edmonton, this is usually the first and last location for my trips to Jasper. Weather permitting, Talbot Lake is an excellent place for sunrise and sunset photography as well as wildlife sightings. I've photographed elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and eagles all in this easy-to-access area.
The down-sides to this location are that it's often very windy and semi trucks are constantly buzzing up and down the highway. Even if you take one of the trails that lead up the sandy banks of Talbot Lake for an amazing view, you still have to listen to loud traffic. It really messes up the mood. I avoid stopping along the side of Highway 16 even if I see wildlife I'd like to photograph. Because of the trucks, it's easy to put yourself and the wildlife at risk by pulling over. I've seen bighorn sheep narrowly escape being plowed over while being pressured by both the speeding trucks and tourists vehicles. Instead of taking the risk along the roadsides, I look for wildlife in the hills off the road after pulling into the lot at Talbot Lake.
2. Pyramid Mountain
Pyramid Mountain is one of those iconic mountains that photographers flock to year-round. The more popular spots to photograph from are Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake - that's where you can capture the reflection of the mountain in the water. To access these areas, simply drive a few kilometers from the town of Jasper along winding Pyramid Lake Road. There are parking lots for the lakes....easy, peasy. Sunrise provides the best light in these locations (in my opinion). It is also far less crowded in the summer first thing in the morning.
3. Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls is located just off the famous Icefields Parkway (93). A short paved trail takes visitors straight to the main waterfall with great views into the canyon. Mount Kerkeslin towers over the falls.
Both sunset and sunrise can be shot here. Finding a composition that doesn't include Parks Canada signage, railings, or fencing, is a bit of a challenge. Don't be tempted to jump the barriers- a slip into the canyon below the falls is certain death. The shot above was made one spring evening on a weekday from the safety of the designated viewing area. I was lucky that there was only one other photographer to share the scene with. A few weekends before I captured this image, on my first trip to Jasper, there wasn't even enough room at this spot to set up a tripod due to the crowds.
4. Goats & Glaciers
"Goats and Glaciers" is the name of a pull-off along the Icefields Parkway. It provides visitors a panoramic a view of several iconic mountain peaks with the teal-blue Athabasca River flowing below. There are a few glaciers tucked into the creases of some of these mountains, and as the name implies, mountain goats can be seen in this area. The goats come down from the high slopes to eat juniper berries and nibble at nearby salt licks.
I've made some of my favorite images of the Canadian Rockies near this overlook. Mount Christie and Brussels Peak (center of the image above) tower over the glacial river and are kissed by the glow of pink light during sunrise and sunset.
Be respectful of the wildlife. Never approach the goats directly or put pressure on them as they often have kids, and male goats can be aggressive. I prefer to let wildlife come close to me- rather than pursuing them. Serious wildlife photographers know that patience and respect yield the best wildlife images. Running up to a goat with a cell-phone will, at best, get you blurry images of a goat running off or, at worst, a couple sharp horns in the ass.
5. Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls is one of the most photographed locations in Jasper. There is actually a lodge and restaurant at the entrance. For this reason, serious photographers need to show up as early as possible and preferably during the shoulder seasons. The trails around Sunwapta Falls are worth exploring for the peaceful forest that lines them. The waterfall is breathtaking. A milky blue river winds around a small island and then plummets into a deep canyon.
Much like Athabasca Falls, this can be a dangerous place for photographers looking for unique compositions. The cliffs above the canyon are spongy, and the rock ledges brittle. I always give at least 8 feet of solid ground between me and the edge. There is, as usual, the added annoyance of having to work your frame around black chain link fencing that is meant to keep visitors from falling into the water and being swept away. This makes getting a wide view of the scene without that man-made object impossible. Most of my images of Sunwapta Falls are made around the 50mm focal length in order to eliminate the fencing and tourists that line up against it.
Map of Jasper National Park Area:
The map above includes the locations listed in this article. Again, feel free to explore other locations like Medicine Lake and Maligne Canyon among others. Thanks for reading, best of light, and safe travels!