When it comes to the Rocky Mountains you can really do no wrong. I mean your in the fresh mountain airs surrounded but snowy peaks and amazing wildlife. Not to mention glacier waters and never-ending forest. But when it comes down to it on where you want to go, Banff or Jasper, you have to think of why you are going there in the first place as your first planning stepping stone.
Being a proud Canadian who loves the National Park and what it has to offer I think you should go to both Banff and Jasper which is probably not the answer you want since most people travelling here don’t have a whole lot of time to see and do both.
Having been to both Banff and Jasper countless times and never really thinking about which place I like better changed last week after driving through Jasper to go to Clearwater. This answer isn’t a definite choice as I love both Jasper and Banff and think they each have unique qualities but in saying that I do have one that I now prefer over the other. So which is it.. Banff or Jasper?
Jasper is about a four hour drive from my home in Edmonton, Alberta and is the smaller of the mountain towns which truly gives it a cabin city feel. Most of Jasper is mainly one big strip of small local shops like cafes, clothing stores as well as rock stores and outdoors gear supplies and then it branches off behind the main road into little strips of stores and hotels.
Since Jasper is four hours from Edmonton and five and a half from Calgary it makes it the less popular tourist destination simply because it’s the farther away to get to. Since there is less tourists here most things are close during the summer but even though some things are closed there is plenty to do during the summer such as see waterfalls and beautiful clear lakes like Moose Lake.
It’s easy to say Jasper is the more laid-back for the two destinations.
During the winter though Marmot Basin is a popular ski hill located about a 30 minute drive from Jasper which brings all the skiers and snowboarders out. There is also shuttles in Jasper at most hotels that will take you to the mountains where you can enjoy long slops and chalet coffees.
If you are only here in Jasper for skiing purposes and hiking then there is plenty of that. As far as town life goes though Jasper is pretty quiet and I find it lacking for food although Bear Paw Bakery has the hands down best cinnamon buns in the world. I never leave Jasper without one.
Banff is small and easy to get around on foot. Located 5 hours from Edmonton and two hours from Calgary, Banff is the more popular of the destinations. In town everything is a short walk away such as the Cavin Basin, which was where the National Park was born, and the Banff hot springs is also a short drive away where you can relax in the cool mountain sides after a long day of being on the mountain.
Banff also has a variety of food choices such as Eddie Burger & Bar and a few amazing sushi places. Being a huge foodie, “where’s the best food?” is always in my mind when travelling. It wasn’t hard to decide where to go to eat since there was plenty of options wherever you looked.
Another perk of Banff is that Lake Louise is also about a 30 minute drive with the Fairmont Chateau lining the water. The luxury hotel is the perfect place to grab food in one of the restaurants and have a view of the iconic lake while enjoying a lovely meal. The Lake Louise Ski Resort is also a short drive away with plenty of hills to choose from. Once at the top of the mountain you can see Lake Louise wedged between two mountains.
So which is better, Banff or Jasper?
Both the scenery for Banff and Jasper are unmatched, each place is full of mountain views and animal spotting is easy with animals like elk, bears and wolves roaming around the National Park (I’ll be honest though wolves are impossible to see). Both places also have vast clear lakes and lots of places to go camping. Banff and Jasper both offer lovely skiing experiences as well as hiking and waterfall viewing.
I think in order to decide on where to go you would have to find out what it is you wanted to do and where your priorities were and then decided from there.
For me personally though, if I had to choose between Banff or Jasper, the choice was easy. Banff is a beautiful place and the city itself is laid out perfectly for travellers and has slightly more to do both during the winter and the summer. There is a viewpoint in Banff that overlooks the Fairmont and it was easy for Aaron and I to get around in the cold. Lake Minnewanka was also a short drive from Banff where we walked along the ice to be surrounded by snowy mountains. Plus I love Lake Louise so getting the opportunity to see that again is always on the back of my mind when choosing a place to visit.
So the short answer – Banff has simply more to do and see.
But if you are looking for a quieter, more laid-back destination then I think Jasper is the place for you. It’s small, quant and beautiful.
If you have time then I recommend seeing both places and then report back to me which on it is you prefer!