Make your way north to Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies and find the stories in the night sky.
Don’t let your Rocky Mountain roadtrip end at the border. Keep heading north to explore Canada’s mountain wonders, including the stargazing jewel of Jasper. On your way, stop by Banff National Park to hike Johnston Canyon, canoe and horseback ride by Lake Louise, and take the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N) toward the turquoise waters of Bow Lake and view the Bow Glacier. Keep heading north toward Jasper National Park and the town of Jasper, nestled within.
Jasper is a Dark Sky Preserve, officially designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, so it’s not surprising that the area is fantastic for skygazing year-round. Spend some time spying meteor showers, peering at planets, ogling the Milky Way, and crossing your fingers on seeing the aurora borealis (aka northern lights). You can see celestial wonders year-round, but October is when the community’s stargazing spirit really shines.
Each fall, Jasper celebrates its signature skies with the Dark Sky Festival (this year, October 18-27, 2019). Talks and events fill attendees’ days, but the marquee show is stargazing at Lake Annette and Symphony Under the Stars. The festival also includes a four-day Dark Sky Photography Workshop.
When the festival isn’t in full-swing, there’s still plenty to do in the surrounding area. Hike the Valley of the Five Lakes, backpack one of the numerous multi-day hike options like the Skyline Trail or try climbing or canyoneering with one of the local outfitters, which offer trips to places like Ogre Canyon. Then when the sun drops in the sky and evening emerges, find a favorite stargazing spot to soak in the show.
A few local favorite spots include: Pyramid Lake, just below the iconic Pyramid Lake; Maligne Canyon, just a few miles outside of Jasper; and Lake Annette. For your best chance at spotting the northern lights, check out the University of Alberta’s Aurora Watch (aurorawatch.ca), which forecasts aurora activity.