Alberta, Canada, has long been hailed as an untamed wilderness, full of adventure to be had and landscapes to explore. A haven for wildlife and a landscape that has inspired many an artist's brush and pencil, there's no denying that when one wants to commune with nature, Alberta's national parks are where they head. Of those, Banff and Jasper National Parks are two of the most highly-regarded in terms of beauty and accessibility and with both being so stunning, it can be tough to choose which one to spend time in. They're not far apart by any means so it is possible to explore one while still spending time in the other but for those who are pressed for time, a choice sometimes needs to be made.
Both offer outdoor recreation such as hiking and canoeing as well as an engaging and diverse downtown area. The two do have their differences, however, in terms of size, accessibility, and overall atmosphere. So, which one is better suited to a nature lover's needs? Let's find out.
The Size Of Each Town And Its Population
An aspect that many don't think of when it comes down to choosing between two popular parks is the towns that sit just outside of them. The town of Banff is well known for its film festivals and sheer size, as it's more populated than the neighboring town of Jasper. Jasper is far more laid-back with a smaller population and a more rustic town feel that's less high-end luxury wilderness and more true mountain town.
Banff is far more popular and has more of a high-intensity atmosphere that comes with doubling the population. Banff is also situated right at the base of the mountains and offers similar views as Jasper, with more of a hustling and bustling environment.
Accessibility And Ease Of Travel
In terms of which park is far easier to get to, Banff is definitely the winner. Its reputation has allowed a shuttle service to become one of the main forms of transportation to the park whereas in Jasper, a car is usually needed for visitors wanting to visit. However, Jasper is accessible via train if travelers don't mind traveling that way.
In order to see both the parks in one visit, a four-hour drive will take them between the two, with that time being contingent on summer traffic which can often make the drive longer. Therefore, for those seeking to travel to one of these parks without their own transportation, Banff seems like the more logical choice as the town does have its own public transportation along with transportation to the actual park. Jasper does not have a transportation system and while the town is walkable in some parts, many of the attractions are outside of the walking range of most visitors.
Lodging And Food
Banff will always be the bigger town which means more options for both lodging and food are in high supply. However, with Banff being the bigger luxury town, it means the price will also go up - meaning it could already have priced itself out of the budget range for many. Jasper has a respectable number of options for lodging as well, just on a smaller scale.
For those who are looking for a quieter, calmer atmosphere, Jasper is the better option as the town is smaller and accommodations are a bit more remote. Banff has plenty of options for condo rentals, hotels, and rentals, but Jasper presents hostel options, which might be a perk for some who appreciate that style of accommodation. In terms of food, Banff will offer the more high-end and late-night dining options, while Jasper offers more of a small-town, general food scene.
Hiking Trails And Recreation
The trend is that Banff is more well-traveled which is also reflected in its national park. While there are more people, this also means that many of the trails are suited to a wide range of skill levels, from beginner all the way up to expert hiking. The trails at Banff are shorter in length as well for those just seeking a quick walk in return for a high payoff in views.
In Jasper, the park is more remote and many of the trails are not as well-traveled as those in Banff, giving a more secluded feel to the experience. This also means that the park itself is less developed, giving hikers an authentic experience (not that Banff is not authentic - it's just more clearly marked and hiked) with fewer people to pass by on the trails. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on the hiker and what type of atmosphere they're looking for, whether they want the comfort of others around, or are seeking a truly remote way to connect with nature.