Jasper, Alberta, Canada
By the time the Jasper Dark Sky Festival kicks off, sunset usually occurs around 7 pm. That gives plenty of time in the evening to stargaze. The itinerary presented here can serve as a guide. Indulge your awe of the universe as much as you wish, or feel free to pick and choose suggestions from the options listed.
Having a relaxed morning is never a bad idea but it might be extra appreciated considering the potentially late night to come. Thus, we recommend beginning your dark sky tour in the afternoon by going high. Take a ride up the Jasper SkyTram, which is open daily until October 25 and located a short drive outside town. Although they close before sunset (unless you’ve nabbed one of the tickets for their currently-sold-out SkyTram Star Sessions), the panoramic views from the summit of Whistler’s Mountain can help orient you for later explorations. Interpretive signage at the top helps make sense of the jaw-dropping scenes before you, and with proper sun-watching equipment (you risk serious eye damage otherwise), you can look for sun spots, coronal loops, and even flares.
Grab a take-out dinner from one of the great restaurants in Jasper before driving the scenic Maligne Lake Road. As dusk begins to settle over the mountains, watch for bears, moose, elk and other wildlife which may begin to emerge more readily in the evening hours and are often seen along this winding road which follows the Maligne Valley. It's about a 50 minute drive from town to Maligne Lake, so break up the trip by stopping to eat your dinner at one of the riverside picnic areas along the way.
Arrive with time to enjoy the sunset at Maligne Lake: a massively long glacier-fed lake that can be busy in the summer but is often quiet come autumn. Walk one of the short interpretive paths to learn about the historical significance of the area. As stars emerge, see if you can spot their twinkling reflections in the water. Bring blankets, warm clothes and warmer beverages, as the temperature does drop after the sun goes down.
Once you’re ready, head back toward Jasper. Finish the night at Pyramid Island, where you’ll see Jasper’s skies from a new angle. With Pyramid Mountain rising majestically behind the iconic island and surrounding lake, as well as multiple convenient benches and covered shelters, it’s an inspired place to end the tour before tucking into bed.
Alternatively, head to Lac Beauvert on the luxurious grounds of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Once you’ve had your fill of stars, it’s easy to head inside to warm up in the luxurious fireside lounge or arrange an experience with The Jasper Planetarium, which is only located on the property and boasts the biggest telescopes in the Rockies.
Regardless which path you take, you’re likely to find astounding inspiration.