The Columbia Icefields Parkway stretches for 232 km between Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. It’s one of many prettiest drives in Canada – and certainly the world. When you can knock it off comfortably in three to 4 hours, that doesn’t enable for any stops. At a minimal, take the day to drive the parkway – however should you’ve acquired every week, you then’ll have time to get out and discover a few of the attractive mountains on foot.
Alongside the Icefields Parkway you’ll see gorgeous, turquoise-coloured lakes, glacier-rimmed mountains, the Bow River, far-reaching mountain vistas, wildlife and waterfalls. Alongside the parkway, there are lots of scenic pullouts – however watch out in summer time crossing busy lanes of site visitors.
If you happen to love a good bike experience with some epic hills, contemplate experiencing the Icefields Parkway from the seat of your bike. Begin in Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper.
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Herbert Lake, the primary cease heading north on the Icefields Parkway
Herbert Lake, simply 7 km north of Lake Louise, is an exquisite lake the place on a peaceable morning or night you may seize mirror-like reflections of Mount Temple. It’s additionally a spot for a fast swim, must you be exploring on a scorching summer time’s day.
Hector Lake, 23 km north of Lake Louise
Hector Lake is the second largest lake, after Lake Minnewanka in Banff Nationwide Park however the largest pure lake within the park. The lake is known as after James Hector who accompanied the Palliser Expedition as a surgeon and geologist.
There’s a climbing path right down to the lake – and a campsite on the far facet of the Bow River. Solely cross the river when it’s protected to take action. You possibly can reserve the campsite on-line.
Beautiful Bow Lake is finest considered from the lookout on the northwest shore of the lake. There’s additionally an space with picnic tables, accessed simply barely south from the freeway pullout.
If you happen to drive down the street on the north finish of the lake you’ll attain Num Ti Jah Lodge – a spot you may’t miss with its vibrant purple roof. You possibly can spend the night time right here, take pleasure in dinner or decide up a snack on the Bow Lake Café.
There’s additionally some glorious climbing that begins by the lodge. Head out on the Bow Glacier Path. On the giant limestone boulder spanning the gorge you will have the choice to hike to Bow Hut (14.8 km spherical journey hike) or Bow Glacier Falls – a 9 km round-trip hike.
If you happen to head for the hut, there are some creeks to cross. I’d extremely suggest water footwear and a pair of climbing poles.
The soften from Peyto Glacier feeds gorgeous turquoise colored Peyto Lake, positioned on the Bow Summit, the very best level on the Icefields Parkway at 2088 metres above sea stage.
There was a paved path to a viewing deck overlooking the lake and Mistaya River Valley. Nonetheless, there’s ongoing development to rehabilitate the world – with the addition of extra parking, new washrooms, rerouting of trails and growth of the viewing platform.
The world won’t be accessible to guests till August 2021.
Waterfowl Lakes on the Icefields Parkway
The Waterfowl Lakes, positioned 60 km north of Lake Louise, are an excellent spot for tenting, and pictures – a minimum of when the water is calm. Their lovely color is a operate of the glacial silt from the Peyto Glacier.
On the southwest finish of the campground, you’ll discover the trailhead for the Cirque Lake and Cephren Lake hikes. It’s 7.7 km return to Cephren Lake, 8.8 km return for Cirque Lake or 13.2 km return for each. Enable 4 hours to hike to each lakes. Reportedly these are muddy hikes – and Cirque Lake is the prettier of the 2.
It’s a 1.0 km return hike on an deserted street to go to Mistaya Canyon. There’s an elevation loss and acquire of 35 m and footing is pebbly and tough in locations. Enable about 30 – 45 minutes, particularly in case you are a photographer.
As soon as on the bridge, admire the deep slim gorge and marvel at how the ability of the Mistaya River has eroded the limestone, making it very easy over time. You possibly can proceed over the bridge to entry the ten.4 km return hike to Sarbach Lookout. Additionally, many guests go right down to the rocks as the world across the canyon isn’t fenced. This isn’t beneficial as it’s probably hazardous.
Enjoyable reality: Simply 2.5 miles down from the Mistaya Canyon, the Mistaya River joins the North Saskatchewan River.
Saskatchewan River Crossing
Saskatchewan River Crossing is positioned on the junction of Freeway 93 and 11. It sits on the confluence of three rivers – the North Saskatchewan with the Howse and Mistaya Rivers.
That is the one place to refill with fuel earlier than you head north to Jasper, 154 km distant. There’s additionally a restaurant, present store and a resort referred to as The Crossing Resort.
Howse River Overlook – and a purple chair alternative
Drive the Icefields Parkway 1 kilometre north from the place the David Thompson Freeway intersects the Saskatchewan River Crossing and search for the signed Glacier Lake trailhead on the west facet of the parkway.
Hike the simple path in direction of Glacier Lake, reaching the bridge throughout the North Saskatchewan River on the 1.1 km level. It’s a sight to be seen in itself, particularly when it’s flooding. Attain the Howse River Overlook at 2.2 km and benefit from the view from the purple chairs. The world has historic significance as David Thompson, a surveyor, explorer, and fur dealer camped right here again in 1807.
Most individuals driving the Icefields Parkway don’t cease to do the 9.0 km return hike to Sundown Lookout. However should you’re an excellent hiker and don’t thoughts a steep path (it climbs 553 m or 1814 ft), then you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of northern Banff Nationwide Park and the sight of gorgeous, braided channels of the North Saskatchewan and Alexandra Rivers.
Drive 26.8 km north of Saskatchewan River Crossing or 22.5 km south of the Columbia Icefields Centre to see the Weeping Wall. It’s much more lovely in winter when its frozen – and is taken into account to be one of many prime ice climbs on the planet.
There’s a pullout to see the water dropping greater than 100 m from Cirrus Mountain. Catch the solar at simply the precise angle on the finish of the day and also you’ll see a rainbow.
Panther and Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls are positioned on the large bend of the Icefields Parkway, 36 km north of Saskatchewan River Crossing and a pair of.2 km south of the turnoff to Parker Ridge. The water originates on the Huntington Glacier and finally results in the North Saskatchewan River.
Panther Falls – which I’ve but to see, may be visited together with Bridal Veil Falls, however you’ll should hike there on a sometimes- slippery path so train warning. They’re reportedly much more gorgeous than the Bridal Veil Falls.
Parker Ridge Path – the should do hike on the Icefields Parkway
The Parker Ridge Path is the should do hike alongside the Icefields Parkway. Views open on the hike inside 5 minutes of beginning out. The hike is simply 4.8 km return so you may knock it off in 90 minutes and nonetheless have time to gape on the Saskatchewan Glacier. It is a family-friendly hike.
There’s a giant, signed car parking zone for the Parker Ridge hike, 41 km north of Saskatchewan River Crossing and eight.6 km south of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre.
Wilcox Move Pink Chair Second
Begin the hike to Wilcox Move simply 2.8 km south of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. You don’t should hike all the best way to the go, merely up the steepest part of path to get the standout view of the Columbia Icefield from the purple chairs. Though it’s steep, most children six and over ought to be capable of deal with the hike.
Columbia Icefield – essentially the most well-known cease on the Icefields Parkway
Plainly virtually everybody stops on the Columbia Icefield on a reasonably, sunny day so the crowds may be intense. If you happen to can ever go to within the low season, you would possibly simply have the world to your self.
The Icefields are residence to 30 glaciers ringed by 11 mountains, together with the very best one in Alberta, Mount Columbia. Meltwater from the Icefields feeds the Columbia, Athabasca and Saskatchewan Rivers.
There are excursions right here however you are able to do a self-guided stroll. You can too camp within the space or keep at The Glacier View Lodge.
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk
Stroll the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk on a cliff-edge walkway that takes you to a platform overlooking a 918 foot drop. There are glass panels to maintain you protected, however you would possibly nonetheless get an adrenaline rush or a case of the willies when you’re there. Evidently, the views down the valley are unimaginable. (Common costs are $36 per grownup and $18 per youngster in 2021.)
Get to the Skywalk through a shuttle run by Pursuit. It’s all a part of the price of admission. The precise Skywalk is a brief drive north of the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre.
Tangle Creek Falls
Tangle Creek Falls is positioned 7 km north of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre on the east facet of the freeway. Parking is on the alternative facet of the street.
The falls are actually proper beside the freeway. Enable 10 – 20 minutes to go to.
You’ll discover Sunwapta Falls 179 km north of Lake Louise and 56 km southeast of Jasper alongside the Icefields Parkway.
The Athabasca Glacier feeds Sunwapta Falls – made up of an higher and decrease units of waterfalls. The higher falls are extraordinarily simple to entry from the car parking zone – and as such are typically very busy. Their drop-off is eighteen m – which is particularly spectacular while you’re standing on the bridge wanting over the slim cleft the water is pressured by way of.
Proceed on a straightforward path by way of lodgepole pine forest for two km to achieve Decrease Sunwapta Falls. Virtually nobody bothers to hike this part, so you might even have the falls to your self.
The height season to go to the falls is in late spring and early summer time throughout runoff from snow soften.
Kerkeslin Goat Lick
If you wish to see mountain goats alongside the Icefields Parkway, make sure you take a look at the goat lick. It’s positioned about quarter-hour north of the Sunwapta Falls cease, close to an indication with a picture of a goat that warns you to decelerate. Mountain goats congregate right here to lick the mineral wealthy silt deposit. The truth is, they apparently lick a lot of it that their droppings are white as an alternative of black.
Athabasca Falls – some of the widespread stops on the Icefields Parkway
Athabasca Falls is an unimaginable sight in any season regardless of the actual fact the drop is barely 23 metres. However what the falls lack in vertical drop, they make up for in energy. Trying down right into a frothing, swirling mass of water is a wide ranging sight.
The falls are perennially busy so should you’re making an attempt to keep away from the crowds, go to very first thing within the morning or late within the day. There are many trails and viewing platforms across the falls. Enable a strong hour to get essentially the most out of the world.
The place to remain alongside the Icefields Parkway
Learn this submit should you’re planning to camp alongside the Icefields Parkway.
If you happen to’re on the lookout for a roof over your head the next are a few of the choices.
The Put up Lodge and Spa is gorgeous however it’s within the village and never on the lake. The meals is great.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise enjoys the perfect views of the lake although it comes with a worth. Deer Lodge is a brief stroll away from Lake Louise. Their up to date rooms are nice.
Baker Creek Mountain Resort gives cozy log cabins. There’s additionally an inexpensive hostel possibility in Lake Louise.
Saskatchewan River Crossing
Earlier than you attain Saskatchewan River Crossing there’s the choice of the Mosquito Creek hostel. The Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel is simply north of Saskatchewan River Crossing. Your closing hostel possibility is Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, 42 kilometres north of Saskatchewan River Crossing.
The Crossing Resort – a motel is an efficient selection in order for you to discover the David Thompson Freeway.
Sunwapta Falls lodging
Spend an evening or two on the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge about 100 kilometres north of Saskatchewan River Crossing in order for you an excellent base for exploring the world.
The Athabasca Falls hostel, positioned 23 kilometres north of Sunwapta Falls is a cheaper possibility.
For an excellent location with a worth to match select the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
I just like the look of The Crimson Jasper although I’ve by no means stayed right here.
The Maligne Canyon Hostel is an inexpensive possibility.
If you wish to be on a lake with a number of actions the Pyramid Lake Resort could be a superb possibility. However for a fundamental avenue location in Jasper I believe Whistler’s Inn is a good selection.
Driving the Icefields Parkway in Winter
The Icefields Parkway in winter is gorgeous however it may be robust and harmful to drive. Go ready so you may survive the winter drive – figuring out that cell service is nearly non-existent, and assist may be a very long time coming.
If you happen to’re nonetheless eager to drive it, strive to decide on a sunny day with none snow within the forecast. Late spring is a good time to see the snowy lined mountains, with out the crowds.
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