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There’s a purpose why the Icefields Parkway is called one of many world’s most stunning drives.
Connecting Banff and Jasper Nationwide Parks, two of probably the most spectacular and iconic areas of the Canadian Rockies, the Icefields Parkway is a dreamy roadway surrounded by evergreen forests, alpine lakes, and jagged mountain peaks.
Oh, yeah, and that’s to not point out the over 100 glaciers that dot the world!
Whereas residing in Calgary for practically 6 months, I took the chance to discover the Canadian Rockies nearly each weekend.
And, of all the hikes, drives, and journey actions I attempted whereas there, the one factor that by no means obtained outdated was the awe-inspiring views alongside the Icefields Parkway.
In the event you’re planning a street journey within the Canadian Rockies, you completely can’t miss a scenic drive by way of the Icefields Parkway.
Whereas there are such a lot of issues to do on the Icefields Parkway, I’ve included a few of my prime journey suggestions and options for probably the most beautiful points of interest on this put up.
The Fundamentals: Issues to Know Earlier than Driving the Icefields Parkway
Whereas street tripping alongside the Icefields Parkway is just like any alpine nationwide park space, there are just a few essential distinctive issues to find out about travelling on this area.
On this part, I’m sharing just a few essential tricks to be aware of earlier than planning your Icefields Parkway street journey.
Don’t neglect to take a look at our information to the prime 30 issues to do in Canada!
Necessary Icefields Parkway Journey Ideas
Whereas the roads are typically well-maintained and the tourism infrastructure may be very developed, a scenic drive within the Canadian Rockies can typically be tough for just a few causes.
Listed here are a few basic tips you need to have in mind as you propose (and embark!) in your journey.
The Icefields Parkway is a year-round vacation spot.
Whereas the height season for the Icefields Parkway is in the summertime (extra on this within the subsequent part), you may take this drive within the spring, fall, and winter, too.
There are tons of issues to do in Banff, Jasper, and the Icefields Parkway year-round.
Observe that climate circumstances are most beneficial within the peak season, so that you’ll must take further precautions should you plan on touring within the colder, extra ice-prone months.
The climate may be very unpredictable year-round.
Simply since you select to go to the Canadian Rockies in the summertime doesn’t imply that you just’ll get sunny, heat climate every single day.
Snow can occur within the greater alpine areas till early June, and there are avalanche dangers on sure trails properly into the summer season.
Make sure to verify all the street circumstances and path circumstances on the Parks Canada web site earlier than setting out for a drive or a hike. That would prevent loads of difficulties!
There’s wildlife all over the place.
Your complete Canadian Rockies space is residence to tons of animals, together with mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wolves, elk, moose, and bears (of the grizzly and black varieties). In the event you occur to identify considered one of these majestic beasts, you may admire them from afar.
Nevertheless, don’t method them or try to feed them. In the event you plan on tenting, make sure to correctly retailer or get rid of all meals within the correct, marked receptacles.
These animals may be very sturdy and harmful should you aren’t cautious, so take the mandatory precautions to guard your self and your fellow travellers.
Contemplate reserving an audio information
There may be a lot to see and do on the Icefields Parkway, and there’s a lot to study. For a enjoyable, interactive driving expertise, think about reserving a smartphone audio tour.
For simply $9 CAD, you may obtain an app to your cellphone which can present enjoyable details, trivia questions, and historical past in regards to the points of interest alongside the drive.
The audio information covers the primary points of interest corresponding to Columbia Icefield, Lake Louise, Sunwapta Falls, Bow Lake, and extra. Nevertheless it nonetheless means that you can journey at your individual tempo.
In the event you’re tackling this street journey with the entire household, this is usually a enjoyable technique to hold everybody studying and entertained.
You’ll must pay a charge to enter.
The Icefields Parkway stretches from one Nationwide Park to a different, that means that you just’ll must pay the Parks Canada charge to enter.
The price is $9.80 CAD per particular person per day and $4.90 CAD for kids.
You’ll be able to pay whenever you arrive within the Banff space. There are small kiosks on the aspect of the street whenever you enter the park you can drive proper as much as.
You can too e book your Parks Canada go on-line, which is an efficient possibility should you’re doing a lot of road-tripping round Canada. Purchase a Parks Canada go that mixes a number of places to avoid wasting a bit of cash.
When to Go to the Canadian Rockies
Whereas the Canadian Rockies are a year-round vacation spot, the perfect time to go to is between mid-June and the tip of September.
Throughout this time of 12 months, you’ll expertise the warmest temperatures and the least unstable climate circumstances, in addition to with the ability to take part within the largest number of actions.
Nevertheless, should you choose to have a a lot quieter, much less crowded journey, the spring or later within the fall may be improbable choices.
The primary time I travelled to the Canadian Rockies was in Could, and it was stunning, with pretty delicate temperatures and few fellow guests.
Even Lake Louise wasn’t crowded! Nevertheless, we did expertise some snow flurries once in a while, and our in a single day tenting was typically barely lower than snug within the chilly of the evening.
Observe: this information is primarily meant for summer season journey throughout this peak season. A few of the actions talked about right here could also be closed or unavailable do you have to determine to go to earlier than June or after September.
How you can Lease a Automotive within the Canadian Rockies
These visiting the Canadian Rocky Mountains from afar will almost definitely fly into Calgary Worldwide Airport (YYC). That is the most important worldwide airport in Alberta, and it providers many airways and locations round North America and the world.
From there, you may hire a automobile from quite a lot of worldwide companies, together with Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise. There are kiosks for many of those main companies proper on the airport itself.
If you’ll drive the Icefields Parkway in winter, undoubtedly get a automobile with winter tires so you may keep secure and safe whereas winter driving.
You can too hire a automobile from Calgary’s metropolis middle. In my expertise, I’ve discovered that the charges for automobile leases downtown are considerably cheaper than on the airport.
In the event you would favor to hire a campervan the place you may sleep and cook dinner, there are just a few companies that function out of Calgary as properly. I’ve by no means personally achieved this within the Canadian Rockies, however two companies that appear to have nice opinions are Escape Campervans and Karma Campervans.
The easiest way to get round is to hire a automobile and discover by yourself! We advocate Rental Vehicles, which has the most important vary of autos for the perfect worth available on the market.
However should you’ve all the time dreamed of touring alongside the Icefields Parkway, and also you’d quite not hire a automobile, there are many nice excursions that can take you to the highlights.
Although it’s superb to spend just a few days or extra exploring the world with your individual car, guided excursions from Jasper city, Lake Louise, or Banff will help you see every part and not using a automobile.
The place to Keep close to the Icefields Parkway
As it is a main vacationer vacation spot in Alberta, there are many locations to remain throughout your Icefields Parkway itinerary.
Whilst you can decide to drive the complete parkway in sooner or later (it’s solely about 3 hours from Banff to Jasper), I’d strongly advocate taking your time and spending an evening or two within the space.
Listed here are just a few choices for all budgets for the place to remain whenever you drive the Icefields Parkway:
- Lodge: Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge is constructed into a comfortable log cabin, and rests towards the northern a part of the Icefields Parkway, proper subsequent to Sunwapta Falls. Right here, you’ll discover snug rooms and a full-service restaurant.
- Hostel: HI Magnificence Creek Wilderness Hostel is a hostel in the course of the Icefields Parkway, typically frequented by hikers and ice climbers. They provide dorm beds at affordable charges and superior entry to the Parkway as a complete.
- Tenting: Tenting is often the lodging possibility that I select after I go to the Canadian Rockies. There are tons of campsites dotting the Icefields Parkway, each within the Banff and Jasper jurisdictions. A lot of them are first-come, first-served, that means you’ll want to point out up early on the day you wish to camp to inquire about availability.
Issues to Do on the Icefields Parkway
In fact, you’re most likely not going to easily drive the Icefields Parkway with out stopping for some epic views and journey actions.
You’ll be able to admire the well-known alpine lakes corresponding to Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, and the enduring Lake Louise. You’ll be able to trek throughout the Athabasca Glacier or see unbelievable views at Crowfoot Glacier.
Go canoeing, mountaineering, ice-climbing, and extra. You’ll be able to pack a lot superb stuff into an Icefields Parkway Itinerary, so attempt to profit from your time there.
That can assist you plan your journey, listed here are some unbelievable actions to attempt whilst you’re driving by way of the Icefields Parkway.
You can too see the places of those stops on the official Icefields Parkway map right here.
Cease at a Glacier Viewpoint
In the event you’re going to do one factor on the Icefields Parkway, make sure to benefit from the varied overpasses and street shoulder areas that boast among the most superb views of the landscapes surrounding the freeway.
There are a number of of those sorts of lookout factors all around the Parkway, beginning at Peyto Lake, which is simply previous Lake Louise after you flip onto the Icefields Parkway.
Afterward, in direction of Jasper Nationwide Parks, you’ll discover much more roadside viewpoints that overlook glowing alpine lakes, marvelous mountain ridges, and naturally, the Columbia Icefield and its many glaciers.
You need to cease at as many of those as you need — they’re there for a purpose!
Please be sure you ONLY cease on the designated viewpoint areas and NOT in the course of the freeway. Belief me, I do know that the landscapes are stunning and it may be tempting to decelerate or cease in the course of the street whereas driving to admire the views.
In your and everybody else’s security, please don’t do that! Discover a secure place to park your automobile earlier than admiring the views round you.
Professional tip: These viewpoint areas can get REALLY standard in the course of the summer season, so should you’re hoping to cease off at loads of them, I like to recommend beginning early within the morning.
This fashion, not solely will you get to soak within the views with out as many crowds, however you’ll additionally be capable of seize the beautiful morning gentle on the faces of the mountains. Rating!
Take a look at our Final Canada Journey Information for extra suggestions!
Go Climbing Alongside the Icefields Parkway
For the hikers on the market, there are TONS of superior trails within the Icefields Parkway space that you just undoubtedly shouldn’t miss.
Amongst them are trails that take you above canyons, by way of evergreen forests, and produce you to hidden alpine lakes or breezy viewpoints to soak in probably the most breathtaking views of the complete space.
Professional tip: In the event you’re planning on mountaineering, make sure to pack loads of water, further layers (together with a water-resistant rain shell), and a can of bear spray in case of an surprising run-in with wildlife. You will get bear spray at most out of doors outfitters in Calgary or in one of many close by nationwide parks.
Whereas I might most likely write a complete new put up on the hikes within the Icefields Parkway, listed here are just a few nice ones to get you began:
This brief, 1.1-kilometer canyon path is ideal for newbie hikers or households on the lookout for some contemporary air and delightful views.
You’ll make your approach alongside jagged, eerie grey rock formations which have probably the most stunning, teal water operating by way of them.
The Mistaya Canyon path is a bit lesser-known than most, so there’s an opportunity you’ll have some areas of it to your self!
The 5-kilometer, reasonable Parker Ridge Hike is an ideal, barely longer hike to catch among the most beautiful glacier views across the Icefields Parkway.
You’ll take a collection of switchbacks as much as the highest of the ridge, the place you may catch an impressive glimpse of the Saskatchewan Glacier and its corresponding river under.
This straightforward to reasonable 7.7-kilometer hike takes you thru a forested path to a gorgeous, deep turquoise-colored lake surrounded by rock partitions and peaks.
This path can get muddy after intervals of snow soften or rain, so deliver waterproof mountaineering boots and thick socks!
Helen Lake & Cirque Peak
As a difficult hike, this 17.2-kilometer path is a full-day journey that can take you to the attractive Helen Lake, earlier than ascending a steep slope to the highest of Cirque Peak.
In the event you’re on the lookout for a shorter model of this hike, merely cease at Helen Peak and switch again — the views are nonetheless wonderful and also you’ll nonetheless have time to do different actions within the space that day.
For extra mountaineering concepts, take a look at our Final Information to the Greatest Banff Hikes
Chase Some Waterfalls
As an space with tons of glaciers, rivers, and mountain springs, you’re certain to run into some stunning waterfalls sooner or later throughout your journey alongside the Icefields Parkway.
Even within the winter, you might be able to catch among the waterfalls frozen into large, gentle blue icicles, which is a very freaking stunning show of nature.
Listed here are just a few of the most well-liked waterfalls you can go to alongside the Icefields Parkway.
One of many extra distinctive waterfalls within the space, the weeping wall is a vertical rock face that has small waterfalls that “weep” in the course of the summer season.
Within the wintertime, this set of cliffs is a well-liked spot for sport ice climbers. Nevertheless, in the summertime, you may merely go to to observe the attractive cascade of water over the rocks.
Fairly presumably my favourite waterfall in the complete Icefields Parkway space is Sunwapta Falls, a gorgeous set of falls within the Sunwapta River within the southern a part of Banff Nationwide Park.
Sunwapta means turbulent water in a neighborhood indigenous language, Stoney. You’ll be able to see why Sunwapta Falls was named so whenever you arrive at this set of highly effective falls.
Sunwapta Falls consists of two waterfalls that converge into one unbelievable epic viewpoint.
Bow Glacier Falls
Attending to Bow Glacier Falls requires an 8.7-kilometer hike from Bow Lake, however it’s definitely definitely worth the effort and time to see one of the crucial stunning waterfalls (and surrounding viewpoints) within the space.
You’ll go over picket bridges alongside the Bow River as you tackle this leisurely uphill path. This waterfall is standard amongst ice climbers within the winter, because the falls can freeze over.
Situated in Jasper Nationwide Park, Athabasca Falls is a well-liked cease on any Icefields Parkway itinerary. It isn’t the largest waterfall within the space, however it’s thought-about one of the crucial highly effective.
Athabasca Falls drops about 25 meters and is surrounded by stunning forests. Flip off the Icefields Parkway whenever you see the signal for Athabasca Falls, and the primary viewing platform is true there.
For a little bit of an journey, hike the Athabasca Falls Path which takes you to the higher falls and decrease falls and traverses the Athabasca River and canyon.
Tangle Creek Falls
This multi-tiered waterfall close to the Columbia Glacier Skywalk is certainly one of the crucial stunning in Western Canada.
It’s straightforward to overlook Tangle Creek Falls as there may be only a small signal on the aspect of the Icefields Parkway for “Tangle Creek”. Pull over right here into the small car parking zone and full the brief stroll to the falls – it’s price it!
Go to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre
The Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre is a component info-center and half museum. It sits off of the Icefields Parkway about an hour and a half away from the Jasper Data Centre.
Right here you may take a look at the reveals, which function the area’s many glaciers, to study extra about how they had been fashioned.
Admission to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre is free, and you may as well meet right here to embark on the free shuttle to the Glacier Skywalk. You can too get data on a number of glacier treks and excursions contained in the constructing.
In the event you’re feeling hungry, seize a chunk on the restaurant, Altitude, the place you may take pleasure in superb views of the glaciers by way of the a number of home windows spanning the perimeter of the constructing. Lunch is buffet model, whereas dinner and breakfast are a la carte.
Benefit from the Canadian-inspired menu alternatives, which embrace roasted beef, west coast salmon, and beef tenderloin.
If you’re simply passing by on the way in which to Jasper, plan to spend half-hour right here for a fast pit cease.
Stroll the Glacier Skywalk
Take a stroll alongside a 400-meter-long glass-bottomed walkway that overlooks the beautiful Sunwapta Valley!
The Glacier Skywalk, which sits 280 meters above the bottom and extends 35 meters out from the sting of the cliff, affords jaw-dropping views of the Columbia Icefield and Sunwapta Valley. It’s a very nice exercise to expertise superb views with none strenuous mountaineering — excellent for households or non-hikers!
The Skywalk is positioned about 6 km away from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, however there is no such thing as a parking onsite. Guests need to park on the Discovery Centre and take a free shuttle to the Skywalk.
The Skywalk often opens at 10 am and closes within the late afternoon, relying on the time of 12 months. To verify the closing hours for the dates of your journey, verify the Columbia Icefield web site.
In the event you’re planning on doing the Skywalk, you’ll spend about 45 minutes to an hour there.
Professional tip: Tickets may be bought both on the day of on the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre or on-line. They value $35 on the door, however you may pre-purchase them on-line upfront for a ten% low cost.
You can too e book your ticket on Get Your Information, which incorporates entry to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, an audio information, and a round-trip switch to Jasper.
Do An Athabasca Glacier Trek
One of the vital unbelievable issues you may expertise alongside the Icefields Parkway is a glacier trek. An incredible place to do that is Athabasca Glacier in Jasper Nationwide Park. That is considered one of North America’s most visited glaciers.
In the event you’re feeling courageous, e book an Athabasca Glacier Tour the place you may stroll on and drink from the ten,000-year-old sheet of ice (with an knowledgeable information and the best gear, in fact!).
A number of excursions run day by day from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre and most function between late spring to early fall. The itineraries are usually comparable throughout the totally different operators.
You’ll be taken out to Athabasca Glacier on an enormous all-terrain bus with a educated information who will educate you in regards to the space’s historical past, how the glaciers have fashioned and moved over time, and the way the geography of the world has impacted the ecosystem.
After arriving at Athabasca Glacier, you’ll get to stroll immediately on the ice and discover crevasses and hills.
Some excursions are all-day occasions (10 am – 5 pm), however you will discover shorter journeys on the Discovery Centre which can be 3 hours in size. All required gear (crampons and ice picks, if needed) are often included in these excursions.
Trekking throughout Athabasca Glacier is without doubt one of the coolest experiences in southern Alberta.
See the Well-known Lake Louise
If there’s one sight on the Icefields Parkway that each vacationer needs to see, it’s Lake Louise.
Lake Louise is a beautiful glacial lake in Banff Nationwide Park that’s surrounded by the towering mountains of the Rocky Mountains. It’s the quintessential view of Banff, and is a must-see alongside the Icefields Parkway.
Lake Louise can be the title of the small vacationer city subsequent to the lake. Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a well-known luxurious lodge proper on Lake Louise. If you wish to deal with your self to the absolute best lodging alongside the Icefields Parkway, think about a keep right here.
However most guests simply go to Lake Louise for the day. The Lakeshore Path is the most well-liked technique to see Lake Louise. This straightforward strolling path follows the sting of the lake so you may admire all of the views.
Different enjoyable issues to do in Lake Louise embrace renting a canoe and going for a paddle, or finishing the 4-mile spherical journey hike as much as Lake Agnes Tea Home.
Of all of the beautiful turquoise lakes alongside the Icefields Parkway, and there are various, Lake Louise is the most well-liked.
Go to the opposite Gorgeous Glacial Lakes
After leaving Lake Louise, head to among the different turquoise lakes within the space. I’ll point out three of the perfect ones intimately, although there are such a lot of others together with Herbert Lake, Chephren Lake, Vermilion Lakes, and the Waterfowl Lakes.
Moraine Lake is simply 20 minutes from Lake Louise, so the 2 are sometimes visited collectively. This stunning lake is just like Lake Louise.
It has vibrant blue water, mountains, and forests within the background, and you may hike or hire a canoe in summer season.
In order for you a break from driving, you may as well e book a sightseeing tour from Banff which incorporates Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Bow Lake is one other standard spot to go to. Only a 30-minute drive north of Lake Louise this lake is a barely smaller and fewer touristy possibility.
Bow Lake is fed by icy water from the Bow Glacier within the Wapta Icefield. It’s a peaceable place that’s nice for an informal stroll or a picnic lunch by the water. You’ll be able to swim within the lake if you’d like an adrenaline rush from the freezing glacial water, however most guests go for admiring the lake from the shore.
Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint are close by, so it’s straightforward to mix the 2 into one go to.
Only a 5-minute drive north of Bow Lake lies Peyto Lake, one other gem of the Icefield Parkway.
Although its vivid-turquoise hues might look inviting, most guests don’t truly go to the shores of Peyto Lake as a result of it’s surrounded by forest and is sort of troublesome to entry.
One of the best factor to do at Peyto Lake is hike to one of many viewpoints and simply admire the views from above.
From the Peyto Lake car parking zone there’s a 500-meter path as much as the viewing platform. The path is known as each the Peyto Lake Viewpoint Path or Bow Summit Lookout Path, and that is the simplest hike with the perfect views.
You possibly can additionally embark on a tougher hike as much as Remark Peak, which is 8km whole.
Wrapping up this Icefields Parkway Journey Information
Hopefully this information has supplied you with all the information you might must embark on an unbelievable drive of the Icefields Parkway.
That is actually among the finest issues to do in Canada, and this can be one of the crucial scenic drives on this planet.
From the jagged mountain peaks and sweeping valleys to the glittering glaciers, sapphire lakes, and tumbling waterfalls, this stunning nook of western Canada could also be one of the crucial stunning locations you’ll ever go to.
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