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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 National 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 realm!
Whereas dwelling in Calgary for almost 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And, of all the hikes, drives, and journey actions I attempted whereas there, the one factor that by no means bought outdated was the awe-inspiring views alongside the Icefields Parkway.
If you happen to’re planning a road trip in the Canadian Rockies, you completely can’t miss a scenic drive via the Icefields Parkway.
Whereas there are such a lot of issues to do on the Icefields Parkway, I’ve included a few of my high journey suggestions and ideas for probably the most gorgeous sights on this submit.
The Fundamentals: Issues to Know Earlier than Driving the Icefields Parkway
Whereas highway tripping alongside the Icefields Parkway is much like any alpine nationwide park space, there are a couple of essential distinctive issues to learn about travelling on this area.
On this part, I’m sharing a couple of essential tricks to be aware of earlier than planning your Icefields Parkway highway journey.
Don’t neglect to take a look at our information to the top 30 things to do in Canada!
Necessary Icefields Parkway Journey Suggestions
Whereas the roads are usually well-maintained and the tourism infrastructure could be very developed, a scenic drive within the Canadian Rockies can typically be difficult for a couple of causes.
Listed here are a few basic pointers it’s best to take note 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’ll be able to take this drive within the spring, fall, and winter, too.
There are tons of things to do in Banff, Jasper, and the Icefields Parkway year-round.
Notice that climate circumstances are most beneficial within the peak season, so that you’ll must take further precautions in case you plan on touring within the colder, extra ice-prone months.
The climate could be very unpredictable year-round.
Simply since you select to go to the Canadian Rockies in the summertime doesn’t imply that you simply’ll get sunny, heat climate daily.
Snow can occur within the increased alpine areas till early June, and there are avalanche dangers on sure trails properly into the summer time.
Be sure you verify all the highway circumstances and path circumstances on the Parks Canada web site earlier than setting out for a drive or a hike. That might prevent a whole lot of difficulties!
There’s wildlife in all places.
Your entire Canadian Rockies space is dwelling to tons of animals, together with mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wolves, elk, moose, and bears (of the grizzly and black varieties). If you happen to occur to identify considered one of these majestic beasts, you’ll be able to admire them from afar.
Nevertheless, don’t method them or try and feed them. If you happen to plan on tenting, make sure to correctly retailer or eliminate all meals within the correct, marked receptacles.
These animals may be very sturdy and harmful in case you aren’t cautious, so take the mandatory precautions to guard your self and your fellow travellers.
Think about reserving an audio information
There’s a lot to see and do on the Icefields Parkway, and there’s a lot to study. For a enjoyable, interactive driving expertise, take into account booking a smartphone audio tour.
For simply $9 CAD, you’ll be able to obtain an app to your cellphone which is able to present enjoyable info, trivia questions, and historical past concerning the sights alongside the drive.
The audio information covers the primary sights akin to Columbia Icefield, Lake Louise, Sunwapta Falls, Bow Lake, and extra. However it nonetheless means that you can journey at your individual tempo.
If you happen to’re tackling this highway journey with the entire household, this is usually a enjoyable strategy to maintain everybody studying and entertained.
You’ll must pay a charge to enter.
The Icefields Parkway stretches from one Nationwide Park to a different, which means that you simply’ll must pay the Parks Canada charge to enter.
The associated fee is $9.80 CAD per particular person per day and $4.90 CAD for youngsters.
You possibly can pay if you arrive within the Banff space. There are small kiosks on the facet of the highway if you enter the park which you can drive proper as much as.
You may also guide your Parks Canada cross online, which is an efficient possibility in case you’re doing numerous road-tripping round Canada. Purchase a Parks Canada cross 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 most effective 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 having the ability to take part within the largest number of actions.
Nevertheless, in case you favor to have a a lot quieter, much less crowded journey, the spring or later within the fall may be incredible choices.
The primary time I travelled to the Canadian Rockies was in Might, and it was stunning, with pretty gentle temperatures and few fellow guests.
Even Lake Louise wasn’t crowded! Nevertheless, we did expertise some snow flurries infrequently, and our in a single day tenting was typically barely lower than snug within the chilly of the evening.
Notice: this information is primarily meant for summer time journey throughout this peak season. Among the actions talked about right here could also be closed or unavailable do you have to resolve to go to earlier than June or after September.
Hire 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 companies many airways and locations round North America and the world.
From there, you’ll be able to lease a automobile from quite a lot of worldwide businesses, together with Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise. There are kiosks for many of those main businesses proper on the airport itself.
If you’re going to drive the Icefields Parkway in winter, undoubtedly get a automobile with winter tires so you’ll be able to keep protected and safe whereas winter driving.
You may also lease a automobile from Calgary’s metropolis heart. In my expertise, I’ve discovered that the charges for automobile leases downtown are considerably cheaper than on the airport.
If you happen to would like to lease a campervan the place you’ll be able to sleep and prepare dinner, there are a couple of businesses that function out of Calgary as properly. I’ve by no means personally achieved this within the Canadian Rockies, however two businesses that appear to have nice evaluations are Escape Campervans and Karma Campervans.
One of the best ways to get round is to lease a automobile and discover by yourself! We suggest Rental Cars, which has the most important vary of autos for the most effective worth available on the market.
However in case you’ve at all times dreamed of touring alongside the Icefields Parkway, and also you’d relatively not lease a automobile, there are many nice excursions that may take you to the highlights.
Although it’s best to spend a couple of days or extra exploring the realm with your individual automobile, guided tours from Jasper city, Lake Louise, or Banff can assist you see every little thing and not using a automobile.
The place to Keep close to the Icefields Parkway
As this can be a main vacationer vacation spot in Alberta, there are many locations to remain throughout your Icefields Parkway itinerary.
When you can choose to drive all the parkway in in the future (it’s solely about 3 hours from Banff to Jasper), I’d strongly suggest taking your time and spending an evening or two within the space.
Listed here are a couple of choices for all budgets for the place to remain if you drive the Icefields Parkway:
- Lodge: Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge is constructed into a comfy 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 Beauty 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 an entire.
- Tenting: Tenting is often the lodging possibility that I select once I go to the Canadian Rockies. There are tons of campsites dotting the Icefields Parkway, each within the Banff and Jasper jurisdictions. Lots of them are first-come, first-served, which means you’ll want to point out up early on the day you need to camp to inquire about availability.
Issues to Do on the Icefields Parkway
After all, you’re most likely not going to easily drive the Icefields Parkway with out stopping for some epic views and journey actions.
You possibly can admire the well-known alpine lakes akin to Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, and the long-lasting Lake Louise. You possibly can trek throughout the Athabasca Glacier or see unimaginable views at Crowfoot Glacier.
Go canoeing, mountain climbing, ice-climbing, and extra. You possibly can pack a lot superb stuff into an Icefields Parkway Itinerary, so attempt to take advantage of your time there.
That can assist you plan your journey, listed here are some unimaginable actions to strive when you’re driving via the Icefields Parkway.
You may also see the places of those stops on the official Icefields Parkway map here.
Cease at a Glacier Viewpoint
If you happen to’re going to do one factor on the Icefields Parkway, make sure to reap the benefits of the assorted overpasses and highway shoulder areas that boast a number of the most superb views of the landscapes surrounding the freeway.
There are a number of of those sorts of lookout factors everywhere in the Parkway, beginning at Peyto Lake, which is simply previous Lake Louise after you flip onto the Icefields Parkway.
In a while, in the 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.
It is best to cease at as many of those as you need — they’re there for a purpose!
Please ensure 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 highway whereas driving to admire the views.
To your and everybody else’s security, please don’t do that! Discover a protected place to park your automobile earlier than admiring the views round you.
Professional tip: These viewpoint areas can get REALLY in style through the summer time, so in case you’re hoping to cease off at a whole lot of them, I like to recommend beginning early within the morning.
This manner, not solely will you get to soak within the views with out as many crowds, however you’ll additionally be capable to seize the attractive morning mild on the faces of the mountains. Rating!
Try our Ultimate Canada Travel Guide for extra suggestions!
Go Mountain climbing Alongside the Icefields Parkway
For the hikers on the market, there are TONS of superior trails within the Icefields Parkway space that you simply undoubtedly shouldn’t miss.
Amongst them are trails that take you above canyons, via evergreen forests, and produce you to hidden alpine lakes or breezy viewpoints to soak in probably the most breathtaking views of all the space.
Professional tip: If you happen to’re planning on mountain climbing, make sure to pack loads of water, further layers (together with a water-proof rain shell), and a can of bear spray in case of an sudden 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 may most likely write a complete new submit on the hikes within the Icefields Parkway, listed here are a couple of nice ones to get you began:
This brief, 1.1-kilometer canyon path is ideal for newbie hikers or households in search of some recent air and delightful views.
You’ll make your method alongside jagged, eerie grey rock formations which have probably the most stunning, teal water operating via 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, average Parker Ridge Hike is an ideal, barely longer hike to catch a number of the most gorgeous glacier views across the Icefields Parkway.
You’ll take a sequence of switchbacks as much as the highest of the ridge, the place you’ll be able to catch a powerful glimpse of the Saskatchewan Glacier and its corresponding river beneath.
This simple to average 7.7-kilometer hike takes you thru a forested path to a phenomenal, deep turquoise-colored lake surrounded by rock partitions and peaks.
This path can get muddy after durations of snow soften or rain, so deliver waterproof mountain climbing boots and thick socks!
Helen Lake & Cirque Peak
As a difficult hike, this 17.2-kilometer path is a full-day journey that may take you to the gorgeous Helen Lake, earlier than ascending a steep slope to the highest of Cirque Peak.
If you happen to’re in search of a shorter model of this hike, merely cease at Helen Peak and switch again — the views are nonetheless glorious and also you’ll nonetheless have time to do different actions within the space that day.
For extra mountain climbing concepts, try our Ultimate Guide to the Best 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 in some unspecified time in the future throughout your journey alongside the Icefields Parkway.
Even within the winter, you might be able to catch a number of the waterfalls frozen into big, mild blue icicles, which is a extremely freaking stunning show of nature.
Listed here are a couple of of the most well-liked waterfalls which 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” through the summer time.
Within the wintertime, this set of cliffs is a well-liked spot for sport ice climbers. Nevertheless, in the summertime, you’ll be able to merely go to to observe the gorgeous cascade of water over the rocks.
Fairly probably my favourite waterfall in all the Icefields Parkway space is Sunwapta Falls, a phenomenal 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 possibly can see why Sunwapta Falls was named so if you arrive at this set of highly effective falls.
Sunwapta Falls consists of two waterfalls that converge into one unimaginable epic viewpoint.
Bow Glacier Falls
Attending to Bow Glacier Falls requires an 8.7-kilometer hike from Bow Lake, nevertheless it’s actually well worth the effort and time to see some of the stunning waterfalls (and surrounding viewpoints) within the space.
You’ll cross over wood bridges alongside the Bow River as you tackle this leisurely uphill path. This waterfall is in style amongst ice climbers within the winter, because the falls can freeze over.
Positioned 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 of some of the highly effective.
Athabasca Falls drops about 25 meters and is surrounded by stunning forests. Flip off the Icefields Parkway if 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 some of the stunning in Western Canada.
It’s simple to overlook Tangle Creek Falls as there’s only a small signal on the facet 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 value 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 Info Centre.
Right here you’ll be able to try the reveals, which function the area’s many glaciers, to study extra about how they had been shaped.
Admission to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre is free, and you too can meet right here to embark on the free shuttle to the Glacier Skywalk. You may also get data on a number of glacier treks and excursions contained in the constructing.
If you happen to’re feeling hungry, seize a chew on the restaurant, Altitude, the place you’ll be able to take pleasure in superb views of the glaciers via the a number of home windows spanning the perimeter of the constructing. Lunch is buffet fashion, whereas dinner and breakfast are a la carte.
Reap the benefits of the Canadian-inspired menu choices, which embrace roasted beef, west coast salmon, and beef tenderloin.
In case you are 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 attractive 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 extremely nice exercise to expertise superb views with none strenuous mountain climbing — excellent for households or non-hikers!
The Skywalk is positioned about 6 km away from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, however there isn’t any parking onsite. Guests should 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 website.
If you happen to’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 price $35 on the door, however you’ll be able to pre-purchase them online upfront for a ten% low cost.
You may also book your ticket on Get Your Guide, 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 crucial unimaginable issues you’ll be able to 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.
If you happen to’re feeling courageous, guide an Athabasca Glacier Tour the place you’ll be able to stroll on and drink from the ten,000-year-old sheet of ice (with an knowledgeable information and the fitting tools, 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 sometimes related throughout the completely different operators.
You’ll be taken out to Athabasca Glacier on an enormous all-terrain bus with a educated information who will educate you concerning the space’s historical past, how the glaciers have shaped and moved through the years, and the way the geography of the realm 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 yow will discover shorter journeys on the Discovery Centre which are 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 very best lodging alongside the Icefields Parkway, take into account a keep right here.
However most guests simply go to Lake Louise for the day. The Lakeshore Path is the most well-liked strategy to see Lake Louise. This simple strolling path follows the sting of the lake so you’ll be able to 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 gorgeous 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 a number of the different turquoise lakes within the space. I’ll point out three of the most effective 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 much like Lake Louise.
It has vibrant blue water, mountains, and forests within the background, and you’ll hike or lease a canoe in summer time.
If you’d like a break from driving, you too can book a sightseeing tour from Banff which incorporates Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Bow Lake is one other in style 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 off-the-cuff stroll or a picnic lunch by the water. You possibly can swim within the lake if you need 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 simple 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.
The perfect 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 known as each the Peyto Lake Viewpoint Path or Bow Summit Lookout Path, and that is the best hike with the most effective views.
You might additionally embark on a tougher hike as much as Remark Peak, which is 8km complete.
Wrapping up this Icefields Parkway Journey Information
Hopefully this information has offered you with all the information chances are you’ll must embark on an unimaginable drive of the Icefields Parkway.
That is really among the finest issues to do in Canada, and this can be some of the 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 some of the stunning locations you’ll ever go to.
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