Discover out the very best Icefields Parkway stops on a Banff Nationwide Park to Jasper Nationwide Park highway journey utilizing this one-day itinerary.
There are a lot of well-known highway journeys in North America — Freeway 1 in California, the Florida Keys, Route 66, and, after all, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada. The primary time I heard in regards to the Icefields Parkway, I assumed somebody was referring to that Ice Truckers present on the Historical past Channel, however as I started to plan our Canadian Rockies trip itinerary, I quickly realized extra.
Whereas the Icefields Parkway can get fairly snowy within the winter, it’s not at all that excessive. The Icefields Parkway, formally Freeway 93, stretches for 146 miles from Lake Louise in Banff Nationwide Park to the city of Jasper in Jasper Nationwide Park. Whereas that sounds very far, it’s doable to cowl the very best Icefields Parkway stops in simply in the future, so long as you intend forward!
Touring alongside this two-lane freeway you’ll minimize via the staggering peaks of the rugged Canadian Rockies and cross by greater than 100 glaciers and quite a few glacier-fed lakes of such a surprising blue you received’t be capable to belief your eyes. It’s straightforward to see why it’s thought-about one of the vital stunning drives on the earth.
Attending to the Icefields Parkway
When you can technically drive this Icefields Parkway highway journey in three to 4 hours, it would be best to get an early begin and go away your self a full day to have time to benefit from the stops alongside the best way. The highway is well-kept and has broad shoulders, making it doable for even giant RVs to make use of. Nonetheless, it is advisable to share the highway with bicycle tour teams which might be powering via these excessive passes.
The Icefields Parkway drive runs from Lake Louise and continues 232 km alongside the Continental Divide to the city of Jasper. This Icefields Parkway itinerary assumes you might be beginning in Lake Louise, as that’s the most typical path, however in case you are flying into Edmonton and beginning in Jasper, simply observe this in reverse.
If you’re leaving from Banff, you could possibly take the Trans-Canada Freeway for the sooner route in case you are making an attempt to do all of it in a day journey or take the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise for a extra scenic route in case you are overnighting in Lake Louise and you might be visiting in the summertime months.
Simply take into account that in 2022, Parks Canada began a three-year mission the place the japanese part of Bow Valley Parkway will likely be closed to public visitors from Might 1 to June 25 and September 1 to 30 from Johnston Canyon to the Fireplace Day Use space.
Alongside the best way, you should definitely maintain your eyes peeled for black bears. A well-liked cease between Banff and Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway is Johnston Canyon. Like many stops alongside the Icefields Parkway, this is without doubt one of the hottest sights in Banff Nationwide Park, and the car parking zone fills up early. It’s a brief hike nevertheless it presents wonderful views of the Decrease and Higher Falls. Within the winter months you may strive the Johnston Canyon Icewalk.
When you get to Lake Louise, you’ll then choose up the Icefields Parkway in Lake Louise. Alongside the route, you should definitely maintain your eyes peeled for wildlife. Nearer to Jasper, you might be apt to see elk grazing by the highway, particularly within the night.
Suggestions for Driving the Icefields Parkway
Earlier than you begin your Icefields Parkway drive, there are some issues you must know first:
- You should definitely gasoline up earlier than you permit Lake Louise as there is just one gasoline station between there and Jasper, and you’ll pay a premium if it is advisable to get gasoline there.
- Carry alongside snacks and refillable water bottles. You’ll cross just a few locations the place you will get one thing to eat, like The Lodge at Bow Lake (previously the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge), The Crossing Resort by Mt. Wilson, Icefields Discovery Centre, and the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge, however these are few and much between.
- Anticipate little or no cell service between Lake Louise and Jasper so obtain your music and any offline maps you may want earlier than you permit. In any other case, sit again and benefit from the surroundings alongside one of the vital scenic drives via the Rocky Mountains. You may hook up with WiFi on the Icefields Discovery Centre.
- Understand that most of the fashionable sights have small parking tons. Getting an early begin is necessary find a spot in these tons.
- If you’re returning to Banff after visiting Jasper, you may at all times cut up up the stops into two separate days and hit the second half in your return journey.
- You’ll need to buy a Nationwide Park cross earlier than driving the Icefields Parkway. These could be bought on the gate in Banff or at customer facilities in Banff, Lake Louise, or Jasper. The quickest and simplest way is to buy a cross on-line earlier than your journey, and in case you plan on visiting a number of Nationwide Parks is to put money into the Parks Canada Discovery Move.
- If you wish to go to any of the paid sights alongside the Icefields Parkway, such because the Columbia Icefield Skywalk or the Columbia Icefield Ice Explorer Tour.
- Examine highway situations, visitors, and attraction closures at http://www.computer.gc.ca/.
- Costume heat and in layers, put on snug mountain climbing footwear, and produce bear spray on any hikes and even brief walks.
- Cost up your digital camera and cellphone batteries as a result of you’re going to wish to take a LOT of images! It could additionally assist to convey a rain cowl in your digital camera and a tripod in case you have one to take footage of the waterfalls.
Should-See Icefields Parkway Stops
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These are the very best stops on the Icefields Parkway which you can match right into a one-day itinerary or unfold out into two days in case you are driving up and again. I’ll reiterate as soon as once more that it pays to get an early begin to beat the crowds. You’ll need the additional time in case you are visiting the Columbia Icefield.
You’ll start your journey on the Icefields Parkway in Lake Louise. If you’re staying in a single day, I’d advocate the charming Publish Resort & Spa (a Relais & Chateaux property) or the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
I’d advocate spending at the least one evening in Lake Louise so that you’ve time to see a few of Lake Louise’s sights. Many individuals pays an arm-and-a-leg to hire a type of iconic purple canoes and paddle round Lake Louise for the final word photograph alternative. This glacial lake is the primary attraction and if you wish to save your paddling time till you get to Pyramid Lake in Jasper, you’ll save your self some money.
The opposite fashionable spot is Moraine Lake. It was once that in case you wished to get a spot within the car parking zone, you needed to arrive earlier than 5:00 am. Beginning in 2023, Moraine Lake Street is closed to personal autos so to get there you will have to both take a shuttle or guide a bus reservation with Moraine Lake Bus Firm.
If you’re staying at one of many accommodations by Lake Louise or Lake Moraine, you may take the Lake Connector Shuttle (reservations nonetheless wanted and proof of lodge keep). In any other case, guests can guide a spot on the Park and Experience Connector Shuttle from the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Reservations are required and can promote out very early after they open for reservations in late April, though about 60% of reservations will likely be launched at 8:00 am, 48 hours in previous to the departure date and time.
Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier
After leaving Lake Louise, drive north for roughly one hour, and on the left, you’ll quickly see your first cease, Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint and Bow Lake. There are a few small parking tons the place you may cease and take a brief stroll and observe a steep path all the way down to the turquoise lake.
If you wish to take the hike to see Bow Glacier Falls, I’d advocate driving to the far finish of the lake and parking on the Lodge at Bow Lake. This reasonable hike is a 5.5-mile spherical journey. You can too pop into the Cafe on the Lodge.
After you head again to the freeway, proceed on for an additional 10 minutes till you see the indicators for Peyto Lake on the left (when heading northbound.) Peyto Lake’s distinctive fox form is without doubt one of the most iconic websites within the Canadian Rockies. It will get its stunning shade from the water that runs off the Peyto Glacier, a part of the Wapta Icefield.
The Authorities not too long ago spent almost $3 million to increase the parking tons and enhance the services and Peyto Lake, Bow Summit Path, and the perspective at the moment are reopened for guests.
A ten-minute uphill stroll will convey you to the viewing platform overlooking the well-known fox-shaped Peyto Lake. The viewing platform could be extraordinarily crowded, but when you will get into the nook of the decrease platform, you must be capable to get an unobstructed view of the lake.
If that doesn’t work, you may take one of many trails earlier than you attain the perspective and stroll all the way down to a gap with an unobstructed view, simply thoughts your step as the trail is steep and there are a number of unfastened rocks, making it slippery. There’s additionally a second, unmarked viewpoint in case you proceed on previous the primary.
It’s doable to hike all the way down to Peyto Lake in about 30-45 minutes, which is one thing only a few individuals do (this cease is fashionable with bus excursions.) Nonetheless, if you wish to hit all these stops in in the future, you most likely received’t have time for the round-trip hike to the lakefront. Plan to spend about an hour at this cease.
The car parking zone for Mistaya Canyon can also be on the southbound aspect of the freeway (on the left when driving north from Lake Louise to Jasper), about 25 minutes previous Peyto Lake. The car parking zone isn’t very giant so I feel the large busses skip this cease, that means there are fewer individuals there too.
From the car parking zone, it’s a few one-kilometer hike all the way down to the canyon (which suggests again uphill on the return.) On the canyon, you’ll cross over a bridge that spans the Mistaya River. From the bridge, you may see how the water has carved its means via the stone because the river flows from Peyto Lake and later meets the North Saskatchewan River.
You may then stroll left or proper alongside the rim of the canyon. Take a couple of minutes to stroll down and sit on the rocks to look at the highly effective move of the river.
The Crossing resort at Saskatchewan River Crossing is positioned about midway between Banff and Jasper, on the junction of Freeway 93 and 11. That is the place you will see that a gasoline service station, a common retailer, a restaurant, and a restaurant, in addition to clear bogs. That is considered one of your few possibilities to get a chunk to eat, refill on gasoline, and seize some souvenirs.
In your approach to the Columbia Icefield, you’ll journey alongside a hairpin curve generally known as Massive Bend alongside Massive Hill. If you wish to cease right here and take a photograph of the highway beneath, be very cautious and ensure your automotive is totally off the highway. There’s restricted house for turnouts right here for a fast photograph cease.
Not lengthy after The Crossing, you’ll enter Jasper Nationwide Park. Simply 45 minutes north of the Crossing you’ll come to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. That is the house base for exploring the Athabasca Glacier and the assorted associated actions.
The customer middle presents a restaurant, cafe, bogs, and a small exhibit/customer middle with a film about glaciers. It’s also the place you may join among the excursions supplied by Pursuit Banff. They provide two forms of experiences, the Glacier Ice Explorer and the Glacier Skywalk, which could be mixed right into a Glacier Journey ticket.
If you’re desirous about both of those actions, I’d extremely advocate you guide a timed ticket prematurely or chances are you’ll arrive to search out them bought out for the day, or chances are you’ll want to attend two hours earlier than the subsequent availability.
The Glacier Ice Explorer tour makes use of giant glacier vehicles to take you up onto the Athabasca Glacier. You’ll then have half-hour to stroll on ice that’s over 1,000 toes thick! Simply be sure you put on the suitable footgear and that you simply keep inside the designated boundary. This can be very harmful to stroll on a glacier and not using a licensed information.
From the glacier or Discovery Centre, it’s a brief shuttle journey to the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored remark platform with floats 919 toes over the Sunwapta Valley. From right here you may view the glaciers and rugged mountain peaks within the distance.
The one draw back is that it is just accessible by way of a bus from the glacier or the Icefields Discovery Centre. So ready in your timed ticket after which ready for the subsequent return bus can actually eat into your day for a cease the place you’ll probably solely spend quarter-hour on website.
Tangle Creek Falls
After the Icefields Discovery Centre, chances are you’ll be drained or working out of time and wish to proceed straight to Jasper. You may actually do that and hit the remaining stops alongside the Icefields Parkway in your return journey. Nonetheless, in case you solely have a day, attempt to squeeze in some fast stops at just a few extra waterfalls.
5 minutes additional up the highway from the Discovery Centre, you’ll come to Tangle Creek Falls. When touring north, the falls are in your proper (northbound aspect) however the car parking zone is throughout the road on the left (southbound aspect) so watch out crossing the road.
This tiered waterfall is kind of near the highway however if you wish to climb as much as the higher falls, you will have to scramble over some rocks so take care and watch your toes.
One other 35 minutes north will convey you to the turn-off for Sunwapta Falls, which is midway between the Columbia Icefield and Jasper. The Higher Falls are only a five-minute stroll from the car parking zone. The Decrease Falls are a little bit additional (about 10 minutes) and definitely worth the stroll.
You should definitely convey your bear spray, even in case you are simply taking a brief stroll. I visited Sunwapta Falls with a neighborhood photographer and he informed me that he as soon as noticed a bear stroll alongside the trail very near the car parking zone. Additionally, watch out the place you search for these photograph ops. The rocks get very slippery within the mist from the falls and also you shouldn’t step past the limitations and take any dangers simply to get an excellent photograph.
If you’re hungry, you may at all times gasoline up on the deli on the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge.
Twenty minutes previous Sunwapta Falls will convey you to your subsequent cease, Athabasca Falls. That is additionally a preferred cease for all of the bus excursions as effectively so anticipate crowds! These highly effective falls have carved via the rock, just like what you discover at Mistaya Canyon.
There are totally different viewing platforms the place you may seize some nice footage of the falls. If these are too crowded, you can even observe the indicators to view the Decrease Canyon. This stroll provides you with an ideal view of the Athabasca River and chances are you’ll even get to see a scenic float tour going by.
After Athabasca Falls, the scenic mountain city of Jasper is just 25 minutes away. You may rejoice reaching your vacation spot with an ideal meal at one of many eating places on the town.
There are a lot of locations to remain on the town however we loved a snug and inexpensive keep at Jasper Home Bungalows.
Plan to remain just a few days as a result of there are such a lot of issues to do in Jasper. You should definitely at the least hit the highlights like a ship cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island, a hike in Maligne Canyon, and canoeing on Pyramid Lake.
Visiting the Canadian Rockies? Learn extra
If you’re planning on driving the Icefields Parkway, you might also wish to have a look at these different associated articles for Jasper and Banff: