Description provided by Editors
The spectacular 230-km (143-mi) Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) connects Lake Louise with Jasper through Banff and Jasper National Parks and is considered to be one of Canada’s most iconic drives. This route traces the Continental Divide and showcases 100 glaciers on rugged peaks. Along the way there are many picnic sites and plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings. The route also provides access to many camping, hiking and climbing locations.
A highlight of the parkway is the Columbia Icefield, 127 km (79 mi) north of Lake Louise and 101 km (62.5 mi) south of Jasper. The icefield is one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic. It covers 215 sq km (83 sq mi) and is over 250 m (800 ft) deep. Its melt-waters flow west to the Pacific, and North to the Atlantic. This hydrological apex is one of three in the world. At the Athabasca Glacier, one of six major glaciers that flow from the Columbia Icefield, you can walk to the glacier toe. During the summer you can take a guided ice-walk tour and ride an all-terrain Ice Explorer to the glacier headwall to walk on the ice. Across the road, at the Glacier Discovery Centre, you can find lodging, dining and a gift shop or hop on a shuttle to the cliff edge Glacier Skywalk. The Glacier Skywalk was Where magazine’s “Best New Attraction” in 2014.
Sunwapta Pass, 105 km (65 mi) south of Jasper and 122 km (76 mi) north of Lake Louise, is where Jasper and Banff National Parks meet.
Note that this road can be very dangerous in the winter. Snow tires are MANDATORY from November 1 to April 1. Check road reports before driving: www.511.alberta.ca or dial 511 (AB only). Plan to leave early and give yourself plenty of time so that your drive (with stops for sightseeing/exploring) can be completed during daylight hours. Fill your tank because there are no services on the Icefields Parkway during the winter.
Notable destinations travelling from Lake Louise
Access the parkway from Hwy 1 just west of Lake Louise.
Going north, Hector Lake (16 km/10 mi) offers Mt Balfour and Waputik Range views.
Above Bow Lake (33 km/21 mi), Bow Glacier meltwaters cascade down massive cliffs and to the left is Crowfoot Glacier, once shaped like a crow’s three toes. You can find lodging and meals at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge in the summer; however, this lodge is closed during the winter. Bow Lake is great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months.
Bow Summit (40 km/25 mi) is the highest point on the Parkway (2068 m/6875 ft) with a viewpoint for Peyto Lake, shaped like a wolf’s head. Signs tell of Englishman Bill Peyto, who became a mountain man in the 1890s. This destination is popular with telemark skiers.
Continue to Mistaya Canyon and Saskatchewan River Crossing (77 km/48 mi), where there’s gas, food and lodging near the confluence of the Saskatchewan, Howse and Mistaya rivers (note: these amenities are only available in the summer).
In the summer detour 45 km (28 mi) east on Hwy 11 to the staging area for Rockies Heli Canada tours and heli-hikes.
Distinctive Weeping Wall (103 km/64 mi) cliffs are streaked by waterfalls fed by Cirrus Mountain meltwaters. During the winter watch for ice climbers.
Walk the moderate 3-km (1.8-mi) trail up Parker Ridge (116 km/72 mi) for Saskatchewan Glacier views. This area is popular for ski touring in the winter.
Notable destinations travelling from Jasper
Follow Connaught Dr west out of town, across Hwy 16, and the road becomes the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93).
Turn right at Whistlers Rd to the Jasper SkyTram (p 149) for a scenic ride to high alpine observation decks, interpretive trails and a restaurant. In the winter this location has cross-country ski trails.
In the summer turn right onto Hwy 93A 6 km/4 mi south of town and take a 14.5-km/9-mi detour on Cavell Rd to Mt Edith Cavell. Known to Natives as ‘White Ghost’ for its snowy peak, the mountain’s European name honours a WWI British nurse executed for helping prisoners of war escape German occupied Belgium. Walk the 1.6-km/1-mi Path of the Glacier interpretative trail for a close-up view of Angel Glacier.
Next stop is Athabasca Falls (30 km/19 mi) where Hwy 93A re-joins the parkway. Here the river is forced through a narrow canyon and over a cliff. In the summer you can make use of the picnic sites and a 20-min interpretive trail is open year round. This location is popular in the winter because of the froen falls and surrounding cross-country ski and snowshoe trails.
Seven km/4.3 mi farther south is Goats & Glaciers Lookout with Mt Kerkeslin view. Natural salt licks attract mountain goats. There is a summer picnic site with Athabasca River Valley views.
Continue to Sunwapta Falls (55 km/34 mi). Walk the footbridge for the best view and downstream along the canyon rim.
As the highway starts to climb south of Beauty Flats, a pullout on the right offers a view of Stutfield Glacier (94 km/59 mi) spilling over the mountain’s ridge.
Two km south, stop at Tangle Falls (96 km/60 mi) where Tangle Creek tumbles down a limestone wall. Bighorn sheep often herd where the road crests. Winter sightseeing here offers a view of spectacular frozen falls.