The 12 best stops along the Icefields Parkway

Starting in the town of Jasper, heading south some 230 kilometres (143 miles) down to the Lake Louise is the incredible Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic roads on our planet. Running parallel to the continental divide, traversing the rugged terrain of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, passing through Jasper & Banff National Park, the road takes in more than 100 glaciers, wondrous lakes, stunning canyons and immense snowy peaks. This superb road is as much of an attraction as the wonders it leads to...

 

Mile Marker 20 - (32 kilometre) from Jasper.

Leaving the Icefields Parkway at Highway 93A you'll find the parking lot for the Athabasca Falls, within very easy reach of the road it is one of the routes most popular stops. Plummeting through a narrow gorge, this picturesque waterfall drops 24 metres (79 ft) with enormous force.

1. Athabasca Falls

 

Mile Marker 35 - (56 km) from Jasper.

Turning right at Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge will lead you down the access road to the car park for Sunwapta Falls, its name meaning, 'Turbulent Water'. There are two falls, the lower and upper one. The easily accessed upper falls is what most people see, and in my opinion is the more picturesque of the two. With a drop of 18 metres (59 ft), the view of the falls, the mountain backdrop and river rushing around a small island of trees is very beautiful indeed.

2. Sunwapta Falls

Mile Marker 61 - (98 km) from Jasper.

Opened in 2014 is the U-shaped glass floor observation platform known as the Glacier Skywalk, hanging out over the Sunwapta Valley. Visitors can make their way along the cliff edge walkway known as the Discovery Trail, before reaching the Skywalk, suspended 280 metres (918 ft) above the ground below. For those wanting a free view of nature, the view of the snow peaked Rocky Mountains and the forest rolling through the Sunwapta Valley is just as beautiful from other points around the Skywalk, with many believing the only blot on the landscape is the huge metal and glass man made structure itself.

As of 2019, adult tickets are $24.95 and a child ticket is $12.50.

3. Glacier Skywalk

 

Mile Marker 64 - (104 km) from Jasper.

Straddling the continental divide between British Columbia and Alberta is the enormous Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. Vast in size, it covers a area of some 325 square kilometres (125 square mile) and in places measures 365 metres (1,198 ft) thick.

The most accessible of the six principle arms of the ice field is the Athabasca Glacier, within easy reach of the Icefields Parkway. Because of its easy access it has become the most visited glacier in North America.

A short trail from the Icefields Discovery Centre will take you to the toe of the glacier, but you will not be able to venture onto the ice alone. Because of the deep hidden crevasses, a guide or specialist bus tour is required.

4. Athabasca Glacier

 

Mile Marker 66 - (107 km) from Jasper.

Considered one of the finest hikes in Jasper National Park, the Wilcox Pass Trail will take you through beautiful meadows of Big Horn sheep and offer outstanding views of the Columbia Icefield. This moderate hike is roughly 8 kilometres (5 miles) return and takes around 2-3 hours to complete. Highlights include the views of glaciated peaks, Mount Athabasca, Mount Andromeda, Snow Dome and Mount Kitchener, with the view from the summit encompassing the full arm of the Athabasca Glacier.

Quick Facts: 8 kilometre (5 mile) Return Moderate Hike. Approx. 2-3 Hours.

5. Wilcox Pass Trail

 

Mile Marker 70 - (112 km) from Jasper.

Considered one of the finest short hikes in Banff National Park, the Parker Ridge Trail is open to almost anyone with little to no hiking experience. Crossing beautiful meadows, this leisurely walk will take you to wonderful views of the surrounding valleys, where from the ridge you'll be able to see Mount Castleguard, Castleguard Pass, Mount Saskatchewan and the Saskathewan Glacier, a large reward for very little effort.

Quick Facts: 3 kilometre (1.9 mile) Return Easy Hike. Approx. 2 Hours.

6. Parker Ridge Trail

 

Mile Marker 73 - (118 km) from Jasper.

One of the easiest stops along the Parkway is a viewpoint known as Big Hill & Big Bend. When the road gains elevation and loops around, simply pull up, step out and marvel at the wonderful view of the Icefields Parkway disappearing into the incredible mountain scenery.

7. Big Hill & Big Bend

 

Mile Marker 98.5 - (158 km) from Jasper.

Just past the Saskatchewan River Crossing at the junction with the David Thompson Highway, an easy 0.5 kilometre hike or five minute walk from the roadside pull off will get you to the Mistaya Canyon. With the Mistaya River cutting a deep thunderous gorge through the distinctive curvy canyon, its easy access has made it one of the most visited stops along the Parkway.

8. Mistaya Canyon

Mile Marker 118 - (190 km) from Jasper.

One of the most iconic locations along the Icefields Parkway is that of Peyto Lake, undoubtedly one of the jewels of Banff National Park. An easy 20 minute walk from the road will bring you to the viewpoint, offering an exceptional high vantage view over the lake. Shaped like the head of a wolf, its glacial waters give it a distinct glowing blue colour. Trails from here lead down to the shore, with advanced hikers having the option to head even further out to Caldron Lake and the Peyto Glacier.

9. Peyto Lake

 

Mile Marker 121 - (195 km) from Jasper.

Visible from the Parkway without even stopping, though its better if you do, is the small clear blue Bow Lake, lying just south of the Bow Summit. From here you can see the lake itself, Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, Bow Peak, Mount Thompson, Crowfoot Glacier and Crowfoot Mountain.

10. Bow Lake

 

Mile Marker 123 - (198 km) from Jasper.

Visible from Bow Lake and the Icefields Parkway itself is the Crowfoot Glacier, situated on the north eastern flank of Crowfoot Mountain. Named after its apparent similarity to a crows foot, the glacial retreat over the centuries has meant the glacier losing its appearance that lead early explorers to name it. Still, along with the Wapta Icefield and the steep craggy mountains that it sits on, it makes for an incredible sight.

11. Crowfoot Glacier

 

Mile Marker 140 - (226 km) from Jasper.

At the southern end of the Icefields Parkway just before joining the Trans Canada Highway is the tranquil Herbert Lake, the last noteworthy spot before arriving at Lake Louise. Head to the north side of the lake for fantastic views of Mount Temple reflected in the calm waters.

12. Herbert Lake

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