Feb 12, 2024
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Icefields Parkway: A Drive Through Canada’s Banff & Jasper National Parks

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The Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93 North, is a renowned 232-kilometer (144-mile) scenic route winding through the Canadian Rockies, connecting Lake Louise in Banff National Park with the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park. It’s widely considered one of the most picturesque drives in the world, offering breathtaking panoramas of snow-capped peaks, glaciers, emerald lakes, and cascading waterfalls.

Here’s what makes the Icefields Parkway so special

Stunning Scenery
Prepare to be mesmerized by the diverse landscapes unfolding along the way. Towering mountain ranges like the majestic Canadian Rockies dominate the horizon, their peaks often dusted with snow. The Columbia Icefield, one of the largest icefields south of the Arctic Circle, feeds numerous glaciers along the parkway, including the Athabasca Glacier, accessible by specially designed “snowcoaches” for a closer look. Crystal-clear glacial lakes like Peyto Lake and Bow Lake reflect the surrounding mountains in their turquoise depths, adding a touch of serenity to the landscape. Waterfalls like Mistaya Falls and Sunwapta Falls cascade down rocky cliffs, adding a dynamic element to the scenery.

Diverse Wildlife
Keep your eyes peeled for the abundant wildlife that calls the Icefields Parkway home. Elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and even bears are frequently spotted grazing in meadows or crossing the road. Watch out for soaring birds of prey like hawks and eagles, and be patient – you might even catch a glimpse of a marmot or a pika scurrying among the rocks.

Outdoor Activities
The Icefields Parkway is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Numerous hiking trails cater to all difficulty levels, ranging from short and leisurely walks to challenging multi-day treks. Explore the Athabasca Glacier on a guided tour or hike up to the viewpoint for panoramic views. Canoe or kayak on serene lakes, or simply relax by the water’s edge, soaking in the tranquility of the surroundings.

Must-See Stops

  • Peyto Lake: This turquoise gem, known for its vibrant color and unique shape, is a photographer’s dream.
  • Bow Lake: Take a boat tour or rent a canoe to explore this beautiful lake, with stunning views of the Crowfoot Glacier in the background.
  • Athabasca Glacier: Get up close to this massive glacier and learn about its importance in the ecosystem.
  • Columbia Icefield Centre: Discover the history and science of glaciers through interactive exhibits and a breathtaking rooftop viewing platform.
  • Mistaya Canyon: Hike through this scenic canyon to view Mistaya Falls cascading down a rocky cliff.
  • Sunwapta Falls: Take a short walk to witness the power of this impressive waterfall.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best time to visit: The Icefields Parkway is open year-round, but the summer months (June to September) offer the best weather and access to all amenities. However, be prepared for crowds, especially during peak season.
  • Services and amenities: Services are limited along the parkway, mainly concentrated between June and September. Fill up your gas tank and bring essentials before you depart.
  • Cell phone coverage: There is no cell phone coverage on most of the parkway.
  • Accommodation: Several hotels and campgrounds are located along the route, but consider booking your accommodations in advance, especially during peak season.
  • Park pass: A valid park pass is required to enter both Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Icefields Parkway Map

Whether you’re an avid nature lover, a photographer seeking breathtaking landscapes, or simply looking for a scenic road trip, the Icefields Parkway has something to offer everyone. Start planning your adventure and prepare to be awestruck by the beauty of the Canadian Rockies!

Feaured image by szecska

Canada · North America

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