Road Trip Continued – Athabasca Glacier Columbia Icefield

The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise/Banff and Jasper National Park is one the most scenic routes in the world. For this trip we decided to only drive half way stopping at the Columbia Icefield Centre. We will leave Jasper National Park for another trip. There are plenty of viewpoints and hikes along the Parkway. Be sure to pick up or download a copy of the Icefields Parkway driving guide before you start. We saw Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier and did a quick hike to Peyto Lake and Bow Summit view-point. This hike is pretty easy and you can see the beautiful Peyto Lake and Bow Summit is the highest point on the Icefields Parkway. I love snow-covered mountains and I could only imagine how breathtaking the views along the Parkway would be in the winter.

The Columbia Icefield located partly in Banff National Park and partly in Jasper National Park, is the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. It feeds six glaciers and of those the Athabasca Glacier is the most accessible and most visited. Depending on your budget, you can partake in a variety of activities available at the Columbia Icefield Centre such as riding the special Ice Explorer to the Athabasca Glacier and walk along the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk. We decided to just hike one of the trails to the ‘toe’ of the Athabasca Glacier. It is not a long hike but there is a very steep section and can be slippery especially getting back downhill. The starting elevation is at about 6400 feet and my son was having trouble with the altitude and was not able to hike with us. Along the trail, there are signs that show how far the glacier had receded over the years, which was rather alarming.

Some tips on driving the Icefields Parkway:

  1. There is no cell service along the Parkway.
  2. Have a copy of the driving guide on hand.
  3. Fuel up in Lake Louise or Jasper depending on where you start. I believe there is limited service in the Saskatchewan River Crossing which is about 49 miles from Lake Louise and about 95 miles from Jasper.
  4. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and pack food.
  5. Bring warm clothing.

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