Driving the Icefields Parkway

I got home at noon yesterday (Friday), but the blog is still back on Monday, when I drove the Icefields Parkway (see map – pdf, 2.3MB).

One Icefields Parkway Web site summarizes the experience perfectly: “To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Stretching 232km (144mi.) through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, this world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers and broad sweeping valleys.”

I reached the start of the Parkway at 11:00, and within a few minutes was into heavy rain.
Driving the Icefields Parkway in heavy rain
The rain didn’t last long, and then it was back to Winter. The couple in the motorhome looked cozy having lunch 🙂 Many visitors expect it to be at least Spring in May, but even the glaciers are still hidden by a thick blanket of snow.
Glacier along the Icefields Parkway
The hike to the Peyto Lake viewpoint at Bow Summit (elevation 2,088 meters, 6,849 feet) was quite a slog. The road for buses is also the walking path for everone else, and it hasn’t been plowed yet. Although there was a narrow path of packed snow, everyone punched through often.
Peyto Lake, on the Icefields Parkway
I added this summer photo to show you why Peyto Lake is such an attraction.
Peyto Lake, on the Icefields Parkway
It was 12:30 when I left the Peyto Lake parking lot and continued north. Even with sporadic rain and ragged clouds, the scenery is magnificent.
Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway
For a photographer, this is a slow drive when you just have the view through the windshield and side windows to distract you – when you can see out the roof it’s even slower! Having a sunroof is no big deal to many of you, but I haven’t had one in nearly 40 years, so am thrilled to have one now 🙂
The Icefields Parkway through a sunroof
“Weeping Wall” on Cirrus Mountain is particularly impressive this time of year when water flow is at it’s greatest. This point is 106 km (66 miles) from the south end of the highway.
Weeping Wall, Icefields Parkway
A strong north wind had quite an effect on some of the waterfalls on Weeping Wall.
Weeping Wall, Icefields Parkway
Climbing up to Sunwapta Pass, which is at 2,035 meters (6,676 feet).
Sunwapta Pass, Icefields Parkway
Looking south from Sunwapta Pass, at 1:45 pm.
Looking south from Sunwapta Pass, Icefields Parkway
In the summer, Columbia Icefield and the Icefield Centre seen here, are a major attraction. With a layer of snow and low visibility, not so much. The large red vehicle takes visitors across the glacier.
Columbia Icefield and the Icefield Centre, Icefields Parkway
Tangle Creek, seen from the edge of the highway.
Tangle Creek waterfall, Icefields Parkway
Some of the more visible hanging glaciers along the route.
Hanging glaciers along the Icefields Parkway
An awesome demonstration of the power of the earth’s shifting plates!
Icefields Parkway

The parking lot for a view of Mount Kerkeslin also offers a short trail to this view over the Athabasca River.
Icefields Parkway
Athabasca Falls can be a long stop – there are many trails and viewing decks over the falls, the very impressive canyon and other features.
Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway
Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway
Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway
There are warning signs everywhere about the danger of going over the railings for a better look, but there have been 5 deaths at the falls in the past 20 years.
Danger signs at Athabasca Falls
I reached the north end of the Icefields Parkway and turned north onto the Yellowhead Highway (despite the fact that my car’s nav system said to turn onto the “Trans Canada Hwy” 🙂 ). A few minutes later, I could see more rain ahead.
Yellowhead Highway
The rain never hit me, though, and the skies cleared as I got close to Hinton, where I’d spend a couple of nights with my son and his wife.
Yellowhead Highway near Hinton


Driving the Icefields Parkway — 8 Comments

  1. It was so wonderful to look at your pics of the Icefields, and then up to Hinton (I love Hinton, it’s a great town!). My hubby Richard and I used to pack up the kids when they were little almost every fall, and drive to Banff then up to Jasper and back, with a side trip to Golden, BC (our fav town we have been to so far). We stayed in Hinton when we took a trek up to Dawson Creek a few years ago (Mile 0!) and quite enjoyed our stay in Hinton. Thanks for sharing your trip, the pictures as always, are fantastic and you have given us some ideas for our trip this August! Happy trails!!

  2. Thanks, Jan – I’m always particularly pleased when my posts bring back good memories or prompt ideas for making new ones. I’ve never come up with a favourite town – there are so many that are great for different reasons, and often it’s whichever one I’m in at the moment. 🙂

  3. I remember the ice fields years ago when the girls were younger. They enjoyed them as much as we did. Only saw them in the summer time. Nice to see them at a different season. Thinking it is time to do that road trip again.

  4. I was up the Yukon/Alaska country back in 2010 with my two bros Steve and BJ. We flew in from Vancouver to Whitehorse and went from there via rented van. Up at Dawson City, I didn’t like what the miners did to the environment but was really impressed with Moosehide, the Native village where access is by boat or walk, maybe horseback. Moosehide is where I want to go for their celebration they have every two years. I loved my time there

    • Hi Milton. Thanks for your comments. It’s been wonderful to watch the rebirth of Moosehide, from the abandoned village it was when I moved north 23 years ago to a vibrant hub of cultural revival. It’s always great to hear from someone who has experienced it.

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