We left the RV at the campground in Banff, and took a couple of days to drive up the Icefields Parkway and see Jasper National Park. This is yet another thing that you might want to add to your bucket list. The Icefields Parkway is 230 kilometers (or as Americans would say 140 miles), but there are so many amazing places to see along the way that you should really plan to spend an entire day making the drive between Banff and Jasper.
Our first stop was a quick stop to see Herbert Lake
Then we made another quick stop to see Bow Lake.
The next stop needed more time and involved a fairly short hike to Peyto Lake. Definitely do this hike and spend some time admiring this breathtaking beauty.
The hike to the main viewpoint is 1.7 miles out and back. It’s uphill the entire way there so be prepared for that. The viewpoint is ridiculously crowded, so based on a tip from some other hikers, we ventured up the trail to the left of the viewpoint. You don’t have to walk very far to find some spectacular views away from the crowds.
(A side note for anyone who may be visiting this area for the rest of 2019, unfortunately you won’t be able to see Peyto Lake. The parking area and hiking trails are closed for the rest of the year, but will re-open next year).
After Peyto Lake we continued on up the Icefields Parkway and stopped for lunch at a picnic area at the Saskatchewan River Crossing.
Saskatchewan River Crossing
Next we splurged on a really cool adventure. We went on the Columbia Icefields Adventure to tour and walk on the Athabasca Glacier and the Skywalk. This was definitely the highlight of our trip up the parkway.
View of the glaciers from the Columbia Icefields Center — Athabasca Glacier is on the right
To get on the glacier, you ride in an Ice Explorer. We had an excellent tour guide named Bruce.
More ice explorers on the glacier.
Once you get on the glacier, you get to spend about 25-30 minutes walking around, taking pictures and even trying a drink of the ice cold glacier water. They had country flags from several countries around the world for pictures.
Americans representing on the Athabasca Glacier
Dad is originally from Nova Scotia, proudly displaying the Canadian flag
Chris filled a cup with glacier water for us to try
After the glacier tour, the Ice Explorer returns you to a shuttle bus which takes you to the second part of the tour, the Skywalk.
Views from the Skywalk:
After the glacier tour we were all pretty worn out from all the excitement of the day, so we decided to leave some other explorations on the Icefields Parkway for the drive back to Banff. We drove to our hotel in Jasper National Park and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Jasper Brewing Company.
The next day it rained most of the day, so unfortunately we didn’t get to explore very much of Jasper. The only thing we did was the Valley of Five Lakes hike, and we did that in the rain. I know there is so much more to see in Jasper, so that just means we have to go back again someday.
One of the 5 lakes at the Valley of Five Lakes
Another one of the 5 lakes
The next day we headed back to Banff down the parkway again, visiting some other spots along the way. We stopped at the Athabasca Falls which was beautiful!
We did another challenging uphill hike to Parker Ridge, a 3.2 mile up and back hike. The climb was worth the beautiful views at the top! Are my parents amazing or what?! Both of them in their 70s and still joining us for hikes like this. 🙂
At the top of Parker Ridge
Beautiful views along the hike
One of the most exciting things we saw on the parkway was bears! We’re always on the lookout for bears, from a safe distance of course. But, it’s very rare that we see them. We saw several on the Icefields Parkway, and were able to get pictures of some of them on the side of the road.
Adorable cubs following Mama Bear off the road!
Mama Bear making sure her cubs made it safely off the road.
The drive along the Icefields Parkway was quite the adventure, I’m only sorry we didn’t have enough time to explore more of Jasper. So it just goes on my never-ending list of places to return to someday.
I have one more post about our time in the Canadian Rockies about Kootenay National Park which I’ll write about next.