If you love driving along some of the best scenic roads in the world, then driving the Icefields Parkway should be on top of your road trip bucket list. This picturesque highway is one of the most stunning routes that will surely take your breath away.
Stretching 232 km from Lake Louise to Jasper, this drive should take you approximately three to four hours. That is without stopping of course. But be ready to prepare your camera and boots, because you will need to devote a full day to explore this breathtaking landscape.
With its unspoiled wilderness, pristine lakes, waterfalls, visible glaciers and endless hiking trails, driving the Icefields Parkway will make for an unforgettable trip.
Fed by the Victoria Glacier, Lake Louise is one of the most photographed scenes in the Columbia Icefields. With its mineral rich turquoise water and soaring mountain backdrop, it is a unique place that needs to be seen with your own eyes. Around the lake, you will find many hiking trails with some amazing views overlooking Lake Louise, and the famous Fairmont’s Chateau Lake Louise.
Being a popular tourist spot, we recommend getting here early in the morning or late evening to avoid the crowds.
Many of you will wonder if the water is really that blue. And yes, we can confirm, the Peyto Lake is as big, blue, and beautiful as it looks. The lake gets its bright turquoise colour from glacial rock flour flowing into the lake. From a viewpoint of 2088 meters high, you will have the perfect postcard picture of Peyto Lake. This is also the highest point while driving the Icefields Parkway, known as the Bow Summit.
Saskatchewan Glacier – Parker Ridge Trail
Before we set off on our road trip, we did a little bit of research on the Rockies but never really came across the Parker Ridge Trail. After driving the Icefields Parkway for five hours already, we were making our way to the more famous Athabasca Glacier. As we were driving along we saw a lot of cars parked up, so we decided to see what the fuss was all about. And we were lucky we did.
After a 40 minute hike and an elevation gain of 250 meters, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Saskatchewan Glacier. We were literally blown away by this panoramic view, which was also the highlight of our day.
Our next stop driving the Icefields Parkway is the Athabasca Glacier, the largest icefield in the Rockies. With its easy accessibility, Athabasca Glacier is the most visited glacier in North America. A short walk from the Icefields Parkway will take you right up to the edge of this huge glacier.
Over the last 120 years, this enormous sheet of ice has lost half of its size and is shrinking at a rate of 5 meters per year.
You can book tickets at the Athabasca Glacier Visitor Center for a snow coach, which will take you up and onto the glacier, for a walk along the top of the ice.
The Less Known Path
Avoid the crowds and take some of the less known paths. With little or nobody around, it is one of the best ways to make your trip a unique experience.
Driving the Icefields Parkway, we pulled over and decided to take one of the less beaten paths. Walking through the forest, with no signs, or any idea where it’s going to bring us, and a little terrified of running into a grizzly, we were greeted by the crystal clear waters of the Bow Lake. With absolutely nobody around, we felt like we had the whole Rockies to ourselves.
Now you can see why driving the Icefields Parkway is going to take you more than three hours. We needed about twelve hours in total from Lake Louise to Jasper.
Lucky enough it was summer time and we were able to take advantage of the late evenings. Even with that and the whole day spent exploring, it still wasn’t enough time for us to see everything we had planned. Missing out on the Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and some of the less travelled paths, we will definitely be coming back to explore more of the Icefields Parkway.
Have you ever drove this beautiful scenic route before or is driving the Icefields Parkway something you would love to do? Share with us in the comments below, your best road trips and ones you suggest we should take.