As the guidebook said, “There are road trips… and then there’s the Icefields Parkway.”
We headed out from Lake Louise armed with our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook, which had a detailed section on worthy stops along the Icefield Parkway. To Jasper!
Quick logistics note: as soon as we hit the road, we quickly realized that cellphone service was pretty much nonexistent for the entire drive. So! Don’t be like us – download your music and send those texts before you get on your way. Also for safety, maybe tell someone where you are and when you’re planning to be back in cell service… in case of unexpected emergencies.
Ok, back to the trip!
We actually missed the first designated stop, Hector Lake… but continued on to the Crowfoot Glacier lookout, which is a pretty cool giant glacier that looks like a crow’s foot, with only two toes (the third has melted at this point). It sits atop Bow Lake, a serene expanse of blue glacier-fed water. (Very guidebook-like description, I know.)
ANYWAYS. We stopped at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (historic red-roofed hut at the northern end of the lake) for a bio break, and some more photos.
We kept it moving towards Peyto Lake and the Bow Summit lookout, which was probably the prettiest lake/mountain view of the trip. You have to hike up to the viewpoint but it’s 1/5th of a mile. Nothing bad!
The next stop on the “Uber Tour” was Mistaya Canyon. At this point we were all getting a tiny bit tired of stopping for view on our way to Jasper, but we made the effort to park and stop. We were glad we did! It was such a unique section of canyon rapids. Definitely different than anything we had already seen.
We continued on past the Saskatchewan River Crossing (nothing really to see, just a gas station and some lodging) up to Cirrus Mountain. This is the only place to get gas between Lake Louise and Jasper, so don’t forget to fill up if you need to! There are a few more places past Mistaya Canyon that the guidebook highlights (Weeping Wall, Bridal Veil Falls), but our appetite for look-seeing was slowing down. 🙂
The next part of our road trip led us past the “official” Icefields Parkway route to the Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier. We bought the “Jasper Explorer” pass from Brewster Tours, which allowed us access to the Ice Explorer Glacier Walk and the Glacier Skywalk, PLUS the Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island (for the next day in Jasper). I would recommend that deal… seemed like a good price for all three. It was very touristy, but hey, no shame in being a tourist!
The regular buses took us to Ice Explorer truck-buses (each worth $1.5MM CAD, apparently), which took us directly on the Athabasca Glacier. It was incredible! And soooo cold! I would say that it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment but I surely hope not – Patagonia is on my near-term bucket list! 🙂
The buses took us directly from the glacier to the Glacier Skywalk, which is a new glass skywalk (like at the Grand Canyon and a few other places) that juts out over the valley for better views of the glacier and Columbia Icefield. It was cool but concerning for some (ahem, Joe!), but we got a picture in!
After our Athabasca adventures, we piled back into the car and headed directly for Jasper. Our home for the night: the third Fairmont of the trip, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.