The Icefields Parkway stretches over 144 miles (232 km) from Lake Louise to Jasper. The road is ever changing and you will find yourself glued to the window of your car as the views take your breath away. The scheduled drive time according to google maps is just over three hours, however it will most likely will take you longer with various stops to take in the incredible views. There are view-points dotted along the route, so you safely can pull in to admire the views and take photos. It’s likely there will be wildlife sighting opportunities too, so remember to keep a look out!
Our top 5 stop-off points on the Icefields Parkway are:
The Columbia Icefield adventure is both impressive and breath-taking, and demonstrates the overwhelming power of nature. The Athabasca Glacier is unique for many reasons, one of which is the that it’s one of the largest non-polar ice fields in the world, and is easily accessible from the road. In the summer season you can walk or take a tour onto the glacier, or if you’re short for time you can take in the views from the Skywalk Platform. In the spring some of the ice melts, feeding the lakes of the Canadian Rockies and the rivers that flow to three oceans; the Pacific, the Arctic, and the Atlantic.
Although not strictly a scheduled stop off point, more often than not there’s wildlife sightings on the Icefields Parkway route. It’s usually down to pure luck what you’ll spot on your trip. In winter some animals (like bears) hibernate, whilst others come down from the mountain tops to the valleys. In winter you’re most likely to spot bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer or even woodland caribou. Some animals like to hide deep in the trees, away from the public view, whilst others will cross the road whilst you least expect it. Remember to keep your eyes wide open and please never feed or come close to any wildlife.
Although it’s frozen in the winter, Bow Lake is definitely a viewpoint worth stopping for in all seasons. The lake sits at the bottom of Crowfoot Mountain, and from its shore you can admire the stunning views of Crowfoot Glacier, Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier and Mount Thompson. Bow Lake perfectly captures the best of all elements that the Icefield Parkway has to offer.
Standing at the top of Upper Falls you’ll see a magical view: a small island of pine trees, ringed by the Sunwapta River which originates from the Athabasca Glacier. The falls have a drop of approximately 59 feet (approx. 18m), curving the limestone below into impressive gorge.
Cirrus Mountain Viewpoint
Halfway between Jasper and Lake Louise, the Cirrus Mountain roadside stop offers some of the most spectacular scenery on the Icefield Parkway. If you’re heading towards Jasper, go up the hill and after the big bend (trust me, you’ll know exactly when it comes), you’ll be welcomed by a breath-taking view of the road winding at the foot of The Cirrus Mountain. At this point you can look back at the beauty of Banff National Park as you move forward into Jasper National Park.