Travel highway 93 between Lake Louise and Jasper and you will see why the Icefields Parkway in Alberta’s south west is known as one of Canada’s most scenic highways.
The highway winds 230 kms (140 miles) through beautiful, rugged scenery with a constant backdrop of the magnificent Canadian Rockies. Alpine forests line the route and the carpet of dazzling white snow makes for a wintery spectacle.
All along the route you’ll be amazed by the amount of wildlife, and if you’re lucky you’ll see moose and deer and the occasional majestic grizzly bear – but be sure to give it a wide birth! There are many ice fringed lakes and frozen waterfalls found along the highway which are both beautiful and treacherous if care is not taken when exploring them.
The Icefields Parkway was completed in 1940 and for the majority of the route it is a two lane highway, but with breathtaking scenery all around you won’t mind taking it slow. As you head north from Lake Louise you will discover some of the most beautiful scenery found anywhere in the world.
Crowfoot Glacier, cradled in the mighty Canadian Rockies, is an amazing sight along the Icefields Parkway. It is just over 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Lake Louise and can be seen easily from the highway above the glorious Bow Lake
Peyto Lake is a beautiful glacier fed lake 40 kms (25 miles) north of Lake Louise. It is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway but it is best seen from Bow Summit. In summer the lake is a beautiful turquoise colour.
Mistaya Canyon is a magnificent canyon within easy reach of the Icefields Parkway. In winter the ice crusted Mistaya River that once roared through the beautiful alpine forests has created yet another magical frozen waterfall.
Where the North Saskatchewan River, the Howse River and the Mistaya River meet is the Saskatchewan River crossing. The crossing is about 80 km (50 miles) north of Lake Louise and from the Icefields Parkway you’ll easily see where these great rivers meet with the spectacular Rocky Mountains in the background.
The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefields and is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. Slicing it’s way through the Rocky Mountains the glacier is an ever changing sea of ice, that crackles underfoot and glistens in the sunshine. Ride the Icefields Explorer onto the glacier to see all it’s beauty close up.
The Icefields Centre is open from mid April to October and is the starting point for all trips onto the Athabasca Glacier. There are restaurants, cafes and interesting exhibits within the centre but its most impressive feature is the magnificent views you’ll get of the glacier and surrounding mountains from everywhere on the site.
In summer the powerful Sunwapta River plunges almost 20 metres (65 feet) over the falls, but in winter the Sunwapta Falls sit peaceful and frozen amongst wonderful alpine scenery. The Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park are just west of the Icefields Parkway. Here the mighty waters of the Athabasca River plummet more than 20 metres (65 feet) into the river below. In winter the waters slow to a trickle but they create an amazing and incredible sight – a frozen waterfall.
One of the world great scenic highways, the Icefields Parkway in southern Alberta covers 230km (140 miles) of North America’s most beautiful countryside and with Lake Louise at one end and Jasper at the other you may even be happy to reach the end. Just so you can turn around and drive it again!