Icefield Parkway in the Canadian Rockies

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Written by Madison Valois posted on Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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Don't miss the chance to see glaciers in action in Jasper National Park.

Don't miss the chance to see glaciers in action in Jasper National Park.

This is one of my favorite Canadian Rockies vacation trips, filled with mountains, ice walls, exquisite lakes and magnificent waterfalls.  Here you will travel deep into the Canadian Rockies on one of the most dramatic journeys imaginable.

When I took the route, I began in Lake Louise which sits in the Bow Valley.  Just above the village of Lake Louise lies the lake itself, along with the magnificent Victoria Glacier.  Already you are off to a good start when the first introduction is so astounding!  Near Lake Louise is Moraine Lake in its jeweled setting surrounded by the Wenkchemna Peaks, a series of ten glacial summits.  Moraine Lake is just at the base of the Continental Divide where waters flow either to the west, arriving at the Pacific Ocean, or to the east where they find the Atlantic Ocean.  Staying in the village of Lake Louise is comfortable and accommodating, with plenty of shopping, good hotels and fine restaurant,s along with ample information for tourists.

The next day I headed north along Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park, passing by numerous lakes and glaciers along the way.  I had to stop at Hector Lake to see how it was formed in its glacial basin.  The views of Mt. Balfour and the Waputik Range are breathtaking, so be sure to have your camera ready and at hand.  Crowfoot Glacier is very interesting, with three extensions that look exactly like toes.  Bow Summit is the highest point on the parkway, standing at 6,785 feet above sea level.  Stand at the Peyto Lake viewpoint for an amazing mountain vantage point.

Just past this area is the Saskatchewan River Crossing at the junction of Highway 11.  I went off the beaten track here to hike through the Wildland Recreation Area.  You can also spend time trail riding and fishing in White Goat Wilderness and Abraham Lake. 

Back on the Icefields Parkway heading northwest, you’ll come to the Weeping Wall where melting snow creates streams of water that come through the cracks on the cliff face only to crash downwards as waterfalls.  This is a favorite ice climbing area for winter adventurers.  Take some time to visit the Columbia Icefield and to take a SnoCoach tour on the Althabasca Glacier.  While on the highway, you can easily see Mt. Athabasca, standing tall at 12,762 feet. 

I was really surprised to see all the bighorn sheep and goats in Tangle Falls and Goat Lookout.  Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint is also a great place for the view of the Sunwapta River. The bottom of the valley is filled with sand and gravel which creates a braided effect.  Here too there are ice falls, adding to the drama of Mt. Stutfield.

If you take the half mile access road from Icefields Parkway to Sunwapta Falls and Canyon, you will see where the Sunwapta River changes its course from northwest to southwest and then down into a canyon, creating a gushing waterfall.  Nature’s beauty at its best!

I ended my journey in Jasper, a beautiful mountain locale that inspires you to engage in a multitude of activities.  Hike through the area to enjoy the flora and fauna, play a round of golf, enjoy the hot springs, take a tram ride to the top of Whistler’s Mountain, go fishing or rafting or take a horse on one of the backcountry trails.  All in all, this is one of the best Canadian Rockies vacations you could ask for!

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