8 Icefields Parkway Sights with Parks Canada’s Brad White

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Written by Cassidy Barnes posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2010

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Icefields Parkway is no secret. It’s probably one of the best known attractions of the Canadian Rockies, offering drivers a trip through Banff and Jasper National Parks, and some of the finest scenery available in these beautiful mountains. To get a great guided tour of the Icefields Parkway, we spoke with Brad White.

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

White was born and Banff, and has lived here for 50 years. He’s worked for Parks Canada for about 28 of those, and is currently a Mountain Safety Program Specialist, doing Mountain Rescue and Avalanche forecasting and control. That’s what we’d call a Rockies insider. White gave us a colorful spoken word tour of the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

“Probably one of the nicest drives in the world on a sunny day is the highway between Lake Louise and Jasper. I don’t think the scenery is better anywhere, and I’ve been most places in the mountains,” White begins.

1. Herbert Lake: This first stop is just a little bit north of Lake Louise. “If you’re there early in the morning it’s an awesome place to get a reflection of all the peaks in the Lake Louise group looking south,” White says.

2. Crowfoot and Bow Peaks: “A little further north you get glacier views of the glaciers that are coming off Bow peak and Crowfoot peak,” White says. “And the Crowfoot Glacier in the spring, with the cabin glacier coming down into a field of mountain flowers is awesome.”

3. Bow Lake: “A littler further north is Bow Lake, which is like a turquoise lake with an old outfitters log lodge built on the side of it. It’s a great place to stop for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. From there you can look out to the Wapta icefields and see some of the peaks up there,” White tells us.

4. Peyto Lake: “Just a little further north is Peyto Lake lookout,” he continues. “This is a famous glacial fed lake that’s Cerulean blue from all the glacial silt that’s in it. From the look out there, you get an awesome receding view of the peaks going off to the north. There’s a big sink line that’s been broken apart with the valley in the middle.”

5. The Saskatchewan: From Peyto Lake, the valley drops down to the Saskatchewan River, which eventually flows all the way to the arctic ocean. “That’s a big, wide river valley,” says White. “It’s a rain shadow area, kind of a different climate. Big 11,000 foot peaks in there.”

6. Panther Falls: After the Saskatchewan, you start traveling up toward the icefields. “You’re traveling up beside a big mountain stream with big peaks on both sides of the road. Eventually you make a big, long climb past Panther Falls, which is a super gorge with a waterfall underneath the road that you can get out and look down several hundred feet off the highway down into this gorge.”

7. The Icefields: Right after Panther Falls you climb a big hill and you get up to the icefields itself, one of the best known parts of this trip, and the Canadian Rockies. “It’s one of the few places in America where you can drive the car right up to the edge of a glacier,” says White. “That’s the best part of the trip.”

8. Tangle Falls: After you see Panther Falls, you get one more waterfall before the end of your trip. “You drop down the north side past the wonderful water fall on the side of the road called Tangle Falls, and you get down on the river bottom that leads you down to Jasper.”

Ok, that’s what we’ve got for now. Hope it was helpful! Be sure to check out more Rockies Insider tips! And get a good look at Banff and the surrounding mountains with the Banff webcam.

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