Around every turn on the Icefields Parkway reveals another one of nature’s splendour; from the ancient glaciers at the Columbia Icefields to the mind-blowing colour of Peyto Lake, thundering waterfalls and viewpoints that extend for miles. The tough part will be choosing where to stop to take it all in. Here are some suggestions.
39 km from Lake Louise
194 km from Jasper
Bow Lake is the headwaters of the Bow River that runs south through the city Calgary and onto the Oldman River ultimately to Hudson Bay. The lake lines the Icefields Parkway and makes a perfect place to stop and view the Crowfoot Glacier (shaped like a crow's foot), Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, Crowfoot Mountain and Mount Thompson.
44 km from Lake Louise
189 km from Jasper
The most popular glacier-fed lake, Peyto Lake is the also the most visited and photographed lake in the Canadian Rockies. During the summer, significant amounts of glacial rock flour flow into the lake, and these suspended rock particles give the lake a bright, turquoise colour. The lake is best seen from Bow Summit which is 2,088 metres (6,800 feet) above sea level. Bow Summit is the highest point on the drive from Banff to Jasper and is the highest elevation crossed by a public road in Canada.
79 km from Lake Louise
153 km from Jasper
This is a significant location where three rivers meet; the mighty North Saskatchewan, the Howse and the Mistaya. The North Saskatchewan River rises in the Canadian Rockies and empties into Lake Winnipeg over 1,600 kilometres (1,025 miles) east across the country. “The Crossing” is a starting point for tours on the Columbia Icefield. It is also the only place for basic services including public bathrooms, gas station and a restaurant.
115 km from Lake Louise
118 km from Jasper
Aptly named, you will know when you arrive at the Big Hill and Big Bend. The descending road clings to the wall of a mountain and offers expansive views of the valley and river below. The Big Bend is the famous hairpin turn that wraps in a circle below towering peaks. If you choose to stop, please ensure that you are completely off the road.
120 km from Lake Louise
112 km from Jasper
Parker Ridge in northern Banff National Park is a must do for those who want a bit of elevation to take in a multitude of mountain ranges and Saskatchewan Glacier (the longest). The hike is approximately two hours rising 250 metres (820 feet). Parks Canada has been closing the trail from late spring to early summer to preserve the landscape.
128 km from Lake Louise
104 km from Jasper
Just as the name implies these glaciers or “fields of ice” straddle Banff National Park and Jasper National Park and are the largest south of the Arctic Circle. They are 325km2 in area and 100 to 365 metres (328 to 1,197 ft) in depth and receives up to seven metres (275 in) of snowfall per year. During the summer months visitors to the area can travel onto the glacier in the comfort of large "snowcoaches" or you can simply marvel at them from the roadside parking lot. The Columbia Icefield is also a major destination for ski mountaineering in the winter months. Visit the Columbia Icefield Centre and its natural history museum. A large three-dimensional model of the Columbia Icefield clearly shows its extent (100 square miles/259 square kilometers) and its three meltwater drainages (Arctic, Atlantic, Pacific). Other displays examine wildlife of the alpine zone and explain how glaciers form, grow, and retreat.
135 km from Lake Louise
98 km from Jasper
Glacier Sky Walk, opened in May 2014, is a unique experience that puts you on a glass-floored observation platform 280 metres (918 feet) over the Sunwapta Valley. The entire experience, offered by Brewster, starts with a walk along the Discovery Trail and costs $25 per adult. If you are not into heights, you can still view the Sunwapta Valley from a look out point nearby.
177 km from Lake Louise
56 km from Jasper
This class 6 waterfall is located south of the Jasper town site and has a drop of approximately 18 metres (60 feet). The falls are particularly impressive in the late spring and early summer when snow pack run off is high. The Sunwapta Falls are fed by the Athabasca Glacier.
200 km from Lake Louise
33 km from Jasper
Among the most breath-taking and powerful falls in the Canadian Rockies, the Athabasca Falls are located 30 kilometres south of Jasper town site. The falls are impressive for the volume and force of water, less for its height. The falls can be safely viewed and photographed from various viewing platforms and walking trails.