Completely transformed with snow-laden forests, white-capped peaks, frozen waterfalls and roadside wildlife, the Icefields Parkway is the essence of a winter wonderland. What always surprises, is the utter solitude and silence of this majestic area. When the scenery changes so does the pace, as this stretch of road is void of campers and RVs and the general traffic load plummets. That's why its a great time to tour the parkway. There are some things you need to know and prepare for to make this road-trip a worthy adventure.
Whether you are driving the Deerfoot Trail in Calgary or the mountain passes in the Canadian Rockies, you need to have your vehicle prepared for winter - you are in Canada! Here is your check-list of things to get prepared for your winter tour of the Icefields Parkway.
- Snow tires - they really work and they are mandatory from November 1st to April 1st by Parks Canada
- Start early - give yourself that extra time for road conditions and it's also the best way to see animals. It gets dark around 5 pm.
- Gas up in Jasper or Lake Louise as there are no gas stations along the way
- Pack your safety kit (good to have year-round) - bottled water, candles, blankets, extra clothes, mitts, toques, non-perishable food
- Toss a shovel and snow brush in the back
- Tell someone when you are expected to arrive in Lake Louise or Jasper - call them when you arrive
Rocky Mountain wildlife including; sheep, mountain goats, deer and coyotes are often seen along the roadside of the Icefields Parkway. They are there because sometimes the walking is easier and there is salt from vehicles that they like to lick up. Travel slow around corners, keep your eyes on sides of the road, including the ditch areas and slow down when you pass. There is a 20 km stretch of road along the northern part of the Icefields Parkway that is reduced speed for winter caribou habitat. As one of Canada's species-at-risk, the Jasper herd of Woodland Caribou, you can help by slowing when driving through this area. Please watch for posted speed limits - you are also more likely to see animals if you are taking your time and respecting the speed limits.
The best road reports for the Icefields Parkway is available at 511 Alberta
Please refrain from parking along the road as it compromises other drivers' safety.
Winter Sightseeing & Discoveries
Roadside stops reveal ancient glaciers shifting and growling, and cascading waterfalls become icefalls. Snow-covered trails entice you to pull over and don snowshoes or skis for a peaceful winter adventure. It calls to winter's outdoor enthusiasts.
Here are our favourite Winter Stops along the Icefields Parkway
Bio break time? There are several pit toilets that are available for use along the roadside pull outs.