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Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Marilyn Peddle (MarilynJane). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution
Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Marilyn Peddle (MarilynJane)

Icefield Parkway: the road of the glaciers and waterfalls

The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) runs paralleal to the so-called Continental Divide, the dividing line between the streams flowing into the Pacific Ocean and those flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. This is a scenic route through the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies. It connects Banff National Park to Jasper, linking the towns of Lake Louise and Jasper. The scenic Icefields Parkway is 230 km long.

Here are the most interesting points along this scenic route of the Canadian Rockies starting from Jasper and arriving at Lake Louise.

Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Pascal (Redeo). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Pascal (Redeo)

MOUNT EDITH CAVELL

To reach the area of Mount Edith Cavell, take the Highway 93A 7 km south of Jasper. Along this road you travel 5.4 km and then turn right onto Cavell Road, a winding road that climbs up to a 12 km picnic area under the spectacular north face of the mountain, from here begins the path “Path of the Angel Glacier “, which allows you to see three types of ice formations, icebergs, snow and glacier tongues, as well as ice caves, waterfalls and emerald green lakes.

The area of Mount Edith Cavell is studded with a fragrant subalpine forests, alpine meadows full of flowers and a spectacular view of Mount Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier. Mount Edith Cavell is a peak 3,363 meters high, the mountain is named in honor of an English nurse who was executed for helping prisoners of war to escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War.

It is an easy path in one of the most scenic areas of Jasper. The trail is 1.6 miles and takes 1-2 hours. This short trail leads through a rocky landscape recently released from glacial ice. Along the path there were signs explaining how the area is now being re-colonized by plants and animals. The trail, which is initially paved, climbs on the rise for half a mile to a fork near the end of the paved section. Go straight to Cavell Pond, which borders the ice of the glacier. You can see icebergs that have fallen into the water. Across the valley the Angel glacier spreads its wings in the cirque between Mount Edith Cavell (left) and Sorrow Peak ( right).

Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Samantha Marx (Smath). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Samantha Marx (Smath)

ATHABASCA FALLS

The Athabasca River, which rises from the glaciers of the Columbia Glacier (Columbia Icefield), is the largest river system in the area of Jasper. To reach Athabasca Falls take Highway 93 (Icefield Parkway) South of Jasper approximately 30 kilometers, the falls are at the junction with Highway 93A.

The Athabasca Falls formed from the river are among the most powerful and breathtaking waterfalls of the Canadian Rockies, the Athabasca River flows with great rushing through a narrow gorge. The falls are not very high, the jump is only 23 meters, but the size of the river and its water flow make it one of the most impressive waterfalls of the national parks of the Canadian Rockies.

The best places to admire the falls are located on the opposite side of the parking area with the Mount Kerkeslin towering in the background. There are a lot of short paths to explore both sides of the falls.

 

KERKESLIN GOAT LICK

Located 38 km from Jasper along the Icefields Parkway road.

Kerkeslin Goat Lick is a place where you will see the Mountain Goats, who gather here to lick the mud for its content of calcium and sulfate, and eat so that their droppings become white instead of the usual black. This is a fantastic place to be able to easily see these animals, is located right next to the road. The view that one has towards the valley of the Athabasca River is truly wonderful.

SUNWAPTA FALLS (CASCATE SUNWAPTA)

The Sunwapta Falls are located halfway between the Columbia Icefield and the town of Jasper (56 km south of the town of Jasper) on the Icefield Parkway.

Sunwapta means “turbulent water”. The point of view of the upper Sunwapta Falls is just off the road. To see the lower falls, just as impressive as the falls at the top, you have to take a short trip, it is an easy path well marked  that has a duration between 30 and 45 minutes, this course will also provide a panoramic view of the distant valley of the Athabasca River.

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Marilyn Peddle (MarilynJane). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Marilyn Peddle (MarilynJane)

ATHABASCA GLACIER

The Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca Glacier and Icefield Centre are located along the Icefield Parkway at around 103 km from Jasper. The Athabasca Glacier is a 7 km long tongue of ice flowing from the immense glaciers of the Columbia Icefield. Due to global warming the Athabasca Glacier has retreated over the past 125 years and its dimensions have been reduced drastically. The glacier has lost half of its volume and more than 1.5 km in length. A century ago, the ice flowed over the current position of the road, the retreat of the glacier is clearly shown by signs depicting the gradual retreat of the ice from year to year. Several other glaciers are visible from here, but they all come from the Columbia Icefield. The Columbia Icefield is a surviving remnant of the mass of ice that once covered most of the Canadian Rockies. The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield south of Alaska, this gleaming glacier of ice and snow covers a total area of ​​389 sq. km.

Beyomd the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park ends and the road enter the Banff National Park.

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Pascal (Redeo) Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Pascal (Redeo)

MISTAYA CANYON

The Mistaya Canyon is located 72 km (50 minutes drive) from Lake Louise, south of the Saskatchewan River Crossing on Highway 93. This canyon carved into the rock can be reached by a short hike off the main road. The trail begins at the parking lot of Canyon Mistaya, its length is 1.5 kilometers or about 30-40 minutes (round trip). The Mistaya river that carved the canyon flows from a glacier high above Lake Peyto.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Frank Kovalchek (Alakan Dude). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Author Frank Kovalchek (Alakan Dude)

PEYTO LAKE

The Peyto Lake is located on the scenic Icefields Parkway about 40 kilometers (30 minutes) north of the town of Lake Louise. The lake is fed by runoff from the Peyto Glacier (this glacier is part of the Wapta Icefield), which is located about 5 km south of the lake, feeding the lake by water coming from the glacier give to the waters of the lake, in the months summer, a magnificent blue color due to the high mineral content. This is one of the most beautiful places in the Rocky Mountains. At the Bow Pass (2,088 m.), along the Icefields Parkway, is the trailhead for the Peyto Lake overlook. From the parking lot you walk for about 400 meters in a steep but easy paved trail until you come to a viewing platform which offers a beautiful view of the lake. If you go along the Icefield Parkway, you should not miss this vantage point.

 

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