Spirit Island, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Visit Jasper National Park – Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is the most popular route to visit Jasper National Park. The Parkway runs 150 miles from the outskirts of Lake Louise at its south end to Jasper in the north. The Icelfields Parkway goes past some of the most beautiful lakes in the Rockies just as you leave Banff National Park. Don’t miss Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake along the parkway. Shortly thereafter is the turnout to the Peyto Lake parking lot. Many think it’s more impressive than Lake Louise.
Athabasca Glacier, Pixabay – skeeze
Watch for black bears along the road side, but don’t get out of your car. Bears often collect berries at the roadside in early fall. After passing the braided gravel river bed of the North Saskatchewan River Crossing, the Icefields Parkway arrives at the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of Columbia Icefields. The route then passes roadside stops at Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. For a side trip, hike to the small glacial lake at Mount Edith Cavell.
Black Bear, Pixabay / brigachtal
Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier
The most popular stop on the Icefields Parkway is the Columbia Icefields, which includes the Athabasca Glacier. Busloads of tourists from all over the world arrive at the Glacier View Inn overlooking the Athabasca Glacier. The hotel is part of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, which includes national park information, a restaurant and souvenirs. The most important reason to stop here is to take Ice Explorer Glacier Tour that drives on top of the Athabasca Glacier. Once your Ice Explorer bus gets top of the glacier, you can get out and walk on the ice. Icefields tours can also include the nearby Glacier Skywalk.
The Glacier View Inn is an excellent place to spend the night too. Half the rooms look across the valley at the Glacier.
Hike to the Base of the Athabasca Glacier
You can park just below the Athabasca Glacier and hike to the base of Athabasca Glacier in about half an hour. Warning signs prohibit climbing on the base of the glacier, because people have died from collapsing ice. Hikers can die from hypothermia in an ice collapse.
The most astounding part of the hike to the base of the Athabasca Glaciers is the markers showing the steady retreat of the glacier over time. In the early 1900’s the glacier reached the bottom of the valley, but now it only reaches a third of the way down. You can also hike with a guide to the top of the icefields. At the top of the Columbia Icefields the snow melt can end up in the Atlantic, the Arctic or the Pacific.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Visit Jasper Park Lodge
Visit Jasper National Park – Hotels
- Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – luxury hotel on Beauverte Lake just outside of the town of Jasper.
- You can stay at the Jasper town site, but the town of Hinton has less expensive hotels. Hinton is about an hour from Jasper by car.
- Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge – an hour south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway.
- Glacier View Inn – units facing the Columbia Icefields, about 1.5 hours south of Jasper.