The Icefields Parkway is one of the most spectacular stretches of road one could hope to travel. Adorned by peaks, waterfalls, glaciers and wildlife viewing opportunities, visitors travelling the 230 kilometres from Jasper to Lake Louise will want to give themselves plenty of time to take it all in. Here are some hot-spots that will make the question “are we there yet?” all but obsolete.
32 km south of Jasper
At 23 metres high the Athabasca Falls are not the highest falls in the Rockies, the amount of water rushing through these quartz and limestone formations makes seeing Athabasca Falls a must for first time visitors. The rushing water has carved intricate features into the rock, including potholes and caverns. The mist deposted on the rocks from the Athabasca River makes them slippery and dangerous. Stay behind the railing and use caution—people who have ignored this advice have fallen in. Surviving such a fall is highly unlikely.
Kerkeslin Goat Lick
38 km south of Jasper
Mountain goats typically live high up in the alpine, where their sure-footedness on steep and rocky terrain helps them avoid predators. But few mountain goats can resist coming down to feed on this mineral rich silt deposit, which happens to be right beside the highway. Although this is one of the best wildlife viewing points in the park, it can also be the most dangerous. Pull well off the road, stay in your car, never feed or approach wildlife and don't linger, so that others can enjoy the experience too.
55 km south of Jasper
“Turbulent river” is what Sunwapta translates to in Stoney Indian. The falls are certainly that, as it is here where the Sunwapta River abruptly changes its course from northwest to southwest and plunges into a deep canyon. Seasonal accommodation, dining and picnic sites available.
The Columbia Icefields & the Athabasca Glacier
105 km south of Jasper
This awe-inspiring landscape lies on a wide elevated plateau that from the confines of your vehicle looks like a glacial staircase, leading right up to heaven. Via an ice walk or ride in a Ice Explorer, tourists can see just how far the slow-flowing tongue of ice has melted in the last 125 years.
Take caution and do not cross the barriers on the glacier. The Icefield Interpretive Centre has informative exhibits and slide shows. Seasonal accommodation, dining and camping available.
Originally published in The Fitzhugh