Zoe Thomas, Digital Content Executive at Canadian Affair, tells us about the Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park.
Who, What, Where?
I went on an amazing tour of the Rockies with my boyfriend in late August/early September. After picking up the hire car in Calgary and stopping off in Banff National Park on the way, we headed up the Icefields Parkway into Jasper National Park.
The region in a nutshell:
The Icefields Parkway is the most incredible road stretching 144 miles past lakes, waterfalls and countless glaciers between Lake Louise and Jasper. The mountain scenery is spectacular, the attractions along the way even better. Once you reach the end, you’ll find Jasper National Park is like Banff’s more rugged, lesser-visited big brother.
Experience of a lifetime:
The Icefields Parkway drive itself is the experience of a lifetime! Take a whole day to really do it justice. You’ll never run out of mountain views, there are hundreds of glaciers plus we passed bighorn sheep and a mummy black bear and cub on the road. There are tons of stop offs like the Athabasca Glacier, Athabasca Falls, Horseshoe Lake, Bow Lake and loads more!
Gear up vs wind down?
For a buzz, try out the enormous ice trucks which take you up a precarious gradient onto the face of the Athabasca Glacier itself. Fill up your water bottle with icy-fresh meltwater and drink in those views. You can buy a package together with the Glacier Skywalk – a glass-bottomed walkway which hangs over a cliff-edge!
For a more relaxed but equally fun day, try the Maligne Lake cruise. Stunningly beautiful, Maligne Lake is the largest glacially-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies at 14 miles long. We sailed down towards the towering ‘Valley of the Gods’ before disembarking to snap a pic of the iconic Spirit Island.
Culture vultures should:
Checkout the Japer Yellowhead Museum and the Mountain Galleries in Jasper. As well as fantastic Canadian artists and filmmakers, there is loads of history to uncover in the region. Learn about the intrepid Mary Schaffer, who defied convention to explore the park and map the unknown Maligne Lake in the early 1900s.
Outdoor lovers should:
Take a hike! Seriously, there are tons of routes for hiking including around lakes and in the mountains. The staff at the Jasper Park Information Centre in town are really happy to help you plan some hikes, from short and sweet to longer and more taxing. Even if you don’t have time for a long walk, there are plenty of short loops which take you around the lakes and waterfalls.
Perhaps an unusual choice, but after a long day driving the Parkway, the Jasper Curry House called out to us! Located on the main road into town, we were greeted with an all-you-can-eat buffet which proved to be excellent Indian food. Mouth-watering vegetarian and meat curries included daal, butter chicken and paneer. Great value for money too!
If you do one thing…
Visit Peyto Lake. Although technically in Banff National Park, it’s easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway. A short walk takes you up to Bow Summit which has the best views of the lake. Thanks to its high concentration of rock flour, ground down by the Peyto Glacier at one end, the lake is the most startling shade of vibrant turquoise. In my opinion, it’s the most breath-taking of all the glacial lakes we saw. The photos don’t look real, but I promise they are!
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