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The Icefields Parkway, a 232-kilometre highway that runs through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, passes some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery. The drive will take you through two national parks, where you’ll discover vast glaciers and mirror-like mountain lakes, surrounded by rugged peaks and sweeping valleys.
Various operators offer bus tours and day trips along this route, but you may prefer to hire a car so you can spend as long as you want admiring the stunning sights. You can even stop overnight at the campsites and hostels along the way. Make sure you’re well prepared – hiking boots, binoculars and a camera should not be forgotten.
Heading out from the town of Jasper, you’ll first travel through Jasper National Park, a World Heritage Site. Stop off at the thunderous Athabasca Falls or the Sunwapta Falls for amazing photo opportunities.
A few kilometres before the half-way point, you’ll reach the frozen landscape of the Columbia Icefield. Don’t miss the opportunity to tour the vast glaciers, including the 6-kilometre long Athabasca Glacier.
After you cross the boundary from Jasper National Park into Banff National Park, you’ll encounter the Saskatchewan River Crossing, where the North Saskatchewan, Howse and Mistaya rivers collide. This awe-inspiring location owes its name to the 19th-century fur traders who used this spot to cross the water on their journey to British Columbia.
Further along the Parkway, you’ll reach Bow Summit. At 2,088 metres above sea level, this is the highest point on this journey. It is also offers panoramic views across the pristine Peyto Lake. Over the summer, natural sediment washes into the water, giving the lake a beautiful turquoise hue.
Once you arrive at the end of the Parkway, make time to explore Banff and the surrounding area. Lake Louise is a stunning location for hiking and kayaking in the summer, or skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
Check the official website prior to setting out, as you may need permits to access the Parkway. Also, ensure that you have the most up-to-date weather forecast. Snow is common throughout the year, so you may require snow chains.
Situated in Jasper National Park South Entrance, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway. Athabasca Glacier is 0.7 mi (1.2 km) away.
Situated in Rampart Creek, this hostel is within a 5-minute walk of Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway. Panther Falls and Parker Ridge Trailhead are also within 20 miles (32 km).
Situated in Fortress Lake, this lodge is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Jasper National Park.
Situated in a national park, this lodge is within a 5-minute walk of Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway. Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls are also within 25 miles (40 km).
Situated in Bow Lake, this lodge is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Icefields Parkway and 2 mi (3.3 km) from Crowfoot Glacier. Peyto Lake is 3.8 mi (6.1 km) away.
Situated in the mountains, this cabin is 1.6 mi (2.6 km) from Columbia Mountains and within 6 miles (10 km) of Burges and James Gadsden Provincial Park and Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center. Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge and Golden and District General Hospital are also within 16 miles (25 km).
Situated in the mountains, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Columbia Mountains and British Columbia Visitor Centre at Golden. Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge and Golden and District General Hospital are also within 3 miles (5 km).