Description provided by Editors
The journey to the Columbia Icefield and Sunwapta Pass (105 km/65 mi) is one of the world’s most spectacular drives. Follow Connaught Dr west out of town—across Hwy 16 (Map 5, 21J) the road becomes the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). Turn right at Whistlers Rd and drive to the Jasper Tramway for a spectacular ride to high alpine observation decks, interpretive trails and a restaurant. Back on Hwy 93, turn right onto Hwy 93A 6 km (4 mi) south of Jasper and take a 14.5 km (9 mi) detour on Cavell Rd to Mt Edith Cavell. Known to natives as ‘White Ghost’ for its snowy peak, the mountain’s European name honours a WW1 British nurse executed for assisting prisoners of war escape German occupied Belgium. Walk 1.6 km (1 mi) Path of the Glacier interpretative trail for a close-up view of Angel Glacier. Next stop is Athabasca Falls (31 km/19 mi) where Hwy 93A rejoins the Parkway—the river is forced through a narrow canyon and over a cliff, and there are picnic sites and a 20-min interpretive trail. Seven km (4.3 mi) further south is Goat Lookout, a picnic site with Mt Kerkeslin view where natural salt licks attract mountain goats. Continue to Sunwapta Falls (53 km/33 mi) where a footbridge provides the best view, and the walk downstream along the canyon rim is worthwhile. As the highway climbs, a pullout on the right provides a photogenic Tangle Falls (96 km/60 mi) view where Beauty Creek tumbles down a limestone wall. Bighorn sheep often herd where the road crests, while across the valley Stutfield Glacier spills over the mountain’s ridge. Next stop is the Columbia Icefield (103 km/64 mi), one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic—215 sq km (83 sq mi) and up to 365 m (1200 ft) deep (as deep as Toronto CN Tower is tall). Its meltwaters flow west to the Pacific, north to the Arctic, and east to Hudson’s Bay and the Atlantic. This hydrological apex is one of two in the world. Six major glaciers flow from the Icefield—at the Athabasca Glacier visitors can walk to the glacier toe, join a guided icewalk and ride an all-terrain Ice Explorer to the glacier headwall and a walkabout. Across the road, the Icefield Centre offers lodging, dining and Parks Canada displays. (Icefield Helicopters offers glacier tours from its heliport outside of the park off Hwy 11.) Four km (2.5 mi) south of the Icefield is Sunwapta Pass. Jasper National Park ends and Banff National Park begins—it’s 122 km (76 mi) farther to Lake Louise (route description, Bow Valley Sightseeing section).