Description provided by Editors
The journey to the Columbia Icefield (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 to the Jasper SkyTram (p 149) for a scenic 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 town 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 WWI British nurse executed for helping prisoners of war escape German occupied Belgium. Walk the 1.6-km/1-mi Path of the Glacier interpretative trail for a close-up view of Angel Glacier. Next stop is Athabasca Falls (30 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 farther south is Goats & Glaciers Lookout, a picnic site with Athabasca River Valley views where natural salt licks attract mountain goats. Continue to Sunwapta Falls (55 km/34 mi); walk the footbridge and downstream along the canyon rim for the best views. As the highway starts to climb south of Beauty Flats, a pullout on the right offers a view of Stutfield Glacier (94 km/59 mi) spilling over the mountain’s ridge. Two km south, stop at Tangle Falls (96 km/60 mi) where Tangle Creek tumbles down a limestone wall. Bighorn sheep often herd where the road crests. Next stop is the Columbia Icefield (103 km/64 mi), one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic and up to 250 m/800 ft deep. Its meltwaters flow west to the Pacific, north to the Arctic, and east to Hudson’s Bay. This hydrological apex is one of three in the world. Six major glaciers flow from the icefield; at the Athabasca Glacier (p 146) visitors can walk to the glacier toe, join a guided icewalk and ride an all-terrain Ice Explorer onto the glacier and a walkabout. (Rockies Heli Canada, p 144, offers Icefield tours from its heliport off Hwy 11.) Across the road, the Glacier Discovery Centre offers lodging, dining and Parks Canada exhibits and information. Hop the shuttle to the Glacier Skywalk for a thrill and informative stroll. 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 p 49).