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Icefields Parkway: Road Trip through the Canadian Mountains

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What an Amazing Route

The Icefields Parkway in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is one of the most breathtaking long-distance roads in the world. Located between Jasper and Lake Louise, it boasts outstanding scenic beauty. The drive from Jasper presents a never-ending array of snow-capped peaks, monumental glaciers and vast riverbeds. Dense forests cling to barren rock faces, while larch trees peep out from between dark spruce. A sight so beautiful that you can hardly tear yourself away from it.

Breathtaking Views in the Canadian Rockies

Here the view opens up into a new side valley, there another three-thousand-metre peak rises into the sky from the imposing mountain range. The 232-kilometre Icefields Parkway in the heart of the Canadian Rockies isn’t known as one of the most spectacular long-distance roads in the world for nothing. The picturesque backdrops are strung together like pearls – or rather gems – on a string: the crystal-clear Athabasca Waterfalls are followed by the long Peyto Lake, whose intense turquoise blue won’t need any digital editing! The emerald-green surface of Moraine Lake, framed by the Ten Peaks, will make your eyes sparkle.

Mighty Worlds of Snow on the Athabasca Glacier

From the Athabasca Glacier Information Centre, tourists are whisked up to the Columbia Icefields in special off-road buses. The route gets longer every year. Where metre-thick ice once lay half a century ago, today there is nothing but rubble. With an area of 325 square kilometres, the natural spectacle that bears its name along the Icefields Parkway is nevertheless one of the largest non-polar ice accumulations in the world. Since 2014, you can also view the vast snow world from the Glacier Skywalk. This horseshoe-shaped glass-floored platform rises 35 metres above the valley. Visitors can enjoy the landscape below and the XXL mountain panorama all around from a height of around 280 metres.

Expect Game Crossings

The Sunwapta Pass marks the border between Jasper and the Banff National Park. The two-lane asphalt road meanders gently through the wide valley. Instead of winding its way up dizzying switchbacks like in the Swiss Alps, the highway leisurely curves up to its highest point, Bow Summit at 2088 metres above sea level. Snow goats peek down from the steep face onto the road and game crossings can be expected here at any time. Moose and deer, but also wolves and coyotes, are sighted on a regular basis. Bears sometimes trot across the road, which usually causes a major traffic jam.

Moraine Lake

There is quite a lot of traffic on this scenic road, but it’s definitely worth the effort. The next stop is Moraine Lake, which adorns the Canadian $20 note. Our recommendation: Take the slightly longer walking path to the viewpoint above Moraine Lake as there are fewer people. Enjoy the view once more before heading back to civilization. The Icefields Parkway officially ends in Lake Louise. Make sure to take a coffee break at the picturesque Castle Hotel before continuing on to Banff.

Staying in Banff

Even thought the fresh mountain air makes you sleepy, no one goes to bed early here. The adventurous people in this town of 8,000 are young, international, and love to party. Even on weekdays, the Rose & Crown serves local craft beer to live music, and the Magpie & Stump serves dangerously good margaritas. You could almost imagine you were in a cool neighbourhood somewhere in Vancouver or Calgary. Only the shop displays remind you that you’re in the middle of nowhere: Alongside the hip brand-name clothing, you’ll find spray protection against bears as a matter of course. The Rockies are so beautiful!

Rose & Crown

Photo credits

  • Header - Photo by Feng Wei Photography on GettyImages
  • Paragraph 1 - Photos owned by Edelweiss
  • Paragraph 1 - Photo by Lester Lefkowitz on GettyImages
  • Paragraph 2 - Photo by Annegret Kammer on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 2 - Photo by Accolade Creative on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 3 - Photo by Accolade Creative on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 3 - Photo by Annegret Kammer on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 4 - Photo by Cameron Gibson on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 4 - Photo by Onfokus on GettyImages
  • Paragraph 5 - Photos owned by Edelweiss
  • Paragraph 6 - Photo owned by Edelweiss
  • Paragraph 6 - Photo by Sri Gowda on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 7 - Photo by Louis Paulin on Unsplash
  • Paragraph 7 - Photo by Brittany Jayne on Unsplash