The Columbia Icefields are halfway between Lake Louise and Jasper. This side-trip north on Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway, is often overlooked in a first-timer’s
vacation to Banff and the Canadian Rockies.
If you are visiting in the summertime, the glaciers provide a welcome dose of free air conditioning. For Jeopardy fans, there are over 29,000 glaciers in Canada! When you count the
number you see on both sides of the highway, you’ll quickly see why. The massive glaciers you can see from the highway, some a humbling mile thick, are perched
high atop the Continental Divide and ARE measurably retreating as a result of climatic changes (global warming).
Here are the attractions along the way (from South to North):
Mountain on the northeast side of the highway, is 3,394m (11,135 ft) high. It is home to the Hector Glacier, which is accessible by hiking up the Pipestone Valley from Lake Louise Village.
This is the first of several large lakes running along the Icefields Parkway. This lake, located on the west side of the road, drains the Wapta Glacier and Waputik Icefield.
This long glacier is perched on a cliffside on the northeast slope of Crowfoot Mountain, high above Bow Lake.
This lake was created by the retreating Bow Glacier. It is surrounded on the right by Mount Jimmy Simpson, and on the left by Crowfoot Mountain
This pass, at 2, 069 m (6, 765 ft) the highest in the mountain parks, takes you into Jasper National Park and the Columbia Icefields. It marks the dividing line between the Bow River and the North Saskatchewan basins
One of the most awesome views in Banff National Park is from the Peyto Lake Viewpoint. You drive past Peyto Lake (shown), which is located a quarter-mile from the highway. This lake, with its blue-green water, offers a spectacular high-level 60-mile view of not just the lake, but over 60 miles up the Mistaya and North Saskatchewan River valleys to the northwest.
North of The Crossing over the North Saskatchewan River (which later passes through Edmonton) you drive past the Weeping Wall, where thin waterfalls and spring waters drip down a large cliff. Very popular for winter ice climbing.
The Icefields Parkway climbs over 450 metres of elevation climbing up Parker Ridge. This increased elevation drops temperatures by three degrees C (8 degrees F), but gives a spectacular view of the North Saskatchewan River Valley to the southeast and Bridal Veil Falls on the north valley wall.