5 Places to Explore Along the Icefields Parkway – it’s been hailed as one of the most breathtaking drives in the world and for good reason! We spent a day exploring the scenic Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park this Summer and I’m excited to tell you about what we saw!
One of the highlights of our trip to Banff this Summer was the day trip we took along the Icefields Parkway. It was incredible and I wanted to share with you 5 places we explored as a family along the way.
The Icefields Parkway has been called the #1 attraction in Banff National Park and this Summer we found out exactly why! This beautiful stretch of road definitely lives up to it’s reputation as one of the most breathtaking drives in the world!
Driving along the Icefields Parkway is an experience in and of itself! Along the way from Banff towards Jasper National Park we found ourselves looking out the windows in absolute awe of the beauty surrounding us! You don’t even have to get out of your vehicle to see ancient glaciers, towering mountain peaks, crystal clear lakes and beautiful waterfalls!
The Icefields Parkway stretches 232km (144mi) through the Canadian Rockies and it truly is one of the most incredible drives I’ve ever been on! As if the sights along the road weren’t enough, there are numerous roadside pullouts and short hikes that give you access to many more stunning views.
If you’re planning a trip to Banff I would highly recommend you take the time to travel the Icefields Parkway. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and the memories we came away with were so worth it!
Herbert Lake was our first stop along the Parkway and it set the tone for our entire day. The lake was so serene and we were mesmerized by the perfect reflection of the mountains in the glass-like water.
It was early morning and not a lot of people were there yet. As we took in the beautiful view of Mount Temple our conversation turned to how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful world. It was a priceless moment, one I hope the kids don’t soon forget.
The kids had fun exploring around the lakeshore while I snapped some photos and then we were on our way again.
Making a stop at Peyto Lake on your Icefields Parkway road trip is definitely a must! I’d researched all the stops along the parkway before we left and after seeing photos of this beautiful lake I knew we had to see if for ourselves.
Peyton Lake is about 40km (25 miles) of Lake Louise and is just a quick turn off of the Icefields Parkway. From the parking lot it’s a short hike up to the view point making it a perfect stop for families with small kids.
That bright turquoise water that you see in all the photos is exactly what it looks like in real life! It’s absolutely amazing! One thing we learned about the glacial fed lakes around Banff is that the bright turquoise water is a caused by rock flour. Rock flour or glacial silt is a result of the grinding of the rocks as a glacier moves.
Peyto Lake located at the Bow Summit which is actually the highest point along the parkway at 2088 meters (6850ft) above sea level! We spent over an hour at Peyto Lake enjoying the view, climbing on the rocks and watching the chipmunks play.
Depending on the time of year you’re traveling the Icefields Parkway can be a busy place. Early morning or early/late evening is a great time to schedule stops to avoid the crowds. We were going to stop at Peyto Lake on the way to the Columbia Icefields but it was too busy so on our way back to Banff we stopped later in the evening and it was the perfect time. Not a lot of people and with the sun getting lower in the sky the lighting was beautiful for photos.
My Manfrotto Off road camera backpack was along on all of our Outdoor Family Adventures this Summer and I can’t say enough good things about this bag!
Of all the things we saw along the Icefields Parkway I was most fascinated by incredible glaciers! Some of these massive ice sheets appeared to be hanging off the mountain peaks. They were truly a sight to behold!
My kids have been missing the snow since moving to Arizona so the chance to get up close and personal with the Athabasca Glacier was really exciting for them!
From the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre we made our way to the Athabasca Glacier aboard a massive vehicle specially designed for glacial travel. The ride itself was an adventure – we got to drive down the 2nd steepest unpaved road in the world! Our guide was highly entertaining while at the same time teaching us about the glacier and the history in the area. We all found it so interesting!
The highlight of the trip is getting out and experiencing the Athabasca Glacier first hand. Within a safe, marked off area you can explore around and really get a feel for just how incredible this natural phenomenon is!
Don’t forget to bring your water bottles! We forgot ours but we made the best of it and were still able to taste some of that crisp, cool glacial water!
From the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre you can also take a shuttle to the new Glacier Skywalk! This glass floor observation platform gives you a unique perspective of the Columbia Icefields and surrounding Rocky Mountains.
Our kids all loved this experience but they were laughing at me because it made me a little nervous. Seeing the deep Sunwapta Valley plummeting below your feet and feeling the slight bounce of the skywalk takes some getting used to!
The interpretive presentation that you can listen to as you walk kept my kids enthralled throughout our time at the Glacier Skywalk and those views – wow! I’m running out of words to describe all that you can see from this view point nearly 918 feet (280 metres) above the glacier formed valley below. To see glaciers, waterfalls, the beautiful Sunwapta valley, and the surrounding mountain ranges from this vantage point is once in a lifetime!
These are just a few of the many things to see and do as you travel along the Icefields Parkway! We made it as far as the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre before we headed back to Banff, but there’s so much more to see! We’d love to continue on into Jasper National Park one day!
The drive alone was well worth it, but the beautiful stops along the way made the Icefields Parkway one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring parts of our trip to Banff!
If you’re planning a trip to the Icefields Parkway here are some things I’d recommend based on our experience
1. Get started early – Depending on the time of year you’re traveling the most popular stops along the parkway can be pretty busy. Start your day out early to beat the crowds. Depending on how far you plan to drive and how often you want to stop you’ll want to leave yourself as much time as you can to explore and take in all there is to see.
2. Pack a lunch – There aren’t a lot of places to eat out along the parkway itself, especially places that are affordable and family friendly so I’d recommend packing a lunch and lots of snacks. There are so many places to stop and have a picnic lunch.
3. Purchase tickets in adveance – The Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre is a popular place and wait times for tickets to the Glacier Adventure Tour and the Glacier Skywalk can be long if you’re there at a busy time. I recommend booking your tickets in advance to avoid the lines.
4. Pack layers – you’ll encounter a variety of different weather conditions along the parkway so make sure you pack layers. We wore pants and t-shirts most of the drive but definitely needed our hoodies at Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre when the wind picked up.
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