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Perth, Scotland, United Kingdom
April 1, 2011
From journal To, from and in Jasper
by Kim M.
Key West, Florida
August 22, 2005
Make a stop at the Icefields Information Center to pick up brochures, use the restroom, and have a bite to eat. This large facility has a large buffet and a cafeteria-style dining facility that should assuage most appetites. Once you've got the necessities covered, take some time to walk around and take in the excellent exhibits on glaciers and the surrounding ecosystem. Visitors here can learn how a glacier forms, how the landscape has changed over time, what wildlife can be seen in the area, and how the early explorers survived in these harsh environs. We found it a bit crowded but enjoyed the exhibits all the same. Glacier tours via snocoach are also available for a fee. We decided to save the $35 and move on.
For those whose tummies are still rumbling or whose vehicles are beginning to sputter, there is another stop at Saskatchewan Crossing. Here you can buy gas, get a snack, or buy souvenirs. We were amused for probably a good 20 minutes just walking around and looking at the multitude of plastic Mounties, T-shirts, and maple candies offered for sale. This is the only gas stop in the middle of the parkway, so everything is priced accordingly. If you are looking for souvenirs, wait. We found much better stuff at much better prices once we reached our destination.
The Icefields Parkway was designed with the traveler in mind. The wide shoulders and frequent pull-off vistas provide ample opportunities to stop and soak in the scenery. Wildlife watching is also a possibility, but as the Parks Canada folks will tell you, it is best done from the car. Remember that these are wild animals and that you should never approach them, even for a quick snapshot. Also, pulling your car right up in front of the fauna might get you attacked by a creature of the two-legged variety whose view you are blocking. It may take five hours, but the drive on the Icefields Parkway is worth every second. Slow down to the speed limit and take the time to really see what’s around you. I bet you’ll be glad you did!
From journal Honeymoon, eh? 2 Weeks in the Canadian Rockies
by Ben the Grate
February 23, 2002
This vista is breathtaking! Above the canyon is a thick layer of virgin-white glacier. In the canyon below, a murky river swollen with just-melted ice thunders along, made larger by umpteen waterfalls pouring off the cliffs to join it. What I wouldn't give to be able to hike down here!
You enter Jasper National Park at the British Columbia border, and shortly after this you'll drive RIGHT past Tangle Falls because you're coming down a steep pass. This means you'll HAVE to turn your car around and drive back! Because Tangle Falls is delightful!
Unlike most Rockies waterfalls which are thundering and scary, Tangle pours in many different tiers delicately over the cliff. A maze of trails lead up the left side of the falls for a better look.
Continuing on the parkway, you'll reach the popular Athabasca Falls down a spur road to the left. It's not really as spectacular as other things along this alternate route to Jasper, and I highly recommend deviating from the parkway to take this narrow road, Hwy 93A.
You'll pass the falls visitor center, and then after a few kilometers you'll see spur roads for Geraldine Lakes and the Fryatt Valley. Both of these trails are spectacular, and I highly recommend staying at the Athabasca Falls Hostel a night and hiking these trails, or just camping in the area.
Geraldine Lakes can be visited in a day hike. They are a chain of high-country lakes connected by massive waterfalls.
The Fryatt Valley is a remote and deserted, hanging valley containing two electric blue lakes connected by a thundering waterfall. There is even a primitive cabin in the upper Fryatt Valley that you can stay in. See the Huts and Hostels section of my journal for more info. The hike into the Fryatt Valley is long, perhaps 7 miles. I recommend that you hike in one day, camp or stay at the hut, and hike out the next, or make a 3 day trip out of it.
Continuing down Hwy 93A, we see a turnoff for the Mt. Edith Cavell Hostel and the Angel Glacier.
This is pretty spectacular country, and you must take the popular trail to the Angel Glacier, a cascading glacier in a wild amphitheatre containing a small iceberg lake.
Continuing on the road you'll eventually come to Jasper, a city not nearly as charming as Banff, and you'll be ready to hot-foot it back to Banff. However, it's a 4 hour drive back home, so you might want to spend the night here or at one of the hostels on the road home.
From journal The Quintessential Banff Experience
Thousands of people drive the Icefields Parkway during the summer, so it can be tough to find solitude. The first trick is to go LATE in the season! In September, the crowds begin to thin out as the breezes get a bit cooler. In October and November, the place is almost deserted. A few light snows have not yet graced the slopes enough for the skiers, but have transformed the still-pleasant climate into a wonderland.
Heading out from Banff toward Lake Louise and Jasper you have two options: the TransCanada Hwy 1, which is broad and fast, or the quieter Bow Valley Parkway Hwy 1A. I recommend driving the Parkway going, and then the TransCanada coming back. Though they are separated by only a few miles, the scenery is much more impressive on the Parkway. Just make sure you drive slow as wildlife is thick.
The Bow Valley Parkway and the Transcanada merge at the first major sight: Lake Louise. See the Lake Louise section of my journal for hints on things to do in that area.
Just outside Lake Louise, the Transcanada splits southwest and heads for Yoho Park and places beyond. The MOST SPECTACULAR scenery in all the Canadian Rockies lies down this road (which is not as heavily travelled as the Icefields Parkway) but you'll have to save it for another day. Check out the Yoho Park and Lake O'Hara sections in this journal.
For now, stick to the right, where the Icefields Parkway heads northwest. The first big sight you'll come to is Bow Lake, a large and lovely blue lake fed by the Bow Glacier. Most tourist whizz right past, but if you'll turn left into the entrance for the old Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (a lovely rustic lodge right on the lakeshore) and park behind the lodge, there is a wonderful trail that leads around the shore of the lake and through a rugged narrow canyon to spectacular Bow Falls, a 200 foot wall of water thundering out of the Bow Glacier and over the headwall to feed the canyon and lake. The hike is 4 miles roundtrip and is considered easy. Expect a couple of hours on this hike.
After Bow Lake, the road will begin to climb until you reach Bow Summit. Turn left here and drive up the road, ignoring the sign that says "Only Tour Buses Beyond this point!" Just keep driving until the road ends at a parking lot. Take the very short trail that leads out onto a deck overlooking Peyto Lake, the bluest lake in the Rockies! The view down the valley from here is breathtaking, but you'll be elbow to elbow with elderly Japanese tourists, so escape as quickly as you can.
Please see Part 2...