Amazing Icefields Parkway - September 6th, 2011

The Icefields Pkwy – one of the world's most beautiful roads – from Lake Louise to Jasper, Alberta, Canada. This breathtaking pkwy parallels the Continental Divide for 143 miles! Here is the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle, straddling two Canadian Nat’l Parks and two provinces, with meltwaters flowing into three oceans:  Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic. Cool beans!  The Pkwy passes within viewing distance of seven icefields (large upland glaciers) and about 25 smaller but still notable glaciers!  Melt water from the glaciers is a stunning turquoise blue - photo above is unretouched. 

Wonderful sights abound along this pkwy.  Below is an animal overpass, with shrubs and small trees planted atop. This gives wild animals access to the other side without endangering motorists or the animals.  We saw several of these while in Canada.  Not sure if the states have any yet.

There's not an inch on this road that lacks scenery.  I wish there were more places to pull off, but we appreciate each one we can get into (as above).

Not too much traffic, either.

The centerpiece is the massive Columbia Icefield, the largest in the Rocky Mountains. These glaciers and icefields dwell in the mtns of the Continental Divide – the North American backbone – with over 40 named peaks, most well over 9,000’. 

Except for about 50 miles of frost heaves on the roadbed (jars the jaws), the drive is truly a tour de force. This is our second time on the parkway.  Three years ago we drove as far as the Columbia Icefield where we climbed aboard a big red Ice Explorer that took us right onto Athabasca Glacier – a 20 minute foot-freezing experience. This year we stopped at the Icefield Centre to eat our lunch (in the parking lot), before driving on to Jasper (another 60 miles) … a place we’ve not been to before. 

You’d think it would be cold or at least cool this far north AND next to ice for miles. False: We enjoyed 80° temps. Jimmy donned his long-sleeved shirt for the Icefield Centre photo because strong winds were blowing off the glacier, but I was fine in shirt sleeves. Amazing. We are looking forward to being in Jasper. Whistlers is the only C/G now open; all the rest closed yesterday for the season.  Short campground season this far north.

I think we spied some fall color on today’s drive…. Can winter be far away?

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