Icefields Parkway, Canada
Canada is truly blessed with far more than a fair share of magnificent scenery and if you are fascinated by soaring mountains, glaciers, stunningly beautiful lakes and broad sweeping valleys, then a scenic drive along Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta should definitely be added to your holiday wish list. This 232km stretch of road that winds its’ way through the heart of the Canadian Rockies and through two national parks is a wonderful introduction to the natural wonders of Canada.
Doing the drive in a motor home or campervan from Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton will add another dimension to your adventure and give you the opportunity to stop where and when you like to admire the majestic scenery, meet some of the wildlife or enjoy some of the many activities along the way. A typical itinerary along the Icefields Parkway would take about 5 – 7 days from Calgary to Edmonton, via, Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, or in the opposite direction. (The recommended route is North to South, for the very best views of the mountains, but if you can spare the time do consider driving the route in both directions for an in-depth exploration of the area).
Edmonton to Peyto Lake
Starting in the North at Edmonton you will first drive to Hinton, about 286kms for your first overnight stop and to buy your pass to drive the Parkway at the entrance to the Jasper National Park. You then join Highway 93 for the most scenic part of the drive through the two national parks and past over a hundred glaciers. Keep a lookout for bighorn sheep, elk and mountain goat along this stretch of the Parkway.
At the Columbia Icefields Centre you can board an Ice Explorer vehicle for an 80min adventure of a lifetime onto the Athabasca Glacier, where you will be able to walk on the glacier and learn all about these natural wonders. A little further south you will come to Peyto Lake, the highest point of the Parkway at 2088mt, where you can take a short hike up to the viewpoint, or a longer one Bow Summit lookout, Bow Lake and Sunwapta falls. This is superb place to spend a few days in the great outdoors.
Peyto Lake to Banff and Calgary
Back on Highway 93 you then continue south into the Banff National Park and along the Icefields Parkway to scenic Lake Louise to admire the turquoise colour of this glacier-fed lake. From Lake Louise you can continue into Banff and then head on to Calgary and the conclusion of your drive.
There are good camping grounds in both national parks, but bear in mind that services and shops are in very short supply in this wilderness and be sure that you have a full tank of petrol and supplies before setting out. The Parkway is open all year round, but it would be most unwise to try and drive the route in the heart of winter unless you are well-versed in driving in the snow; bear in mind that sometimes the roads may be closed for days after heavy snowfalls.