Day 4 – 8/21/16
Icefields Parkway – a MUST!!!
We checked out of Fairmont early in the morning, and headed toward Jasper National Park via Icefields Parkway. National Geographic calls it “one of the world’s ten greatest drives”. Stretching 230-km between Lake Louise and Jasper, this well maintained scenic drive offers easy access to many of the glacier lakes, ice fields and majestic viewpoints of Canadian Rockies. Though you can get to Jasper in under 3 hours with no stops, it took us 2 days to drive round trip.
Hector Lake – Milepost 16-km
Crowfoot Glacier – Milepost 33-km
Bow Lake Lookout – Milepost 34-km
Bow Lake is a small lake on high elevation, and it’s located on the Bow River which runs along side Icefield Parkway.
Bow Lake to Inlet Trail – milepost 37-km, 1.9km one way, easy and beautiful
This is part of the Bow Lake to Bow Glacier Falls trail. If we had more time, I would love to hike all the way to the bottom of the Bow Glacier Fall (4.7km one way). This first part of the trail from parking lot to Inlet was flat and easy, yet offered beautiful views with Crowfoot mountain across the lake and Mount St. Nicholas on the skyline ahead. Part of the trail gets flooded from time to time. While you could take a detour and get across, the three of them decided to hop over on the rocks placed there for flooding like this.
Waterfowl Lakes – Milepost 57 12:10pm
We skipped Peyto Lake on the way to Jasper so we would have enough time to hike Parker Ridge and visit Columbia Icefields. We did an amazing hike to Bow Summit off Peyto Lake on Day 6, check it out.
Parker Ridge – Milepost 118-km, 1pm
Icefields Parkway to Saskatchewan Glacier Viewpoint – 2.7km one way with 250m elevation gain, magnificent view, a Must! However, this trail is usually covered by snow till mid-July, check with park’s visitor center before planning the hike.
The Parker Ridge hike is a relative short, highly rewarding excursion into the alpine life zone. The trail rises quickly above the tree line and crosses a high, open ridge. On a sunny summer afternoon, it can get hot pretty quickly. The trail is mainly a series of gradually ascending switchbacks with occasional unofficial shortcuts among the ground-hugging plants with views of glaciers and rugged peaks all around. Once reached summit after 2.1km (at 2250-meter), it was an easy stroll on open and windy ridge.
Saskatchewan Glacier is 9-km long. It’s one of the 8 major glaciers of Columbia Icefields.
Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier – Milepost 127km, 3:30pm
We parked our car at the visitor center and took a tank-like bus to the Athabasca Glacier for a 90-minute tour. The bus was cool, it has huge tires and can travel on ice. One stretch of the ride involved a downhill with 35% grade! It felt like sitting on a slow motion roller coaster. Once the tank securely parked on the glacier, we were given 30 minutes to explore the icefield. The walk wasn’t particularly impressive, especially compared to the glacier walk we did in Alaska where a helicopter took us onto the glacier and we were led by a guide to explore the cracks and caves.
Following the glacier trek, we were transported to Glacier Skywalk, a glass-bottom look out platform perched 280 meters above the valley below.
Hike to Toe of Athabasca Glacier – 2-km loop with moderate elevation
They were all tired, so I went on this hike by myself. It had a steady incline, steep at times. I was literally at the toe of Athabasca Glacier hearing the running water and seeing crevasses and moraines. Athabasca Glacier shrank 70% in the last 170 years, at this rate, it might disappear in another 70 years :-O