Alberta’s Icefields Parkway: Amazing sights that ARE NOT Peyto Lake

Icefields Parkway near Jasper

Know what EVERYONE says is the place to stop on Alberta’s Icefields Parkway? Peyto Lake. And they’re not wrong – Peyto rivals Lake Louise for its stunning turquoise water and peaceful scenery.

But the best thing about this scenic parkway is that there’s almost nowhere you can look that isn’t chock-a-block stuffed with the kind of exceptional beauty you can only find in the Canadian Rockies. Add to that a blue sky, some golden hour sun, or a nice sunset, and you’ll be stopping at every single scenic overlook.

Boyfriend Perspective: You won’t have enough time in a day to take all the pictures at all the places. Also there is no phone service, so pack some snacks and…LE GASP!!…talk to the person next you.

 

Bow Lake

Things to know:

  • Tour buses stop here for people to check out the view – seriously, selfie-sticks for DAYS – so get ready to (politely) buck for your shot.
  • There are outhouses at this stop – woo!

 

Goats and Glaciers

Things to know:

  • We didn’t see any goats, but there’s a reason for the name. We got there a little early for goat sightings, but they do hang out in this area.
  • You’ll need to park and take a quick walk along a dirt path, and you’ll come out to a nice, moderately built-out overlook area.
  • There’s a hike associated with G&G if you have the time!

 

Saskatchewan Crossing

Things to know:

  • The view and depth of water vary based on time of year.
  • This one is pretty close to Jasper, so you’ll be able to get in some sight-seeing and maybe a snack.

 

Columbia Icefield

Things to know:

  • Brewster.ca coordinates glacier adventure tours that take you up onto this glacier in an ice vehicle. We decided not to do it, since we’d had such a great glacier adventure on our own in Iceland.
  • If you don’t want to grab a shot on the go (like we did – thanks for driving, Luke!), there’s turn-off for a dirt road that leads to a parking lot down by the base of the glacier. You can definitely grab snaps from there, as well.
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Sunwapta Falls

Things to know:

  • You’d never know this was here if not for a small sign. We got curious and happened to turn off. Take the dirt road, then park in an asphalt lot and walk literally about 5 minutes. Then, BOOM, waterfall!
  • Tons of people come here for hikes. It was uncrowded when we arrived because it was verging on dusk, but keep in mind this is right at the head of a couple of trails, so there’s liable to be a fair bit of traffic during other times of day.

 

Athabasca Pass and River

Things to know:

  • There’s not a great overlook for the Athabasca River. We chanced it like a few other people and pulled off on the shoulder for these shots. Luke actually started exploring under the overpass bridge and got the rockiest shot from there.
  • The overlook for Athabasca Pass is pretty cool, because it features wooden signs identifying all the nearby mountain peaks. Some other pull-offs have these, as well, and they’re a great feature!

 

Tangle Creek

Things to know:

  • This sucker is literally right by the road. There’s a shallow pull-off (not built-out like some of the others), but you’ll still have to hop across traffic for a decent angle on these falls.
  • You can get shots of the creek pretty easily from your car, if need be.
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The road, itself

Pro tips to do this right:

  • Start early. While this can be done in a day, it’s definitely not a short drive. You’re looking at at least 6 hours round trip, without stopping for photos or construction.
  • Try not to pull off onto the shoulder. This is especially true if there’s traffic or if you’re in a vehicle that’s wider than a standard mid-sized SUV. The shoulder width varies widely along the parkway, so be very cautious about where and when you choose to stop.
  • Be aware the you’re driving on twisty mountain roads. They’re not switch-backs like you’d find in West Virginia, but you’re still dealing with lots of turns and grades at relatively high speed. Err on the site of cautiousness (there are plenty of safe, official passing lanes if other drivers get impatient).
  • There’s a fair bit of stopping. While we were there, there were several road improvement projects happening that caused two lane roads to funnel down to single lanes, or caused noticeable slowdowns. You get plenty of warning about construction zones and reduced speed corridors, so be sure to follow those instructions closely.
  • If you want to do more than stop for pics, plan to do this over a few days. There are TONS of amazing hikes associated with all of the above views. If you’re looking to do a bunch of them, rent a camper or stay in a really central location in Jasper.

Boyfriend Perspective: If you don’t plan on taking pictures but want to look at the view, be a passenger. The view in front of the car was always nice but being able to look around is a treat just for passengers. Though, if you ride with us, there is a passenger tax: you must take photos of everything.

 

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driving albertas icefields parkwayMeagan | Two Restless Homebodies

15 Replies to “Alberta’s Icefields Parkway: Amazing sights that ARE NOT Peyto Lake”

  1. Gorgeous! I live in Switzerland so I am surrounded with lakes and mountains but it must feel very much different because Canada is more wild than Switzerland. Here we have small village every 10km or so and the wildlife isnt as exciting as the one in Canada. I hope to visit Canada one day!

    1. Man, I can’t imagine being surrounded with scenery that looks even remotely like this, wild or not!! Switzerland is so lovely in and of itself… it’s actually on our to-visit list! Guess the pines are always greener on the other side? 😛

  2. yogawinetravel says: Reply

    I really want to hop on a plane and visit Canada soon! Tangle Creek looks absolutely amazing, and the reflection at Bow Lake is spectacular. Sounds like a wonderful road trip.

    1. I hope you can! It gets so overlooked with folks in the States think about vacations, but there’s so much to do and see in all different parts of Canada that it’s completely worth a visit… or several 🙂

  3. These pictures are absolutely amazing! Bow Lake looks fantastic. I might have to look at visiting Canada!

    1. DO IT! 🙂 There’s so much to see, and so much variety. I haven’t taken Luke to Quebec yet, but just knowing how beautifully different Quebec, Vancouver, and the Rockies all are, I can’t encourage your enthusiastically enough 😀

    2. DO IT! 🙂 There’s so much to see, and so much variety. I haven’t taken Luke to Quebec yet, but just knowing how beautifully different Quebec, Vancouver, and the Rockies all are, I can’t encourage you enthusiastically enough 😀

  4. Bow Lake is a perfect reflection shot, I understand why the tour buses stop there! Albertas Icefields looks like the perfect location for photographers. I’d imagine hiking this area is amazing, if not I’d be more than happy to pay your passenger tax!

    1. Hahahah! You’re 100% on point – there are more hiking trails than you can shake a stick at, and I don’t think you could go wrong with any of them. Driving was nice for our first time through, though, in that we got to see a TON of stuff and get a better idea of what we’d like to do when we go back.

  5. The views, the glaciers, the ice fields, and the river, everything is absolutely stunning. And I really like your tips at end of the post, they are so helpful for someone wanting to explore these terrains

    1. I’m so glad you found the tips helpful! It’s really one of our favorite places, so I’m glad you enjoyed exploring it vicariously with us 🙂

  6. Mario / the-backpacker.net says: Reply

    Canada has been sooo long on my bucketlist… I’m always moving it up and down.. Watching the pics you took I’m quite jealous though – when have you guys been there? I guess during winter months you might even see some northern lights there, right?

    1. We were there in early October (right in time for peak color change in the mountains) and we actually had one super strong aurora night while we were there. My own captures of the lights weren’t as fab as I would’ve liked, but I saw others tagged on Twitter that were INSANE. There’s a Twitter handle called @aurorawatch that lets you know when to be on high alert for them in Alberta 🙂

  7. My brother stays near Alberta and he speaks highly of the area and its attractions. I am totally awestruck at the beauty of Icefields Parkway and the stunning sights one can explore. Given a chance, I would love to spend an entire day sitting by the Sunwapta Falls and taking in the gorgeousness.

    1. Ooooo so you have an excuse to go visit 😉 Sunwapta was definitely lovely, and there’s a fair bit more to see than we had time to explore (the light was fading pretty quickly).

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