The Icefields Parkway is a highway linking the towns of Jasper and Banff and incidentally one of the most scenic drives in the world. The drive takes approximately 4 hours without any stops and a whole day with stops. Set out early to make the most of the wildlife spotting opportunities. There are good chances of spotting grizzly bears along the beginning section of the Icefields Parkway although I was unlucky both times. The car travelling 5 minutes behind me en route to Athabasca Falls reported a wolf sighting, which understandably had me green with envy. The photograph below captures the Athabasca River from Old Fort Point in all of it's dramatic alpine glory.
Above we have Athabasca Falls which are usually gushing with water however when I passed through in mid April these were still completely frozen. If you plan to visit the Rockies, you should really do your research and have a good think about what it is that you most want to see. The Rockies are magical in the springtime however if you came expecting bright blue lakes you might find yourself disappointed. You will see the stark contrast between Spring and Summer in later posts which will cover this same journey undertaken in July.
You will definitely want to make a petrol stop before leaving Jasper. As you climb through the mountains into the wilderness you feel ever more isolated. April is definitely not the best time of year to visit the Columbia Icefields. The tours of the Columbia Icefields do not start running until towards the end of April nor is the Glacier Skywalk open at this time of year so make sure you check out the exact dates at https://www.brewster.ca/Attractions-Sightseeing/Columbia-Icefield-Glacier-Adventure/ ahead of time.
The harsh and unforgiving winter conditions are all too evident from this collection of photographs taken at the Columbia Icefields car park. The glacier itself was barely visible at all in the blizzard that had been blowing.
Efforts had nevertheless been taken to maintain and salt the highway.
Being at the Columbia Icefields at this time of year was still quite an experience. I have been trying to describe what this eerie environment most reminded me of and best comparison that I could come up with (not that I have ever been!) was the hostile and other worldly atmosphere of the Moon.
After passing the Columbia Icefields we experienced a period of bad weather so it was back to listening to a podcast for a couple of hours. Once the outlook had improved, it was time to nip out of the car for a wander through the woods, bear spray in hand and a couple of photo opportunities. The really exciting thing about this drive is that there are so many attractions and stops along the way, you could never have time to see it all in one day. To a certain extent you do have to pick and choose the things you want to see. It is ridiculous just how quickly the day gets away from you.
The best stops are not necessarily the most popular and there is certainly something to be said for just going for a wander off the beaten track (but not too far) without necessarily knowing what you'll find.
I couldn't tell you exactly where the photographs below were taken as this was the result of a speculative wander. The melting ice had given way to the bright blue glacial waters that this region is famous for, leaving a hint of what to expect for the Summer.