Travelling on one of Canada’s most scenic roads from Banff to Jasper takes you through the Icefields Parkway, a 232km stretch of road dotted with more than 100 glaciers, emerald lakes and waterfalls. It is an amazing drive with plenty of photo stops along the way to marvel at mother nature’s artwork. One stop you should definitely make is at the largest icefield en route – Columbia Icefield, where you can take a walk on Athabasca Glacier to get a real feel for the natural force which has created this wonderful part of the world.
Athabasca Glacier is the most visited glacier within the icefields, and the trip out on the surface is both fun and informative. Before your expedition begins, I would suggest spending some time in the information centre which has detailed guides about how the glaciers were formed, how much we have explored and sadly, how climate change is affecting these natural wonders. Once you’ve read up it’s time to see for yourself.
From the information centre you take a short bus ride up the road to the tip of the glacier, where you then board the Ice Explorer – a giant heavyweight truck with wheels that are taller than me!! This huge all-terrain vehicle then navigates the gravel road, down steep inclines and onto the glacier – it’s a bumpy ride, but the best part of it is the driver who not only whips up some excitement for the walk ahead, but also makes geology and science make sense by giving some complex information in an easy-to-understand way – there are lots of laughs along the way too!!
Once on the glacier you have about 15 minutes to walk around and take some epic photos – it’s truly magnificent and stunning to see up close. The views of the other glaciers higher up the mountain are beautiful as they shine bright blue and emerald. It can be a bit slippy and unsteady underfoot so sensible shoes are definitely recommended, and if you have them, walking poles too! After exploring the surroundings it’s back on the Ice Explorer to return to the centre. An unforgettable experience.
You can also add on the Glacier Skywalk experience to your ticket, which we did, but to be honest I don’t think the Skywalk is worth it – it’s a semi-circle, glass bottom bridge which juts out of the mountain edge – but it isn’t overlooking the glacier, it’s just a valley below – albeit very far below, so if you like heights and adrenaline maybe you’ll enjoy it, but for me it was the Glacier Walk itself which was the star of the show!