Day Five (Tuesday) – Icefields Parkway and Jasper National Park

Waking up at Golden, BC, we stocked up on food and water, gassed up, and headed out to Jasper National Park and the Icefields Parkway. Jasper National Park seems to be less “touristy” than Banff, which we appreciated, since we are more into the natural environment and love mountains!

The Icefields Parkway – Alberta 93 – is so named due to the presence of several glaciers along the way. One of these glaciers (Columbia Icefield) feeds rivers flowing to the Pacific Ocean (Columbia River) and the Atlantic Ocean (North Saskatchewan River).

The Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

The only store of any consequence along the Parkway is Saskatchewan River Crossing. We stopped in the store, and there was a wide array of gifts and souvenirs, along with a restaurant, gas pumps, and ice cream!

Athabasca Icefield

After replenishing ourselves, we proceeded to the Athabasca Icefield, the source of the Athabasca River that flows to the Arctic Ocean, and a source for the Columbia River that flows to the Pacific Ocean. If you want to walk on the glacier, there are special buses that actually go onto the glacier. If you decide to do so, please take care with children, as the crevasses in the glacier are very deep, and there is no assurance that rescuers can get someone out of a deep crevasse.

Since we are from Minnesota, we felt we get enough of that in a normal winter! We instead drove to the public viewing area off of the Icefields Parkway. From the parking lot to the glacier is about ½ mile, but well worth the walk!

Athabasca Icefield

Athabasca Icefield

What we found interesting is that where Ava is seated was under the glacier 30 years ago. Glaciers naturally grow and recede depending on the weather, but that fact still stunned us!

Along the Icefields Parkway, in addition to several glaciers, are quite a few waterfalls visible from the road.

About 30 miles south of Jasper, Alberta is Athabasca Falls. Turn off of the Icefields Parkway onto Alberta Highway 93A, and look for signs for the parking lot. There is ample parking for viewing the falls.

Athabasca Falls does not have a tall drop, but the volume of water is simply amazing!

Jasper, Alberta

We arrived in the town of Jasper, and found it was less touristy than Banff. There still is a wide array of shops catering to visitors, but the town itself tended to be on a more “user-friendly” scale. Ample parking is available in a lot next to the train depot.

We stop at all of these stores on our road trips. When we travel, we have kids and grandkids that want something from where we went. Shirts saying “My grandparents went to Canada, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” is not an acceptable alternative!

While we would have loved to spend the night in Jasper, the room rates in Hinton – 48 miles northwest of Jasper – were much more reasonable and worth the added miles. We headed off to Hinton for the night.

Read on to Day 6: Maligne Lake, Hot Springs, and a Long Travel Day