Touring the Icefields Parkway: From Banff to Jasper

When we first thought of the idea for our Canadian adventure, Will and I both knew the Icefields Parkway would be at the top of our must-do list. It’s routinely considered to be one of the most scenic highways in the world, and let me take a sec to confirm that. The roadside scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

Upon arriving in Canada, we spent a single night at a border campground before beelining it to the Icefields Parkway. We rolled into the Lake O’Hara trailhead around 8pm and parked the van amidst darkened skies and fat snowflakes. Yes, winter had arrived! The wet, slushy snow fell around the van as we nestled inside with our heater, enjoying the coziness of the Eurovan. The Icefields Parkway would wait til tomorrow!

The Icefields Parkway

All Photos By My Husband {Except for two. I’ll let you guess which two!}

The morning dawned brisk and wet. Rather than stay in the general area and hike through the rain, we changed our plans. We’d leave the Banff area and head north to Jasper. With four hours of driving separating the two mountain towns, we figured the weather patterns could be drastically different.

As Jerry the Eurovan pointed north with Tals curled around the stick shift, I pressed my face to the glass of my window. The Colorado Rockies are stunning from the car but I have *literally* never seen roadside scenery quite like the Canadian Rockies. Towering, rugged peaks dotted the skyline, frosted with snow and glaciers. Turquoise-aqua lakes littered the ground while various fall colors filled in between. It was like a cornucopia of colors and I was losing my mind!

The Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway

Since we had no schedule, we decided to break up the 150-mile road into pieces. If we saw something beautiful, we would explore. And truthfully, we didn’t make it very far before we saw the glistening water of Bow Lake sparkling on the west side of the highway. It was time to hike!

We spent days and days hiking along the Canadian Rockies, so I’m not going to detail every single outing. I will say that Bow Lake and the corresponding hiking was perfect for our first trail time. The previous night’s snow was still sitting on the trees while muddy singletrack skirted the lake shore. It was chilly and messy but oh-so-wonderful.

The Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway

After Bow Lake, we settled into our Eurovan, only to pop back out a few minutes later. A road sign pointed us to the west, indicating Peyto Lake. Truthfully, I had no idea what Peyto Lake was but Will nodded in a knowing manner. “Trust me,” he said. “You’re going to love this.”

Wow. Just, wow.

The Icefields Parkway

We struggled to find the unmarked trail that drops down to the shore of Peyto, so we satisfied ourselves with the popular overlook. It was a slushy, uphill climb to the scenic platform, but it was worth the crowds and slip-sliding. I have never, ever in my life seen color quite like it.

The Icefields Parkway

And Tally? She could barely comprehend what she was seeing! I worried about her becoming anxious with all of the people, but we had no cause for concern. Once we reached the overlook, she became immediately enthralled with the lake. In fact, she stuck her head through the slats to get a closer look, and intently stared down at the lake for as long as we would let her!

More on the Icefields Parkway coming soon!

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19 Comments

  • Reply Heather @ FITaspire October 5, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Just gorgeous – the canadian rockies are absolutely on my must do list!

    • Reply heather October 6, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      You would love them!

  • Reply Kelsey Frazzitta October 5, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    I love your blog! Its so inspirational! 🙂

    • Reply heather October 6, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      You’re sweet– thanks!

  • Reply Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine October 6, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I lost my mind when I finally saw the Colorado Rockies. I can’t even imagine my reaction if I someday see the Canadian Rockies if they are anything like the way you describe them. And I think I can trust you on that one. 😉 While all of the snow in these pictures is giving me a little anxiety, I truly love hearing about your trip. As usual, looking forward to more!

    • Reply heather October 6, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Not a fan of the snow I take it?!

      • Reply Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine October 7, 2015 at 6:09 pm

        We’re learning to get along. I like it when I can play in it. Not when I have to commute through Philadelphia in it. It’s a process. But without it, I couldn’t ski. So that’s one thing. 🙂

  • Reply Lindsey October 6, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Amazing! And so much snow already!

    • Reply heather October 6, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      It was crazy! Although locals told me it was a touch early; most had melted by the time we left.

  • Reply Katie October 6, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Dude, the snowmen are SO CUTE! And, as always, the photos are AMAZING. When Dan and I drove from AK to PA, we were in Jasper and Banff around the same time, but you saw a lot more snow than we did. So awesome! Can’t wait to read more 🙂

    • Reply heather October 6, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      hahaha that’s MY photo! 😉

  • Reply KovasP October 7, 2015 at 4:30 am

    What a beautiful area, the lake colors are unreal.

  • Reply Julie October 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Wow, that view is unreal!

    j.
    http://www.outstyled.com/

  • Reply Julie October 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Even though you didn’t make it down to the water edge, that view is unreal!
    j.
    http://www.outstyled.com/

  • Reply Julie October 7, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    That view is unreal!
    j.

  • Reply Julie October 7, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Oops, sorry I was having some computer difficulties – obviously I liked the view 🙂

  • Reply Patrice October 7, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Yep, confirms what I thought. Canadian Rockies=Mind Blown. We may have to move it up on our list. I’m betting you’ll do something like this, but maybe a top 5 hot spots to hit for us planners to refer back to? Thanks for giving us a glimpse!!

  • Reply Patrik October 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    Awesome pics. Tanks for sharing!

  • Reply 5 Days in the Canadian Rockies - Love Life Surf June 26, 2016 at 11:41 am

    […] Peyto Lake — a quick 10 minute, steep in parts walk up to the viewing platform. I remember seeing Heather’s pictures of the lake and knew that I wanted to see this unreal color for myself. It started raining so we […]

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