On the list of Banff's greatest hits, the Icefields Parkway definitely makes top five. A scenic highway paralleling the continental divide, it passes rugged, glacier-topped peaks and clear blue lakes. Linking Lake Louise with the town of Jasper, this route winds through both Banff and Jasper National Parks. I was told a trip to Banff wouldn't be complete without a drive on this road. Not one to ignore good advice, I wasn't about to miss it!
|Herbert Lake reflections|
Day five of our vacation, my hubby and I rose extra-early and set out to travel as much of the route as we could in a day. The Icefields Parkway is 230 km (140 miles) in length, one way. Due to the abundance of attractions along this road (translation - many stops), we figured traveling the entire distance to Jasper was a stretch.
It was another lovely blue-sky day. Our first stop was at Herbert Lake to capture the perfect mountain reflections on it's glassy surface.
Next, we paused to check out Crowfoot Glacier. This glacier was named because it's three outstretched ice fields resembled toes on a crow's foot. Unfortunately, in the early 1930's, one of the "toes" broke off, and has since melted away. Now it's merely a two-toed crow.
Traveling further, the lovely aqua-blue waters of Bow Lake got our attention, and provided yet another reason to pull over.
Such a scenic area! Not only beautiful blue waters, the adjacent mountains towered their craggy peaks steeply above the lake's surface. Glaciers suspended in crevices looked ready to slide off at any moment. To cap things off, bright pink fireweed bloomed thick along the roadside.
So much beauty to see! Roger and I felt like we weren't traveling very far before getting sidelined by another wonderful sight. The next jaw-dropping attraction was Peyto Lake. Located deep in a glacial valley, a paved pathway took visitors to a breathtaking view high above it's surface. Absolutely stunning! Framed by steep mountain peaks, ringed by thick forests, and a remarkable aqua-blue color, it was probably my favorite vista of the entire parkway.
|Glacier that feeds Peyto Lake|
The unique blue color of many lakes here was due to glacial "flour," fine particles of silt ground as the glacial ice moves over rock. The overlook for Peyto Lake also included a great birds-eye view of the glacier that feeds this lake.
|View from the car window|
After a thoroughly enjoyable stop at Peyto Lake, it was "on the road again." The scenery along the highway was fantastic. A wall of snow-capped peaks as far as the eye could see.
|Looking for wildlife at Waterfowl Lake|
Seeing a sign for Waterfowl Lake, Roger, who loves trying to spot animals, decided to check it out. While my hubby scanned the water's surface for wildlife, I took advantage of some great light illuminating the adjacent mountains.
|Lovely Waterfowl Lake|
Although Roger's quest didn't net him any bird sightings, I scored big on amazing scenery shots.
Further down the road from Peyto and Waterfowl Lakes, a sign for Mistaya Canyon provided yet another reason to detour. Roger and I followed a trail to a powerful river (the Mistaya River) whose waters had carved deep grooves through adjacent limestone.
The river's light gray-blue water was stunning. And we discovered yet another water body nicely framed by a wall of ice-capped peaks.
|Glaciers stick to mountains like whipped cream|
Yet the mountains didn't end. Around every turn of the road were more peaks reaching to the sky. Some of the glaciers perched on their tops looked ready to slip off at any moment. I thought the white glacial ice resembled a coating of whipped cream. I later read that many of these peaks towered over 3,300 meters (11,000 feet) in height.
|Mountains and flowers|
At one point on the drive, fireweed bloomed so thickly on the roadside, I made Roger pull over so I could check it out.
One of my favorite wildflowers, I never pass up a chance to capture it's bright pink petals.
|Mountains and water|
Back on the road, following the scenic Mistaya River across broad glacial plains.
|View from Sunwapta Pass|
And then climbing, up, up, up, steeply to the summit of Sunwapta Pass. Oh, were the views glorious on top!
Icing on the cake.....not only wonderful vistas awaited visitors to Sunwapta Pass, a lovely cascade, Tangle Falls, stairstepped down the mountainside.
|Tangle Falls, upper portion|
Tall, glacial mountains, unique blue lakes, scenic rivers, thick forests, and - waterfalls! This road had it all!
|One side you're in Banff....|
We passed the boundary between Banff and Jasper National Parks, and being the dork that I am, I made Roger stop to commemorate the occasion. (Photographically, of course!)
|And the other in Jasper!|
There's one sign marking both park entrances. One side you're in Jasper.....and the other you're in Banff!
|Lovely green meadows|
From Sunwapta Pass, the road wound down a long incline into a lush green valley. And - yes - ringed by more fabulous mountain peaks. (Ho hum....more mountains.....)
|Approaching the Columbia Icefields|
Up ahead we spied the Columbia Icefields, and the Athabasca Glacier. Another must-see on our Icefields Parkway tour, it deserves a blog post all it's own. And that's why I'm saving it for part two. Join me for my next post, and prepare to be amazed!
Sharing with: Scenic Weekends and Weekend Reflections and Our World Tuesday