Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Icefields Parkway

This is an ongoing series recapping my 2008 trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

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.

Crowfoot Glacier

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.

Bow Lake

Traveling further, the lovely aqua-blue waters of Bow Lake got our attention, and provided yet another reason to pull over.

Roadside fireweed

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.

Peyto Lake

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.

Mistaya Canyon

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.

Mistaya River

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!

Tangle Falls

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


  1. Wow, how spectacular! Here's hoping the glaciers don't melt away.

  2. Gorgeous, Linda, and sublime.

  3. I wouldn't have been able to bypass all that Fireweed either!

  4. What wonderfully scenic country! A great series of memories.

  5. Breathtaking photos. I am so enjoying your blog and amd very glad you found me so I could find you :o) We call Fireweed Rosebay Willowherb in the UK.

  6. You captured beauty... so beautifully. Wow!
    I really wanna go there!

  7. Your photos are really getting me so excited as i have finally booked my flight to Canada and am hoping to see some of this fantastic scenery for myself. Just can't wait for June.

  8. I regularly see pictures of Canada on another fellow blogger friend's site. It never stops to amaze me how abundance is the beauty of the snow capped peaks and the high mountain lakes here. You have captured some fantastic images which do try justice to this beautiful country. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Truly breathtaking photos! The scenery there is beyond words!!!

  10. Hello Linda, it does look like a must see kind of scenic drive. I love the mountain views, lakes and the pretty wildflowers.. Your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your trip! Have a great day!

  11. Wow, breathtaking views. I don't know which one I like best; they're all so good. The photo of Peyto Lake is spectacular. We have a lot in common, Linda...we both love the great outdoors and all its awesomeness!

  12. That drive is the most amazing drive I've ever been on. We took the kids and stopped at many of the same places. Absolutely stunning; I want to go back.

  13. Wow! Double Wow! What fabulous pictures, and fireweed is also one of my favorite wildflowers. Just beautiful pictures, some of them absolutely breathtaking. :-)

  14. I've traveled that road and must say you sure did capture its beauty!

  15. All of the pictures are breathtaking. Love the reflections and the mountains.

  16. What a wonderful blue sky day to make it even more stunning and breath taking.

  17. Fireweed is my favorite. All these photos make me think of Alaska.

  18. Wow, that is an abundance of magnificent scenery and incredible photos. I can't wait for the next post!

  19. Waaaaaaaaaaa, I want to go back. I think the Canadian Rockies are more spectacular than the Colorado Rockies.

    fabulous images Linda. brings back more wonderful memories for me.

  20. Wow - what a spectacular place!

  21. Gorgeous! I've been showing your photographs to my husband, and we've put a return trip to Banff on our road trip list.

  22. Your photos of Banff are extraordinary! Such good shots of the mountains! Wonderful.

  23. Oh, my, what a wonderful set of photos. Wonderful when expanded.

  24. This world of our's certainly is beautiful, but the west has a beauty all of its own. Tom The Backroads Traveller

  25. Magnificent shots Linda - thank you for sharing. I know what you mean about wanting to "linger longer" on a long journey such as this because of the beautiful "distractions": when staying on Vancouver Island this time last year, I took a drive on the Pacific Rim Route which, according to the brochure, was a comfortable day trip - because I kept stopping to take photos of the gorgeous scenery (such a contrast to Australia's wide brown land), it was an overnighter and another half day's journey! Fabulous fun when you're not restricted by a timetable!

  26. Wow what a fantastic day that must have been! I enjoyed all the photos very much! Fireweed is such a beautiful plant! :)

  27. Gorgeous around every turn. Life is amazing when you hit a sunny day in the mountains!

  28. Dearest Linda; OMG! Another spectacular scenery in Canada from your trip♡♡♡ What awesome nature and fireweed is lovely as well. I'm almost jealous:-)

    Sending Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan to my Dear friend, xoxo Miyako*

  29. Wow! What an amazing place! The lake and its reflections are beautiful Linda!

  30. I'm so enjoying these photos! I almost feel like I've been there!

  31. Gorgeous scenery! Absolutely breathtaking. I love the fireweed. Have a great weekend.

  32. I'm reading your blog posts before Ben on my iPad....several times I have said to my husband, "are you awake? You have got to see this!" Your landscapes are photographed beautifully!

  33. Hi, I need to take photos of fireweed in bloom in canada for a project, and I stumbled across your blog. Gorgeous photos by the way! Do you mind me asking what time of you year you found the fireweed so gorgeously in bloom? thanks!


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