Banff and the Icefields Parkway

Sept. 3-4, 2012

It was time to leave Jasper and head south to Banff. Jasper and Banff are connected by the Icefields Parkway which is billed as being one of the most scenic drives in North America.

Our first stop on the parkway was the Athabasca Falls. The falls are only about 40 feet high but the narrow canyon adds to the drama. There are lots of walkways to many different viewpoints of the falls, canyon, and river.

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Our next stop was Icefield Centre. This is the official Parks Canada visitor center for the Icefields parkway. And surprisingly, this is also the only real place you can see any significant amount of ice from the Icefields parkway. The center houses a small interpretive museum about the Icefields, but functions mostly as a giant bus depot for tourists taking the bus tours to the ice field. Even though they have some cool “busses”, which look like someone crossed a monster truck with a tour bus, we elected not to do the tour as it was quite a long wait and we had already been on more extensive glacier treks.

A hint of the ice fields.

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We continued southward and made our next stop at Bow Summit (I think). There we took a short trail to an overlook of a nice glacial meltwater lake (Peyto Lake perhaps?)

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Our last major stop was the town of Lake Louise. There is a very posh resort there sitting on the edge of an alpine lake, with views of a glacier across the lake. Its hard to imagine a more idyllic place.

This is a panorama of the lake, somewhat muted by the lack of sunlight. If there was no fog/mist, there would be a glacier visible in the center between those two mountains. Click the picture to get a bigger view.

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One last picture from the drive. This is Mount Rundle, my favorite peak from the Icefields Parkway.

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This time we chose to stay in the ”big” campground in Banff National Park, the Tunnel Mountain Campground. We chose sites with no hookups, and since the summer season was over, there were no longer any crowds to deal with.

We only have one full day in Banff, so there wasn’t time to do much. Its definitely a place we will return to someday for a more thorough visit.

In the morning we headed out to tour the town on foot. We intended to go to the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, but unfortunately its not open every day and it was not our lucky day. So we only got to enjoy the architecture of the building, which was built in 1903.

This is the museum, and three locals (photo releases pending) apparently waiting for a bus.

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Close up of the log construction.

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We continued wandering about the town, which definitely feels like an upscale resort town. Here’s a random street, but a very typical mountain view. There aren’t many places you can go and not have a great view.

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We eventually end up at a local café for lunch, where we linger too long due to the free wi-fi access.

Later in the day, Reen and I managed to get a little exercise by taking a nearby hiking trail which was a few miles long and circumnavigated the massive campgrounds.

Nice shot of the mountains from the trail.

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Very nice looking resort as seen from the trail.

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The camping was not quite as nice if you wanted water and electrical hookups. I think we made the right choice choosing the primitive area.

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That night we completed out Canadian Rockies adventure with a trip to the Banff Hot Springs, to once again enjoy a relaxing evening soaking our bodies while simultaneously soaking in the spectacular scenery.

One thought on “Banff and the Icefields Parkway

  1. John and I did the “monster bus” tour, walked on that Athabasca glacier and drank a cupful of ??? old glacier water. It was snowing up there the whole time and it just felt magical! Lake Louise and Peyco equally spectacular!

    I’m sorry Calgary was tipped with sadness but y’all had a wonderful trip together &
    I for one loved hearing all about it…being adventurous too at heart!

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