Leaving the exceptional Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier, the Icefield Parkway drives past superb glacier and mountain vistas to two impressive waterfalls. The first, named after from local word for turbulent waters is Sunwapta Falls where glacial ice-melt veers sharply and powers through a narrow cleft in the rock to a deep canyon.
Yet a lookout a few kilometres on highlights the dramatic changes through the Rockies. The valley flatten outs allowing the waters to peaceably expand spreading their wings, lying passively reflecting the glorious mountain backdrops.
A doppelganger of Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls is a more pleasant area to walk and roam following various short trails. Despite an ugly road bridge crossing the falls, gushing water turns left and forces its way through a narrow gorge into a bubbling cauldron below.
Wildlife dominates the area around Jasper and sightings are likely. Driving into Jasper over a couple of days exploring the surrounds, deer, elk and black bears are seen from the roadways cheerfully munching on the lush grass shoots or wild berries while keeping a sneaky eye on camera-prowling visitors.
The highway splits at the falls with the lesser Highway 93A being much the better option. Along a 300 metre path, Horseshoe Lake sparkles a rich cobalt blue and is encircled by stratified cliffs. Brave souls leap from the higher points while numerous peaceful resting spots can be found along the tortured fringes of the lake. Though unmentioned in most brochures, the blue of Horseshoe Lake makes it a highlight of the Icefield Parkway.
The Icefield Parkway is a huge one day undertaking and will almost certainly mean missing major highlights. It is strongly recommended to enjoy the northerly Icefield Parkway highlights on a separate round journey from Jasper as a day drive adding in Mt Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier.
The Icefield Parkway’s seemingly unendless sequence of towering peaks, gouging glaciers, vivid lakes, flower-laden meadows and ever-present wildlife helps it rank as one of the world’s finest drives. Stop at the views and marvel at the exceptional Rockies panoramas as they unfold around every bend and undulation in the road.