Window on wilderness

“I think myself fortunate amidst the peace and quiet of nature.” Conrad Kain

Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

View from the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

The journey from Lake Louise to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic trips I’ve ever experienced. Referred to as a window on wilderness, the road cuts a trail through the breathtaking scenery of Banff and Jasper national parks in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. It’s a spectacular land with crystal-clear rivers, rushing waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and emerald lakes; where alpine meadows are adorned with colourful wildflowers and wildlife abounds. Below are some photographs I’ve taken on two trips along the Icefields Parkway.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

‘The jewel of the Rockies’ is Lake Louise in Banff National Park. At first light a mirror image of Victoria Glacier shimmers on the lake and this is the best time for taking photographs.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is reputedly the bluest glacial lake in the Rockies. At the beginning of summer it is a deep blue, but as the glacier melts and runs into the lake, it becomes a brilliant turquoise. Tourists have been known to ask locals if the lake is drained each year in order to paint the bottom. The colour is actually created when the water, muddy with rocks, gravel and silt, runs off the glaciers. Upon flowing into the icy lake, most of this debris sinks to the bottom, but fine particles of dust – known as rock flour – remain suspended in the water. As sunlight hits the lake, these particles scatter the blue-green rays of light to form the lakes distinctive hue.

Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield. This massive field of ancient ice covers 325 square kilometres with solid ice up to 350 metres deep. On my first visit I went out onto the glacier in a custom designed ‘Snocoach’ for a walk on the ice and to taste the icy cold glacial waters, which are supposed to bestow long life. But the better option, in my opinion, is to hike the Wilcox Pass for panoramic views of the glacier and surrounding peaks (as seen in the photograph above).

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

The mighty Athabasca River winds its way through Jasper National Park. At this location the waters are forced into a narrow canyon cut into hard, quartz sandstone rock to create the spectacular Athabasca Falls.

On my travels I’ve seen some incredible scenery, but this stretch of highway would have to be one of the world’s best road trips. What do you think? Is there a more scenic route? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

If you would like to read more of my blogs about the Canadian Rockies click on the following links: Hiking gems in the Canadian Rockies, You are in bear country, Awesome hikes: Crypt Lake and Photo story – spotting an elk in near Jasper.


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