Our fourth day on the road saw us driving the entire stretch of the Icefields Parkway through the two most beautiful national parks in Canada. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canadian Rockies of Banff and Jasper National Parks are best seen with your own eyes and at your own pace. I suggest a jeep, packed to the brim with roadtrip snacks and a tent.
We ended our day at the massive campground at Two Jack Lake, just a little ways out of Banff town centre. A little pricier than some of the others we stayed at, we had plenty of room, and plenty of tree cover to protect us from the winds. Day 4 saw us drive 350km in 9 hours.
One of Jasper’s most famous sights, the falls at Athabasca are an impressive gushing of water. Sam and I arrived before 8am to an empty parking lot and an empty viewing deck – the walkways wander between carved out rock and various falls. I suggest first thing in the morning, as this place is notoriously busy.
We would have missed this lake entirely if it weren’t for Sam pulling the car over into what seemed just like a dirt shoulder on the road. It was on my list of places to stop at from my research prior to the trip, so we were keeping an eye out, but a complete lack of signs, meant sheer luck was the only thing that brought us to this beautiful sunrise perch.
Another one of those instafamous places, Sunwapta Falls focuses on the water rushing around the little island and down into the ravine. There is one main bridge from where you can view the falls, so not as impressive or as largely spaced out as Athabasca. It’s a quick 3 minute walk down from the parking lot.
I loved this one especially as it summed up what the entire roadside views of the Icefields Parkway really is. We literally didn’t have to leave the car for these views, and joined the other roadside visitors to take in the landscape.
Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield
This was by far one of my favourite stops of the trip. A number of paid guided tours are available that allow you to walk on the actual glacier, but Sam and I just trekked up the roped off walkway to the foot of the glacier and took in the most beautiful views. I have never been so close to a glacier, and the most-visited glacier in North America was a great first time!
Mistaya is well worth the stop as it’s not one of the famous ones that gets simply overruled with tourists. As such, there are no barriers to keep visitors away from the natural wonders, and one can wander right down to the water’s edge to enjoy the beauty.
Famous for being one of the bluest lakes in the national parks, Waterfowl did not disappoint. Sam even attempted a dip in the freezing water, which I watched comfortably from the shore. This made the trip truly begin to feel like a painting.
More commonly known as the Fox Lake, this impressive feat of nature can only be viewed from afar. This view doesn’t disappoint however, as it offers visitors the iconic look at the fox-like shape of the shores.
One of the harder places to photograph, I found, was Bow Lake. The bridge was cute, and we snapped the iconic pictures crossing there, but I found Bow to be a bit less impressive than some of the other stops from today.
Another one of those right-on-the-road-side views, this glacier takes on the shape of a crow’s foot, with a three-pronged foot of ice stretching across the mountainside.
After not showering for three days, we took advantage of the swimming at Herbert Lake to give ourselves a good wash. We swam across the lake, then jumped back in and swam back – right beside the Icefields Parkway!
When we arrived at Lake Louise, we were met with throngs of people, a jam-packed parking lot, but views that took my breath away. I’ve dreamed of Lake Louise for years, and it was everything I had hoped for – minus the fact that it was far too busy.
Moraine Lake and Valley of Ten Peaks
This beautiful spot is famous for its tooth-like mountain range stretching across the lake like a backdrop. A rock pile offers visitors a top-angle view – don’t be fooled by those climbing the side closest to the parking lot, as there is a trail that wraps around the back side and is substantially safer.
Two Jack Main Campground
We spent the night at Two Jack Campground, tucked away in the forest behind Two Jack Lake in Banff. We spotted a number of wildlife here, including three black bears and an elk crossing the road. Two Jack was a massive campground, and one of the more expensive ones (about $30 for the night including campfire permit) but was a lovely place to spend the night.
*Including photos by Sam