Icefields Parkway & Jasper National Park

Today we made our way to Jasper, going through the Icefields Parkway, often voted one of the most scenic drives in the world.

It’s a 2.5 hour drive through the Rockies, stretching approximately 230km from Lake Louise to Jasper. Many glaciers, lakes, and other natural sites are located on this drive; stops a plenty.

We left our Banff accommodation early to ensure we’d have a full day to explore the different stops along the way.

There are hundreds of places where you can stop and enjoy the different views and lakes, but our main stops were the following: Bow Lake, Bow summit, Peyto lake, Columbia Icefield, Stutfield Glacier viewpoint, Sunwapta Falls, Waterfowl Lakes and Athabasca Falls.

In total it took us about 8 hours to drive to Jasper – you have to stop every 20 min because of the beautiful scenery. Driving directly A to B would be a massive mistake!

Cherry on the cake, we also saw a bear on the side of the road! First time we had both seen one, we were super happy.

We arrived at the end of the day at our accommodation, which is a woman’s house who basically rents out her 2 spare bedrooms to tourists. It was not fabulous but it did the job. Good sized bedroom and a decent breakfast spread.

The next day we decided to drive to Maligne Lake and do another trek to get further training for Patagonia.

As Nick’s knee suffered from our first 18km hike the other day, we decided to keep this one short ish and went for a 13km hike through Moose Lake (we didn’t see any), and then kept on going on the Bald Hills trail. This was without knowing that Bald Hills was a steep 5km uphill battle the entire time!

After wanting to quit a couple of times, we finally made it to the top and the view from up there was quite spectacular over Maligne Lake and the glaciers.

It’s hard getting up these mountains but the views are always so rewarding.

On our way back, we also saw a Caribou on the side of the road. A lot of wildlife in Jasper compared to Banff!

We rewarded ourselves with a drink and nibbles at Earl’s Kitchen + bar, a great venue in the middle of the town with a high outdoor terrace. Perfect way to end a hard day.

Our last day in Jasper was dedicated to hopping around the nearby lakes, and hoping to see more wildlife.

Annette Lake, Edith Lake, Beauvert Lake and Pyramid Lake are the different locations we chose to visit. We couldn’t really hike today as Nick’s knee had had enough by that point, so we were able to get around multiple stops quickly by car.

On our way to Pyramid Lake, we got to see a second bear eating its weight in berries in the bush and finally got a picture!

Also, on our way down we saw what we believe was a young moose (TBC!).

We took a stroll around Pyramid Island on the lake, which gave us brilliant views of the impressive Pyramid Mountain.

We saw a rodeo was in town and thought that would be fun, so that evening we went along. Eating poutine (the delishlously messy chips cheese and gravy combo) whilst watching a rodeo, with the Rockies backdrop and mounties trotting passed – a true Canadian experience! All that was missing was a beaver eating maple syrup pancakes.

The bucking broncos were pretty entertaining, as was the steer racing, but some of the other events seemed a bit cruel. They looked pretty rough wrangling the young bulls, but they seemed tough and bounced back OK. The bull riding was pretty fun to watch.

We had a few downpours of heavy rain, and it was a bit colder than we’d expected after a very sunny couple of days, but all in all it was entertaining. Not really our cup of tea, but fun to experience a past-time they take pretty seriously up here.

For our final day in Alberta, we had a 5hr drive back down Icefields Parkway towards Calgary airport, as it was time to take a break from nature and return to city life (for now).

The drive back wasn’t without excitement – we were lucky enough to have a mumma bear and her two cubs cross the road right infront of us, plodding next to the car and eating berries as they went. Amazing!!

Glad we were in the car too, otherwise we’d have been walking (not running, never run!) the other way. When bears are sighted the police establish a safe perimeter and keep people back, for the safety of both the human and the bear (they shoot it if it attacks).

We had to stop the car a few other times for photos and to take in the scenery, as well as a lunch pitstop, but then it was time to fly.

Next stop, and our final in Canada, Vancouver.

TIPS

  • If you are on a budget, stock up with food in Banff. The supermarket in Jasper is very expensive. Shame we didn’t do that ourselves.
  • Earl’s kitchen + Bar is a great venue for some food and drinks. Their happy hour runs from 3 to 6pm and 9pm to midnight. Food and drinks are a lot cheaper during these hours.
  • Definitely head up to Jasper to see wildlife. We barely saw any animals in Banff, but saw many in Jasper and on Icefields Parkway.

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