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Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

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66 posts
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Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

We will be staying in Banff the second week of July and definitely plan to do the Icefields Parkway drive as far as possible from Banff with stops along the way, but we need to return the same day.

How long would we need to allow to do the Icefields Adventure Tour? I know it will probably be very bus that time of year.

If we skip the Icefields Adventure tour, that would give us more time to drive further north on the Parkway and enjoy more different scenery along the way.

Would appreciate any opinions on the relative merits of the two options. Although most people seem to enjoy the Icefields Adventure tour, I wonder if our limited time would be better spent enjoying more places further up the parkway.

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1. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Just my opinion but I wouldn't do the Icefields Adventure Tour, I thnk your time would be better suited elsewhere. What I would do in its place would be to hike up Parkers Ridge just before the Icefields or Hike up the Wilcox Pass.... assuming that you're interested in hiking. I'd still stop at the glacier and walk up to the tip though.

If you're going to drive the Parkway in one day, you need to get started early AM. Sunrise is 5:30AM and its a 40 minute drive from Banff to the Icefield Parkway. Its 122km or two hours to the Icefields. Its another 103km or 1 1/2 hours to Jasper. So all tallied its a 570km round tripor 4 hours one way with no stops.

If you get up at dawn you could do the drive with numberous stops along the way and be home late that evening. It would be a very full day... but worth your time IMHO. Here are the major site along the way with the GPS cooridnates. Perhaps you could do half on the way up and the other half on the way back.

Herbert Lake

First stop! Everybody stops to photograph this lake with Mount Temple in the background.

Destination: 51.462537,-116.223743

Crowfoot Glacier

Roadside pull off. Stop and get the obligatory photo here. Early morning is best.

Destination: 51.673397,-116.449623

Peyto Lake

ABSOLUTE must see. If you don't get here early you'll have to park and walk the path to the top of the hill.

Destination: 51.716583,-116.49853

Waterfowl lake

Everybody stops here and theer are tons of photo opportunities.

Destination: 51.852587,-116.634078

Mistaya Canyon

An easy hike and a beautiful short hike. Best done in the morning are early evening for photographs.

Destination: 51.941117,-116.717387

The Crossing resort *

This is the only place to get gas on the Parkway. Its at the halfway point. Across the street there is a roadside park that has a great view... worth getting out and walking to the overlook. If you can 1st thing morning as the morning.

Destination: 51.972959,-116.746731

Big Bend on the Icefields Parkway

Stop at the roadside pulloff and get a picture. The sheer size of the mountians will amaze you. Look down and the cars will look like tiny ants

Destination: 52.176356,-117.055834

Parkers Ridge

If the trail is open and I think it will be this is one trail you want to do!! Its about an 40 minutes long and the view at the top is amaazing and exemplifies what the Rockies are all about. A lot of switchbacks but the reward is well worth it.

Destination: 52.191933,-117.116151

Athabasca Glacier

Hike to the tip of the Glacier

Destination 52.219351,-117.228032

Athabasca Falls

Amazing waterfall Right off the parway and weasy to get to

Destination: 52.666279,-117.884384

Sunwapta falls

Right off the parkway and easy to get to

Destination: 52.533323,-117.645507

Mount Edith Cavell

Best to get here as early in the morning as you can so that you can catch the sunrirse off the glacier. You may even catch an iceberg or two floating in the lake.

Turn off for Icefield Parkway: 52.81472,-118.050456

Destination: 52.68887,-118.055906

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2. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Wow!! Itch, that is an amazing bit of info for the drive, many thanks - it is now printed off and stored in my luggage ready for departure ---- which is not till September by the way :)

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3. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Thanks so much for taking the time to provide a wealth of information. Sounds like a long day but we love to see as much as possible when we travel and like to use our time wisely. Planning is definitely a key and your response is a big help.

Ontario, Canada
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4. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Thank you for this detailed report. We will be in Canmore for 7 days in August and knew about most of the places you suggest, but missed Parker Ridge. We will now have to do this! Thanks again for your time.

Banff, Canada
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for Banff, Lake Louise
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5. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

If you're day tripping from Banff - 99.9% of visitors drive to the Icefields and back as a day trip. The reason for this? The scenery is amazing and it's an enjoyable, long wonderful day. The tour buses do this every day and take 9.5 hours. If you're only going for a day - you don't want to go any further, it's just plain too much. I'd highly recommend the Columbia Icefields Glacier adventure. Have you ever been on a Glacier or seen one up close? This is an opportunity not to be missed. If you want an alternative, you can do a guided hike.

I would never recommend driving further or to Jasper as a day trip - while the scenery is incredible, you'll be exhausted. This road is a "pay attention" drive. Meaning, it's real tiring and it requires a lot of mental energy. While I love SunWapta, Athabaska and the Edith Cavell Road - you don't have time. Take the time to enjoy an amazing and very long day - to the Icefields and back to Banff.

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6. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Thanks so much for the reply. After reading more reviews of the Columbia Icefields Glacier Adventure, I have decided that we will definitely include that as part of our itinerary on the day trip and then return to Banff. We do want to take time to see the sights along the way and not be rushed anyway. The guided hike is not really an option due to some mobility problems for both me and my wife.

I read an answer to another post someone's suggestion of driving just another 10km past the Icefields to Tangle Falls and using that as a turnaround point. Would you agree with that recommendation as worth the extra bit of a drive? The post seemed to indicate that the falls were very close to the parkway.

Also, for anyone reading this post who might be interested, there is a combination pass available on explorerockies.com that includes the Lake Minnewanka boat cruise, Banff gondola, and Icefields Glacier Adventure for 99.95 per adult - saves about 30.00 over booking individually and can be used over multiple days.

Looking forward to our visit with great anticipation. Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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7. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

I'm the one who routinely suggests using Tangle Falls as the turn-around point when you are driving a portion of the Icefields Parkway as a day trip from Banff.

Tangle Falls are right beside the road... pull into the parking area (on the left), and (carefully) cross the road for an unobstructed view and photo. Not only are they quite pretty, but the approach to the Icefields as you drive back towards the south is very impressive. I think that extra 10 km (well, 20, going both ways) is well worth the extra bit of time.

There may be short delays, once construction starts on the Brewster Skywalk (which is at a viewpoint between the Icefields and Tangle Falls) but in the latest information they've sent out, they are saying they would be no more than a couple of minutes at a time.

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8. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Thanks for the reply.

With all of the kind help from fellow TripAdvisor members I think we have our Icefields Parkway day trip itinerary pretty well set. I know I would have tried to do way too much without the advice passed along by local experts. That's always one of my problems - I want to see and do everything on one trip with limited time. But we'll try to slow down a bit on this one and enjoy the amazing sights along the way.

Edmonton, Canada
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9. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

Wow..thanks for the gps coordinates!,

10. Re: Columbia Icefields Adventure or continue towards Jasper ?

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