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The award for the most scenic drive in North America goes to Icefields Parkway. In fact, it’s often referred to as the ‘world’s most spectacular road’, and it’s hard to argue. Snaking its way along the Rockies, the route offers gobsmackingly gorgeous views of turquoise lakes, alpine glaciers, rolling valleys and thundering waterfalls. Around every bend, up every hill and down every descent is a new and unexpected natural wonder that will take your breath away. With its sheer scale and vivid colours, this epic journey will have your camera itching for action - if there was ever a time to capture that perfect lake-and-mountain shot for your Instagram, it’s here.
Icefields Parkway runs through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site, from Lake Louise in Banff to Jasper National Park. Although the 230km road can be driven in just a few hours, it’s far too tempting to stop along the way. Make sure you spare some extra time in your itinerary to get out and explore the numerous hiking trails and viewpoints for a closer look at the jaw-dropping landscapes unfolding before you.
Whether you’re standing on a rocky precipice looking down on a glacier-fed lake or standing at the bottom of a surging waterfall, memorable moments await around every corner. And it’s not just tourists that frequent this mountain route either - the occasional elk or goat can often be spotted wandering along the roadside - so make sure you have your camera at hand!
With so many incredible natural landmarks to see along the way, from ancient glaciers to photogenic waterfalls and soaring summits, the tough part is knowing where to stop and take it all in. Though much of the scenery can be appreciated from your car, it’s worth getting out to really immerse yourself in these awesome landscapes.
Some of the best viewpoints along the road include Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. Follow one of the walking trails to see glaciers and icefields framed by snow-dusted mountains. Don’t miss the stunning lake views from Bow Summit - the highest point of the parkway.
If you want to enjoy the landscapes from the comfort of your car, you’ll get some amazing views of the mountains, valleys and rivers on the aptly-named Big Hill and Big Turn. For a bird’s-eye view, try the Parker Ridge hike in Banff National Park or the Glacier Sky Walk, which offers sweeping views of the Sunwapta Valley from a glass-bottom observation platform. If you’re not a fan of heights, you might want to sit this one out.
Then there’s the spectacular waterfalls. The Weeping Wall, located at Cirrus Mountain, got its name from a series of waterfalls that look as though the mountain is crying and is well worth a visit. Towards the end of the journey, just south of Jasper town, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls are a photographer’s paradise. Visit early morning or late afternoon to see these amazing water features at their best.
Icefields Parkway runs from Lake Louise in Banff National Park to Jasper Town in Jasper National Park.
The road is open year-round, but it may be closed off in the winter if the weather is too poor. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some attractions along the way close during the winter months.
It’s free to drive Icefields Parkway once you’ve paid your Banff/Jasper National Park entrance fees.
The weather in the Rockies can be unpredictable, so make sure you layer-up and bring a pair of sturdy hiking boots.
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