July 18-20, 2013 – Banff and Jasper National Parks
There is a great trail behind park that takes you to a viewpoint overlooking Abraham Lake on the North Saskatchewan River.
The dogs really enjoyed hiking to the lake and smelling all the new smells.
Friday morning we drove into Banff National Park and turned north on the Icefields Parkway. The Parkway stretches 230 km between Lake Louise and Jasper through Banff and Jasper National Parks and claims to be the most scenic drive in the world. The Canadian Rockies are beautiful – much more rugged than the Rockies in Colorado. Our first stop was at Bridal Veil Falls.
Twenty-five glaciers can be seen from the Parkway. We crossed into Jasper National Park and stopped at the Columbia Icefield Centre. The Columbia Ice Field is approximately 8,000 years old and covers 202 square miles with its greatest depth estimated to be 1,200 ft. The icefield feeds 8 major glaciers and the Athabasca Glacier is directly across the street from the centre. The Athabasca Glacier is the most accessible glacier in the world. Behind this glacier is Snow Dome, at 11,340 ft elevation this is a triple continental divide. Waters from this point flow to three oceans – north to the Arctic Ocean, west to the Pacific Ocean, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.
We took a Glacier Adventure Tour that took us out onto the Athabasca Glacier. A regular bus took us across the road and along a dirt road beside the glacier. About half way up the glacier we transferred to an ice explorer, a snocoach specially designed for glacial travel – kind of like a “monster bus”. We had to wait for another snocoach to come up the hill from the glacier.
The snocoaches drive down a steep incline and out onto the glacier.
Midpoint in the tour we were able to get out of the snocoach and walk on the glacier. We had to walk very carefully as it was slick and there were a lot of puddles on the ice as it had rained recently. Our driver was kind enough to take our picture in front of our snocoach.
The glacier was beautiful with lots of blue ice and little rivers running down through it. We got to spend about 20 minutes on the glacier – we were starting to get cold so we were glad to get back on the snocoach.
We really enjoyed walking on the Athabasca Glacier and riding in the snocoach.
After a picnic lunch at the Icefield Centre, our next stop was Sunwapta Falls, a beautiful waterfall where the Sunwapta River flows into the Athabasca River – it was just a short walk from the road.
Further down the road we came upon a Mountain Goat nanny and her baby. Another nanny was grazing below these two. We could easily see how they were shedding their winter coats.
We next stopped at Athabasca Falls which only drops 40 ft but through a very narrow canyon so it was spectacular.
We then drove on into the town of Jasper to get gas and on the return trip we stopped at Weeping Wall. Water from snowfields above finds it’s way through cracks in the wall and emerges as a series of waterfalls.
We had a long, tiring day but it was great – we got to see a lot of beautiful scenery and a little bit of wildlife.
Saturday we headed back to Banff National Park and just inside the park we saw two black bears. Just after we stopped one of the bears crossed the road in front of the vehicle that was stopped in front of us.
We watched the second bear for a long time – it wandered around a short distance from the road grazing and chewing on bushes. After a while this one also crossed the road directly in front of us. What a treat to get to see more bears – 5 so far this summer!
We headed south on the Icefields Parkway and stopped at Mistaya Canyon where the river has worn a deep, twisting gorge into the limestone bedrock, and tumbling boulders have created potholes and a natural arch in the canyon sides.
It was a beautiful spot where Nancy and Mariah could sit on the rocks and watch the water as it started tumbling down the canyon.
We stopped a Bow Summit at an elevation of 6,849 ft and took a short, steep hike to an overlook at Peyto Lake. This is a beautiful turquoise glacial meltwater lake – well worth the effort to hike the steep trail.
We stopped at Bow Lake, another beautiful turquoise lake that is the headwaters for the Bow River.
We ate a picnic lunch beside Bow Lake and enjoyed watching this young Gray Jay enjoying a little bit of granola bar.
After lunch we drove to Lake Louise which is fed by meltwaters from six glaciers. The scenery here is beautiful but as this is the most famous glacial lake in the Canadian Rockies it was very crowded.
We took a short hike along one side of the lake and got a great view of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
We had another long, but great day and were especially excited to see the two black bears. We are constantly in awe of all the beautiful scenery. Mariah is learning to drive a stick shift so after our long day grandpa was glad to let her drive back to our campground. She had a little trouble down shifting on the long hills but soon got the knack of it. It was strange for her to drive 100 -kilometers per hour NOT miles per hour – don’t worry mom and dad!