The Icefields Parkway, in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies, is one of Canada’s national treasures. We spend a lot of time in the mountains every year and the 232 km road stretching through the heart of The Rockies is always one of our favourite areas. Of course, the Columbia Icefields (the largest icefield in the rocky mountains of North America) is the namesake attraction along the parkway, but beyond the glaciers and ice, this magnificent journey through Banff and Jasper has a lot to offer those in search of beautiful landscapes and wildlife.
As you start driving the Icefields Parkway from the south end near Lake Louise, within 3 km you will come across a little gem called Herbert Lake. It’s easy to miss because there are no signs for the lake and there isn’t a proper place to pull over with your vehicle, but it is very much worth making the effort to check out – especially when you have a picture perfect morning with fog hanging over the lake like we had on this day.
Love bears??? The parkway contains prime bear habitat for both black bears and the mighty grizzly bear. If you want to see wildlife, early (very early) morning always gives you the best chance. One morning we came across this massive male grizzly bear eating dandelions along the road. We watched him for about 15 minutes and he made direct eye contact with us several times (which is why we always photograph from the safety of the vehicle). Grizzly bears can reach 48 km/h from a standing start and can cover a distance of 100 m (327 feet) in 6 seconds!
This is one of our most memorable encounters because he was a BIG male, the lighting was perfect and the dandelions added a soft, dream-like component!
On a good weather day, your neck will need a massage at day’s end from all the jaw-dropping scenery, so make sure you book yourself into a spa ahead of time! At an altitude of 1920 metres, and at the headwaters of the Bow River, the scenery around Bow Lake is exquisite. This particular day was so beautiful we didn’t get past Bow Lake which is located about half way up the Parkway, as we were in search of a colony of pikas that live in the rocks nearby.
The Pika is the smallest member of the rabbit family which lives in rocky areas where the climate is cool. These guys are really cute and they make a very high pitched “eeeep!” sound – that’s usually your first clue they are in the area. Getting a good photograph of one of them requires a lot of patience sitting in one spot motionless, waiting for them to get comfortable enough to go about their daily business, like grabbing a mouthful of grass and taking it back to the den!This is merely a small taste of what the Icefields Parkway has to offer and we’ll be sharing more images from this amazing part of the world in the near future.
Thanks for reading!
Marcy & Ray Stader