If you’re driving through the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, you’re in luck — the drive between Jasper and Banff National Parks (and, let’s be honest, farther east through Kananaskis Country to Calgary) is one of the most stunning drives you’ll ever have the pleasure of experiencing: the Icefields Parkway.
The 165 mile (266km) road winds through the mountains between Lake Louise and Jasper townsite and, unlike your usual point-A-to-point-B freeway driving, the Icefields Parkway is a trip in its own right. And you can do more than just while the time away playing “I Spy” with whoever else is in the car …
See Some Roadside Waterfalls
There are rivers everywhere in this part of the Rockies … and combine all that rushing water with some drastic elevation change and you get a ton of waterfalls. If you’re in the mood for day hikes along the way, there are plenty of places to pop out for some good trail time … but if you’re on a schedule there are also a number of great roadside cascades for you to gawk at without having to dig your boots out of the back seat. Bridal Veil, Tangle Creek, and Athabasca Falls are all jaw-droppers that are just a short walk from the curbside, and all are well worth your time.
Drive Onto a Glacier
Unless you’ve got some technical gear … or, say, a helicopter … it can be tough to stroll around on top of a glacier. But at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure, you can drive out to the Athabasca Glacier on massive, custom-designed Ice Explorers to fill up your water bottles with glacial meltwater.
It’s not necessarily what anyone would call a quiet nature experience, but it is still a pretty unique time — and great if you’ve got kids in tow.
Take a Skywalk
If glacier-crawling vehicles aren’t your thing, a slightly calmer thrill awaits you further up the Parkway at the Glacier Skywalk, a recently-constructed see-through walkway suspended 918 feet above a beautiful glacial valley.
Not a simple thrill experience, the Glacier Skywalk is a beautiful interpretive exhibit that tells the geologic and natural history of this incredible region. The displays and architecture are sublime and fascinating, and almost as stunning to enjoy as the rivers and alpine meadows waaaaaay below your feet.
When we visited the Skywalk, we sort of budgeted time for it as a quick roadside stop — but we ended up enjoying the structure so much that we stuck around much longer than we expected to.
I mean … come on … you’re not gonna complain about views like this, are you?