Days 20 and 21 – Jasper National Park, Icefields Parkway ,Banff National Park and home

Leaving the campsite about 8am it is the final push to Jasper National Park. Stopping behind a long line of cars just minutes from the entry to the park it was discovered that a road closure was in effect from 9am till 11am. Wait it should only be 8:30am, no there was a time change yesterday that proved the undoing of this plan.

IT’S ACTUALLY 9:30

Oh well guess it’s time to climb out of the car and get some stretching done for the morning.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Finally right at 11am the line of cars starts to move and entering the park it is time to stop at the visitors center located in the town of Jasper.

Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest National Park with 4,200 sq. miles (11,000 sq. km) that lies just north and adjacent to Banff National Park. This beautiful Park consisting of glaciers, ice fields, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and mountains was established in 1907 as a forest park and was provided full National Park status in 1930. Part of the Canadian Rocky’s National Park along with neighbor Banff and 2 other Parks it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The resort town of Jasper is the headquarters for Jasper National Park with it’s Visitors Center. This year round resort is with complete facilities for it’s guests, a quaint walkable downtown featuring restaurants, hotels and shopping with nearby Marmot Basin Ski Resort. The town was quite crowded with other visitors this Friday so finding a parking spot proved a little challenging. Finally getting parked it was a medium length walk to the Visitors Center to get aquatinted with the park. Moving around inside was a little claustrophobic so the goal was quickly accomplished and then it is off  into the park.

Icefields Parkway

Rated as one of the top drives in the world, Canadian Highway 93, the Ice Fields Parkway, is a 144-mile  (232km) stretch of road winding its way through 2 National Parks with a beautiful landscape rich in history traversing subalpine forests and the Columbia Icefield.

Going south on the Icefields Parkway we come to Athabasca Falls. Flowing from the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca River is the largest river system in Jasper and the 75 foot (23 m) Athabasca Falls. Although not very tall, it’s power comes from the flow of the river and the narrow canyon it traverses making for a spectacular view.

In the park is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains of North America, the Columbia Icefield. It’s 125 sq. mile (325 sq. km) area is in both Banff National park and the adjoining Jasper National Park.

Just past the Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefields is a small campsite for tents only. Pulling in there 2 spots available, so here is home for the night. 

After getting camp set up it was a short walk along the Parkway to the trail head for a 1.1 mile (1.8 k) moderately strenuous hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. A fabulous walk to the base of the glacier and you can hike right onto it. If you do not feel like walking you can take a bus from the lodge to the glacier where you get onto a Tundra Bus for a drive out onto the glacier.

The next morning it was an early rise and quick breakfast to head south and hopefully get to a few places before the crowds start to gather.

Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

Established in 1885 this is Canada’s oldest national park. Located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff National Park encompasses 2,564 sq miles (6,641 sq km) of forested, alpine terrain consisting of hot springs, glaciers, ice fields, rivers and waterfalls in a subarctic ecosystem.

Bridal Veil Falls

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Weeping Wall showcases the melt-off from the snowfields emerging form fissures in the cliff face emerging as a series of waterfalls.

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Getting to Lake Louise it was a quick off ramp to see Moraine Lake. Well it was quite overrun with vehicles and people trying to get to the lake for the morning sunrise. It takes 45 minutes to get to the large parking lot which is overrun with cars. If the parking lot is this full the trail to the lake must be just as crowded. Turning around and getting back to the parkway it was discussed and with the final day of the trip being Sunday at Glacier NP along the popular Going to the Sun Highway it was decided to head out of the Banff early and head home as it was only a 10 hour drive. Glacier National Park is relatively close and can be left for another adventure.

Leaving the Icefields Parkway at Castle Junction it was time to head west along Highway 93 to the town of Radium Hot Springs where the highway turns south for the USA Border Crossing. Stopping in Cranbrook I pick up a quick lunch and then it’s off to the border.

It was a 45 minute wait at the border as it was quite crowded. Finally through It’s south on State 95 to Interstate 90, Highway 395 and finally onto Interstate 84 west to the coast and home.

Arriving home at about 10pm I take a quick shower to hose off the few days of grim due to no showers and fall into bed. Unpacking will be for tomorrow, sleep comes quickly as I am home in my bed after 21 days on the road.

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