Even after two full days at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, it’s hard to leave such beauty. But more adventures lie ahead, along the Icefields Parkway and then Jasper National Park.
Athabasca Glacier: Your next stop is Athabasca Glacier, where you can walk to the retreating glacier’s toe. Signs with dates on them show how it has receded over the past decades (it recedes about 16 feet per year now). The Columbia Icefield Center lies across the highway from the glacier. Grab a bite and book a tour of the glacier via Ice Explorer—you’ll get right out onto the glacier via a special snow bus. Athabasca Glacier is another of the six principal “toes” of the massive Columbia Icefield, 325 sq km and over 900 feet thick, whose meltwaters flow into the Arctic, Pacific, and Atlantic Oceans. The Icefield sits above the glacier, out of view, but you can see it on a flightseeing tour (see "Canadian Rockies: Jasper and flightseeing the Rockies"). As you stand on the glacier, you’ll hear the roar of melting water rushing downhill all around and beneath you. Bring an empty bottle to fill with pure glacial water, deposited here perhaps 200 years ago. Another tour that departs from the Columbia Icefield Center is the Glacier Skywalk, modeled after the Grand Canyon Skywalk in Arizona. It’s a glass-bottomed, U-shaped walkway that stretches out over a cliff. Walk out and look down—glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop to the floor of the Sunwapta Valley below. (Consider booking one or both of these tours for the day you drive back, so you have time for the Parker Ridge hike and other stops on your way up.)
Waterfalls and more: As you continue north along the Icefields Parkway, other notable stops include Sunwapta Falls, a frothy blast just off the highway, the Goats and Glaciers Viewpoint, where you might see mountain goats at the salt licks, and the blue waters of Athabasca Falls. Highly recommended is the latest edition of Brian Patton’s The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, loaded with easy-to-read maps, directions, photos, and descriptions of hundreds of hikes and sights throughout all the regions in this series.
On to Jasper: The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sits in a valley beside the blue-green waters of Lac Beauvert, surrounded by snow-clad mountains—a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See "Canadian Rockies: Jasper and flightseeing the Rockies" for more information about the hotel, wildlife- and scenery-rich Jasper National Park, an unforgettable flightseeing trip, and Jasper’s turf airstrip.