There are trips we take by RV that linger in our minds forever. One such trip is through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, along Canada’s Icefields Parkway. Stunning mountain scenery will capture your heart and help you remember why traveling by RV is the very best way to experience Canada.
Mapping Your Icefields Parkway RV Journey
We’ll start our far north journey in the beautiful town of Banff, Alberta, Canada, about ten hours northwest of Ferndale, WA. Before we further explore the beauty of Banff, we’d like to share some tips for enjoying your Icefields Parkway journey. First, services between towns in this remote area are non-existent, so fill your water tanks, empty your waste tanks and stock your convenient RV kitchen while you can. Second, this wonderfully scenic parkway passes through areas well-populated with wildlife, including sheep, bear and elk, so observe the posted speed limits carefully. Besides, what better way to enjoy the glory of the Canadian Rockies than by slowing down the RV?
Now, back to Banff. Surrounded by the mountainous forests of Banff National Park, this upscale alpine town is one of the most popular destinations in Canada. RV travelers should plan time to fish bright blue mountain lakes, hike through mountain meadows to catch sight of eleven-thousand-foot peaks and camp in one of Banff National Park’s thirteen campgrounds. Before you leave the Banff area, be sure to treat yourself to the sight of Vermillion Lakes, a nature photographer’s paradise.
Just down the road from Banff, Lake Louise is the starting point of the Icefields Parkway (AB-93). On the other end of the spectrum from glamorous Banff, the Village of Lake Louise is an outdoorsy recreation mecca. Dozens of trails stretch into Banff National Park, inviting hikers to get out into the wild. Both the Lake Louise and Tramline Trails offer remarkable views of this robin’s egg blue lake at the base of the mountain. By the way, history buffs will enjoy a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer, a mountain train that highlights the amazing ingenuity of Canada’s railway engineers.
On the Parkway between Lake Louise and Peyto Lake, you’re going to catch sight of outstanding glaciers and mountain lakes. Take time to appreciate the splendor of Hector Lake as well as Crowfoot Glacier at the end of Bow Lake. The Continental Divide will be your constant companion as you travel, marked by the rugged slopes of the Canadian Rockies. Glacier-fed, bright turquoise Peyto Lake and the Wapta Icefield create spectacular scenery for this stop on your journey.
Continue on the Icefields Parkway to Mount Chephren, perfect for a stop to take vacation photos. Then it’s up to Waterfowl Lake, where trails can lead hikers to unforgettable views. There’s a small campground at this lake, if you plan to stop before reaching Jasper.
The next stop on your route is one RVers have come to treasure for its glorious vistas. The Saskatchewan River Crossing (tourist services available here) is the gateway to the icefields for which the Parkway is named. Mount Wilson rises up to greet travelers once they cross the river, promising scenic hikes and the chance to glimpse mountain goats and black bears. Treasures such as the Weeping Wall and The Big Bend keep your drive lively as you wind up the mountain toward the Columbia Icefields. Feel free to stop and enjoy the hiking trails in this area, the views are astonishing.
And speaking of vacation memories, Mount Athabasca, wrapped in the the ice of the Saskatchewan Glacier, will take your breath away. Build time in your schedule, if you’re up to hiking a mountain trail, to follow the Parker Ridge Trail that overlooks the Columbia Icefield’s six glaciers.
A favorite way to view the glaciers up close is on a giant Ice Explorer tour at the Athabasca Glacier. Rampart Creek Campground is a good place to stop if you plan to hike the trails overlooking the icefield.
You’ll be entering Jasper National Park for the last leg of your journey north. Beauty Flats is the starting point for many scenic trails, including the one to Stanley Falls. If you choose to keep driving, be sure to stop at mighty Athabasca Falls for a view unparalleled in Canada. As you reach the town of Jasper, serve yourself another unforgettable view by taking a ride on the Jasper Tramway. Jasper is a lovely place to take a break and simply soak up the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. The campgrounds in Jasper National Park are the perfect alpine setting for relaxing in the beauty of Alberta.
It’s an awesome journey, just one hundred fifty miles long but filled with weeks of outdoor adventure. Give yourself the gift of traveling Canada’s magnificent Icefields Parkway for RV camping memories you’re sure to treasure.