Monday, August 17, 2009

On of the greatest sights in the world

The Icefields Parkway drive between Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper is pretty spectacular stuff! The undeniable highlight is the Columbia Icefield which is one of the largest accumulations of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle, covering an area of nearly 325 square kilometres in the Western Canadian Province of Alberta.

The Athabasca Glacier is a tongue of ice 6 kms long and 1 km wide which drops almost to the road. Brewsters of Banff, offer tours up onto the icy slopes in the purpose built Ice Explorer, an all-terrain vehicle equipped with large, low pressure tires. The 5 km round trip travels up over the ice and the driver/guide explain how glaciers are formed and points out interesting geological features. Up at the icefall, below the glacier headwall, you can walk around on the ice, make snowballs from 400 years old snow, take pictures and cool your heels for a while.

The tours run from the Icefield Centre, a chalet-style stone building which houses 'The Glacier Gallery' an extensive interpretive centre on the National Park. There is also a dining room, cafeteria and snack bar, gift shop and from the third floor up - a hotel. The Chalet Hotel has 32 guest rooms - most have at least two queen beds and a loft. You can actually hear the glacier moving in the still of the night.

If you are traveling the Icefields Parkway - you can’t miss the Glacier. Leaving from Banff the Parkway follows the Bow, Mistaya and North Saskatchewan Rivers and after an essential diversion to see Lake Louise, you return to the Parkway and drive on by Bow Lake, Peyto and Crowfoot Glaciers, Mistaya Canyon and the Weeping Wall to the Glacier.

From Jasper, the route passes Athabasca Falls and the Sunwapta Canyon. It is breathtaking wilderness habitat for elk, bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and both grizzly and black bears. Allow a whole day for this drive of 230 km (143 miles) from Banff to Jasper and if you are on motor coach tour, the Icefield is usually a major sightseeing stop. There are also roundtrip motor coach day tours from Banff to the Icefields.

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