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Jasper National Park, Columbia Ice Fields, Alberta Canada

August 16, 2017: 

Day 2 in the Canadian Rocky Mountains we went to Jasper National Park, specifically the Columbia Icefields.   Our route took us on Alberta 93 which is called the Icefields Highway.  We took Trans-Canada 1 just a couple of miles from Lake Louise to 93 and then 70 miles later we stopped at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center.  From the Discovery Center our plan for the day was to take a tour of the Athabasca Glacier and visit the Skywalk.  

The trip up on the Icefields Highway was absolutely fabulous!  We have never seen so many large mountains with snow and ice on them in one area like this.  It really reminds me of the Alps but I think it seems that these mountains are closer together.  The other cool thing is that you can drive right between them for miles.  There really is not much of a grade to contend with making driving pretty easy.  It wouldn’t be any problem to take a large RV to most any of this area.  For 70 miles you see nothing but tall mountains, glacier lakes, waterfalls, and streams on both sides of the road.  You just don’t know when to stop taking pictures!  



Pictures on the 70 mile drive to the Athabasca Glacier



 The Athabasca Glacier from the parking lot of the Discovery Center

The trip to the Discovery Center took us 90 minutes from our site in Lake Louise.The Discovery Center is where we took a regular bus a couple of miles to the edge of the Athabasca Glacier.  At this point we got off the bus and were put on a very large ice bus that took us another couple miles out onto the glacier. 


 In line for the packed bus!  I don't like packed anything, maybe a packed lunch!

 View going out to the glacier on the bus

This ice bus is huge; it has 6 wheels that are something like 4 feet in diameter.  They travel at a top speed of just 20 mph. The entire trip from the Discovery Center to the drop off point on the glacier took about half an hour.


 The Ice bus
 Riding the ice bus out to the glacier

 We need to descend this huge hill to get on to the glacier.  The driver told us that she just closes her eyes, that makes it better!

Going down!


 On to the ice!





 Once at the drop point on the glacier we had around 30 minutes to walk around, explore and take pictures.  That amount of time was more than we needed; we were back on the ice bus after just 10 minutes.  We had full sun but it was about 40F with a steady 30mph wind.  We were also standing on an 800 foot thick chunk of ice too!  So it was cold and not a lot to look at.  You get off look around a bit, take some pictures and then it’s time to go back to the warm bus! 


 Patty getting off of the ice bus






 Many people got some of the glacier water to drink.  

We loved the entire experience!  We could do the same thing in Alaska by taking a helicopter to a glacier for a 10 minute walk around for something like $300 a piece!  We did the same, without the helicopter ride, for around $120 for the both of us.   We are really glad we did this!


 Back up and onto land.

After being on the glacier for a few minutes we did the bus thing in reverse, sort of.  We had tickets for the skywalk that was just a couple of miles from the glacier so the road bus dropped us off there.   The skywalk is just like the skywalk over the Grand Canyon.   Basically the skywalk is a horseshoe shaped transparent walkway.  The walkway is cantilevered out over a valley about 800 feet above the valley floor.  The walkway, besides giving a great view, is to show you just how thick the glacier ice is.  When on the walkway we are looking down just about the same distance as the glacier is thick.


 Pretty cool!

 Patty leading the way to the skywalk.









I am not afraid of heights so this wasn’t frightening for me. But, walking out on a transparent floor 800 feet in the air does make one feel a bit disoriented.  That is the only way I can describe it, its disorienting making you feel like you need to hold on to the handrail.  Some of the younger ones on the walkway were a bit more daring.  The walkway bounces a bit as you walk on it so some kids were practically jumping to make the walkway bounce.  It didn’t bother me but for some this was a bit scary.  

After visiting the skywalk we took another bus back to the Discovery Center for lunch.  We originally arrived at the center at 10:30am and now it was about 3pm.  The difference in the amount of people was just crazy.  We thought it was a bit crowded at 10:30, now it was a zoo!  This is why we like to travel in the shoulder seasons and not at peak like we are now.  


 Great view for lunch!

 We had a little visitor for lunch.

 Had to show this photo of a van in the discovery parking lot.  
We passed this on our way out.

Our lunch was great but was way too much food.  Now we had dinner too for when we got back to the RV.  So far we have nothing but great food at the national parks both in the US and in Canada.  It’s a bit expensive but that is to be expected.


 Pictures of the ride back to Lake Louise






Closing thoughts on our adventure today:

We would do this again in a heartbeat.  We loved everything about the day and wouldn’t change a thing.

If traveling here during peak season be sure to be at the discovery center before 11am, before the crowds.

There is a huge easy to get into and out of parking lot for RVs.  We wouldn’t bring our RV here but it is very doable.

Buy the tickets for these things on-line as it will save about 20%.

That’s it for Wednesday the 16th of August in the Canadian Rockies.  Tomorrow we are going to take a gondola trip up to the top of Sulfur Mountain in the town of Banff.


 Gift shop pictures.

 I agree!

Stay Tuned! 

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