2012 - 2017 Travel Map (Map NOT Current) - Now in Logan Lake BC

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! 

Travel to Banff National Park in Canada and Minnewanka Lake Cruise

August 12 - 15, 2017: 

I am going to break up the blog posts to one for every day of our visit to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada.  Our first post will be about traveling from Glacier National Park in Montana, crossing the border into Canada, and then travel northwest to Lake Louise in Banff.  We also stayed a couple nights in Claresholm Alberta before arriving in Lake Louise.

We left East Glacier park late at around 11 am on the 12th heading north into Alberta Canada.  We had just 150 miles to go but we had the border to cross and we had some very bad road to travel on in the US to get there.  Overall the 150 mile trip took about 5 hours!  

About 15 miles from East Glacier Park we turned on to MT 89 north to the border 40 miles away.  Well, MT 89 for the first 30 miles is absolutely awful!!  The road is very steep in places and mostly curvy with speeds of 45 or less.  Most of it or about 30 miles of it is under construction.  This is not nice construction either, it is where the road is completely dug up and we are traveling on dirt and gravel with areas of single lane where you have to pull over to let people by.  A lot of this I was traveling just 15-20 miles an hour for miles at a time.

This is the only picture we have of the crappy road.  It was actually worse than this picture looks.

We arrived at the border around 1:30pm.  It took us about 2.5 hours to go about 60 miles!  Anyway, the border crossing is very small here with just 2 lanes and just one open with us being the only vehicle in line.  It took us all of 2 minutes to get through the border here, no problem at all.  Now for the 100 miles to our first stop in Canada.

Very small border crossing in Montana.

Since we went to Glacier Park our original travel plans changed for this area so we didn’t really have anywhere to stay.  Patty tried for most of the trip on the phone and internet to lock a place in for us for the next couple of nights.  We were just 10 miles from where we finally stopped when she found a place.  Actually it was a town park where she just left a message and they called her back.  We just love town parks because of this sort of thing.  They are the same in the U.S. too.  The park was just $21 US a night for full hook up and just a block off of our route going north.  All of the private places were either full or couldn’t take our rig size so this was perfect, and did I say that they called us!  WOW!

This was just a travel stop with nothing to see or do here.  We did, as we always do, look at all of the information on the internet about the area to see if there was anything to do or see but there wasn’t anything here.  When we checked it we saw that there was a fair going on in the town and there was a car show right in our park tomorrow, Sunday, so there was something anyway!  

Our site in Claresholm Alberta

Interesting art in front of the park we were staying in

This is just about all of the downtown fair!

The car show was good for about an hour and the fair wasn’t even good for any time.  The best thing about the fair was that it was about a half a mile walk so we got some exercise getting to it.  It is a shame; the town is just not big enough to get enough visitors to make it something to see.  We got to the fair area (one street a block long) at 4pm and they were taking stuff down already.  It was to go on till 9pm.

The car show was pretty good actually.

These 2 performed mostly 50-60s songs and were very good!

If you look real close we are the rig way in the center back
with our nose forward. We were almost in the car show!

Now on to Banff National Park and Lake Louise where our site is.  Lake Louise is about 195 miles from our site in Claresholm.  We travel north up to Calgary and then turn North West into Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway 1. Except for getting through Calgary, the drive was very easy.  I had thought it would have a lot of steep grades but that is not the case.  The road travels through the valleys between the mountains making it so much easier than crossing the Rockies in the US.

Calgary is a pretty large city of around 1.3 million.

Interesting fence posts on our route in Alberta.

Getting close to Banff and the Canadian Rockies!

These tunnels are for wildlife to cross over.

This is the view from the center of the tourist area of Lake Louise.

So far the Canadian Rockies are by far more stunning than anything we have seen at Glacier National Park in Montana. It is hard to stop taking pictures here!

We arrived at around 3 pm and were set up by 4pm.  This park is electric only so we had to fill the fresh water tank before we went to our site number 99.

The view from our site in the Lake Louise campground

Our site in Lake Louise

We had dinner at the old Lake Louise train Station our first night in town.

The only bad thing at this campground is that we have almost no cell or internet service.  For us, we use the internet to figure out what we are going to do once we are at our site.  We have just enough service to make it frustrating.  We found that there is a tour package that gets us 4 of the best things to see and do here in Banff and Jasper National Parks.  Our problem was getting the tour package booked online where we save about 20% over just booking by phone or in person. 

Finally, on our first morning here I got in the truck and drove into the town of Lake Louise about a mile so I could finish booking the tour.  We wanted to make the first event today! I finally got the tour booked by calling them.  They also had a problem booking it so it wasn’t just our lack of service!

We booked a tour that has 4 parts.  We are here 3 full days so we are going to do an event each day and 2 events on one of the days.  Our first event is today, Tuesday the 15th, at 1pm at Lake Minnewanka.   

The Lake Minnewanka Cruise is about an hour and a half from our site in Lake Louise.  By the time I got the tour booked it was already 10:30 am and I had not taken a shower yet.  We managed to get ready, drive there, and be in line for the boat 10 minutes before departure.  We made it even though we got lost a couple of times because Garmin and Google both got it wrong!  It was very tense to say the least as we drove into the almost full parking lot and still didn’t know where we needed to be.

In line for the boat tour

The view from the marina

On the boat cruise

This part of the tour package was an hour enclosed boat tour of the large glacier lake.  The tour was narrated by a very knowledgeable tour guide making it a very nice trip.  The lake and the mountains around it made it feel like the Alps in Switzerland.  The mountains were magnificent but I just couldn’t take my eyes off of the water.  The water was a bright clear blue green color.  It was very beautiful and very cold.  This lake is the same temperature all year long, just 35-37 F.

The boat cruise was nice and all but really not worth full price in our opinion.  Basically, there is nothing more to see on the boat as there is from the shore or from one of the many trails around the lake.  However, it is a no physical stress view of the area around the lake.

That was our travel to Lake Louise in Banff National Park of Canada and our first day of the visit.  Tomorrow we are going on a Glacier trip in Jasper National Park 2.5 hours to our north.

Stay tuned!