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Icefields Parkway: Take the Ultimate Rocky Mountains Drive

Copyright (c) 2006-2021 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved
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The Icefields Parkway elevates scenic drives in the Rocky Mountains heavenward, so as you navigate stunning views of glaciers and pristine lakes, gliding through both Banff and Jasper national parks, it silences even the most persistent "are we there yet?"

Whether you're driving a sports car with the wind streaming around you as the white peaks of the Rockies glitter, or steering a family sedan as wide-eyed children in the back seats watch elk and bears amble, or shifting down on a thrumming motorcycle when approaching a glacier, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta is the highway experience of a lifetime.

AllGetaways.com, a leading trip-planning resource for North American travel, announced this scenic drive as one of the prime destinations of its Top 100 Getaways for 2005, ranking it number three in North America. The ranking includes consideration of more than 10,000 destinations in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico.


Virtual Travel Available

Now, the Icefields Parkway has a new, interactive website for virtual travelers that you can check out before you go. It's a comprehensive look at the Icefields Parkway trip, which if driven fully, is 230 kilometres (138 miles). A return trip is a full day; one way will take you about five hours.

You get a first-hand look at Canada's Rocky Mountain playground on a well paved and maintained roadway that offers easy access to authentic mountain towns including Jasper, Lake Louise and the cosmopolitan mountain town of Banff. The Parkway can be easily driven in less than a day as you stop and take in the spectacular sites. It is often accessed first through one of Alberta's two international gateway cities, Calgary and Edmonton.


Something for Everyone

There are few places on the planet that pack as much scenic and recreational opportunities into a relatively short roadway. There is something for everyone, including serious mountaineers and day-trippers of any age in the family car. Picturesque lodges, ample campgrounds, scenic picnic areas and roadside viewpoints with plenty of wildlife sightings attract those travelling by car and bicycle. But there's also a world of hiking trails, mountain climbing routes and, if your journey happens during the winter, cross-country ski trails for backcountry enthusiasts.

Along this route are more than 200 glaciers, many of which are easily seen from the highway. The most famous of the Canadian Rockies glaciers is Lake Louise, formed from the melt of six glaciers. Lake Louise is where you'll find the spectacular Mt. Victoria and its glacier.

The story of the Parkway began more than 125 million years ago, when a seafloor that covered much of Canada began to rise and crumble into the mountains. The mountains and valleys that we see today have been shaped by ice. Glaciers gouged the v-shaped valley into the enormous U-shaped trough that the communities of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are nestled within. The impact of the glaciation is immediate and obvious and awesome.


Experience the Apex and The Great Divide

You'll discover The Great Divide: the spine of North America. It separates waters flowing into different drainage systems. It separates water flow into three different oceans: west to the Pacific, north to the Arctic and east to Hudson's Bay and the Atlantic. This phenomenon is called a Hydrological Apex. It's one of only two found in the world. The other one is found in Siberia.

Everyone has their own preferences for a vehicle, whether it's something on two wheels or four, a bicycle or an RV. You may want to drive your vehicle own along the Icefields Parkway, but remember that in Alberta, rental vehicles are easily available throughout the province. Bruce Jackson, a car rental consultant in Edmonton, recommends an SUV as the best vehicle for seeing the Icefields Parkway. "The Yukon XL can handle all of the different climate conditions anywhere on the Parkway, because you've got the four-wheel drive and wider stability of a big SUV," says Jackson. "It has all the luxuries too: leather heated seats, a sunroof and a lot of room for more passengers, if you want to bring family or friends." Also, it's a higher than usual vehicle, better for seeing wildlife along the roadway.

"The scenery is incredible with the glaciers," says Jackson. "I'm a mountain guy, so I'd advise you that even with all the great scenery, remember to drive safe and keep your eyes on the road."

So whether you're an armchair historian or a backcountry explorer, you'll find activities including wildlife viewing, picnicking, camping, hiking, ice climbing – whew! – mountain biking, rustic lodge and luxury resort accommodations, among many others. Drive safe.


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Copyright (c) 2006 Travel Alberta, All Rights Reserved

Travel Alberta is the destination marketing organization for the Province of Alberta. Guided by the Strategic Tourism Marketing Council, Travel Alberta is the steward for the effective delivery of tourism marketing programs. For information about our organization, please visit our Travel Alberta industry web site at http://industry.travelalberta.com

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Last Distribution Date:
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