Get ready for the ultimate glacier experience at the Columbia Icefield. This is your opportunity to explore the beauty of nature and be mesmerized by its wonders. As the largest icefields in North America, Columbia Icefields comprises eight glaciers. This must-do experience is an adventure of a lifetime—something that will be etched in your memories forever.
Located in the Canadian Rockies, Columbia Icefield divides British Columbia and Alberta. The icefield is ideally situated on the northwestern edge of Banff National Park and the southern edge of Jasper National Park. Spanning over 325 square kilometers with a depth of up to 365m, Columbia Icefield is taller than the Eiffel Tower. As the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains, it is one of the most accessible stretches of glacial ice in North America.
The Columbia Icefield is situated about two hours north of Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway and an hour south of the town of Jasper. The scenic drive into the Icefields Parkway is just the beginning of your journey. If you aren't already, we recommend you prepare to get enthralled by how amazing nature can be. From over a hundred visible glaciers to rushing waterfalls, turquoise lakes to hiking trails, your visit to Columbia Icefield is an adventure that will never be forgotten. For those who are driving in, you could take note of these GPS coordinates—Latitude 52°13'10.8"N and Longitude 117°13'41.6"W. From the town of Jasper, you'll be 105kms away from Columbia Icefield, and you can estimate to arrive within an hour and thirty minutes. And if you are travelling from Banff, Calgary, or Lake Louise, you'll need to get on Highway 93 for nearly 125 km at an estimated arrival time of one hour and forty minutes.
Enthralling, impressive, ethereal, and ancient—we could run short of adjectives, and it will still not justify the beauty of this striking landscape. Featuring one of the most extensive ice sheets in the world, the tour of the Columbia Icefield is a perfect blend of glaciers, high mountain peaks, and phenomenal landscapes. If Columbia Icefield has been on your wishlist long enough, it's time to make your dreams come true. As travel experts ourselves, we have compiled every bit of information that'll inspire you to start planning your next visit to the Columbia Icefield.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions by aspiring travellers who intend to experience the ultimate journey to the glaciers. Very simply put, Athabasca Glacier is not the same as the Columbia Icefield, but it is one of the six principal parts of the Columbia Icefield. This is yet another remarkable experience in the Canadian Rockies. With an experienced guide, you can take a tour of the Athabasca Glacier and go on Ice Walks. Over the past 125 years, the glacier has receded, but it is still spread across an area of approximately 6 sq km.
Glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, and mountain crests are some of the spectacular views you'll get to enjoy. If you are planning your visit to Columbia Icefield, here's a list of things to do:
Located 30kms away from Jasper, Athabasca Falls will probably be your first stop on the way to witness the beautiful glaciers. April and May are the best months to be at this spot because as the ice melts, the quantity of water falling into the gorge increases.
Sunwapta Falls comprises two waterfalls: upper and lower falls. Since upper falls are easily accessible, you'll find them heavily packed with tourists. But, the lower falls are a little over a one-kilometre hike, but it's all worth it. You'll enjoy a more peaceful scenic environment at the lower falls versus the upper.
Known as one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, Athabasca Glacier offers an up-close and intense glacier experience. For the best journey, we recommend you take the off-beaten path through Wilcox Pass. This photogenic hike has many spots for good capture, including the view of sub-alpine meadows, small lakes, and creeks.
From this viewpoint, you'll see a free-flowing river amidst the mountains. The stunning vistas of the Saskatchewan crossing also have several untold stories about the struggles of Indigenous people etched here.
Besides all these spots, you can also explore the beautiful Waterfowl Lakes, get up to the Peyto Lake viewpoint, and even endure the most rewarding hikes on the Icefields Parkway, Parker Ridge trail.
If we had to pick the best three places to stay near Columbia Icefield, it would have to be the Glacier View Lodge, the Athabasca Hotel, and the Crimson.
For those looking to soak up in the best views of the Columbia Icefield, this 3-star chalet-style stone building must be on top of your list of places to stay. Besides the views, you'll also appreciate the overwhelming hospitality they offer and the first-class dining experiences too.
If old contemporary hotels fascinate you, then the Athabasca Hotel located in Jasper should be your choice of stay. This historic hotel is an award-winning one and was built in the 1920s.
Finally, in our list of top three places to stay near Columbia Icefield is the Crimson, located right in the heart of Jasper. This modern hotel is one of the latest additions to Jasper and is pet-friendly too. Located right on the main street, the Crimson has a refreshing vibe that stays with you even after the journey.
While these are our top three preferences, Mount Robson Inn, HI Rampart Creek Hotel, and Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge are all great places to stay near the Columbia Icefield.
When it comes to dining options near Columbia Icefield, there is no lack of good food spots. At the Altitude Restaurant, you can indulge in a delicious meal with a perfect backdrop of the spectacular glacier views. Their locally-sourced menu is slightly on the pricey side. For those seeking a quick grab and go, Chalet Cafeteria is an amazing recommendation. They have budget-friendly pizzas and burgers on their menu but are often crowded with tourists.
The Columbia Icefield is an otherworldly travel experience that is not to be missed. There are several tours and excursions you could plan with the help of this ultimate travel guide. As the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains, this destination can be visited most of the year.