Top Waterfalls Along the Columbia Icefields Parkway
The Columbia Icefields Parkway in Alberta is undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives in the world, known for its stunning views of glaciers, lakes, and mountains. Among the many natural wonders to spot along the Icefields Parkway, waterfalls are some of the most breathtaking. While the drive along the parkway is beautiful year-round, spring is the only time of year to catch waterfalls transform from frozen to flowing, depending on Mother Nature’s mood. Fewer crowds and less traffic can also be expected during this secret season between winter and summer. From Jasper to Banff National Park (and vice versa), there are several waterfalls along the parkway that are certainly worth making an extra stop to see. Get ready to chase frozen waterfalls this spring and spot some of the most spectacular falls along the Columbia Icefields Parkway:
1. athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls are certainly one of the most popular waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies, and for good reason. Located a half-hour drive from the town of Jasper, these falls drop 23 meters into a narrow canyon, creating a beautiful soundtrack of rushing water in pristine wilderness. There are multiple viewing platforms so you can get up close to the falls and feel their gentle mist kisses.
Local TipSavor lunch or dinner on your way back from the falls at the Emerald Lounge & Patio or The Great Hall gastropub at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Experience your own Fairmont Moment and save up to 25% off your next stay at Jasper Park Lodge.
2. Sunwapta falls
Sunwapta Falls are another must-see waterfall along the Columbia Icefields Parkway. This waterfall is located in a narrow canyon and drops 18 meters into a deep turquoise pool below. Not only can you stretch out your legs with a hike to the bottom of the falls, but you can also get a closer look, or take in the views from one of the many viewing platforms.
Local TipAnytime of day is a good time to visit Sunwapta Falls in springtime; there are generally fewer park visitors and crowds during this secret season.
3. Tangle Creek Falls
The falls at Tangle Creek are lesser-known, but no less impressive. This waterfall cascades down a rocky slope, creating a beautiful display of water that is framed by the surrounding mountains. Take a short hike to the base of the falls to get a closer look. In winter, the falls are excellent for ice climbing. By the time spring and summer arrives, they are a picture-perfect photo backdrop.
4. Panther Falls
Panther Falls are a hidden gem along the Columbia Icefields Parkway. These falls are located off the beaten path, and require a short hike to reach. However, the effort is well worth it, with rewarding views of frozen (or flowing) falls cascading over the rocks.
Local TipWe recommend bringing along a pair of snowshoes or ice cleats in spring when trekking through the forest to chase after this waterfall. In summer, a good pair of hiking boots and hiking poles are also recommended.
5. Johnston Canyon Upper and Lower Falls
Though technically not located along the Columbia Icefields Parkway, these falls are a spectacular site to see when driving from Jasper to Banff National Park, or vice versa. The Lower Falls are located about 1.2 km from the trailhead and can be accessed via a well-maintained trail. The trail to the Lower Falls is surprisingly easy and suitable for families and hikers of all skill levels. The Lower Falls drop 12 meters into a large pool below, and can be seen from multiple viewing platforms, not to mention a small cave leading right up to the falls.
The Upper Falls are located about another 1.5 km from the lower falls, approximately 5.4 kilometers total round trip. The trail to the Upper Falls is steeper and more challenging than the one to the Lower Falls, but well worth the extra effort. Cross over a series of bridges, and venture further through the narrow canyon before arriving at the Upper Falls. Water pours approximately 30 meters into a pool below and offer undeniably spectacular views of the canyon.
Local TipIn spring, many of the Park’s wild residents emerge from hibernation in search of food. There is a good chance you may spot wildlife in the Johnston Canyon area, including bears. It is important to be alert of your surrounding and take precautions to respect wildlife. Make noise or conversation when on the trail, or carry bear bells. We also recommend having bear spray on-hand when exploring the trails in Banff National Park.
6. Bow Falls
Whether Banff is your starting point or your final destination from Jasper, the Bow Falls are not to be missed! Located in the town of Banff, these falls are just a short walk from Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. They drops about 100 feet and are known especially for their picturesque beauty. The Bow Falls are a popular spot for locals and visitors, with many hiking trails in the area that offer surprisingly stunning views of the falls.
Local TipRefuel after your sightseeing adventures at STOCK, a from-scratch bakery with fresh-made sandwiches, an assortment of pastries, and delightful twilight treats. When the weather warms up, you can relax on the patio afterwards, or nosh on-the-go to your next adventure!
Overall, the Columbia Icefields Parkway is home to some of the most stunning waterfalls in the world. Whether you are a nature lover, a photographer, or just looking for a scenic drive in the Canadian Rockies, the waterfalls along the Icefields Parkway are sure to impress. So, if you are planning a trip to Banff National Park or Jasper National Park, be sure to include a visit to the Columbia Icefields Parkway and its amazing waterfalls on your itinerary.
Planning a Scenic Road Trip in Western Canada?
If you’re planning a road trip a little further west, check out the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver and Whistler. Connect closer to the ancestral heritage of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations area when driving along one of the most scenic highways in British Columbia.
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