Coming out of Canmore you chuck a left onto the TransCanada Highway #1 within five minutes of entering the highway you will pass thru Banff National Park entrance. With our annual pass already on the rear view mirror you’ll proceed 24 kilometers to the three exits for Banff! But since you’ve been there done that yesterday you’ll just drive on by waving at them and Mount Rundle as well as the surrounding mountains.
Thirty clicks onward opens up the exits for Lake Louise. You will see a parade of right hand turn signals and a mass of vehicles slowing to go observe the blue lake at the base of the Fairmount however we have other intentions for today!
Another ten minutes on and you will find Highway 93 also known as Ice Fields Parkway. Here you will veer off the highway and slow to a stuttering pace of 60 until you must slow down at the brand new Jasper National Park entrance booths. Here the Parks Canada person will say Hello, Bonjour de parc Jasper, then recognize your pass and wave you on.
Per your already planned trip, you will know that Saskatchewan Crossing is 82kms onward and your “real adventure” begins after that intersection with Hwy 11 also known as the David Thompson Corridor.
Destination #1 Panther Falls
Panther Falls is hidden from the highway and is not marked. Approximately 33kms north of the crossing, you will reach a downward left bend in the road followed by a very large right hand U that drives into a steep incline up to a viewpoint. Stop here for a supreme view of the valley which you’ve just driven through.
To your left will be a nice waterfall called Bridal Veil Waterfall. Take some photos or videos and get back in your vehicle. Literally get on the road and pullout at the next stop less than 200m away.
Park on the north end of this giant parking area. You will hear the falls as soon as you are out of your vehicle. The thundering rush of water before it falls hundreds of meters into the river valley below.
There are two trails. The one to the left leads up river to where the water cuts through a short black canyon. The second trail has a log at the trailhead in the northeast corner of the lot. Take the second trail down to the thunderous explosion coming out of the canyon. You will hear the sound of rushing water, see the mist and its rainbows plus the trail, roots and surrounding rocks will begin to be wet.
BE EXTRA CAREFUL
This is not the place where you want to spook anyone. This is a dangerous descent. I would highly suggest bringing a rope to tie off onto a nearby sturdy tree, if you intend to get a cliff side view.
After the ginormous falls we headed further up the highway for a pitstop at Parker Ridge, to use the facilities.
From here we drove another twenty-ish minutes to reach Columbia Icefields. Pausing near the 1942 marker for a shot of the ever receding Athabasca Glacier.
The wind and soon the rain made us decide against seeing how far back over the last ridge the glacier has receded since our last trip up here in 2016. The scariest moments are always those when you, yourself realize just how far back this glacier has melted over the years that you have enjoyed its being.
Other than today, I’ve come to the Columbia Icefields in 2007 whilst living in Calgary, 2010 before departing to SE Asia, 2016 when we came through here with my mom’s and today. Four trips over 13 years and it’s not getting better.
It’s receding decay illuminates the atrocity taking place year after year with each passing year as it erodes and recedes back up the mountain. By 2040 the glacier will have shrunk more than 75% of its original mass due to human existence.
For all the beauty in the natural world this always makes a lasting impression on this writer about why it’s important to teach our youth about conservation of lands while we still can.
For more information on the Columbia Icefields please go to: Parks Canada Jasper National Park