The road to the Columbia Icefields, one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic Circle, is said to be one of the world’s greatest mountain drives, and one of the most scenic drives in Canada. It wasn’t hard to see why, when around every bend were incredible scenic views, that even when shrouded in clouds, couldn’t contain the power and grandeur of the snow capped mountains and pristine blue lakes.
The drive through the Icefields Parkway runs between Jasper National Park and Banff National Park, and will also take you right to the Glacier Discovery Centre. You can’t miss it.
Walking On An Alpine Glacier In The Canadian Rockies: Athabasca Glacier
Make sure you arrive early to the Glacier Discovery Centre, where you get set up with your tour tickets. You’ll want to arrive early to purchase or pickup your tickets as it was incredibly busy when we arrived. You don’t need a reservation, but if you know you can be there by a certain time, making a reservation will guarantee your time slot so you can get more exploring done in your day.
From there, you will board a tour bus that takes you to the bottom of the Athabasca Glacier where you switch at a bus stop like platform onto the Ice Explorers. The tour itself is well timed that it didn’t feel like there were too many Ice Explorers arriving with more tourists, you were able to get the photos you wanted and even with two little kids, we had plenty of time to do as we pleased. The weather was all over the place on our trip, but we were so fortunate that the sun came out and the sky started to clear before our adventure, allowing us to snap these gorgeous photos.
Traveling in a huge Ice Explorer to the middle of the glacier was definitely a highlight for the kids. The ride is about 5 kilometres, round trip. Once you reach the glacier, you are able to get off the Ice Explorer and onto the ice for some fun photos and to taste some of the delicious and ice COLD COLD COLD glacier water. That water was so refreshing and delicious.
Our driver was a business student in Alberta working for the summer and he was fabulous. It’s always nice to see someone so passionate about what he is doing, and someone that speaks so highly of the company he is working for, Brewster Travel, and his summer experience learning all he can about the amazing glacier. He had much insight into the interesting geological features, with a few fun jokes thrown in for good measure.
You’re only allowed access to the area that is roped off. Do not cross over the boundaries as it can be extremely dangerous. The area that you’re allowed to be in is inspected and safe. We learned that because the glacier is always shifting and moving, it creates a lot of danger when you don’t know what you are doing, making you vulnerable to find a hidden crevasse that could swallow you up, and you definitely wouldn’t find that fun.
Know before you go:
- Tours depart every 15-30 minutes from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre on the Icefields Parkway.
- It will be a lot colder on the glacier than at the Discover Centre. Dress warm and wear a good pair closed toed shoes. It can also be slippery.
- Bring a water bottle to fill up with glacier water. We didn’t bring one, so we used our hands to take a sip. It was cold, cold, cold. Don’t do it our way.
Our driver mentioned that the Ice Explorers pass through a river before going onto the glacier. Doing this helps to remove dirt from the explorer so that dirt is not being brought onto the glacier. This helps to lessen the impact of the speed of the glacial melt.
This Glacier Adventure has given us the desire to try some glacier trekking one day. This time though, since we had both girls with us, and since they are three and one years old, trekking just wasn’t going to be in our cards.
You’ll be left absolutely speechless by your surroundings and the power of mother nature. We had never walked on a glacier, so we could definitely not pass this experience up.
We also took in the beautiful views at the Glacier Skywalk. You can pair the two experiences together and you are transported on a tour bus between the two experiences. The transportation was seamless.
Have you ever been able to step foot on a Glacier? Share your experiences below!
Our experience was sponsored by Brewster Travel, but as always, our opinions are our own. It was a very well organized experience!