Best time to travel to Banff & Jasper National Parks

Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier in Banff & Jasper National Parks

A giant one kilometre wide and six kilometre long tongue of the Athabasca Glacier hidden beyond the mountains

Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier
Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier
Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier

Experiencing the magnificence of nature among the rugged icefields of an ancient glacier has never been so exciting. The Icefields Parkway—a scenic drive over Lake Louise and Jasper—cuts across the Columbia Icefield with amazing views of the Athabasca Glacier at its finest.

The Columbia Icefield is home to one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and is a great experience to take in along the Icefields Parkway.

Only a small part of the Columbia Icefield is visible from the road. The rest is hidden beyond the mountains. The Icefield feeds six glaciers of which three can be seen from the parkway: Athabasca, Stutfield, and Dome. The Columbia Icefield is considered to be the most abundant ice mass in the Rocky Mountains, extending 25 kms across the Continental Divide. The melting snow and waters from the glaciers flow straight north to the Arctic Ocean, east to the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Pacific Ocean.

You can park by the Glacier Discovery Centre, located across the parkway close to the Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier, where you can also browse through shops and visit two restaurants. This is also a great opportunity to take in fantastic views from the Glacier Skywalk.

Board the Ice Explorer, a large six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle. It will take you onto the Athabasca Glacier for a 90-minute adventure. You can also stay at Glacier View Inn and take more time to explore the Glacier. The operating season is mid-April to mid-October.

Practical info

What is the best time to visit the Banff and Jasper National Parks?

Visitors can explore Banff and Jasper National Parks from mid-April to mid-October when the temperatures are warmer and the average daytime highs range between 16-22°C. It is an ideal environment for flora and fauna enthusiasts as the region boasts stunning glacial landscapes and vast biodiversity. Show more

Where can I park my car to visit the Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier?

The Glacier Discovery Center, with plenty of parking space and facilities such as restaurants and shops, is the ideal place to park for those visiting Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier. Visitors may choose to hike to nearby glaciers or board the Ice Explorer, a large all-terrain vehicle, and complete a 90-minute tour. Show more

How long is the adventure tour using the Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier?

The adventure tour using the Ice Explorer takes about 90 minutes to explore the Athabasca Glacier's unique landscape. Visitors board the all-terrain vehicle at Glacier Discovery Center, which departs for the glacier. They learn about the glacier's composition, walk on it, and enjoy scenic views of the area while spending a memorable 90 minutes. Show more

Can I stay at Glacier View Inn and explore more of the Glacier?

Glacier View Inn is an excellent place to stay if you want to explore more of the Glacier. The Inn, located near the Icefields Parkway, offers private rooms with stunning mountain views, complimentary breakfast, and access to a lounge area with a fireplace. Visitors can explore the glacier's many facets at their ease and then retire to the Inn's comfortable quarters to rest. Show more

What other glaciers form part of the Columbia Icefield apart from the Athabasca, Stutfield, and Dome?

Besides the Athabasca, Stutfield, and Dome, the Columbia Icefield includes Castleguard, Saskatchewan, and Columbia Glacier. Although these glaciers are not visible from the Icefields Parkway, they support pristine ecosystems and flow into the Athabasca River, which drains into the Arctic Ocean. It's a must-visit for those who seek to explore some of Canada's exquisite landscapes or are nature enthusiasts. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier (Map)

Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin