The Icefields Parkway and Bow Valley Parkway

Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in Canada. Also known as Highway 93 north, it stretches 230km from the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) on the south end to Jasper on the North end, running through the town of Banff and Lake Louise along the way.

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/400 sec., f/6.3, ISO 100, 70mm

The drive is an absolute beauty as you are surrounded by majestic mountainsides all around you. The sheer size of the Canadian Rockies really puts you in your place when you realize its magnitude. The parkway is literally a gateway to beautiful viewpoints, hiking trails, glacier lookouts, epic waterfalls, and wildlife, it will be a drive you will remember for a long time. Just imagine seeing the view below on your way through the highway! Mirror Lake, as seen below, is accessible via these stairways. There’s a parking lot just off the highway for visitors to park and get closer to the lake. There was a mother bear with her two cubs perusing through the trees not too far from here when I came.

Nikon D800, 1/640 sec., f/10, ISO 100

Nikon D800, 1/640 sec., f/10, ISO 100

And speaking of wildlife, you will see no shortages of these, even just off to the shoulder of the highway. When you’re driving and you see cars parked along the shoulder up ahead, that’s a sure sign that there is wildlife nearby and the cars are parked to take a closer look.

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200, 70mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200, 70mm

The parkway winds through mountains and forests, like below, making it easy to get swept away by mother nature.

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

Nikon D800, 1/800 sec., f/7.1, ISO 100, 200mm

And when you happen to catch a terrific scenery, be sure to stop and soak in that sight. You never know when you’ll see it again. I did just that with the scene below. I loved the pop of turquoise from the river amongst the green trees, surrounded by the mountainside. It just stood out to me.

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

Nikon D800, 1/500 sec., f/9.0, ISO 400, 24mm

One of my favourite viewpoints off of Icefields Parkway is that of Peyto Lake. With just a 10-minute hike along the paved, slightly steep trail from the parking lot, you’ll get to this view of an amazing glacial-fed jade-coloured lake.

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/14, ISO 100, 15mm

Nikon D800, 1/160 sec., f/14, ISO 100, 15mm

The colour literally changes every minute depending on the way the sun shines on it. If you go to this viewpoint though, be sure to follow my instructions on this post, where I tell you about another viewpoint just minutes away and offers a non-obstructive, barrier and crowd-free view of Peyto Lake.

Bow Valley Parkway

Although the Icefields Parkway can easily captivate your senses, there’s another parkway that should not be missed. If you’re headed up and down on the Trans-Canada Highway from Lake Louise to Banff multiple times, make sure at least one of those trips is along the Bow Valley Parkway. This parkway—running parallel along Highway 1—is another gem of a ride, offering different views of nature and other scenic spots along the way.

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Nikon D800, 1/250 sec., f/8.0, ISO 100, 38mm

I drove down this parkway from Lake Louise, heading south, and saw this view of the valley and railroad tracks that literally stopped me in my tracks. I parked the car on the side to get out and take this picture, which I absolutely love. I had to stand here and admire the view for a while before getting back to my car. After a few short minutes in my car, driving back down south on the parkway, a freight train came by on the tracks. If only it were there a few minutes beforehand it would have made for an even greater photo!

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Nikon D800, 1/100 sec., f/9.0, ISO 100, 38mm

Make no doubt, these two parkways are a fantastic trip in their own right. When you’re on them, be amazed at your surroundings and don’t be afraid to stop every so often for that picture-perfect opportunity. Given that, it’s probably best you leave extra time for stopping at the various viewpoints along the way.

Do you have a favourite memory of the Icefields Parkway or the Bow Valley Parkway? Let me know your favourite stops below in the comments.

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