The Icefield Parkway – take 2.
Five years later, here I come again.
I remember starting this blog after my trip. I wanted to tell my friends and family about how it was on the other side of the world. I wanted to show them as they are not able to come here to see it by themselves.
I love travelling but I love sharing more. I love travelling with people I know because when we will meet again, someday, somewhere, we will remember those days. Good or bad. Snowing or raining. It is not easy every day to travel but in the end, I learned that was stays is not your feeling on a said day, it is the global feeling of how the trip made you feel. Did it make you free? Did it make you shiver? Were you amazed? Disappointed?
So yes, I have been wanting to come back to the Rockies since I left them and here I was. Five years, many countries visited and lots of photography skills later. I had this plan in my head where I would see every sunrise and every sunset in a different place. I had much more things to see than last time because of what I had seen and searched online. Well, as you know by now, with me weather is not always nice and trips don’t always go as planned. So no, no sunrise or sunset this time, a little snow though and lots of turquoise waters.
The trip all started in Seattle, then Vancouver and after a few hours of car, we ended up in Jasper at 3AM. North of the Icefield Parkway.
We hadn’t booked anything but we supposed that a drop-in at a youth hostel would be fine, there seemed to be plenty of space in the one we were going to stay at the day after. Though, when we arrived, the night receptionist told us that there was an issue with the hostel software and she couldn’t tell if and where free bed were… I tried to call few other hostels around but all were booked. So we ended up sleeping in the car with blankets she lend us very nicely. There was no free spot in the parking lot so we parked on the side of the road next to the hostel (where we thought was a dead end). Well, I didn’t sleep much because few cars passed by and some Rangers one. I was trying to make it look as we just pulled over each time a car passed until a spot freed up on the parking. I even saw moose cross the street in front of the car at 6AM!
After this short night, we decided to go along the Icefield Parkway for short walks only. It was raining and the weather was very moody. We did a few stops. Here on the map is the list of everything I have done this time and last time.
Valley of the five lakes
It is a short walk in the forest with stops at green lakes. It was perfect for this moody rainy day. Walks can be around an hour or more if you want to explore and for families. it goes up and down but from what we have done, it is never for very long! If you don’t have much time, you can skip it.
I love waterfalls. I love turquoise waterfalls. Athabasca Falls are one of the stops that you can easily make on you way down or up the Icefield Parkway. Those are very impressive. The falls are surrounded by the mountains (and very accessible for young, old and disabled people). The must is that you can walk into a canyon where the water was flowing before. You can see that the river bed changed throughout the years.
I didn’t stop there the first time I went to the Icefield Parkway but I have to say, those falls are very pretty. There is an Island right in the middle before the falls starts to fall. It is truly magical with the mountains in the back.
After those stops, we went back to the hostel not too late in order to take a shower and rest a bit. I wanted us to leave early the next morning in order to get to the lakes (Peyto, Louise, Moraine which are 2h30 away from Jasper for the closest) early and avoid tourists but we ended up leaving around 8 or 9 AM. The night before, we met a photographer that was staying around the Rockies for a few weeks, taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets and he told us that parking lots were full starting at 10 AM. Especially in Moraine Lake where at 5AM for sunrise, there already were a lot of people. Crazy when you think that 4 years ago when I went, there were more people at Lake Louise and we had no trouble parking at midday there. I had a hard time believing it. Well, when we got there, we didn’t have any spot to park neither at Louise nor Moraine.
The first stop we did on the “Lakes tour day” was Peyto. My Favorite. The one that looks like a dog head as they say. To me it is more a claw but it is like for the clouds I guess, it depends on who is looking at it. The parking was not empty but not full either. One thing to know is that there is a small walk uphill to get to the view point (like 5-10 minutes) but it is not very far. Once there, the view is incredible even if there are lots of people.
Some people go down on the right side of the view point in order to get their “alone picture” (Which is funny because there are a lot of people doing it). You can do that, sure. But there is another “hidden” point of view, my favorite, that we found the first time we were there with my friend Angy. We followed an indication in one of our books to reach it. I remember that I was scared because the path is going down and there is no indication nowhere to say where this path is going – yeah I wasn’t that adventurous back then. I was like: “huhhh are you sure? It doesn’t seem to be the right way blablabla”. But then we turned, and we arrived to that “secret” spot.
You can see everyone up there taking pictures from the official view point but down there you are alone. We took pictures for like an hour without anyone joining us. A family arrived after, maybe they saw us from up there but that was it. The three of us with the Peyto Lake (and the little chipmunk). If you want the exact path to get there, send me a message or leave a comment!
We then left Peyto to reach Lake Louise. Ugh, no parking spot in any of the ten parkings (I don’t know if it is ten but it looked like it). No spot either for Moraine Lake (which only has one road to get to it and they close it if the parking is full – it is a 20km walk from the closing point to the lake). After turning twice around all the parkings we decided to get to another lake: The Emerald Lake.
The Emerald Lake
Yes you might have seen it in lots of pictures this year. It was not that famous before but it grew popularity maybe because Moraine and Louise became so full of people. It is a nice lake, but I think it would be a nicer one to be on a kayak in. Because from the shore, at the time of day we reached it, it is hard to get the green emerald color of the lake that you see on the pictures. It is beautiful still though!
At that point we could see big dark clouds closing in on us. We went back to the car just in time before it started raining cats and dogs. We headed back towards Banff when I had this idea that as it was raining, maybe people left Lake Louise. We went back to Lake Louise and we could get a parking spot! Right on the first parking next to the lake! People don’t like rain, keep that in mind just in case.
We went to the lake, took a few pictures. The shores were not too crowded as it just rained, it was beautiful with these colors of storm and sun mixed up. I am a bit sad though that we didn’t had time to hike to the highest view point because it was already a bit late in the afternoon.
When we left, we still couldn’t get to Lake Moraine. My big regret this time. I remember the last time when we went, I was kind of disappointed by the lake – I guess Peyto charmed me so much that I had no other space in my head for other beauties – but I really wanted to give it another chance and another try. I guess I will have to come back! Always a good excuse to go back – like in New Zealand with Mount Taranaki.
Which stop was your favorite? Which lake did you prefer?