From our hiking series, you're probably aware by now how fortunate we feel to live where we do. Golden’s backyard has some of the best scenery in the area, with its lush forests, big peaks and rushing waterfalls. This blog features four of the best hikes on the Icefields Parkway if you're going to drive from Lake Louise to Jasper.
Even with everything Golden has to offer, a really special gem exists one hour east of our mountain town. And it just so happens to be one of the most coveted drives in the world.
Highway 93N, otherwise known as the Icefields Parkway, links Lake Louise to Jasper. This 3-hour stretch of highway has some of the best views while driving, as well as numerous stops and sights along the way.
That being said, it only makes sense that there are some amazing hikes and view points to explore. We’ve tried and tested quite a few of them, so here is our list of the best hikes along the Icefields Parkway.
The best hikes along the Icefields Parkway
1. Peyto Lake
For those who simply don't have time for a long stroll in the mountains, this quick trip to a spot overlooking the magnificent Peyto Lake is well worth a stop. This path is a short 1 km stroll through the woods on a paved trail, which goes to show how many visitors stop to take a peak at this beauty.
Once you get to the lookout, you will be overwhelmed by the turquoise colour and mountainous landscape. It really is a picture from a postcard, but better because it's real life.
This parking lot is located on the west side of the Icefields Parkway, approximately 42 km north of Lake Louise.
2. Helen Lake
This hike leads to one of the most beautiful meadows in all of the park… in our opinion! This moderate day hikes starts by climbing 2 km up a few switchbacks through the woods until you reach the meadow.
The meadow is 2 km long, 1 km wide and has wonderful views of the Bow Valley. Helen Creek flows through the centre of the meadow, flowing toward the valley bottom. If you happen to take this journey in late June or July, chances are you will see wildflowers which are blooming everywhere.
Once you continue on this path towards Helen Lake you will see some stunning views of the Bow Valley and beyond. The lake itself is not the most exciting of places, but you have the option of moving onwards (and UP!) towards Dolomite Pass.
From here you will see views of Dolomite Peak, Cirque Peak, Mount Hector, Wapta Icefields, Bow Valley and Helen Lake - so much from one spot! This is a wonderful spot to take a break and have some food before turning back.
This trailhead is located 1 km south of Bow Lake, 38 km north on the parkway from Lake Louise.
3. Bow Glacier Falls
This one is a gem of a hike behind the stunning emerald-coloured Bow Lake, which can be seen on the west side of the parkway. The lake itself has a beautiful magic to it, but the real beauty is seen behind the lake.
A 5 km trail meanders alongside the lake, to the back of the lake where you will make your way past boulders, through woods and along loose gravel to a lovely waterfall that flows directly from Bow Glacier.
This is the headwater for the Bow River, which is the river that runs through the City of Calgary. Stop and soak in the beauty of the landscape you just walked across. It truly is stunning.
Since the trail is very close to the edge of the lake, and water from the falls flows all alongside the trail, it's not uncommon for some water to consume the trail at points. Be mindful of your shoes when planning this short half-day excursion.
This hike is located at Bow Lake, which is found around the 37 km mark on the parkway from Lake Louise. The trailhead is behind Num-Ti-Lodge.
4. Molar Pass
A mightier mission, this 22 km roundtrip hike gains more than 800 meters of elevation, but also showcases some brilliant views.
The first part of the trail is an ascent through a thick forest, but starts to flatten once you make your way past Mosquito Creek. Six kilometres in you will find a lovely picnic area, and past here you will again be trudging through forest.
BUT, once you reach the end of the tree line, you will find joy in the views of the sweeping meadows. You will walk along a slope to the pass itself, which offers some magnificent views. You have the option of continuing on to North Molar Pass if you feel up to the mission.
The trailhead is a bit more tricky to find, as it starts in the trees away from the highway. If you park at the Mosquito Creek campground, cross the highway and follow the sign north of the bridge. Here you will find the sign leading up to Molar Pass.
Other Resources for the Best Hikes on the Icefields Parkway and Other Nearby National Parks
This highway is one of our favourite places to explore in the area, and we highly recommend it. The drive itself is worth your time!
If you are heading to or from Jasper, a short stop at the lookouts are well worth the extra minutes. You will not be disappointed. For up to date and real time info on everything in Jasper National Park, the Parks Canada website is a great resource.
Live an adventure!
Cheers, from the Glacier crew.