Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier and Glacier Skywalk

August 15th ~ Junction of Banff and Jasper National Parks

Glacier Skywalk

The Icefields Parkway extends 144 miles from Lake Louise to Jasper. With over 100 glaciers, numerous waterfalls, towering mountains and the Continental Divide, stunning wilderness hiking opportunities, and of course the chance to spot animals in their natural habitat make this UNESCO site worth the trip. Condé Nast Traveller has labeled it one of the top drives in the world. 

We have already covered it from one end to the other over the past several days. The only places still on the list to see and explore are the Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier and the Glacier Skywalk.

View of glaciers from Glacier Discovery Centre

Our campsite (Wilcox Creek) was only a few short miles from the Glacier Discovery Centre. The day before, we had stopped in and pre-booked our 9:00 am combination excursion that included both the trip to the Icefields and the Glacier Skywalk.

Athabasca Glacier

Advised to check in at least 10 minutes before departure, their system operated smoothly and we were soon on board a comfortable bus that would take us the short distance from the center to where we would load onto the hefty Brewster Ice Explorer.

This thing is a beast!

I know most of you have seen the steep hill warnings when crossing mountains that range from 6 degrees to 12 degrees where trucks are advised to pull over and check their brakes and use a lower gear. There are even run-a-way ramps if their brakes fail.

Well, let me tell  you folks – that is NOTHING compared to what the Ice Explorer bus had to navigate to get us up onto the glacier. We found out that this beast of a mover was certified to handle the icy roads up to a chillingly steep 38 degrees. We came to within 4 degrees of maxing it out! Now THAT is STEEP!!!

Athabasca Glacier was our destination where we walked on ice up to 1,180 ft thick.

“The glacier currently recedes at a rate of about 5 metres (16 ft) per year and has receded more than 1.5 km (0.93 mi) and lost over half of its volume in the past 125 years.” ~ Wikipedia

They had grated the ice near where we disembarked from the beast onto the glacier which made the walking a little easier. Even with sturdy boots, I was still doing a fair amount of slipping and sliding and hung tightly onto Tim’s arm. Others who were more steadfast on their feet scampered off and explored further onto the ice fields.

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Before we knew it, our time was up and we climbed back aboard the Ice Explorer. Maneuvering our way back UP that 34 degree, very steep hill was a bit of a thrill. Then it was time to transfer back to a regular bus for our five-minute journey to the second half of our tour, the Glacier Skywalk.

Glacier Skywalk

Glacier Skywalk

The glass-floored observation platform is suspended 919 feet (280 m) over the Sunwapta Valley.

We had originally planned on doing a similar skywalk when visiting the Grand Canyon earlier in our trip, but I had mistakenly thought it was at the North Rim instead of the West Rim. So, since we missed that one, this was a kind of “make-up” experience.

Tim is not fond of heights, and was relieved when we missed the Grand Canyon Skywalk, but was a great sport here.

Tim looking straight down 🙂

What we saw when looking straight down

Tim out on the walkway

Joanne and Gus

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In case you missed them, here are the posts of some of our other stops along the Icefields Parkway. You can click on any title to read that article.

City of Banff and Lake Louise


Banff National Park ~ Johnston Canyon Hike, Peyto Lake, Bridal Veil Falls


Holy Cow! Finally, Finally, Finally!!! ~ Jasper National Park


Yoho National Park ~ Natural Bridge, Emerald and Moraine Lakes


GRATITUDE MOMENT – Today I am grateful that Tim overcame his fear of heights and was able to share this experience with me. He confessed that it did not bother him at all. Now that is HUGE progress. Yay!

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
This entry was posted in Canada, Photography, RV Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier and Glacier Skywalk

  1. Terry says:

    Wonderful, man this makes it hard to wit a year for my trip.


  2. tippysmom2 says:

    My internet connection is going wacky after a storm here, so I can’t get all of your pictures to load. But, the ones I do see are great! I can’t imagine going up that steep hill! Yikes! I’m not sure I would have done well on that sky walk. Glad Tim was able to enjoy it too.


  3. Two years ago my husband and I visited Banff and the Athabasca Glacier. We decided to hike with a group up the glacier instead of taking the bus. Have really loved looking at all your pictures! 🙂


  4. Maxxtrails says:

    Was the tour worth the money? We stopped there last year with our grandson but when we saw how much it was going to cost, the wait time, and the short duration of the visit to the ice fields we passed.


    • I have to agree that it was pretty spendy for what it was. But it is not every day that you have the opportunity to walk on a glacier. I’m glad we did it, but it may not be a WOW for others. The Skywalk part of the package was similar. Impressive, but doing it once is enough.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Maxxtrails says:

        Thanks Joanne, that is what I thought. I think we will wait until our grandson is older to take him. We took our children on the tour when they were a few years older than him and they still talk about it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think I’d like that glass walkway either! Lol.


  6. joliesattic says:

    Goodness! I got nauseous just looking at that. How did he manage? I remember my ex with my daughter on his shoulders looking down into the grand canyon and I’m screaming at him while trying to look over while lying on my tummy.


  7. Breathtaking pictures and thanks for the awesome share. Lovely post.


  8. joylennick says:

    As ever, great photography and one to note – Tim overcoming his fear of heights! From my typists chair it sounds quite hairy and that CLIMB AND STEEP ROAD! UGH…All credit to you two for braving the hard bits….Take care. x


  9. Susan Hunter says:

    Stunning photographs–but I’m with the fear-of-heights commenters. Still, these lines from the Lobster Quadrille sprang to mind:
    “There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
    The farther off from England the nearer is to France – Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance. Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?…”

    How lovely that you both have joined the dance.


  10. Anabel Marsh says:

    Fabulous! We did the Ice Explorer last time so didn’t stop this year, even though the skywalk was tempting. I don’t think it was there 10 years ago. Your lovely pictures make up for what I missed!


  11. Traveling Hooligan says:

    Sweet pictures! My boyfriend and I are looking into visiting these locations. Great post 🙂 Cheers!


  12. Wow. Just wow. This might be on next journey now….


  13. I watched the sun rise at Athabasca Glacier one day in July, 1979. It is a beautiful memory. Thanks for the post.


  14. Love your blog. You sure do a lot of traveling. Enjoy your upcoming travels. I look forward to reading about them. By the way, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. You can find out more here:


  15. curvyroads says:

    I’m way behind as usual, but had to say “WOW” about this post! We have to schedule this area into our plans, it is so spectacular!


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