June 2017 – After a long day of flying (had to get up at 3am Eastern), we arrived at the Calgary airport at 12:30pm (Mountain Time). The airport is super efficient and we were in our rental car and on our way less than a half hour after landing. We drove about one or one and half hours to the start of the Icefields Parkway.
Ranked as one of the world’s most scenic drives, this road has many viewpoints, hikes, and wildlife to see along the way. We stopped at almost all viewpoints on the way up, at least for a couple of minutes, and did a couple of hikes along the way.
At Hector Lake, we pulled into a sloped parking area to the left to do a quick hike. Unfortunately, we were completely thrown off guard by the aggressive mosquitoes (we know to expect these in Florida but had no idea they would be in Alberta). We did not carry any bug spray with us, so we pretty much ran the length of the trail to the lake and back. A little further up, we found a viewpoint of the lake that was probably better than what we saw on the hike anyway.
Armed with some bug spray, our next hike was at Peyto Lake. I had read that the best views are not at the boardwalk but on a trail past the paved section. Without much of a plan, we took off in that direction and ended up on the Bow Summit trail which took us up the mountain side. We ended up in several feet of snow, which was a nice experience in itself, but we were traveling away from the lake at that point. After a couple of miles, we retraced our steps and then took a little side trail that ended up having some pretty nice views of the lake. The lake is an amazing turquoise color caused by sediment mixing into the glacier water. Out of all the lakes we saw on this trip (and probably all the lakes I’ve ever seen), this was by far the most beautiful in my opinion. It is smaller than most of the other lakes and does not have any water activities, though.
After leaving Peyto Lake, we continued north (stopping often) to the Icefield Centre. We walked the steep hill to the Athabasca Glacier viewing area and spent some time reading the signs. After that, we tried to hit up the center across the street for some dinner but it had closed. We were starting to panic since we had not eaten any meals that day and the parkway is very limited in that respect. A couple of very nice people told us that our best bet would be to retrace our path about forty five minutes or continue on our way north half an hour to Sunwapta. We made a couple of more quick stops on our way to the Sunwapta Rocky Mountain Lodge. We raced into the restaurant and luckily made it just in time to be seated and served before they closed for the night. The food wasn’t the best (kind of bland and dry), but we were so hungry after being up nearly 24 hours that we didn’t care at that point. After dinner, we checked into our “hideaway” room, which was clean and comfortable but a bit outdated and had a heavy smoke smell from the fireplace (my sinuses did not handle this well during our stay). After being up so long, we were sleeping quite deeply when our alarms alerted us the next morning that it was time to get ready for Maligne Lake (reviewed in another post).