Trans-Canada: Jasper to Banff A.K.A Cycling the Icefields Parkway

Jasper –  Icefields Parkway (Jasper National Park)  –  Lake Louise  –  Banff

And so to the most SPECTACULAR section of the ride so far… Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). From research I knew that this part of the trip was also going to be incredible and we should take our time making our way through, with distances of just 40km one day to 100km another, and that’s exactly what we did.

I left the last post at Jasper where we stayed at the Wapiti Campground for the night. That evening we met a couple of other cycle tourers, Thomas who’s currently in Death Valley – or possibly home by now because he’s going SO BEEPING FAST – and Gian. Abby had decided a couple of days before to hire a car to get through Icefields and so she was to meet me the next evening in one of the later campgrounds. So I promptly recruited Gian into Team LGADFS to ride Icefields with me 🙌! Gian’s a Swiss/Italian and arrived in Vancouver a few weeks before, explored Vancouver island and was due to fly out of Calgary mid-July, perfect.

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We stocked up on food and goodies in the great grocery store in Jasper – supplies are limited in Icefields unless you want to eat out for every meal, and as much as I’d love to, that’s not in my budget – and set off. Immediately the landscape was incredible and so the first day was full of lots of stopping for photos of our incredible surroundings.

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QUICK BIT ON COSTS: Icefields is not cheap but you can do it more cheaply if you’re prepared. One thing we weren’t prepared for was the entry/backcountry fee for the National parks – each day you’re in the parks costs $9.80 (or an annual pass for $68.70). We were planning on 4 days in total and so coughed up for a day each with the plan to buy each day after that… If we saw somewhere to purchase that was 😉. On top of the visitors fee is the cost of camping at one of the 11 campsites – it’s illegal to wild camp in National Parks – which is $15.70 each night. We were cycling Icefields right at the beginning of the season – I wouldn’t fancy it any later, there were enough RV’s around already! – but had no trouble with finding somewhere to camp as all the campsites have walk-in sites for hikers/bikers which were perfect for us. Finally, there are no stores on Icefields but there are plenty of restaurants/lodges along the way – poutine stops aplenty if you’re willing to pay!

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Quick meet up/photo opp. of Team LGADFS just before Wildfowl Lakes ☺️

The campsites we stayed at were: Jonas creek > Colombia Icefields > Silverhorn Creek (we were aiming for Wildfowl lake but it was closed…) and then straight into the showers of the Hostel International at Lake Louise.

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Cycling the Icefields was an incredible way to see an incredible place. The weather was hit and miss, it started out with blazing hot sunshine but then we’d literally see all seasons in one day. In fact on our last day out of Silverhorn towards Lake Louise we were almost stranded after climbing to Bow Lake Summit (in a luxury lodge serving strong coffee and incredible hot chocolate no less, oh dear…) after snow rolled in. I was content to sit it out, hoping we could leave later but Gian – who happens to know a thing or two about snow, being a X-Country ski instructor – MADE me get back on my bike (wearing pretty much all my clothes and some of his) and descend down through, and out of the snow. Lucky too as we later heard that it was there to stay for a few days. Unfortunately this meant that we didn’t get to see the incredible views we were hoping for of Bow Lake but what we saw (when we arrived!) promised great views for those lucky enough to see it.

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Our view of Bow Lake on our – and the snow’s – arrival…

After spending an impromptu night defrosting in the Lake Louise hostel we headed to Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) and oooooof are we glad we did! It was an absolutely stunning ride and a great comedown from the wilds/extremes of Icefields – thoroughly recommend this section if you can do it!

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Bow Valley Parkway – avoiding the busy Highway 1

 

We’d spent an extra night in Lake Louise and Banff and so finally caught up again with Abby in Canmore where we were hosted by lovely WS hosts Kirsten and Lyle. It was great to see her properly again although we then only spent one more day cycling together from Canmore to Calgary… but what a ride ☺️.

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