Treat yourself to a stay at the gorgeous Glacier View Lodge on the Icefields Parkway. Stunning views of the Columbia Icefield, decadent dining, and epic adventures await!
Driving the legendary Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper is a must when visiting the Canadian Rockies. With glaciers, waterfalls, and turquoise lakes around every corner, it’s impossible not to be awestruck by nature’s splendor (and appreciate why the drive is consistently touted as one of the world’s most scenic drives!). The only thing that could make this experience better is to stay a while, at the heart of the parkway, and explore the magnificent terrain around the Canadian Rockies’ largest icefield.
From Glacier View Lodge, you can adventure by day and relax in your Scandinavian-chic glacier- or mountain-view room at night. The recently remodeled hotel has 32 luxurious rooms directly across from the Columbia Icefield. With dining onsite, transportation provided to/from The Ice Explorer Tour and Skywalk, and guided Ice Walks on the Athabasca Glacier, you can take a break from driving and park your car for the duration of your stay.
If you’d like to explore the local attractions without the crowds, upgrade to the Columbia Icefield VIP Adventure Experience for a private after-hours tour of the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, private morning tour and hot beverages on the Athabasca Glacier, evening entertainment, and stargazing with interpreters and telescopes (weather permitting) on the viewing deck.
Our Stay at Glacier View Lodge
As we cross the bridge to the alpine chalet that is home to the Glacier View Lodge and Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, we stop for a photo. Although we’ve been here several times, and it’s raining, nothing can take away from the grandeur of the scene before us. Athabasca Glacier, the star of show, is straight ahead and Dome Glacier is on the right. These are two of six major glaciers that make up the massive Columbia Icefield which is approximately 325 square kilometres (125 square miles).
At check-in, we’re invited to a welcome reception and cocktail in the spectacular Moraine Lounge. With a floor-to-ceiling window, comfy chairs, and gas fire, it’s the perfect place to read, play games (they have Jenga!), and enjoy the view. While we warm up with cocoa and hot tea, we wonder how it can taste so good. Is it the ambience or unparalleled location? Later we learn from McKenna, our Skywalk tour bus guide, that the lodge uses spring water from Ripple Lake, and “you should get a coffee here if you haven’t already.” Mystery solved! (I still feel the setting makes everything taste better though.)
We’re pleasantly surprised to see our room shares the same stunning view as the lounge. Peeking out the window around 5:30 pm, we can see that most of the day trippers have headed home. We take advantage of this quiet time to visit the Columbia Icefield Skywalk and end up being the only ones on the bus!
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
On the 10-minute drive to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, our tour bus guide McKenna tells us about the glaciers and rivers they feed, how alpine lakes get their colour, how and when the Icefields Parkway was built, and about our destination: a glass walkway jutting out from a cliff 280 metres / 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley. “Are you scared?” McKenna asks us. “No, I love it!” my youngest hollers. She’s been there before and doesn’t fear heights. It’s cool (and reassuring) to hear that the Skywalk, is so strong “it can hold 21 Ice Explorers at 3 tons each – or 4 million squirrels.”
From the bus stop to the Skywalk, there’s a scenic 1-kilometre interpretive trail with six stations. For an enriched experience, we recommend taking a free guided tour (available on a first come first served basis unless you’ve booked the Columbia Icefield VIP Adventure Experience). It’s a lot more fun than reading every sign, and you can get a local’s advice on things to do in the area.
Our guide, Keira, points out the huge Mount Kitchener rockslide which took place 1,000-10,000 years ago, and shares what fossils have been found here, how thick the glaciers are (300 metres!), and what animals call this area home. Mountain goats, often seen at Skywalk, are so agile, one “can put all four hooves on your smartphone and turn around.” To our delight, we see three mountain goats clambering across the cliffs below the Skywalk, including a mama and baby. The mama goats often bring their kids here because the walkway “shelters them from golden eagles.”
Since we have the Skywalk to ourselves, we savor every moment and take our time watching the mountain goats, waterfalls, and river rushing below our feet. It’s such a different experience when there’s no one else around and the guides do a great job of sharing the history, geography, and geology in an interesting way.
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is open May 15 – October 17, 2021 weather permitting. Reservations recommended.
Dining at Altitude
Altitude Restaurant offers delicious dining with a stunning view of the Columbia Icefield. Breakfast offerings include eggs benedict, avocado and salmon gravlax toast, and French toast made with brioche, Rum Flamed Banana’s, Raspberry Coulis, Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream; while the dinner menu features beef stroganoff, grilled salmon with Saffron Orange Emulsion, and tea smoked duck breast. Kids can order from the Tiny Explorers Menu so they’ll still have room for dessert. My girls recommend the Boreal Forest Cake!
Trinity, our server, is excited to be working here this summer. She tells us she “loves [her] walk to work past the pond where fish are jumping.” While she hasn’t seen a bear in this part of Jasper yet (she saw lots at Maligne Lake where she used to work), she sees “bighorn sheep and mountain goats around here.” It’s hard not to be excited about the landscape and wildlife that is right outside your window. We watch the fish jump as we finish our dinner, and come back in the morning for breakfast while clouds drift across the glaciers.
Things to Do at the Columbia Icefield
The best thing about staying here – besides the wonderful rooms, service, and views – is having the attractions and trails to yourself at the prettiest times of day (early morning and evening).
Guided experiences to try:
- The Ice Explorer Tour
- Columbia Icefield Skywalk
- Guided Ice Walks on the Athabasca Glacier
- Star gazing with a guide and high-powered telescope (ask for details when you check in)
Self-guided experiences in the area:
- Hike Toe of the Glacier Trail to the edge of the Athabasca Glacier: 1.8 km return; 60 m elevation gain. Park at the second parking lot across the street from Glacier View Lodge. FOR YOUR SAFETY, STAY OFF THE GLACIER! If you would like to hike on the glacier, do so on a Guided Ice Walk. People have fallen into crevasses and died exploring the glacier on their own.
- Visit Tangle Creek Falls: 7.2 km north of Glacier View Lodge (look for pullout on the left side of the road 1.2 km past the Skywalk). The falls are across the highway. ***If you choose to cross the road, use extreme caution.***
- Wilcox Pass: 3.4 km return to the red chairs; 8 km round-trip to the pass, 390 metres elevation gain
- Hike Parker Ridge to a spectacular viewpoint of the Saskatchewan Glacier: 5.4 km return; 250 metres elevation gain. Look for “Parker Ridge” parking lot 9 km south of the Icefield Centre.
For more information, see our story: The Best Stops on the Icefields Parkway.
If you’d like to explore further, Jasper is only an hour north of Glacier View Lodge. Tangle Creek Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls are a few highlights of the drive.
Glacier View Lodge is located at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N): 130 kilometres north of Lake Louise or 104 kilometres south of Jasper.
For More Information / Book Now
To get more information, or book your stay now, visit Pursuit Banff Jasper | Glacier View Lodge. Glacier View Lodge is open from May until October 9, 2021.
This story was written in partnership with Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection, but all words and opinions are my own.