Icefields Parkway in winter
Jasper National Park
Known as one of the world’s most scenic drives, the Icefields Parkway boasts exquisite and otherworldly scenery as you travel along the 230-km stretch between Jasper and Lake Louise. Witness incredible snow peaked mountains, ancient glaciers, ice covered lakes and winter wildlife. Before you venture out on the Parkway this winter, please be prepared and check the road conditions reports. Drive with caution and enjoy the breathtaking beauty that awaits you on your journey through ice and time.
Snow tires are mandatory on the Icefields Parkway from November 1 to April 1.
Map: The Icefields Parkway Winter Driving Guide
Watch for wildlife
Look out for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, coyotes and deer; they are commonly sighted along the Parkway in winter. Do not feed or approach wildlife, and stay at least 30 meters from all animals. Pets must be on a leash at all times.
Along the Icefields Parkway there’s a 20 km stretch of road that runs through the heart of winter caribou habitat. As one of Canada’s species-at-risk, the Jasper herd of Woodland caribou represents a last stand for this wonderful animal in the mountain parks. You can help. Please “drive for wildlife” and for yourself and passengers by keeping within the speed limit.
Winter driving safety
The Icefields Parkway is no ordinary road, and, in winter, drivers need to consider a few things before starting their trip. To experience the beauty of winter on the Icefields Parkway, winter-worthy vehicles, warm clothing, patience and a little preparation will help ensure a safe and exhilarating journey.
Winter maintenance on the Icefields Parkway
- Plan to start early and complete your drive (with time for exploration and stops along the way) during daylight hours. Snow clearing and maintenance begins at
7 am and ends at 3:30 pm. Plus, you’ll want lots of daylight to take in all the epic views!
- Ensure your car has snow tires—look for the snowflake or "M+S" symbol. Snow tires are mandatory from November 1 to April 1.
- Fill your gas tank and bring extra windshield washer fluid. There are no services along the Icefields Parkway in winter.
- Have a safety kit in your vehicle that includes: a cell phone (service available on each end of the Parkway but not en route), water, energy bars, candles, extra clothing and blankets.
- Tell someone your route, when you are leaving and when you plan on arriving.
- Ensure you are comfortable with winter driving conditions. Drivers should travel based on comfort level and experience.
- The parkway is not salted so it can often be covered in compact snow. During long periods of stable weather, even sanded compact snow can result in challenging driving conditions.
- Road reports are based on the worst condition that a driver may encounter over the road’s entire 230 kilometre length. As in any mountain environment, weather can change very quickly, often changing the road conditions.
- Don’t forget your winter-worthy play gear (warm waterproof clothing, boots, snowshoes, skis, etc.). You will want to stop and explore the magic of winter along the way!
Check 511 Alberta or dial 511 (in Alberta only)
Jasper 780-852-3185 and Banff 403-762-2088
www.weatheroffice.gc.ca or www.theweathernetwork.com
Be sure and check the latest avalanche conditions at pc.gc.ca/avalanche if you plan to venture into the backcountry.
Jasper Information Centre: 780-852-6176
Lake Louise Visitor Centre: 403-522-3833
Banff Visitor Centre: 403-762-1550
Explore along the Icefields Parkway
Wapiti is a great campsite for family outings at any time of year. It’s close to town for supply runs and in the winter campers often get first crack at the slopes and cross country trails (because to really appreciate a campfire, you have to use it to thaw your ski boots!)
In addition to over 25 km of groomed cross-country ski trails that begin from here, this hub offers a winter shelter and winter camping. Camping is available on a first-come, first-serve self-registration basis. There are sites for tents as well as RVs. Note: there is no power or water on-site.
All winter campgrounds are self-registration.
12.6 km return. Trailhead: Sunwapta Falls, 54.4 km south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway
Rolling along the upper Athabasca Valley, this trail follows a wide fire road. The campground is accessible by skies, snowshoes or fat bike. This trail takes you to a campsite with incredible views of Dragon Peak and the Athabasca River. There are four tent pads, picnic tables, a fire pit and food storage cables.
A backcountry permit is required to camp in Jasper’s backcountry. For more information or to obtain a permit,
call 1-877-737-3783 or visit reservation.pc.gc.ca.
Hardy campers who wish to stay in the Columbia Icefields area are permitted to tent at the Wilcox Pass Trailhead. Note that this site is unmaintained during the winter. No water, garbage collection or maintenance services are offered. Please pack-out what you pack in and be aware that snowfall may impact access to privies. Fires are not permitted. After a snowfall, parking areas are ploughed only after all roads are cleared. Campers should be prepared with shovels. The Wilcox Trailhead site requires a bivy permit. Call 780-852-6177 for information.
Stops along the way
|Km from Jasper||
Km from Lake Louise
Valley of the Five Lakes
|9 km||221 km|
|Athabasca Falls||32 km||198 km|
|Goat and Glaciers Viewpoints||
|Sunwapta Fall||54 km||176 km|
|Beauty Creek Hostel||85 km||145 km|
|Stutfield Glacier||94 km||139 km|
|Tangle Falls||96 km||134 km|
|Wilcox Pass||106 km||124 km|
|Parker Ridge||112 km||118 km|
|Weeping Wall||124 km||106 km|
|Howse Pass||154 km||76 km|
|Peyto Lake||190 km||40 km|
|Bow Lake||196 km||34 km|
Hotels, restaurants and gift shops are CLOSED for the majority of the winter. For information on opening dates:
Sunwapta Falls Resort – www.sunwapta.com
Glacier View Inn – www.explorerockies.com
The Crossing Resort – www.thecrossingresort.com
Num-Ti-Jah Lodge – www.num-ti-jah.com
All six hostels located along the Icefields Parkway are open in the winter by reservation only. Call 866-762-4122 or visit www.hihostels.ca for information and reservations.
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