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Columbia Icefield

This immense expanse of ice is home to six major glaciers, as well as some of the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak, including the mighty Athabasca Glacier.

Go for a drive over massive glaciers that have been active for thousands of years. Stare in awe at endless snowfields or hike past icy crevasses and muddy moraines. Drive the scenic Icefields Parkway to arrive in this vast winter landscape, which is one of the few that is easily accessible by road. Special explorer buses can take you into the park and even onto the glaciers.

With 130 square miles (365 square kilometers), Columbia Icefield is the largest of its kind in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and it feeds into six main glaciers. Located at about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) altitude, the Columbia Icefield has year-round snowfall. 

Stop at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center, open April through October, for information. Learn how the Icefield is one of the major sources of fresh water for farmland and cities in North America. To see it all up close, book a tour with a vehicle that can take you onto the glaciers.

Most people visit at least the steadily receding Athabasca Glacier. Sign up for the Columbia Icefield Scenic Walk; a two-hour trek along the side of the glacier with a naturalist. Listen to the story of its formation and find out by how much it retracts every year. Take care if you decide to tour the glacier without a guide: Hidden crevasses in particular can prove treacherous and you should never set out on the hike alone. If you’re not feeling active, go for the Glacier Adventure aboard a snow coach bus. The trip lasts 1.5 hours and departs frequently. 

Longer journeys lasting up to nine hours take in other sights of the Columbia Icefield and require you to book ahead. Tours often include Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, Big Hill, Victoria Glacier, and Athabasca Falls.

The Columbia Icefield is located on the boundary of Banff National Park. To get there from Jasper, travel 63 miles (108 kilometers) south on the scenic Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Stop at the Athabasca Falls for a beautiful view.

Not sure how to get the most out of your time at Columbia Icefield? We've put together some of the most popular activities to give you a head start:

If you're looking for even more activities, take a look at our Jasper things to do page.


Guide to Exploring around Columbia Icefield


Map

Best Lodging Options Near Columbia Icefield

See all 4 Properties near Columbia Icefield
Glacier View Lodge
Glacier View Lodge

Glacier View Lodge

Highway 93 N, Icefields Parkway, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park South Entrance, AB
     
    3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Situated in Jasper National Park South Entrance, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway. Athabasca Glacier is 0.7 mi (1.2 km) away.

    HI-Rampart Creek Hostel
    HI-Rampart Creek Hostel

    HI-Rampart Creek Hostel

    Ice Field Parkway, Rampart Creek, AB
       
      1.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Situated in Rampart Creek, this hostel is within a 5-minute walk of Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway. Athabasca Glacier and Panther Falls are also within 25 mi (40 km).

      Fortress Lake Wilderness Retreat
      Fortress Lake Wilderness Retreat

      Fortress Lake Wilderness Retreat

      Columbia Shuswap A, Fortress Lake, AB
         
        2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

        Situated in Fortress Lake, this lodge is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Jasper National Park.

        Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge
        Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge

        Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge

        Highway 93 - Icefields Parkway, Sunwapta Falls, AB
           
          2.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Situated in a national park, this lodge is within a 5-minute walk of Jasper National Park and Icefields Parkway. Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls are also within 25 mi (40 km).