Athabasca Glacier - Jasper - Hiking Alberta

 

Athabasca Glacier is one toe of the massive Columbia Icefield.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The Columbia Icefield connects Banff National Park and Jasper National Park near the Continental Divide between Alberta and British Columbia, Canada

Sunwapta Pass along the Icefields Parkwaydefines the border between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.  The massive Icefield hosts some of the tallest mountains in the Canadian Rockies.  The drive south on the Icefields Parkway, following the hike into Stanley Falls along Beauty Creek, will present the opportunity to experience the short, easy hike into the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.  The stop at a large parking area north of Icefield Centre soaks up the incredible scenery which is perhaps similar to visiting another planet.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Little A Glacier and two smaller unnamed glaciers on the flanks of Mount Athabasca and Mount Andromeda in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Seeding wildflowers border a river of melting water from many glaciers with Little A Glacier in the background at Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A long lens view of Little A Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Two unnamed glaciers hang over Mount Andromeda from the Columbia Icefield above Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The Dome Glacier hangs from the 3,451 m (11,322 ft) Snow Dome.  The Snow Dome is a hydrographic apex where melt waters drain to three different oceans; the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic Oceans.  Ravaged rock, scoured smooth over thousands of years by the advance and retreat of massive ice flow, leaves lateral and terminal moraines which are reluctant to foster new growth.  The breeze from the ice above is both chilling and refreshing in combination with the sun.  A formidable river of cascading water, rendered a milky turquoise by suspended rock flour, establishes an impressive foreground.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Dome Glacier hangs from the Snow Dome where prominent lateral moraines remain as evidence of its original size in modern times at Banff National ParkAlberta, Canada. Views are complemented by the feel of a cool breeze from the Icefield and the sound of fast, white and turquoise water.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Rock has been chewed up and abandoned in the path of the glacier's retreat near Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A long lense view of Dome Glacier and the rock debris left by advancing and retreating ice flow at the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. The size and fathom are difficult to grasp.

 

From the cool and calm environment at the viewpoint, a short drive south arrives at the massive and frantic parking area fort Icefield Centre.  As well as providing accommodation and a variety of dining options, the Icefield Centre is central command for the Parks Canada Visitor Information Centre, the Glacier Gallery and tickets for a variety of fascinating local excursions including Glacier Adventure interpretive tours on the surface of massive Athabasca Glacier via huge coaches specially designed for travel on the surface of a glacier.  There are unique experiences available here. 

One of the most recent is transportation to and from the Glacier Skywalk with glass-floored views of the deep and rugged valley beneath. The outdoor patio overlooking the Athabasca Glacier is an excellent place to enjoy packed lunches previously prepared by David Thompson Resort.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Little A Glacier past an emerald pond from the patio at Icefield Centre across Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The Athabasca Glacier from the patio balcony at the Icefield Centre in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The hustle and bustle of the Icefield Centre is followed by the drive across the Icefields Parkway to the busy parking area near the trail-head for a closer view of the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.  Near the parking area there is a busy Parks Canada booth and the opportunity to engage in an Icewalk Tour for a fee.  Across the bridge wide trail makes the moderate ascent past year markers which gauge the pace of the Athabasca Glacier's retreat.  The short trail, 1.0 KM (⅝ mile) return, is crowded.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Crossing the bridge at the Athabasca Glacier trailhead in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. People on the distant trail ahead provide scale.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A view north of one meltwater runoff near Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Barren, rock debris landscape along the trail to Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Passing the 1982 trail marker which indicates where the toe of the Athabasca Glacier was at that time in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The hill crests at the 1992 trail marker to begin a gentle descent towards the toe of the Athabasca Glacier on a well-defined path with rope barriers for definition.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Passing the 1992 trail marker which indicates where the toe of the Athabasca Glacier was at that time in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The view straight on to the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The view to the left on the approach to the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The view at the end of the loop trail at the toe of the  Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Small ponds and a large lateral moraine on the north side of the massive Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A formidable water flow past the front of the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

As the loop trail turns north at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier, barren terrain hosts the melt water carving into rock, debris-laden ice beneath lateral moraines.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The barren landscape at the base of Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Blue ice beneath rock debris at the end of a lateral moraine at Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Bed rock scraped smooth by the advance and retreat of Athabasca Glacier over centuries in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The return hike passes interesting rock feature with a sweeping view of massive mountains to the north and east.  Throngs of visitors, bundled up for warmth, provide scale on the hike back to the trail-head.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Nigel Peak past the Icefield Centre at Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Rock scraped round and smooth by the advance and retreat of the  Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Bundled up hikers on the short trail from Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The view north from the Athabasca Glacier trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Closing in on the trail-head, there is an excellent and expanding view of the Icefield Centre beneath the ridge which hosts the trail to Wilcox Pass and Wilcox Lake where the top of that ridge provided outstanding elevated views of the Columbia Icefield.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada  
 
 
The short, crowded, tourist hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier is recommended.  Anyone in the vicinity, who has not hiked this short, easy trail in the past, is well advised to throw on a warm layer or two and take advantage of the unique experience.
 

Photographs for this short but spectacular hike at the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada, along the Icefield Parkway were captured on August 19, 2014.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thanks for the pictures. Long ago we hiked at the Columbia Icefields. It was great and now it looks like we need to visit Jasper.

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