Icefields Parkway North America's Premier Cycling Route
No doubt about it. I will tip my hat to the California Coast; to Vermont's
route 100 in the fall; to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the spring. But I will bow low and
worship that corridor thru the Canadian Rockies and the Banff/Jasper national parks, known
as the Icefield's parkway. Forget the complainers about the traffic! The shoulder is the
widest lane on the road...for those cyclists unhappy with that, go campaign for AlGore in
On a regular basis there are campgrounds. A better recommendation, however, is the youth
hostels which are rustic: two small dormitories for men and women, a common kitchen in
a third room. Water often comes from the creek out back. Such lack of amenities discourages
the hordes of bussed in schoolkids who are the plague of hostels in Banff, Jasper and other
cities. The hostels are also a good idea because bears are frequent campground visitors
in these mountains!
There are two great passes on the highway, Bow pass and the far superior and challenging
Sunwapta pass. At the Sunwapta icefields the glacier comes down to the road and you can climb
and frolic on it some. Look at how thick the ice coats the mountains...almost like frosting on
a cake. There is a large visitors center and hotel/restaurant near the icefields; the camp
ground is a few kilometers further south.
The climb to Sunwapta pass is the steeper of the two by far. Coming from the south the main
climb occurs after you go around a 1 mile 'circle around nothing' in the roadway; actually
it is a place for trucks to gain speed for the climb ahead. Coming from the north there is
a steady climb as soon as you leave Jasper and it gets steep about 5 miles south of the
pass. Enjoy the scenery and don't burn out. I have very low gears..my smallest front cog is
28 teeth, my largest rear cog is 36. So I can spin if I have to in those final few clicks.
My first time on the Parkway was in late June of 1982, and it was a hot climb indeed as
I came up from the south. That grade after the 'loop' is intimidating, and I was
sweating pretty heavy when i heard the sound of roaring water thru the thick forests to my
right. Normally waterfall photos are not that good; its hard to appreciate the tumbling
unless you can see the whole mountain and then the waterfall is only a small part. But this
one was quite nice, on the other side of a forested valley perfecly silouetted by two trees.
I told myself I stopped to see the beauty; the meaning; the silence. Not because I was tired!!
More icefield parkway photos and stories will be added soon and are welcome from readers.