Columbia Icefield Adventure – Is It Worth It?

We have done the Columbia Icefield Adventure multiple times and we are here to share what we have learned so you can have an awesome time when you visit!

On the Athabasca Glacier with the Columbia Icefield Adventure

Is the Columbia Icefield Adventure worth it? Yes!!!

On your way from Banff to Jasper via the Icefield Parkway you have to make a stop at the Columbia Icefield! When you are here you won’t want to miss the Ice Explorer and the Skywalk. They come in a combined ticket and are well worth a stop!

You can buy your tickets for the Columbia Icefield Adventure (Ice Explorer and Skywalk) here. We love this adventure since it gets you out on a Glacier. Yes you actually get to walk on a Glacier! Plus you can drink the glacier water!! But thats not all you also get to go out on the glass skywalk that takes you out over a canyon with some epic views.

On the Athabasca Glacier with the Columbia Icefield Adventure

What is the Columbia Icefield and where is it located?

The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in North America. The Columbia Icefield Discovery Center is located right across from the Athabasca Glacier which is one of 6 “toes” of the Columbia Icefield.

It is located on the Icefield Parkway in Jasper National Park and is about 2 hours from downtown Banff National Park and 1 hour 15 minutes from downtown Jasper National Park.

How can I visit the Columbia Icefield?

There are some tours that will come here. Or you can do the drive yourself in your car or your RV to come and visit the Columbia Icefield. There is plenty of car and RV parking. There is some mountain driving but nothing to crazy.

You can drive the Icefield Parkway all year but the road is sometimes closed due to Avalanches. You always want to check before heading out on the road in the winter.

The Columbia Icefield Adventure is usually open May to beginning of October – all weather dependent.

What are the popular activities and attractions at the Columbia Icefield?

The most popular activities on the Columbia Icefield include the Columbia Icefield Adventure where you take an Ice Explorer out on the Glacier and get out to walk on the Glacier. Plus the Skywalk where you walk out on a glass platform over the Sunwapta Valley.

Ice Explorer on the Columbia Icefield Adventure

Notes On The Columbia Icefield Adventure:

Athabasca Glacier: This is the glacier you see and go on when visiting. It is part of the Columbia Icefield in the Canadian Rockies. The Columbia icefield is the largest in North America.

Tickets: You can check ticket prices here. Tickets do have a timed entry and you do need to be there 15 minutes early so you can load onto the bus at the right time. We were running late and luckily when we got there they were able to move us to a later time. But I would not count on this being available.

Jasper National Park: You are in Jasper National Park when you drive the Icefield Parkway so you will need your Jasper National Park pass as well before driving on the Icefield Parkway. You can buy this at the Jasper National Park entrance booth on your way in.

Parking: There is plenty of parking in the lot for the Icefield Adventure both car and RV parking. If you want you can even stay overnight in your RV in the RV Parking lot – check the sign in the lot for the cost. When we went it was about $12 (USD) – you put the cash in an envelope.

Clothes: It gets cool up on the Glacier so you may want to bring an extra coat when you go up. They recommend bringing layers to wear when you get to the Glacier. We visited on a sunny day and the kids had shorts on and were totally fine. We also didn’t have any jackets and it was OK. But you know yourself and your family so dress accordingly.

Seats: Seats are not assigned on the bus so get in line early if you want to be first on and have your pick of seats together. The buses do fill up. We recommend getting on and taking seats towards the front so you are first off the first bus and first in line for the Ice Explorer bus.

When you get on the ice explorer I recommend sitting on the left hand side when you walk onto the bus this will give you the best glacier view when you are going up to the glacier.

Be prepared – people are fiesty and are looking for these seats so they will jump up to get them! Even if you can’t get the very front seat it is still nice to get seats at the front of the bus so you are the first one on and off.

Water: Bring an empty water bottle so you can fill it up with Glacier water!

No Bathroom: There is no bathroom on the whole experience. I repeat there is no bathroom on the whole excursion! The whole thing takes about 2 1/2 hours so as hard as it might be you should skip the Starbucks when you walk in the Discovery center to check in.

Length of Adventure: 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.

Our Experience on the Columbia Icefield Adventure

The parking lot is a decent walk from the Discovery center where you check in and get on the bus. If you are a slower walked or prefer to take your time give yourself at lest 20 minutes to get from the parking lot to the ticket check in. There are also a lot of stairs you will have to walk up to get into the Discovery Center.

Family picture on the Athabasca Glacier

We got there and grabbed some sweet picutres with our RV from the RV Parking lot – there is plenty of room here for all sizes of RV’s.

After that we headed up, bought some stickers in the gift shop, and got in line. We were the 2nd group in line so ended up with seats in the front – score!

Glacier Experience

On the bus to the Athabasca Glacier with the Columbia Icefield Adventure

We got onto the first bus – similar to a greyhound bus and it was about a 5 minute ride to the Ice Explorer station. Once we reached the station we got off the one bus and got pretty much right onto the Ice Explorer.

Take note if you want to hold your front spot be sure to stay in the front of the line!

From here we got onto the massive Ice Explorer and our driver and guide Rocco kept it entertaining as we made our way onto the Glacier. I should say entertaining and educational!

When you get on the Ice Explorer you do need to put seatbelts on so no sitting on laps on these seats. They have windows you can open if you are hot.

Off we went to drive to the Glacier. Part of this process takes you down a 32% grade rock hill! Im not going to lie it was a bit scary!

The driver goes very slow down the hill and I don’t know if that makes it more scary or less. But he is talking the whole time sharing stories about the area, the history and the glacier so that helps!

I would say the ride there takes about 15 minutes or so. Once you reach the Glacier you are able to get out and walk around – staying within the boundaries. These boundaries are no joke so stay within them!! You have about 30 minute to explore the Glacier before your Ice Explorer leaves.

Time On The Glacier

Drinking glacier water from the Athabasca Glacier

There is a small stream right by the boundary where they tell you to fill your water bottle or grab a drink. We had brought our water bottle from home and filled it up and drank it and it was cold and super refreshing!

We got some family pictures – just ask someone there and be sure to return the favor and take a picture for them.

They also have a Canadian flag that we took a picture by.

The kids of course had to throw some snow/Glacier ice at each other and had fun running around the Glacier.

After that we took some pictures by the gigantic Ice Explorer and headed back in for the ride back to the station where we switched back over to the bus.

You can buy your tickets for the Columbia Icefield Adventure (Ice Explorer and Skywalk) here. We love this adventure since it gets you out on a Glacier. Yes you actually get to walk on a Glacier! Plus you can drink the glacier water!! But thats not all you also get to go out on the glass skywalk that takes you out over a canyon with some epic views.

Skywalk Experience

Columbia Icefield Adventure Skywalk

The bus took us past the Discovery Center and over to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk. This is the only way to visit the Skywalk. I repeat you cannot drive your car and park at the Skywalk. The only way to get access is through the Columbia Ice Field tickets.

They dropped us at the Skywalk where we had to scan our Skywalk tickets and off we went to walk on the glass floored skywalk!

The Skywalk is a circular glass bottom platform that juts out from the canyon wall that you walk on. It goes over the spectacular Sunwapta Valley. Cannon walked out and started jumping right away. Making us and a few other people nervous around us!

Picture of the kids on the Columbia Icefield Adventure Skywalk

We walked around the platform and got some pictures with the jaw dropping views of the Canadian Rockies and the valley. From there we headed back to the bus. The bus took us to the Discovery Center – it is about a 5 minute ride. And that was a wrap on our glacier adventure!

Melia on the Columbia Icefield Adventure Skywalk

Our Ice Explorer driver told us that NASA ran some tests and they are predicting that the Athabasca Glacier – the one we walked on. Would be gone in 60 years – possibly sooner with how warm the climate has been.

He also mentioned how Glaciers provide 70% of the earths drinking water.and shared with us about the original people who lived in this area of Cananda.

They still come back once a year to do a ceremony and the Pursuit team at the Columbia Icefield were invited to participate in it for the first time this last year. Both parties are working to form a positive connection with each other and to keep the glaciers a priority so we can have them around as long as possible!

Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre

If you want to hang out more at the Discovery Centre you can! They have a starbucks, resturant and gift shop. There is also a small hiking trail outside. And you have amazing views of the Glacier!

Locations On The Icefield Parkway

While you are making the scenic drive along the North American continental divide from Banff to Jasper National Park on the Icefield Parkway you will want to make a stop at Lake Louise (if you haven’t had a chance yet!) and also at Peyto Lake. There are a ton more stops you could make. Really you could spend a whole day driving to the Icefield Parkway.

If that is something you want to do and you have an RV. You could plan one day to drive the parkway and plan to spend the night in the Columbia Icefield Parkway RV lot. Then get up the next morning to do the Icefield Parkway Adventure.

Lake Louise

Family picture in front of Lake Louise

Don’t miss a stop here. We have found the best time is to go at 8pm at night. You can easily park in the lot up by the lake at this time. Either that or really early in the morning (we aren’t morning people).

If you go later in the day you won’t be able to park up there. And it will make the whole stop take longer since you will have to take a shuttle. It is possible but it will be harder to do. Check out this post on how to do that here.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

This is a gorgeous lake stop on your way from Banff to the Columbia Icefield Parkway Adventure! You pull into the parking lot, park, get out and walk about a 1/2 mile uphill to get to the lake. Look at the color of this lake water!!

Family Picture at Peyto Lake

It is beautiful and well worth a stop. Depending on how fast you walk (uphill) you can make this a quick stop! It is worth it so add it to your places to stop on your way to the Icefield.

Get your Jasper: Columbia Icefield Skywalk and Ice Explorer Ticket here.

Additional Activities You Don’t Want To Miss In The Area

There are so many great things to do in Banff National Park. Here are a few we don’t think you should miss:

Banff Gondola – we had an awesome time going up on the Banff Gondola. We loved taking in amazing views and hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain!

Lake Minnewanka Cruise – this 1 hour cruise will take you out on the beautiful waters of Lake Minnewanka.

Horseback Riding In Banff National Park – We did a 1 hour long horseback riding adventure along the Bow River and loved the horses and the views!

Golden Skybridge – Drive a couple hours from Banff and spend the afternoon on suspension bridges, zip-lining and a ropes course!

Johnston Canyon Lower Falls Hike – this short but beautiful hike is a top hike to do in Banff. Don’t miss it!

Chinook Rafting – we had such a fun time on our family friendly rafting trip!

You will also want to check out the Maligne Canyon hike in Jasper National Park!

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Is the Columbia Icefield Adventure in Jasper National Park worth it? Read on to find out our thoughts on it and what to expect when you visit.

**We were hosted by Pursuit Collections on our Columbia Icefield Adventure. All opinions are our own.


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