Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields

Your Guide to the Columbia Icefields

Home Destinations Americas Canada Your Guide to the Columbia Icefields

For a truly otherworldly experience, you need to visit Canada’s Columbia Icefield. Ancient and ethereal, this striking landscape is the amalgamation of thousands of years of the earth’s movement. It has become a popular destination for visitors to Canada, who are looking for a different kind of excursion. Here, are some of the questions asked about the Columbia Icefield and how you can make the most of your trip.

Where can I see glaciers in Canada?

Canada is home to a massive number of glaciers. Predominantly located in Arctic Canada and the western mountain ranges – with 17,000 in BC and Alberta alone, few of them are as accessible as those in the Columbia Icefield where six major glaciers come together to form a place of wonder and beauty.

Where are the Columbia Icefield?

The Columbia Icefield is located in the Canadian Rockies. It sits on the continental divide along the border of British Columbia and Alberta. Part of the icefield sits on the northwestern edge of Banff National Park the southern edge of Jasper National Park. It is 125 square miles (325 square kilometres) and the glaciers can reach up to 1,198ft (365 metres) deep.

How many glaciers are in the Columbia Icefield?

There are six major glaciers that make up the icefield – Athabasca, Castleguard, Columbia, Dome, Stutfield, and Saskatchewan. The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in North America south of the Arctic.

Icefields Parkway

What is the difference between an icefield and a glacier?

Mainly size – an icefield is generally larger than a single glacier as it usually a combination of multiple glaciers. Where the landscape is flat, an icefield can form. Glaciers form when layers of snow compress over many years, creating a thick sheet of ice; they often form towards the edge of an icefield.

Is it safe to walk on a glacier?

It’s fine to walk on a glacier as long as you have the proper clothing and equipment and with an experienced guide. The main issue insofar as safety is concerned is that crevasses can form underneath the snow, which could lead to a fall. This is why a lot of glacier tours use a rope to connect walkers so that if someone should fall they can be easily helped back up.

With a Discover the World tour, you will have an experienced driver-guide who will not only teach you how to safely traverse the glaciers, they can also give you fascinating information about the history of the glacier itself.

Can you walk on the Columbia Icefield?

You can, however, it’s not something you can do on your own. You will need to have a knowledgeable guide and the right equipment to enjoy this walk safely. You will need to bring warm clothes, even during the summer months, food and water if the walk is a long one, and sunglasses to help protect your eyes not just from the sun but the reflective glare, even on a dull day.

How long does it take to do the glacier Skywalk?

For a totally different view of the icefield, the Skywalk is a fantastic attraction. At a kilometre long, it will take as long as it would normally take you to walk this distance, with a few moments to stop and take in the view. Situated 918 ft (280m) above the ground, the glass-bottomed walkway is presented in a story format, so you can learn about what you see while you traverse this incredible path.

The award-winning piece of engineering sits over the Sunwapta Valley. With just glass between you and the world below, it can be quite daunting but will give you a truly memorable view of the stunning environment.

Glacier Skywalk

How long is the Columbia Glacier tour?

The Ice Explorer Glacier Tour takes one and a half hours, and operates between April and October. During the tour, you’ll enjoy a ride on a specially designed vehicle, called the Ice Explorer. You’ll be taken across the icefield atop 333 metres of ice, where you can see incredible views of the ice stretched out around you.

Blues, greys, and sparkling whites give the icy world around a beautiful colour palette that make for an unforgettable excursion during Canadian adventure.

How do I get to the Columbia Icefield?

The Columbia Icefield is located one hour south of Jasper and two and a half hours north of Banff along the Icefields Parkway. This is hailed as one of the most scenic drives in the world. From the road, you can see glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls. There are also many spots along the way where you can stop for a picnic or just to have a moment to take it all in.

Looking to make the Columbia Icefield part of a trip to Alberta? Learn more our Canada holidays then speak to one of our experts on 01737 214 250.