Top Ten Canada Classic Adventures

Cycle the Icefield Parkway
By Bill McRae

At the very spine of the continent, a battlement of majestic glacier-clad peaks extends for more than 100 miles above deep-green forests and lakes tinted an impossible turquoise by suspended glacial sediment. Winding through this primordial landscape is the Icefield Parkway, an excellent, wide-shouldered highway linking two national parks, Banff and Jasper.

One of the most scenic mountain highways in the world, the 178-mile Icefield Parkway sees plenty of car traffic in summer. But do it by bicycle. While you'll need to be fit, weather-ready, and acclimated to high altitude, the highway itself has wide shoulders and long, well-graded ascents and descents. And along the route you'll find small and rustic hostels; you can break the journey into a series of three or four short day trips.

Along the way, you'll peddle through alpine meadows spangled with wildflowers, and you're almost assured of seeing elk, moose, black bears, and mountain goats. The biggest climb along the parkway is up to Sunwapta Pass, in the shadows of 11,450-foot Mount Athabasca. At the summit, the icy tendrils of the 200-square-mile Columbia Icefield come into view. Give your legs a rest and join a tour of the icefield in a specially designed snow coach. From here, it's mostly all downhill, past two mighty falls in the Athabasca River and finally to the town of Jasper.


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