Friday, July 26, 2013

Trekking on the Athabasca Glacier and Other Adventures

A few days ago I came across a travel blog listing the top 20 places to see in North America before they disappear. Sadly, the Athabasca Glacier was on the list. Due to warming climate changes, the Athabasca Glacier has receded more than 1.5 kms during the past 125 years. That's said to be over half the size of the original glacier.

So this past week, we rounded up the road trip crew and headed east to the Columbia Icefield for an afternoon of exploring and trekking on the Athabasca Glacier.

Our road trip started in Vancouver, BC. We headed off Friday afternoon for our 9.5 hour journey to the glacier, with a few fun stops along the way. Our first stop was just outside Golden, BC where we discovered this little gem. I don't know the whole story behind this inukshuk, I've just seen multiple references of Golden, BC being Canada's G Spot. We stumbled across this inukshuk just along highway 1 outside Golden, and it made for a fun photo op.

Our next stop was in Lake Louise for a breathtaking view of the lake. We arrived in Lake Louise around 6am, and were fortunate enough to watch the sunrise over the mountain tops. Lake Louise is just as beautiful as we expected, and well worth a visit.

After visiting Lake Louise, we made our way to the Columbia Icefield for our trek on the glacier. On our drive up to the glacier, we noticed markers with date stamps on them. Sadly, we learned these were markers that showed where the glacier receded to during that year. It's a chilling discover that highlights just how real global warming is.

Our guide on the Athabasca Glacier was a global glacier trekker that reminded us a lot of Yukon Cornelius from the Christmas cartoon Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He was a very knowledgeable trekker with some great science information about the glacier. The trek up the glacier lasted a few hours to the top, with several stops along the way to explore cracks and caves in the glacier. We paid $70 for our guide up the glacier, and it was worth every penny.

Beautiful ice cave in the glacier

Although you are legally free to walk on the glacier on your own terms, it's smarter to trek with a guide who watches out for security issues on the glacier, and provides you with the necessary safety equipment (if needed).

For those of you unfamiliar with the location of the Athabasca Glacier, it's located along the Icefield Parkway, between Banff and Jasper in Alberta.

If you're unable to make the 3 hour trek on the glacier itself, there are bus companies that drive you to the top of the glacier. It's not the same experience as trekking 3 hours on the glacier, but you still get to experience it. You can also clearly see the glacier from the parkway while driving between Banff and Jasper, and can stop for some great pictures. 

We of course packed our usual 5 lbs of spaghetti for this little road trip (a staple of our trips). After trekking on the glacier, we headed north to Athabasca Falls, followed with a 10 hour drive home. This was a 26 hour road trip to the glacier and back. Doing crazy road trips like this allows us to explore amazing attractions like the Athabasca Glacier, without having to pay a few hundred dollars in hotel costs and food. I always make sure to bring food on our road trips to save on costs.

Have you been to the Athabasca Glacier before? If so, please do leave your comment below and let us know about your travel experience.


  1. Lake Louise 35 miles east of Banff provide a great spot for ice fishing, skating, dog sledding and ice climbing. In summer, the area attracts almost as many visitors to its trails, waters and rock faces. I went there last year through the bus tours from San Francisco . The water in Lake Louise really attracted me. I saved some great scene in my camra for special memories of soaring peaks, stunning glaciers and lush carpets of alpine wildflowers fed by clear bubbling springs. It was awesome and worth a trip.

  2. This place look really great for an adventurous tour, thanks for sharing about it.

  3. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Travel