Athabasca Glacier Hiking Trail Map
A = Icefield Centre / Glacier View Inn
B = Athabasca Glacier Forefield Parking Lot by a gate
C = Parking Lot to Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
D = Toe of the Athabasca Glacier (final destination)
There are two trails hiking up to the Toe of Athabasca Glacier: one short and one long.
Trail #1: point B to D
Distance: 2km to the toe of the glacier and back; 30-60min
Trailhead: park your car at point B
The trail crosses the forefield of the glacier: the barren area exposed by glacial melt since the mid-1840s. It’s a strange landscape of bare rock, boulders and moraines. Conditions are extreme here, but hardy alpine plants have gained a foothold. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket for crossing this rocky, breezy terrain. Be prepared to turn back: meltwater streams flow across the trail, and on warmer days they can get large enough to cause problems.
Trail #2: point C to D
Distance: 1km return; 20-30min
Trailhead: park your car at point C
The trail begins by the interpretive signs in the southwest corner of the lot. Bring a jacket, gloves and a warm cap to ward off the cold glacial wind. Wear sunglasses to reduce glare from icefield. Once across the bridge over a meltwater stream from the glacier, you’re walking at times on glacially smoothed limestone surfaces that were under the ice in the 1950s. Scratches and gouges in the rock are aligned with the ice flow.
The trail steepens and reaches the top of a rock bench, where you can see the edge of the glacier just ahead. By all means, approach the iceit’s wonderful to be able to actually touch a glacier but watch where you put your feet! Avoid any places that look wet. You can plunge past your ankles into water-saturated mud known locally as glacial goop. And if you go on the ice itself, stay in the safe area. Read the warning box beside the map.
Read more on Icefields Parkway Travel Guide.