Columbia Icefield in Summer
The Columbia Icefield Centre is open seven days a week during summer (May 1 to Oct 15). There are a lot of activities to do around the icefield. I’ll mention a few quick and easy tourist attractions for a majority of people, unless you’re a hard-core summer hiker/camper.
1. Icefield Centre | Glacier View Inn
The Icefield Centre has a hotel (Glacier View Inn), a dining restaurant and cafeteria, an exhibit gallery (free admissions), a gift shop, visitors info desk, and glacier adventure tours.
2. Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure / Ice Explorer Tours
The tour is operated by ExploreRockies.com. You can check its website for rates and hours. It’s a worthwhile experience. If you’ve already traveled this far, you might as well experience this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Plus, the glacier won’t last forever; it’s been receding slowly each year. Another highlight of this icefield tour is to drink glacier water! Absolutely delicious. :P
- Tip: Dress in layers. It can be very windy and cold up in the icefield. Sometimes it’s warm and sunny.
- Tip: Bring an empty water bottle to collect some pure glacier water!!!
3. Hiking to Athabasca Glacier
There are two trails hiking up to the Toe of Athabasca Glacier: one short and one long.
Photos: Athabasca Glacier hiking & trail map.
4. Sunwapta Lake, River, Canyon, Falls
Sunwapta Lake is a lake formed at the base of Columbia Icefield. This lake later becomes Sunwapta River, which passes through Sunwapta Canyon and drops through Sunwapta Falls, prior to joining Athabasca River.
Photos: Sunwapta Lake, River, Canyon, Falls.
5. Tangle Creek Falls
Tangle Falls is a roadside waterfall, about 7km north of Columbia Icefield Centre. If you’re lucky, you may see mountain goats / rams by the waterfalls.
Columbia Icefield in Winter
The Columbia Icefield Centre is closed during winter (Oct 16 to Apr 30).
Icefield Centre Opening Hours
Tel: 780-852-6288 | Fax:780-852-6287
May 1 – June 5: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
June 6 – September 1: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
September 2 – October 15: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
October 16 – April 30 — CLOSED
Everything in this area is closed in winter!!! For a majority of tourists, I can only think of two things to do, unless you’re a die-hard hiker and enjoy winter backcountry hiking/snowshoeing/climbing.
1. Weeping Wall & Ice Climbing
Weeping wall is best viewed in the winter where you can see formation of giant icicles hanging down the cliff. If you’re lucky, you may find some ice climbers on those icicles in winter season. Very fascinating. In summer, the water drizzles down the cliff and it’s very difficult to see the actual waterfall if any at all!!! I totally missed it when driving by it this summer.
Photos: Weeping Wall in winter
2. Columbia Icefield Roadside View
The hiking trail to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier is closed in winter. However you can still enjoy the scene from the road. Stop by the road and take a few moments for the magnificent winter wonderland. The Athabasca Glacier is lying immediately next to the highway (Icefield Parkway). This section of highway tends to have more snow, so winter tires are recommended. The highway is regularly snow-plowed, but this area tends to have blowing snow and the road can get covered with snow easily.
Photos: Columbia Icefield in winter
Icefields Parkway Travel Guide
Read Icefields Parkway Travel Guide for more tourist attractions nearby Columbia Icefield.