The Icefields Parkway, British Columbia To truly appreciate the beauty of Athabasca Glacier I highly recommend to hike up to Wilcox Pass where you have an unprecedented view of the glacier and the surrounding mountains! The hike is neither long or hard – but one of the most gratifying hikes in the Rockies. The fact that you often see Bighorn Sheep up her just adds to the excitement. So don’t expect to be the only one on this popular trail.
The trailhead is a couple of kilometres south of the Icefield Visitor Centre. The parking lot is fairly limited so it is a good idea to be there early to ensure you get a parking spot. Within 30 minutes after starting the hiking you have passed the steepest part of the trial and the view really opens up. The rest of the hike you have magnificent 360 degree views.
The combination of the alpland fauna, glaciers amongst high mountains and the wildlife makes this one of my favourite hikes! As long as you hike on a clear day this hike will not disappoint you. The best view of Athabasca glacier is in my opinion just before you reach Wilcox pass.
We hiked up in the middle of the summer and it was a warm day, even thought the hike starts at 2000 meter above sea level. When we reached the pass we found the Bighorn Sheep all cooling down on what was left of snow after the winter. We did unfortunately not have a telephoto lens with us so apologies for the poor picture quality.
When you get to Wilcox Pass the terrain transforms to a flat plateau and for those wanting a one way hike you can continue over the pass and the trail will take you over the pass and down to Icefields Parkway further north along the road. The pass is a perfect place for a lunch break.
The views on the way down is just as rewarding as going up I find. When hiking uphill I am so concentrated on the goal I forget to look back so I always see something new on the return.
Also check out: Drive Ice Explorer on Athabasca Glacier
My somewhat subjective hiking rating:
Trail: The trail starts a couple of kilometres before the Icefields centre (coming from Lake Louise). You will get above the three line in less than 2 kilometres. The rest of the trail you can just take in the view! When you reach the pass there are options for additional scrambling, but is it not necessary for the views sake.
Worth it? Yes, yes and yes
Length: 8 km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 335 m
Duration: 3 hours
Kid friendly: Yes, there is lots to see and they will love the bighorn sheep!
If you are interested in doing the hike yourself check out the ACTIVITY MAP to find the location of the trail head.
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