Self Portrait at Peyto Lake just before Sunset

Icefields Parkway Camping – Day 1

The North Saskatchewan River at the Big Bend

The next several posts will all feature photos from a recent camping trip we took to the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. We stayed at Waterfowl Lakes Campground (about halfway between Lake Louise and the border between Banff and Jasper National Parks. We stayed at Waterfowl Lakes for 5 nights and spent the days hiking and exploring in the nearby region….

The first few days (Tuesday through Thursday) it was just our immediate family but we were joined by my sister Heidi and her family from Friday afternoon through Sunday.

Day 1 – Glaciers, Rainbows, and Bears
Day 2 – Parker Ridge Hike, Swimming in the Mistaya
Day 3 – Nigel Pass Hike
Day 4 – Rained Out, No Pictures
Day 5 – Wilcox Pass Hike
Day 6 – Sunrise at Upper Waterfowl Lake

Day 1 – Glaciers, Rainbows, and Bears

We left home early on Tuesday morning so that we could arrive at the campground early enough to get a great campsite. Waterfowl Lakes campground is completely self-registration upon arrival and advance booking is not available. We really didn’t know how quickly or even if the campground would fill up, so we wanted to get there as early as possible. As it turned out the campground actually never really filled up on any of the days that we were there, but by arriving early we were able to snag a prime site beside the Mistaya river. the campground is beautiful and we will definitely go back there sometime soon.

After setting up camp and having some lunch we set out to do some exploring. Our 1st stop was the Athabasca glacier near the Columbia Icefields visitor center. We didn’t actually go up onto the glacier on this trip but we did explore the area around the foot of the glacier. I remember going there when I was much younger (I think it was 1985) and the glacier has receded a long long way from where it was then… It was a beautiful day and it was fun to show the kids the glacier and to talk about how far and why it has receded.

Athabasca Glacier at Columbia Icefields

After we left the glacier we headed back down the highway towards camp. We decided to pull over at the bottom of the “The Big Bend” and go for a walk to see the canyon where the North Saskatchewan river appears. We’ve driven by here many times in the past and although there is a pullout here, there’s no name or trail marker and it was never really clear whether it was worth stopping. It turned out to be a very interesting place to see. It was only a short walk to the mouth of the canyon and a few minutes longer to climb up onto the rocks above to see the water rushing out of the cliff. The water crashes against the walls of the canyon and creates a very fine mist all over the area, and we were there at the perfect time of day for the afternoon sun to create beautiful rainbows (sometimes 2 or 3 at a time!). I’m really glad we stopped.

Waterfall on the North Saskatchewan River at the Big Bend

Earlier in the day we had seen a grizzly beside the highway near the turnoff to Peyto Lake, so we decided to head back up to the area after dinner to see if we could find it again. In the worst case we would go for a walk up to the viewpoint for Peyto Lake and take in the views. Best case we would get to see the bear or some other animals in the area. We ended up getting both! We had a very brief encounter with the bear on the way to Peyto Lake. I managed to get a couple of quick pictures but it quickly disappeared into the woods, so we continued up to the viewpoint. Peyto Lake is a glacial gem and it is always worth a visit! It was a beautiful evening and we had the perfect conditions to see the lake in all its glory.

Self Portrait at Peyto Lake just before Sunset

Fortunately we had another visit with the grizzly on our way out of the parking lot and I was able to get a few great images as it ate dinner…

Grizzly Bear in Banff National Park

Here are a few more pictures from Day 1…

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