Columbia Icefield in Canada: 10 Attractions and Excursions

Columbia Icefield

Enormous ice field in the Rocky Mountains, which you can explore in various ways.

Columbia Icefield is a huge ice mass on the border of Banff National Park and the also famous Jasper National Park. This ice field is located on the lovely Icefields Parkway, and is therefore easy to visit by road.

This natural wonder is one of the greatest attractions of the Rocky Mountains. It covers an area of approximately 325 km2. The Columbia Icefield is therefore the largest ice field on the North American continent. Although the ice mass is rapidly decreasing in size due to climate change.

The glaciers supply water to no fewer than three seas; the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Arctic Ocean. But the ice also feeds the various famous lakes, such as Lake Louise. These lakes are famous for their striking blue and green colour. These are the best attractions of the Columbia Icefield, and some of the best tour. 

The Glaciers of Columbia Icefield

The Columbia Icefield is not a glacier as is often thought. This ice field feeds no fewer than six large glaciers: Athabasca Glacier, Castleguard Glacier, Columbia Glacier, Dome Glacier, Stutfield Glacier, and the Saskatchewan Glacier.

The ice lies between a number of well-known mountains, including Mount Athabasca (3,491 m), Mount Bryce (3,507 m), Mount Columbia (3,747 m), Mount Kitchener (3,505 m), North Twin Peak (3,684 m) and South Twin Peak ( 3,566 m). The Indians who lived here knew the ice well. The first whites to see the ice didn’t arrive here until 1896.

Columbia Icefield Discovery Center

The Columbia Icefield Discovery Center is the visitor center. Here you can get information about the numerous excursions that are offered. But, and this is very interesting, also about the formation of this ice mass. You will also find a lot of information about the shrinking of the ice due to the warming of the climate. Which can be seen in the visitor center.

Athabasca Glacier

The Athabasca glacier can be seen from the road, the rest is more hidden in the landscape of Banff National Park. The Athabasca Ice Tongue is about 6 km long and between 90 and 300 meters wide. Over the past 125 years, this glacier has fallen by half.

Because this glacier lies along the Icefields Parkway, it is the most-visited glacier in North America. It is possible to climb on the ice, either by yourself or with a guide. Cracks in the ice have led to several deaths among tourists over the decades.

See my tips for the Athabasca Glacier

Hiking the Columbia Icefield with a guide.

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is a glass viewing platform above the landscape. So you can see how the ice mass hangs in the mountains. You’re walking on glass, so don’t be too scared. 

See my tips for the Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Excursions at Columbia Icefield

Most tours go onto the ice field. This can be done by ice buggy, a kind of bus with extra-large tires. Due to the tires, the buggy can drive onto the ice with ease.

Find a tour that suits you. In which you will at least go out on the ice, but also get some time to walk on the ice. Or take a tour with a guide on the ice. Where you walk on the ice with crampons, a kind of crampons. So that you cannot slip.

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