canada

Road Tripping The Icefields Parkway In Autumn

A road trip in the Canadian Rockies in October was always going to be a risk. The last time I went to the Icefields Parkway, arguably one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world, it was September and we had low clouds and rain on the way up the Icefields Parkway, and slightly higher clouds and slightly less rain on the way back down. In short, not ideal weather for prime mountain viewing.

It wasn’t entirely a disappointment – it was still a stunning road trip, and I got some incredible photos of our views, but it wasn’t quite the postcard perfect trip we had expected.

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

This time, it was October. Potentially worse, although definitely quieter. In fact, we missed Banff’s earliest major snowstorm in years by mere days, which was both a blessing and a curse. A curse because when we rented our car, they insisted that we needed winter tyres for the first few days of our trip, but also wouldn’t allow us to return the car a week later and take a cheaper one for the remaining month. It added a whopping $700 to our five week rental, essentially almost doubling our rental cost. Not the ideal information you want to find out before you’ve even started your trip.

Unfortunately, it was also a curse because the road to Moraine Lake was closed a week earlier than expected, so they decided to close it for the rest of the winter. Only the place I was looking forward to the most on our trip, but what can you do?

However, it was a blessing not only because, well, we missed the snowstorm, but also the remnants of the snowstorm made the Icefields Parkway even more beautiful than it would have been a week earlier. The snow had cleared, leaving lovely traces of winter all over the lakes and mountains. (Also the roads had literally zero snow on them, making our snow tyres completely redundant)

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

We’d had perfect weather throughout Glacier National Park and Yoho National Park, so it stood to reason that it would take a turn for the worse now we were getting to the creme de la creme of the Rockies. The weather forecast confirmed that it would be cloudy and raining, and we went to sleep in our Lake Louise hostel (eventually – a family above us were stomping around for two hours until about midnight) expecting to lose sight of the mountains around us.

Incredibly, instead we woke up to clear skies and beautiful sunshine. Screw breakfast, I said. We’re getting in the car NOW.

Of course, it was absolutely perfect weather for Moraine Lake, which made it hurt even more. But we couldn’t have been luckier.

We spent the first couple of hours walking in awe around Lake Louise’s lovely shoreline. Last time I was here, I did the Lake Agnes trail, and if it hadn’t been for the snow I might have considered the Plain Of Six Glaciers hike. But for us, this was perfect.

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Doesn’t it look like magic?!?

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from one of the most picturesque places in the world in order to find some more.

Peyto Lake was another must-do on my list. It had looked stunning last time, and this time because of how much snow had melted into the lake, it wasn’t the out-of-this-world turquoise that we had seen before – but the view was completely clear, and I got some of my absolute favourite photos of Canada.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

The walk up to the main viewpoint and the subsequent hike to this viewpoint were both in thick snow. We saw people sliding down on their bums a lot of the time! Absolutely worth it though, right?!?

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from there, too. Because as much as I couldn’t take my eyes off it, I knew we had to take advantage of the clear mountains before the clouds rolled in. We decided to just drive until the weather turned.

There’s not much I can say about it. I’ma just spam you with a load of photos instead.

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

All of these photos were taken by Ash, because I was driving. Easily the most incredible place I’ve EVER driven!

We made a couple of stops on the way, of course.

Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Canada

This might be my favourite piece of the road! What a view back.

We got as far as Columbia Icefield, the famous glacier, when the clouds finally defeated us – we still haven’t seen the tops of the mountains around it, but we got a fantastic view of the glacier, so we were happy!

Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Canada

We were just in time for heading back to Banff, where we’d be spending the next couple of days with my cousin and his family over Thanksgiving. The weather also worsened again, but we didn’t care – we got SO lucky with this part of the road trip that nothing could dampen our spirits (not even realising how much money we’d wasted on winter tyres!).

Autumn is a fantastic time to visit the Icefields Parkway. The weather is usually still good, the crowds have thinned out, and if it hadn’t been for the unprecedented snow storm, it would have been the best time to visit Moraine Lake, which doesn’t re-open until June. (By which time the crowds are out in force until it closes again after Thanksgiving weekend in October) Plus we got some amazing colours in some of the trees!

Honestly, this is one of the best road trips I’ve ever done and I’m so thankful that the weather turned out the way it did. We’ll be back, Canada!

Have you driven the Icefields Parkway? Is it on your bucket list?!

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11 thoughts on “Road Tripping The Icefields Parkway In Autumn

  1. Yaaaay! I am sooo glad you had such amazing weather!

    If I had to chose between seeing Moraine Lake with a grey ski and clouds on the mountains, or missing Moraine Lake, but getting to drive along that road with blue skies…I’d chose the blue skies every time.

    Your Lake Louise photos are amaaaaazing too!

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  2. Your pictures are stunning! My husband and I actually drove this road in the summer… it definitely looks a bit different in autumn with all of that snow!

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  3. These photos are INCREDIBLE! I find it slightly hilarious they made you get snow tires (also that extra $700 is bullsh!t considering it barely costs that to BUY A PAIR!) because when I did this in the dead of winter a few years ago my car didn’t even have snow tires!! I was in all-season tires & hit a snowbank because I couldn’t get a grip and stop in time on the Icefields Parkway 😹 I wonder if I was the cause of that… if I was, I’m sorry!! Despite these little setbacks, it looks like you had an amazing trip!

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    1. Thanks so much!! I know, it was a real pain in the arse too because it put me over the limit on my credit card so after umm-ing and ahh-ing over whether to even get them, I THEN had to call my bank and transfer a load of money… it was just a nightmare! And then there wasn’t even fecking snow!!! However – we have just got to Yellowstone (at the end of the trip) and it’s blizzarding, so possibly a good thing we got them after all?! I got a stellar deal on the actual rental, so we ended up essentially paying a normal price lol. And I guess it’s peace of mind, you just never know if something might happen like it did to you. I am assuming you were okay, by the way?!? Geez!

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  4. I’ve driven this road hundreds of times, and I don’t think I could ever get tired of it! It always reminds me of how thankful I am to have this as my backyard. I’m glad that you were able to enjoy it!

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  5. Having done this trip myself a number of times, you really got great weather! The worst weather I had while I was there was mid-July – it was 6 degrees and rained the entire time! The best was Sept. It was cool but sunny! I don’t think there is anywhere like this in the world. I LOVE the Rockies! :)

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