If you’re going to splurge on one thing while in the Canadian Rockies, this is it!! Walking on the Icefield and taking the Ice Explorer, a specially designed vehicle for this terrain, was such a cool and special experience. It was definitely one of the top three things we did while in the area!
Sure, you can SEE the Icefield, which is located at the foot of Athabasca Glacier from the road (Icefield Parkway), but actually trekking through, FEELING the chill of the wind, seeing the ice glisten and riding in one of these badass trucks is a whole different immersive experience. One I say, is not to be missed! There are only 25 of these trucks in the entire world, and each tire costs $4,000! It’s kinda a once in a lifetime thing to ride one.
You can purchase tickets at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center directly across from the field. This is the ONLY way to gain access to the field, by taking one of the tours. There’s a combo ticket for this and the skywalk. Transportation to both is included. I would say get to the center as soon as they open as it is a very popular attraction! Also, don’t miss having a cup of coffee or hot cocoa on the roof while overlooking the glacier while you wait for your allotted tour time.
Your truck driver will give you an in depth lesson about the area and who first found it while you drive up to the field. He’ll also point out various markers with dates so you can see just how quickly the glacier has been receding. It’s soooo mind-blowing and actually pretty sad.
Once down the steep, steep hill, you’ll disembark the truck and be able to explore your own for roughly a half-hour, which is really plenty of time. Trust me, I take a ton of photos and it was adequate time for plenty, and for a snowball fight or two and some angel making 🙂 There are flags of various countries for photo ops and your driver, or at least ours, was willing to take our photo by the trucks.
Please be very careful where you step! There are flags indicating where there are crater and crevasses!! Some crevasses are as deep down as the length of a football field. It’s not unusual for tourists to fall and need to recuse if they’re not paying attention!
It’s about 20 degrees cooler on the glacier, so be sure to bring layers. Also, in case you didn’t know, your phone may for or drain the battery very quickly in this type of environment, so make sure to be fully charged or bring a backup charger for your trip!
Taste some glacial water right from the source by grabbing some ice off the untouched parts of the field! So cool…literally!
There was already a nice snowfall when we visited in early October. Wearing my insulated hiking boots was definitely a good idea, although I only wore a thin pair of gloves and I was fine.
Remember which bus is yours, they all look the same. You’ll visit here first, and then board a regular bus to head to the skywalk afterward! Make sure you hit up the restrooms. There are obviously none here on the Icefield, but there’s also none at the skywalk either. Allot about 4 hours for the entire excursion! Worth it!!
Stay cool! XOX, Sar