Running from the Town of Jasper all the way to Lake Louise, 144 mi (232 km) to the south, this section of Hwy-93 is known as the Icefields Parkway. Like many roads in U.S. national parks, the Icefields Parkway was initially built as a relief project during the Great Depression and was completed in 1940. Without a doubt one of the world’s great drives, this sinuous ribbon winds along the banks of a series of icy rivers between glaciers and towering Rocky Mountain peaks, with almost no development to mar the views. The northern half of the highway passes through Jasper National Park alongside the milky green Athabasca River.
While the Icefields Parkway makes a great drive, a worthwhile detour follows an older alignment of the highway, Hwy-93A, which runs parallel and slightly to the west. One of the best concentrations of scenery surrounds Mt. Edith Cavell, easily reached by Cavell Road, which turns off Hwy-93A about 4 mi (6 km) south of the Town of Jasper. From the winding road, you can choose from fairly short day hikes up to wildflower-rich alpine meadows, with views of Angel Glacier, or longer overnight treks into the backcountry, including the Tonquin Valley Backcountry Lodge (780/852-3909), a 14-mi (23-km) hiking or cross-country skiing trip from the trailhead. Right at the trailhead there’s the handy HI-Mount Edith Cavell Wilderness Hostel (778/328-2220, May-mid-Oct., closed mid-Oct.-mid-Feb., mid-Feb.-May ski-in access, C$30 and up per person).
About 20 mi (32 km) south of the Town of Jasper, Hwy-93A and the Icefields Parkway rejoin at Athabasca Falls, where the river is forced through a narrow gorge and over a cliff into a cauldron of roaring water; numerous viewpoints above and below the falls let you get up close and personal with the thundering torrent. There’s a rustic hostel (778/328-2220) a short walk away from the falls.
At the southern end of Jasper National Park, 67 mi (108 km) south of the Town of Jasper, the massive Columbia Icefield rises high above the west side of the Icefields Parkway.