Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

by Bicycle Junkies

So, what’s it like to cycle on one of the world’s most beautiful roads? The Icefield Parkway, 230 kilometer of pure pleasure or just hard work? Parallelling the Continental Divide, highway 93 goes straight through the Rockies with views of glaciers, turquois mountain lakes, white topped peaks and fast flowing rivers… that is… when the weather isn’t working against you!

Back in 2010 we cycled the Icefield Parkway for the first time, but due to heavy rainfall I think we missed out on a lot. For some reason the ride is now more majestic, more mindblowing. We leave Banff for Lake Louise with dark and threatening clouds in the sky and follow the Bow Valley Parkway away from the busy highway. The weather has changed dramatically and we are now facing cold temperatures for the first time since South America and it needs getting used to again.

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Vermillion Lakes

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Jan and Elmar cycling towards Castle Mountain

With Paul & Jan we put up a tarp at Lake Louise Campsite and cook ourselves another delicious meal, hiding from the rain. In the afternoon Paul & Jan visit Lake Louise, since they are heading South tomorrow and their journey with us ends here. We decide to stay another day and hopefully we can visit both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. The next morning the weather isn’t much better and after saying goodbye to our Canadian friends, we sip espresso at the local cafe and wait for the rain and clouds to disappear. At around noon we give it a go! On our previous visit we cycled up to the two lakes, so we’ve seen and enjoyed them before. This time we take the park shuttle up and judging by the dark sky, it’s not worth it to keep on going for Lake Moraine. Too bad, but I’m sure we’ll be back here once more!

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Lake Louise

While raindrops tick away on our Gore-tex jackets and pants, we follow the Icefield Parkway North and since we are in no hurry we stop early and camp at Mosquito Lake. We make a campfire to warm up as little clouds leave our mouths into the cold air. Temperature is really falling and in the morning our bikes and tent are covered in ice.

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Ice on our bikes

It’s just a few hunderd meters up to reach Bow Pass and a short hike leads us to Peyto Lake. Starting this morning with a blue sky, now the snow is nearing. We can see it coming from the mountains and reaching the lake. As we are just about to freewheel down, the snow reaches us and blinded by it the downhill is a cold and scary experience! Lucky for us the highway has a wide shoulder, but that doesn’t keep us warm! Wow, it’s soooo cold! Frozen we reach Waterfowls campground and quickly we cycle to the shelter house where Elmar cooks us a broccoli soup as we hang out our clothes to dry.

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Peyto Lake

It’s still early and we decide to continue just as we hear loud sirens speeding down the road. At Saskatchewan Crossing we find out what happened as we see a long line of cars waiting for a road block: a fatal accident and the road is closed for four to eight hours. No campsite here, so we check in to the only motel and enjoy a beautiful sunset from inside our warm rooms.

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Sunset at Saskatchewan Crossing

It’s hard to leave the warmth of our comfortable room, but Sunwapta Pass and the Colombia Icefield are waiting for us. Even in this cold weather, snow and rain and clouds hanging low it’s a cycle adventure from highlight to highlight. Mirroring lakes and impressive icefields are on the menu today and that is one good reason to keep going. As we close in on the Sunwapta Pass I remember the huge bend in the road where the climb steepens. I follow Elmar up and the higher we get, the more snow surrounds us.
After the pass we are no longer alone; the visitor centre at the Colombian Icefield is packed with people! Not feeling comfortable in the crowds we quickly continue after eating a rather overpriced burger. Jonas Creek Campgrounds is our destination, but when we reach it our legs still feel good and we ride further to Honeymoon Lake Campground (sounds so much more romantic than Jonas, doesn’t it?) where we manage to find the last camp spot available!

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Sunset at Honeymoon Lake

Pure pleasure it is!
A short ride on the 93A brings us to Jasper, finishing our ride on the Icefield Parkway; indeed a 230 kilometer ride of pure pleasure and one to return to once more.. someday.


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Wim Verhoef September 8, 2015 - 17:21

Hoi Ellen en Elmar, Wat leuk dat jullie je vrienden weer ontmoeten. En wat een prachtige fotoserie weer. Volgens mij genieten jullie nog steeds. Ga zo door. Groetje”s Wim

Bicycle Junkies September 8, 2015 - 18:14

Hi Wim, dankjewel voor je berichtje en voor de complimenten! We genieten volop, het is prachtig hier!

Pa September 9, 2015 - 06:20

Wat een schitterende foto’s weer. En dan te bedenken dat het hier ook natuurlijk weer vreselijk koud en winter gaat worden. Maar goed dat duurt gelukkig nog even. Pa

wim verhoef September 9, 2015 - 07:22

Hallo kanjers,
Wat een bibberverhaal. Jullie trotseren echt iedere omstandigheid die je overkomt. Toppie!!
En dat jullie nog verder gaan na 2 jaar onderweg zijn. Lijkt me een geweldige keuze.
Kunnen wij nog van de boeiende verhalen en prachtige foto’s genieten.
Veel succes.

Groetje’s Wim

Peter de Visser September 9, 2015 - 07:25

De foto’s waren weer smullen bij mijn ochtendkoffie. Sneeuw. Heerlijk!

Nieuwsgierige vraag aan Ellen: Waar heb jij dat mooie, foutloze Engels/Amerikaans geleerd. Het lijkt me toe dat dit niet “gewoon” op school geleerd is. Zelfs het “bijleren” op jullie reizen lijkt me onvoldoende. Het is fantastisch. Heb je in Amerika/Engeland gewoond? Of je hebt een zeer grote talenknobbel…..

Annelies September 9, 2015 - 07:39

Wat een mooi en goed geschreven verhaal met prachtige foto’s weer. Bij iedere nieuwsbrief fiets ik met jullie mee.

Sjoerd September 9, 2015 - 07:57

Wow, voor mij ook alweer ruim twee jaar geleden dat ik in tegengestelde richting de Icefield Park Hwy reed. Volgens National Geographic behorend tot de top 10 mooiste wegen ter wereld! Goede reis verder met nog een betoverend mooi BC en Yukon in het verschiet!
Groet, Sjoerd

Remy Leverdingen September 9, 2015 - 18:07

Wat een adembenemend verhaal weer. Magnifieke foto’s. Als werknemer van Bever en oud-collega van Elmar ontzettend leuk om te zien en te lezen wat jullie allemaal mee en aan hebben 🙂

Pa en Ma September 9, 2015 - 18:17

Wat een verhaal jullie maken je hele rugzak vol.
Met mooie momenten en prachtige foto,s
Het was weer genieten.
Genieten jullie nog maar zo lang het kan.
Liefs van ons 😀

Wilfried September 10, 2015 - 13:33

[b]All wheels can move your body, only 2 wheels can move your soul…[/b]

Bicycle Junkies September 11, 2015 - 01:56

Dankjewel Wim en graag gedaan! Alles om de lezers te plezieren natuurlijk! 😉

Bicycle Junkies September 11, 2015 - 01:58

Dankjewel voor de complimenten Peter!
Haha, ik denk niet dat het foutloos is hoor, maar blog wordt nu wel beter gelezen! In een ver verleden, toen ik nog een broekie was, heb ik een half jaar in Engeland gewoond. Misschien is dat een beetje blijven hangen. 😉

Bicycle Junkies September 11, 2015 - 02:01

Remy, bedankt voor de complimenten! De meeste spullen komen trouwens bij Bever vandaan en na twee jaar zitten we nog steeds op onze Bever zitlapjes! Het meest tevreden zijn we trouwens over onze Arc’teryx spullen, wat een topmerk!

Bicycle Junkies September 11, 2015 - 02:02

Thanks Wilfried, I think you just posted our new motto! Very well said and thanks for sharing!

Kircylicous September 11, 2015 - 13:05

allemachtig wat een magische stilte zit er in de foto’s. aaaahhhhhhh…. alsof je je adem hoort kraken. bedankt dat we weer mee mogen genieten;) xxx

Bicycle Junkies September 11, 2015 - 14:36

You’re welcome skatje! 😉

Bicycle Junkies September 12, 2015 - 23:31

Thanks Annelies!

Wrap N Roll February 5, 2016 - 08:16

Awesome traveling and cycling photos. Very professional! Thanks for sharing.

Alba&GG May 8, 2016 - 11:03

Hi Ellen and Elmar. We are Paul&Jeanne’s friends, alba and Gerard. We’ve hear a lot about your adventures. We are planning to go this summer (July 21th to August 21th) to Kyrgystan (well we are hesitating between Kyrgystan and Tajykystan but for visa reason maybe is easier Kyrgystan). We just have one month and we don’t know yet which part to visit. Do you recommend us something in special? Do you have some tips to share? Thank you in advance!

Bicycle Junkies July 3, 2016 - 10:45

Hi Alba & Gerard, sorry for the delay! I just noticed this comment, unfortunately!
Have you decided already where exactly you want to go? Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan? The latter is probably recommendable because it’s a bit easier to acclimatize too and not so harsh as Tajikistan. Especially since you have ‘only’ 4 weeks.
You could fly into Alma’ata in Kazachstan and then cycle towards Karakul, check out the area around Song-Kul and then cycle North to Bishkek.
During the trip you should stay in a homestay or yurtstay, it’s a great way to meet the local people! Also you must do a horseback ride in the Kochkor area, but if you are not used to riding a horse, don’t take a tour longer than 2 days! But, since it’s the local means of transport, it’s a nice tour to do.
Enjoy your ride! Greetings, Elmar & Ellen


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