Icefields Parkway – True Blue Lakes, Avalanches & Grouse!

May 2016 – The Icefields Parkway weaves between towering mountain peaks through the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks, offering up a new and utterly astonishing vista at every turn.

RV travel Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rocky Mountains

The Icefields Parkway takes you from one jaw-dropping view to another..for 150 miles!

We wanted to catch the magic of Canada’s Rocky Mountains at dawn, and on a few mornings we hopped on the Icefields Parkway at the break of day to chase down down that magical moment.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canadian Rockies

Dawn at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway

But it is hard to capture the soft pinks that fill the sky a half hour before sunrise when the sun crests the horizon at 5:30 a.m., as it does in this part of the world in late May, especially since it wasn’t getting totally dark until nearly 11 p.m. So much for sleeping!

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff Canada

Morning on the Icefields Parkway.

So, we didn’t quite make it before sunrise, but we still got the beautiful golden glow that spreads across the mountains as they wake up.

Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Soft light radiates across the peaks of the Rocky Mountains

Banff National Park Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway_


The snow was thick in certain spots up on the mountain peaks, and we loved the patterns the rock and snow made high above us.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff


Patterns on the Rocky Mountains Banff National Park Canada

Beautiful patterns on the crests of the Rockies

The tourist literature for the Icefields Parkway doesn’t wax poetic about any particular location. Their implied suggestion is simply that you should explore on your own and discover the most exquisite spots for yourself.

Bow Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Looking across Bow Lake.

Luckily, a friend had told us to make sure we didn’t miss Peyto Lake. He hadn’t elaborated about why Peyto Lake was a “must see,” but as soon as we emerged from the short hiking trail to the viewing area that overlooks the lake, we knew exactly why he wanted us to go there.

Peyto Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway Alberta Canada

Peyto Lake comes into view.

“Oh, Wow!” I blurted, my eyes like saucers. “Who spilled the can of blue paint?”

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Canadian Rocky Mountains Banff National Park

Is Peyto Lake really that blue? Yes!

The small crowd on the viewing platform laughed. Every hiker that arrived had the same shocked look on their face as I did when they came upon the stunningly gorgeous view in front of them. The color of Peyto Lake was extraordinary.

A group lined up for a selfie, and who wouldn’t?

Selfie at Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Selfie time!

A dad took his son below the deck and sat with him for little while enjoying the view. What an unforgettable moment and priceless memory.

Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

A father and son take a moment to enjoy the view together.

His wife was standing next to me at the overlook, and we chatted for a few moments. I discovered they were from Germany and they had visited Peyto Lake a week earlier when the mountains had been blanketed in snow. “It was all white — except for that blue,” she said, her hand sweeping across the painted landscape as she described what she had seen.

All of the rivers and lakes in the Canadian Rockies turn vivid green and blue in the sunlight, as long as the water isn’t too stirred up. The water is full of “glacial flour” which is crushed rock that the glaciers have ground down to a fine powder as they move. This crushed rock becomes suspended in the water and creates vivid blues and greens in the sunlight.

Another beautiful pair of lakes on the Icefields Parkway is the Waterfowl Lakes (Upper and Lower). Rather than royal blue, these lakes are turquoise colored like Lake Louise.

Waterfowl Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Unlike the true blue of Peyto Lake, the Waterfowl Lakes are turquoise!

We didn’t see any waterfowl there, but as we were wandering around the shore, we came across a grouse.

Grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

Down at our feet, Mark spotted a grouse!

This bird noticed us, but she wasn’t too concerned. She was preoccupied with brushing off the amorous attentions of a her suitor who was walking around her in circles.

Male grouse on the Icefileds Parkway Banff National Park

“Hey, baby, are you free tonight?”

This guy was pulling out all the stops for her.

Male grouse strutting Banff National Park Canada

Do you think I’m sexy?

She wasn’t all that impressed, even though he was strutting his stuff for all he was worth, but I sure was!

Male grouse struts Banff National Park Canada

She was having none of it, but I thought his display was great!

Back out on the Icefields Parkway, we continued to be blown away by the towering mountains and their snowy peaks.

Icefields Parkway scenic drive Banff National Park Canada

The scenery on the Icefields Parkway never gets boring!

Occasionally, when we pulled over to admire the views, we could hear the thunderous sound of an avalanche high up in the mountains.

Rocky Mountains Peyto Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park


Then we’d see the snow pouring down the crevices in the side of the mountain.

Avalanches Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Alberta Canada

Avalanches are common as the snow melts in the spring.

It was incredible just how loud these avalanches were, and equally incredible just how hard it was to spot where the avalanche was happening. They were way far up in the peaks, and they didn’t seem all that big from our vantage point on the ground.

Canadian Rocky Mountains Icefields Parkway Banff NP

Triangles in the sky.

The loftiness of the mountains was awe-inspiring.

Canadian Rockies Icefield Parkway Banff National Park


And the clarity of lakes was too.

Herbert Lake Icefields Parkway Banff National Park Canada

Herbert Lake

The Icefields Parkway is a fast moving thoroughfare between Lake Louise and Jasper, but we never got tired of driving it!

RV at Bow Lake Banff National Park Icefields Parkway

Now THAT’s a scenic drive!

The village at the southern end of the Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, makes a great “home base” for exploring the southern half of the Icefields Parkway. For more info, see this post: Lake Lousise – Heart of Banff National Park. At the end of that post (and in the following link) there is info about RV camping at Lake Louise.

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More info about the Icefields Parkway:

Other blog posts from our RV travels in the Canadian Rockies:

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