June 21, 2024

RV ALASKA - Traveling the Icefields Parkway

The first thing Alan and I did on the morning of our departure from the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court in Banff was peek out the window as soon as we woke up.  Ah, no snow on the ground.  What a relief!  Once we were on the road, we did take note of the gray and gloomy skies ahead.

In the “Road Trips” section in the Summer 2024 issue of “Where: Canadian Rockies,” the tourist guide describes the Icefields Parkway like this: “Touted as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, this 230 km/143 mile route between Lake Louise and Jasper traces the Continental Divide.  See glaciers, rugged peaks and frequent wildlife.”  “Frequent” wildlife was not our experience – “entertaining” wildlife was.  But Alan and I agreed the Icefields Parkway was the most spectacular road we’ve ever driven during our entire relationship spanning nearly five decades.  We hadn’t even reached Jasper before we had vowed to make the drive again.

Date(s) – June 17th

Total Miles Traveled to Date – 6,242

Wildlife Sightings to Date – One (very large) black bear; 2 deer (bucks, with their racks covered in velvet); 1 more mountain goat, bringing our total to 9 (including 3 tiny and adorable kids); 3 more bighorn sheep, bringing that total to 9, also; 21 more elk (including 4 additional calves that hadn’t yet lost their spots) bringing our total to 34; several small herds of pronghorn antelope (including 2 mamas with 3 newborn fawns between them); 6 bald eagles (including 2 fledglings); 3 great blue herons; dozens of American white pelicans; at least a half dozen families of adult geese with goslings; and a number of ducks (including 5 adorable ducklings).

Highlight(s) – The absolutely stunning views around almost every turn.  Seriously, I can't even begin to describe just how awe-inspiring the scenery was.  The Icefields Parkway drive was magical and ethereal.  It felt, to me, what a highway to heaven would be like.

Lowlight(s) – The only negative throughout the entire drive from Banff to Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park was the weather.  Alan and I pulled over for lunch at one of the Waterfowl Lakes, and it rained the entire time we were eating.  We wondered what it was we weren’t seeing behind the low clouds that had settled over the mountains and lake.

When we reached the highest portion of the highway, we were greeted with wet snow and gloomy skies – all par for the course when you’re traveling during the spring in the Canadian Rockies.

A number of pull-offs and parking lots could not accommodate our truck and trailer, so we missed a number of stops along the Parkway.  It didn’t take long for us to decide that, once we settled in at Whistlers, we’d take a look at the calendar and the weather, and schedule another trip down the Icefields Parkway with just the truck.  We also decided to stop again at the Waterfowl Lakes to see what kind of “lunch with a view” we had missed.

Campground(s) – Whistlers Campground is large, with 59 camping loops (some big, some small) spread out through a meadow-like area beneath the mountains.  Due to the lottery-style reservation system Parks Canada uses, we weren’t able to get any of our first 12 campsite choices.  We ended up with an electric only site and had to pay an extra $11.00 per day fire permit fee for a fire pit we won’t use, bringing the cost per day for this campsite to $47.00 – a bit higher than our usual cost.  That being said, our site (#43L) does have a beautiful mountain view out our big back window and plenty of other lovely views surrounding the trailer.

Laugh(s) of the Day – The wildlife along the Icefields Parkway and in the campground provided the day’s laughs.  On one straightaway on the Parkway, Alan noticed two lanes of stopped traffic in the distance and “something” walking around in front of the bus at the head of the eastbound lane.  Three bighorn sheep were blocking traffic in both directions.  We believe that their ultimate goal was simply to cross the road but, along the way, they walked around in front of traffic, stood in the road looking confused as to why traffic was stopped and what the big hubbub was all about, ran straight down one of the traffic lanes toward a stopped car, abruptly changed direction and (eventually) jumped over the guardrail and made their way down the hillside.  Very much fun to watch – and we were lucky enough to get a front row seat!

Between the registration building at Whistlers Campground where we checked in and our campsite in the back corner of the campground, we passed by a herd of 17 elk, grazing and resting at the side of the road.  That evening, the herd visited the meadow near our site.  This time, four very young elk calves were in attendance.  They had, most likely, been resting in the grass when we passed them earlier in the day, and we hadn’t seen them then.  The calves were having the time of their lives, “playing tag” and zooming around the grazing adults.  One young adult was racing around a log cabin-like structure like it was an Olympic event.  Such a joy and a privilege to see God’s critters in their natural element – quite entertaining, too! 

Pic(s) of the Day

Beautiful weather toward the start of the drive

I wish that I could convey the depth of the magnificence of these mountains.

Evergreen trees lightly dusted with a fresh coating of snow near the summit

"Hey, look!  I stopped a BUS!"

"Why did you stop the bus?"

Beautiful weather again by the time we reached Whistlers Campground in Jasper National Park

Elk calves apparently like to play as much as human kids do!

Comments – Temps have been dropping into the 30’s or 40’s at night and rising to anywhere from the 40’s to the 70’s during the day.  Weather forecasts seem to be as (in)accurate as they are down in the States.  We’re just rolling with the punches.  The trailer is a four-seasons rig with extra insulation, thermal pane windows and an excellent heater, and we packed a complete range of clothing, including winter jackets and rain gear.  Life is good.  Actually, life is better than good!

Up Next – Our reservation here at Whistlers is for seven nights.  In addition to returning to the Icefields Parkway, we also intend to explore the road to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, as well as the town of Jasper.  Fingers crossed for good weather!



  1. Tracy K in Illinois6/22/2024 9:50 AM

    Love all the beautiful photos and wildlife pics. This is exactly our kind of excursion. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and you’ve reignited that excitement of planning and anticipation that builds before setting off to new territory. We are still a few years away from our trip but I’m loving tagging along with y’all for the preview.

    1. My suggestion? Give yourself plenty of time to read up on the places you'll be visiting so you have a good idea as to what your "don't miss" stops will be. The iRV2 forum (iRV2.com) has a thread for Alaska, Canada and Mexico which I've found very interesting and helpful. You don't have to register just to read and/or search - only if you want to post.

  2. Mary,
    Big fun! A lovely drive complete with wildlife will bring a smile to my face every time. Can't wait to see the return trip along the Parkway. Once again, I'm envious. Have a fabulous week! Joe

    1. It doesn't take much to make us happy, Joe. A gorgeous drive, a picnic lunch, a new-to-us adventure - all good!


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