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The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure provides a unique experience in Jasper National Park. You get the opportunity to get up close and personal with a massive glacier.
However, with so many opportunities nearby, you must carefully consider everything you put on your itinerary. You’ll likely not have the time or money to do everything.
So is it worth it? Let’s dive in and see!
What Is the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure?
If you want a real adventure, you should consider the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure. Participants have the opportunity to explore one of the largest icefields in North America. You’ll talk about this unique experience for years.
After purchasing tickets from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, you and 55 other guests board a specially-designed vehicle. The “Ice Explorers” are beastly vehicles designed to handle harsh conditions while comfortably transporting guests to and from the glacier.
During the 30-minute trip, guides provide information on the history and unique features of the area. They also share tidbits about the surrounding environment and how glaciers respond to climate change.
Once you arrive at Athabasca Glacier, you have 25 minutes to explore. You can fill your water bottle with fresh glacier water and capture the whole scene. Make the most of it; this may be the closest you ever get to a glacier.
After exploring, you’ll hop back on the Ice Explorer and head to the Skywalk. This structure sits 918 feet over the Sunwapta Valley. The glass floor provides a unique way to experience the valley. This part of the experience typically takes about an hour.
However, you can board one of the shuttles back to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre whenever you’re ready.
Can You Go on the Columbia Icefields Without a Tour?
While you can visit the Columbia Icefields without a tour, you cannot go onto the icefield without one.
You can park across from the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre for free and then hike to see Athabasca Glacier. You can read informational plaques along the way, and the trail eventually ends at a roped-off area.
Is a rope going to prevent everyone from going out onto the glacier? Absolutely not. However, we encourage you to do your part and follow the rules. Park officials place the rope there to protect and maintain the natural environment.
How Much Does It Cost to Go to the Columbia Icefields?
Many people consider cost as one of the most significant factors when selecting excursions. The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure currently costs CA$98 for adults and CA$63.70 for children. However, you can save a few bucks by visiting after 3:00 p.m.
Like most tourist attractions, there are packages of varying levels. Some of these packages include a gondola ride, cruises on Lake Minnewanka and Maligne Lake, and a trip to the Golden Skybridge. Double-check to ensure you purchase the right package for your group when reserving tickets.
What Is the Best Time to Do Columbia Icefields?
The Columbia Icefield remains open year-round. However, remember that the incredibly harsh winters may make it challenging to experience.
When considering the weather, the best time to visit is June through September. As a result, this is also the busiest time of year for the Columbia Icefield and many area attractions.
No matter when you visit, you should go before 11:00 a.m. or after 3:00 p.m. While you won’t ever have the glacier to yourself, this allows you to avoid the busiest times. Unless you enjoy hoards of people, plan what time you’ll visit wisely.
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Tips for Visiting Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
We want you to have a memorable experience at Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure, so we have provided some of our best tips to help you make this a trip you’ll never forget.
Make sure you don’t make the mistake of not dressing appropriately. Typically, the temperature is around 27 degrees Fahrenheit cooler at Athabasca Glacier than at the Discovery Centre.
So no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll want to plan accordingly. If not, there’s a good chance you’ll shiver your way through the entire experience.
No matter the adventure, make sure to stay hydrated. Your body can do funky things when you don’t give it enough water. Just because you’re not hiking through a desert doesn’t mean you can forget about consuming water.
The excursion encourages you to bring a reusable bottle while at the glacier. So ensure you keep water in your bottle and your system to prevent any issues. Elevation changes can also cause problems for some people and lead to dehydration.
Plan Your Visit
Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure isn’t the type of event where you want to just “wing it.” You’ll spend a lot of money so you want to ensure everyone in your group has the best possible experience.
Take the time to read about the glacier in advance so you know what to expect. Browse the FAQ section to get answers to many of your questions.
Don’t show up unprepared and uneducated about the experience. You could miss out on something that someone in your group would enjoy.
Bring a Camera
You’ll want to share this adventure with friends and family or on social media. Luckily, most of us don’t go anywhere without a camera in our pocket. However, you’ll want plenty of storage space and battery life to capture pictures and videos.
Listen to Your Guide
Throughout the experience, trained guides will share some fascinating information.
Be sure to listen to the facts that they share. This provides an excellent opportunity to learn some interesting bits of knowledge that you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Doing so can give you a new appreciation for nature and what you can do to help protect it.
Respect the Environment
While it should go without saying, unfortunately, we must remind you to respect the environment. The ecosystem that you see is incredibly fragile and quickly shrinking. As you’ll see throughout the area, the glacier is substantially smaller than a decade ago.
Officials want to do everything they can to protect the environment and help future generations experience Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure.
Lend a hand and do your part by respecting the environment. Listen to the rules and do not cross roped-off areas or disobey any special signage. It never fails that there always seems to be one person who thinks they’re an exception to every rule. Don’t be that one person.
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Skip the Skywalk
Many of the tours include not only a trip to the glacier but also the Columbia Icefield Skywalk. If we’re being honest, we found the Skywalk to be very underwhelming.
While it was an incredible experience, it wasn’t all that spectacular compared to everything we had seen up to that point. If we could do it again, we wouldn’t waste time at the Skywalk.
Is the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Worth It?
The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure was a great experience and worth it for us. We loved getting up close and personal with a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice.
However, we only had to buy tickets for the two of us. It could be frustrating for families to fork over several hundred dollars for the experience.
While we had a great time, it’s not something we’d be doing again. It’s one of those adventures you do once but likely never again. If you want to spend the money it was worth it for what it was. We learned a lot, took incredible pictures, and made memories.
Have you been to the Columbia Icefields?