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Jasper National Park

Wintertime on the Icefields Parkway

Caribou Crossing Sign, Jasper National Park 

The Icefields Parkway has been called one of the most beautiful roads in the world. After all, how many highways can claim 230 kilometres of continuous World Heritage Site scenery completely protected in two national parks? Along the Icefields Parkway there’s a 20 km stretch of road that runs right through the heart of winter caribou habitat. As one of Canada’s species-at-risk, the Jasper herd of Woodland caribou represents a last stand for this wonderful animal in the mountain parks. You can help. Please “drive for wildlife” by keeping within the speed limit. The Icefields Parkway is no ordinary road, and, in winter, drivers need to consider a few things before starting their trip.

NEW! Winter on the Icefields Parkway brochure

By law, during the period between November 1 to March 31 or any other period during which the highway is covered with snow or ice, vehicles driving the Icefields Parkway must be equipped with proper snow tires (with snowflake icon on sidewall) or tire chains. All season tires are not adequate.

Maintenance and driving

  • There is no road maintenance on the Icefields Parkway from 3:30 pm to 7:00 am during the winter months (November to April).
  • The parkway is not "salted" as most transportation corridors are, it is left as a "compact snow" road. During long periods of stable weather, even smooth sanded compact snow can result in poor driving conditions. Road reports are based on the worst condition that a driver may encounter over the road’s entire 230 kilometre length.
  • As in any mountain environment, weather can change very quickly, often changing the road conditions.
  • Driving conditions are subjective. Your experience, tires (winter vs. all –season radials), vehicle (1/2 ton truck vs. a compact rental car), and speed are all factors that can change “good” winter driving to “poor”. Each individual driver must plan and travel based their comfort level and within the confines of their experience and equipment.
  • There is no cell phone coverage on the Icefields Parkway and, during the winter months, there is no gas available.

Plan ahead

Check the road conditions before you leave town.

Check the weather forecast before you leave town.

Tell someone your route, when you are leaving and when you plan on arriving. Have a safety kit in your vehicle. Include a cell phone, water, energy bars, candles, extra clothing and blankets.

Wintertime on the Icefields Parkway
What's open along the Icefields Parkway in the winter?

Camping

Wapiti Campground (4 km south of Jasper) is the only campground open along the Icefields Parkway in winter. Hardy campers who wish to stay in the Columbia Icefields area are permitted to tent at the Wilcox Pass Trailhead and park recreational vehicles in the the Icefield Centre RV parking lot. Note that these two sites are unmaintained during the winter. No water, garbage collection or maintenance services are offered. Please pack-out what you pack in and be aware that snowfall may impact access to privies. Fires are not permitted. After a snowfall, parking areas are plowed only after all roads are cleared. Campers should be prepared with shovels. All campgrounds are self-registration. The Wilcox Trailhead site requires a bivy permit. Call 780-852-6176 for information.

Hotels/Restaurants/Gift Shops

Hotels, restaurants and gift shops are CLOSED for the majority of the winter. For information on opening dates:
Sunwapta Falls Resort – www.sunwapta.com
Glacier View Inn – www.explorerockies.com
The Crossing Resort – www.thecrossingresort.com
Num-Ti-Jah Lodge – www.sntj.ca

Hostels

All six hostels located along the Icefields Parkway are open in the winter by reservation only. Call 866-762-4122 or visit www.hihostels.ca for information and reservations.

Picnic areas/toilets

     Km from Jasper    Km from Lake Louise  
Valley of the Five Lakes      9 km    221 km  
Athabasca Falls            32 km    198 km  
Goat and Glaciers Viewpoints    37 km          193 km  
Buck and Osprey Lakes        52 km    178 km  
Sunwapta Falls    54 km    176 km  
Poboktan Creek Trailhead         72 km                   158 km                       
Beauty Creek Hostel    85 km   145 km  
Tangle Falls    96 km   134 km  
Wilcox Pass   106 km   124 km  
Parker Ridge   112 km   118 km  
Weeping Wall   124 km   106 km  
Howse Pass                          154 km                    76 km                        
Peyto Lake     190 km      40 km
Bow Lake   196 km      34 km


Driving Safety

  • Animated image of falling snowflakes. 
    Keep your gas tank and windshield washer fluid full.
  • Allow yourself at least twice the normal braking distance on wet or slick surfaces.
  • Posted speed limits are designed for ideal road conditions; slow down when driving on snow, ice, slush or wet surfaces.
  • Use extreme caution when approaching highway maintenance equipment like snow plows, salt and sand trucks. Never pass on the right.
  • Low beam headlights are more effective than high beams in fog or heavy snow.
  • Check your tire pressure regularly. Tires lose pressure in colder conditions.
  • Using four-wheel drive does not necessarily provide better traction for cornering or braking on slippery roads.
  • Do not use cruise control or overdrive in snow, ice, slush or rain. Both cruise control and overdrive can result in an unexpected gear shift causing a loss of traction.
  • Watch for black ice in shaded areas, on bridge decks, and at intersections.