What You Need to Know Before Visiting Athabasca Glacier Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure

athabasca glacier ice explorer

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Our Experience

Checking In

The experience starts at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre. After check-in, you can grab food at one of the restaurants, pick up some gifts, or read the interpretive displays to learn more about the area’s geology, nature, and wildlife.

We first checked into the hotel to drop our bags off. Then we picked up lunch at the Chalet, a cafeteria-style restaurant. Jacob usually goes with the safe bet, while I like experimenting with my food choices. Why not have fun with it? Because 90% of the time, it backfires. If you’re ordering something here, Jacob’s chicken tenders with fries were the best choice, especially since the fries were exactly how we liked them.

After finishing our food, we lined up for the bus.

Local Tip: No restrooms are available during the experience, so be sure to go before you leave!

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ATHABASCA Glacier

The bus ride is a short one from Discovery Centre. It takes you across the street to the glacier’s base, where you transfer to an Ice Explorer. These huge transport vehicles look like something out of a space movie and take you safely onto the glacier. There are only 23 in the world, one in Antarctica and the rest at the Columbia Icefields.

Photo Tip: There are plenty of windows along the side and the roof so you can enjoy the views as you go, and if you’re hoping to shoot photos and video, get a row where the window can open so you can shoot without a glare.

After arriving at the glacier, your driver gives you the time to meet back on the Ice Explorer, and you’re free to roam. We had about 25 minutes on the glacier, which was plenty.

There is an area roped off where you can roam freely. The ropes might be annoying for photos, but safety comes first. Bring a water bottle so you can taste the glacier water.

Local Tip: It’s usually around 27° F (15° C) degrees cooler on the glacier than at the Discovery Centre, and it’s often windy, so pack accordingly! Jacob and Rob were definitely much warmer than I was in their sleeping bag onesies.

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk

When our time was up, the Ice Explorer took us back to the bus then we rode about 10 minutes north to the Skywalk. The glass-floor Skywalk takes you over the edge of a cliff 918 feet above the valley floor, where you can take in the views of the Canadian Rockies.

There are multiple interpretive signs along the short walk, and if you’re interested in learning more about the history and geology, they have guided tours too! We didn’t do the guided tour but stopped by to check out the bones of a Big Horn Sheep and Mountain Goats..

Unlike other Skywalks we’ve been to, we didn’t have to wear any shoe coverings. They ask that you wipe them off on the mats before walking on the glass. We also could shoot our own photos and walk at our own pace.
When we were done, we headed back towards the parking lot, where they have buses a few times an hour to pick up anyone finished and take them back to the Discovery Centre. You can stay as long or as short as you want!

Local Tip: This season, a family of mountain goats lives under the bridge. We spotted one sleeping on the cliffside.



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