Sunwapta Falls & South on the Icefields Parkway


Sunwapta Falls is nearly at the end of the Sunwapta River.  Not long after the falls, the Sunwapta mixes with the Athabasca River (which continues north to Jasper and beyond — its water eventually ends up in the Arctic Ocean).

There are several great viewpoints of the falls, including a bridge that spans the canyon below the waterfall, and a spot on the rocks just above the falls.

The water is powerful here, as it crashes over the 75-foot drop.  Sunwapta means “turbulent water” — and the name is quite appropriate here.

There is a second waterfall, further down the canyon and closer to the Athabasca River, but I didn’t make the hike to see it.

You’ll find one of the very few accommodations on the Icefields Parkway at Sunwapta Falls.  The Sunwapta Falls Resort isn’t cheap: in the summer months, expect to pay $199 or more for a room.  You can check out the resort here.  There’s also a restaurant and gift shop here.

South of Sunwapta Falls, the Icefields Parkway stretches out for many kilometers, without a lot of roadside attractions. There is, however, plenty to see from inside the car, including the Endless Chain Ridge.  The headwaters for Maligne River can be found on the opposite side of the Endless Chain, although I don’t think you can get there from here.

I passed through this same area on Day 7, headed northbound on the Icefields Parkway.  Be sure you check out that part of the trip, too.

This part of the Icefields Parkway runs alongside the Sunwapta River.  You can park at the side of the road…

… and walk down to the chilly glacier water.

Just before the road headed up the hill to Sunwapta Pass, I had no choice but to stop, and wait for traffic to start moving.  Road construction (rock blasting) further up the hill caused everyone to take a break from driving.  What first appeared to be a momentary delay turned into a nearly half-hour wait.  But no one seemed to mind — everyone got out of their cars and explored the river, while waiting for permission to move on.

Because of the construction and traffic control, I couldn’t stop at this roadside turnout.  So, I took a shot of Stutfield Glacier as I drove by — the same thing I did on my northbound drive up the Icefields Parkway.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Sunwapta Falls, across Sunwapta Pass, to the Saskatchewan River:

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