Location: Banff National Park (near the Jasper border on the Icefields Parkway)
Trailhead: Parker Ridge Parking Lot
Type: Out-n-Back (Y-Trail, Two destinations on the ridgeline)
Total Distance: 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation: 6,552′
Total Elevation Gain: 890′
Recommended Time: 2 – 3 hours
Recommended Season: Late-June to Mid-September
The Best Hike on the Icefields Parkway
The Parker Ridge Trail is our favorite day hike found on the epic Icefields Parkway. Although, the Wilcox Pass Trail is a very close second. A journey on the Parker Ridge Trail leads to a long ridgeline that reveals epic sprawling views of the Saskatchewan Glacier pouring off of Castleguard Mountian and the massive Columbia Icefield. This massive block of ice is the headwaters for the 340-mile long life-giving Saskatchewan River. Many venture to this ridgeline to see where the source of Canada’s drinking water begins. The mountains surrounding the headwaters of the Saskatchewan River are beautiful and views of these lofty peaks are unobstructed from the Parker Ridgeline.
Parker Ridge Trail
While steep, the relatively short distance makes the Parker Ridge Trail a journey that is doable by almost any skill level. Almost all of the elevation is undertaken in the first mile. The view of the landscape surrounding the Icefields Parkway only gets better the higher hikers climb through the switchbacks above the Icefields Parkway. Once onto the ridgeline, a new landscape reveals itself with previously obscured glaciated peaks filling the horizon.
At the top of the ridge, the trail splits. Heading right, the path climbs higher up the mountainside to a small hill summit that overlooks the Icefields Parkway. It has elevated views of the spear-like Hilda Peak and massive Mt. Athabasca, both of which are ever-present companions on the climb up from the trailhead. The path to the left traverses the ridgeline to a dead end, overlooking the Saskatchewan River Valley. Both paths provide amazing views and different angles of this alpine landscape. The ridge can be windy but also makes for an epic spot to enjoy a packed lunch.
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