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Chapter 3
Wilcox Pass and Athabasca Glacier

 

 

 
   
 

 

 

 

 

Day 7

On Friday, before continuing our drive south along the Icefields Parkway, we made a quick visit to Sunwapta Falls, down a mile road behind the resort. We stopped off at the Columbia Icefields, where the Athabasca Glacier flows down out of the mountains nearly down to the highway. It is a major tourist trap with mobs of people, a lodge, restaurant, gift emporium, and museum. The only thing worth visiting is the museum. We enjoyed that a lot. They also offer SnoCoach rides up onto the glacier where they stop, drop you off, let you walk around on the glacier for a few minutes, and then drive you back down off the glacier. The SnoCoaches are large, custom built 6 wheel drive busses with large, wide balloon tires that are about 6 ft in diameter. We stood on line for tickets for about 20 minutes. Just as we got to the head of the line we decided we didn’t want to do it anymore. We felt it was too “touristy” and expensive ($26 Canadian each). Plus we felt it was kind of sacrilegious to be driving these large, gaudy busses onto the proud, mighty glacier. So we left the tourist trap and drove another 5 minutes south to the Wilcox Pass trailhead where we hiked 3 miles up to Wilcox Pass. Along the way we were afforded lovely views of the ice fields in the mountains and the Athabasca Glacier across the valley. However, at the top of the pass, there were really no views of the glacier. Another small ridge was in the way. {By the way, the tourist trap also offered a 3 to 4 hour naturalist guided hike on the glacier but it had started earlier in the morning and we had arrived too late. We think that would have been a better choice.} After coming down from Wilcox Pass, we continued south to Johnston Canyon Resort, our lodging for the evening. Johnston Canyon Resort was a cluster of about 30 cabins set in a lovely lodgepole pine forest at the mouth of Johnston Canyon alongside of Johnston Creek. The resort was set back off the main highway and all we heard at night was the sounds of crickets and the rushing creek below us.

Diane standing next to a SnoCoach.
The 6 wheel drive SnoCoach. Diane is
standing next to the left front tire.

Athabasca Glacier.
Athabasca Glacier. You can just see the snow road
on the glacier that the SnoCoaches follow.

The view along Wilcox Pass trail
The view along Wilcox Pass Trail showing Athabasca Glacier on the
left and some other smaller glacier to the right.

the view at Wilcox Pass
The view at Wilcox Pass.  It's not real exciting.  
A lot of people go there and hudlle in the rocks for protection from the wind.

 

 

 
   
   
 
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last revised : February 18, 2006