The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is the latest tourist attraction unveiled in Jasper National Park. It’s a glass-bottomed bridge that extends out from a cliff edge at a height of nearly 300 meters from the valley floor down below. Visitors will receive a thrill as they look down to unencumbered view down below and out to dizzying peaks topped by glaciers.
The Skywalk is heavily advertised and it will certainly pique the interest of many. It’s also included in a combo ticket with the Athabasca Glacier Experience, Banff Gondola, and a cruise on Lake Minnewanka or Maligne Lake. We share in this post what to expect from the experience and whether it’s worth a visit.
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is a glass-bottomed bridge that’s just north of the Athabasca Icefield a popular stop on the Icefield Parkway. Which happens to be the most accessible glacier in Banff National Park and well worth a stop. From the Glacier Discovery Center visitors have the opportunity to grab lunch, shop, hop on a tour, or even spend the night. The center serves as a hub for the Columbia Glacier Adventure Experience, Glacier Walk, and the Skywalk.
You have the option to book any of the experiences separately other than the interactive walk on the Glacier which is sold with Glacier Adventure Experience. That experience allows visitors to ride in massive monster trucks on the Athabasca Glacier where they’re able to stand in a large parking lot on the glacier. This all unfolds beneath one of the most famous mountains in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Athabasca.
Tickets for the experiences operate on time slots so it’s best to purchase your tickets in advance to avoid a long wait or the tickets being sold out entirely. According to your ticketed time, you’ll board a bus at the Glacier Discovery Center that will drive you to the Skywalk. It’s 6 km away from the Glacier Discovery Center and does not offer views of the Athabasca Glacier, but instead the Sunwapta Valley.
The Skywalk is a kilometer long walk that first moves along interactive displays where guests learn about the natural process that formed the Rockies along with the fossils. You follow along through audio guide that is available in a wide range of languages that should cover most visitors.
After the walk to the glass-bottomed bridge it’s a short, but thrilling walk for many as they peer down on the valley far below. No need to worry about safety as these glass panels are literally bulletproof and then some. If you’re scared of heights it may make your heart skip a beat as the view down to the valley floor 300 meters below can be dizzying.
The bridge is shaped in a large semi-circle that offers 270° views of the sweeping valley. Off in the distance, you can see the glaciers far off in the distance that you left at the Discovery Center. From the distance the scale of Mount Athabasca, Andromeda, and glimpses of the Columbia Icefield high above on Mt. Kitchener. While the views are certainly enviable they are not the jaw-dropping views some might expect. We regularly find and experience far better views on the free hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
A nice feature of the Skywalk is its wheelchair accessibility, handicap users can get the same thrilling views. The only other area it’s possible to do this is at the Banff Gondola managed by the same company so we applaud them for making natural beauty more accessible to all.
When is the Icefield Skywalk open?
The Icefield Skywalk closes in the winter months due to dangers on the Icefield Parkway in the winter and decreased demand. However, it opens in the spring and runs until the fall. The official dates are always subject to the season and weather. Also, they can close the Skywalk if conditions are truly adverse. Currently, due to Covid-19 they are not operational.
|Kids (Under 5)||Free|
Is the Columbia Icefield Skywalk Worth it?
We can’t help but feel what is the point? I’d say for the vast majority of visitors to save your money and give the Skywalk a skip. However, for handicapped visitors its wheelchair accessibility is notable and they may find good value as hiking or climbing a mountain is not in the cards. That being said, we’d recommend the Banff Gondola over the Icefields Skywalk as the views are better, especially since you get a similar view to the Skywalk from the road.
Upon the initial launch of the Skywalk it was called the Glacier Skywalk, but considering its limited views of glaciers the name was changed to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk. If you’re capable of hiking it’s no brainer to forgo the skywalk as hikes in Banff and area offer far better views than the Skywalk. If you want a memorable hike that takes a few hours, hike the nearby Wilcox Pass. In short, the price or even your time is not worth the stop of Columbia Icefield Skywalk. You can also park at the Athabasca Glacier and take a short walk to the terminal of the Athabasca Glacier for free.
Climb Mount Athabasca
If you want the best view of glaciers in the Canadian Rockies you cannot beat the views from one the major mountain peaks, Mount Athabasca. Mountaineering has found a home in the Canadian Rockies and many learn their mountaineering skills here.
We took a mountaineering course over a long weekend where we learned the basics of mountaineering including glacier travel and crevasse rescue. On the last day, we summited Mount Athabasca for extraordinary views of glaciers and peaks most visitors and locals will never see.
Things to do in Jasper
Jasper National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada. Like it’s southern sister, Banff, there are many things to do in Jasper all year round.
In the summertime, you can easily grab a canoe and paddle your way around one of the many mountain lakes, or in the winter you can take a drive on the stunning Icefields parkway. If you’re wondering what to do in Jasper on your Canadian vacation, we have you covered.