This epic ride starts at one of Canada’s most recognizable landmarks, the breath-taking Lake Louise. Revered for its aqua and emerald green waters, it is a destination in its own right. Arriving late afternoon after crossing British Columbia, there were dark skies above. Just as I parked the bike, snow began to fall, and the temperature plummeted.
Staring out over the waters towards the snow-capped mountains, I could see why it is such a popular destination. Taking pride of place on the shores of the lake is the grand Fairmont Chateaux, an enviable place to stay, should you have more money than sense while on a motorcycle trip. I opted for a quick cup of tea in their alpine bar while the weather cleared.
While Lake Louise does deserve its place as one of the most beautiful natural sites to see, it’s lesser known cousin Lake Moraine, only 20km away, is more than worthy of a visit. It sits at the end of a beautiful curved road, winding through the mountains and giving way to this hidden treasure. In the fading evening light, the lake was calm, glass-like and quiet.
Stopping for the night in the small village of Lake Louise, be prepared to book ahead. I made the mistake of only booking the night before and ended up at the incredibly busy hostel as nothing else was available. There are plenty of nice restaurants and bars for the evening, and there is a nice relaxed ski town vibe.
Lake Louise to Jasper National Park is the only 235km. However, it will take you all day. Cruising along highway 93 north, or the Icefields Parkway as it is also known, it is a spectacular ride. Taking in lakes, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, and glaciers there is more than enough to fill several days here. No sooner have you left town are you greeted with towering snow-capped mountains in every direction you look? The Canadian Rocky Mountains will be your constant companion as you ride north.
The road surface is excellent, and the gentle curves are constant, weaving their way around and through the peaks. This isn’t a ride to be focused on getting to the other end as quickly as possible. It is one to be enjoyed, and every opportunity savored to take in the awe-inspiring surrounds.
You will be sharing this spectacular piece of highway with more campervans and monster motorhomes then you can poke a stick at, but they are easy to pass with traffic in the late fall more than manageable. What I can only imagine this would not be the case in peak summer season, during July and August, so consider that when planning this ride.
An early and very un-seasonal snow storm the previous week kept traffic to a minimum, and I was lucky enough to cruise through the endless corners almost uninterrupted. The bends are perfect for enjoying while still being gentle enough to allow you time to take in the views. The pull-outs are located strategically to allow for you to make the most of the hidden gems off the sides so be sure to stop and take it all in.
Having only just left town, I pulled over to admire my first real panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains and was rewarded with a stunning aqua lake just out of the roads sight. This was my first indication that stopping was the right thing to do rather than speeding onward and missing the beauty that is on offer.
The first and only really village you come across will be Saskatchewan River Crossing. Immediately before you come into it, there is as appropriately named, the river crossing. Stopping just off the side of the bridge you are treated to a merging of crystal blue waters, melted from last years snow.
The village is also only one of two places to refuel so keep that in mind, you should start with a full tank at Lake Louise and if need be top up here. There is another small petrol station further along however I am unsure if it is open all year round.
If you want to take your time and experience all this unique part of the world has to offer, there are many campsites located directly along the route. Unfortunately, due to the sudden change in weather, these had all been closed early when I was riding through, however, during the summer months I am sure they would turn a beautiful ride into a memorable weekend trip.
After crossing the river, you head towards the Athabasca Glacier. Here you will also find a large visitor center and restaurant with plenty of parking. There are tours which take you up on to the glacier itself and a glacier skywalk as well. I didn’t have time for a tour. However, the visibility even from the glacier carpark is amazing. The white ice was blinding in the mid-day sun.
As the afternoon sun began to slowly sink behind the mountain range, the Fall colors became more prominent in the surrounding trees. Riding alone through such beautiful scenery is one of my most memorable trips. The silence is pronounced as you realize with nothing more than your engine to be heard, you are a mere speck in natures landscape.
The end point of a wonderful day’s ride is the ski village of Jasper just outside the famed snow resort of Whistler. Here you will find no end of high-end accommodation, restaurants, cafes and bars. It is a busy town with many visiting the area to enjoy summer sports such as hiking, water sports, and mountain biking in the warmer months. It was still buzzing despite the summer visitors have gone and the winter hoards yet to descend. Jasper makes a great place to stop for the night before turning around and doing the ride in reverse.
Although I stopped and took my gloves off to take many photos, none of them do this ride justice. It is a magical stretch of man-made engineering through an even more impressive show of mother natures beauty. The only option is to take a ride and see it for yourself.