Columbia Icefield
Columbia Icefield
1 of 3
Nick Ocean Photography/Getty Images

Price & Hours

CA$99 (about $77) for adults 16 and older; CA$50 (approximately $38) for children 6-15; free for kids 5 and younger
9 or 10 a.m.-4, 5 or 6 p.m. daily

Details

Natural Wonders, Tours Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
3.9scorecard
  • 2.5Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

Covering 130 square miles on the southern edge of Banff National Park, the Columbia Icefield is the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies. It's a bit of a drive from Banff Town (about 2 ½ hours), but you'll quickly find the views are well worth the trip. Seasonal tour buses are available from Banff Town (such as this one offered by Discover Banff Tours and Brewster Sightseeing), but consider driving the Icefields Parkway (Route 93) north from Banff to enjoy the stunning trip, which is considered among the most scenic drives in the world. Along the way, you'll spot turquoise lakes, rushing waterfalls and impressive glaciers.

Whether you come on a tour or drive yourself, once you arrive, you'll hop on an Ice Explorer – a specialized bus that's equipped to handle the icy terrain – which will transport you out onto the glacier (an 80-minute journey), where you'll be allowed 20 minutes to explore. Departing Ice Explorers leave the Athabasca Glacier every 15 to 30 minutes. If you're short on time, you can purchase tickets for the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform that sits 918 feet over the Sunwapta Valley.

Recent visitors said this is a can't-miss sight in the Rocky Mountains, calling the glacier "breathtaking" and the guides informative and entertaining. If it's an experience you know you want to do, reviewers suggested booking tickets in advance as the tours – operated by Brewster Travel Canada – can get crowded and you may have to wait a few hours before departing on your tour if you neglect to reserve a spot. The crowds, along with the steep ticket prices, were a common gripe among visitors. 

Tours are available daily from mid-April to mid-October; hours vary by month, but generally tours operate from 9 or 10 a.m. to 4, 5 or 6 p.m. It's recommended that you set aside three hours for the excursion, and wear layers and appropriate shoes (sneakers or hiking boots are best). Tickets for the combined Glacier Skywalk and Ice Explorer Glacier Tour cost CA$99 (about $77) for adults 16 and older; the experience costs CA$50 (approximately $38) for children between the ages of 6 and 15. You can save 10 percent when you book in advance online. If you decide to drive, you'll find ample parking is available at the Glacier Discovery Centre, where the Ice Explorers depart. For information, visit the Brewster Travel Canada website.

See all Hotels in Banff »

More Best Things To Do in Banff

Sunshine Village
Banff Gondola
Type
Time to Spend
1 of 14
#1 Sunshine Village

Located miles 11 miles west of Banff Town, Sunshine Village offers 12 lifts, more than 3,300 skiable acres and a peak elevation of 7,200 feet. And thanks to its location straddling the Continental Divide, Sunshine sees more snow than its neighbors, meaning the ski season here is long – typically from early

Read more
Steven Olmstead Photography/Getty Images
See full list of Best Things To Do in Banff »

Explore More of Banff

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019