Jasper National Park is nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and is a beautiful year-round escape for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. While the summer season draws crowds in pursuit of Jasper’s rich forests and vibrant wildflowers, today we are checking out one of its most enchanting gems to discover in the winter - Sunwapta Falls.
Tucked away along the Icefields Parkway, this stunning cascade of water, is a melody of nature, beckoning visitors with its mesmerizing beauty. If you’re itching for a spectacular winter adventure that feels like a page straight out of a fairytale, pack your bags and get ready to be enchanted by the beauty of Sunwapta Falls in all its frozen glory.
Nature’s Ice Sculpture
Sunwapta means “turbulent waters” and got its name from the Stoney Nakoda First Nations. The Sunwapta River has carved its way through the mountains to form a deep canyon and is fed from the Athabasca Glacier and flows into the Athabasca River. The falls are divided into two distinct sections - the upper and lower falls. Each has its charm, the upper falls boasting a powerful cascade and the lower falls revealing a more gentle yet equally captivating icefall.
As winter wraps its frosty embrace around Sunwapta Falls, it undergoes a magical transformation. The once-rushing waters are suspended in time, frozen mid-flow, creating an impressive ice sculpture that captivates the imagination. Picture yourself walking through a frozen mist, surrounded by glistening icicles hanging like nature’s chandeliers.
Your journey to Sunwapta Falls begins with a scenic drive through the Icefields Parkway. The drive itself is an adventure, offering magnificent views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Make sure your vehicle is winter-ready as conditions can make the highway icy and snow-covered. Be sure to check the current road conditions before embarking on your journey. Signs on the Icefields Parkway will guide you to the parking lot, which is only about 500 meters off the highway, making it a convenient pit stop with incredible views.
The trailhead to the Sunwapta Falls is approximately 1.5 kilometres round trip, and accessible for visitors of all fitness levels. The compacted snow-covered paths add to the winter charm and provide ample opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the river along the way. The trail is considered easy, making it suitable for families, casual hikers, and those who may not be accustomed to more strenuous hiking. As with any winter excursion, be sure to dress for the elements, wear proper footwear and use caution on slippery sections of the trail. Consider hiking poles, snowshoes, or crampons to enhance your experience, especially if you plan to explore the area further. Your furry friend is welcome to join you on your adventure, but all dogs must be kept on a leash.
Why You Need to See it in the Winter
Winter at Sunwapta Falls is not just about the frozen spectacle; it’s also about the crisp refreshing mountain air that fills your lungs as you explore. The surrounding snow-covered alpine trees and pristine landscapes provide a gorgeous backdrop, offering a peaceful escape from the city. It’s the perfect place for a tranquil winter adventure, where the only sounds you’ll hear are the soft crunch of snow beneath your boots and the occasional whisper of the wind through the trees.
Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park is not just a summer stop along the Icefields Parkway; It is a winter wonderland, frozen in time just waiting to be discovered. The short and accessible trail, paired with the beauty of the falls, makes it a must-visit for anyone seeking adventure in the Rockies. This winter, grab your camera, embrace the chill, and let the frozen magic of Sunwapta Falls be an escape that will truly leave you breathless.
Britanny Burr is a freelance writer and a contributor to Great West Media. This story was written for the 2023/24 Cool Winter Guide advertising feature. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.