February 11, 2021
Alberta has some of the best landmarks in the country and it’s one of the best places to explore if you’re looking for luscious waterfalls and breathtaking views. This season, instead of staying home, why not venture out and explore Alberta from the safety of your car?
Make a stop at your local Calgary Co-op store and pick up some road trip snacks, then fuel up and grab any driving essentials (is your windshield washer fluid topped up?) before heading out on the open road.
Waterfalls in the winter? Surprisingly Alberta’s waterfalls become an entirely different sight when they start to freeze, meaning even if you’ve seen these ones before, they’re very different and extremely photogenic now.
Located in the Jasper National Park, this waterfall is easily accessible and while it isn’t as big as others, it is definitely worth a visit. It is close to the Icefields Parkway so convenient if you are traveling that route. The views are spectacular, which includes the waterfall itself but also the rock formations that have supported the waterfall for many years. Many of the standing areas are railed and secure. This waterfall is also surrounded by several information kiosks for people looking to venture out on winter snowshoeing trails.
Sunwapta Falls is made up of two waterfalls also located in Jasper National Park. The upper falls are very close to the parking lot, so visitors don’t have to walk very far. Parts of these falls seem to be “wrapped” around a seemingly random island of trees unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Sometimes when this waterfall freezes it takes on a very unique blue tint that almost makes it look unreal. A walk down to the lower falls takes about 30 minutes each way. The upper falls have a lot of foot traffic, so you may prefer to keep your distance and enjoy the lower falls since that area seems more quiet and serene.
Elbow Falls is only about an hour west of Calgary, making it a convenient afternoon getaway and a short drive. These falls are relatively small but they are a great place to take visitors as the boardwalk around the falls makes it a nice leisurely walk and you can also go a bit farther on a certain trail to get to more falls that are less busy. The Alberta floods of a few years ago changed this area permanently, and while Elbow falls is smaller than many may remember it, it’s still a beautiful stop.
If you’d like to drive a bit further afield and head for the Waterton area you should most definitely make it a point to stop at Cameron Falls. The scenery of these falls is amazing, especially on a clear day, and a viewing bridge makes it easy to snap some killer selfies. It’s a good idea to visit Cameron Falls in the mornings, as the sun provides better direct lighting onto the rocks at that time (if you are looking to Snapchat or Instagram your visit!). Up close, you can see the layers in the Precambrian rocks and it is intriguing to know that they have been there for millions of years.
Johnston Canyon Waterfalls
When it comes to waterfalls that looks spectacular in the cold, Johnston Canyon’s frozen waterfalls are absolutely stunning. Banff Tours even offers a 2.2 kilometer evening ice walk where you can stroll suspended steel catwalks have been built into the canyon for visitors to walk on to view the unique features in the rocks and ice.
Last, but certainly not least, Siffleur Falls is a breathtaking set of waterfalls north of Banff National Park. While many people walk to the first falls and stop to “ooh” and “aah,” we recommend continuing on the trail, as it offers even more superb views as well as two additional falls along the way. This place is perfect for a family hike because the trail is mostly flat despite a few rocky patches and you can get more up-close to these falls compared to others where visitors are encouraged to keep some distance.
It goes without saying that if you’re road tripping into Alberta’s parks and natural areas to always check weather conditions and dress for the temperatures. But viewing Alberta’s waterfalls in winter is a wholly new experience and we highly recommend getting out and about on a short road trip to see some of the most beautiful.
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