Flowing from Columbia Icefield’s huge glaciers, Athabasca Falls pour over quarzite rocks into a small canyon. The reason these falls draw in so many visitors has little to do with their height. At 75 feet (23 meters) tall, there are many bigger waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. Yet, this sudden drop in the Athabasca River makes such an by impressive noise that people come here for the experience as well as the stunning picture it provides.
To get to Athabasca Falls, follow the paved trails that weave around it. These run closely enough to get the best views, yet at a safe distance away from the falls and river. The mist from the Athabasca Falls causes surrounding rocks to be extremely slippery, and the numerous memorials along the water’s edge serve as poignant reminders to stay behind the railings.
You’ll pass through patches of pine forest and can see the vegetation of the meadows, such as wild mushrooms and berries. Some spots along the trails offer wonderful vantage points to take in the mountainous backdrop of the falls. Don’t miss the photo opportunity on the concrete bridge that crosses the water. From here you can really appreciate the power of the river. Interestingly, the color of the water varies depending on the time of year. It can be anything from icy blue to gray to milky white.
As with most landmarks around Jasper, Athabasca Falls is at its busiest in the summer. Try to arrive early in the morning or early in the evening to avoid the crowds. Some like to make the return journey to Jasper by rafting downstream from the bottom of the falls through Class 2 rapids. Book ahead if you plan to do this.
Athabasca Falls are located in the upper regions of the Athabasca River. The site is about 18 miles (30 kilometers) south of Jasper. It’s easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway.