Athabasca Falls

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 1.5
Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls was memorable to us because it featured a pretty mountain backdrop. The falls itself wasn't particularly mindblowing, but it possessed enough power to carve out a bit of a gorge immediately downstream of it. The gorge became deeper the lower into the canyon the Athabasca River went. As for its dimensions, this waterfall was said to drop some 23m.

We were able to experience this waterfall by doing a very short walk along its extensive (and busy) walkways and bridges. These paths skirted and spanned the gorge immediately downstream of the falls. Meanwhile, these walks also afforded us views of the falls' brink from both of its sides as well as its front in addition to some of the interesting geology of the gorge itself.

We didn't do the walk that led further downstream deeper into the intriguing lower canyon. However, when we were at the bridge spanning the gorge beneath Hwy 93A, we were able to see where the watercourse reached a calm area. That was when Julie noted color of the water, which was that pronounced light blue that we normally associate with glacier-fed watercourses. Indeed, that color impressed her much and thus added to the waterfall's scenic allure.

A protruding rocky island in the middle of the Athabasca River at the brink of the river's drop actually split up the Athabasca Falls. Thus, we were able to observe dual segments from the overlooks surrounding the falls. Then, as we peered further downstream from these overlooks, we saw that shortly thereafter, the segments rejoined and thus retained its power and volume as it continued its cutting action into the gorge below. Given all that turbulence, we were lucky to see a faint rainbow in the rising mist of one of the waterfall's two segments.

To give you an idea of how much time to spend here, we took a total of 40 minutes to meader about the falls and take photos.

Directions: Athabasca Falls can be reached from a well-signed turnoff just west of the Hwy 93 and Hwy 93A junction. The car park itself had lots of spaces though it was quite crowded anyways, which was saying something considering we were here outside of the peak Summer season.

We made it up here on the way to Jasper from Banff. It was about an hour's drive north of the Columbia Icefields (where Athabasca Glacier and the Glacier View Inn are) along the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). It was roughly 3 hours north of Banff or roughly 30 minutes south of Jasper.

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Beautiful mountain scenery on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) north of the Columbia Icefields
Peering into the turbulence of Athabasca Falls from one of the first overlooks we encountered
After visiting Athabasca Falls, we made a brief detour to Pyramid Lake
Busy car park with pretty mountain in the backgroundBusy car park with pretty mountain in the background

The brink of the Athabasca Falls with mountain backdropThe brink of the falls with mountain backdrop

Faint rainbow besides the brink of one of Athabasca Falls' segmentsFaint rainbow besides the brink of one of the waterfall's segments

Looking down at the convergence of Athabasca Falls' two segmentsLooking down at the convergence of the waterfall's two segments

Peering into the Lower Canyon where the water started to get calm and exhibit its glacially-influenced colorsPeering into the Lower Canyon where the water started to get calm and exhibit its glacially-influenced colors

Broad look at the mountain near Athabasca FallsBroad look at the mountain near the falls

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Bottom up sweep of the falls while ending at the gorgeous mountain in back of it

Right to left U-shaped sweep following the segmented waterfalls from an overlook on the right side of the falls

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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.

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Athabasca Falls 
One stop among many in my tour of the Canadian Rockies

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