Sunwapta Falls

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 1
Sunwapta Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Sunwapta Falls was another one of those waterfalls (similar to Athabasca Falls) in that we remembered it more for its backdrop than the falls itself. In fact, as I was sifting through the photos and videos, I easily got the two waterfalls confused since they seemed to be similar in many ways.

For starters, this waterfall also had a nice mountain backdrop, which we were able to appreciate from a footbridge spanning high above the gorge. The falls also didn't overwhelm us with its height (said to be 18.5m tall) but it did make up for it with its power as the Sunwapta River was squeezed into a tight gorge. Indeed, I had read that the word "sunwapta" roughly translated to turbulent water in the native tongue (which I think belonged to the First Nations people we heard a lot about during our visit here).

We noticed that the walkways and viewing areas weren't quite as extensive as that of Athabasca Falls, but we were able to get pretty much all the safe views that we could possibly get in less than 15 minutes from the car park. So we treated this attraction as more of a place to stretch and break up the long drive between Banff and Jasper.

Finally, I wanted to call attention to the fact that this wasn't the only waterfall on the Sunwapta River. Indeed, there was another waterfall further downstream called the Lower Sunwapta Falls. Since most of the attention and traffic was for Sunwapta Falls, we were able to get a totally different experience exploring the lower waterfalls.

Given the presence of the lower waterfall, I've even seen this particular waterfall referred to as "Upper Sunwapta Falls" to emphasize that there was indeed another set of falls here. We made another writeup for the lower waterfall on a separate page.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

If you're approaching Sunwapta Falls along the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93A), this would be the view you'd get under good weatherIf you're approaching Sunwapta Falls along the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93A), this would be the view you'd get under good weather
Closeup view of Sunwapta Falls with some onlookers right at its brinkCloseup view of Sunwapta Falls with some onlookers right at its brink
Sunwapta Falls also happens to share the same reserve (Jasper National Park) as the beautiful Lake MaligneSunwapta Falls also happens to share the same reserve (Jasper National Park) as the beautiful Lake Maligne
The walking path from the car park to the views of Sunwapta FallsThe walking path from the car park to the views of the falls

Looking along the steep gorge carved out by the Sunwapta River towards a mountain peak in the distanceLooking along the steep gorge carved out by the Sunwapta River towards a mountain peak in the distance

Looking down towards the footbridge fronting Sunwapta FallsLooking down towards the footbridge fronting the falls

View of Sunwapta Falls from the footbridgeView of the falls from the footbridge

Looking back from the brink of Sunwapta Falls towards the bridge spanning the narrow gorgeLooking back from the brink of the falls towards the bridge spanning the narrow gorge

Three days later, this was the view while driving Hwy 93 after a clearing snowstormThree days later, this was the view while driving Hwy 93 after a clearing snowstorm

Sunwapta Falls, three days laterSame falls, three days later

Looking towards the bridge in the direction of Sunwapta FallsLooking towards the bridge in the direction of the falls


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Bottom up sweep of the falls ending at the pretty mountain behind it as seen from the bridge over the gorge


Focused on the turbulent falls itself as seen from its brink


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The well-signed turnoff for the falls is roughly 45 minutes north of the Columbia Icefields (i.e. where the Athabasca Glacier and the Glacier View Inn reside) along the Icefields Parkway (aka Hwy 93). Heading south of Jasper, it's about an hour's drive on Hwy 93 (or 25 minutes south of Athabasca Falls).

For additional context, Jasper was 365km (under 4 hours drive) west of Edmonton and 412km (5 hours drive) northwest of Calgary.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

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




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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RELATED PAGES



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