Sunwapta Falls

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

About Sunwapta Falls

Hiking Distance: almost roadside
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-09-21
Date last visited: 2010-09-21

Waterfall Latitude: 52.53242
Waterfall Longitude: -117.64481

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

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 that we took, I easily got the two waterfalls confused since they seemed to be similar in many ways.

Icefields_Parkway_081_09182010 - Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls

For starters, this waterfall also had a nice mountain backdrop, which we were able to appreciate from a footbridge spanning high above the gorge.

Sunwapta Falls 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 that tight gorge.

Indeed, I had read that the word “sunwapta” roughly translated to “turbulent water” or “radiating waves” in the native tongue (which I think belonged to the Stoney First Nations people).

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.

Icefields_Parkway_071_09182010 - Looking downstream from the footbridge spanning the deep gorge in front of Sunwapta Falls
Looking downstream from the footbridge spanning the deep gorge in front of Sunwapta Falls

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.

Icefields_Parkway_183_09212010 - Back at Sunwapta Falls after a couple days of snow blanketed the Canadian Rockies
Back at Sunwapta Falls after a couple days of snow blanketed the Canadian Rockies

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.

In any case, we made another writeup for the lower waterfall on a separate page.


Sunwapta Falls resides in Jasper National Park near Jasper in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is administered by Parks Canada. For information or inquiries as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Icefields_Parkway_069_09182010 - The walking path from the car park to the views of Sunwapta Falls
Icefields_Parkway_072_09182010 - Looking down towards the footbridge fronting Sunwapta Falls and spanning its deep gorge
Icefields_Parkway_075_09182010 - Context of Sunwapta Falls fronting the segmented Sunwapta River and some mountain in the background
Icefields_Parkway_083_09182010 - Focused on the Sunwapta Falls with some people at the overlook at its brink for a sense of scale
Icefields_Parkway_090_09182010 - Another view of Sunwapta Falls in context as seen from the footbridge
Icefields_Parkway_091_09182010 - Looking back from the brink of Sunwapta Falls towards the bridge spanning the narrow gorge
Icefields_Parkway_092_09182010 - Looking upstream from the lookout at the brink of Sunwapta Falls
Icefields_Parkway_187_09212010 - Looking downstream from near the bridge fronting the Sunwapta Falls after a clearing snow storm
Icefields_Parkway_190_09212010 - Looking towards the bridge spanning the deep gorge in the direction of Sunwapta Falls
Icefields_Parkway_191_09212010 - Zoomed out contextual upstream view of the bridge spanning the deep gorge fronting Sunwapta Falls

The well-signed turnoff for the Sunwapta 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).

Icefields_Parkway_011_jx_09212010 - Driving the Icefields Parkway the day after we had experienced a couple days of snow during an early season Winter Storm on our September 2010 visit
Driving the Icefields Parkway the day after we had experienced a couple days of snow during an early season Winter Storm on our September 2010 visit

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

Short bottom up sweep of the falls with someone at the top providing scale

Focused on the turbulent falls itself as seen from its brink

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Tagged with: jasper, national park, alberta, canada, waterfall, icefields, canadian rockies, columbia, sunwapta

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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