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.
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).
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