Sunwapta Falls – Icefields Parkway Hikes

Sunwapta Falls – Icefields Parkway Hikes

Sunwapta Falls - the main falls are easy to reach by the carpark, but so beautiful when covered in ice.Sunwapta Falls is another one of the many waterfalls on our epic drive along the Icefields Parkway. The main waterfall is only about a hundred meters away from the car park, but if you fancy a bit of a walk, there is much more to see.

The lower waterfalls are nice to see, but the trail to reach them is truly gorgeous! This was one of my favourite easy hikes near Jasper. If you have time, and fancy stretching your legs, you should definitely go beyond the first waterfall and explore the trail below.

Sunwapta Falls Map

Sunwapta Falls – the basics

Cost: Free
How much time do you need: You don’t need long if you’re just planning to take a peek at the upper falls. We spent an hour and a half, including the hike to the lower falls and looooads of photos!
Facilities: Pit toilets (no loo roll)
Good in winter: In spring (April) the car park was open and snow-free. However the waterfall may be closed in the wintertime. If the road is closed you can hike up with snowshoes. In April, we did not need snowshoes, but our microspikes were really useful as the paths and bridges were very icy and slippery.
Mini hike distance: We walked for 3.1 km (the trail to the lower falls is 1.4 km in one direction)

How to reach Sunwapta Falls

This is also super easy! Sunwapta Falls is around 55 km south of Jasper along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93.) There is a large sign by the turnoff, so it would be hard to miss it. Drive down past the Sunwapta Falls Lodge to the end of the road where there is a large car park.

Waterfall Viewpoints

These keep getting better and better. We started with a viewpoint right next to the river, there is a mini waterfall there. Then we crossed the bridge to get a new perspective (above). Then, later, when we started the mini walk, we noticed another fantastic viewpoint (below).

Sunwapta Falls Hike (to lower falls)

I am sooooo glad we did the extra mini walk down to the lower falls. This walk is a complete pleasure. You’ll see a few more waterfalls as well as pretty views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

The lower falls are 1.4 km from the car park, so 2.8 km return. This walk goes downhill the whole way, so you’ll have to return up the hill on the way back. If you come in spring, it is much easier to explore the area with microspikes as there was still plenty of snow and ice on the ground.

How Busy is are these waterfalls?

We arrived at 10:30 am ish. There were a few other cars, but not many people at the waterfall. When we did the hike to the lower falls, we didn’t meet any other walkers on the way down, but there were a couple of groups arriving as we left. So, if you’re lucky (like us), you might end up with views like this all to yourself…

The canyon looks pretty amazing on sunny days when you can see the forest with mountains looming over everything.

Lower Sunwapta Falls

You’ll know when you’re close to the lower falls, as you’ll start to hear the roar. When we visited, the waterfalls were still partly frozen. I love seeing the edges of the river built up with ice.

There are a few different waterfalls at the Lower Sunwapta Falls. The first one looked totally frozen, but we could hear the water flowing furiously below the ice.

Then the area opens up into a canyon with a large cave.

Then beyond that is another fast flowing waterfall.

If you look carefully at the edge of the canyon, the ice had frozen into little fringes of icicles. Cool eh!?

Meet some Critters

We met quite a few friendly birds and a super-cute squirrel on our walk to the lower falls. The squirrel-dude was not interested in us at all. He was keen to eat while I squealed and took photos.

Just remember to save some energy, as the walk back to the car park is uphill the entire way. The elevation loss is 130 m, so it’s not too hard, but it’ll warm you up in the snow.

If you’re a fan of chasing waterfalls, you might also like to visit Athabasca Falls, also on the Icefields Parkway, closer to Jasper.

If you like it, click on the images below to pin them.

Sunwapta Falls - hike to the lower falls Sunwapta Falls - the main falls are easy to reach by the carpark

28 thoughts on “Sunwapta Falls – Icefields Parkway Hikes

  1. Fabulous post and incredible photos. We visited the falls in the summer when we drove the Icefields Parkway and they looked a little different. The snow and ice really make them so much more dramatic. Excellent.

    1. Thank you so much Jonno!! We are keen to come back in the summer, but you’re right, it seems like the jasper landscapes change pretty dramatically with the change of the seasons! I loved seeing all that ice.

  2. So pretty! This actually isn’t too far from my house – now I’m thinking Sunwapta Falls might be a good excursion the next time my parents are in town! It looks perfect for older hikers who want those beautiful Rocky Mountain views without getting too strenuous!

    1. Carly, you lucky thing! You live in such a gorgeous area!!

      Yeah, this does seem like it’d be perfect for a less strenuous hike. My sister in law is pregnant, but she managed it easily. I’m not sure if my grandma (in her 90s) could manage the steeper sections, but I’m sure my parents would love it… 😉

  3. This area of Canada is so far up my bucket list! And we are hikers so I absolutely love this post. Gorgeous photos – thanks!

    1. Oooh if you like hiking you will LOVE this area! If (when) you do visit, get hold of “How not to waste your time in the Rockies” it’s such a good hiking book for finding places to explore!

      I should probably write a review about that book.

  4. What a beautiful hike! The falls are stunning, and I love that clear, green-blue water. I know I’ve written this before, but you sure do live in a beautiful part of the world!

    1. Don’t worry Erin! I keep thinking the same thing!

      Although, to be fair, this is pretty faaaar from Vancouver! We’ve only made it as far as the Rockies twice, but each time we do these kinds of views blow me away!

    1. There is public transport, but it doesn’t seem to stop at all the waterfalls/viewpoints. The best way to get around the Rockies is to hire a car, cycle or go on a coach tour. However the coach tours didn’t seem to be stopping at this waterfall this early in the year. 🙁

      We live over in Vancouver, so for this trip we drove the whole way (I was showing my little brother and his wife how pretty Canada can be!)

  5. The hike looks very worth it , with the stunning views all round. You had luck getting the photo of the little squirrel . Makes me really feel like Im there too!

    1. Hehehe I have sooo many squirrel photos! I love meeting those little dudes.

      They are pretty vocal here in Canada, so I have also gotten used to being sworn at by squirrels(!)

    1. It might just be because it is shoulder season. Nowhere was very busy (well, maybe just the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre further down the road!)

      You have to expect rubbish weather in the spring, but if you’re lucky it’s gorgeous AND not crowded.

  6. The views are just amazing! I can’t even imagine if there’s no snow on the ground. Both must be beautiful in their own way, right? Now I wonder how long do I need to spend while visiting Canada’s outdoor.

  7. Sunwapta Falls is one of my favorite parts of the Icefields Parkway! I’ve always gone in Winter though, so I haven’t done the longer hike. Adding that to my list of things to do when I return!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: