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
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.
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.
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