Icefields Parkway: Winterlude

At the end of January, I had the chance to take a driving tour of the Icefields Parkway on my own, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. The forecast was promising, sunny and relatively warm, and the road conditions looked good. Though I’m not typically into sketching “plein air”, I took some sketchbooks and pencils along, just in case.

I drove all the way to Mistaya Canyon, near Saskatchewan Crossing, but was disappointed the small parking area wasn’t cleared of snow (are you listening, Parks Canada?). I couldn’t safely park at the roadside there, so simply turned around and started south, stopping at every pullout I could to take photos and admire the scenery. I got so many great shots that it was difficult to pick out which views to depict in artwork (many of the others will likely show up in 2019’s Christmas cards).

Mount Chephren
Mighty Mount Chephren, pastel on paper

Near Waterfowl Lakes, a couple of pullouts offered great views in all directions. Mount Chephren tends to dominate the area, looming to the west of the northernmost lake.

North of Waterfowl Lakes
North of Waterfowl Lakes, Inktense on cardstock

But the view looking north is also pretty amazing, so I couldn’t resist doing that one in Inktense.

I stopped at Bow Summit, where I was greeted by a raven perched in a spruce by my parking spot. He sat there, making quiet vocalizations. Then he perched on the roof of my minivan, clearly hopeful that I would make a donation to his personal food bank. Nope.

Raven at Bow Summit
Raven at Bow Summit, Inktense on paper

In winter, the main trail up to Peyto Lookout runs up the closed road to the upper bus parking lot. I was stunned by the views I got along there – the summer trail is stuck in the trees, so you don’t see much until you get to the viewpoint. The winter trail, however, is open, and I could see clear across the valley to the mountains on the east side of the highway. I also got mountain views to the north as I walked up to the lookout. Wow.

Bow Summit view
View from Bow Summit road, pastel on paper

At Peyto Lookout, I could see north along Peyto Lake, covered in white, and towards the glacier on the west end. Oddly enough, the view to the glacier is more distinctive at this time of year, partly due to the snow cover, but also because there isn’t the distraction of Peyto Lake’s incredible aquamarine shades in summer.

Peyto Glacier
Peyto Glacier, seen from Peyto Lookout, colored pencil on paper

I stopped at Bow Lake for a while. There was a lot of snow drifted on the roofs of Num-ti-jah Lodge, and the smooth expanse of Bow Lake all the way to Bow Glacier. The wind started to rise, and cloud cover was coming in from the west, so I retreated back to the van.

Bow Lake
Sketch of Bow Lake, pencil on paper

My last stop of the day was at the roadside pullout that offers a view of Crowfoot Glacier. I finally pulled out a sketchbook, and did a small sketch through the windshield, looking up to the glacier. The wind had gotten too cold to even attempt doing that outside.

Crowfoot Glacier
Sketch of Crowfoot Glacier, pencil on paper

If you’re hoping to do a similar trip up the Icefields Parkway in winter, please make a point of checking the road conditions before you go. There’s a lot of avalanche terrain along that road, and heavy snowfall sometimes means the road can be impassable. Winter tires are a must.

If you enjoyed the artwork, some of it is now available for sale on various products on Please follow the link to see what’s available:

One thought on “Icefields Parkway: Winterlude

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  1. This blog was really nice. Loved the paintings of the mountains and the raven was astounding with the reflects in the sun. Wonderful work Linda. Thanks for sharing your adventures.


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