Parker Ridge is a must-do hike along the legendary Icefields Parkway with spectacular views of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
The scenic, moderately strenuous trail to Parker Ridge is located at the heart of the Icefields Parkway; halfway between Banff and Jasper. It’s the perfect place to get out and stretch your legs. In only 2.7 kilometres, you gain the ridge and can peek over the over side at the North Saskatchewan River and massive glacier that feeds it. Saskatchewan Glacier is the largest of six that make up the Columbia Icefield.
Did you know the Columbia Icefield is the Canadian Rockies’ biggest icefield at 325 square kilometres in size?Source: Wikipedia
Although you start out in the trees, you very quickly leave them behind and enter a meadow of wildflowers and natural bonsai (kruppelholz). The rest of the trail involves several rocky switchbacks. My kids took guesses on how many there are, but couldn’t agree on what constitutes a switchback; one said all turns count, the other said only hairpin turns do. Either way, it didn’t take long to reach the ridgetop.
At the big cairn, you have two options: 1) Take a left for the Saskatchewan Glacier viewpoints, or 2) Take the unofficial trail up the hill on the right for a birds’ eye view of the area. It’s about 1 kilometre to the top and well worth it! Take shelter from the wind in one of many rock shelters at the top and watch the clouds blow over. Return the way you came.
Parker Ridge At a Glance
Distance: 2.7 km one way
Elevation Gain: 250 metres
Trailhead: Look for the Parker Ridge sign on Highway 93 North, 40 km north of Saskatchewan Crossing or 9 km south of the Icefield Centre.
Nearest washrooms: At the trailhead
Stroller friendly? No due to steep terrain, narrow trail, and some stairs
When to go: The trail is typically snow free from late June to October. Do not attempt the ridge if snow covered; this is avalanche terrain! Check Parks Canada | Banff Trail Reports for current conditions.
Know Before You Go
- It can be quite windy at the top, so a windproof / waterproof jacket is highly recommended.
- The switchbacks are steep and snow lingers on the upper slopes until mid summer, so proper footwear is recommended.
- Photographers like coming here in the morning for the best light (the glacier is east facing), but Parker Ridge is beautiful any time of day.
- For more hikes and attractions along the Icefields Parkway, read our story: Touring the Icefields Parkway with Kids.