Canada’s New Rocky Mountain High
The Glacier Skywalk is officially open for business, debuting an awe-inspiring vantage of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, while replacing a once dangerous pullout along the Icefields Parkway.
A short shuttle from the Glacier Discovery Centre delivers visitors to a cantilevered elliptical observation platform jutting 115 feet into the air.
A walk on a glass floor suspended 85 stories above the Sunwapta Valley adds some thrill to the glacial chill of this ecosystem that straddles a triple continental divide. But first, a pathway leading to the skywalk traces the cliffside and gives a scientific primer, including a display of glacial runoff and a small cave revealing rock striations and fossils.
All together it’s a grand showcase for the rugged peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, and wildlife of this 144-mile parkway, ranked among the world’s most scenic drives.
Already racking up accolades including a World Architecture Festival Award, the minimalist skywalk and accompanying pathway harmonize with the environment in ways that are tangible—such as solar power and limited hours—and also conceptual.
For instance, designers built the pathway into the native bedrock, explains architectural project leader Jan Kroman, to evoke “a hiking-trail feel, while still being accessible to all.”
- Travel Tip: Ride an Ice Explorer to nearby Athabasca Glacier to walk on ice about as thick as the Eiffel Tower is tall.
This piece, written by Kimberly Button, first appeared in the May 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.