The Glacier View Lodge at the Columbia Icefields: The Best Hotel Experience in the Rockies?

Louise and I don’t often write about our experiences in hotels because, quite frankly, most hotels just aren’t that interesting and it makes for fairly boring reading. If we’re going to actually spend five minutes of our life reading a hotel blog post, it had better be something vaguely interesting or unique (like a sweaty night in a bubble hotel in Bali, or sleeping under the Northern Lights in an Igloo in Finland).

So, when it comes to Banff and the Canadian Rockies, you’ll understand why we (generally speaking) haven’t written too much about hotels. With the exception of worthwhile experiences at places like the Pomeroy Kananskis Lodge with its Nordic Spa, and the 5 Albertan Fairmonts (Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, Edmonton and Calgary), we view most hotels as places to rest in between adventures. And therefore, our Canadian Rockies hotel blog posts are fairly few and far between.

But after an amazing experience up in the Columbia Icefields last weekend, we feel like we’re ready to add one more worthy hotel experience to the list: The Glacier View Lodge in Jasper National Park

The Glacier View Lodge

The Glacier View Lodge is a new additional at the Icefields Discovery Centre, located at the Columbia Icefields. Before a major renovation, the Icefields Discovery Centre used to be nothing more than a staging area for the various Icefields attractions (the glacier skywalk and the Icefields Explorer), with a small, yet interesting exhibition and an absolutely horrendous canteen selling overpriced snacks.

Fast forward to today, and everything is different. Yes it’s still a staging area for the attractions and the exhibition still exists, but now the once awful cafeteria has been replaced by a fairly swanky restaurant, and the entire third floor of the building has been turned into a stunning hotel!

As soon as you step out from the elevator and onto the third floor, you’re immediately hit with one of the most stunning hotel lounges imaginable. This is the main focal point of the hotel, and where the majority of guests tend to lurk.

There are six chairs lined up along the window, where you can enjoy the view with a cocktail or a complimentary coffee, and believe me, it’s somewhere you could sit for hours.

Possibly my favourite part of our visit was getting up early for sunrise, and then heading back inside with a coffee and just sitting in the warmth, enjoying the view for a while.

It’s a small area, and the window fills up quickly, but we never had to wait very long for our turn, particularly as we booked ourselves in to a later dinner and basically got to enjoy the sunset alone while everyone else was eating downstairs!

The Rooms

Aside from the main foyer, the rooms also have stunning views of the glacier, and you can literally wake up staring at the Athabasca Glacier. For anyone that likes to watch the sunrise, this means you don’t have to leave Banff 2 hours earlier!

The rooms are modern, decorated with beautiful artwork, and you can either have one of the premium rooms facing the glacier, or one of the cheaper rooms with rooms facing Wilcox Peak behind. Either way, you’re never more than a few metres walk from the big windows in the lobby.

Given the opportunity, I could easily stay here for a week, and considering they even have wifi, it wouldn’t be a bad spot for a staycation!

Things to do while you’re staying at the Glacier View Lodge

The Food

So part of the package (if you do the all inclusive deal) is dinner and breakfast included. Dinner is a 3 course meal from a fairly set menu (there are 3 or 4 options). I was expecting something good, but the food was actually pretty exceptional.

If you want to talk specifics, the onion and truffle soup was fantastic to start, and, thanks to the recommendation from the awesome concierge Daniel, we also really enjoyed the Beef Stroganoff. It was also probably the biggest plate of food I’ve ever seen.

In the morning, the breakfast was equally impressive. Louise had the salmon avocado toast and I had eggs benedict. Both were not too heavy and delicious.

As part of the all inclusive deal, you also get a 20 dollar f&b voucher, which is just about enough for a cocktail each for two people. Considering you get unlimited coffees in the hotel lobby, spending it on booze was a no brainer, but if you’re staying longer you can also use it on lunch in the cafe.

The All inclusive package at the Glacier View Lodge

The all inclusive package, for $279 per person, is a surprisingly good deal if you’re one of those people that wants it all figured out for them and likes to do everything. For that price, you obviously get your room, dinner and breakfast, but it also includes a welcome reception with drinks, a private evening tour of the Icefields skywalk, and guided stargazing in the evening.

We’ve always kind of felt like the Icefields skywalk wasn’t something you should book for the views, but the actual experience itself, so combined with the epic views from the hotel, you get the best of everything.

We’d also heard, anecdotally, that when the Icefields skywalk is busy, you literally have to climb over people to get around it, which can lead to a poor experience. Having a private tour is a great way to avoid the crowds!

Hiking near the Glacier View Lodge

So the other great thing about staying here is that you’re quite close to a number of great hikes and places to explore.

Within about 5-10 minutes drive or less, you can easily get to the Parker Ridge hike, Wilcox Pass and Panther Falls. You can also just walk across the road and up the Athabasca Glacier moraine for a better ‘up close’ view.

You’re also not too far from Jasper, so there are plenty of great hikes as you get nearer (Valley of the Five Lakes is probably our favourite).

You can also hike things like Cirque Peak, Bow Glacier Falls, Jimmy Simpson Jnr and more by driving an hour or less.

The Glacier View Lodge is really slap bang in the middle of all the action on the Icefields Parkway, so it’s not a bad place to position yourself for at least a day or maybe even two.

If you need some more ideas for things to do on the Icefields Parkway, you can check our full guide here.

Stargazing at Glacier View Lodge

We weren’t able to do the guided stargazing the night we were there, but I took the opportunity to go out by myself and take some photos in the dark. It was a bright full moon, and the photos I took practically made it look like day!

The thing is, I would probably never come here at night if I wasn’t staying here. The weather is just too unpredictable and it’s such a long drive from virtually anywhere that it just isn’t worth the gamble. Actually staying here was a dream because I could just walk out the door and start shooting if the conditions were good, or hide inside under the blankets if it was cloudy.

I honestly couldn’t even imagine how epic it would have been up there if the northern lights were on while we were there, and I’m excited to go back in the future to do more astro! It’s probably my favourite part about staying here, in all honesty.

And the same goes for getting up and shooting sunrise; all I had to do was roll out of bed when I saw it was going to be a good one! Normally I’d have to potentially waste 4 hours driving on the off chance we might have good light!

Planning your visit to Glacier View Lodge

When is the Glacier Mountain Lodge Open?

Glacier View Lodge is actually seasonally open, and closes for winter (This year it closed on October 4th). It will be opening again in spring 2021.

How do you get to the Glacier Mountain Lodge?

It’s very easy to reach the Glacier Mountain Lodge from either Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper. It’s located roughly halfway along the Icefields Parkway (between Lake Louise and Jasper), and you literally can’t miss it as you drive the road.

There are bus tours that visit the Icefields Discovery Centre from Banff and Jasper, but if you’re actually staying there I highly recommend driving yourself.

Is it worth staying multiple days?

It honestly depends on how much you want to do in the area. I felt like I could have easily spent a couple of days there, as it’s really quite peaceful up there, especially in Autumn once the summer crowds have died down. Having said that, I felt like I had the full experience with a single night, and it would be a great way to simply break up the journey to Jasper.

Do you need to stay somewhere overnight on the way to Jasper?

Honestly, no. The drive between Banff and Jasper is roughly 4 hours, and can easily be done in a single day without the need for stopping anywhere overnight.

This hotel is definitely something to book as an experience, rather than out of necessity. The vast majority of times we just blast straight past and do the journey in 4 hours.

Is it cold at the Columbia Icefields?

The short answer is yes, but it can sometimes be quite warm in the summer. But yes, you’re basically at eye level with frozen glaciers so it’s wise to bring a warm jacket (particularly later in the season or if you plan to be out at night stargazing!)

Is the stay at Glacier View Lodge worth it?

I think I can honestly say that this was something that was worth doing, and was really an experience in itself. It’s a very romantic place to spend the night, and I think as part of a special trip or honeymoon it would be absolutely incredible.

If you’re simply staying in the hotel, it’s actually quite reasonably priced (prices starting from $279 per night), which actually isn’t significantly more than a regular hotel in Banff or Jasper.

Personally speaking, I always tell people to spend more time on the drive to Jasper, rather than in Jasper itself, so if it was a choice between 2 nights in Jasper or one at the Glacier View Lodge and one in Jasper, I’d stay here every time.

The all inclusive package is where it starts to get quite steep though, and for two people you’re looking at more like $600. This is great if you want to do all the experiences they offer, but remember there’s still plenty of free things to do in the area instead.

With that being said, there aren’t any other dining options in the area, so even if you opt for the room only option, you’ll probably end up spending a bit of money at the a la carte restaurant anyway.

Overall, even after having been to the Columbia Icefields dozens of times, I found this experience to be something new, unique and totally worth doing. I think it’s something that should appeal even to hardiest veterans of the Canadian Rockies, and I hope to have another opportunity to stay again in the future!

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