If you’ve never gone on a roadside glacier RV trip, now is the time to do it. You don’t need a ton of vacation time and you don’t even have to travel far from the U.S border. Three of North America’s best roadside glacier viewpoints are closer than you think.
It’s Time for a Roadside Glacier RV Trip
Western North American glaciers are shrinking four times faster than just ten years ago, according to a December 2018 study released in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union. “Anthropogenic warming is expected to drive continued mass loss from alpine glaciers throughout the remainder of this century,” the study says.
In other words, take a roadside glacier RV trip now before it’s too late. Here are three glaciers you can visit, even on a short vacation.
Your First Stop: The Athabasca Glacier, Banff National Park
Drive 9 hours north from Great Falls, Montana and you’ll get an up close look at the Athabasca Glacier. It’s the largest surviving icefield in the Canadian Rockies and you’ll agree it’s a majestic site. Presently the walk-up glacier is about 3.7 mi long and estimated to be 90–300 metres (300–980 ft) thick.
Located about 60 miles south of the town of Jasper and midway between Jasper and Banff National Parks, the Athabasca Glacier is also the most visited ice field in North America. Thousands of tourists head to this Columbia Icefields attraction to experience the massive glacier that melts at a rate of about 16 feet (5 meters) a year.
If You Go:
For a nominal charge you can dry camp across the highway, at the Columbia Icefields Visitor Centre parking lot. Located just a mile or so from the glacier toe, you’ll need to get there early to grab a spot in the unlevel parking lot.
Your Second Stop: Bear Glacier, Stewart British Columbia
Bear Glacier Provincial Park is about 1,000 driving miles north from Seattle, and completely worth the drive. If you ever watched the 2002 movie “Insomnia,” with Robert De Niro, then you caught a glimpse of this beautiful icefield.
Bear Glacier was a very different icefield when Hollywood arrived. This British Columbia glacier destination has retreated dramatically in the years since.
Easily accessible while traveling the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, just pull over at a safe viewpoint and take a selfie right from the road. Bear Glacier is perched on a mountainside halfway to the quaint town of Stewart, British Columbia.
Last Glacier Stop: Salmon Glacier, Hyder Alaska
If you thought RVing to Alaska was a pipe dream, think again. The quirky little ghost town of Hyder is Alaska’s southernmost entry point and less than 25 miles from Bear Glacier. Hyder is also your jump off point to explore Salmon Glacier, the fifth largest icefield in all of Canada. Just a few miles further than Bear Glacier, it’s a must-see glacier.
You can’t walk right up to it, but after an epic 25 mile dirt road journey from the RV park, you can take a peek from the top of the world at Summit Viewpoint.
If You Go
Park your RV at Camp Run-a-Muck in Hyder and stay a while. Hyder is the only border town in America without guards and home to Canada’s largest population of grizzly bears. June and July are surprisingly quiet months to visit, since most people arrive in August when prime bear watching season begins at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site.
Taking a roadside glacier RV trip doesn’t have to mean an expensive trip to the North Country. These three drive-up glaciers offer an unforgettable experience at half the cost and time commitment. Go and you’ll be glad you made the effort before they completely melt away.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.