Jutting out about 115 feet (35 meters) from a cliff face, with a thick glass bottom, the Columbia Icefield Skywalk offers a clear view of Jasper National Park’s Sunwapta Valley 918 feet (280 meters) below. As one of the project’s engineers put it, “It’s surreal to be projected off a sheer cliff face with nothing but glass under your feet.” And, yeah, probably so. But the Skywalk also offers a chance to see the park from a whole new angle.
Opened in 2014, the Skywalk is a u-shaped observation deck that spans 1,312 feet. Along the way, interactive stations offer stopping points to learn more about the glacial formations surrounding the area, and the wildlife that call the area home. It was constructed of steel, glass, and wood, and was built into the cliff’s bedrock. It was designed to change with nature, so rather than using paint, designers planned for the structure to blend in with its surroundings as it rusts and weathers.
Each step is another view—the Sunwapta River flows below; waterfalls tumble over the cliffs; mountains cut a jagged line across the sky. Maybe the most fascinating sight is the Snow Dome, one of two hydrological apexes in North America, “a single point where three different watersheds meet.” Snowmelt from the 11,339-foot (3,456-meter) mountain eventually drains into three different bodies of water: the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans.
“We want you to connect, learn about the glaciology, learn the biology and the ecology of the area,” a spokesperson for the Skywalk told the Toronto Sun when the attraction first opened. “The Sunwapta Valley was formed over three million years. If you just look at it you never realize that.”