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Abraham Lake Alberta Road Trip to See Frozen Bubbles

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A Rocky Mountain Day Trip to Frozen Lakes and Waterfalls near Nordegg Alberta Canada

Exploring David Thompson Country's Attractions, Parks and Communities

Abraham Lake Alberta Road Trip to See Frozen Bubbles in the Nordegg, Alberta, Canada region. Although visible all winter the best time to see the bubbles is from early January to mid-February. So when the perfect day came, we took advantage of the opportunity and hit the road. Abraham Lake is on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in David Thompson Country. It is a 3.5 hour drive from both Calgary and Edmonton. Although the area is more rugged, less visited and hence less developed than Banff and Jasper National Parks it is just as spectacular. With blues skies, warm weather and no recent snow fall we were ready for our adventure, but before we left there was one more thing to do - check the quality of the bubbles. However, before hitting the road to see Abraham Lakes' frozen bubbles this will give you a good idea on how visible the bubbles will be. The bubbles at Abraham Lake are world famous so there is bound to be plenty of recent photos to see. 

Frozen Bubbles at Abraham Lake, Alberta, Canada Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Rocky Mountain House History

Our first stop was Rocky Mountain House, or Rocky for short and was once home to David Thompson a fur trader, cartographer and adventure seeker that the area is named for.  Rocky Mountain House is located 2 hours from both Calgary and Edmonton making it the ideal first break spot. There is a lot of history to explore in this area, however our sights were set on a wilderness experience. In Rocky we discovered a really cute, locally owned and operated coffee shop called Copper Mountain Café and Coffee

Rocky Mountain House Coffee and Bakery

With great coffee, snacks and a free book library this Abraham Lake Alberta Road Trip to See Frozen Bubbles is that much better. Copper Mountain Café and Coffee is also a gift shop with lots of unique finds so that you can use the money you saved on your book to buy souvenir to remember your trip. Since there are limited services available in David Thompson Country, if you are squeamish about using pit toilets, then this is an important stop for you. Copper Mountain has a cute and heated washroom with indoor plumbing. Although, not your last opportunity for indoor plumbing for the day, it is worth noting that all of the parks have pit toilets, nice pit toilets, but still a pit toilet (aka outhouse). Copper Mountain Café and Coffee is ideally situated right next door to the Rocky Bakery and Deli. This is a fantastic little bakery that smells like fresh bread and deliciousness. We picked up some snacks to fuel our adventures for the day....a selection of donuts and crescents. These were two businesses were fantastic finds and will be forever on our must-stop list of places in Rocky.

Copper Mountain Café & Coffee. Photo credit Janet Guthrie
Rocky Bakery & Deli. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Frozen Bubbles at Abraham Lake Alberta


Next stop, Abraham Lake. Interestingly, Abraham Lake isn't actually a lake. It is a man-made reservoir created when the North Saskatchewan River was damned to generate power. Nevertheless, Abraham Lake is absolutely stunning and it's bubbles are magical. The bubbles are created when methane gas is released from decomposing plant matter. During the winter, these bubbles become trapped between layers of ice creating this spectacular phenomenon. Visiting Abraham Lake's frozen bubbles is an Alberta bucket list destination. In addition to exploring the lake by foot, many people bring their skates. Hopefully, you picked up some excellent snack while you were in Rocky Mountain House as this is a great spot for a picnic. It is easy to spend hours or even a full day here enjoying the views and the bubbles, ice skating or taking in a short hike.

Frozen Ice Bubbles with Abraham Mountain in the Background. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Layers of Bubbles Stack on Top of Each Other. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

How to Visit Abraham Lake in Alberta Canada

It is important to  be prepared for your Abraham Lake Alberta Road Trip to See Frozen Bubbles. The lake is controlled by a damn so the water level fluctuates creating some ice hills that you will need to descend to get onto the lake. Safety tip - don't go down any hills that you aren't sure you can make it back up. Also, the reason that the Abraham Lake's bubbles are so amazing is because the wind blows the snow off the lake, polishing the ice. Needless to say, it is windy. In fact, one of the best viewing areas is called Windy Point. Windchill during the winter in Alberta is a thing, so be sure to dress warm and bring a buff. Back to the point on the wind polishing the ice. Polished ice is very slippery so it is a very good idea to wear some sort of traction device, like Yaktracks (Yaks) or ice cleats. (I have no affiliation with Yaktracks, there are just the brand that we use.) In addition to traction devices for shoes, walking poles aren't a bad idea as they may help you get back up the ice hills.

Mount Michener and Kista Peaks at Abraham Lake. Photo credit Janet Guthrie

Crescent Falls in Alberta Canada

After spending about an 1.5 hours at the bubbles we decided to check out another cool ice formation in the area, Crescent Falls. This is a beautiful two tiered waterfall that freezes over during the winter. To see the falls during the winter, you will need to park in the upper lot and walk down to the day use area which is only accessible by foot this time of year. We only had the opportunity to see the upper falls this time as access to the lower falls was closed due to hazardous conditions. There is a 5km round trip hike to the Bighorn Gorge Lookout which provides some great views of the falls. As it was getting to be a little bit later in the day and there were a few other places we wanted to see on this trip we chose not to do this hike. It is however, on the list of must-do's for the next time we are here. The river here is fast flowing and the falls have dangerous undercurrents which have caused people to lose their lives, so it is best to play it safe and obey the signs.

Frozen Upper Crescent Falls. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Hiking Trail Beside the Bighorn River. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Exploring Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area

From the falls we explored the recreation area a little bit more. There is a campground with 12 tent only sites that sits next to the river and 22 RV sites.  There are size restrictions for RV's due to a narrow bridge crossing into the campground.  To learn more about the park and the campground check out the Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area Alberta Park's page. From the bridge in the campground we ventured on a journey up a frozen creek in search of an ice climbing spot called Isaac's Wet Dream or Isaac's for short. Wondering about the name? We did too. For some reason, Isaac's icefalls don't entirely freeze over so when people are climbing it their ice climbing axes puncture through the ice and release water. In other words if you go ice climbing here, you will get wet. On that note, the 2.5km hike (one way) on the creek to the falls is also a mostly frozen creek so it is recommended to pack extra socks because your feet are guaranteed to get wet at some point. 

Bighorn Gorge in Alberta

We did not end up hiking all the way into the icefalls this time, however it was great fun exploring the creek. Like viewing the bubbles at Abraham Lake, wearing some sort of ice traction device, like yaks or ice cleats is recommended. On our next winter journey to the area, we will plan to complete the hike to Isaac's and the bighorn gorge. Bighorn Gorge is also accessible by car. There is a small parking lot for this viewpoint on the road to Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area. It is definitely worth the stop, just be careful in the parking lot as this was the slipperiest stop of the day, but that could be because we didn't wear our yaks since it was just a quick stop at a viewpoint. The Bighorn Gorge has impressive views of the valley and canyon. It is worth a look and a few photos. Just one last stop on our Road Trip list before heading home, Nordegg.

The Bridge to Crescent Falls Campground. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Hiking the Mostly Frozen Creek to Isaac's Icefalls. Photo Credit: Janet Guthrie

Nordegg, Alberta Canada

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Nordegg is a teeny, tiny little hamlet. It may have limited services, but it is not short on awesomeness. By this time in our journey our donuts and crescents were no longer doing the trick. As much as I love donuts, even I need to swap them out for a real meal at some point. We chose to have lunch at the Nordegg Canteen, well because I heard the food was great and that they also made donuts . Unfortunately, since we didn't it get there until late afternoon they were sold out of a lot of options, like donuts and their fresh homemade French fries. We ordered a panini which was delicious. Nordegg Canteen also serves a nice selection of Alberta craft beers and pops which are very refreshing on a warm winter's day full of exploring. Nordegg Adventures is also based here. They offer a variety of guided tours and programs, like soil painting. They love to chat and share their passion for exploring the region, making them an excellent stop at the beginning of your adventure. They have free maps and guides to the area and if you don't already have traction devices, they sell them here. Besides being an outdoor adventurers paradise, Nordegg has an interesting history as a once thriving coal mining town.

Nordegg, Alberta, Canada. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
The Nordegg Canteen & Home of Nordegg Adventures. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Location Map of Our Road Trip Sights

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A Bucket List Worthy Alberta Road Trip

For those seeking a winter time Alberta Rocky Mountain adventure be sure add on the lesser travelled David Thompson Country. With world renowned sights like the frozen bubbles at Abraham Lake, frozen waterfalls and charming communities with delicious food this is truly a magical bucket list destination.

Road Trip to See Abraham Lake's Frozen Bubbles

 A day trip to see the ice bubbles at Abraham Lake and the frozen waterfall at Crescent Falls Provincial Recreation Area.

Travel Guide

    • Restaurant, Cafe
    • Winter Attraction
  • British Columbia

Canada Parks

  • Nordegg
  • Alberta
    • Waterfall
    • Wildlife Watching
    • Snow Shoeing
  • Easy - Family
  • Year Round

Location (Map)

Abraham Lake, Clearwater County, AB, Canada
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Comments 5

Kim Kenyon on Tuesday, 07 February 2023 06:04

Thanks for writing about this Janet, this is so very cool and I had not heard of the bubbles before!

Thanks for writing about this Janet, this is so very cool and I had not heard of the bubbles before!
Janet Guthrie on Tuesday, 07 February 2023 15:14

Thank you @Kimkenyon

Thank you @Kimkenyon
Andrea Horning on Tuesday, 07 February 2023 17:12

Excellent lay out of where to go and what to see in the area! It's been on my list for awhile and now I have some fantastic tips for when I finally get out that way. Thanks for sharing!

Excellent lay out of where to go and what to see in the area! It's been on my list for awhile and now I have some fantastic tips for when I finally get out that way. Thanks for sharing!
Janet Guthrie on Tuesday, 07 February 2023 20:15

You're welcome Andrea. It's a beautiful area all year round, but I hope you make it in time to see the bubbles this year.

You're welcome Andrea. It's a beautiful area all year round, but I hope you make it in time to see the bubbles this year.
Cora Lee Rennie on Friday, 17 February 2023 06:42

What an amazing adventure story Janet ! Very well written and I Love Nordegg ❤️

What an amazing adventure story Janet ! Very well written and I Love Nordegg ❤️
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