We passed up Sumwapta Falls but I talked Sean into stopping for the Athabasca Falls. I’m glad I did. I really liked it. It was completely touristy. There were ramps and stairs for easy, casual walking. Plus the falls were really beautiful with great views. The headwater comes from the Columbia Glacier about 70 kilometers south. The water rushes through a narrow gorge to be one of the more powerful falls in the Rocky Mountains.
Our next stop was the Spiral Tunnels. Sean drove past this yet again but I asked him to go back so I could take a look.
I thought it was a little difficult to see the tunnels. If a train had been going through, I think it would have been easier to see the way the tunnels worked.
A few miles past the Continental Divide are two vantage points where you can watch the long trains (they’re typically a mile long) make their way up or down the Kicking Horse Pass. Trains enter one tunnel above the highway and emerge below the highway and viewpoint, only to dissappear into another tunnel. In a few minutes, the front of the train emerges from a tunnel below the track that is still carrying the back end of the same train. Canadian freight trains are typically 100 cars and about a mile long. The double spiral tunnels help trains safely climb the narrow valley, since the large trains can only manage slopes of 2% or 100 feet per mile.