23 BEAUTIFUL Stops on the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway, or Hwy 93 North, is a scenic drive between Banff and Jasper that attracts visitors from around the world. Some call it the Jasper Icefields, and some just refer to it as “the Parkway.” Regardless, it’s a place where one can enjoy drive-in nature, surrounded by waterfalls, rock spires, ancient glaciers, and turquoise lakes.

I’ve yet to drive down a road as beautiful as the Icefields Parkway. However, there are some things to know before you set out for this drive. This is no ordinary road, after all.

What is the Icefields Parkway?

Icefield Parkway Road Side

The Icefields Parkway has been deemed one of the most beautiful road trips in the entire world, and for good reason. Not only are you in the Canadian Rockies, but every turn on this road is met with mountains, ice fields, waterfalls, and tons of glorious stop-offs that will have any visitor beaming with delight. We’ve driven the Parkway many times, and it never gets old.

The Icefields Parkway is a 232 km stretch of double-lane highway taking you along the Continental Divide. It runs from Lake Louise in Banff to the Town of Jasper, both fantastic places. You can drive the parkway from Jasper to Banff, and from Banff to Jasper.

How Long Does it Take to Drive?

Icefields Parkway From Parker Ridge

The absolute fastest you could make the drive is three hours. However, driving straight from Lake Louise to Jasper in one sitting without enjoying all there is to offer would be a real shame.

If you have the time, I would give you at least two full days to drive the Icefields Parkway. You can drive sections from Jasper or Banff. The other option is to stop overnight somewhere in the middle near the Columbia Icefields Center (the Glacier View Lodge is dreamy), but there are also a few Jasper campsites.

That being said, we’ve done the drive a few times as a day trip and would say that 6-8 hours will give you ample time to take in the views, get out of the car at many viewpoints (though nowhere near all), and in general, have a lovely day. If you venture out in the summer and start at sunrise and end at sunset, it’s possible to see most of the main stops on the Icefields Parkway, plus enjoy a hike like Parker Ridge or Wilcox Pass, or walk on Athabasca Glacier.

There are many must-visit sites along the way, and there is absolutely no way you can cover them all in a day unless you start at sunrise and end at sunset – rushing through every stop. Even then you won’t see everything. If you want to hike along the parkway, this time must also be accounted for.

When is the Best Time to Drive the Icefields Parkway?

looking out to athabasca glacier

The Icefields Parkway is excellent, no matter the season. It is open all year unless avalanche conditions are too high during winter storms — closures rarely last more than a day or two. Many people would say the best time to drive the road is in the summer, between mid-June and early September. This is when the days are long, the wildflowers bloom, and the lakes are in their prime. You also get hints of fall color on the road in late September.

Driving towards Bow Lake on the icefields parkway
Driving towards Bow Lake

For winter travel, the best time to drive the Parkway is between December and March, when the peaks are snow-capped, and it feels like you’re driving through another world. However, this is the most dangerous time to drive, as road conditions deteriorate in the winter. It’s also worth noting that services on the parkway, like restaurants, accommodations, campsites, and the only fuel station, are closed from November to April, so extra planning must be done to make the drive.

Icefields Parkway Winter Snowy Road
Driving in the Winter

In my opinion, the best time to visit the Icefields Parkway is in June or September. Early June is as close to summer as you’re going to get without the hordes of tourists and crowds that you get in July and August. However, you do run the risk of some of the lakes not being completely thawed. If you drive the parkway in late September, the road will be awash with fall colors. Though you won’t see tons of larches along the drive, unfortunately.

Should You Rent a Car?

Icefield's Parkway

There are a few ways to see the Icefields Parkway. A personal car, campervan, RV, bus tour, motorcycle, or if you’re really hardcore, you can bike it. In the summer, you’ll find a mix of all these things. I would suggest driving the Icefields Parkway in any of the above besides a bus tour.

I’m not a huge fan of bus tours on the parkway. It’s a small road, and large buses typically crowd the road, and all pull over at the same stops at the same time, creating a bit of a jam. Plus, you will miss so many wonderful places if you decide to take a bus tour; they only stop at a handful of places. Though if you don’t have your own transport, we understand it’s one of the best ways to get around!

Want to sit in the passenger seat? Radventures runs a very fun tour!

Our favorite car rental search engines in Canada are:

  • RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals.
  • Expedia: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
  • Get a Campervan: If you want to have your set of wheels, kitchen, and bed all in on place, we would recommend booking a campervan for your trip to the Rockies. Campervans are a popular form of travel in Banff come summertime!

Is It Free?

View of the Athabasca Glacier
View of the Athabasca Glacier

The Parkway is entirely free to drive, and there is no toll. However, remember that the Icefields Parkway is in two national parks, and you will need a Parks Canada Pass to drive the parkway (more on that below).

If you do decide to drive yourself, consider buying the Gypsy Guide Narrative Tour!

Is There Wildlife?

bear in the rockies

There is a plethora of wildlife you could see along the drive. Be prepared to see deer, goats, elk, and even a bear or coyote if you’re lucky. We almost always see a bear when driving the Icefields Parkway in the summer, but they stay away from traffic and noise pollution, so it’s not a given.

mountain sheep in the rockies

There is nothing wrong with slowing to take a photo of a bear, but please be mindful of traffic and never get out of your vehicle. However, the slowing vehicle does create a “Bear Jam” from slowing vehicles. In limited numbers, this seems harmless, but it can quickly snowball.

Once one person pulls over to get a closer look at a bear, another car pulls over, and another, and so on. Eventually, people leave their cars and take selfies with the bear (yes, I’m serious), which is dangerous to humans and wildlife.

bad tourists on the icefields parkway
Don’t be these people – the bear is maybe five meters away.

Parks Canada discourages pulling over for bears and has even made it illegal for buses to do so. They can issue tickets, too. So if you see a bear on the road, slow down and admire it from the car, and do not cause a traffic jam, please. Giving large animals 30 m or three bus lengths of space from your vehicle is recommended, and bears 100 m or ten bus lengths. Never feed or approach wildlife.

12 Bear Safety Tips • How To Hike In Bear Country 

What is the Road Like?

Icefields Parkway Road

You can expect a fully paved two-lane road. It’s honestly hard to believe such an excellent road was built, given the location. Road conditions are excellent, with a wide shoulder and easy driving in the summer. The worst thing you’ll likely encounter is a “bear jam” when drivers slow down to take a photo of a bear munching on berries along the road.

Where Can You Fill Up?

The Saskatchewan River Crossing
The Saskatchewan River Crossing

There aren’t many gas stations along the route, so you must plan accordingly. If you’re coming from Lake Louise, you should fill up at the village before getting on the Icefields Parkway. If you’re coming from Jasper, fill up in town before driving from Jasper to Banff.

Aside from the Saskatchewan River Crossing, which is at the turn-off for Nordegg, these will be your only chances to fill up. They charge higher-than-average prices for their fuel and snacks. (The Saskatchewan River Crossing closes in the winter, meaning there is nowhere to refuel along the Icefields Parkway.)

Is There Cell Service?

parking At the Columbia Icefields Center
At the Columbia Icefields Center

Don’t expect to get much of a cell phone signal on the Icefields Parkway. If you’re driving from Lake Louise, you’ll lose a signal sometime after Herbert Lake. If you’re driving from Jasper, you can expect to have a signal until just after the Valley of the Five Lakes Trailhead.

You can make calls and check emails a few times along Highway 93 North if needed. I typically get a signal at the Saskatchewan River Crossing and Columbia Icefields Center, but that’s it (and not in the winter when they turn it off). Unplug and enjoy nature – it’s what you’re here for!

Where Can You Eat?

Picnicking along the Parkway
Picnicking along the Parkway

Regarding restaurants, there aren’t many along the Icefields Parkway. The Num Ti Jah Lodge at Bow Lake has a cafe, as well as the Saskatchewan River Crossing, and the Columbia Icefields Center. All are a bit overpriced and mediocre, but if you’re hungry, it’s likely you won’t care. If you’re craving a hot meal, the Columbia Icefields Center has the best food along the route.

Outdoor Dining At Icefields Discovery Center
Lunchtime at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre

However, we prefer to picnic as there are plenty of beautiful places to eat with picnic tables. Our best recommendation is to pack sandwiches for the drive. You can grab excellent sandwiches from Patricia Street Deli in Jasper, Wild Flour Bakery in Banff, and the Trailhead Cafe in Lake Louise.

The Save-On-Foods grocery store in Canmore has a decent deli, and you can grab all the supplies you need. If you’re already on the road, Lake Louise Village has one grocery store. The Village Market is small but has a few enough supplies to get you through the drive!

The Best Places to Stay

Glacier View Lodge On Icefields Parkway
View From The Glacier View Lodge

There aren’t many places to stay when driving between Lake Louise and Jasper, but there are a few Icefield Parkway hotels you can choose from for a stay. We highly recommend the Glacier View Lodge at the Columbia Icefield Center if you are looking for a proper hotel stay. The lodge is an incredible experience, but it comes with a high price tag and limited available rooms. You’ll have to book well in advance to score a night here.

Camping at the Columbia Icefields Campground

A few hostels along the route at Mosquito Creek, Rampart Creek, and Hilda Creek offer basic bunks in shared rooms. There are also a few camping spots that all operate on a first-come, first-serve list here. They fill up incredibly fast on weekends in July and August, so plan accordingly.

Do You Need a National Park Pass?

Waterfowl Lakes
Looking up at Mt. Chephren

You will need a Parks Canada Pass to drive on the Icefields Parkway, and there are booths just as you’re leaving Lake Louise and Jasper to check if you have them. You can purchase a Parks Canada pass at any park gate. Or you can buy them in advance online. A Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which gets you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year, is only $151.25 for a family.

Day passes are $11.00 per person, so depending on how many days you are staying, you may want to consider the Discover Pass. You will also need a Parks Canada pass to visit Jasper and Banff, so depending on the length of your trip, it’s probably worth buying the Discovery Pass.

Winter Driving on the Parkway

Icefields Parkway in the Winter

The Parkway is open all year round, though I wouldn’t advise driving it in the winter unless you have experience with winter driving. The photos above were all taken on a late November day – and it was pretty wretched.

Icefields Parkway in the Winter

If there’s been a significant recent snowfall, I would check the conditions and make sure you have a reliable 4×4 vehicle, at the very least. Snow/winter tires are mandatory on the Icefields Parkway from November 1 to April 1. If you’re driving in Alberta in the winter, your vehicle should have winter tires and an emergency kit in case you are stranded. Winter conditions last from late October/early November to April, but even September will see snow in the Rockies.

Icefields Parkway in the Winter

Highway 93 North isn’t plowed to the extent that other roads in Alberta are plowed, and it is generally not salted. As mentioned above, there’s no cell phone reception to call for help, and it gets very, very, very cold in Alberta in the winter.

driving the icefields parkway in the winter

Getting stranded could mean life or death if you’re unprepared. Winter traffic is low compared to summer, so you could be waiting a bit until a passerby comes along. I should also mention that the only place you can fill up, the Saskatchewan River Crossing, closes in the winter, so you must get on the Icefields Parkway with a full tank of gas in the winter. There are no services in the winter, so bring plenty of snacks!

Where Can You Hike?

Parker Ridge
Parker Ridge Hike
The Onion Scramble
The Onion Hike

I’m happy you asked! There are plenty of hiking opportunities along the route! Some of the more accessible hikes you can do are Parker Ridge, Bow Glacier Falls, the Valley of Five Lakes, and the hike to Hector Lake. Longer full-day hikes and scrambles include The Onion, Jimmy Simpson, Little Hector, Observation Peak, Helen Lake, and Cirque Peak.

Are There Rest Stops?

Wilcox Pass

There are plenty of places to make a pit stop for a restroom if need be. Many of the main sites, like Peyto Lake, have drop toilets, and The Saskatchewan River Crossing and the Glacier Discovery Centre have full rest stop facilities with flush toilets (summer only).

What is the Best Way to Drive It?

You can drive the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper or vice versa. There is no best way to drive it!

The Best Tours

Some of the top tours offered along the Icefields Parkway are:

It’s important to keep in mind that special experiences on the Icefields Parkway like the Athabasca Glacier Icefield Explorer, Glacier Icewalks, and Skywalk are only operational during the summer months.

Ultimate Icefields Parkway Itinerary

We’ve put this Icefields Parkway itinerary together as if you were starting at Lake Louise and ending in Jasper, but if you completing the road trip in reverse, start at the bottom of this post. Make sure to download the map at the end of this post to your phone before you go so you won’t miss out on any points of interest!

our free icefields parkway pdf

Herbert Lake

Herbert Lake Morning Light Icefields Parkway
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 5.7 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 226 km
  • Type: Stop

The first stop you’ll come across when you cross the park gates is Herbert Lake on your left-hand side. It may be easy to miss if you’re not paying attention, but I promise you it’s well worth a stop. Plus, Herbert Lake is literally right off the side of the road and has a big parking area. After you park, it’s only a few steps until you are at the lake.

Once here, you can sit in silence and enjoy the views of Mount Temple in the background. This is one of the lesser talked about lakes in the park, but it’s a local favorite. In the summer, you can head here on weekends and find people swimming in the lake. Plus, there’s a hidden diving board! It’s one of the most relaxed stops and the perfect spot for coffee or tea.

Hector Lake

 Icefield's Parkway
Hector Lake, as seen from the summit of Little Hector
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 21.5 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 210 km
  • Type of Stop: Short hike

Next up on your itinerary is Hector Lake. Hector Lake is an Alberta lake that doesn’t get visited as much as many other lakes on the Icefields Parkway simply because you have to hike 2.2 km to reach it.

This deters many people, but in fact, it’s very short and well worth it to see this glacial-fed lake. If you don’t want to hike to it, no worries – there’s a pullover viewpoint with partially obstructed views. If you’re not paying attention to the lookout or the trail access, this stop is very easy to miss.

Bow Lake

bow lake on the icefields parkway
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 37.1 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 194 km
  • Type of Stop: Pull Off or Hike if you would like

Bow Lake is another stunner that’s a brilliant aquamarine color on a summer day. The scale of the lake is impressive as it’s one of the largest in the park, and the giant mountains surrounding the lake humble visitors with scale. It makes an excellent place for a nice picnic, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, or hike to incredible Bow Glacier Falls – one of our favorite waterfalls in Banff.

Bow Lake Morning Light On Icefields Parkway

From the shore, you have terrific views of the Bow Glacier that feeds the lake in the summer months and is the source of the Bow River. That same river serves as a notable feature throughout much of the park, moving through Banff and onto Calgary before ending in Southern Alberta as it joins the Saskatchewan River.

Overlooking Bow Lake from the Cirque Peak Summit
Overlooking Bow Lake from the Cirque Peak Summit

Bow Lake has a pull-off lookout point on the side of the road, with picnic benches nearby. Or you can pull into The Lodge to get different views of the lake. If you have the time, consider hiking to Bow Glacier Falls, which is 4.6 km from the parking lot but with little elevation gain – plus, you skirt Bow Lake almost the entire time – it’s well worth it.

If you really want a big scramble day, we suggest hiking The Onion, Helen Lake, Cirque Peak, or scrambling up Jimmy Simpson (if you are a capable scrambler). These are both long scrambles that require a full day.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake 2023
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 43.9 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 188 km
  • Type of Stop: Short walk to viewpoint

Peyto Lake (PEE-toh) is another glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park. This is probably the third most popular lake to visit in Banff, after Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Its unique shape, absolutely mind-blowingly blue water, and scenic overlook are easily accessible from the parking lot. They even have a handicap-accessible section that allows for the mobility impaired to witness this jaw-dropping landscape.

Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake Lookout Boardwalk

Peyto Lake is right off the Icefields Parkway and is a must-stop along the famed highway. It’s the perfect place to come and enjoy the stellar Banff National Park views in winter and summer. The Peyto Lake viewpoint is a 10-minute hike from the parking area and a must-stop.

Peyto Lake From Summit Of Observation Peak
We highly recommend Observation Peak across the road if you are up for a big scrambler.

Waterfowl Lakes

Waterfowl Lakes
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 58.2 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 173 km
  • Type of Stop: Pull-Off

The Waterfowl Lakes are two relaxed lakes in the park that see a fraction of the visitors at many other lakes on this list. They’re also very conveniently on either side of the Waterfowl Lakes Campground, which we consider one of the best campsites in Banff National Park.

Natasha Standing In Front Of Waterfowl Lakes

The two lakes are glacial and have the classic blue color that radiates on a sunny day. They don’t require hiking and are very popular for stand-up paddleboarders, canoers, and kayakers! Even if you’re not staying at the campground, a public parking lot provides access to hiking trails around the lake and a classic Banff hike up to Chephren Lake (detailed next).

Chephren Lake

  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 60.2 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 172 km
  • Type of Stop: Hike

Chephren Lake sits at the base of Mount Chephren and requires a short hike from the Waterfowl Lakes campground, but it’s so worth it! Since you have to hike 7.7 km and 241 meters gain, not many people venture out to it, meaning it is super quiet.

Once you arrive at the lake, you’ll be met with yet another picture-perfect glacial lake. I would allow at least two hours to do this hike and enjoy Chephren Lake. The hike is pretty mild up to the lake, so we’ve been debating carrying our inflatable paddle boards up in backpacks to Chephren Lake. We’ll update this post if we make the trek with the boards!

Mistaya Canyon

 Icefield's Parkway - Mistaya Canyon
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 73.5 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 158 km
  • Type of Stop: Short walk

Mistaya Canyon is a very popular stop as it’s very easily accessible. The pullout area for parking here is on the west side of the parkway; there’s limited parking, so it may be busy during peak summer. You’ll have to hike down the easy .5 km trail to a well-maintained fenced bridge to reach the canyon. It’s here you can see the roaring canyon around you. Watch intensely as the powerful water churns through the rock beneath your feet.

Saskatchewan River Crossing

Saskatchewan River Crossing
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 78.7 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 153 km
  • Type of Stop: Pull Off

I’m not saying this is a must-stop, but it’s worth mentioning the Saskatchewan River Crossing as it’s the last place you can get gas before Jasper. However, prices are extremely overpriced, and we recommend you give it a skip. We like to stop in Lake Louise Village to fill up when we drive the Icefields Parkway.

There’s a convenience store/souvenir shop and a small cafe at the River Crossing. Although it may not look like it when looking at the building, this is a significant site as just across the highway, three rivers meet the North Saskatchewan, Howse, and Mistaya Rivers.

The Weeping Wall Viewpoint

 Icefield's Parkway - The Weeping Wall Viewpoint
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 107 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 124 km
  • Type of Stop: Pull off or short walk

The Weeping Wall is a set of cliffs at the base of Cirrus Mountain on your right, as you are driving from Banff to Jasper. If you look towards it, you’ll see water cascading down in a series of Banff waterfalls, essentially “weeping.” The biggest one is called “Teardrop.”

You can stop at the Weeping Wall Viewpoint to take everything in or take a short walk to get closer to The Weeping Wall. If there hasn’t been significant rainfall in a while, you’ll unlikely see anything more than a trickle. However, if you visit in May or June with the snowmelt, it’s quite a beautiful sight.

Panther and Bridal Veil Falls

Panther and Bridal Veil Falls
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 115 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 117 km
  • Type of Stop: Viewpoint or short hike

A pull-off point will be on your right as you continue up the Parkway. This pull-off point overlooks Panther Falls, and it’s well worth the stop to admire and grab a photo!

Parker Ridge Hike

 Icefield's Parkway - Parker Ridge Hike
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 119 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 112 km
  • Type of Stop: Hike

If you have an extra 2-3 hours on your journey, I highly suggest hiking up to Parker Ridge, as it’s one of the best hikes in all of Banff. I didn’t know what to expect when we began this hike, but seeing that the top of Parker Ridge didn’t look so far from the trailhead, I figured it would be relatively easy – and it was. It’s a gradual 2.5 km incline to the ridge, which is easy and well-marked. There is nothing technical involved and absolutely no scrambling.

parker ridge hike

On this hike, we saw young couples, older people, and families with young children and dogs. It truly is a hike for everyone. Given the ease, I wasn’t expecting the view to be so great, but once you get to the ridge, you have the most spectacular views over the very impressive Saskatchewan Glacier. In under an hour, you’ll have fantastic views of the Icefields and an impressive Koolaid blue glacier lake – Seriously, it doesn’t get much better!

It gets windy once you get to the ridge, so bring a jacket. Because the views were incredible, we hung around for 30 minutes, enjoying the s

Wilcox Pass

Wilcox Pass
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 126 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 105 km
  • Type of Stop: Hike

Another longer stop-off if you’re in the mood for hiking is Wilcox Pass. To hike, Wilcox Pass is 9.3 km, and 522 meters, and will take 3-5 hours to complete. But the views are fantastic. Wilcox Pass offers mesmerizing glacial views and towering mountains. The hike flanks either side of Mount Athabasca and Andromeda, two of the tallest mountains in the Canadian Rockies; it is pretty much at the border between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

Athabasca Glacier/Columbia Icefield Center

Athabasca Glacier Morning Light
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 130 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 105 km
  • Type of Stop: Short Hike or Booked Excursion

If you do not feel a full-on mountaineering climb up Athabasca, you can still go see the Athabasca Glacier and walk on the glacier with the Ice Explorer. Here, you can get some history around the glacier and experience the fun without much physical effort.

Glacier Discovery Center
The Ice Explorer Vehicles
The Ice Explorer Vehicles

The Athabasca Glacier experience involves taking these massive vehicles with wheels taller than a person onto the Athabasca Glacier. We’re honestly mixed on the Ice Explorer experience as the glacier has seen an extreme level of retreating, a direct effect of global warming, and the large trucks are not helping. Nonetheless, the idea seems to be to “sacrifice” one glacier to help educate visitors about their wonders.

A more eco friendly and active version would be the IceWalk experience, which is a half day tour that allows you to hike right on the glacier!

Icefields Skywalk

  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 134 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 97.3 km
  • Type of Stop: Booked excursion

If you’re already at Athabasca Glacier, you may as well continue a couple of kilometers to the Icefields Skywalk. Here, you can step out on a cliff edge walk, see the glaciers around you, and have views over the Sunwapta Valley.

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk has views of wildlife, waterfalls, and fossils. It’s a fun, family-friendly thing to do in Banff. However, I think you can get the same experience by going on a beautiful hike in Banff or Jasper National Park for free!

Tangle Creek Falls

Tangle Creek Falls
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 135 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 96 km
  • Type of Stop: Roadside Stop

Right after passing the Skywalk, you’ll find a waterfall on your right-hand side, a small parking area on your left, and likely a tiny gathering of people out of their cars to check out Tangle Creek Falls. It’s not the most impressive waterfall on the Icefields Parkway, but it’s worth a quick stop!

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 177 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 55.4 km
  • Type of Stop: Short walk

Sunwapta Falls is an easy stop off that is well worth venturing to. Sunwapta Falls consists of upper and lower falls fed by the Athabasca Glacier. The upper falls are more easily accessible and, therefore, much busier, but a 1.3 km hike will take you to the lower falls. Both are fantastic to visit in both the summer and the winter.

Goats & Glaciers Lookout

Goats & Glaciers Lookout
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 194 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 38 km
  • Type of Stop: Viewpoint

The Goats & Glaciers lookout is precisely that – a beautiful lookout point that overlooks the Athabasca River with Mount Kerkeslin towering over it. You may even see some mountain goats (hence the name) as the area attracts mountain goats looking to lick up the salt on the side of the river bank. It’s a nice quick stop and a good photo op, but it’s easy to miss, so keep your eyes open for the pull-off. It will be on your left when driving from Banff to Jasper.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 201 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 32.1 km
  • Type of Stop: Short walk

Athabasca Falls is one of the top things to see in Jasper National Park. Located about 20 miles south of Jasper town – with a drop of about 75 feet – Athabasca Falls isn’t a giant by waterfall standards, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dramatic and majestic in its own right. The volume of water that rushes over the edge is impressive, making the upper Athabasca River roar – especially during the height of the thaw in late spring.

There are ample hiking trails to get you to viewing areas, allowing you to ogle the river and falls in all their glory. Don’t try to get closer to take a good picture; the ground and rocks are treacherous and slippery, and a fall into the frigid water and rocky canyon wouldn’t end well.

Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake in jasper
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 205.2 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 28 km
  • Type of Stop: Lake

Horseshoe Lake is just a 20-minute drive from Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. It’s a beautiful local lake that many visitors are unaware of, but it’s well worth stopping! The lake is massive and forms none other than a horseshoe shape, and enclosed by cliffs where you can jump into the frigid Canadian waters.

There are numerous jump points, with the highest height rumored to reach 80 feet. Always make sure to check your landing and make sure it’s safe before jumping! Besides cliff jumping, you can enjoy a paddle on this beautiful lake in the summer.

Valley of the Five Lakes Trail

Valley of the Five Lakes Trail
Hiking the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail
  • Distance from Lake Louise Village: 222 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 10 km
  • Type of Stop: Family Friendly hike

The Valley of Five Lakes is a classic Jasper hike that’s probably the most popular in the park. You’ll come across the trailhead while driving Highway 93, just before getting to Downtown Jasper. This is an easy Jasper hike that has five picturesque lakes along the trail.

It’s a pretty flat trail that’s well-developed, so it’s easy to enjoy the lakes and the varying colors of blue and green. It’s an excellent trail for those visiting the park who want a short, simple hike with fantastic scenery.

Downtown Jasper

Jasper the Bear
Take your photo with Jasper the Bear in Downtown Jasper!
Pyramid Lake on a summer day
Pyramid Lake

At the end of the Icefields Parkway is the fantastic town of Jasper. You’ve just gotten in after a long drive, so chill out and find a fantastic Jasper restaurant and bar to hang out at. We personally love Jasper Brewing, especially in the summer. Once near Jasper, you’ll be spoilt with things to do. We love to paddle around on Pyramid Lake or drive to Medicine and Maligne Lake. See all of our favorite things to do in Jasper here.

A Map of Our Favorite Stops

The Best Hikes

parker ridge hike

There are many hikes along the Icefields Parkway to enjoy. Here are some of the best:

  • Parker Ridge (Easy)
  • Chephren Lake (Easy)
  • Valley of the Five Lakes (Easy)
  • Bow Glacier Falls (Moderate)
  • Helen Lake (Moderate)
  • Wilcox Pass (Moderate)
  • Cirque Peak (Moderate Scramble)
  • Dolomite Pass (Hard)

How Should You Tackle This Drive?

Parking at the Glacier Discovery Center
Parking at the Glacier Discovery Center

You have multiple options to drive the Icefields Parkway. We recommend driving your vehicle or rental car so you can stop when and where you want. However, there are several tours and alternative options available.

  • By Car: The best way to do it is with your car! If you are driving yourself, consider purchasing an Icefields Parkway audio guide, which will give you detailed information about what you are seeing.
  • By Bus: If you don’t feel like driving the parkway or rather ride as a passenger to watch out the window, tour operators can drive you from Jasper to Banff or vice versa. Brewster Express, SunDog Tours, and Discover Banff Tours all run bus services.
  • By Private Transfer: Banff Tours has luxury sedans, SUVs, sprinter vans, and even a mini coach that can fit up to 24 people!
  • By Tour:  Radventures offers amazing tours along the Parkway.
  • By Rideshare: You can try PopaRide to connect with other travelers or join our private Facebook group to connect with other travelers!

Note – There is no train service between Banff and Jasper

Where to Stay

To be honest, there are not many hotels along the Icefields Parkway, and in the winter there are none. There are a few campgrounds, hostels, and a few higher-end hotel stays like the Glacier View Lodge and The Lodge at Bow Lake. Here you can see our full list of places to stay on the Icefields Parkway, or you can stay in Lake Louise or Jasper.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Stay in Lake Louise at the Fairmont Lake Louise

The most expensive place to stay in the park and the most sought after. “The Chateau” is the only hotel actually on the lake, so if you want to wake up Lake Louise for sunrise this place is for you.

Check Rates

glacier view lodge
Glacier View Lodge

One of the only places to stay on the Icefields Parkway. Thankfully, it has an epic view! There are not many places you can wake up at the foot of a glacier (only open in summer).

Check Rates

pyramid lake lodge
Pyramid Lake Resort in Jasper

Open all year round this is one of my favorite places to stay in Jasper! It’s location on Pyramid Lake is dreamworthy!

Check Rates

Camping Spots

camping along the icefields parkway
  • Mosquito Creek Campground
  • Silverhorn Creek
  • Waterfowl Lakes Campground
  • Rampart Creek Campground
  • Columbia Icefield Campground
  • Wilcox Creek Campground
  • Honeymoon Lake Campground
  • Mount Kerkeslin Campground
  • Jonas Creek Campground
  • Wapiti Campground
  • Whistlers Campground
  • Wabasso Campground

Are you planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies and would like to know more about driving from Banff to Jasper, driving the Icefields Parkway or anything else? Post your questions in the comments. We will be happy to answer them! See our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

If you have found the content on this site helpful to your trip planning please consider supporting The Banff Blog. You can say thanks directly by buying us a coffee. All support is much appreciated!

23 thoughts on “23 BEAUTIFUL Stops on the Icefields Parkway”

  1. Great blog Thankyou.
    We are coming from Australia to our daughter in Canmore and have booked 3nights in Jasperfrom 18 to 21 April. 2022
    Is this reasonable time for driving that road …have been to Canmore many times regards Judy, Manly nsw Australia

  2. Very well written, amazing details and full if useful information for the first time visitors like myself.
    A must read and keep article.
    Thanks to Natasha.

  3. We did the drive from Lake Louise all the way to Goats & Glaciers today, and your blog was essential for our trip. Peyto Lake was incredible – that blue! Mistaya Canyon was awe inspiring. The Weeping Wall was a great stop. All three made us say “wow!”. Thanks for your help!

  4. Natasha — my wife and I are headed to the Banff~Jasper area soon (staying in Canmore, actually) and I just spent a few *hours* reading all your amazingly detailed posts.

    You’ve done a bang-up job listing all the sights and ideas in the area, and I really can’t thank you enough. As a travel blogger myself, I like to leave thank-you notes when I can for people like you doing labor of love jobs like this. I’m sure we’ll have a brilliant time in Alberta, and it’s partly because of people like you. Thank you! Thank you!

  5. Good day.

    Thank you so much for the great information.

    I’m thinking of taking this trip by motorbike in late June. Have you any tips I should know about particularly for motorbikes?

    Thank you again. Have a wonderful day.

    • Hi Deb,

      We have never motorbiked the Icefields Parkway, but many of the same tips apply. For more information I suggest you contact Jasper Motorcycle Tours as they should be able to answer any questions you may have.

  6. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing all this very helpful info.
    We have just over a week ifrom 19 May arriving Edmonton (staying near a cousin) and hiring a car.
    We want to see the Parkway and either Banff or Jasper.
    Arrive one day, return to Edmonton the next. Sounds like a lot more going on in Banff.
    Any advice on best journey to see as much of Parkway with a few stops.
    Thanks. Jon UK

  7. Very informative and well written blog. I really enjoyed reading all the important takes you did. I always enjoyed driving this road. I called this road, “A drive of a lifetime” where all the scenic views are amazing. All the brilliant information you give comes in handy to other people that would like to enjoy Banff and Jasper and to also have a good itinerary for their visit. Kudos to your hard work!

  8. Thank you! Extremely comprehensive blog and it’s going to make our trip so much more enjoyable as you have already done the heavy lifting for us all😊

  9. Hello Natasha,
    Thank you very much for your amazing post!
    We are planning to visit Banff this August. And I’d love to have your suggestion.
    I plan to drive from Banff to Jasper, but I’m afraid that we might not have enough time to enjoy Peyto Lake, Bow Lake and Mistaya Canyon since we need to catch the Ice Explore at 2pm.
    Also, my friend said that we should drive from Jasper to Banff because the view is better.
    Your advice, please!


    • If you leave in the morning you should have enough time to do all of that and make a 2:00 pm Ice Explorer ticket. The drive is gorgeous both ways and we can’t say we have any preference as to which direction is better.

  10. If I planning to go the Icefield parkway on 2-3 may 2024, will all lakes will be already blue, or it will be still in ice?

    • Hey! They’ll likely be partially thawed. Some of the smaller lakes may be thawed such as Herbert or Waterfowl. Not sure about them being blue though. It’s all weather dependent.


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