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 each and every turn on this road is met with mountains, icefields, waterfalls, and tons of glorious stop-offs that will have any visitor beaming with delight.
We’ve driven the Icefields Parkway many times and it honestly never gets old so we wanted to put this itinerary together so you are sure not to miss anything.
The Icefields Parkway is a 232 km stretch of double-lane highway taking you along the Continental Divide. It runs from Lake Louise to Jasper, which are both fantastic places in themselves. 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 vice versa start at the bottom of this post.
Make sure to download the Icefields Parkway map at the end of this post to your phone before you go so you’re sure to not miss out on any point of interest!!
The very 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 welcoming parking area. After you park it’s only a few steps until you are at the lake. Once here you’ll be able to 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 a weekend and actually find people swimming in the lake. Plus there’s a hidden diving board!
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 5.7 km
- Distance from Jasper: 226 km
Next up on your Icefields Parkway itinerary is Hector Lake. Hector Lake doesn’t get visited as much as many of the 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, but it has partially obstructed views. If you’re not paying attention for the lookout or the trail access this one is very easy to miss!
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 21.5 km
- Distance from Jasper: 210 km
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 that surround the lake humble visitors with scale. It makes a great place for a nice picnic, canoe, or you can hike to wonderful Bow Falls one of our favorites in Banff.
From the shore, you have amazing 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.
Bow Lake has a pull off lookout point on the side of the road, with picnic benches nearby. Or you can pull into Num Ti Jah 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 I have to suggest hiking The Onion, Helen Lake, Cirque Peak, or scrambling up Jimmy Simpson (if you are a capable scrambler of course). These are both long scrambles that require a full day.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 37.1 km
- Distance from Jasper: 194 km
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 Louise and Moraine. The reason is its unique shape, absolutely mind-blowingly blue water, and the scenic overlook that is 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 is right off the Icefields Parkway and a must along the famed highway. It’s the perfect place to come and enjoy the stellar Banff National Park views in both winter and summer. The Peyto Lake viewpoint is about a 10-minute hike from the parking area and is a must-stop on any Icefields Parkway itinerary.
*If you are up for a big scramble, may we suggest Observation Peak across the road.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 43.9 km
- Distance from Jasper: 188 km
The Waterfowl Lakes are two relaxed lakes in the park that see a fraction of the visitors you’ll see the 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. The two lakes are glacial and have the classic blue color that radiates on a sunny day. They don’t require any hiking to get to and therefore are very popular for stand up paddle boarders, canoers, and kayakers!
Even if you’re not staying at the campground there is a public parking lot that provides access to hiking trails around the lake and a classic Banff hike up to Chephren Lake (detailed next).
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 58.2 km
- Distance from Jasper: 173 km
Chephren Lake sits at the base of Mount Chephren and requires a short hike to get to, but it’s so worth it! Since you have to hike 7.7 km and 241 meters 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 a 2 hour stop to be able to do this hike and actually 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, I’ll update if we make the trek with the boards!
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 60.2 km
- Distance from Jasper: 172 km
Mistaya Canyon is a popular stop on the Icefields Parkway. The pullout area for parking here is on the west side of the parkway, there’s limited parking so it may be busy peak summer. To reach the canyon you’ll have to hike down the easy .5 km trail to a well maintained fenced bridge. It’s here you can see the roaring canyon around you. Watch intensely as the powerful water churns through the rock beneath your feet.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 73.5 km
- Distance from Jasper: 158 km
Saskatchewan River Crossing
I’m not going to say this is a must-stop on the Icefields Parkway, but it’s worth mentioning the Saskatchewan River Crossing as it’s the last place you can get gas before Jasper. So even though it’s extremely overpriced, if you need to fill up you should do it here. At the River Crossing, there’s a convenience store/souvenir shop and a small cafe.
Although it may not look like it when looking at the building this is a significant site as it’s where the three rivers meet. The mighty North Saskatchewan, the Howse River and the Mistaya.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 78.7 km
- Distance from Jasper: 153 km
The Weeping Wall
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 the in a series of waterfalls, essentially “weeping.” The biggest one is called “Teardrop.”
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 107 km
- Distance from Jasper: 124 km
Panther and Bridal Veil Falls
As you continue up the Icefields Parkway there will be a pull-off point on your right. This pull-off point overlooks Panther Falls and it’s well worth the stop to admire and grab a photo!
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 115 km
- Distance from Jasper: 117 km
Parker Ridge Hike
If you have an extra 2-3 hours on your Icefields Parkway journey I highly suggest hiking up to Parker Ridge.
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, all of which is pretty easy and well marked. There is nothing technical involved and absolutely no scrambling.
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 make sure you bring a jacket. Because the views were so incredible we hung around for 30 minutes just enjoying the sunshine, views, and taking photos.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 119 km
- Distance from Jasper: 112 km
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 you between 3-5 hours to complete. But the views are fantastic.
Wilcox Pass offers mesmerizing glacial views and towering mountains. The hike flank 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.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 126 km
- Distance from Jasper: 105 km
Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield
If you’re not feeling a full-on mountaineering climb up Athabasca you can still go see the Athabasca Glacier, and even 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.
You take these massive vehicles with wheels taller than a person on to the center of the Athabasca Glacier. We’re a little mixed on the experience as the glacier has seen extreme level of retreating that’s a direct effect of global warming. None the less perhaps we can sacrifice one glacier to help educate visitors about their wonders.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 130 km
- Distance from Jasper: 105 km
If you’re already at Athabasca Glacier you may as well continue a couple of kilometers down the road to the Glacier Skywalk. Here you can step out on a cliff edge walk and see the glaciers around you and have views out of 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, in my opinion you can get the same experience by going on a beautiful hike in Banff National Park for free!
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 134 km
- Distance from Jasper: 97.3 km
Tangle Creek Falls
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 small gathering of people out of their car to check out Tangle Creek Falls. It’s not the most impressive waterfall on the Icefields Parkway, but worth a quick stop!
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 135 km
- Distance from Jasper: 96 km
Sunwapta Falls is an easy stop off on the Icefields Parkway that is well worth venturing to. Sunwapta Falls consists of upper and lower falls that are 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 to the lower falls. Both are fantastic to visit in both the summer and the winter.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 177 km
- Distance from Jasper: 55.4 km
Goats & Glaciers Lookout
The Goats & Glaciers lookout is exactly that. A lookout point along the Icefields Parkway that overlooks the Athabasca River with Mount Keeerkeslin towering over it. You may even see some mountain goats (hence the name) has the area attracts mountain goats looking to sip up the salt on the side of the river bank.
It’s a nice quick stop and a good photo op, but it’s very easy to miss so keep your eyes open for the pull off.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 194 km
- Distance from Jasper: 38 km
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 very high, making the upper Athabasca River positively roar – especially during the height of the thaw in late spring. Like so many other visitor sites in the area, it’s conveniently located in Jasper National Park, which will make filling up your day with enough scenery to satisfy even the most finicky nature lover pretty easy.
There are ample hiking trails to get you to viewing areas which will allow 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.
- Distance from Lake Louise Village: 201 km
- Distance from Jasper: 32.1 km