The drive from Banff to Jasper in the Canadian Rockies is rated as one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Road trips are the best way to experience the National Parks as you can explore at your own pace and stop whenever and wherever you want! The drive can be broken up into two parts: The Bow Valley Parkway and the Icefields Parkway. Keep reading for the best places to stop while driving from Banff to Jasper along the Bow Valley and Icefields Parkway!
Things to Know Before Leaving Town –
- There is limited gas on the drive from Banff to Jasper. I would recommend filling up before leaving Banff, because the only other places to stop at are Lake Louise and at the Saskatchewan River Crossing, which is about 135km into the drive and way more expensive.
- There is no cell phone reception or data available on a lot of the drive after leaving Lake Louise. Download offline maps before leaving and do all of your research beforehand.
- In the wintertime the drive from Banff to Jasper can be a little more risky. Winter tires are required on the Icefields Parkway (road between Lake Louise and Jasper). Also check for road closures before setting out in the winter.
- Charge your camera and pack snacks before leaving Banff! The only places to buy food are at Lake Louise and the Saskatchewan River Crossing.
- Ideally you will want a car to complete the Banff to Jasper drive, however Sundog Tours offers a shuttle from Banff to Jasper, where you can just enjoy the ride and look out the window at the amazing views.
Where to Stop on the Drive from Banff to Jasper –
These are the best stops to make while driving between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.
You’re most likely starting your road trip from the incredible Town of Banff. Definitely spend time exploring downtown Banff, but you can also spend your time exploring Banff National Park and the first couple of stops on the Banff to Jasper Drive – such as day trips through the Bow Valley Parkway, exploring Lake Louise, and also Moraine Lake!
The most incredible place to stay in Banff is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, however, if you’re on a budget I would highly recommend staying in the Town of Canmore or camping if you already have the gear.
Bow Valley Parkway
You can take the Trans Canada Highway from Banff to Lake Louise, but the Bow Valley Parkway is waaaay more scenic and worth the little bit of extra time! The Bow Valley Parkway is a road that runs parallel to the Trans Canada, but has a couple of scenic spots to stop at along the highway. While driving make sure to stop at Backswamp Viewpoint, Hillsdale Meadow Viewpoint, Johnston Canyon (super popular, easy hike), Castle Mountain Viewpoint and Silverton Falls, and Morant’s Curve.
You can easily spend a full day just exploring the Bow Valley Parkway, so plan your time accordingly and stay at Protection Mountain Campground or Baker Creek Mountain Resort if you want a little extra time to explore.
Note: The Bow Valley Parkway is usually closed to vehicles in the Spring. You can check at the Visitors Centre before leaving Banff.
Lake Louise & the Fairmont Chateau
Lake Louise is one of the most popular stops on the route between the towns of Banff and Jasper. So why not stop and make a visit to this iconic Canadian landscape! While visiting the lake, the beautiful Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is right there as well, so head inside and take a look at one of the most luxurious hotels in Banff. If you have extra time to spend here, hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse or rent a canoe on this iconic lake.
One of the most visited lakes in Alberta, Moraine Lake is seriously breathtaking. The parking lot usually fills up by 5:30 am in the summer, so make sure to go EXTRA early, or try later in the evening. Another option is to take the Moraine Lake shuttle from the Lake Louise parking lot (which is a lot bigger and just a short distance away). If you’re planning to take the shuttle, make sure to book in advance.
Wander the trail beside the lake, or take the easy hike up Rockpile Trail to get those photos you see all over Instagram.
Note: The Moraine Lake Road closes during the wintertime. Check for road closures before planning your visit in the fall, winter, and spring. Bike up Moraine Lake Road while it’s still closed to vehicles in May to escape the crowds.
Banff National Park is known for its lakes, and Herbert Lake is no exception. You don’t need much time to explore Herbert Lake, but it does offer great photo opportunities of the mountains, lake, and nature, but with fewer crowds. Snap a few photos here for a great start to your road trip!
23 minutes up the road from Herbert Lake is Bow Lake, which is another less visited/touristy lake in Banff National Park, but still delivers on the beautiful blue water and mountain views! Stop here to take in the beauty and nature away from the crowds. If you have extra time you can hike to Bow Glacier Falls from here to get up close to a waterfall!
Super busy. Super well-known. But still incredible! To get to Peyto Lake, you essentially park at the Peyto Lake parking lot and walk up a well-maintained trail to the viewpoint. It’s not a crazy hike and is actually a very accessible viewpoint. (Get here early or around sunset to try to escape the crowds). Hands down one of the best places to stop along the Icefields Parkway – which is probably why it’s always so busy!
Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint
The Waterfowl Lakes are beautiful! They have the stunning aqua colour Canada’s lakes are known for, so for that reason alone, you have to stop here. The viewpoint is easily seen from the highway, so you can’t miss it!
Mistaya Canyon isn’t as popular of a stop as some of the other ones along the Icefields Parkway, and I have no idea why! It’s a pretty quick hike to the main area of the canyon, and it is absolutely stunning! Make a stop here to see some roaring water carve through the canyon and awesome mountain views.
Although technically not on the Icefields Parkway, it is nearby! If you’re visiting the area in the wintertime you should definitely plan a stop at Abraham Lake. Take the David Thompson Highway heading East at the Saskatchewan River Crossing to get here. The plants at the bottom of Abraham Lake release bubbles of methane, and as these bubbles rise, they freeze, making the frozen lake look super cool and bubbly!
There are a few different hikes along the Icefields Parkway, so if you have more than one day to explore, I would definitely plan to do at least one hike! A few hikes to check out are:
CIRQUE PEAK TRAIL
A pretty easy hike to start out with, but gets harder once you get to Helen Lake. This hike takes a good chunk of the day, but you’ll be rewarded with great views once you make it to the top.
A well-marked and popular hike off the parkway, Parker Ridge is a moderate hike that you can complete in a few hours depending on your physical ability. The hike offers great, picturesque views – you will not be disappointed!
Wilcox Pass is a great trail where bighorn sheep frequent, so be prepared for wildlife! The parking lot to this hike is pretty small and fills up quite fast. If you stay at the Wilcox Creek campground overnight (first-come first-serve) you won’t have to worry about parking and crowds.
BEAUTY CREEK TRAIL
A relatively easy hike (and one of my favourites), Beauty Creek is a lesser known hike that takes you along a beautiful river and a few waterfalls. The endpoint is Stanley Falls and takes about 1-1.5 hours to complete.
Columbia Icefield & The Athabasca Glacier
At the Columbia Icefield Center, you can have a bite to eat at the restaurant or take in the views from their patio. There are also a few picnic tables at the parking lot if you want to have your own lunch/snack and sit down to enjoy it. Across from the center, you’ll find another parking lot, and this is where the hike to the Columbia Icefields starts from. You can hike close to the glacier for free and at your own leisure, or pay for a tour on one of the big ice explorer trucks that will take you up and closer to the glacier, where you’ll have a chance to walk on it!
Ticket price: Varies. Depending on what you want to do there are a few different packages/tours to choose from.
Heading to Jasper? Read our Jasper Bucketlist Here.KEEP READING ->
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
The skywalk is a unique way to experience Alberta’s rocky mountains. It’s a glass-floored walkway hanging out from the side of a cliff that visitors can walk on, and provides great views of the icefields and mountains around the skywalk. You cannot visit without a ticket, as you have to park at the Icefield center and shuttle up to the walkway because it is a narrow highway and there’s no parking lot.
If you are driving the parkway though, you’ll catch a glimpse of it as you drive by, regardless of whether you visit or not!
Ticket price: Varies from $27 CAD – $32 CAD for adult admission. Alberta residents receive a 20% discount at the time of writing (with proof of residence)
Tangle Creek Falls
A pretty, multi-tiered waterfall on the side of the Icefields Parkway, Tangle Creek Falls is a quick stop you can make on your road trip. The parking lot is across the road from the falls; it comes up fast and is easy to miss, so make sure to program the falls into google maps so you know when it’s coming up and you can prepare to enter the parking lot.
Fed by the Athabasca Glacier, Sunwapta Falls is beautiful and is definitely one of the best places to stop along the Icefields Parkway. With a tree-filled island centered just before the waterfall and mountains in the background, it would be hard for this view to be more picturesque. If you have the time, I highly recommend hiking to the lower falls as well.
The Athabasca Falls are fierce, there is so much water moving here it’s crazy. There are a few trails in the area to explore as well that I would highly recommend exploring if you have time.
Cliff Jump at Horseshoe Lake
A hidden gem worth mentioning – on a hot, sunny day, cliff jumping into the icy blue waters of horseshoe lake is so refreshing, and not to mention so picturesque. Come with your bathing suit under your clothes because there is just an outhouse and nature to change in (and it’s just easier). I really only jump from the smaller cliffs and it is lots of fun! Horshoe Lake is definitely Jasper National Parks ultimate gem.
* The area is unsupervised, so jump at your own risk. Cliff jumping can be dangerous if not done properly and people have unfortunately died here before
Watch for Wildlife Along the Way
The best chance to see wildlife in the Canadian Rockies is definitely along the Icefields Parkway! Keep your eyes peeled on your drive to Jasper – I saw 3 black bears and a ton of goats and elk over my 2 days on the Parkway.
Budget Time for Other Viewpoints
There are viewpoints the whole way along the Parkway. If you stop at all of them the time adds up – so make sure you budget your time while driving because it is so tempting to stop at all of them!
Once you make it to the Town of Jasper in Jasper National Park, there is so much more to do!! My favourite area in Jasper is exploring Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. Another popular place that is only a 12 minute drive away is the Pyramid Lake Resort and iconic bridge leading to Pyramid Island. The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is another pretty place to visit, with a pretty lake you can canoe on in the summertime or snowshoe trails in the winter. Jasper National Park is incredible to visit in the winter as well, there are a ton of outdoor activities to do (don’t miss the Maligne Canyon Icewalk). I highly recommend spending a couple of nights exploring the area around Jasper.
Where to Stay While on a Banff to Jasper Road Trip –
If you’re looking to spend more than one day driving from Banff to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, I highly recommend staying at one of the many options along the drive. Depending on your budget, these are a couple of options:
Camp at a first-come first-serve campsite
Camping at one of these campsites is a great option if you’re planning to spend multiple days on the parkway (which I would recommend at least 2 days!). You cannot reserve a site in advance (at most campgrounds on the Parkway), so if you show up later in the day it might be harder to secure a spot. The campgrounds along the parkway include:
- Mosquito Creek
- Silverhorn Creek
- Waterfowl Lakes
- Rampart Creek
- Wilcox Creek
- Columbia Icefield
- Jonas Creek
- Honeymoon Lake
- Mount Kerkeslin
Basing yourself at a campground near Jasper and Banff is also an option as well. Camping is the cheapest option (if you already have the equipment)
Stay in a Hostel
There are a couple of hostels along the Icefields Parkway:
- HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel
- HI Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel
- HI Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel
- HI Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel
Stay in a Hotel
Staying in a hotel/lodge is the most expensive option for accommodation, but it is almost the most luxurious. I would check out:
- Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge
- The Crossing Resort
- Glacier View Lodge
- Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge
Glacier View Lodge and Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge are both very highly rated.
Other Questions About the Banff Jasper Road Trip –
IS IT WORTH GOING TO JASPER FROM BANFF?
Yes!!!! The Banff to Jasper highway is one of the prettiest highways to drive in the world, I highly recommend it. You have a way higher chance for animal sightings and the viewpoints and stops along the way are amazing. Even if you don’t stop, the drive from Banff to Jasper is well worth it.
BANFF TO JASPER OR JASPER TO BANFF?
It doesn’t really matter! You’ll be taking the same highway either way, so it really depends on your starting point. If you’re starting your trip in Edmonton, Alberta, you’ll most likely travel from Edmonton to Jasper to Banff to Calgary and back to Edmonton. If you’re starting in Calgary, you can go Calgary to Banff to Jasper to Edmonton and back to Calgary (or skip Edmonton entirely, and drive from Jasper to Banff for more mountain time).
Hopefully, this guide on driving from Banff to Jasper National Park helps you plan your trip to the area or inspires you to visit!
Hey! I’m Kat. Based in Alberta, Canada I love to travel to the Rockies and explore new places around the world. Follow along on my adventures and find inspiration and tips for your own travels.