The Banff to Jasper drive – an Icefields Parkway itinerary

One of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world is the Banff to Jasper drive, which is also known as the Icefields Parkway. Be prepared for a journey among stunning turquoise lakes, amazing glaciers, canyons, beautiful waterfalls and, of course, breathtaking mountains. There’s also a great chance to see wildlife such as bears, moose, elk, wolves and even cougars (we saw one!) Here’s my Icefields Parkway itinerary with things you really should check out while doing the Banff to Jasper drive.

Having some days to spend in Banff before you head for Jasper? Check out these suggestions of things to do in Banff!

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Stops to make along the stunning Banff to Jasper drive on the Icefields Parkway

Johnston Canyon

I know, you’re not literally on the Icefields Parkway yet, but you should really check out Johnston Canyon if you haven’t already! It’s a beautiful hike among the canyon with both waterfalls and a cool cave. To get here, you need to go on Highway 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway, instead of Trans Canada Highway. Read more about our visit to Johnston Canyon before you go to get the most out of your experience!

Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon is a great first stop after you’ve left Banff!

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

When you’re done hiking in Johnston Canyon, you only need to drive for 30 minutes to reach your next stops – Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You can reach them by continuing on Highway 1A or by taking the Trans Canada Highway.

These two beautiful lakes are literally minutes away from the Icefields Parkway and can be seen as the start of it. The lakes have three things in common: they’re turquoise, surrounded by mountains and really gorgeous. At Lake Louise, you’ll find the Fairmont Hotel, while Moraine Lake is a little bit more secluded.

Morraine Lake
Moraine Lake is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beautiful view!

Bow Lake

Here we go, now you’re on the Icefields Parkway! Your first stop should definitely be Bow Lake, which is located 30 minutes from Lake Louise. This lake is also surrounded by beautiful mountains, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a perfect reflection in the water just like we did! Otherwise, it’s still a great place to stop and stretch your legs while admiring the beautiful view.

Bow Lake, a beautiful stop on the Icefields Parkway
Bow Lake is a must in your Icefields Parkway itinerary – look at that reflection!

Peyto Lake (my favourite stop on the Banff to Jasper drive!)

Peyto Lake is your next stop, and one of my favourite stops on the Icefields Parkway. This lake has the most turquoise water I’ve ever seen. Peyto Lake is also different from the other lakes you’ve been visiting during your trip so far since you’ll get to see it from above and not from ground level.

Peyto Lake - my favourite stop on the Banff to Jasper drive
My absolute favourite part of my Icefields Parkway itinerary is Peyto Lake.

Mistaya Canyon

Now it’s time for something different than lakes! Mistaya Canyon is a short and rather easy hike down to a beautiful waterfall. It took us about 30 minutes to do the whole hike and we were as good as alone on the trail!

Weeping wall

This is a beautiful set of cliffs to your right (coming from Banff), usually covered with waterfalls – making it a “weeping wall”! It’s definitely worth a stop, but be careful if you’re going out to take a photo since it’s right next to the road.

Weeping Wall - stop on the Banff to Jasper drive
Look at this weeping wall!

Big Hill and Big Bend

After the Weeping Wall, you’ll come to the Big Hill and Big Bend. You don’t really need any help to find it, you’ll know when you see it! But just to be clear: It’s a beautiful viewpoint right after a big bend in the road (you can easily see it on a map to the right of Parker Ridge.) At the top, you can stop and take photos of the beautiful mountains and the valley!

Big Bend and Big Hill - viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway
It’s not that hard to see why the Icefields Parkway is known as one of the most scenic drives in the world.

Athabasca Glacier

You can see this glacier from a distance or hike all the way to the toe of it, just like we did. The roundtrip is around 2 kilometres and the hike is not that hard but has some rocky and steep sections – it can be slippery if it’s wet. Remember to bring some warmer clothes since it gets rather cold when you get closer to the glacier!

Athabasca Glacier
This is where the glacier was in 2006.

Sunwapta Falls

The next stop is 45 minutes away from the trailhead of the Athabasca glacier. Sunwapta Falls is a beautiful waterfall that’s easy to get to! From the parking lot, you only need to walk down to the viewing bridge to get a nice view of the main waterfall.

Athabasca Falls

After Sunwapta Falls, it’s time to continue driving to another waterfall. This is definitely a must-see, not only because of the waterfall but also for the “secret canyon” right behind it that almost no other persons found when we were there! So, when you’ve checked out the waterfall, don’t forget to look around you to find a trail down another way. You’ll find some stairs and can walk down among a beautiful canyon.

Canyon at Athabasca Falls
Don’t miss this amazing canyon right behind Athabasca Falls!

Valley of the Five Lakes

Now you’re getting really close to Jasper – this is the last stop! Valley of the Five Lakes is only 10 minutes away from Jasper and offers amazing views of, you guessed it, five lakes! The lakes all have a beautiful colour and you can choose if you want to do a hike to all of them or just to some of them. The hike we did was about 6 kilometres and went around three of the lakes and to the shore of the other two.

The Banff to Jasper drive – how long does it take?

Driving Banff to Jasper without the stops

Without all the beautiful stops, it would probably take you less than 4 hours to go from Banff to Jasper. Be sure to check the road conditions before you go if you’re going during the colder months.

Driving Banff to Jasper with the stops

You can explore this amazing area for days! We did the whole Banff to Jasper drive in about 12 hours and made a whole day trip of it. However, we had already seen Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake so that saved us some time. There’s a lot to see and it will take time, so if you want to split your journey into more than just one day, consider making a stop at Saskatchewan Crossing. We have never stayed here overnight but it’s in a good location since it’s pretty much halfway between Banff and Jasper and has a resort and a hostel. If you go during winter, you should definitely also make sure to check out the magical ice bubble lake!

Before you go, don’t forget to check out this road trip packing list – you have a long drive ahead of you!

3 fun things to do in Jasper after the Icefields Parkway itinerary

Woohoo, you made it to Jasper! There’s a lot of fun things to do here. Here are some of my favourites:

Old Fort Point Trail

An almost 4-kilometre long fun and moderate hike with great views over Jasper. If you’re lucky, you might even see some bighorn sheep at the top – we did!

Maligne Canyon

This is such a beautiful canyon. It’s also the deepest one in Jasper National Park. It doesn’t really matter if you’re only looking for an easy walk or a longer hike – at Maligne Canyon, you can choose different trails and loops, all with beautiful views!

Maligne Lake

Okay, I actually never made it here, but it’s known as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world – so it’s probably something you’d like to check out!

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This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Just One Passport

    I did this drive in 2018 for the very 1st time and I have to say that it is now my favourite place that I’ve been. Absolute beauty around every single corner!

    1. Amanda

      I have to agree with you, it just got better and better the longer we drove – it’s amazing how beautiful a drive can be!

  2. Going to Banff is something that has been on my bucketlist for a very long time. The more I see of it the more I confirm that I need to go. I am not a skier and would prefer to go off-season to avoid crowds, I am just not sure there is an off-season there any more!

    1. Amanda

      Yes, you really should try to make it to Banff, it’s amazing! I’m not a skier either and prefer to escape the crowds, but I think you’re right – there’s probanly not an off-season there anymore unfortunately!

  3. Emese Fromm

    I love that drive! We’ve done it a few times before, and it never gets old! One of my favorite spots is be Peyto Lake, too, though I love all the stops, they all have something different to offer. Your photos are gorgeous! Thanks for sharing, you brought back great memories of a beautiful road trip.

    1. Amanda

      Yes, if I lived closer I would keep coming back over and over again haha! It’s just amazing how beautiful this drive is. I agree, there’s always something new to explore around the corner! Thank you, I’m so glad you liked it!

  4. There are so many amazing spots in this part of Canada. I did a backcountry trip in Banff 15 years ago and I’m still mad that I didn’t schedule time for the Icefields Parkway on our way home.

    1. Amanda

      That’s very true, there’s so many incredible things to see and do in Canada! It’s really hard to do them all haha! But I’m really glad we made it to the Icefields Parkway, it’s such an amazing place – hopefully you can visit it soon!

  5. travelingness

    Wow, this drive looks amazing! Its hard to imagine that there are that many beautiful lakes all in one area. The colors of the lakes are breathtaking! I’ve always wanted to visit Banff and even more so now! 😁

    1. Amanda

      Yes, it’s such a beautiful drive! First time I saw Peyto lake I seriously thought someone was joking with me – but no, the water really is that blue!

  6. Sydney

    I’ve always wanted to visit Banff, so this drive is on my bucket list! I’m hoping for a few Canadian trips in the next couple of years, so hopefully I’ll be able to visit soon.

    1. Amanda

      Oh you really should go, it’s just as amazing as it looks!

  7. Francesca

    I have been dying to go to both Jasper and Banff. I will be using this list for sure once I do go. Lake Louise and Moraine lake look so gorgeous!!

    1. Amanda

      Oh you really should go, it’s just as amazing as it looks and even better in person! Yes, love the colour of the water!

  8. nclaesen

    Your pictures are so stunning! Banff has been on my bucket list for a long time. I cannot wait to go. I wasn’t aware of Johnston Canyon, so thank you for including it. Pinning for future reference

    1. Amanda

      Thank you so much! It’s hard to believe, but it’s even more beautiful in person!

  9. catherinemryan

    Oh my goodness, I want to do this Canadian road trip so badly! That enormous cave, and the reflection in that perfectly still lake, are almost too much.

    1. Amanda

      Isn’t it amazing! Canada really is a wonderful place, especially for nature lovers!

  10. Natasha L

    Well I completely understand why Peyto Lake would be your favourite stop. That view is absolutely stunning. I had wanted to visit Banff and Jasper this year but couldn’t but I intend to do it soon and I was always wondering about the drive between the two places so I love that you’ve filled my head with all these amazing stops! Keeping this on file for future reference!

    1. Amanda

      Yes, isn’t it amazing! I totally agree with you, and that colour is just stunning. Oh that’s great to hear, hope you make it there soon, it’s so beautiful!

  11. Maria

    I’ve officially added this drive to my bucket list. Every single picture looks absolutely breathtaking and I’m sure it’s even more incredible in person. Wow! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Amanda

      Oh that’s awesome! Yes, the photos are great but the view in person is, even though one cannot believe it’s true, even better!

  12. Your photos are amazing!! I’ve never managed to get amazing weather at Moraine Lake, all I want is a postcard picture! Haha. And I’ve never seen Bow Lake looking like that either! I think Peyto Lake is one of my favourite views in the entire world. This makes me want to go back so badly!

    1. Amanda

      Oh thank you so much! Yeah we were so lucky we had nice weather. All those lakes really are amazing!

  13. Katie Knott

    We’re hoping to travel to this part of Canada soon, so I will definitely be saving this for future reference! Thanks for all the awesome tips!

    1. Amanda

      Oh that’s a great idea, although it’s almost not possible, it’s even more beautiful in person! Hope you’re having a great time, I’m glad you liked the post!

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