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Calgary and Jasper are both beautiful destinations with so much to do! But if you’re making the road trip from Calgary to Jasper, you have got to check out these 20 amazing stops along your way. I can assure you, the journey is going to be just as magical as the destinations in this case! And, of course, this road trip can be done in reverse from Jasper to Calgary as well.
Truthfully, this road trip could be done in less than a day’s time. But I recommend extending this adventure over a week (heck, make it two if you can!). You’ll be driving the Icefields Parkway, which is perhaps the most scenic drive in Canada, so there’s a lot to do along here.
Throughout this blog post, I’ll fill you in not just on the best stops on the drive from Calgary to Jasper, but also on what to do at each of the stops, helpful tips, and even accommodation and rental car suggestions! By the time you’re done reading this post, you’re going to be ready to hit the road!
Don’t have time to read the full article? With so much to do on the drive from Calgary to Jasper, here are our “must-see” stops! Get to know Calgary through this brewery and art tour, stop by Banff to ride the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, visit Lake Louise, and hit the Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk. Once you get to Jasper, explore downtown and visit the beautiful Maligne Lake!
- About the Drive from Calgary to Jasper
- 21 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Jasper
- 1. Calgary
- 2. The Kananaskis
- 3. Canmore
- 4. Banff town
- 5. Johnston Canyon
- 6. Morant's Curve
- 7. Moraine Lake
- 8. Lake Louise
- 9. Bow Lake
- 10. Peyto Lake
- 11. Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint
- 12. Mistaya Canyon
- 13. Saskatchewan River Crossing Café, Hotel, and Gas Station
- 14. Weeping Wall
- 15. Athabasca Glacier
- 16. Skywalk
- 17. Sunwapta Falls
- 18. Goats and Glacier Lookout (Goat Lick)
- 19. Athabasca Falls
- 20. Jasper
- Shuttles from Calgary to Jasper
- Where to Stay in Jasper, Canada
- Essential Tips for Driving from Calgary to Jasper
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Renting a Car in Alberta
- Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!
About the Drive from Calgary to Jasper
The drive from Calgary to Jasper is 413 kilometers long (257 miles) and travels through some of the most beautiful places to visit in all of Alberta. You will pass through Banff and Lake Louise before making your way along the Icefields Parkway – one of the most scenic stretches of road in the entire world!
Honestly, this is one epic road trip, one I’m sure you’re going to be blown away by.
There are a few things to know before you hit the road though. First of all, you’re going to need a Parks Canada Pass. This pass will allow you to explore some of the best stops as you drive from Calgary to Jasper through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. The pass costs $20 CAD per day for a vehicle or $145 for an entire year. Cheaper passes are available for those traveling solo. You can buy your pass online in advance or at the booth when entering Banff National Park just outside of Canmore.
You should also take extra care if you plan on driving this route in the winter months. You’ll need winter tires and you should always check for road closures before you leave. During really bad weather conditions, the Icefields Parkway will close from time to time.
I also suggest that you pack some food, water, and fill up with gas before you leave Calgary. Gas prices are much higher in the national parks, and while you probably will have to fuel up at some point during the road trip, starting off with a full tank of gas will be beneficial. Also, food options are extremely limited once you pass Lake Louise, so having a few snacks with you is wise.
If you don’t rent a car in Calgary but still want to get to Jasper, you’re in luck! There are a few shuttle services, either by taking a private shuttle or a shared shuttle. The private shuttle will let you make a few stops along this drive, but if you want to have a full day exploring you can take a guided tour! This tour starts in Calgary and ends in Jasper, but includes stops at Lake Louise, Athabasca Glacier, and the Skywalk – it’s the best of both worlds.
21 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Jasper
Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and home to a large international airport – so it really is a popular place to begin any Alberta road trip. Many people land at the Calgary Airport before heading to Banff and other popular destinations in Alberta.
Despite being a major city in the plains, Calgary has a variety of fun things to do. In fact, the city’s position provides it a leg up on the competition. It is home to a huge international airport as well as being on the brink of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, Calgary has become a popular port of entry in Canada and a great spot to start your tour of the Canadian Rockies!
You can’t talk about Calgary without mentioning the Calgary Zoo. It’s open year-round and has nearly 1,000 different animals and exhibits. If you want to see something extra adorable, make sure you’re there at 10 am to witness the penguin walk! It’s literally the penguins taking a 15-minute walk through the zoo for their daily workout.
Calgary is especially a sight to see in the winter. While they may be cold, you’re still likely to have plenty of sunny days! Calgary actually has the most days of sunshine out of any Canadian city at 333 days a year! Even if you’re trying to dodge the cold or rain, there are plenty of fun indoor activities to keep you busy!
One of my favorite indoor activities is the Calgary Tower. You get the best city views, plus it’s the highest 360-degree observation deck in the world! I also recommend grabbing a bite at Sky 360, their revolving restaurant.
If you want to see the top sights of the city efficiently I recommend this 2-hour city electric scooter tour. You’ll follow your guide on electric scooters as you see iconic Calgary sites, like The Bow, Calgary Pathway System, and Central Memorial Park, and learn all about the city as you go. The best part is that it only costs $105 CAD per person which is significantly cheaper than other Calgary city tours. So don’t miss out, book this scooter tour in advance here!
If you’re into street art and beer you could instead opt for this 3-hour craft beer and street art tour. You will hit the streets and learn the stories behind the artists and art you are seeing while making stops for some local beer samples! Calgary is famous for both its beer and art scene, so this is a great way to see both at once! You can check the details and reserve your tour here.
Where to stay in Calgary
So, since you’re going to be in town, you may as well spend some time seeing the city and take advantage of the city’s lower lodging costs than the adjacent Rocky Mountain resorts. If you’re spending more than one day in Calgary you’re going to need a place to stay overnight.
Within the central city area, the Wicked Hostels Calgary is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. Plus you have the flexibility to book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com to snag a great deal.
If you can spend a bit more the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites is perfect. The suites have a full kitchen which is perfect for homemade meals which can save you a lot of money.
For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley and comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop.
2. The Kananaskis
The Kananaskis, often referred to as Alberta’s Mountain Playground, has plenty to see and do whether you visit in the winter or summer! It’s very easy to spend a few days touring this area.
The Kananaskis Region starts west of Calgary as you make your way toward Canmore. It’s important to note that many of the best attractions in the Kananaskis are a detour from the direct route from Calgary to Jasper, so be sure to plan for that.
The following are some of the best things to do in Kananaskis:
- Go stargazing – This is also one of the best places to go stargazing, due to the lack of light pollution. I recommend staying the night here and booking this 2-hour stargazing tour, which includes an expert guide, snowshoeing, and hot chocolate to stay warm! This tour is only available during the winter (hence the snowshoes), but not to say you can’t go stargazing on your own during the summer.
- Troll Falls Hike – Troll Falls is a 90-minute hike that leads to a waterfall. The waterfall is frozen in the winter and appears equally as beautiful! It is advisable that you bring ice cleats or spikes if you are visiting in the winter.
- Upper Kananaskis Lake – This is a huge, picturesque lake surrounded by sweeping mountain vistas, woodlands, hiking paths, and ski lines. Regardless of the season, there is lots to do and see at Upper Kananaskis Lake!
- Nakiska Ski Area – Located in the Kananaskis Valley, Nakiska Ski Area is one of the most affordable resorts in the Rocky Mountains, as well as one of the best locations to ski near Banff. It’s a full-size ski resort with a verticle fall of 735 meters (2,411 feet) and a 3.3-km (2-mile) longest run.
- Kananaskis Nordic Spa – This is one of the most exquisite spas in the Rocky Mountains! The Kananaskis Nordic Spa gives you access to the Hydrotherapy cycle (Five Pools), the Eucalyptus Steam Room, the Alchemist Steam Room, the Finnish Sauna, Banyan & Barrel Saunas, and the Exfoliation Cabin starting at $129 CAD.
- Blackshale Suspension Bridge – This bridge is one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets and a lovely way to get into nature! You can hike on your own, or join a guided tour that will teach you all about the area’s flora, fauna, and history, which always gives me a deeper appreciation for wherever I’m exploring. This tour is $200 CAD per person and operates during the summer.
Important note: All vehicles stopping in parks or public areas in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor require a Conservation Pass. Buy a daily pass online for $15 CAD or in person at any Kananaskis Visitor Information Center.
Where to stay in Kananaskis
If your itinerary allows, stay a couple of nights at The Crosswater Resort – a very family-friendly resort that won’t break the bank with a large indoor pool in the heart of the Kananaskis. Staying here also gives you access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa, which is famous for its innovative hydrotherapy treatments. Here there are several hot and cold pools with epic mountain views.
If you want something super affordable there is actually a hostel called HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel with bunks starting at $41 CAD and private rooms for around $130 CAD. This stay has cozy cabin vibes and is just 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the closest ski resort – a perfect winter stay! You can reserve this room on Booking.com or Hostelworld.
Canmore is one of Alberta’s best mountainside tourist towns. But unlike Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise, Canmore isn’t actually located within one of Canada’s National Parks – making it cheaper and more accessible for everyone.
Sitting on the edge of Banff National Park, Canmore boasts some of Canada’s most impressive mountain peaks and is an outdoor playground for visitors. On top of that, the town is lively and filled with amazing cafes, restaurants, and stores.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit Canmore on several occasions. In fact, we also recently lived in Canmore for a couple of months (I know, lucky us!) So, we know all of the best things to do in Canmore, which include:
- Caving – One of the coolest things you can do in Canmore is explore the caves! This Canmore caving adventure tour takes you through the beautiful yet mysteriously named Rat’s Nest Cave. You’ll rappel down 18 meters (59 feet) and spend several hours navigating challenging passageways and learning about how these caves were formed. It is pricier at $200 CAD but it is an experience you can’t replicate.
- Hike to Grassi Lakes – Grassi Lakes is also one of the easiest hikes in Canmore at only 5 kilometers long (3.1 miles) return with only a 125-meter (410 feet) elevation gain. This means it’s family-friendly and suitable for most fitness levels. It’s also open year-round, so it’s one of the best things to do in Canmore in the winter too.
- Visit the local breweries – Canmore is one of the best places to try amazing craft beer and there are lots of local breweries in Canmore to visit! One of my favorites is The Grizzly Paw. They have a bar on 8 St and their brewery is located on Old Canmore Road on the outskirts of town (called Tank 310). You can also join this e-bike and brew tour for even more fun! You get to bike 15 kilometers (9 miles) through the mountains and then be rewarded with a beer flight for $133 CAD.
- Rafting down Bow River – Right from town you can hop in a raft and gently float down the Bow River for an hour. Your eyes will be glued to epic views of the Rocky Mountains, forests, and valleys while keeping watch for some native wildlife. This is only available during summer and tours are a steal at only $45 CAD!
- Hit the trails at the Nordic Centre – The Canmore Nordic Centre offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking, or even cross-country skiing. The area was developed to host cross-country skiing events at the 1988 Olympic Games and is now an active training center as well as a recreational area.
- Ice skate at Olympic Plaza – bring your own skates or rent some from the hut for $15 CAD at Olympic Plaza. In the winter there are always lights strung around it (even more so at Christmastime) and it really is the most beautiful skating rink in Canmore! After, enjoy a delicious ice cream waffle with Belgian chocolate from Chocoland.
Where to Stay in Canmore
In case you want to spend a couple of nights in Canmore (and you should!) there are plenty of hotels to choose from.
For budget travelers, I love the Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn. If you don’t mind spending a little more you can certainly get a nice hotel closer to town. The Grande Rockies Resort-Bellstar Hotels & Resorts is still a short walk from town (but it only takes 5 minutes) and the hotel itself is beautiful complete with a pool, hot tub, fitness center, and restaurant and bar.
4. Banff town
Banff is a major tourist destination in the Rockies, with thousands of tourists each year. It’s easy to see why: Banff is breathtakingly gorgeous, and there’s much to do in Banff in the winter, spring, summer, or fall.
The downtown area is charming, and there are plenty of great places to dine, drink, and shop. Banff Ave is a great area to stay in Banff National Park, with the mountains as a backdrop. The entire area is extremely photogenic.
Many guests come for a ski vacation because of the easy proximity to the Sunshine and Norquay ski resorts, which are both within a 15-minute drive of town. The views from Mt Norquay are unlike any other. In the summer, ride the sightseeing gondola and visit the restaurant at the top for a beer with a view.
If you visit Banff in the winter, you can’t miss hitting the slopes or testing out their famous tube park (fun for the whole family!) If you buy the SkiBig3 Lift Ticket Mt Norquay is the third ski resort you’ll have access to.
Once you’ve had your fill of the slopes, you can take in everything that Banff has to offer, including some Apres Ski brews at one of Banff’s breweries.
For any foodie out there, Banff has tons of tasty restaurants and bars. In terms of world-class beer, head to Banff Brewing Co., and for a delicious meal with crafted cocktails, head to Parks Distillery. Did you know that you can also join this food tour that explores the many different rooms inside the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel? Food and drink pairings are included from 4 of the property’s high-end restaurants for $206 CAD. What a unique activity for foodies!
The following are some of the top things to do in Banff:
- Cave and Basin National Historic Site – Another great place to visit in Banff is the Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail. The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.
- Relax at the Banff Upper Hot Springs – The Banff Upper Hot Springs, a public hot spring with magnificent mountain views, is just a 5-minute drive up Sulphur Mountain. These Alberta hot springs are both accessible and inexpensive. Even those on a limited budget may experience one of the top Banff attractions for only $17.50 CAD per adult and $56.75 CAD for a family. It’s also a fun thing to do in Banff when it’s raining.
- Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain – The Banff Gondola is perhaps the most popular activity in Banff and with good reason! The views of the mountains and Banff town from the top of the Banff Gondola are breathtaking. There’s a restaurant and cafe at the top of the gondola, as well as a gift store, loads of information about the region and animals, and my personal favorite, the boardwalk – I recommend booking tickets in advance to save time!
- Check out the Bow Falls Lookout – The Bow River passes through the center of Banff and is a beautiful river. It’s a beautiful turquoise color that’s picture-perfect. The Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s bank is a short 1.5 km (0.9 mile) picturesque walk (or drive) from Banff town.
- Go hiking – The hiking trails in and around Banff are almost endless. In the summer in Banff, conquer difficult summits. But even in the winter, there are tons of epic hikes to challenge you. Hiking is one of the best free things to do in Banff.
Where to stay in Banff
There are lots of amazing hotels to choose from in Banff town. My personal favorite is Moose Hotel & Suites which has a great location, is reasonably priced for the area, and has all the amenities you could want including two rooftop hot tubs.
If you’re on a tight budget, consider checking out High Country Inn. It quite possibly could be the most affordable place to stay. Plus, it is located right in town on Banff Ave!
And for a little luxury, the Rimrock Resort Hotel is a must! With an onsite spa, balconies with amazing views, as well as a restaurant and bar this hotel is a must! Plus, it is located a couple of minutes from town in a quieter location.
For more info, read about all of the best hotels and areas to stay in Banff National Park!
Related Read: Taking this road trip as a couples getaway? Check out our guide to planning a honeymoon in Jasper!
5. Johnston Canyon
As you leave Banff and start making your way toward Jasper, I recommend that you take a slight detour onto the Bow Valley Parkway (instead of Highway 1) and go to Johnston Canyon.
Johnston Canyon is a must-stop on your drive from Calgary to Jasper! The hike through Johnston Canyon is an easy walk with huge rewards.
The boardwalk along the path leads you right into a canyon filled with seven glacial waterfalls that cascade over rocky cliffs. You can get right next to the water flowing from Johnston Creek and close enough to waterfalls to feel the spray of the water on your face!
This is also a great place in the winter! The waterfalls freeze over and create layers of giant icicles, which are incredible to see. The ice on the Lower and Upper Waterfalls here also takes on a blue color that is quite beautiful.
You do need crampons to hike it in the winter, so if you don’t have those, it’s probably best to book a guided ice walk tour. This guided tour departs from Banff, so it’s best if you’re staying a few days in Banff to fit everything into your itinerary. You’ll be led by a local guide, so you can learn all about the unique history and geology of this stunning location! Book this tour in advance, with free cancellation 24 hours before your tour departs, just in case your road trip plans change.
Johnston Canyon is open all year and it’s free to get to – including free parking in one of two parking lots. It is great for families as the path is wide and not too steep. The hike is about 2.5 km (1.6 miles) to get all the way to the Upper Falls.
Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2024). From March 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17 km/11 mi stretch of road from the TransCanada-Highway junction to Johnston Canyon, it will be restricted to cyclists’ use only. This is the eastern part of the road that is affected if you’re traveling to Johnston Canyon from Banff. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.
6. Morant’s Curve
After leaving Johnston Canyon, don’t just jump back onto the main highway yet, stay on the Bow Valley Parkway and enjoy this beautiful drive. It is much more scenic than the highway and will only take you a few minutes longer. As you make your way further along, you’ll come to a popular viewpoint called Morant’s Curve.
Near the Bow River’s bend, where trains typically pass by with a gorgeous mountain backdrop, this is an excellent place to stop for a photo. Keep a watch out for the viewing signs and park across the highway in the little parking lot.
The best photos are captured when a train approaches the bend and is perfectly framed in the photo. On a weekday, when trains operate every hour or so, is the best time to catch a train.
7. Moraine Lake
Just a short 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) drive from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake. Although it’s about 20 minutes off your route from Calgary to Jasper, I think it deserves a mention as a stop on its own – it’s just that stunning.
You’ve likely seen Moraine Lake photos on Instagram before, it is one of the most photographed places in all of Canada. The towering Ten Peaks are the backdrop for the brightest blue lake you’ve probably ever seen.
Besides just enjoying the view, there are lots of different things to do at Moraine Lake including hiking the Larch Valley Trail and Consolation Lakes Trail. It really is a special place, and if you can, spend an entire day exploring here and taking it all in!
Unfortunately, because of its beauty, Moraine Lake is one of the most visited places between Calgary and Jasper. Plus, getting to Moraine Lake can be a challenge since the access road and parking lot are closed to all personal vehicle traffic (except those with disability parking permits).
You’ll need to check into parking alternatives at Moraine Lake including public transit, shuttles, and tours. Most people visit by taking a shuttle either from Banff town itself or from Lake Louise. One of the most popular departures is the Park and Ride from Lake Louise Ski Resort.
The Parks Canada shuttles also only run during select hours so if you want to go early in the morning, you’ll need to be on the first shuttle around 6:30 am. You can also hop on this new shuttle to Moraine Lake that has departures as early as 4 am (and throughout the day for those who like to sleep in!). To me, the sight of Moraine Lake in those early morning hours is one of the most beautiful things to see in Banff.
You can also visit Moraine Lake at sunrise by going on this early bird tour. That tour is the only other way to get there for sunrise since the road is closed to personal vehicles. Plus, you’ll get to have breakfast at Lake Louise and explore this area before the crowds arrive. You’ll be seeing two incredible sights in one day!
The alternative to taking a shuttle is going on an organized tour like this one for around $113 CAD. This way transportation is taken care of for you, and you have your expert guide to teach you all about the area, and maybe even find some hidden gems! I’ve taken many tours around Banff to these incredible lakes, and I always find them to be very worthwhile – you can book this tour in advance here.
One thing to keep in mind is that these tours depart from Banff or Calgary, so either do it before your road trip or stay in Banff for a few days to fully explore the area.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
8. Lake Louise
Lake Louise, in my opinion, is a must-see destination! If you can take a tour from Calgary to Lake Louise and spend a night or two or at the very least a few hours. Not only is there a lake here, but also a little village and the world-famous Lake Louise Ski Resort. Here are just a few of the best things to do in Lake Louise!
During the summer, Lake Louise is a haven for hikers. My favorite hike is the Lake Agnes Tea House, which is 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) roundtrip and takes about 3 hours to complete. It’s a rather steep climb (about 400 meters/1,313 feet) so a reasonable level of fitness is best. But, the views are absolutely worth any effort and then you can relax at the historic tea house, built in 1901, when you’re done.
If you aren’t an avid hiker but still want to explore the area, you can take a guided hiking tour! This is best if you’re staying near Lake Louise for a day or two to break up your road trip. This tour is six hours of hiking, exploring, catching incredible views, and learning about the area from your local guide. If this is your first time at Lake Louise, this is a great way to get the full experience, you can book this tour in advance here.
There is even more to do around Lake Louise in the summer, such as going canoeing on the lake, cycling, or hiking the easy lakefront trail. However, a trip here isn’t complete without riding the Lake Louise Gondola, which gives incredible views of the lake below and the Victoria Glacier in the distance. Lake Louise is incredibly busy, so it’s best to purchase your gondola tickets in advance.
If you’re visiting Lake Louise in the winter, be prepared for a winter wonderland – it’s gorgeous! There are plenty of activities to do here, but of course, hitting the slopes is one of the best. I recommend purchasing a SkiBig3 Lift Ticket, which allows you to ski at three different resorts near Banff, covering three individual days. You can enjoy Lake Louise, Mt Norquay, and Sunshine Village Resort for a great ski holiday.
While here, be sure to grab a bite to eat at The Station, which not only has incredible food but is also within a historic train museum. Or, if you’re feeling fancy you can dine at the Fairview Bar and Restaurant, located in the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel. There are many restaurants in Lake Louise to choose from, so refuel from all your adventures here!
Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $21 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
There are lots of different places to choose from when it comes to accommodation in Lake Louise.
If you want to stay in Lake Louise town, consider the Lake Louise Inn, or the budget-friendly HI Lake Louise Hostel. Dan and I often stay at the HI Hostel and think it’s clean, comfortable, and great value for money.
For a little luxury or to spoil yourself, don’t miss the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This is arguably the most beautiful hotel in Canada set in the most beautiful location (right on the lake!)
9. Bow Lake
Bow Lake Viewpoint is simply a pull-over bay on the side of the highway as you leave Lake Louise and start driving along the Icefields Parkway toward Jasper. Its location has been created because of the amazing view from this specific spot overlooking Bow Lake.
The last time Daniel and I stopped at this viewpoint we actually saw a Grizzly bear! He was just in the grass near the road chowing down on some grass. We stayed in our van (a good distance away) and watched him eat peacefully for a little while. Let this be your reminder that bears and other wildlife are very prominent along the Icefields Parkway and to be “bear aware” when you stop as well as when you’re driving!
If you are into photography continue down the highway a little further from this viewpoint and turn left towards the Bow Lake car parking lot.
Here, there are some short walk trails and more viewpoints that during calm weather, offer mirror reflection photography opportunities so beautiful, it made our list of Instagrammable places to visit in Banff.
10. Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is one of the most popular locations on the Icefields Parkway, and as a result, it’s also one of the most photographed. It is, nevertheless, well-deserving of its popularity! You can see this vivid turquoise-colored lake from a higher vantage point at the Peyto Lake Viewpoint.
Most guests spend around ten minutes walking from the parking lot to the lookout. It’s a well-marked path that’s suitable for people of all fitness levels and even young kids. Once you’ve arrived at the viewpoint, set aside some time to take photos — it’s one of Alberta’s most gorgeous destinations!
You may trek from Bow Lake to Peyto Lake if you have more time. Although this is a beautiful path, I would not suggest it if you are short on time, there’s a lot more to see on this drive from Calgary to Jasper so you’ll need to keep moving.
11. Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint
This is Daniel’s favorite stop along the Icefields Parkway! You only need about 10 minutes here, as it’s just a viewpoint on the side of the road – but boy, what a viewpoint it is! On a calm day, the water at Waterfowl Lakes reflects the mountains behind it perfectly. Daniel, being a photographer, could take pictures here all day long (as I’m sure most photographers could).
But on your one-day Icefields Parkway itinerary, you don’t have time to spend all day at Waterfowl Lakes. That’s okay though, a quick stop to check out the view, take a photo, and then hit the road again is all you need.
You’ll reach Waterfowl Lakes after driving 19 kilometers (12 miles) from Peyto Lake. You’ll see the lake and parking lot on your left-hand side.
12. Mistaya Canyon
Mistaya Canyon is located on the Icefields Parkway about 255 kilometers (158 miles) from Calgary. This is one of my personal favorite stops along the drive between Jasper and Calgary because it is actually a little bit of a walk and makes for the perfect place to stretch your legs.
From the Mistaya parking lot, it is a 0.5-kilometer-long (0.3-mile) walk to the canyon. The walk is all downhill on the way there and it ends at a viewpoint overlooking the canyon. The canyon is beautiful and it really showcases the power of water as it rushes down the Mistaya River.
The walk back is uphill but only gains about 40 meters (131 ft) in elevation making it suitable for all fitness levels. Do be careful if you’re hiking in winter or late spring as there can be lots of snow and ice making the trail slippery. Also, be sure to stay on the marked paths.
13. Saskatchewan River Crossing Café, Hotel, and Gas Station
There are very limited facilities and services along the Icefields Parkway, so if you’re finding yourself getting low on gas or getting hungry, Saskatchewan River Crossing is the place to stop. In fact, this is the only gas station on the Icefields Parkway. It is also the most beautiful gas station I’ve ever seen (what a strange but true statement!).
The gas here is purchased at a slight premium to say Banff or Canmore, but with such a remote location that shouldn’t be surprising! However, if you’re getting low, then fill up – this is only the halfway point along the Icefields Parkway drive.
There is also a café and souvenir shop here. It’s a good place to grab a coffee or sandwich if you need it. The only other place to buy food along the Icefields Parkway is at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center across the street from the Athabasca Glacier. And trust me, it’s expensive there!
They also have a nice bathroom anybody can use (even if you’re not buying anything). This is the place to stop for a bathroom break if you want to avoid using the pit toilets/outhouses you’ll find everywhere else along the Icefields Parkway.
There is also a hotel at Saskatchewan River Crossing called The Crossing Resort that you can book online in advance if you decide you’d rather spend two days driving the Icefields Parkway. The price per night averages around $225 CAD.
We have done this before and I must say the hotel puts you in the best location possible to spend the night and break up your Icefields Parkway road trip. Oh, and did I mention the views from the hotel? If the photos above don’t tempt you to stay, I don’t know what will!
Note: Saskatchewan River Crossing closes in the winter months, so plan ahead with a full fuel tank and food!
14. Weeping Wall
27 kilometers (17 miles) after Saskatchewan River Crossing you’ll reach the Weeping Wall. The Weeping Wall is simply a viewpoint where lots of tiny waterfalls stream down the cliff face of a mountain making it look like it’s crying or weeping.
To me, this is one Icefields Parkway attraction that is even better in the winter! Sure, in the summer you’ll see the little waterfalls, but in the winter they freeze making it look like a winter wonderland!
This is another quick viewpoint stop where you actually don’t even need to leave your vehicle to have a good look. In fact, you can even see the Weeping Wall from the road and you may choose not to stop at all.
15. Athabasca Glacier
The Athabasca Glacier is one of the best stops on your drive from Calgary to Jasper – you simply can’t skip this one! This glacier is giant at 6 square kilometers (2.3 square miles) and is part of the Columbia Icefield. You can experience the glacier a few different ways, but the only way to see it up close is to take a guided tour.
These guided tours depart from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center, which is the hub for this activity and the next. You’ll actually drive up the glacier on a specially crafted ice-explorer bus. Once you’re up there, you can walk on the Athabasca Glacier and even drink water straight from the glacier itself! The first time I visited it I was blown away by the sheer size and amount of ice, it’s pretty incredible.
This tour also includes admission for the Skywalk, which we will cover next! This whole experience will take about 3 hours, so if you are adding it to your road trip itinerary, be sure to allow enough time or stay a few days in the area so you don’t have to rush. You can reserve this incredible experience for $118 CAD, and I recommend booking it in advance or else you might have to wait around for a few hours (like we had to!).
If you have a little more time in your schedule and are looking for more adventure, a guided hiking tour is the way to go. You will get more up close and personal during this 4-hour hike through the giant Athabasca Glacier. But, the best part is getting to rappel down into the crevices for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience! All of your gear and your expert guides are included for $184 CAD.
A guided tour is the only way to walk onto the glacier, for safety reasons. If neither of these fits into your road trip timeline, you can still explore the area and get epic views on the Athabasca Glacier Trail. This takes you right up to the edge of the glacier on a short and sweet 1-kilometer (0.6 mile) trail.
Note: Athabasca Glacier tours only operate from May to October.
After you visit the Athabasca Glacier, you can embark on yet another epic view of the Columbia Icefield on the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a structure that juts out of the edge of the mountain, overlooking the Columbia Icefield. It has a glass floor, so as you look down you’ll get the most incredible views below (and yes, it is a little nerve-wracking!). Don’t worry though, the engineering is so solid on this floating bridge that it can hold a 747 airplane!
To get to the Skywalk, you will have to park at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre and take a shuttle, as there is no parking at the Skywalk. On the bus, you’ll be given headphones so you can enjoy an included audio tour, which I found to be very interesting. Shuttles are running constantly, so you’ll never have to wait more than a few minutes to get back to the Discovery Center when you’re done.
You can book your Skywalk tickets in advance, as it is yet another popular thing to do! Tickets are $45 CAD and are fully booked up during peak season. You can also book your Athabasca Glacier tour and Skywalk experience together, which will save you money on both experiences. Your whole glacier and Skywalk tour is about 3 hours, so it can easily be added to your road trip itinerary.
Note: The Skywalk is only open from May to October each year.
17. Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls is a 3.2 km (2-mile) trail with 143 m (469 ft) of elevation gain. It’s still fairly easy, but if you’re visiting in the winter you might want to bring snowshoes or crampons to walk in because of the elevation.
The falls consist of lower and upper sections. The upper falls can be viewed from the parking lot, and the lower falls are accessible via an enjoyable hike. To access the trailhead, you can turn off to Highway 93 (the Icefields Parkway) at the sign, about 54 km (33.6 miles) south of Jasper.
This is a winter wonderland in December and a top attraction in Jasper year-round!
18. Goats and Glacier Lookout (Goat Lick)
Just 15 minutes after Sunwapta Falls is the Goats and Glacier Viewpoint, or what many refer to as the “Goat Lick.” The name comes from the fact that mountain goats are often found here licking the minerals from the cliffside.
When Daniel and I visited last time we weren’t lucky enough to see any goats, we did see the amazing view though which is well worth the stop on its own!
It is just a small parking lot on the side of the road where the viewpoint is located right on the edge of the parking lot. This one is just another quick stop but well worth it if you ask me!
19. Athabasca Falls
Not far after Sunwapta Falls, you’ll come to a turn-off for Athabasca Falls. From here, you’re almost done with this road trip as these falls are widely regarded as one of the top things to do in Jasper due to their close proximity to the town.
This waterfall is massive, strong, and awe-inspiring, not to mention it has a picturesque mountain backdrop. You may take a short walk along a boardwalk to numerous waterfall viewpoints.
This is one of the few destinations that are still open throughout the winter months — and arguably even more gorgeous! The frozen falls give the impression of being in a winter wonderland. We visited for ourselves not too long ago, and believe me when I say that it is well worth a visit.
And there you have it! You have reached the final destination of your epic road trip from Calgary to Jasper!
Jasper is one of my personal favorite places in Canada. This quaint town, although a tourist destination, somehow still keeps its “small-town vibe” and is very peaceful. There are a ton of fun things to do in Jasper, so many that you could easily spend a few days here exploring and adventuring.
- Maligne Canyon – Maligne Canyon is a beautiful must-visit destination in Jasper National Park. Just a 15-minute drive from town will take you to the trailhead and parking lot where you can walk to various viewpoints along the trail. The first viewpoint is the best and only a couple hundred meters from the parking lot.
- Maligne Lake – About a 40-minute drive from Jasper town is Maligne Lake. Getting there is a scenic and beautiful drive in itself. In the summer, be sure to jump on a Maligne Lake Cruise to see the famous Spirit Island. In the winter, go snowshoeing – there’s a ton of things to do at Maligne Lake!
- Pyramid Lake – Another stunning lake within Jasper National Park is Pyramid Lake. You’ve probably seen this lake plastered all over Instagram with its mirror-like reflections and coned-shaped Pyramid Mountain in the background. Here, you can walk out to Pyramid Island along a beautiful boardwalk, hang out at the beach, stay at Pyramid Lake Resort, or rent a canoe/kayak.
- Downtown – Jasper’s downtown area is really cute. The main street, Connaught Drive, runs parallel to the train tracks and makes for a fun place to explore. Grab some ice cream, do a little shopping, stop in for a beer at Jasper Brewing Co., or grab a bite to eat at one of the many delicious restaurants in Jasper town. For a great cup of coffee, stop in at one of the many cafes in town, too.
- Miette Hot Springs – If you like hot springs then you can’t miss Miette. Located just outside of Jasper town in Jasper National Park, Miette Hot Springs offers mountain views for only $16.50 CAD as an entrance fee.
- Whitewater Rafting – While you may think this is only for adventure-seekers, this is a great activity for the whole family! When you sign up for a whitewater rafting tour, you’ll be taken to a beautiful stretch of river behind Athabasca Falls. It’s full of Class II rapids (exciting, but not scary!) with towering limestone cliffs all around you. I loved this unique and thrilling way to see Jasper. The rafting lasts about an hour and 15 minutes. Don’t forget to bring a towel with you to dry off after!
- Ride the Jasper Skytram – In the summer months in Jasper, this is easily the best way to enjoy a panoramic view of Jasper National Park without having to go on a long hike. The Jasper SkyTram transports you up Whistler Mountain with about 20 other people at the speed of 6 meters per second (13 mph). Once at the top, you can do a 1.4-kilometer-long (0.9 mi) hike to reach the summit. Be sure to book the tram well in advance to secure your spot.
- Marmot Basin – One of the best ski resorts in Canada is located in Jasper National Park – Marmot Basin! With 91 different runs spread out evenly between all levels, you’re sure to have a great day hitting the slopes in Jasper!
Related Read: Another one of my favorite places to visit in Jasper is Spirit Island! It is simply goregous and a must-add to your itinerary.
Shuttles from Calgary to Jasper
Taking a private shuttle from Calgary Airport to Jasper is great if you’re traveling with a group! The shuttle driver will track your flight and be waiting when you arrive in Calgary, and transport you directly to your Jasper hotel. Along the way, your driver can make stops at some of the viewpoints or towns on this list to enjoy the scenery and break up the drive. This shuttle can accommodate 14 travelers, and the price gets lower the more people you have.
For 6 people, the private shuttle is $398 CAD per person, but for 14 people it is $205 CAD per person. So get your group together and book this shuttle in advance here!
For a more budget-friendly option, there is a shared shuttle service that goes from Calgary to Jasper. While it doesn’t allow for any scenic stops along the way as listed in this blog, it does provide pickup and drop-off at hotels in Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, and Calgary. So if you want to do a multi-day journey and explore these towns, you can use this shuttle to get from place to place. There are various points to choose from starting at $86 CAD – check out the details and secure your spot here.
Sightseeing Tour with transfer
Perhaps the most fun way to get from Calgary to Jasper is to take this Icefields Parkway Discovery tour! This tour starts in Calgary and ends in Jasper, making scenic stops along the way. You’ll spend some time at Lake Louise, take the Ice Explorer bus up the Athabasca Glacier, and do the Skywalk, all included in the tour! This 12-hour tour can be booked for $425 per person and will drop you off at your Jasper hotel – be sure to book this in advance, as it’s the best way to get from Calgary to Jasper!
Where to Stay in Jasper, Canada
When compared to Banff (and the dozens of hotels in Banff), there actually aren’t that many to choose from in Jasper. That’s right, accommodation in Jasper is limited, and therefore it’s important to book your stay as far in advance as possible!
Here, I’ve handpicked some of my personal favorite hotels in Jasper suitable for any type of traveler with any type of budget!
Luxury – $$$
This place is beautiful, and it is set in an even more beautiful location! Pyramid Lake is the perfect place for hiking, swimming, kayaking, or even skating in the winter.
Pyramid Lake Resort doesn’t cut any corners and it’s a highly-rated hotel. It’s also a popular place to stay for couples – some rooms have a cozy fireplace to snuggle up around.
There is also a gym and hot tub to make use of! Prices vary based on the time of year but expect a room during the summer to run around $400 CAD a night.
You can check availability and book on Booking.com.
Mid-range – $$
Whistlers Inn is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for a nice escape right in town and only a short walk from popular bars, restaurants, and attractions in Jasper. They also have a rooftop hot tub (pictured above) – need I say more? Because of its reasonable price of $300 CAD or less, it books up quickly so make sure to try and reserve as soon as you can!
You can check prices and availability on Booking.com.
Forest Park Hotel is a great place to stay if you want a comfortable stay for a reasonable price right in town. There are some standard rooms, as well as some units with kitchenettes.
The rate for a queen room with two beds averages around $400 CAD. The hotel has an indoor pool and spa on-site as well as a gym and two restaurants. One is for breakfast and another for dinner and drinks – be sure to order their Detriot-style deep-dish pizza!
You can check prices and book Forest Park Hotel on Booking.com.
Budget – $
Jasper Downtown Hostel is the best place to stay for those on a tight budget. The central location just a couple blocks from shops and restaurants, shared facilities, and a friendly atmosphere make it a great place to stay. They offer budget dorm beds as well as affordable private rooms ranging from $45 – $179 CAD.
For more detailed info on the best hotels and areas to stay in Jasper, read our blog!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass”Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
- Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
Essential Tips for Driving from Calgary to Jasper
- A Discovery Pass is required to travel throughout Jasper and Banff National Parks. This pass costs $11 CAD per day per person, $22 CAD per day per family, or $151 CAD per year per car. The yearlong ticket is definitely the greatest value for money if you plan on taking your time traveling from Jasper to Banff or any of the other 80 destinations the pass is valid for!
- In the winter, the route from Calgary to Jasper may be slippery (believe us, we’ve traveled it!). Make sure you’re using winter tires or chains, and drive cautiously. Allow plenty of time and adhere to all traffic signs and restrictions.
- Regardless of the season you do your road trip from Calgary to Jasper, remember to be on the lookout for wildlife. If possible stick to driving during times where there is sunlight.
- Is the drive from Calgary to Jasper possible to do in one day? Sure. But there is truly so much to do and see along this route that I really encourage you to take some time out of your trip to visit and enjoy each of the stops I’ve listed for this road trip.
Related Read: Ready for another road trip? Check out the drive from Jasper to Edmonton!
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
I hope that this guide on the best stops from Calgary to Jasper has you excited for your road trip! This is truly one of the best road trips to do through Alberta. Mountains, lakes, hikes, springs, and wildlife are just a few of the amazing highlights you can expect to endure on this magical road trip.
Take your time enjoying each of these stops on your journey from Calgary to Jasper to ensure you get the most out of your experience! And before you go, be sure to check out some of our other popular guides!