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How to Get from Jasper to Banff +21 Fun Road Trip Stops

How to Get from Jasper to Banff +21 Fun Road Trip Stops

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Anybody who’s been to both Jasper and Banff will know that these two towns are stunning. Seriously, they’re a couple of the most beautiful places in Canada. And the truth is, the road that connects the two is equally as impressive.  

Driving from Jasper to Banff (or Banff to Jasper) is a must-do road trip in Canada. Not only is the drive extremely scenic, but it is also full of attractions and fun places to stop along the way. In fact, this road even has its own name, it’s called the Icefields Parkway! This stretch of road is famous for mountain vistas, impressive glaciers, canyons, and bright turquoise lakes.

So, why not make a day (or week) of it and enjoy one of the best road trips in the world?!

Well, in this blog I’m going to tell you exactly how to do that with the best places to stop on the drive from Jasper to Banff! I’ve also included important tips and info to know before you set off.

But that’s not all; I’ve also included some info on how to get from Jasper to Banff incase you don’t have your own wheels. There is actually a one-way bus tour that visits the best attractions on the way, so it’s a mode of transport and a guided tour all-in-one!

Note: The below itinerary can also be used in reverse if you’re driving from Banff to Jasper. 

How to Get from Jasper to Banff

a car drives down the Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The Icefields Parkway
A bird flys over the road on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park in fall
The beautiful Icefields Parkway!

If you want to get from Jasper to Banff, then you have a couple of different options. Obviously, if you have your own car then driving yourself is the best option. But even without your own wheels, you can easily get from Jasper to Banff, and below, I’ll outline all of your options and the pros and cons of each.

Book a One-Way Tour

If you need transport from Jasper to Banff, then I highly recommend booking this one-way tour! Not only does it get you from point A to point B, but it also is a proper guided tour where you’ll stop at all of the best attractions along the way with commentary from your guide! Honestly, it’s a really great concept and we think that it is the best option for getting from Jasper to Banff if you don’t have your own car.

This tour starts with pick up in Jasper, or you can contact the company to book hotel pick up. Then, with your small group and guide, you’ll start making your way along the Icefields Parkway toward Banff. You’ll stop at some of the most iconic attractions on this drive including Athabasca Falls, the Weeping Wall, Bow Lake, and Crowfoot Glacier.

The best part is that this tour stops at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre for a couple of hours where you’ll get to experience both the Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk! We’ve done this before, and it’s definitely a good time. You’ll jump onto a special 4WD bus that will drive you all the way up and onto Athabasca Glacier. Here, you’ll get off the bus and walk around on the glacier! You can even fill your water bottle up from one of the melting streams.

After, you’ll be taken onto the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, which is a huge glass-floored platform that hangs in the valley. From out of the platform, you’ll be able to take in some incredible views. It’s also really fun walking on a glass floor that is 300 meters above the ground! The best part is that both of these experiences are included in your tour price.

After all of the fun is over, you’ll be dropped off in Banff.

This entire one-way tour from Jasper to Banff takes about 10 hours and includes a picnic lunch. It costs $282 CAD per person, which we think is great value considering all that it includes. The tour also has 5-star rave reviews, so we think you really can’t go wrong.

You can check availability and book this one-way tour from Jasper to Banff online here!

Want to go to Lake Louise instead? You can book this one-way tour from Jasper to Lake Louise online here instead!

Book a Shuttle

If you’re more concerned about just getting from Jasper to Banff as quickly as possible without stops, then you can book this shuttle. The shuttle will pick you up and drive along the Icefields Parkway to Banff, so you’ll get to enjoy the scenery along the way from your window. With that said, the shuttle doesn’t make stops at attractions, so it is a much faster option and you can expect the entire experience to take less than four hours.

The shuttle experience is also cheaper than the actual tour since there are no inclusions other than the ride. It’s a great option if you’re on a tighter budget and don’t have time to spend an entire day on the Icefields Parkway.

To book this shuttle, you must select the Jasper to Calgary option when you go to book online here, and then leave a special request in the comments section that you want to be dropped off in Banff. We actually did this ourselves and it worked perfectly. The tour operator got back to us within one day and confirmed our special request.

Drive Yourself

If you have your own car, then driving yourself is the easiest way to get from Jasper to Banff. With a little planning, you can have a really great road trip! Keep reading further in the blog for our tips about driving from Jasper to Banff as well as the must-see road trip stops!

If you need a car, you can search for rental cars available (most pick-up in Calgary) online here.

Train

Despite what other blogs say, there are no trains that go from Jasper to Banff. You need to either drive yourself or book a tour/shuttle.

About the Drive from Jasper to Banff

Icefields Parkway in winter
Drive to the conditions and enjoy the views!

What is the road that connects Jasper with Banff?

To get from Jasper to Banff you will drive a scenic road through Jasper National Park and straight into Banff National Park. Start off by driving on the Icefields Parkways (Highway 93) heading south from Jasper.  

This road winds its way through valleys, next to waterfalls, and through some of the most beautiful places in all of Canada. 

Highway 93 turns into Highway 1 at the overpass with Lake Louise. Continue on Highway 1 until you reach Banff. To be honest, driving from Jasper to Banff is pretty straightforward, and with the help of Google Maps, you won’t get lost!

How long does it take to drive from Jasper to Banff?

Without stopping, it’ll take about 3.5 hours to drive from Jasper to Banff, or in reverse, from Banff to Jasper. The drive from Jasper to Banff is 288 km/179 miles long.

With that said, you’re definitely going to want to stop along the way and check out some of the beautiful attractions. There are plenty of stunning hikes, roadside viewpoints, and waterfalls that you surely won’t want to miss. Just imagine, bright blue lakes surrounded by towering mountain peaks – they don’t call this stretch of road one of the most beautiful drives in the world for no reason!

Keep reading to find out the best stops on the drive from Jasper to Banff!

You’ll Need a Parks Canada Pass

photo of a green Parks Canada Pass as well as receipt of purchase
The green pass is to hang on your vehicle mirror. The receipt you should keep as proof of purchase.

Since the road from Jasper to Banff travels entirely through national parks, you’re going to need a national parks pass (Parks Canada Pass.) This pass can be bought online in advance or at the parks’ entrance gates. You can choose between daily rates ($11 CAD per adult per day or $22 per vehicle) or opt for a yearly pass for about $140 CAD per vehicle.

There is no way around this pass, and if at any point you are caught without one in either Jasper National Park or Banff National Park you will end up with a hefty fine. 

Most of the time, you can drive through national parks in Canada without a pass if you don’t stop. This is not the case with the road between Jasper and Banff. There are actually booths at each end of the road and you’re required to have a pass even if you don’t plan on stopping.

You can purchase the pass in advance online, at visitor centers in either town, or at the booth at the entrance of either end of the Icefields Parkway. Honestly, buying the pass at the booth is likely the easiest and most convenient for most people.

Exact price options for the Parks Canada Pass can be found below:

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” 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.

Note: If you are going on a tour, you don’t need a Parks Pass, your tour operator will have already paid for it for you!

Road Conditions & Safety between Jasper and Banff

The road between Jasper and Banff is Highway 93. It is paved the entire way and well-maintained. With that said, it is a single lane in either direction going almost the entire way, so you may find yourself stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle without any opportunity to pass – be patient!

The road from Jasper to Banff is also very curvy with some uphill and downhill sections. There are plenty of blind corners and pull-pff bays, so you’ll need to drive with caution at all times.

Be sure to keep an eye out for all the wildlife in this area too – there are lots around and sometimes they come onto the road out of nowhere.

Driving from Jasper to Banff in the Winter

The road between Jasper and Banff is open in winter (except for the odd occasion where weather conditions force a closure, but this is rare and typically only happens only a couple of days all winter long.)

To drive this route in winter you MUST have winter tires. You should also go slow and have some winter driving experience. Having a 4wd will also come in handy from time to time. Take your time and go extra slow in the winter in case of snow and ice.

If you are not confident in your winter driving skills and would rather sit back and enjoy the ride, consider booking a tour (like this one) instead.

21 BEST Stops on the Drive from Jasper to Banff

The above map shows all of the best places to see along on the drive from Jasper to Banff. Below, I’ve included detailed info about each stop to help you plan your road trip!

1. Jasper 

This epic road trip starts in Jasper town, one of my personal favorite places in Alberta! 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.  

While you’re here, some highlights and tours in Jasper you should consider checking out include: 

  • Maligne Canyon – This beautiful canyon is a 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 Maligne Canyon. The first viewpoint is the best and is only a couple hundred meters from the parking lot. You can also do longer hikes as well as an icewalk in the winter at Maligne Canyon
  • Downtown – Jasper’s downtown area is really cute. The main street ,called Connaught Drive, runs parallel with 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 best restaurants in Jasper. Try the Jasper Pizza Place or The Spice Joint, their crab grilled cheese sandwich is to die for!
  • 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 a few dollars per person as an entrance fee. It’s important to note that Miette is usually only open from May-September, so it is only available for those visiting Jasper in summer, spring, or early fall.
  • Ride the Jasper Skytram – In the summer months, this is easily the best way to enjoy a panoramic view of Jasper National Park without having to go on a long hike. In a large tram, you will be transported up Whistler Mountain with about 20 other people at the speed of 6 meters per second. Once at the top, you can do a 1.4-kilometer-long 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!

2. Valley of the Five Lakes 

Two red chairs in the Valley of the 5 Lakes near Jasper, Canada
The Valley of the Five Lakes is so beautiful!
Bailey walks out onto a dock at the Valley of the 5 Lakes in Jasper
You can swim, but the water is freezing!

The Valley of the Five Lakes is my favorite easy hike in Jasper. It even made my list of the best hikes in all of Jasper and Banff! As you leave Jasper and travel along the Icefields Parkways toward Banff, you’ll see signs for the Valley of the Five Lakes on your left-hand side. It’s located only about 15 minutes from Jasper.

This is a 4.5-kilometer-long hike (2.8 miles) that takes you to – you guessed it – 5 lakes! It is actually a very easy hike that is suitable even for families. On a warm day, bring your swimsuit and if you can brave the cold water, jump in!

You do need a couple of hours to complete this hike, and there are lots of other places to check out on this drive from Jasper to Banff, so be sure to leave Jasper early if you want to do this hike.

3. Athabasca Falls 

Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park
The falls are so powerful!
Blue and green water below Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park
It’s just as stunning in winter!
  • Type of attraction: Short walk to the viewpoint of the falls
  • Time needed: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Jasper: 32.4 km/20.1 miles
  • Google Maps location link: Athabasca Falls location – click here.

Leaving Jasper on the Icefields Parkway towards Banff, your second stop is the epic Athabasca Falls. It’s located on your right, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Jasper town.

This waterfall is huge, powerful, and seriously impressive. You can do the short walk along a boardwalk to various viewpoints of the falls. With mountains as her backdrop, Athabasca Falls is one photogenic waterfall!

In the winter months, this is one of the few stops along your road trip from Jasper to Banff that is still open – and possibly even more beautiful! The falls freeze creating the feeling of being in a winter wonderland. We were just there a couple of weeks ago, and believe me, it is well worth visiting. 

This is just a short stop – you really only need about 20 minutes here to enjoy the falls. The parking lot is only a couple-minute walk from the viewpoint of the falls, so I’d say it’s well worth the stop on this road trip.

Related read: Chasing waterfalls is one of the most romantic things you can do in Jasper on a honeymoon or couples’ holiday!

4. Sunwapta Falls 

The beautiful Sunwapta Falls from the boardwalk
The beautiful Sunwapta Falls from the bridge,
  • Type of attraction: Short walk to the viewpoint of the falls
  • Time needed: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Jasper: 55.8 km/34.7 miles
  • Google Maps location link: Sunwapta Falls location – click here.

Just 15 minutes further down the highway from Athabasca Falls is Sunwapta Falls. This waterfall is smaller than Athabasca but still worth checking out. The power of the water has carved some unique rock formations in the canyon below that you’ll see from a bridge and viewpoint.  

It is only a short walk from the parking lot to the falls and this stop should only take about 10-20 minutes. Like Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls is also very impressive in the winter months. In fact, if you’re visiting Jasper in the winter then this is one of the most popular attractions.  

Accommodation option: At Sunwapta Falls there is the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge. If you want a quiet wilderness escape, consider staying here. They also have an on-site restaurant and a small store if you’re hungry.  

5. Tangle Creek Falls 

Tangle Creek Fallsalong the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The falls are really impressive and you can get some great photos!
  • Type of attraction: Roadside viewpoint
  • Time needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 137 km/85.1 miles
  • Distance from Jasper: 96.5 km/60 miles
  • Google Maps location link: Tangle Creek Falls location – click here.

Another beautiful waterfall along the drive from Jasper to Banff is Tangle Creek Falls. It’s a waterfall that is just along the side of the road. In fact, many people often miss it, so we recommend making sure you are making to the location to be sure you stop in the right place and actually check it out.

When driving away from Jasper, Tangel Creek Falls will be on your left, with the parking lot across the road on your right. You can enjoy the view of the falls from the parking lot or walk right up to the falls.

This is just a quick roadside stop and might only take you a minute or two to snap a photo and move on. Most people spend less than 10 minutes here.

6. Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre (Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk) 

Columbia Icefield Skywalk in Banff National Park with views of the mountains
Columbia Icefield Skywalk in Banff National Park with views of the mountains
  • Type of attraction: Tour to walk out onto a platform, tour onto the glacier
  • Time needed: A couple of hours to do both experiences
  • Distance from Jasper: 104 km/64.6 miles
  • Google Maps location link: You must park at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. From here, the tours to both the Skywalk and Glacier depart.

The next stop on this road trip from Jasper to Banff is the famous Skywalk and Athabasca Glacier. After about an hour of driving from Jasper, you’ll see the Skywalk on your right-hand side. You can’t miss it – it is a HUGE man-made structure hanging off the edge of a cliff!

If you want to walk on the Skywalk, you can’t park here. Continue on a couple more kilometers down the road until you reach the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. This is where you need to park if you want to walk on the Skywalk (there is no parking at the actual Skywalk.)

At the Discovery Centre, you can purchase your tickets or check-in, and then you’ll be provided with transport to the Skywalk.

Dan and I have done the Skywalk before, and it was really a neat experience. A little nerve-racking if I’m being honest – the floor is glass and the platform is 300 meters above the ground! But it was super fun, and the views from out on the platform are amazing. Plus, included with your ticket is a self-guided audio tour that you can listen to as you walk the Skywalk, it’s super informative and interesting.

To avoid having to wait for an available departure time, book your Skywalk ticket online in advance here! During peak times, the bus could be fully booked and you might not be able to visit if you try to book on arrival. If you also want to do a tour on the Athabasca Glacier, book your Skywalk and Athabasca tours as a combo online here, it’s cheapest this way!

Daniel hangs out the door of an Ice Explorer all-terrain vehicle on the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield, Canada
On the Athabasca Glacier!

Just across the road from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre is Athabasca Glacier. There are a couple of different ways to experience Athabasca Glacier, but the only way to see it up close is on a guided tour because you are only allowed to set foot on the glacier with a registered guide.

You have three options when it comes to experiencing Athabasca Glacier:

  • Ice Explorer Tour (Bus tour with the Skywalk)This is the most popular tour of the Athabasca Glacier. The tour involves getting into a large, specially-made bus that will drive you onto the glacier. Here, you’ll get to walk on the glacier for a few minutes. You can even fill your water bottle up from the melting streams! Afterward, you will be taken to the Skywalk. This tour is best for those who don’t want to do any hiking but still want to walk on Athabasca Glacier – it’s one of the most popular tours on the Icefield Parkway for a reason! You can book the Ice Explorer Tour online here to avoid missing out!
  • Glacier Hiking Tour – If you want to do a more in-depth tour of Athabasca Glacier, then you should book this half-day hiking tour. On this tour, you’ll actually spend a couple of hours hiking on the glacier with an expert guide (as opposed to the above tour, where you’ll only get to spend a few minutes standing and walking on the glacier.)The tour lasts for about 3 hours and you’ll walk a total of 5 km (3 miles) in that time. You’ll see crevasses, waterfalls into the ice, and even streams from melting glacier water. The small group size means limited spaces are available, you should book your hiking tour on Athabasca Glacier online here in advance.
  • Walk to the free viewpoint – Unfortunately, if you don’t book a tour, you’ll only be able to walk up to a viewpoint next to the glacier for safety reasons. Jump on the Athabasca Glacier trail and hike right up almost to the edge of the glacier. It’s only a short 1-kilometer hike, but from here, you’ll have a better view of the glacier than from the road. There are also some signs along the walk that mark where the glacier once was, so you can really see how much it’s receded over the last few years.  

In the Columbia Discovery Centre, you will also find a restaurant as well as food court-style place to eat. There are also bathrooms here.

If you’re running short on time, there is a beautiful hotel located right next to Athabasca Glacier called Glacier View Lodge. You should book it in advance in the summer months to avoid missing out. If you want to do any of the above tours, staying a night at the hotel isn’t a bad idea just so that you aren’t rushed.

Note: Both the Skywalk and Athabasca Glacier tours are only available from the beginning of May until mid-October. The Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre is closed in winter, too, so don’t plan on stopping here for food either.

7. Big Hill and Big Bend Viewpoint

The view from Big Hill just after Big Bend on the Icefields Parkway
The view from up on Big Hill!

Shortly after the Athabasca Glacier as you continue driving towards Banff, you’ll come to Big Hill and Big Bend. This is the most challenging part of the drive from Jasper to Banff as the road winds its way down the side of a mountain. 

Along the road are a couple of different pullover bays where you can stop and enjoy the views of the valley below. Just be very careful when pulling over, this road is very steep and windy, so never pull off on blind corners.

You will also see Big Bend, which is the nickname for the road that does a huge curve (believe me, you can’t miss it!) 

This is just a viewpoint stop along this epic road trip, and depending on how long your photo ops take, should only take 5 or so minutes. You can also just enjoy the views without stopping – the views from your window are just as good!

8. Weeping Wall 

The Weeping Wall on the Icefields Parkway scenic drive between Banff and Jasper National Park
The Weeping Wall!

Once you descend into the valley and wind your way through Big Bend, you’ll see a pullover bay with toilets on your right. Stop here and then look across the road – you’ll see the Weeping Wall! 

The Weeping Wall is essentially a large cliff face with lots of tiny streams of water flowing over it. It appears as if the cliff is crying (hence the name.) This is once again just a short stop on your drive from Jasper to Banff. It is great all year round with rushing water in the summer and frozen crystals in the winter.  

The Weeping Wall is another one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” attractions along this road trip. Trust us, we’ve driven this road countless times and still miss the Weeping Wall on occasion. For that reason, make sure to map to the location or really have your eyes peeled!

9. Saskatchewan River Crossing (Café, Hotel and Gas Station)

Bailey at the Crossing Resort on the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The Crossing Resort
The inside of our room at The Crossing Resort
Our suite!

Saskatchewan River Crossing is a practical stop for many people driving from Jasper to Banff since it is the only place you’ll find a gas station before you reach Lake Louise. You’ll also find a restaurant, cafe, and small shop located here as well as a hotel.

Now, I have to be honest, the gas here is pricey and you’ll pay a premium even compared with gas stations in Banff and Jasper. However, if you’re getting low, then fill up – this is only the halfway point along the Icefields Parkway drive.  

The cafe and shop make for a good place to grab a snack as well. 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. 

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! You can check availability and book The Crossing Resort online here!

Note: Saskatchewan River Crossing closes in the winter months, so plan ahead with a full fuel tank and food!

10. Mistaya Canyon 

Mistaya-Canyon-on-the-Icefields-Parkway-in-summer
Mistaya Canyon!
Mistaya Canyon with a mountain backdrop on the Icefields Parkway, Canada

Along your road trip, you’re going to need to stretch your legs, right?! Well, Mistaya Canyon is the perfect place to do so. This easy 1-kilometer-long walk (roundtrip) takes you down to the canyon and along its edge to various viewpoints.  It should only take you about 25 minutes or so to complete the walk there and back.

The walk from the parking lot to the canyon is a slight downhill, which means you’ll have to walk uphill on the way back up (it’s about 40 meters of elevation gain.)

Although maybe not the most spectacular canyon walk we’ve ever done (Johnston Canyon and Maligne Canyon take the cake on this one), it’s the perfect place to get out of your car and go for a quick walk on this day of driving.  

11. Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint

Bailey steps onto a rock at Waterfowl Lakes on the Icefields Parkway
Waterfowl Lakes
The view from Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint of Waterfowl Lakes on the Icefields Parkway
The view from Waterfowl Lakes Viewpoint

Waterfowl Lakes is a beautiful roadside stop on this drive to admire mountain views. On a calm day, the water creates a reflection that is simply picture-perfect!

There is a small pullover bay/parking lot on your right-hand side as you drive towards Banff. Simply drive up and take in the view! You can also walk down a small hill to the water’s edge if you want.

Although just a quick stop, it’s a really scenic spot and well worth the mention if you ask us!

12. Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint 

Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Peyto Lake!
Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada at sunset
The brand new viewing platform!

As one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada, it should come as no surprise that Peyto Lake is a must-visit destination on any road trip from Jasper to Banff.  

And the best part? For this epic viewpoint, you only need to walk about 10 minutes from the parking lot! This makes Peyto Lake an easy and accessible viewpoint in Banff National Park. The walk is slightly uphill, but it is paved and suitable for pretty much anybody. Plus, trust us, the view is worth the short 10-minute walk!

The only downside to Peyto Lake is that sometimes it is very busy. Luckily, they have recently redone the parking lot and there is a lot more space for people now. There is also a new bathroom facility here and the viewing platform is huge!

13. Bow Lake 

A lady jumps from rock to rock on the edge of the Bow Lake in Banff National Park
It was a moody day, but Bow Lake is still so beautiful!

You have two options when it comes to visiting Bow Lake. You can either turn into a large parking lot at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. Here, you can walk along a couple of trails along the shoreline and take in the views from all angles. There are also a few longer hikes you can do from here including Bow Glacier Falls.

Alternatively, for just a quick pit stop and photo opportunity, continue down the highway a little further until you come to a pullover bay on your righthand side. Here, is another viewpoint of Bow Lake (and where we once saw a Grizzly Bear!)

If you visit on a clear day, you might even be able to spot Crowfoot Glacier in the mountains in the distance.

14. Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint 

Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway in Canada
Can you see how the glacier go its name? Just imagine the ice protruding down the bottom to create the crow’s foot!

As you near the end of Bow Lake, you can see Crowfoot Glacier up in the mountains on your right side. While you can see this glacier from the road, for a better view, be sure to stop at the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint. This is simply a pullover bay on the ride of the road, but it offers you the chance to safely stop and take a view moments to take in the view.

Crowfoot Glacier feeds the Bow River as it melts.  It was originally named because of its shape – like a crow’s foot! However, it has been receding over the years and the shape of the glacier has changed. With that said, it’s still large and easily seen from the viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway. 

15. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise
Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise
Bailey poses for a photo in a canoe in Moraine Lake
Of course!

Another 45-minute drive from Bow Lake and you will arrive at the overpass for Lake Louise. To me, Lake Louise is a huge attraction and a place where you should stop to spend a night or two, or at the very least, a few hours. Here you will not only find the lake but a small town (sometimes referred to a village) as well as the famous Lake Louise Ski Resort.

There are lots of different things to do in Lake Louise including visiting the Lake Louise lakefront, going on an epic hike (Lake Agnes Teahouse is my favorite), or go canoeing on the lake. Some other activities include:

  • Skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort – This is our personal favorite place to ski/snowboard in the Canadian Rockies. This ski resort is huge with more runs than you can imagine both on the front side and backside of the mountain. We spent 8 hours exploring and still could’ve used more time! If you are visiting Lake Louise in the winter, be sure to make time to hit the slopes!
  • Hike – There are a ton of amazing hikes in Banff National Park that are near Lake Louise. From both Lake Louise Lakefront and Moraine Lake, the selection of hikes you can do is seemingly endless! Some of our personal favorite trails include Lake Agnes Teahouse, Plain of Six Glaciers, the Larch Valley, and Consolation Lakes.
  • Eat at one of the restaurants – The Station is one of the best places to eat in Lake Louise. This historic restaurant is also an old train station, plus the food is really good! If you want to dine near the lake, be sure to visit Alpine Social. It is the only restaurant/bar in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise that allows non-guests to visit. The High Tea experience at the Fairmont is also really good!

Note: From May until mid-October, you’ll be required to pay $36.75 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 3 am until 7 pm daily. 

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo the the rockpile at Moraine Lake
I’ll never get sick of Moraine Lake!

Few destinations in Canada are as famous as Moraine Lake – it is often referred to as the most photographed lake in all of Canada. And to be honest, after visiting for myself, I can see why. This lake is bright blue in color and behind it sits the towering Ten Peaks as the most beautiful background you could ever imagine.

There are lots of things to do at Moraine Lake including a huge range of hikes (like the Larch Valley Trail or Consolation Lakes) as well as other activities like kayaking.

One thing to know about visiting Moraine Lake is that it is only open during the summer months (generally May/June to October depending on the weather and snowfall.)

The only problem with visiting is that parking at Moraine Lake is impossible – literally! The Moraine Lake Road and parking lot are now only for shuttles, tour buses, and anyone with a disability parking permit. Parking here was a nightmare before, but you’ll definitely need to look into alternatives to parking at Moraine Lake including booking a tour from Banff, getting a spot on the Parks Canada shuttle, or reserving a seat on the new shuttle from the Moraine Lake Bus Company.

Want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise?

Since the road is closed to personal vehicles, there are three options to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise: this organized tour, booking this privately-operated shuttle, or taking the Parks Canada Alpine Start shuttle.

  1. The tour begins at 4 am in Banff. It costs $287 CAD and includes not only a visit to Moraine Lake with hot chocolate and coffee to enjoy, but also an early morning visit to Lake Louise. That means you can visit two of the busiest lakes in Canada without the crowds or the stress of parking/shuttles. You can book the tour here with free cancellation up to 24 hours before.
  2. The new Moraine Lake sunrise shuttle includes transport only from Lake Louise Village at a cost of $99 CAD. They offer a few pick-up times with the first shuttle leaving at 4 am and the second at 5 am. You must book your spot online in advance here to avoid missing out.
  3. The Parks Canada Alpine Start shuttle leaves at 4 am and 5 am for $8 CAD. While it’s the cheapest option, it’s also the hardest to book. If you don’t grab tickets during the initial release of tickets in April, you’ll need to try to get tickets online at 8 am MDT two days before your trip.

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!)

Related Read: Check out our other top road trip guide in Alberta for more route ideas!

16. Morant’s Curve

Bailey at Morant's Curve on the Bow Valley Parkway
Morant’s Curve is stunning!
In winter!

Once you’re ready to leave Lake Louise (just jokes, you’ll never be truly ready to leave), you can make your way to the Bow Valley Parkway for another scenic drive.The Bow Valley Parkway is a 50-kilometer-long (31-mile) stretch of road that runs parallel with Highway 1 that connects Lake Louise with Banff. Instead of driving on Highway 1, take the Bow Valley Parkway for a more scenic and relaxing drive.

There are lots of amazing places to check out on the Bow Valley Parkway that I’ve included in this blog. The first stop you should definitely make is at Morant’s Curve, which is about a 10-minute drive from Lake Louise Village. You’ll find the small parking lot located here.

Named after the photographer Nicholas Morant, who worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, this is a popular viewpoint for fantastic views of the Bow River and the trains which occasionally pass through. With an incredible mountain backdrop, it really does make for a special photo.

As for when the trains come through, you have the best chance of seeing one during a weekday, passing by at least once an hour. It’s best to have your camera ready so you can get the perfect shot!

This is one of our favorite places to return to whenever we are traveling through Banff National Park.

17. Castle Cliff Viewpoint

Castle Mountain Viewpoint along the Bow Valley Parkway
Castle Mountain Viewpoint along the Bow Valley Parkway

Castle Cliff Viewpoint is one of the best spots to have a quick stop and take in the amazing views of Castle Mountain. As the cliffs have eroded over the years, it’s quite easy to see where the mountain gets its name from.

You’ll find a parking area here as well as a small path that leads to a viewing platform. Don’t forget to bring your camera along to make the most of it!

18. Silverton Falls

Silverton Falls, Banff
Silverton Falls Banff

If you’re looking for an easy hike in Banff to stretch your legs, then Silverton Falls is the perfect trail to tackle on this drive from Jasper to Banff.

The trail is 1.8 km long (1.1 miles) return and takes most people around 45 minutes to complete. Although it’s considered an easy trail, it does have a steep section towards the end, about 110 meters/360 feet, so you’ll also get a bit of a workout in. The effort is worth it once you reach the beautiful Silverton Falls.

The trail begins at the Rockbound Lake Parking Lot, just off the Bow Valley Parkway. From there, you can follow the wide dirt path to Silverton Falls, which is a narrow two-tiered waterfall. It’s a bit of a hidden gem in Banff National Park, despite its proximity to the famous Castle Mountain. 

One thing we will say is that, although this hike is easy, it does take you along a cliff with a steep drop, so if you’re afraid of heights you might be better off choosing another of the routes on this list.

Accommodation recommendation: If you want to spend a night in the peace and quiet of the Bow Valley Parkway, be sure to book a cabin at Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Every cabin has a fireplace and you can spend your evening under the stars (a top spot for anybody on a Banff honeymoon!)

19. Johnston Canyon

Bailey looks down at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Upper Falls is amazing!
Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Lower falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

No trip through Banff National Park is complete without a hike through Johnston Canyon. This is an easy walk that is perfect for families and pretty much anybody, at around 2.5 km (1.5 miles) to get to the Upper Falls area.

You’ll also most definitely be rewarded for your effort! Along the way, you’ll pass by stunning glacial waterfalls which are just as beautiful in summer as they are in winter. In the wintertime, these waterfalls freeze over to create a magical scene of giant icicles – we highly recommend taking this guided evening icewalk tour in the winter!

Open year-round, Johnston Canyon is free to get to and you can also enjoy free parking in one of the two available parking lots.

If you’re visiting in winter, we highly recommend bringing ice cleats or spikes. These can save you a lot of embarrassment, leaving you free to enjoy the surroundings without worrying about falling over!

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.

20. Sunshine Village

Banff Sunshin Gondola travels over pine trees
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
Banff Sunshine Gondola and chairlift
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
  • Type of attraction: Ski resort in the winter, hiking and views in the summer. Great overnight stay!
  • Time needed: A few hours to a full day.
  • Distance from Jasper: 287 km/178 miles
  • Google Maps location link: Sunshine Village location here.

Drive the Bow Valley Parkway until the end when it takes you back onto the highway. From here, you are only a short drive from the turnoff to Sunshine Village – the next stop on your road trip from Jasper to Banff!

Sunshine Village is a popular place for visitors in both the winter and the summer.

Dan and I most recently visited Sunshine Village for a day on the slopes with our SkiBig3 Lift Ticket. In winter, Sunshine Village is one of Canada’s most impressive ski resorts. To start your day, you’ll take the Banff Sunshine Gondola for about 20 minutes up to the village. From here, you’ll have access to what feels like an endless number of chairlifts, runs, and even bars and restaurants.

In the summer, Sunshine Village is also a great place to explore. Ride the sightseeing gondola up to the village. From here you can explore many different hiking trails, or simply take in the views. Another cool part of this gondola experience is the free Standish Chairlift. Once you are in Sunshine Village, you can take this chairlift an additional 8 minutes up the mountain. From the viewpoint at the top, you’ll be at the highest sightseeing elevation in all of Banff and Lake Louise!

For something extra special, book a night or two at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge and stay right up there!

21. Banff!

Banff gondola building and boardwalk on a early spring day with lots of snow
The top of the Banff Gondola
Banff Ave on a summers day
Banff Ave!

From Sunshine Village, you only have a short 5-minute drive to Banff town. In Banff town, book yourself a hotel for a few nights as you’ll definitely need time to explore this vibrant mountain town!

Truthfully, there are tons of fun things to do in Banff, it can be hard to know even where to start. Some of my personal favorite activities in Banff include:

  • Visit Mt Norquay – The views from Mt Norquay are unlike any other. In the summer, ride the Mt Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift and visit the restaurant at the top for a beer with a view. If you’re up for an adventure, you can’t go wrong with the Via Ferrata experience here! 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.
  • Indulge in food and drinks – Banff has tons of tasty restaurants and bars. For beer, head to Baff Brewing Co – one of the best breweries in Banff. For a delicious meal with crafted cocktails, head to Parks Distillery. There are also a few amazing cafes in Banff where you can grab a barista-made coffee and delicious baked goods.
  • Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.

Related Read: Visiting Banff on a tight budget? Check out our blog about the best free things to do in Banff!

Tips for Driving from Jasper to Banff

A panoramic view of the Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway
Not a bad view if you ask me!
  • Parks Canada Pass – To drive from Jasper to Banff you’re going to need a Parks Canada Pass. This pass costs $10 CAD per person per day, $20 per family per day, or $140 CAD per year for a vehicle. If you’re going to take your time driving from Jasper to Banff, then the yearly pass is probably the best bang for your buck.
  • Winter driving – The road from Jasper to Banff can be icy in the winter (trust us, we just drove it!) Be sure to have winter tires or snow chains and drive slowly. Also, allow yourself plenty of time and obey all road signs and closures. Keep in mind, wildlife isn’t just out in the summer either, the last time we drive from Jasper to Banff it was winter and there was a moose on the road!
  • Allow plenty of time – Many people try to drive from Jasper to Banff in one day, and while this is totally doable, I don’t recommend it. There is just so much to do and see! Spend a night on the Icefields Parkway, in Lake Louise, and maybe even Sunshine Village to space your trip out a bit!

Jasper to Banff Drive FAQs

Lake Louise foreshore walk
Don’t forget to stop at Lake Louise while driving the road from Jasper to Banff!

Where to Stay on the Drive from Jasper to Banff

Bailey at the Crossing Resort on the Icefields Parkway in Canada
Photo credit: Glacier View Lodge
The inside of our room at The Crossing Resort
Our suite!

So you’ve read this blog and have decided that you want more time. No stress, there are a couple of awesome places to stay along the Icefields Parkway.

For budget travelers, your best option is camping. Campsites generally book up months in advance, but sometimes cancellations will free up a spot for a night or two. There are a total of 11 campgrounds on the Icefields Parkway. Find out more about the ones in Banff National Park here, and the ones in Jasper National Park here.

If you’re not much of a camper then your options are a little more limited.

HI Mosquito Creek Hostel is a place we’ve stayed before. It offers dorm and private-style cabins that are heated. There is a communal kitchen and traditional outdoor sauna. This place is perfect for those on a budget, or looking for something a little nicer than camping while still being in nature. It is really a unique place to stay and I would stay there again in a heartbeat.

Your next option is in the best location. The Crossing is the hotel located at Saskatchewan River Crossing, almost exactly at the halfway point along the Icefields Parkway. This hotel is modest with average reviews, but the location is ideal so convenience it what you’re paying for here.

The last option is called the Glacier View Lodge and it’s located at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. This hotel is the most upscale along the Icefields Parkway and comes at a premium. However, with every room boasting a mountain or glacier view, how could you go wrong?! Staying here makes it easy to do a glacier tour first thing in the morning or even the Skywalk (before they get busy around mid-day.)

Where to Stay in Banff

the hot tub at Banff Inn
Relaxing in this hot tub is perfect after a day out exploring Banff. Photo Credit: Banff Inn

This is one of the most important parts of your trip, and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel – Budget-backpacker Hostel

A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget who want to stay in the heart of Banff town. This is only a backpacker place though, as there are no private rooms available. Dorms can be booked on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Banff Inn – Budget-friendly Hotel

The Banff Inn is in the perfect mix of comfort and affordability. It has a budget-friendly price tag but also comes with lots of luxuries. The hotel is located right on Banff Ave and all rooms are air-conditioned. In the hotel, you’ll find a hot tub, steam room, and sauna, as well as a restaurant and bar. You should book the Banff Inn well in advance online here as this is one of the most popular hotels in Banff.

Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – Mid-range Hotel

Pushing up into the mid-range budget, Banff Rocky Mountain Resort has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens. It is the perfect place for families since two and three-bedroom units are also on offer. The location is peaceful on Tunnel Mountain but yet only a 5-minute drive from Banff town. You can check availability and book Banff Rocky Mountain Resort online here.

Fairmont Banff Springs – Luxury Hotel

The Fairmont Banff Springs is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible – it seriously looks like a castle! Inside the hotel, you’ll find 11 restaurants, 14 shops, bowling, bars, a top-rated spa, a couple of pools, and so much more. It’s a luxury resort-like stay and the only one of its kind in Banff. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon then this should be the hotel you choose! You can check prices and room availability for Fairmont online here.

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection.

I still suggest booking a place ASAP! Using Booking.com is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation, so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Related read: For more detailed info on where to stay in Banff including info about all of the different areas, read our blog!

Where to Stay in Jasper

Cabins at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Cabins at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

There are plenty of great places to stay in Jasper. Budget travelers will absolutely love Jasper Downtown Hostel. Dan and I often stay there and it is clean and comfortable with a huge communal kitchen that has everything you need and more. They have private rooms, family rooms, and dorm rooms.  

For something a little nicer, check out The Crimson Jasper. It is a great mid-range hotel with a central location, pool and hot tub, and of course, excellent reviews. 

But if you want to splurge a little, the only option is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This place is a luxurious getaway in the wilderness. I can’t say we’ve ever stayed here (a little pricey for us if I’m being honest) but I’ve heard amazing things! 

Airbnb is also a great option in Jasper. There aren’t a ton of options, but it is well worth checking out to see if there is one available for your desired dates. 

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

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!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey pose for a photo at Moraine Lake
Thanks for reading!

And there you have it, an epic road trip from Jasper to Banff. If you follow my recommendations in the blog, I’m sure you’ll have a road trip to remember!

I hope you’ve learned a few things here or at least got inspired, and thanks for reading!

If you found this blog helpful, then be sure to check out some of our other most popular blogs about Canada including:

4 BEST Whitewater Rafting Tours in Banff + Pros and Cons of Each Tour

Things to do in Canmore in winter

How to enjoy fall in Banff

MOST Instagrammable places in Banff

Joanne

Tuesday 5th of December 2023

Very informative and useful. Shall be using your guide as our go to when we travel to Banff & Jasper in Feb 24. Thank you 😊

Alison Sutton

Sunday 4th of June 2023

Excellent blog. I'm just starting to plan a trip to Canada in 2024 and this has helped me sort out where we need to go etc. Thank you so much for the great information.

Donna

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

Hello, I was dreading planning our family trip next June but your site is making it enjoyable and easy and it is totally renewing my confidence! I can do this...no need for a travel agent! Thank you for putting yourselves out there and for sharing your experiences with us. I'm sure I will have upcoming questions but for now, this is great!!

destinationlesstravel

Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

Hey Donna,

Thanks so much and we are both so happy to hear this. It really makes it all worth it!

Thanks Bailey

Robin

Wednesday 31st of August 2022

Thanks Bailey. Great advice. Looking forward to our trip there next week.

Parminder

Monday 13th of June 2022

The article is very helpful in chalking out my itinerary for the trip. I am all excited for my trip in July!