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20 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Banff (+The BEST Route!)

20 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Banff (+The BEST Route!)

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So, you want to drive from Edmonton to Banff but are not sure which route to choose – yep, as you know, there are a few routes that take you from the bustling city of Edmonton (the second largest in the province) into the tourism mecca of Banff!

In this blog post, I’ve included two of what I believe to be the best road trip options between the two popular spots. The first is the fastest, easiest route which takes you via the bright city lights of Calgary, and the second option is without a doubt the most scenic (but longer route) that passes by the most stunning sights in Alberta such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the Athabasca Glacier, and Jasper!

Being a native Albertan, I’ve driven both routes countless times, so I consider myself to be a fountain of knowledge on the best places to stop on each route. And I will also let you in on my essential driving tips that you need to know before you go!

Below, you’ll get an in-depth overview of each of the two routes between Edmonton and Banff, as well as the best sights to see along the way! I’m excited for you to read all the tips and plan your drive!

About the Drive from Edmonton to Banff

reflections of the Three Sisters in Canmore
Option 1 goes through Canmore!
Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
Option 2 takes in the Icefields Parkway!

Route 1: Edmonton to Banff via Calgary

As I mentioned, there are two different routes from Edmonton to Banff. The quickest option takes you on Highway 2 for most of the journey and goes via Calgary. This route, without stops and traffic, will take just 4 hours and 20 minutes (414 km/257 miles), so if you’re in a hurry to get to Banff, then this is the best route to take.

Although the “less scenic” of the two road trip options, it still passes by some great spots like Grotto Canyon and Canmore and some lesser-known gems like the 20-acre Nose Creek Regional Park and the very photogenic Ghost Lake.

In fact, there’s so much to see on this stretch of road that I’ve come up with 15 memorable stops, so if you want to stop at most of the epic stops I’ve listed for this road trip option, then we recommend allowing two full days and one night. Some suggestions for where to spend the night include Calgary, Cochrane, or Bow Valley Campground. It all depends on how you want to break up your journey and how much driving you want to do each day.

In winter, you may encounter snow or ice on the roads, so it’s best to check the road conditions here before hopping in the car. For your safety, ensure your rental car has winter tires or at least all-season tires. Highway 2 (aka the QEII highway) is the busiest highway in Alberta, and snowplows operate here regularly to keep it clear. What’s good about this particular route is you’ll be passing through lots of towns, so if the weather changes, you have plenty of options to stop off and spend the night. 

The summer is the most popular time to do this road trip, so beware that traffic will likely be heavier on the approach to the big tourist destinations like Calgary, Canmore, and Banff. Also, you may find it hard to nab a parking spot at well-visited spots like Grotto Canyon. So, to avoid all of the above – be sure to hit the road early in the morning!

Route 2: Edmonton to Banff via Icefields Parkway

Whereas the more scenic version takes you via the super-stunning and famous Icefields Parkway as well as the gorgeous Bow Valley Parkway, this route is 653 km (406 miles) and will take about 7 hours without stops. Passing by some of the most iconic sights in Canada like Jasper, Lake Louise, the Athabasca Glacier, and Moraine Lake – if you have more time on your hands, we highly recommend this option as it really does show off the best of Alberta!

For this drive, you’ll be following the Yellowhead Hwy (aka Highway 16) as far as Jasper. Then it’s after this point that things really get interesting. Because after Jasper, you’ll be driving two of Canada’s best drives – the Icefields Parkway, which passes by some of the most memorable stops of the road trip, and the Bow Valley Parkway, a 50-kilometer-long (31-mile) stretch of road that includes attractions like Johnston Canyon and Morant’s Curve.

Because this is such a lengthy route, we recommend allowing three days and two nights for this particular road trip. This will allow you to stop at most of the 20 stops I’ve suggested below and spend two nights along the way. We recommend staying a night in two of the following: Hinton, Jasper, or Lake Louise.

Be mindful that if you plan to travel this route in the winter, you will need winter tires. Be especially cautious after Jasper (Highway 93), as ice and snow can cause the road to close for long periods of time. You can check driving conditions here before hopping in your car!

In the summer, if you’re going from Edmonton to Lake Louise, be prepared for limited parking at Lake Louise and other popular sights. The roads will also be busier at this time of year, so it’s best to hit the road early in the morning to avoid the traffic.

The BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Banff via Calgary

The quickest way to get from Edmonton to Banff is via Calgary. This route is 414 km (257 miles) and will take about 4 hours and 20 minutes without stops. However, after reading through all the epic stops below, you’ll understand why we recommend allowing two full days and one night for this particular road trip.

This road trip from Edmonton to Banff via Calgary is spaced out so that you’re stopping every 20 minutes or so, but if you want to get to Banff quicker, you can narrow this list down to just a few select stops!

1. Edmonton

Bailey poses for a photo in the river valley in Edmonton
In the beautiful Edmonton River Valley!

Edmonton is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. And the second-largest city in Alberta is a great place to start a road trip to Banff because you can spend a few days enjoying a city break before venturing into the mountains.  

If you’re a shopaholic, you simply MUST visit West Edmonton Mall! With over 800 stores, heaps of restaurants, two hotels, a water park, roller coasters, an indoor skating rink, and heaps of other fun activities – it’s like a small city! Plus, it’s got the coveted title of the second-largest mall in North America!

Another of the best things to do in Edmonton is to explore the beautiful River Valley. At an impressive 22 times the size of Central Park in NYC, you could easily spend a full day here! There are over 150 kilometers (93 miles) of trails here, most of which can be enjoyed in any season. For example, if you’re visiting Edmonton in winter, note that some of these trails are used for cross-country skiing. 

If guided tours are your thing, a great way to see the River Valley is on this 90-minute segway adventure. On the tour, make sure you stop at Walterdale Bridge for a spectacular view of the city skyline.

During the summer in Edmonton, you can join a speedboat tour here with Black Gold River Tours – they also do a more relaxing cruise if the speedboat sounds a bit too scary!

And don’t forget to check out Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum!

There are also plenty of delicious restaurants in Edmonton. Edmonton is a major foodie destination, and Jasper Ave and Whyte Ave are particularly worth checking out if you love trendy restaurants, cafes, and bars. 

Where to stay in Edmonton:

There are tons of different hotels to choose from spread across Edmonton

Many hotels are located on the west-side of the city near West Edmonton Mall. Stay in one of Fantasyland Hotel’s gorgeous theme rooms for something really special. 

Staying downtown is perfect for anybody who wants a central stay with easy access to most of the activities and attractions in this blog. To be right near Rogers Place and Jasper Ave, stay at the luxurious JW Marriott. This is one of the nicest hotels in Edmonton and it’s simply stunning. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub.

Related Read: If you’re after a longer drive across two Canadian provinces, there are tons of amazing stops between Edmonton and Vancouver!

2. Leduc

an exhibit about fossil fuels in the Canadian Energy Museum in Leduc
Ready to learn about fossil fuels? Photo Credit: The Canadian Energy Museum

As you drive away from the big city lights of Edmonton, Leduc is another community along this main highway that’s worth stopping at. If it’s a nice day, stop into the Telford Lake area to walk around the 8.2-kilometer (5-mile) trail. It’s a fantastic spot for bird-watching and boating. The lake hosts dragon boat competitions in the summer!  

Also, check out the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator Site. It’s a treasured local landmark right in the center of Leduc. It’s the last wooden grain elevator built in Alberta. 

Oil and energy are very important to this area and the Canadian Energy Museum in Leduc is a great place to learn more about the industry. Tours here will take you through pipeline safety, information about the oil sands, and renewable energy trends. The museum offers tours from Tuesday-Saturday for $6 CAD per person.  

3. Red Deer

a winter display in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame
There are some cool exhibits in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

About halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, you’ll come to Red Deer – a popular place on the road trip from Edmonton to Banff to stop and grab some food. But if you have more time, there are many great things to do in Red Deer! 

If you’re doing this drive during the summer, be sure to pop into the Discovery Canyon Water Park for a few hours. This free outdoor waterpark is open between June and the September long weekend. It’s built around a river-fed water pool, and you can rent tubes here and ride them down the small river or visit the beach, wading pool, and boardwalk. 

If you’re a sports fan, head over to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame – which is filled with archives on the greatest athletes in Alberta. There are also interactive games and a gallery completely dedicated to hockey.  

End your time in Red Deer at Troubled Monk, a fantastic craft beer brewery. If you didn’t already know – finding new delicious craft beers is one of my favorite past-times! 

4. Gasoline Alley

woman stand outside of Peters Drive in on Gasoline Alley
It’s never too cold for a Peters’ milkshake!

As the name suggests, Gasoline Alley is a collection of gas stations and businesses at the south end of Red Deer. It’s super-easy to access off the highway, making it a popular pit stop to fuel up with gas or food! 

If you’re hungry, I recommend stopping at Peters’ Drive-In. It’s known for its saucy burgers, thick milkshakes, and friendly service. When they first opened this location in Gasoline Alley back in 2005, the line-up was so long people were waiting three hours for burgers!  

Another great spot is The Donut Mill – look for the giant windmill on top of the building! True to their name, the donuts here are what make them famous. Everything is baked fresh daily with donuts like Orange Creamsicle, Maple Rolo, Chocolate Venetian, Vanilla Lemon, Apple Pie, or the flavor of the month.  

5. Innisfail

Over an hour from Calgary, or 119 km (74 miles), the small town of Innisfail (derived from the Celtic word for “Isle of Destiny”) has been a popular stopping point on the road from Edmonton to Banff for hundreds of years. In the past, when stagecoach travel was a big thing, there was just a small collection of shacks here, but with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the town grew into what you see today. 

Interestingly, many of the best things to do in Innisfail involve wildlife – from a wildlife park that’s home to orphaned animals to a police dog training facility. 

The Discovery Wildlife Park is one of my favorite places to visit in Innisfail. It houses orphaned wildlife as well as some zoo animals. Here you’ll get to see wolves, bears, cougars, lions, and more! Learn more about the residents here on one of the daily presentations, take a wolf for a walk, and even get a photo with a bear (from a safe distance!). The Discovery Wildlife Park is open from May 1 to Sept 30, and the entrance costs around $20 CAD.  

Another cool stop in Innisfail is The DINOS Centre (Discovery Institute of Nature, Origins, and Science). At this family-friendly spot, you can play a round of indoor mini-golf or laser tag surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs, blacklight murals, and a river with a waterfall!

If you’re in Innisfail on a Wednesday and have an hour spare (and you’re a dog-lover), be sure to pop into the RCMP Dog Training Facility to see the amazing Mountie police dogs being trained. In fact, this is where all police dogs for the Mounties are trained for over 100 Police Dog Teams across the country. They hold a free demonstration every Wednesday afternoon from Victoria Day until Labour Day at 2 pm.  

6. Nose Creek Regional Park

snowy pine trees covered is christmas lights
If you’re driving from Calgary to Edmonton around Christmas, be sure to stop and see the light show!

You’re on the home stretch into Calgary now, and before you reach this bustling city, be sure to stop at Nose Creek Regional Park in Airdrie. This is a great park for a picnic, with 20 acres of green space and plenty of picnic tables. There’s even a concession area, fire pit, and nature trails.  

In the winter, the park transforms into the Airdrie Festival of Lights. Colorful Christmas light displays fill the area., and it’s the largest free outdoor display you can walk through in Western Canada!  

If you’re here in the summer, the Nose Creek pond is stocked with trout for fishing. 

7. Calgary

View of Calgary from the Calgary Tower in Canada
View from the Calgary Tower!
Bailey stands on the glass viewing deck on the Calgary Tower
Standing on the glass floor of the Calgary Tower!

And you’ve reached your next stop – the bright lights of Calgary, the largest city in Alberta! As you can imagine, in a city of 1.4 million people, there are loads of fun things to do in Calgary. From the Calgary Zoo to the Calgary Tower, we recommend breaking up your journey between Edmonton and Banff and spending a night here. 

The best view of Calgary can be seen from the Calgary Tower, the tallest 360-degree observation deck in the world. From this prime vantage point, you’ll be able to see as far as the Rocky Mountains (where you’ll be driving on this road trip!), and of course, it offers excellent views of downtown Calgary too. There’s even a glass-floor section where you can look down to the street below – this is not for the faint-hearted or those afraid of heights. Admission to the Calgary Tower costs just $20 CAD, and their revolving restaurant – Sky 360, is a great lunch or dinner spot! 

One of the most famous things to do in Calgary is to attend the Calgary Stampede. This Western-style event happens over 10 days in July. It’s a whole lot of fun and boasts one of the largest rodeo events in the world, chuckwagon racing, a parade, and, lots of concerts and shows. 

On the other hand, if you plan to make this road trip in the winter, you can go ice skating at the Olympic Plaza skating rink right downtown, which is a lot of fun. The plaza was constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics!

Another top suggestion for Calgary, especially if you’re traveling with kids, is the Calgary Zoo. Home to almost 1,000 different animals and exhibits, including tigers, giraffes, lemurs, and more. My top tip is to try to get here at 10 am. to catch the “penguin walk” where the penguins go for a 15-minute walk through the zoo. It’s such a cute sight to see! Be sure to take plenty of photos (I just love penguins, don’t you?!). It’s a great way to spend a few hours before you continue on the drive from Calgary to Banff.

While you’re in the city, there are some fantastic tours in Calgary to check out! If you’re tight on time, why not consider this 2-hour guided city scooter tour which takes in the city’s top sights and costs just $55 CAD. If you have a bit more time and are up for a ride in a vintage sidecar motorcycle, this Calgary city tour is a lot of fun! Of course, if you don’t want to drive anymore, you can leave the driving to someone else and hop on one of these Banff tours from Calgary to get you the rest of the way!

Related Read: If the weather isn’t great while you’re visiting Calgary, then check out our list of the best indoor activities in Calgary!

8. Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary

dogs playing at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
dog at Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Photo credit: Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

A hidden gem that makes a great stop on your drive from Edmonton to Banff is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. This not-for-profit takes care of rescued wolfdogs. It’s located one-hour northwest of Calgary near the town of Cochrane. It’s the perfect place to go if you want to learn about wolves and see them in their environment.

The sanctuary does have some rules that are important to know before you go. No children under six are allowed in the sanctuary. The paths can not accommodate strollers, and no fur or faux fur clothing is allowed. No dogs are allowed on site, not even kept in your car in the parking lot. Check the visitor rules on their website or call ahead before you go.

The facility is open Thursday through Monday. Several different types of tours are available. Admission for youth is $16 CAD, and for adults, it’s $28. 

9. Cochrane

view from Glenbow Provincial Park
Glenbow Provincial Park just outside of Cochrane is beautiful.

Cochrane has a unique, old-western feel and makes for a great short stop on the drive from Edmonton to Banff. 

First, spend an hour or so at the Historic Cochrane Ranch – the former home of Alberta’s first large cattle ranch, dating back to the 1880s. Today, it’s a huge public park with walking trails, a quaint museum, and a reconstructed corral. 

Then, finish off your time at this memorable stop with a stroll through downtown Cochrane. Stop into MacKay’s Ice Cream for a delicious treat (you deserve it, after all that driving!). All of their ice creams are made locally, and they have over 50 flavors. And would you believe their store has been in operation for over 70 years? Alternatively, if you’re a beer fan, check out the Half Hitch Brewing Company instead. Here, they serve locally-brewed craft beers (we suggest the Papa Bear Prairie Ale), and if you’re hungry, try one of their delicious appetizers or smoked meats. 

Where to stay in Cochrane

Cochrane is also a good place to stay outside Calgary as the hotels here are typically cheaper than Canmore or Banff.

The Days Inn and Suites Cochrane is a nice option that’s just off the highway, perfect for a road trip stay. The hotel has an indoor pool, free breakfast, and is close to some nice walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. Rooms start around $130 CAD, but do go up in price for the busy summer season. You can check availability and book a room online here.

10. Ghost Lake

It’s obvious why this beautiful spot made the list of stops!

Just west of Cochrane on Highway 1A, you’ll come to Ghost Lake. It gets its name from Indigenous stories of a ghost who supposedly haunted the Ghost River nearby.

The beach has a fantastic view of the Rocky Mountains, but be aware that the water gets deep quickly! Ghost Lake’s average depth is 60-90 feet (18-27 meters). This makes it perfect for fishing – lots of freshwater fish can be found here, including Rainbow Trout and Bull Trout.

The lake’s location at the base of the Rockies ensures steady winds, making it an excellent spot for sailing. There are boat rentals available here at the marina. Of course, you can swim here too, but the water tends to be very cold!

11. Bow Valley Campground

Bailey and her dad camp in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta
Bow Valley Campground is the only place I stay, it’s so beautiful!

If staying the night in Calgary doesn’t appeal to you, then consider stopping off at the Bow Valley Campground for a night to break up your journey into Banff. Situated within the stunning Bow Valley Provincial Park, the sites here have natural surroundings with many trees and views of the mountains, valley, and river. Believe me, it’s so peaceful here and much quieter than the campgrounds closer to Banff! 

There are a couple of walking trails in the park that can get pretty crowded during the day (especially in summer), so if you’re spending the night here, then take advantage of that, and hike one of the trails at sunset! 

It’s worth noting that Bow Valley Campground is by reservation only, and reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. 

If you’re not keen on camping, I still recommend spending a few hours here on your way to Banff. Tackle the Many Springs loop walk. This 1.3 km (0.8 mile) trail boasts springs that collect in a wetland basin at the end of the hike and a dock at the end of the loop, with an unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains!  

12. Grotto Canyon

Hiking through a the frozen Grotto Canyon in winter
Grotto Canyon!

The next recommended stop is a stunning hike that can be done in both summer and winter. The Grotto Canyon Trail begins from the Grotto Mountain day-use parking lot, and it’s about a kilometer (0.6 miles) to get to the creek bed, which slowly narrows as the rock walls get higher around you and more spectacular.  

Take a right to get to Grotto Canyon Falls at the fork in the creek. But don’t overlook what you might see before the stunning waterfall! Keep an eye out to the left just before reaching the falls … you should see pictographs that are 500-1,000 years old painted right at eye level.  

I love visiting Grotto Canyon in the winter when I can walk on the ice. Seriously, the entire place turns into a magical winter wonderland! With that said, doing the Grotto Canyon Icewalk in the winter can be very slippery. You should wear crampons or mini-ice spikes, and you can rent these in nearby Canmore (the next stop) from one of the sports shops. Alternatively, you can always just book a guided tour that comes with all your gear included!

13. Canmore

Bailey at the famous viewpoint of the Three Sisters in Canmore
Bailey at the famous Three Sisters viewpoint!
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta

And now for one of the best mountain towns in the province – Canmore! Popular with tourists from all over the world (and Canada, too), it’s a great alternative to staying in Banff or Lake Louise, as it’s cheaper, more accessible, and has heaps of fun and exciting things to do!

As you can probably guess, in a mountain town as scenic as Canmore, most of the best activities here involve the great outdoors, such as hiking, caving, and stargazing. It’s also a fantastic winter destination with cross-country skiing trails waiting to be enjoyed at The Canmore Nordic Centre and skiing available in nearby Nakiska, a 40-minute drive away! 

For hikers, Grassi Lakes is probably the most popular hike in Canmore. The trailhead begins a 5-minute drive from downtown, and it’s a 4 km (2.5 mile) loop trail with great scenery – the main feature being the brightest colored lakes you’ve ever seen! It’s a relatively easy trail and, thus, is suitable for the whole family. Allow 2 to 3 hours to complete this famed trail!

2023 Update: Grassi Lakes has now been re-opened for the 2023 season after undergoing a lengthy maintenance period.

The Three Sisters Mountain range is iconic in Canmore. Three towering mountain peaks all sit next to each other making that postcard-perfect image you’ve probably seen on your social media feed! If you’re into photography, you’ll definitely want to check out the Three Sisters Viewpoint. The exact location can be found here. You will need to park at the off-leash dog park and then cross the road to walk under the train tracks, keeping the creek to your left until you reach a trail. The trail will take you straight to the viewpoint (pictured above).

After you’re done adventuring, sit back and relax with a warm coffee from one of the many delicious cafes in Canmore. There are also a few great local craft breweries in Canmore that we often visit.

Considering there’s so much to do in Canmore, we recommend spending at least half a day here or, even better, stay the night if you’re not in a rush to reach Banff!

Where to Stay in Canmore

There are lots of amazing hotels in Canmore, and they are generally cheaper than Banff too! So, consider staying in Canmore instead and just visiting Banff on day trips (it’s only a 20-minute drive!).

Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre is our absolute favorite place to stay in Canmore. It is affordable without sacrificing any of the comforts you’ll need for a relaxing and enjoyable stay – suitable for almost all travelers and budgets. They have an onsite pool, hot tub, and fitness center along with a delicious bar and restaurant (Table Food + Drink).

If you’re a budget backpacker and looking for a hostel then Canmore Downtown Hostel is your best choice! These guys offer clean and comfortable facilities, dorm beds as well as private rooms, and a social atmosphere perfect for meeting other backpackers. You can easily grab a room on Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

14. Cascade Ponds

Cascade Ponds, Banff National Park
Cascade Ponds, Banff National Park

You’re almost at your final destination! So, get ready for another scenic stop! Located only a few minutes before Banff is the Cascade Ponds, a collection of ponds near Cascade Mountain. The ponds are gorgeous in all seasons – the reflections in the water in the summer, the yellow Aspen trees during the fall in Banff, and the snowy scenery in the winter.  

The ponds are connected by a series of bridges that make walking between the ponds easy and create some gorgeous photo opportunities. Bring lunch and enjoy one of the many picnic areas and firepits here. You might also spot wildlife around the ponds, including mule deer, elk, and foxes.

Continue further along past the ponds to visit Lake Minnewanka, aka the largest of all the lakes in Banff National Park, and the scenery here is breathtaking! In the summer, have a picnic or take a Lake Minnewanka boat cruise or enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.  

Related Read: A great way to see animals around Banff (including grizzly bears!) is to join a wildlife tour in Banff National Park!

15. Banff

view os snow-covered Banff Ave
Banff town in winter is stunning!

Yay, you’ve reached your final destination, and what a place it is! Banff is easily one of Canada’s most beautiful and most popular tourist towns! There’s so much happening in Banff, from epic hikes, great restaurants, a gondola with insane views, and so much more, that we strongly recommend you book a hotel for a few nights, as you’ll definitely need time to explore this vibrant mountain town!

In fact, there are tons of fun things to do in Banff that it can be hard to know even where to start. To help you out, you can check out our 1, 2, and 3-day Banff itineraries! Or below, I’ve listed some of my favorite things to do in Banff:

The BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Banff via the Icefields Parkway

The most scenic route you can take between Edmonton and Banff is via Jasper and Lake Louise, incorporating the bucket-list-worthy Icefields Parkway. This road trip is longer than the suggested route above at 653 km (406 miles), which means without stopping, you will need to allow 7 hours. However, we advise allowing 3 days and 2 nights so that you can stop at most, if not all, of the 20 stops I’ve listed below!

This road trip from Edmonton to Banff via the Icefields Parkway is spaced out so that you’re stopping off every 20-30 minutes in the beginning. But, after Jasper, the stops get more frequent because there is just SO much to see! And, of course, if you want to get to Banff quicker, you can narrow this list down to just a few select stops!

1. Edmonton

the neon sign museum in Edmonton
The Neon Sign Museum is one very unique place to visit in Edmonton.

Before you leave on your road trip from Edmonton to Banff (via the Icefields Parkway), don’t forget to explore Edmonton! It is Alberta’s capital city and is full of great restaurants and full things to do and see – you just need to know where to look!

Of course, the West Edmonton Mall is a huge draw, and it’s the second-largest mall in North America! The West Ed (as it’s also known) is a major destination with more than 800 stores, attractions like a water park, indoor skating rink and roller coasters, two hotels, and restaurants galore. While shopping until you drop is fun, check out this list of ideas for all the things you can do in West Edmonton Mall besides shopping!  

One of the best things to do in Edmonton is explore the beautiful River Valley. It’s 22 times the size of Central Park in New York! It’s a great destination in any season, with 150 kilometers of trails – many of which are cleared throughout the winter or perfect for cross-country skiing. 

Don’t forget to check out Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum! This is a great night-time activity as all the signs light up 104 Street on the east side of the TELUS building and the south side of Mercer Warehouse. More than 20 neon signs have been restored and showcase some of Edmonton’s well-known businesses. I like grabbing a drink across the street at Mercer Tavern for a great view of the signs.  

Where to Stay in Edmonton:

There are tons of different hotels to choose from spread across Edmonton

Many hotels are located on the west side of the city near West Edmonton Mall. Stay in one of Fantasyland Hotel’s gorgeous theme rooms for something really special. 

Staying downtown is perfect for anybody who wants a central stay with easy access to most of the activities and attractions in this blog. To be right near Rogers Place and Jasper Ave, stay at the luxurious JW Marriott. This is one of the nicest hotels in Edmonton and it’s simply stunning. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub.

2. Pembina Provincial Park/Pembina River Float

two women float down the Pembina River on tubes
The Pembina River Float is so fun!
Bailey and Daniel wade in the water at Pembina River
The day-use area along the Pembina River is a nice place to relax.

Just over 1 hour from Edmonton is Pembina Provincial Park, one of my favorite provincial parks in Alberta. It makes for a great first stop on the drive to Banff. If you have time, there’s a great campsite here where you can spend the night, allowing more time to explore this gorgeous park! I will add that this campground is very popular and you will need to book in advance. They have both powered and non-powered campsites suitable for tents, trailers/RVs. 

If you have limited time to reach Banff, then just stop for an hour or two and enjoy the day-use area where you can swim in the river, relax on the river’s edge, or have a picnic. There are also toilets here! 

While if you’re visiting between the end of May and the Labor Day weekend, allow more time to have a thrilling float on the Pembina River. It’s such a popular thing to do here in the summer, so you should book your place online in advance. To start the float, you must drive to the starting point and either pay to park, rent a tube, or even organize return transport from the endpoint. There is a business set up here (the only place to access the river) that will help you plan your float. The last time we did it, we rented tubes and took advantage of the transport and it cost about $35 CAD per person. 

3. Hinton

a mink swimming in the pond at the Beaver Boardwalk in Hinton Alberta
We saw a mink the last time we went to the Beaver Boardwalk in Hinton.

This small town is nicknamed the “Gateway to the Rockies” because of its proximity to the mountains. The scenery around here, and from this point in the drive starts to get really picturesque! Hinton is a fun little place to pop into with good spots to fill up on gas or grab a bite.  

While you’re in Hinton, the “Beaver Boardwalk” is a must-see. This 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) wooden boardwalk surrounds Maxwell Lake and is the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world! The boardwalk takes you through marshlands and lets you get close to the active beaver dam and lodge – sometimes, there are as many as a dozen beavers hard at work! The best time to see beavers here is in the early morning or evening, and you might also spot deer, birds, and butterflies. It’s the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs on your drive from Edmonton to Banff.

In the winter, take tobogganing to a whole new level by going luge sledding. The Hinton Luge Association has a huge 950-meter (3,100-foot) groomed snow track! You can book a lesson here so you’re prepared for the fast ride down! Bring a helmet (if you have one) and winter clothing. It’s a 20-minute walk up the hill where lessons start, so arrive early. Spaces can be booked by calling them directly at 780-865-2922 or emailing hintonluge@shaw.ca.  

Where to Stay in Hinton:

There are lots of very affordable hotels in Hinton which makes it a good place to stay for a night or two. Econolodge Inn and Suites is a top choice with a central location and affordable price.

4. Folding Mountain Brewing Taproom and Kitchen

A lady drinks a bear at Folding Mountain Brewery and Taproom
Cheers to great craft beer!

A short 10-minute drive from Hinton is Folding Mountain Brewing and Taproom, a great spot to stop for a craft beer. Nestled on the edge of Jasper National Park, as you can imagine, the views from here are pretty great! If the weather is playing ball, nab a seat on their spacious outdoor patio. If not, the tasting room is a cozy indoor space that still offers a great view of the Rockies. 

As you may already know, I’m a big lover of craft beer, and some of my favorite brews here include the Alpine Cranberry Sour, the Folding Mountain Lager, and the Moraine West Coast IPA. They also have a full food menu with a great selection of appetizers and sandwiches if you’re feeling hungry. 

The Overlander Mountain Lodge is located on-site, so if you want to have a few beers, it’s a great place to spend a night. 

5. Sulphur Skyline Trail

mountain view from the Sulphur Skyline Trail
Just look at that view!

This hiking trail offers some of the best panoramic views of the Jasper area! But it isn’t for beginners. The hike is about 8 km (5 miles) roundtrip and takes anywhere from 4-6 hours. The elevation gain is quite steep to reach the summit, so you’ll need good shoes too.  

The Sulphur Skyline hiking trail starts right by the Miette Hot Springs – so you can take a well-earned soak after the strenuous climb. Look for the start of the trail at the southeast end of the parking lot.  

Once you reach the top of the trail, you’ll see the Fiddle River Valley, with the river winding through and mountains galore! Particularly spectacular is Utopia Mountain, the cliffs of the Ashlar Ridge, and the grey limestone peaks of the Miette Range. 

One thing to note is that this trailhead location is a bit of a detour from the most direct route when driving from Edmonton to Banff. However, if you want an epic hike, this small detour is so worth it.

6. Miette Hot Springs

woman stands in the miette hot springs with mountains behind her
Such a beautiful location! Photo Credit: Travel Alberta / Roth and Ramberg

After all the hiking on your previous stop and the driving so far, you deserve some much-needed relaxation – and we have the perfect tonic for you. Miette Hot Springs is known as the hottest natural springs in the country. The water flows down from the surrounding mountains at a toasty 54°C (129°F) and is then cooled down to a more comfortable 40°C (104°F) in the pools. 

There are four pools here – two hot and two cold – each one offers mountain views, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot some wildlife like foxes and Canada Jay birds running around while you’re relaxing in the natural mineral water. 

Swimming here costs $16.50 CAD per person, and there are locker and shower facilities with changing rooms. It can get busy here, so avoid the crowds by coming here in the morning.

Note: Miette Hot Springs are typically only open from May to September each year. The exact date changes due to the weather, so check before you go!  

7. Jasper Lake Sand Dunes

view of JAsper Lake surrounded by sand dunes
This lake is super shallow thanks to all of the sand.

The Jasper Lake Sand Dunes are an amazing natural wonder along the drive between Edmonton and Banff. These sand dunes were formed during the last ice age at the edge of Jasper Lake, and they are the only sand dunes in the Canadian Rockies!  

Jasper Lake here is very shallow – typically only a few feet. It’s a cool experience to wade into the water here, and you could even potentially walk to the other shore. But be aware that the water is very cold (it’s icy glacial meltwater) – so even on the hottest summer day, your feet will get cold quickly! The lake is very calm, and the sand makes for a nice beach, so this is a great place to relax for a little while.

This area is along the highway between Jasper Lake and Talbot Lake, but there’s only a small pullover bay. Keep an eye out for it on your left-hand side if driving in the direction from Edmonton to Banff.

8. Jasper

The dock at Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park, Canada
The dock at Pyramid Lake in Jasper!

Jasper is one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. It’s an amazing mountain town with stunning scenery and there are many different activities to try in Jasper. You certainly won’t be bored here! 

During your time here (we recommend at least one night and one full day) make sure to take in one of the great Jasper tours on offer and check out a few of our favorite spots:  

  • SkyTram – Get a bird’s eye view of Jasper from the peak of Whistlers Mountain aboard the SkyTram. It’s a large mountain gondola that can carry up to 24 people. At the top, you can explore an indoor area, gift shop, and eat at a restaurant with some pretty amazing views. The Jasper SkyTram is open from April to October, and it’s best to book ahead as there are only two trams.  
  • Maligne Lake – is a stunning turquoise-blue lake surrounded by mountain peaks, pine trees, and glaciers. It’s like a postcard come to life and one of Alberta’s best places to visit! I recommend taking the famous Maligne Lake Cruise that showcases the beauty of the lake, including the spectacular Spirit Island, which is one of the most photographed places in Jasper National Park. There’s so much to do at Maligne Lake, set aside a day or at least a few hours to explore here. Many wildlife tours in Jasper also visit Maligne Lake.
  • Marmot Basin is easily one of the most epic things to do in Jasper during the winter! Hit the slopes here, only 20 minutes outside Jasper, to try out 91 different runs for beginners through to advanced. What’s nice is the variety of runs for all levels from each lift. Marmot Basin is open from mid-November until early May and gets over 400 centimeters (more than 13 feet!) of snow yearly.  
  • Downtown Jasper – Connaught Street is the busiest street in town and a lot of fun to wander around. You’ll probably notice the big train along here and the historic train station behind it that is still used today. Stopping at some of the unique shops here to pick up souvenirs or grab a bite to eat is another great thing to do in Jasper. I love having supper on the rooftop patio at Jasper Pizza Place. The views are incredible (especially at sunset), and the pizza is delicious – it’s one of the many amazing restaurants in Jasper!  
  • Whitewater Rafting – While you may think this is only for adventure-seekers, whitewater rafting in Jasper 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, and be sure to bring a towel to dry off afterward!  
  • The Valley of the Five Lakes – My favorite easy hike in Jasper. As you leave Jasper town along the Icefields Parkways (the road that connects Jasper with Banff) you’ll see signs for the Valley of the Five Lakes on your left-hand side. 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 should only need to allot two hours in total to complete this hike with a little time spent enjoying the lake.

9. Athabasca Falls

The impressive Athabasca Falls!

Your next stop on the famed Icefields Parkway should be the bucket-list-worthy Athabasca Falls. Just 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from Jasper town, this powerful waterfall with mountains as a background has to be seen to be believed! To get up close to it and snap some seriously great photos, hop on the short boardwalk that takes you to various viewpoints of the falls. 

While you can’t raft over the falls (this is a powerful waterfall after all!), we really enjoyed this whitewater rafting tour that starts near the base of the falls. The views are stellar as you make your way through the canyon and see places you can only view from the water!

In the winter, Athabasca Falls is one of the few stops between Jasper and Banff that is still open, so keep that in mind. Dare I say the falls are at their most beautiful in the winter as they typically freeze over, giving you the feeling of being in a winter wonderland. 

10. Sunwapta Falls

The beautiful Sunwapta Falls from the boardwalk
The beautiful Sunwapta Falls from the boardwalk

Just 15 minutes down the highway from Athabasca Falls is another impressive waterfall – 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.

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.  

11. Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk

The Icefields Parkway Skywalk with views of the Athabasca Glacier and mountain
The Skywalk!

The famous Columbia Icefield Skywalk and Athabasca Glacier are the next stops you simply MUST stop at when driving from Edmonton to Banff via the Icefields Parkway.

About 35 minutes from Sunwapta Falls, you’ll come to the hard-to-miss Skywalk – a huge man-made glass-floored viewing platform that hangs off the edge of a cliff. Stepping onto it is a little nerve-wracking, to say the least (it’s around 1,000 feet/300 meters above ground), but, honestly, the views of the mountains, the glacier, and the Sunwapta Valley are so worth it!  

If you want to go on the Skywalk, you’ll need to drive a couple more kilometers down the road to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, where you’ll pay the $37 CAD fee, register for a tour time, and then jump on a bus to the Skywalk. That’s because there is no parking at the Skywalk! Or a better option is to pre-book your Skywalk tour online in advance to avoid disappointment, as in busy months, it can book up!

Top tip – book the Skywalk with the Glacier Explorer tour (more on that below) to get a discount!

Across the road from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre is the Athabasca Glacier, spread over an impressive area of 6 km² (3.7 miles²). The glacier is 90–300 meters (300–980 feet) thick, however, it currently loses about 5 meters (16.5 feet) in thickness every year! 

There are a number of ways to visit the glacier, but the only way to see it up close is on a guided tour. The guided glacier tours depart from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre and drive up and onto the glacier in a specially adapted ice-explorer vehicle. You can hop out, walk around on the Athabasca Glacier, and take photos. You can even fill your water bottle with refreshing glacier water.

Another good option is this half-day glacier hiking tour. Although it costs a bit more, it’s ideal if you want to spend a couple of hours on the glacier, exploring hidden parts of it and learning all about the glacier. 

Remember, if you don’t book a tour, you can only walk up to a viewpoint of the glacier. And it’s the short 1-kilometer (0.6 mi) Athabasca Glacier Trail that takes you right up to the glacier’s edge.

Note: Both the Skywalk and Athabasca Glacier tours are only available from the beginning of May until mid-October.

12. Big Hill and Big Bend

Big Hill lookout on the Icefields Parkway, Canada
Big Hill lookout on the Icefields Parkway, Canada

Another stop we just love on the Icefields Parkway is Big Hill and Big Bend. Not far from the Athabasca Glacier, this section is widely regarded as the most challenging part of the drive from Jasper to Banff as the road winds 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. You will also see Big Bend, the nickname for the road with a huge curve (believe me, you can’t miss it!) 

You can see the exact viewpoint here on google maps. This is simply a viewpoint stop along this epic road trip and, depending on how long your photo ops take, should only take 5 minutes.  

13. Mistaya Canyon

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

Mistaya Canyon is the perfect place to stop briefly and stretch your legs as you approach the Banff region, and this stop shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.

This easy 1-kilometer-long (0.6 mile) loop walk will take you down to the canyon and along its edge to various viewpoints. From the Mistaya parking lot, the walk is all downhill, ending at a viewpoint that overlooks 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 gains only 40 meters (131 feet) in elevation, making it suitable for all fitness levels. 

It’s worth adding that you should use caution hiking in winter or late spring, as there may be snow and ice on the trail, making it slippery. Also, be sure to stay on the marked paths. 

14. Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint

Stunning view of Peyto Lake as seen from Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Peyto Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada!

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 Edmonton to Banff.  

And the best part? For this epic Payto Lake Upper viewpoint, you only have to walk 10 minutes from the parking lot! This makes Peyto Lake an easy and accessible viewpoint in Banff National Park, and it can easily be visited at sunset, sunrise, and even at night to get amazing astro shots.

The only downside to Peyto Lake is that it can get very busy. Thus, nabbing a parking space can be challenging. So I recommend getting here early or late in the afternoon to avoid the stress of finding parking!

15. Bow Lake

Bow Lake as seen from the Bow Lake Lookout on the Icefields Parkway in Canada
Bow Lake!

Only around 5 minutes from Peyto Lake is a place to see another stunning lake – the Bow Lake Viewpoint.

At just 3.2 km² (1.2 miles²), it’s considered a small lake, by Canadian standards anyway, but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in beauty! Think turquoise water surrounded by the gigantic Canadian Rockies. When you see it for the first time, it will stop you in your tracks! 

When the sun is out, the lake is at its brightest color, so that means that summer is one of the busiest times to visit Bow Lake. Plus, on clear days, you’ll likely spot Crowfoot Glacier in the distance. 

There are two ways to see Bow Lake. The first option involves a hike if you need to stretch your legs. For this, you’ll need to park at the large parking lot at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, and from there, walk along a couple of trails along the shoreline to take in the views from all angles.

If you want to make this a quick pit stop to take some photos, then continue down the highway for a few minutes until you reach a pullover bay on your right-hand side, which offers an excellent viewpoint of Bow Lake!

16. Lake Louise

Bailey on the edge of Lake Louise
Lake Louise is just stunning!
The Lake Louise Boathouse
The Lake Louise Boathouse

About 45 minutes on from Bow Lake will get you to the overpass for Lake Louise. This mesmerizing and super-popular lake 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 before continuing on your journey from Lake Louise to Banff.

It is definitely one of the most popular stops on the drive between Edmonton and Banff via the Icefields Parkway. Here you will find not only find the lake, but also a small town and the famous Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Even something as simple as relaxing on the Lake Louise beachfront is sure to leave you in awe as you look out at the glaciers, mountain peaks, and clear lake!

One of my favorite times to visit is sunset because it is the quietest time of day, and the views are incredible! If you’re visiting Lake Louise in the winter, remember you can go ice skating on this famous lake!

The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is one of my favorites in the area. It takes around 4-5 hours to complete. From staring down at Lake Louise to sipping tea with mirror-like reflections, Lake Agnes Tea House is truly one of the most beautiful places in Banff National Park.

If you haven’t had your fill of incredible views yet, you can also take a ride on the Lake Louise Gondola. There really is so much to do in Lake Louise!

There are also many amazing restaurants in Lake Louise. One of the most unique is The Station Restaurant which is (as you probably guessed from the name) located inside an old train station, and it’s now a heritage site that you can explore.

While, if you’re after some adrenalin-pumping fun, why not canoe on Lake Louise in the summer? It is so peaceful, and there aren’t many other lakes in Canada as blue as Lake Louise that you can go canoeing on!

17. Moraine Lake

Sunrise reflections at Moraine Lake, Banff
Sunrise at Moraine Lake is the best time to visit!

Just when you think you’ve had your fill of turquoise-hued lakes, here comes another one, and it’s a goodie. In fact, I bet you’ve seen this lake before on your Instagram feed (it’s pretty famous!). Located just 14 km (8.7 miles) from Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is so worth stopping at to take some photos or, if you have more time, hike one of the incredible trails here, such as the Larch Valley Trail and Consolation Lakes Trail

There are lots of different things to do at Moraine Lake. Hiking is, of course, one of the most popular activities here, but you can also go canoeing on the lake or enjoy a coffee at the Snowshoe Café!

It’s worth noting that Moraine Lake is one of the most visited places between Edmonton and Banff. Getting to Moraine Lake can be challenging since the access road and parking lot are closed to all personal vehicle traffic (except those with disability parking permits) as of 2023.

You’ll need to check into parking alternatives at Moraine Lake, including public transit, shuttles, and tours. Most people visit by taking a shuttle from Banff town or Lake Louise. But, these shuttles also only run at certain hours, so if you want to get here early (before the crowds), you’ll need to be on the first shuttle around 6:30 am or book this new shuttle to Moraine Lake that offers both daily and sunrise departure times.

The alternative to taking a shuttle is going on an organized tour like this one for around $100 CAD. Or, if you’re keen to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise, book this early bird tour or the new sunrise shuttle. This is the only tour we’ve found that gets you here for sunrise since the road is closed to personal vehicles and only allows tours and shuttles.

Both of the above tours depart from Banff or Calgary, so if those are options you’re interested in, make sure to fit them in before or after your road trip.

18. Bow Valley Parkway

A train passes Morant's Curve in summer along the Bow Valley Parkway
A train at Morant’s Curve!
Upper Johnston Canyon Waterfall
Upper Johnston Canyon Waterfall in summer

Not long before reaching your final destination of Banff, you’ll make your way onto the Bow Valley Parkway for a day of epic viewpoints along a 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.

There are lots of amazing places to check out on the Bow Valley Parkway. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Morant’s Curve – This iconic viewpoint is located just on the side of the road and showcases train tracks weaving through the mountains. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a train while you’re visiting Morant’s Curve!
  • Castle Mountain LookoutCastle Mountain is, you guessed it, a mountain that looked exactly like a castle! You can stop at a viewpoint, or choose to hike one of the many trails around here.
  • Johnston CanyonJohnston Canyon is one of the most popular easy hikes you can do in the Canmore and Banff areas. It is 2.4 kilometers long (1.5 miles) and takes you along the edge of an impressive canyon before reaching waterfalls and caves. In the winter, you can do an ice trekking tour here with a knowledgeable guide for $96 CAD!

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!)

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.

19. Sunshine Village

Sunset at Banff Sunshine Village in summer
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village
Banff Sunshine Gondola and chairlift
Photo credit: Banff Sunshine Village

Drive the Bow Valley Parkway until the end, and it will take you back onto the highway. From here, you are only a short drive from the turnoff to Sunshine Village – the final stop on your road trip from Edmonton to Banff!

Sunshine Village is a popular place for visitors in both the winter and the summer. In the winter, you should hit the slopes because Sunshine Village is considered one of Canada’s most impressive ski resorts. To get to the slopes, you’ll need to catch a ride on the Banff Sunshine Gondola for 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.

While in the summer, the ride up turns into a sightseeing gondola ride where there are plenty of hikes to be enjoyed at the top. We love the Sunshine Meadows trail, which starts from the base of the ski hill and boasts an epic view of Rock Isle, Grizzly, and Larix Lakes!

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

20. Banff

Scenic shot of Banff town
Banff is one of the most famous mountain towns in Canada!

From Sunshine Village, it’s a short 5-minute drive to Banff town (aka the end of your road trip!). And after all that driving and sightseeing, you should book yourself a hotel for a few nights as you’ll definitely need time to explore this vibrant mountain town!

Banff is absolutely beautiful, and there are tons of things to do in Banff in winter, spring, summer, or fall. It’s a very popular town in the Rockies, attracting thousands of visitors each year!

The downtown area is very charming, and there are lots of awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. With the mountains as the backdrop to Banff Ave, it’s a beautiful place to base yourself in Banff National Park.

Many visitors come here for a ski holiday due to the fact that you have great access to Sunshine and Norquay ski resorts – both are within a 15-minute drive of town.

Plus, when you’re done on the slopes, you can enjoy all that Banff has to offer, including some Apres Ski drinks at a couple of the breweries in Banff. One of my favorites for beer is Banff Brewing Co. Or if you’re not a beer fan, grab a coffee at one of the best coffee shops in Banff, such as WildFlour Bakery.

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!

Banff is more than just a ski town, though, and regardless of the season you visit, Banff town is an amazing place with plenty to do. Some of the top activities in Banff include horseriding through the Bow Valley, whitewater rafting in the summer, and hopping on the Banff Gondola

Where to Stay in Banff

The views of the Rimrock Resort in Banff, Canada
Photo Credit: Rimrock Resort Hotel

There are lots of different areas to choose from when deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. One of the best hotels in Banff town is Moose Hotel & Suites, which has a great location, is reasonably priced, and has all the amenities you could want, including two rooftop hot tubs.

If you’re on a tight budget, consider checking out King Edward Hotel. It is easily 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.

Alternatively, there are a few Airbnbs to choose from in Banff.

Related read: For more detailed info on where to stay in Banff, read our blog about the best hotels in downtown Banff!

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.

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 take a selfie at Peyto Lake Viewpoint in Banff National Park, Canada
Thanks for reading!

As you can see, you have some options to get from Edmonton to Banff. So whether you want to reach your destination quickly or you want to take your time and take in all the sights, we’ve got you covered with a choice of two epic, equally amazing routes. Let us know what road trip you choose in the comment section below!

As always, if you have any other questions about the drive from Edmonton to Banff, feel free to reach out and ask! Before you go, be sure to check out some of our other guides:

15 BEST Things to do in Banff in September

11 BEST Stops on the Drive from Revelstoke to Banff

How to Get from the Calgary Airport to Banff: Transfer, Bus, or Rental Car 

17 BEST Stops on the Drive from Kelowna to Banff 

Birwa

Thursday 1st of June 2023

What a wonderful article and information thank you so much.