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23 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise

23 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise

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So, you fancy a road trip from Edmonton to Lake Louise – good choice! These destinations are two of the most popular spots in Alberta, and they couldn’t be more different from one another.

Edmonton is the second-biggest city in Alberta. It’s where many visitors enter the province, thanks to the large international airport here. Lake Louise, on the other hand, is a scenic mountain town that’s arguably the jewel in Alberta’s crown. Its turquoise-hued lake of the same name is known around the world!

The drive between Edmonton and Lake Louise will take you 4.5 hours (469 km/291 miles) without stops, but because there’s so much to see along the way, I recommend allowing at the very least two full days to complete this road trip. I mean, you’ll be driving past some of the top sights in Alberta, such as Banff, Canmore (my favorite mountain town in Canada), and some hidden gem spots like Cascade Ponds, Ghost Lake, and Morant’s Curve!

Having grown up in the “sunshine province,” I consider myself an expert on this particular route, and because I’ve driven this route countless times, I have a good idea about the places you shouldn’t miss along the way!

Below, you’ll read about 23 of the best stops between Edmonton and Lake Louise. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I can’t wait for you to read these suggestions and plan your own road trip!

About the Drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise

Reflections of the famous Three Sisters in Canmore
The iconic Three Sisters near Canmore!
Bailey at Morant's Curve on the Bow Valley Parkway
Morant’s Curve – one of the best stops on this drive!

The drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise is a very straightforward drive that will take just over 4.5 hours without stops. This 469-kilometer (291-mile) route follows Highway 2 as far as Calgary, and after that, you’ll hop onto Trans-Canada Hwy #1. Both are main highways, so it’s an easy drive without too many twists, turns, or narrow roads! 

Of course, you could easily drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise in one day, but we recommend allowing closer to two full days (ideally three full days) to complete one of our favorite road trips in Alberta!

As you’ll read in my list below, there are many stunning sights and fun stops along the way – in fact, I struggled to narrow this list down to just 23 stops! I’ve made out this road trip so that you’re stopping about every 20 minutes or so, but keep in mind the distance between your first stop (Edmonton) and your second stop (Red Deer) is an hour and 40 minutes, so be sure to have enough snacks, gas, and tunes for this section of the drive. 

If you’re in a hurry to reach the magical Lake Louise, then you can simply skip a couple of stops and get there quicker. If you’re finding it hard to narrow your list down, I will say that the sights later in the drive (after Calgary) are the most breathtaking, and you should DEFINITELY make time to stop at Canmore, Banff, Johnston Canyon, and Morant’s Curve! 

An option to make this even more of a scenic drive is to hop on the Bow Valley Parkway which starts around Banff and leads right to Lake Louise. This route takes a bit longer than breezing by on the main highway, but a lot of the best sights later on this list are off of the parkway. If you’re not in a rush, taking this route is well worth it.

If you do choose to take the Bow Valley Parkway, you’ll need to be aware of seasonal closures from March 1 – June 25 in the evening and overnight hours of 8 pm to 8 am. The “closed” section of the road begins at the Johnston Canyon Campground and ends at the Fireside Picnic Area. This closure is to protect the wildlife in the area

If you’re driving in the winter, be aware of snow and ice on the road. The snowplows will prioritize clearing the main Trans-Canada Highway first, and the Bow Valley Parkway is typically only scraped down to packed snow. But the good thing about the parkway is that there are plenty of places to stop off for a night, like Castle Mountain Chalets or Mount Norquay, if the weather gets too bad!

I should also add that there is another much longer route you can take to get from Edmonton to Lake Louise. It goes via the Icefields Parkway and Jasper and is much prettier and, dare I say, bucket-list-worthy. But at 597 kilometers (371 miles) in length, it will take 6.5 hours without stops. If you’re not confident driving in snow and ice, then don’t take this route, as the Yellowhead Hwy (Highway 16), which goes from Edmonton to Jasper, is often closed in sections due to bad driving conditions.

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.

The BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise

1. Edmonton

Bailey at Explore Elk Island National Park in Edmonton Alberta
Elk Island National Park is such a beautiful place so close to Edmonton!
Bailey walks across the Walterdale Bridge in the river valley in Edmonton Alberta
The Walterdale Bridge!

Edmonton, the second-largest city in the province (behind Calgary), is an obvious starting point for a road trip to the iconic Lake Louise. With a large international airport, many overseas and Canadian tourists choose to fly into Edmonton to explore the city and then embark on this bucket-list-worthy drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise. 

There are lots of activities to keep you busy in Edmonton, from shopping at the HUGE West Edmonton Mall to wandering through the River Valley. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alberta, with over 6 million visitors heading to “Canada’s Festival City” every year!

If you love to shop til you drop, then the West Edmonton Mall will be your idea of heaven! The second-biggest mall in North America boasts a mind-boggling 800 stores, heaps of restaurants, a water park, roller coasters, an indoor skating rink, and two hotels! You could easily spend a full day here. West Ed, as it’s affectionately known by locals, is like a small city! 

A completely different but equally awesome thing to do in Edmonton is to get out amongst nature and explore the River Valley. This impressive park is 22 times the size of the famed Central Park in New York! If you’re a hiker, you’re in luck, as there are 150 km (93 miles) of hiking trails within the park. And during the Edmonton winter, you can go cross-country skiing on some of these trails! So much fun!

If, like us, you love to join a guided tour when you’re visiting a new city, a great way to see the River Valley and learn all about the park and the city of Edmonton is on this 90-minute segway adventure. Be sure to ask your guide to stop at Walterdale Bridge for a spectacular view of the city skyline (I’m sure he/she will stop there as part of the tour anyway, as it’s quite the scene!).

If you’re visiting Edmonton in the summer, be sure to get out on the water on this exhilarating speedboat tour here with Black Gold River Tours. If you’re not keen on adrenalin sports, they also offer a more relaxing cruise!

While, if you’re an animal lover and aren’t short on time in Edmonton, be sure to spend a half-day at Elk Island National Park, a 40-minute drive from downtown. This huge preserve houses bison, moose, deer, and over 250 different types of birds – all of which are free-roaming! Didn’t I say animal lovers would love it here? A great way to see the animal residents here is on the Beaver Pond Trail, a 3.6 km (2.2 mile) trail, where you may be lucky enough to spot all of the above animals, and of course, given its name – beavers! You can view the full list of trails in Elk Island National Park here. Entrance to Elk Island National Park costs $8.50 CAD per adult, and any kids and teens under 17 are free.

End your day in Edmonton with a craft beer experience in one of the many awesome breweries downtown, including Campio Brewing Co (one of my favorites) or Alley Kat Brewing Company

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 right at the mall 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 many activities and attractions. 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: Another awesome Albertan road trip is this one from Edmonton to Banff!

2. 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

You’ll be driving for quite a while (an hour and 40 minutes, to be exact) before reaching your next stop – the city of Red Deer. It’s about halfway between Edmonton and Calgary. So, you’ll definitely want to stop off, stretch your legs and grab some refreshments!

If you’re traveling between June and the September long weekend, pop into the Discovery Canyon Water Park for a few hours. This free outdoor waterpark is 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! 

3. Gasoline Alley

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

If you didn’t manage to grab some food or fuel in Red Deer or Edmonton, then be sure to make a quick pitstop at Gasoline Alley at the southern end of Red Deer. 

If its name didn’t make it obvious, Gasoline Alley is a collection of gas stations and other businesses. It’s a very popular stopping point on the drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise, mainly for hungry drivers who stop here specifically to grab a yummy burger or thick milkshake from Peters’ Drive-In. As soon as you try it, you’ll understand why back in 2005 (at their grand opening), the line-up was so long people were waiting three hours for burgers! Their burgers really are that delicious!

While if you have a sweet tooth, head over to The Donut Mill – you can’t miss it with its giant windmill on the roof! Their donuts are famous, and all are baked fresh daily with flavors like Orange Creamsicle, Maple Rolo, Chocolate Venetian, Vanilla Lemon, Apple Pie, or the flavor of the month available.  

4. Innisfail

Your next stop is well worth spending some time in. The small town of Innisfail grew from a small collection of shacks to the town you see today, thanks to the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway. 

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

The Discovery Wildlife Park is one of my favorite places in Innisfail. As I mentioned, it houses orphaned wildlife and some zoo animals. You’ll see wolves, bears, cougars, lions, and more here! 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 $21 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), pop into the RCMP Dog Training Facility to see the amazing Mountie police dogs training. In fact, this is where all police dogs for the Mounties are trained for the 100 Police Dog Teams across the country. They hold a free demonstration every Wednesday afternoon from Victoria Day until Labour Day at 2 pm.  

5. Nose Creek Regional Park

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

No matter if you’re driving this route in winter or summer, be sure to stop off at Nose Creek Regional Park in Airdrie for a few hours. In the summer, or on any nice day it’s a great spot to have a picnic (with food you picked up at your previous stop – Innisfail), as there are plenty of picnic tables. After your picnic, stretch your legs with a short or longer walk, depending on how much time you have. There are over 20 acres of green space and lots of walking trails. 

You can also try fishing for trout in the Nose Creek pond in the warmer months. 

While if you happen to be here in the winter (my favorite time of year here), you’ll likely get to experience the Airdrie Festival of Lights. The whole area is transformed into a magical winter wonderland as colorful Christmas light displays fill the space. In fact, it’s the largest free outdoor display you can walk through in Western Canada!  

6. Calgary

View of Calgary from the Calgary Tower in Canada
What a view from the Calgary Tower!
Street art on a tour in Calgary, Canada
Street art in Calgary is so cool!

As the biggest city in the province, stopping in Calgary is a no-brainer on this road trip. With over 1.4 million people and an impressive 140 languages spoken here, it’s fair to say that Calgary is a culturally rich city. It’s also nicknamed the “Sunshine City” because it receives 333 days of sunshine every year.

This means that most of the great things to do in Calgary involve being outdoors, from seeing the wildlife at Calgary Zoo to attending Calgary Stampede – the biggest event of the year which happens in July! 

In a city of this size and with so many awesome activities on offer, we highly recommend breaking up your journey between Edmonton and Lake Louise and spending a night here. 

For a bird’s eye view of the city, head to Calgary Tower, aka 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, though. Entrance to the Calgary Tower costs just $20 CAD, and their revolving restaurant – Sky 360, is a great lunch or dinner spot! 

Tourists flock to Calgary every July for the world-famous Calgary Stampede, a Western-style event that happens over the space of 10 days. This memorable extravaganza is 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 visit Calgary 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! December in Calgary is the most popular month to ice skate here so it can get very busy, FYI!

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”- every morning at this time, the penguins go for a 15-minute walk through the zoo, and it’s such a cute sight to see.

If you’re tight on time in Calgary, why not consider this 2-hour guided city scooter tour which takes in the city’s top sights and costs just $55 CAD per person. Or if you have a bit more time, there are plenty of great tours in Calgary to check out!

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

7. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

A wolf at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Wolves are so beautiful!

Another awesome suggestion for the animal lovers among you is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, a not-for-profit sanctuary that cares for rescued wolfdogs. Situated just an hour’s drive from Calgary and close to the town of Cochrane, it’s the perfect spot if you want to see these majestic dogs up close (safely) and learn all about these beautiful creatures!

The sanctuary does have some rules that are important to note before you visit. No children under six are allowed, and as well as that the paths here can not accommodate strollers. 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. Their Intro Tour costs $41 CAD per adult,  and it’s 30 minutes long and includes access to the Sanctuary Walk.

8. Cochrane

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

A cute little town with an old western feel to it, Cochrane makes for an obvious stop on your drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise. 

You don’t need too long here to get a feel for the place. We recommend two hours if you can. Spend your first hour wandering around the Historic Cochrane Ranche – a former cattle ranch that dates back to the 1880s and is the province’s first big cattle ranch. Nowadays, it’s a large public park complete with a quaint museum, several walking trails, and a reconstructed corral. 

Spend your last hour in downtown Cochrane, making sure to stop into MacKay’s Ice Cream for a delicious sweet treat! All of their ice creams are locally-made and offer a huge choice – over 50 different flavors. 

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. It’s also pet-friendly which is a huge plus if you’re roadtripping with a dog. 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.

Related Read: Beer lovers rejoice! There are a few other breweries in Cochrane that you can check out too!

9. Ghost Lake

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

Less scary than the name suggests – Ghost Lake, a 23 km drive from Cochrane, isn’t haunted, but the nearby Ghost River is said to be haunted by ghosts according to Indigenous stories.

Again this is a quick pitstop on your drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise, but it’s especially worth stopping at if you’re into photography, as the lake beach offers a fantastic vantage point to the Rocky Mountains.

It’s a popular swimming spot in the warmer months, although it will make for a refreshing swim – the water is cold! Beware, too, that the lake gets deep quickly – with an average depth of 60-90 feet. This makes it perfect for fishing – lots of freshwater fish can be found here, including bull trout and rainbow trout.

Thanks to the lake’s location at the base of the Rockies there are steady winds. This makes it an excellent spot for sailing if you have more time, and boat rentals are available from the marina.

10. Bow Valley Campground

Bailey sits in a camp chair in Bow Valley campground in Bow Valley Provincial Park
Our setup is simple, but that’s how we like it!

If staying in a bustling city like Calgary doesn’t float your boat, why not spend the night at the Bow Valley Campground instead? Doing so will break up your journey from Edmonton to Lake Louise nicely. 

Situated within the stunning Bow Valley Provincial Park, the sites here enjoy 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 Lake Louise! 

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! 

One of the best hikes here is the Many Springs loop walk, a 1.3 km (0.8 mile) trail that boasts springs that collect in a wetland basin and a dock with awesome mountain views at the end of the loop. 

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 Lake Louise. 

11. Grotto Canyon

A lady walks through the Grotto Canyon in winter
Grotto Canyon is one of my favorite easy hikes around Canmore.

Grotto Canyon is a must-stop on the road from Edmonton to Lake Louise. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful hike that is at its most stunning in the winter when frozen waterfalls and the chance to walk on ice give the whole area a winter wonderland feel! 

If you plan to drive this road trip in the winter, beware that the Grotto Canyon Icewalk trail can be very slippery in parts, so you should wear crampons or mini-ice spikes. You can rent these from one of the sports stores in nearby Canmore (the next stop). Or, if you prefer, just book a guided tour that includes all ice-related equipment!

The Grotto Canyon trail starts from the Grotto Mountain day-use parking lot, and it’s about a kilometer into the creek bed. After the creek bed, the trail really gets interesting as the trail narrows and the rock walls get higher! You’ll soon come to a fork in the creek, at which you should turn right to reach the falls. 

Top tip – just before the waterfall, look to the left, and you’ll see pictographs at your eye level, which are said to be 500-1,000 years old! They’re very cool to see! 

12. Canmore

Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
Daniel takes a selfie with our rafting crew in Canmore, Alberta
Whitewater rafting is one of the epic tours offered in Canmore!

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 cheaper and more accessible than its famous neighbors (Banff and Lake Louise), and has heaps of fun and exciting things to do!

As you can probably guess, most of the best activities in Canmore involve the great outdoors, such as hiking, caving, whitewater rafting, 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! And 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.

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, and what better way to end a day in gorgeous Canmore than with a cold glass of craft beer!

You’re not too far from your endpoint now as Canmore is under an hour from Lake Louise.

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.

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 book Canmore Downtown Hostel on Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.

Related Read: Check out our other awesome road trip guide on the drive from Edmonton to Canmore!

13. Cascade Ponds

Cascade Ponds with mount rundle and wooden bridge in autumn forest
Cascade Ponds look especially beautiful in the fall around Banff

Just over 20 km (12 miles) from Canmore, you’ll come to the gorgeous Cascade Ponds – a collection of ponds that are connected by bridges that are so photogenic! 

In fact, if you’re a photography fan, you simply must stop here! In the summer, you’ll be able to snap some fabulous photos of the surrounding mountains reflected on the lake’s calm surface, and in the fall, the bright yellow Aspen trees around the ponds will really make your photos pop. Finally, in the winter, the snow makes for a magical environment! 

It’s also a wildlife haven here, and when you’re walking between the ponds, you may be able to spot elk, mule deer, and foxes. 

If you’re not in a rush to reach Lake Louise, continue past the ponds to visit Lake Minnewanka, the largest of all the lakes in Banff National Park! In the summer, have a picnic or take a Lake Minnewanka boat cruise or enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing 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!

14. Banff

Horseback riding in Banff with Banff Trail Riders
You can go horseback riding in Banff! Photo credit: Banff Trail Riders
Bailey at the The Nancy Pauw Bridge in Banff
Bailey at the Nancy Pauw Bridge in Banff

Possibly the most recognizable place name on this list, Banff is super-famous and is easily one of Canada’s most beautiful tourist towns! There’s so much happening in Banff, from epic hikes, great restaurants, various gondolas with insane views, and memorable activities like horseback riding and a Banff food tour 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, 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 itinerary! Or below, I’ve listed some of my favorite things to do in Banff:

To get from Banff to Lake Louise, you’ll be driving the breathtaking and famous Bow Valley Parkway, a 48 km (30 miles) stretch of road that connects these two major tourist destinations.

Related Read: Another great road trip option is the drive between Vancouver and Banff!

15. Mt. Norquay

View of Mount Rundle from the Cliffhouse Bistro at the top of the Mt Norquay Gondola
Cliffhouse Bistro at the top of Mt Norquay!

Your first stop just outside Banff is a MUST if you’re doing this road trip in the winter. Mt. Norquay Ski Resort boasts 190 acres of terrain, six ski runs, and Tube Town which offers eight tube lanes for you to race your friends in inflatable tubes! 

Mount Norquay is perhaps most well-known for the World Cup and Olympic athletes who train here, but it’s also famous for being the only place to stay in Banff National Park that offers night skiing, which is such a unique experience and a must for any snow lovers!

Even if you’re driving this route in the summer, it’s still worth your while stopping here to ride the Mt Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift, which climbs 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) and offers incredible views of the Bow Valley. You may even be lucky enough to see a black bear or grizzly bear from the safety of the gondola, as they are known to roam this area.

When you get to the top, head over to the Cliffhouse Bistro for a mountaintop brunch (which is served all day!). This former teahouse built in the 1950s is famous for its stunning views and the collection of photos on the walls of Banff’s history. 

16. Vermilion Lakes

A lady ice skates on Vermilion Lakes, Banff
Ice skating on Vermilion Lakes

Just 12 minutes from your previous stop is Vermilion Lakes along Vermilion Lakes Road. Stop here for a short time to see the mountains reflected in the calm waters of the lake. There are three lakes along this drive and a great viewpoint of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain.

If you’re not in too much of a hurry to get to Lake Louise, consider biking along the shoreline, hiking on one of the nearby trails, or renting a canoe and paddling across the water. This area is especially beautiful at sunrise or sunset, it’s quieter and you’re more likely to see wildlife during those times too.

If you’re here in the winter, the lakes do freeze over enough to go skating! You might even be lucky enough to spot methane bubbles that freeze under the ice! Remember, the ice thickness isn’t consistent across all the lakes because of warm springs feeding into the lakes, so be aware and avoid the area east of the dock at Third Vermilion Lake.

After stopping here, make sure you head onto the Bow Valley Parkway to follow the next stops on this list!

17. Johnston Canyon

Lower Johnston Canyon waterfall, Banff National Park
Lower Johnston Canyon waterfall!
Johnston Canyon Lower waterfall in winter
Johnston Canyon lower waterfall in winter

I’m sure you’ve heard of the next stop – Johnston Canyon, a picturesque canyon that boasts seven glacial waterfalls cascading over rocky cliffs. Honestly, photos of this spot don’t do it justice! Johnston Canyon is just a 30-minute drive from Banff!

The hike into the falls is a 5 km (3 miles) roundtrip walk that brings you so close to the falls that you’ll feel the spray of the water on your face. It’s a relatively easy hike as the path is wide and not too steep. No wonder it’s one of the most popular hikes in the Banff area!

As is the case with most canyons in Canada, this spot is extra-special in the winter months when the whole area looks like a scene from a Christmas movie – because the ice on the Lower and Upper Falls turns a lovely blue color, which is magical. The waterfalls also completely freeze over, causing giant icicles to form – which are so cool to see. 

If you plan to do this hike in the winter, you will need to buy or rent ice cleats or spikes to navigate the ice safely. If not, joining a guided ice walk tour is your best bet, as your experienced guide will safely lead you on the ice, and all safety gear is included in the price. 

The best thing is that entrance to and parking at Johnston Canyon is free and open year-round. 

18. Moose Meadows

moose-meadows-in-summer-bow-valley-parkway
In the spring, this meadow often gets full of wildflowers.

As you get closer to Lake Louise, this is a good spot to pull off the road briefly and snap some photos. The scenery is lovely, and as the name suggests, it’s essentially a large meadow (field) with a mountain backdrop. If you’re lucky, you may see moose roaming in the meadow. However, as it has become more popular with tourists, the shy moose tend to avoid the crowds that gather here. You may still see one, though!

If you can, try to get here at sunset for the best views, and because it’s a quieter time of day, you have a higher chance of spotting moose. The meadow is often filled with wildflowers, too, which are especially brilliant in the Spring.

It is just a small pullover bay. The location can be found on Google Maps here.

19. Castle Mountain Chalets

Castle Mountain Chalets in Banff National Park, Canada
Photo credit: Castle Mountain Chalets

Castle Mountain Chalets is located between Banff and Lake Louise. This makes it a great spot to stay to break up your road trip!

You can stay in a spacious, individual chalet with a rustic and cozy feel. The chalets were originally built in 1939, and staying in one will make you feel like you stepped back in time. That’s not to say these chalets aren’t luxurious, though, because they are! Each chalet has a full kitchen, fireplace, and stunning mountain views.

Winter or summer, Castle Mountain Chalets is a beautiful place to stay. Just be warned, a place this spectacular doesn’t come cheap, and you can expect to pay between $300-500 CAD per night, depending on the season that you visit. However, compared with other hotels in Banff, this is a reasonable price for such a unique and beautiful place.

If your itinerary doesn’t allow you to spend the night here, you can stop here to grab some snacks at the General Store or fill up on gas at the gas station. It is pricey, though, so if you can fuel up before here, do so.

20. Castle Cliff Viewpoint

Castle Mountain along Bow Valley Parkway
Castle Mountain, one of the views along the Bow Valley Parkway.

The next spot on the Bow Valley Parkway is the perfect place to stop and see the cliffs of Castle Mountain in all their splendor. The castle-like appearance is due to different erosion rates of the layers of soft shale and hard limestone, dolomite, and quartzite.

There’s a parking area and a small path leading to a viewing platform to stop and take photos. So, be sure to have your camera with you and snap some amazing shots!

Because you’ll be walking just a few meters to the viewing deck, it’s a great alternative to the longer Castle Mountain Lookout Trail, which I’ve listed below.

21. Castle Mountain Lookout Trail

view of Castle Mountain fromt he viewpoing deck on the Bow Valley Parkway
Doesn’t this mountain look like a castle?!

If you’re a hiker (like us) and love experiencing new hikes with great views, you just have to stop at my next stop – the Castle Mountain Lookout Trail. As I mentioned, it’s a longer alternative to the Castle Mountain Viewpoint, mentioned above, and is 7 km (4.3 miles) long and should take most people between 3 and 4 hours to complete. 

The trailhead is located on the Bow Valley Parkway, about 22 km (13.7 miles) from Lake Louise, so it’s a great hike to squeeze in before you reach your final destination!

Although the trail does feature some steep sections, the path is well-maintained, making for an easy to moderate hike. However, it’s only open from May to October. Also, there are no facilities here, so you will need to pack what you need with you – we recommend water (it can get pretty hot on this trail in the summer), and bear spray is another essential. 

The views from the Castle Mountain Lookout are epic, and you’ll be able to see as far as the Three Sisters Mountain Range!

22. Morant’s Curve

Morant's Curve train snakes it's way through the mountains in Banff
What a view!
Morant’s Curve in winter!

Woohoo you’re almost at your final stop, but first, it’s time for one last pitstop. And believe me, it’s a goodie! Morant’s Curve refers to a bend in the Bow River, and from this specific viewpoint (if you time it right), you’ll be able to snap a photo of the Canadian Pacific train rounding the corner. Trains typically pass by every hour during the week and a little less frequently at weekends!

Keep an eye out for the signs indicating the viewpoint and park across the highway in the small parking lot (marked on Google maps here.)

And the great news is that from here, it’s a short 5-7 minute drive to Lake Louise!

23. Lake Louise

Bailey on the edge of Lake Louise
Lake Louise is just stunning!
Bailey skis at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park
You can enjoy skiing here in the winter!

You’ve reached your last stop, and I’m pretty certain you’re already familiar with it! Lake Louise is a small mountain village featuring a huge lake with the same name. It is hidden within the Rocky Mountains, making for a truly magical setting! And I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the most famous places in Alberta!

This powder-blue lake is gorgeous in every season. Summer in Lake Louise is prime time for hiking or renting a canoe and exploring the lake from the water. Two awesome hikes in Lake Louise include the Lake Agnes Tea House trail and the Lakeshore Trail.

The Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail is the longer and more difficult of the two, it’s a 7.3 km (4.5 miles) return, and it climbs high above the lake, thus providing several stunning viewpoints. Although it’s harder than the Lakeshore Trail, it’s rated as moderate and isn’t a technical trail; therefore, anyone with a reasonable level of fitness should be able to complete it. 

The Lakefront Trail, on the other hand, is a 4 km (2.5 miles) trail that takes you to the far end of Lake Louise, offering a birds-eye view of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel

When the temperature starts to drop and the snow falls, winter in Lake Louise is truly memorable. The lake freezes over, enabling you to go ice skating! If you don’t have your own skates, you can rent some from the Fairmont Hotel from mid-December to mid-April. And as mentioned earlier, if you’re a skier (or snowboarder), you’ll want to check out the awesome powder at Lake Louise Ski Resort!

Related Read: As Lake Louise is such a popular spot, you’ll want to read our guide on parking in Lake Louise!

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

Fairmont Springs Hotel in Banff
Photo credit – Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

If you have more than just one day to spend in Lake Louise, then you’ll need to find somewhere to stay overnight. Of course, with being such a small village, there are limited places to stay in Lake Louise, so you should book online well in advance. Additionally, if you want to stay right on the lake’s edge, The Fairmont is your best choice. It’s pricey, but super luxurious and the views really can’t be beat!

HI Lake Louise Alpine Center ($)

For budget travelers, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best option in Lake Louise Village. The location is right in town, they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and friendly staff. You can choose between dorm rooms or private rooms. It is by far the cheapest place to stay in Lake Louise, and honestly, it’s a nice hostel and we’ve actually stayed there a few times. You can book it online with Hostelworld.com or Booking.com!

Lake Louise Inn ($$)

The Lake Louise Inn is still a budget-friendly option but a little fancier than the above hostel. The hotel features an indoor pool, an onsite restaurant and bar, modern rooms, and even apartments for larger groups. It basically has all the comforts you’d expect at a standard hotel and the reviews are really good. Its location is also ideal, right in the heart of Lake Louise Village. You can book the Lake Louise Inn online here!

Fairmont Château Lake Louise ($$$)

For those with a bigger budget, you can’t look past the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list! There are also a few restaurants in the hotel that are only available to hotel guests, not to mention the onsite spa! You can book the Fairmont online here!

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!

Bailey and Daniel at the edge of Lake Louise in Banff
Thanks for reading!

If you’ve managed to read this far, congratulations! It turned out to be a whopper of a road trip guide, and writing it made me want to do the drive again ASAP! Driving from Edmonton to Lake Louise is one of the best drives in Alberta and I can’t wait to hear what you think about my list of stops.

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

11 BEST Restaurants in Lake Louise (with epic views & better food!)

12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Lake Louise to Jasper

6 BEST Lake Louise Tours from Banff

21 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Vancouver