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Stretching between Lake Louise and Jasper, the Icefields Parkway is famous for being one of the most beautiful roads in the whole world. There are a ton of amazing stops along the way, and more photo opportunities than you can shake a stick at!
This is one of those road trips that belongs on any bucket list of places to see in Alberta! It goes through Banff and Jasper National Parks, which are two of the best and most stunning national parks in Canada, so you’d better believe that the views are breathtaking.
The Icefields Parkway is pretty remote and since it’s a 230-kilometer (143-mile) long highway, you’ll need to travel along in a car, bus tour, or minivan.
However, given that it’s so remote, many travelers find that it’s better to take a tour of the Icefields Parkway rather than visit alone. With so many tour options and ways to see the sights along this famous stretch of road, we’ve put together this guide to help you out.
Whether you’re looking to drive yourself or catch a ride, these are the 7 best tours on the Icefields Parkway!
Why Book a Tour on the Icefields Parkway?
The Icefields Parkway is a very remote area. This is part of what makes it so awesome, but its length and remoteness also make it a bit tricky to get around, so you’ll either need to join a tour or bring your own vehicle to see it.
The problem with the latter option is that renting a car is expensive in Canada, and even if you do have your own vehicle, the Icefields Parkway isn’t always the easiest road to drive along.
Unless you’re visiting during the summer, you can expect ice and snow on the road, so you should be confident driving in these conditions. Obviously, joining a tour means that you don’t need to worry about driving yourself and allows you to sit back and allow an experienced professional to do it for you instead, so this is an appealing option for many visitors.
Some of the experiences along the Icefields Parkway – like the Athabasca Glacier, which is one of our favorite stops – require a tour anyway, so joining an organized full-day tour just makes sense! Or, if you already have your own wheels and are keen to drive, then there are also self-drive tours available.
My biggest tip is to make sure you book these tours in advance! Daniel and I once waited at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre for THREE hours because we hadn’t booked a glacier tour ahead of time. These tours book up quickly for dates in the peak summer travel season, so if you find a tour you like, book now!
Our TOP Icefields Parkway Tour
Hiking on top of a glacier is such a memorable and downright cool experience, that I couldn’t help but put this guided hike on the Athabasca Glacier at the top of the list!
We learned a ton of cool facts about the history of the glacier, and got some really epic shots of the Rocky Mountains too. Tickets for this 3-hour tour cost $131 CAD per person and can be booked online here.
The BEST Tours on the Icefields Parkway (Self-Drive)
When you’re thinking about tours of the Canadian Rockies, the Columbia Icefield is one of those can’t-miss places.
These first four tours are ones that take place at the Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier, which is 104 kilometers (65 miles) from the Jasper townsite and 192 kilometers (120 miles) from Banff.
There are some amazing experiences to be had here, and the following tours do not include transport to or from the Icefield, so they’re more suited to people who already have their own wheels or are happy to rent a car. This way, you get to experience the amazing views and glaciers, and then you can spend the rest of the day exploring the Icefields Parkway independently.
1. Half-day guided glacier hike on Athabasca Glacier
There are lots of amazing experiences to be found along the Icefields Parkway, but for us, hiking on the majestic Athabasca Glacier has to be at the top of the list. This half-day guided hike will take you right across the surface of the glacier, and you’ll learn all about and admire its different ice formations as you go. Plus, you’ll have amazing views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains throughout, which makes the experience even more special.
The tour costs around $130 CAD for adults and $70 CAD for kids aged 7-16, and the route takes about 3 hours in total. Micro-spikes for your shoes are included in the price of your tour to give you extra traction on the snow and ice. When you have these, the hike is actually pretty easy so most travelers should be able to complete it without any problems.
We also really like the fact that there’s a maximum of 12 travelers per group, making it a more personal and close-knit experience.
Walking on the glacier is most definitely one of our favorite experiences along the Icefields Parkway, so if you’re up for an adventure then we highly recommend booking this super unique experience!
2. Full-day guided glacier hike on Athabasca Glacier
What’s better than a half-day hike on the Athabasca Glacier? A full-day hike on the Athabasca Glacier!
Well, this actually depends on your budget, fitness levels, itinerary, and personal preferences, but if you want to tackle a longer version of the guided hike that we talked about above, then this tour is perfect.
You’ll hike 10 kilometers (6 miles) across the Athabasca Glacier, which will take approximately 6 hours, including a stop for lunch along the way. This will give you a ton of opportunities to admire all of the unique features of the glacier, learn loads about it from your experienced guide, and take in the stunning views all around you.
The tour costs $204 CAD for adults and $100 CAD for kids, including crampons for your shoes, and you can also borrow rain gear, hiking boots, and gloves if you don’t have your own. There will be a picnic stop along the way but you’ll need to bring your own packed lunch with you, as this isn’t provided.
We think that this is the ultimate way to experience the Athabasca Glacier and is definitely worth considering if you have the time, energy, and budget to do it!
3. Glacier Skywalk
The Glacier Skywalk is part of the Columbia Icefield, and it’s one of the most popular attractions along the Icefields Parkway. It’s a glass walkway attached to a cliff that looks over the Sunwapta Valley, which separates Banff and Jasper National Parks.
When you walk along this 400-meter (1,312-foot) long platform, you’ll have the most incredible views of the Rockies, the valley below, and the surrounding glaciers, so we highly recommend going for a stroll!
You also get an audio guide free with your admission ticket and there are lots of information boards around, so in addition to soaking in the panoramic views, you can also learn a lot about the geology of the Columbia Icefield and the area’s Aboriginal history, which is super interesting.
Since the skywalk is totally transparent and hovers 280 meters (918 feet) above the valley below, we did find that it got our hearts beating a little extra fast, but it’s super well constructed and totally safe.
The price of tickets for the Skywalk depends on which day of the week you visit. From Friday – Sunday, it costs $47 CAD for adults and $32 CAD for kids, while it’s $37 CAD for adults and $24 CAD for kids for the rest of the week.
Related Read: If heights don’t bother you, make sure to check out our comparison of the gondolas in Banff and pick your favorite one!
4. Ice Explorer and Glacier Skywalk combined tour
If you want to combine both the incredible panoramic vistas of the Skywalk and the magical experience of walking on the surface of a glacier (and why wouldn’t you?!) then this tour is just the thing for you.
You’ll start with an Ice Explorer tour, during which you’re driven across the surface of the Athabasca Glacier in a giant vehicle, with commentary along the way. Along the way, you’ll also have a chance to get out and walk on the surface of the glacier for yourself, which is a super cool experience, and perfect for those who want to do this without having to join a guided hike.
After that, you’ll be driven back to the Skywalk to enjoy a stroll along the glass-bottomed walkway and countless photo opportunities. Say cheese!
The tour costs $125 CAD for adults and $80 CAD for kids on weekends, or it’s $104 for adults and $67 CAD for kids from Monday – Thursday. The whole experience takes around 3 hours in total, and we found that the Ice Explorer drive across the glacier was especially memorable.
The BEST Tours of the Icefields Parkway from Banff
The tours listed in this section leave from the town of Banff, and include transport along the Icefields Parkway. These make great tours from Banff if you don’t have your own transportation, don’t feel comfortable driving in snow and ice during the winter, or just want to relax and not worry about navigating.
They’re both full-day tours that will show you some of the most stunning spots along the Icefields Parkway, so they’re perfect additions to any Banff itinerary for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of this scenic road without doing the driving.
Attention: Want to travel from Banff to Jasper? Below (number 7), we talk about the one-way tour from Jasper to Banff and vice versa. You can check out the Banff to Jasper option here. Or if you’re interested in getting here from Calgary, these are the best Banff tours from Calgary including day trip and multi-day options!
5. Lake Louise and Icefields Parkway tour
This full-day tour takes you to some of the most beautiful and far-flung places in the Canadian Rockies. We love this tour because you get to see some of the highlights along the Icefields Parkway along with some neat extras.
First off, you’ll have an hour to spend at the incredible Lake Louise. This spot is beautiful in all seasons, but Lake Louise during the summer is a breathtaking shade of turquoise set against the backdrop of a picturesque mountain valley – worthy of a photo or two!
You’ll also visit Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, and Bow Lake and head to a viewpoint above the Crowfoot Glacier. You’re likely to spot plenty of the wildlife around Banff along the way such as elk, deer, mountain goats, and possibly even some bears!
We think this tour is really worth doing because a lot of these places can be tricky to reach on your own, and almost impossible to find parking at! A tour takes all of the stress out of the equation, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
What really stood out to us about this tour is that it’s operated by a family-run company, all of whom have spent their lives exploring the Rockies and sharing it with visitors. The guides are really friendly and knowledgeable, and their passion for the region is contagious!
The tour includes pickup and drop-off from Banff and Canmore, whether you’re staying at a campground, a hotel, or an AirBnb. It makes it one of our top picks for tours from Banff to Lake Louise! However, if you’re staying in Canmore you will need to organize a Parks Pass to enter Banff National Park because it’s actually outside the park boundaries.
There’s a maximum group size of 15, which is perfect. We really don’t enjoy overcrowded tours, but this one feels really personal. It’s great for literally anyone who wants to experience the stunning scenery of the Canadian Rockies and one of the most scenic drives in the world.
The tour costs $180 CAD per person and lasts for the whole day. It really allows you to experience the natural beauty that the area has to offer, and it feels a million miles away from a super commercialized tourist experience.
This is a popular tour that can sell out, especially during peak travel times, so make sure you book online here once you know your travel dates!
Related Read: If seeing all the amazing animals around here is high on your list, consider adding one of the top wildlife tours in Banff to your trip!
6. Athabasca Glacier tour with pick up in Banff
Walking on the Athabasca Glacier is one of the most incredible experiences we’ve had anywhere in the world! It’s truly a must-do tour on the Icefields Parkway. Plus, you can do this during summer in Banff, so it’s a fun way to cool off!
This glacier tour takes you along the gorgeous Icefields Parkway, where you’ll board a huge Ice Explorer vehicle and head right onto the Athabasca Glacier. You can not only walk on the glacier but also have the chance to drink fresh water from its streams.
It’s honestly a surreal experience that you can only have in very few parts of the world, so we highly recommend taking advantage of your proximity to the glacier while you’re in Banff! This tour was easily one of our favorite experiences along the Icefields Parkway.
After exploring the glacier, you’ll also get to walk along the Columbia Icefield Skywalk high above the Sunwapta Valley. You’ll also get a mountain picnic lunch and the tour stops at the Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake so you can take in the views there too.
The pickup and drop-off point for this tour is the Mount Royal Hotel in Banff, and it’s a small group experience with a maximum of 24 participants, so it doesn’t feel overcrowded. It costs $322 CAD, so while it isn’t cheap, we really do think it’s worth paying a bit extra to have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The BEST Tours of the Icefields Parkway from Jasper
7. Jasper to Banff one-way tour (Banff to Jasper)
Your guide will teach you all about the history of the region and you’ll see amazing sights like Athabasca Falls, Bow Lake, the Crowfoot Glacier, and the Weeping Wall.
Plus, this tour includes a visit to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre to walk along the famous Skywalk and enjoy a ride on an Ice Explorer across the surface of the Athabasca Glacier, which we guarantee is the kind of experience that you’ll remember forever.
We love this tour because it really does turn the journey from Jasper to Banff into an incredible road trip, and it also means that you don’t need to worry about renting a car to travel between the two! So not only is it a fantastic day out, but it’s also really convenient.
This tour costs $282 CAD including hotel pick up and drop off, a picnic along the way, and your tour of the Columbia Icefield. So given that it also gets you from Jasper to Banff on top of all of this, we think it’s pretty good value for money!
Where to Stay on the Icefields Parkway
While you can easily drive the Icefields Parkway in a day, spending a night or two along here means more time to take in a couple of tours or explore on your own. Plus, there are tons of awesome places to stay along the Icefields Parkway you can choose from.
For budget travelers, your best option is camping. Campsites generally book up months in advance, but sometimes cancellations will free up a spot for a night or two. There are a total of 11 campgrounds on the Icefields Parkway. Find out more about the ones in Banff National Park here, and the ones in Jasper National Park here.
If you’re not much of a camper then your options are a little more limited.
HI Mosquito Creek Hostel is a place we’ve stayed before. It offers dorm and private-style cabins that are heated. There is a communal kitchen and a traditional outdoor sauna. This place is perfect for those on a budget or looking for something a little nicer than camping while still being in nature. It is really a unique place to stay and I would stay there again in a heartbeat.
Your next option is in the best location. The Crossing is the hotel located at Saskatchewan River Crossing, almost exactly at the halfway point along the Icefields Parkway. This hotel is modest with average reviews, but the location is ideal so convenience is what you’re paying for here.
The last option is called the Glacier View Lodge and it’s located at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. This hotel is the most upscale along the Icefields Parkway and comes at a premium. However, with every room boasting a mountain or glacier view, how could you go wrong?! Staying here makes it easy to do a glacier tour first thing in the morning or even the Skywalk (before they get busy around mid-day).
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 $10.50 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.00 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.)
- $21.00 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) – $72.25 CAD
- Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 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
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully, this guide to the best tours on the Icefields Parkway has been helpful as you plan your trip! This scenic stretch of road between Lake Louise and Jasper is truly beautiful with SO many amazing places to stop. A tour takes all the hassle out of the trip as your transportation, itinerary, and even tickets for incredible experiences (like walking on a glacier!) are already taken care of.
If you’re looking for even more travel tips and tricks, check out our other Canada blogs! Whether you’re looking for road trip ideas, hiking routes, or hidden gems, we’ve got you covered. Or, check out some related blogs below: