The Icefields Parkway has been named one of the world’s most scenic drives by many international publications. It’s a gorgeous road between Lake Louise and Jasper with never-ending glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, mountains, and wildlife. Experience the best of the Icefields Parkway with our comprehensive guide of more than 20 stops and local secret tips.
that’s the word that comes to my mind when I think of the Icefields Parkway.
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) is a 232 km road through the finest landscapes of the Canadian Rockies stretching from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. Famed for its rugged beauty with insanely blue alpine lakes and glacier views, the mountain road between Lake Louise to Jasper has it all.
Take at least one full day to experience its immense beauty. Read our suggested stops and Icefields Parkway itinerary below, including all our tips to have an unforgettable trip.
We’ve driven the Icefields Parkway countless times and every time it’s a surprising journey, we find a new waterfall, hike a new trail or see the popular lakes in different shades of blue.
The road from Lake Louise to Jasper is probably the busiest road in Alberta during the season where stunning views of icefields, glacial-fed lakes, waterfalls, mountains and wildlife await. Many international publications suggest driving the Icefields Parkway as once in a lifetime experience. National Geographic included Icefields Parkway in their book Drives of a Lifetime.
If you like adventurous trips, book a Smile Campervan from us. It’s a budget-friendly option to see the Canadian Rockies.
Visiting Canadian Rockies? Read these:
Table of Contents
Best stops on Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper
A quick overview of the best attractions along the Icefields Parkway (more info about each is in the ‘Icefields Parkway itinerary’ section):
Quick stops & lookouts short distance from the parking lot
- Lake Louise (with hiking trails in the area)
- Moraine Lake (with hiking trails in the area)
- Herbert Lake
- Hector Lake
- Bow Lake (with hiking trails in the area)
- Waterfowl Lakes
- Mistaya Canyon
- Saskatchewan River Crossing
- Weeping Wall, Bridal Veil Falls & Panther Falls
- Columbia Icefield/Athabasca Glacier/Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
- Stutfield Glacier
- Sunwapta Falls
- Athabasca Falls
- Horseshoe Lake
Icefields Parkway hikes
- Bow Glacier Falls
- Peyto Lake/Bow Summit
- Chephren Lake
- Glacier Lake
- Parker Ridge
- Wilcox Pass
- Stanley Falls
- Valley of the Five Lakes
Icefields Parkway map
You can see all the mentioned places on the map below for easier orientation.Click the icons for more info and share the map with your road trip buddies.
If you’d like to download a detailed Icefields Parkway map, click here.
Icefields Parkway itinerary: An ultimate guide for 20+ stops along Icefields Parkway
We recommend 2 days for the Icefields Parkway so you can stop along the way for viewpoints and hikes without rushing. Oftentimes, you will see wildlife from the car and stop for a while. You never know what surprise awaits after the next turn.
The Icefields Parkway ends in Jasper National Park where we usually stay at least 4 days. There are many hikes and biking trails in the area and they are more spread out than in Banff National Park.
Our below Icefields Parkway itinerary includes highlights from Lake Louise to Jasper, starting the drive from Lake Louise. It doesn’t matter which way you drive the Icefields Parkway, it will blow you away. Driving from Jasper to Lake Louise is also an option that provides different views of the mountains and glaciers from a different angle.
Prepare to see shades of blue and green you’ve never seen before.
100 things to do in Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway starts right after Lake Louise (heading north) at the junction with Trans-Canada Highway, which leads to Yoho National Park. But since many visitors drive from Banff to Jasper, included are the 2 most popular lakes as well – Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
This emerald-coloured lake is overlooked by Victoria Glacier. With the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, it is one of the most popular lakes in the Canadian Rockies.
Kayaking and hiking during summer, ice skating, and cross country skiing during winter, everyone can find a way to enjoy this place.
You can rent a canoe on the shore (125 CAD + GST for a ½ hour or 135 CAD + GST for 1 hour in summer 2022); hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Lake Agnes Teahouse, Little or Big Beehive or our favourite and least crowded trail to Mount Piran.
Moraine Lake & Valley of the Ten Peaks
Location: 14 km from Lake Louise & 246 km from Jasper
I believe Moraine Lake with a backdrop of the mountains is the most photographed lake in Canada. Located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, just 14 km away from Lake Louise, don’t miss this if you’re in the area. You can rent a canoe on the lake or bring your own stand-up paddleboard and enjoy the view.
Due to its popularity, it’s best visited early in the morning or later afternoon. The parking lot is full very soon in the morning so if you’re visiting during the day, you might need to go by shuttle from Lake Louise. Visiting Moraine Lake requires thorough planning, read our Moraine Lake guide to get all the tips.
Read our recommendation: A comprehensive Banff packing guide for Canadian Rockies.
Because the Moraine Lake Road passes an avalanche area, it is only open May to October every year (and the lake is still covered with big chunks of ice until June). Check out the Parks Canada website for the exact dates of the closure. There are several hikes in the area which you can only hike in a group of 4 or more due to grizzly bear presence. In winter, you can visit the lookout point of the Ten Peaks on cross-country skis.
There are several hiking trails in the area, read our post 20 best hikes in Banff National Park for more info.
Location: 7 km from Lake Louise & 226 km from Jasper
Tucked behind the trees, the little Herbert Lake is a rare quiet spot with stunning reflections of the mountains. It also looks like a perfect lake for stand-up paddleboarding, the parking lot is on the left side of the road.
I highly recommend packing your swimsuit on your Icefields Parkway drive. Even though the water is usually very cold, a quick dip is an awesome cool off. And if you decide to cool off in Herbert Lake, take a little walk around the lake and you might even find the jumping board.
Location: 23 km from Lake Louise & 211 km from Jasper
You can either stop at the Hector Lake viewpoint or hike to the lake itself by following the trail along the Bow River. Hector Lake on Icefields Parkway is underrated but worth a visit. If you’re looking for solitude during a busy summer drive, this is a great spot.
Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier & Bow Glacier Falls Hike
Location: 39 km from Lake Louise & 195 km from Jasper
Bow Lake lies on the Bow River and it is often enjoyed by kayakers. Views around the lake include Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, and Crowfoot Glacier.
There is also a hike to the Bow Falls, around 10 km round trip. Follow the trail along the right side of the lake which leads to the falls and enjoy a tea and cake at the Num Ti Jah Lodge by the lake afterward.
The photo below was taken on the pullout parking lot on the Icefields Parkway shortly before your reach the sign for Bow Lake and Num Ti Jah Lodge. The mirror reflections are unreal! Doesn’t it look just perfect for stand-up paddleboarding? Mornings and evening are best, as otherwise, it’s usually quite windy for water activities. Keep in mind that there’s no rental, you need to bring your own watercraft.
Peyto Lake (Bow Summit)
Location: 45 km from Lake Louise & 188 km from Jasper. Look for the Bow Summit sign along the road.
High above, the Wapta Icefield feeds the Peyto Glacier and Peyto Glacier feeds Peyto Lake. When the glacier is slightly melting in the summer, particles of the rocks flow into the lake which gives the lake its unique turquoise colour.
At 2,088 m above sea level, Bow Summit is the highest point you reach on Icefields Parkway. Look for a sign ‘Bow Summit’, that’s where the parking lot for Peyto Lake lookout is located. You can visit the lookout year-long.
This is a micro-hike (or a walk), only a 2 km roundtrip from the parking lot to the newly upgraded viewing platform.
There is no hiking trail maintained although you might be able to hike all the way down to the lake. For more info, read our post on Peyto Lake in Canada.
The reconstruction has been finished and the Peyto Lake viewpoint is opened from October 2021. The lower parking lot for cars is maintained and washrooms are open throughout the year. The upper parking lot (for buses) will reopen in June 2022.
Waterfowl Lakes & Chephren Lake Hike
Location: 60 km from Lake Louise & 174 km from Jasper
Easily visible from the road, Waterfowl Lakes is a great place for kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. Both are beautiful lakes with Mount Chephren in the background.
This scenic location also has Waterfowl Lakes Campground which runs on a first come first serve basis, and it’s one of the prettiest campgrounds on Icefields Parkway. There are washrooms with hot water, toilets, drinking water, picnic shelters, fire pits, and an outdoor theatre.
If you’d like to enjoy a pristine alpine lake all by yourself, hike to Chephren Lake. It’s around a 9 km round trip and not many visitors make it all the way here.
Location: 75 km from Lake Louise & 158 km from Jasper
Mistaya Canyon is a “must-stop” as you see the glacial water of Mistaya River cutting through a gorgeous canyon with the Rocky Mountains in the background. It’s a very popular attraction when you drive the Icefields Parkway in winter as well.
Walk about 500 meters (10 min) from the parking lot through the forest and across the wooden bridge to see a deep canyon with the stunningly blue colour of the water. It’s a very nice place to walk around, even close to the river.
Saskatchewan River Crossing
Location: 80 km from Lake Louise & 153 km from Jasper
Important junction of the Icefields Parkway and David Thompson Highway, which would lead you east to the city of Red Deer. If you have time, you can drive to Abraham Lake (especially beautiful during winter with methane bubbles) and then return to Icefields Parkway.
It is the only place between Lake Louise and Jasper with a gas station (with very expensive fuel). There is also a restaurant and a little shop, stay away from both if you can, they are overpriced.
Saskatchewan River Crossing is just that, a major junction on the Icefields Parkway, there’s nothing pretty to look at and if your tank is full, just keep driving.
This is our newest find along the Icefields Parkway. The trailhead is located around 1 km past the Saskatchewan River Crossing. We’re both trail runners and the 18 km long and soft trail through the forest with several viewpoints and a nice reward at the end was amazing. Definitely our most enjoyable run in Banff National Park.
Road-trippers usually don’t visit Glacier Lake while driving the Icefields Parkway, probably because of the distance. But if you make the effort, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views, an easy trail, and a gorgeous Glacier Lake with a glacier view at the end.
Because of the lack of people, you can take advantage and dip in the water to refresh even if you didn’t pack your swimsuit.
Read full blog post: Glacier Lake Trail
Weeping Wall at Cirrus Mountain
Location: approximately 109 km from Lake Louise & 125 km from Jasper
Driving from Saskatchewan River Crossing, keep looking right on Cirrus Mountain. A series of waterfalls are created which you can see in the distance.
Depending on when you drive the Icefields Parkway, you can see either dripping water slightly looking like a waterfall or truly a bustling stream of water. It’s the strongest at the beginning of summer when the glaciers melt.
Icefields Parkway lookout, Bridal Veil Falls & Panther Falls
Location: 116 km from Lake Louise & 118 km from Jasper
Once you pass Cirrus Mountain and the famous hairpin turn called Big Bend going steeply uphill, you will see a pullover parking lot on the right side. This is a great stop to look at Icefields Parkway from high above and how the road cuts through the mountains.
From the next parking lot, just a few hundred meters away, the trail down to Bridal Veil Falls and Panther Falls can be found on the south end. The trail is short and steep, about 1 km round trip. Definitely worth a visit. In winter, Panther Falls is a popular spot for ice climbers and photographers when the Falls create huge icicles.
Neither of these pullover parking lots is marked and there’s no sign informing you what beauty lies down just a short walk away. This stop along the Icefields Parkway is a true hidden gem.
Panther Falls along the Icefields Parkway is a little-known stop, so you’ll likely have it just for yourself. Just imagine it – sitting under the cascading 66-meter high waterfall with a beautiful landscape all around you.
Parker Ridge Hike
Trailhead location: it’s marked from the Icefields Parkway (before Hilda Creek Hostel when driving from Lake Louise), 121 km from Lake Louise & 112 km from Jasper
Distance: 5 km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 210 m
This is the most underrated hike in the Canadian Rockies. If you only have time for one hike, make it this one. It’s one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park for a reason. The trail is short and steep and the view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and a little blue glacial lake underneath is mesmerizing.
Now that you will leave Banff National Park and enter Jasper, check out our extensive list of 65 adventurous things to do in Jasper National Park.
Wilcox Pass Hike
Trailhead location: next to the Wilcox Creek Campground (before Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre when driving from Lake Louise), 127 km from Lake Louise & 107 km from Jasper
Distance: 8 km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 350 m
While Parker Ridge is located in Banff National Park, Wilcox Pass belongs to Jasper National Park.
Read the full blog post: Wilcox Pass Hike
The start of the trail is clearly marked with a kiosk and continues on the wide and well-trodden forest path. Once you clear the forest, a view of the Athabasca Glacier opens up just across the Icefields Parkway road. You can enjoy the glacier view from the popular red chairs. Watch out for mountain goats and bighorn sheep, there are plenty in the area.
Wilcox Pass hike goes from point A to point B meaning that if you decide to hike the full 8 km, you begin at one point and end at a different one. There’s no shuttle option so you would need to arrange transport with your travel buddies.
The good news is, you can only hike the first few kilometres to the red chairs and have the most amazing views of the Athabasca Glacier and part of the Icefields Parkway in front of you.
Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier, Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
Location: 130 km from Lake Louise & 103 km from Jasper
Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in the Rockies of North America. It lies on the Continental Divide and on the border of Alberta and British Columbia.
Columbia Icefield feeds 8 glaciers including Athabasca Glacier. You can either buy a tour to the Athabasca Glacier and visit Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre or drive to the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier and explore a piece of it on your own.
If you’ve never walked on a glacier before, I highly suggest booking a Columbia Icefield tour. A giant bus with massive tires takes you on the Athabasca Glacier for a short walk. Don’t forget your water bottle and you can drink directly water from the glacier.
Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint
Location: 139 km from Lake Louise & 95 km from Jasper
Another glacier viewpoint along the Icefields Parkway. There are no amenities but it’s always nice to enjoy the stunning views around. You can hike to the bottom of the glacier if the water level of the creek is low enough to cross it. In winter, we went cross-country skiing to the bottom of the glacier and explored some ice caves.
Stanley Falls Hike
Trailhead location: unmarked parking on the right side of the road, 145 km from Lake Louise & 89 km from Jasper
Distance: 4,5 km
Elevation gain: almost no elevation
Every time we drive the Icefield Parkway, we discover a new viewpoint or hiking trail. This is one of our latest finds. Although the falls can’t be compared to the staggering beauty you see elsewhere, it’s worth a stop if you want to get away from the crowds. Unlike other stops on the Icefields Parkway, we’ve only seen two people during the whole time.
An easy trail leads through the flats into the canyon. We really needed to stretch our legs and decided to hike another 2 km to the end “marked” by a triple waterfall. The trail is easy to follow but not marked, so read these instructions.
Location: 179 km from Lake Louise & 56 km from Jasper
Easily accessible waterfalls from the highway with a drop of 18 meters. As the water comes from Athabasca Glacier, the waterfall is the strongest at the beginning of summer when the glacier starts to melt.
There are several picnic tables by the parking lot which makes it a great pit stop. Or you can eat in the restaurant at Sunwapta Falls Lodge, one of the few hotels on the Icefields Parkway.
Location: 202 km from Lake Louise & 32,5 km from Jasper
Athabasca falls have a drop of 24 metres. The very bottom part of the falls is a popular area for starting a white water rafting trip on the Athabasca River.
The last time we’ve visited we saw a black bear walking just across the river near the parking lot. He looked hungry so we let him pass before getting back to the car. Make sure you keep an eye on your surroundings and carry a bear spray whenever you leave your car.
Parks Canada recommends carrying a bear spray whenever you go to the Rocky Mountains, and it doesn’t matter how crowded the place is.
Location: 205 km from Lake Louise & 28 km from Jasper
One of our biggest wins of driving the Icefields Parkway was discovering Horseshoe Lake just before reaching Jasper. Cliff diving paradise! Watch here how beautiful the lake is.
It also offers a hiking trail around the lake but more importantly (at least for us), it was a chance to finally cool off. The water is crystal clear and usually cold. The height for jumping varies from 1 to 25 metres.
We enjoyed cliff diving a lot, but be aware that you have to know how to jump from heights and not just have the courage to do so. One guy injured his spine during our visit – he chose to jump from 15 metres without any prior experience and an ambulance had to be called.
Valley of the Five Lakes Hike
Trailhead location: there is a sign on the Icefields Parkway, 223 km from Lake Louise & 10,5 km from Jasper
Distance: 4,5 km loop
Elevation gain: 150 m
The last stop on the Icefields Parkway before reaching Jasper was Valley of the Five Lakes. Five lakes of different sizes, shapes, and colours. Time spent here is up to you, but I’d recommend having at least an hour.
There are red chairs for photos, and picnic tables to rest. It’s an easy trail and we’ve seen people of all ages hike the Valley of the Five Lakes.
For more about hiking in the valley and other hiking recommendations in Jasper, check out the post Hiking in Jasper National Park.
Read the full blog post: Valley of the Five Lakes
Tips for driving the Icefields Parkway
How long is the Icefields Parkway drive?
Icefields Parkway is 232 km long (144 miles), and the drive can take 3 hours (if you only want to drive through), but I’d recommend having at least one full day to enjoy all the viewpoints, and maybe a hike.
Best time to drive the Icefields Parkway
For best views and unfrozen lakes, plan the drive the Icefields Parkway between June – October. However, you can drive year-long. Check the road conditions before you go, as the road may be closed because of an avalanche. You can read our post Best time to visit Banff National Park for detailed info.
How much does it cost to drive the Icefields Parkway?
To travel the Icefields Parkway, it is required to purchase a park pass, which you can buy either online or in the booth when entering any national park. You have an option of a daily or yearly pass which is valid for all national parks in Canada.
Meal options on Icefields Parkway
I highly recommend buying snacks and gas in Lake Louise, or Banff before the Icefields Parkway drive. There is a gas station with snacks at the Saskatchewan River Crossing but it’s quite overpriced. A few hotels along the way have restaurants.
Budget tip for kayak/canoe/SUP
For the price of renting a canoe in Lake Louise for an hour, you can rent a canoe, kayak or SUP for a full day (or more – for kayaking in Jasper) in Calgary or Banff and kayak anywhere you like for free.
From June 2021, new measures have been put in place in order to protect the spread of aquatic invasive species. It is mandatory to complete a free self-certification with the date and name of the waterbody on the permit, either online or at the stand located at most lakes. You must wait for 48 hours for your watercraft to clean, drain, and dry after each location/lake you visit and carry the permit with you. For online self-certification, self-certification stations, and more info, visit the Parks Canada website.
Because of this new rule, it only makes sense if you rent for a day, or bring your own watercraft.
Icefields Parkway in winter
The Icefields Parkway is open year-round, covered in snow and ice, and not being salted outside the hours 3:30 pm and 7 am with no gas available in winter.
The road might close at any time for days due to crossing several avalanche areas, so make sure to check road conditions before you go.
It is mandatory to have snow tires on the Icefields Parkway between November 1 and April 1 (either with a snowflake symbol on the tire or symbol M+S, meaning ‘mud+snow’, which we have year-long living in Alberta).
For winter driving the Icefields Parkway, I would recommend carrying:
- shovel and traction mat
- windshield scraper
- tire chains and gloves
- first aid kit
- battery jumper cables
- extra food and water
- extra warm clothes
You never know what might happen and it’s good to be prepared for the worst in case your car breaks down. You might not see another car passing by.
A GPS navigation for hiking (even if you don’t plan to hike), something like Garmin inReach with a texting option can come in handy as well.
Wi-Fi on Icefields Parkway
There’s only one place with Wi-Fi along the Icefields Parkway. It’s located inside the building at Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. It’s free to use, the wi-fi password is written on the wall when you walk in and the signal is inside only.
There is no cell service along the Icefields Parkway, and I wouldn’t count on the only place mentioned above being open so rather download the map and directions to trails before you leave Lake Louise, Jasper or Banff.
If you’re hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you’re hiking in a bear country. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking (to let bears and other wildlife know that you’re there as to not scare them)!
Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around bears.
Icefields Parkway accommodation
Campgrounds along Icefields Parkway
Many campgrounds along the Icefields Parkway operate on a first come first serve basis. That means you don’t have to book accommodation in advance in case you don’t know where exactly you end up. On the other hand though, if you show up late, all the spots might be taken.
I suggest camping near a hiking trail so you can leave your car in the campground and go enjoy the day with an already secured spot. For example – Waterfowl Lake Campground (with Chephren Lake Hike) or Wilcox Creek Campground (with Wilcox Pass Hike).
For the safety of wildlife and your own, always lock all the food in your car and don’t leave anything in your tent or on the picnic table. For walk-in campers, campgrounds provide food lockers.
Icefields Parkway has 11 seasonal campgrounds:
1. Campgrounds in Banff National Park – reserve here
- Lake Louise Campground – operating for tents May 30 to September 30 (for trailers year round), amenities: flush toilet and hot showers, picnic tables, drinking water
- Mosquito Creek Campground (24 km from Lake Louise) – operating May 31 to October 14, first-come-first-served, amenities: dry toilet, picnic tables + picnic shelter, drinking water
- Waterfowl Lakes Campground (57 km from Lake Louise) – operating June 21 to September 3, first-come-first-served, amenities: 1 washroom with hot water & toilet, 3 dry toilets, picnic tables + picnic shelter
- Rampart Creek Campground (88 km from Lake Louise) – operating May 31 to October 14, reservations needed June 19 – September 29, (first-come-first-served outside of these dates), amenities: dry toilet, picnic tables
2. Campgrounds in Jasper National Park – reserve here
- Wilcox Creek Campground (128 km from Lake Louise) – operating June 5 to September 23, first-come-first-served, amenities: toilet, picnic shelter, drinking water
- Columbia Icefield Campground (128 km from Lake Louise) – operating June 5 to October 14 (tents only), first-come-first-served, amenities: toilet, picnic shelter, drinking water
- Jonas Creek Campground (156 km from Lake Louise) – operating May 15 to September 23, first-come-first-served
- Honeymoon Lake Campground (182 km from Lake Louise) – operating May 15 to September 23, first-come-first-served
- Mount Kerkeslin Campground (198 km from Lake Louise) – operating May 15 to September 30, first-come-first-served, amenities: toilet, picnic shelter, drinking water
- Wabasso Campground (234 km from Lake Louise & 17,5 km from Jasper) – located along 93A highway, operating May 1 to October 7, amenities: toilet, picnic shelter
- Wapiti Campground (229 km from Lake Louise & 6 km from Jasper) – operating year-round, amenities: toilet, picnic shelter, showers
- Whistlers Campground (231 km from Lake Louise & 4 km from Jasper) – closed in 2019
Basic first-come first-served campgrounds cost 15,70 CAD – 21,50 CAD/campsite and Campgrounds with showers cost 29.25 CAD – 32,30 CAD per night per campsite.
Hostels along Icefields Parkway
Even though they’re called hostels, I would call them huts as they are very basic with outhouses and no showers, operating year-round.
- HI-Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel (28,5 km from Lake Louise & 205 km from Jasper) – book here
- HI-Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel (92,5 km from Lake Louise & 141 km from Jasper) – book here
- HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel (122 km from Lake Louise & 111 km from Jasper)
- HI-Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel (147 km from Lake Louise & 86 km from Jasper) – book here
- HI-Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel (201 km from Lake Louise & 33 km from Jasper) – book here
Lodges & mountain cabins
- The Crossing Resort, location: Saskatchewan River Crossing, book here
- Glacier View Lodge, location: Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre
- Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge, location: Sunwapta Falls, book here
- Becker’s Challets, location: 7 km from Jasper, book here
I hope you find this Icefields Parkway itinerary helpful and enjoy your road trip to the fullest!
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We appreciate your support!
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