Updated: Mar 3
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Stretching roughly 145 miles, the Icefields Parkway is filled with breathtaking lookouts, glaciers, lakes, wildlife, and surreal hiking opportunities.
Traveling the Icefields Parkway is most commonly done as you journey from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. We have outlined the top 10 must-stop spots along the Icefield Parkway in order as you drive from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. We have also pinned all of these stops on our Canada Mobile Guide.
1. Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint
Crowfoot Glacier is nestled in the rocky flanks of Crowfoot Mountain, towering above the turquoise-blue Bow Lake. Crowfoot Glacier was named based on the three toe-like claws protruding from its base. Unfortunately, today the bottom "claw" has melted away. However, this enormous wonder is still quite the sight to see from this pull-off viewpoint.
With additional time, you may consider stopping at that red-roofed lodge at Bow Lake just around the corner from the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint. From here, venture out on the popular Bow Glacier Falls Trail [5.5 Miles, 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete]. This scenic hike takes you back to Bow Glacier Falls with rewarding views of Bow Lake and Iceberg Lake.
Tip: Located only a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise, this viewpoint can be added to your Banff National Park Itinerary
2. Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint
Located five minutes up the road from Bow Lake is the stunning Peyto Lake. With breathtaking panoramic views similar to the Big Beehive at Lake Louise, Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint requires minimal effort with a paved, 0.4-mile path leading you to the main viewpoint from the parking lot. Do not stop after the first viewpoint! There are several you do not want to miss.
J&L Favorite: This was one of our favorite stops along the Icefield Parkway!
From the above viewpoint, continue 0.3 miles to the southern viewpoint via this trail. Farther from the crowds, you can enjoy panoramic views of Peyto Lake from this ideal southern vantage point. You do not want to miss this!
3. Mistaya Canyon
Located a 23 minute drive from Peyto Lake is Mistaya Canyon, which showcases rushing waters flowing from Waterfowl Lake via Mistaya River. This memorizing river drops into Mistaya Canyon, forming layers of smooth-curved rocks due to time and force. The canyon can be viewed via a short 0.3-mile trail from the Mistaya Canyon parking lot.
Also Read: 10 Tips to Travel More Sustainably
Five minute up the road from Mistaya Canyon is the Icefield Parkway and David Thompson Hwy intersection, AKA the Saskatchewan River Crossing. On the corner is a gas station and convenience store. This is your only chance to fill up for gas along the Icefields Parkway!
4. Parker Ridge Trail
Soon you will arrive at the Parker Ridge Trailhead, which leads to views of the famous Saskatchewan Glacier. This trail is heavily trafficked and moderately challenging, as it takes you two miles (one-way) through mountainous terrain in order to witness this icy behemoth.
Note: You may decide to skip this trail if you are running short on time and plan to visit other glaciers throughout the parkway.
5. Athabasca Glacier
At the Columbia Icefield Adventure, you are taken on a massive ice explorer to the 10,000-year-old sheet of ice, Athabasca Glacier. In addition to learning about the nearby glaciers via your tour guide, you are also given free time to walk on the glacier and drink from its pure, flowing water.
We found the Columbia Icefield Adventure to be the highlight of our day-trip along the Icefield's Parkway. It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to drink from a glacier! Researchers have found that glaciers are melting at a rate of over 1.3 miles per year, meaning that at its current rate, glaciers in North America may cease to exist in the next 40 years! Discover what you can do to travel more sustainably and reduce your impact on the environment.
J&L Tip: If you prefer not to book the popular Columbia Icefield Tour, you can also hike up to Athabasca Glacier via this trail. However, this trail does not allow you to walk on the glacier. If you would like to spend more time walking on the glacier, you may consider booking this guided tour.
6. Columbia Skywalk
Also included in the Columbia Icefield Adventure is a trip to the Columbia Skywalk. This glass-floored Skywalk is a jaw-dropping walk along a cliff's edge. Look down for a 900-foot drop into the canyon, and keep your eyes peeled for the friendly mountain goats that live beneath!
J&L Tip: This is a nice add-on to Athabasca Glacier as part of the Columbia Icefield Adventure, however, should you choose the hike-up option at Athabasca Glacier, you may consider skipping the Skywalk as it is a pricey ticket to purchase on its own.
7. Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls is 35 minutes up the road from the Columbia Icefield Adventure parking lot. The upper falls are a short walk from the parking lot, making this an easy add-on stop leading to an extraordinary waterfall. There is a one-mile trail leading to the lower falls, however, the upper falls are far more dramatic.
J&L Tip: You may consider stopping at Goats & Glaciers Lookout, 13-minutes up the road from Sunwapta Falls, for a chance to see some wildlife in the valley!
8. Athabasca Falls
This easy, walk-up waterfall provides astonishing views of rushing water being funneled into a narrow gorge. The path allows you to explore the waterfall at all angles. Take time to admire its impressive force, winding turns, and majestic mist.
J&L Tip: We stayed at Athabasca Wilderness Hostel across the street from the falls. This was an ideal location to explore Jasper National Park the following day.
9. Mt. Edith Cavell Hikes
Located 40 minutes from Jasper and roughly 25 minutes off of the Icefield Parkway via Edith Cavell Rd (closed October - April), is the parking lot for several extraordinary hikes. The most popular trail is Path of The Glacier (1 Mile, Easy), which leads to Angel Glacier on Mount Edith Cavell.
If you prefer to add more mileage, you may choose Edith Cavell Meadows Trail (5 Miles, Moderate), which takes you through more breathtaking scenery in addition to witnessing Angel Glacier. This trail is best completed clockwise for an easier descent.
J&L Tip: Check the road closures for Cavell Rd prior to departing for your hike!
10. Valley of the Five Lakes Trail
Located only 15 minutes from downtown Jasper is the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail. This trail allows you to hike past five different lakes via a 3-mile loop trail. On a warm day, bring your swimsuit and take a dip at one of the swimming holes located at the fourth and fifth lakes.
J&L Tip: We recommend bringing a Fanny Pack Dry Bag to keep your valuables safe and dry while you swim!
Planning Your Trip
Can you do the Icefields Parkway in one day?
The Icefields Parkway is most commonly driven to get from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. We recommend spending one full day stopping along the Icefields Parkway as you journey to Jasper National Park. We also recommend spending at least a couple nights in Jasper and catching some of the Icefield Parkway stops you may have missed along your way back to Banff.
The Icefields Parkway has so much to offer, it is hard to do everything in just one day. You may choose to preference the stops that are farther from the towns of Jasper or Banff. This way, you could always head back to some of the stops located near these towns throughout the remainder of your itinerary.
How long is the Icefields Parkway drive?
The Icefields Parkway is 145-miles long and is one of the most scenic drives in the world!