What to see and where to stop along the Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper

The Icefield Parkway, also known as Hwy 93, is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in North America.

Driving along its 232 kilometers between Lake Louise and Jasper is an unforgettable experience, a real must in a trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Along the Icefield Parkway you can see the peaks of some of Canada’s highest mountains, dozens of glaciers, waterfalls and turquoise lakes.
If this was not enough, along the way, you have excellent chances of spotting wildlife, including bears, deers and elks.

In this post:
How much time you should spend on Icefield Parkway
Where to stop along the Icefield Parkway
Hector Lake
Bow Lake
Peyto Lake
Mistaya Canyon
Saskatchewan Crossing
Athabasca Glacier

How much time you should spend on Icefield Parkway

Driving the Icefield Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper takes about three and a half hours, point to point (but you will want to stop many times!). 
For this reason, this scenic route is not the ideal destination for a day trip, especially if you are traveling with young kids.
If you are lucky enough to visit both Banff and Jasper National Park, you can enjoy the ride on Highway 93 with ease, stopping at the main attractions. In this case, consider a full day for your travel from one park to the other.
If, on the other hand, you are planning on visiting only one of the parks, you can focus on the attractions closest to your starting point.

Where to stop along the Icefield Parkway

Here you will find a list of must-see attractions on the Icefield Parkway from south to north, from Lake Louise, a small village in Banff National Park, all the way to Jasper .

Hector Lake

Nestled between mountains and glaciers, Hector Lake was our first encounter with the turquoise lakes of the Rocky Mountains.
A vista point on the roadside allows you to glimpse the lake and, in the background, Crowfoot Mountain. This mount take his name from his crowfoot-shaped glacier.
If you have time, you can hike the Hector Lake Hike, a trail of moderate difficulty, about 5 kilometers long, which runs along the perimeter of the lake. Note that the path crosses a small river, so it may not be suitable for young children.

Bow Lake

Continuing north, a few minutes after Hector Lake you will reach Bow Lake
From the vista point on the road you can access the shore and experience the thrill of getting your feet wet in pure glacial water.
On the north shore of the lake you can catch a glimpse of the historic Num Ti Jah Lodge with its iconic red roof. If you are hungry, the Lodge makes the ideal spot for lunch with a view of Bow Lake.
From the lodge you can hike the Bow Lake Hike, a 3.5 kilometers flat trail, which runs along the lake.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is one of the most popular and iconic attractions of the Canadian Rockies.
It is located on the Icefield Parkway, approximately 40 kilometers north of Lake Louise.
You can take in the view of this magnificent lake from the Peyto Lake Lookout. After you leave the car at the parking lot, continue walking for fifteen minutes along an easy trail that leads to a wooden platform with a stunning view on the lake.

Peyto Lake is one of the most visited places along the Icefield Parkway.
In summer, it is stormed by bus of tourists who come to the view point and queue up to admire its beauty and take the inevitable selfie .

If you want to leave the crowd behind, and enjoy the view of the lake immersed in the peace and silence of the mountain, do not stop at the lookout but continue along the trail towards the Upper Peyto Lake View Point.

After passing the wooden platform of the view point, continue for about 150 meters, until the trail divides into three. Continue on the middle path for another 200 meters, until the next crossroads. Here, stay on the trail on the left. In the last 500 meters the climb becomes steeper, and little ones may need some encouragement. However, the effort will be rewarded by having the view of Peyto Lake all for yourself.


Mistaya Canyon

The Mistaya Canyon is located on the Icefield Parkway about 30 kilometers after Peyto Lake.
This short walk is one of the least visited attractions in the area, but none the less spectacular.
From the parking lot, a short 500-meter trail across the woods leads to impressive gorges, carved into the rock by the Mistaya River.
This natural phenomenon, which our kids found fascinating, combined with the short length of the trail, makes Mistaya Canyon one of the best family attractions of the Icefield Parkway.

Saskatchewan Crossing

Continuing north towards Jasper you reach the Saskatchewan Crossing .
Here you will find the last service station where you can fill up with gas before reaching Jasper.
In addition to the gas station, at Saskatchewan Crossing you will find a small motel, a cafe, and a restaurant.

Athabasca Glacier

The Athabasca Glacier is one of the main attractions of Jasper National Park and a stop not to be missed along the Icefield Parkway.
If, like we did, you travel along scenic Highway 93 from south to north, you will reach this stop at the end of your day.

Since it takes between two to three hours to visit the glacier at best, I recommend that you plan this trip for another day, starting from Jasper

The visit to the Athabasca Glacier begins at the Columbia Icefield Center.
Here, in addition to a hotel, you will find a restaurant, a souvenir shop and a small exhibition hall.
Inside the Columbia Icefield Center, you can buy tickets for the Snocoach, a special bus that takes you to the heart of the glacier.
Here you can purchase tickets online, saving yourself the queue at Columbia Icefield Center.
Another option is to hike the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier Trail, which leads to the foot of the glacier, without, however, crossing it.
Finally, if you are feeling adventurous, you can book a tour with the Athabasca Glacier Icewalks , which provides the necessary equipment for guided excursions on the glacier.

The ticket for the Snocoach tour includes access to the Glacier Skywalk , a bridge with a transparent glass floor, suspended 280 meters above the Sunwapta River.
The bridge can only be reached via a shuttle that departs from the Columbia Icefield Center.

Here you can find our adventure on the Athabasca Glacier.

Athabasca Falls

The last stop not to be missed along the icefield Parkway before reaching Jasper are the Athabasca Falls .
These impressive waterfalls are among the park’s most visited attractions, especially by families.
From the parking lot, a paved trail of about 1 kilometer leads to several panoramic bridges, from which you can see the impressive jump of the Athabasca River into the gorge below.

After the Athabasca Falls, continue along the Icefield Parkway for 30 kilometers until you reach the town of Jasper.

Here you can find tips on what to do, what to see and where to stay in Jasper National Park.

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