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Banff and Jasper itinerary: exploring the Canadian Rockies

Are you looking for the perfect Banff and Jasper itinerary for your upcoming adventure in the Canadian Rockies? You came to the right place.

Here we share everything you need to know to spend a great vacation in this lush green mountainous paradise.

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An impression of Banff and Jasper in Winter

In a hurry? This is the summary of the complete Jasper and Banff itinerary

If you don’t have time to read through the full Banff-Jasper itinerary,  use this overview to get an idea of the things to do on each day and save it for later.

  • Day 1: Arriving in Banff, explore downtown Banff and its surroundings
  • Day 2: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Vermilion Lake, Cave and Basin, Banff Upper hot springs
  • Day 3: Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon
  • Day 4: Icefields Parkway
  • Day 5: Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake and Jasper Skytram
  • Day 6: Maligne Lake, Medicine lake, Maligne Canyon and Valley of the Five Lakes
  • Day 7: Sulphur Skyline and Miette hot springs

Planning a trip to Banff and Jasper: Read this first

Lets’ start this Banff and Jasper itinerary by answering some general questions you may have about Banff and Jasper.

What’s the best time of the year to visit Banff and Jasper?

Banff and Jasper can be visited all year round.

Choosing when to visit will depend on the time you can go and the activities you want to do.

Summer ( June-August)

Summer is a great season if you love outdoor activities such as rafting, kayaking or hiking.

It is also by far the most popular season to visit Banff and Jasper. This means it can get very busy.

Prices of accommodation go through the roof and you need to book well in advance if you have specific hotels or Airbnbs in mind. Some hotels sell out months in advance.

If possible try to avoid the summer months. The crowds start building up in June and July and August are super busy. Certainly in Banff.

Banff National Park in Fall
Banff National Park is impressive all-year-round

Fall ( September- November)

Autumn is a great season to visit Banff and Jasper.

Not only will there be fewer crowds but it is also a great time for hiking and wildlife spotting.

Winter ( December-March)

We visited Banff and Jasper in winter and absolutely loved it.

Although it can get very cold and not everything is open, this is compensated by the wide amount of thrilling winter activities you can do such as skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling dog sledding, etc.

These are some winter activities you can do in Banff. If If you love hiking, check out these posts about the best winter hikes near Banff ,Canmore, and Jasper.

For more tips about visiting the Rocky Mountains in winter, click here.

Spring ( March-June)

Winter in the mountains are long.

This means that in April and even May you still can have snow. The famous lakes such as Lake Louise can still be frozen, some roads are still closed and the weather is unpredictable.

However, visiting Banf and Jasper in Spring means also low season with fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation prices.

Late spring is also one of the best times to see bears.

How many days do you need in Banff and Jasper?

You could spend weeks exploring Banff and Jasper without getting bored, at least we could, but unfortunately, most of us don’t have that many days off and will need to make choices.

6 days in Banff and Jasper gives you enough time to see the highlights, make some great hikes, and soak up the Canadian Rockies atmosphere.

It’s best to add 1 extra day for the iconic Icefields Parkway.

You can just drive across the parkway but if you have an extra day it will allow you to stop more often, do some small hikes and really take in the beauty of this scenic highway.

How far apart are Banff and Jasper?

Banff and Jasper are 288 km apart.

You should count at least 4 hours for driving along the Icefields Parkway with minimal stops.

The Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park

How to get to Banff and Jasper

Although we describe this itinerary as starting from Banff you could easily make this itinerary the other way around depending on where you are coming from.

We, therefore, describe the quickest, easiest, and most comfortable ways to get to both Banff and Jasper.

How to get to Banff?

If you are flying, Calgary is the closest airport to Banff.

From there it’s a quick 90 minutes drive along the Trans Canada Highway ( Highway 1 ) to downtown Banff.

The road can get congested in peak season, mostly around the weekends.

It’s best to rent a car at the airport.  Having a car will make it much easier to visit all the places we mention in this itinerary.

Rentalcars.com is a great site where you can easily compare the prices of different rental companies.  The site is one of the biggest of its kind, works with all large household names as well as most small niche rental car companies, and, therefore, has a global offering.

A good and often cheaper alternative is Discover cars. The booking process with Discover Cars is just as intuitive as it is with Rentalcars.  All rates include the CDW and I like that the deductible is already clearly shown on the comparison page. The fuel policy included mileage and the cancelation policy is also clearly stated.  Most cars are cancellable up to 2 days in advance without any fees.  In some cases, a fully refundable deposit is taken at the time of booking.

How to get to Jasper?

The closest airport to Jasper is Edmonton.

From Edmonton International Airport it’s a 4-hour drive along the Trans Canada Highway 16 also known as the Yellowhead to Jasper.

If you are looking to rent a car from Edmonton, click here.

How to get around Banff and Jasper?

The easiest way to get around Banff and Jasper is by rental car. Jasper does not have a bus transit system.

Although you cannot miss the Roam transit busses when you walk along Banff’s main avenue they are not as efficient as your rental car to reach sights located outside of the city.

When relying on these buses you will also not be able to reach all places we mention in this itinerary

Entrance to Banff and Jasper national park

Banff and Jasper are both National Parks which means you need a Park Pass to enjoy their beauty.

The Dicovery Pass will be your best option since you’re visiting two National Parks with this itinerary. This pass gives you unlimited access for a full year to both parks and almost 80 other locations managed by parks Canada.

The Fairmont Banff seen from Surprise Corner

Where to stay in Banff

Banff

We get a lot of questions about the best place to stay in Banff.

Banff has plenty of amazing places to stay. From luxury hotels to charming boutique hotels and Airbnbs.

Here is an overview of amazing hotels.

For a friends trip or when you’re traveling with your family, and Airbnb might be the better choice. We found some charming properties with luxurious amenities such as a hot tub and sauna.

Here we’ve made a selection of the best Airbnbs in Banff.

Banff is a popular destination all year round but certainly in summer. Accommodation tends to be fully booked a long time in advance and prices in peak season are sky-high.

Whether you will be staying in an Airbnb or a hotel, make sure to book well in advance.

Canmore

Canmore used to be the spillover option when hotels in Banff where fully booked. However, the village deserves better than that.

The town is located just outside the national park’s borders and is just a 15-20 minute drive from Banff.

Downtown Canmore counts numerous restaurants, grocery stores, and outdoor and sporting establishments. You will also find all kinds of souvenirs and boutique shops.

The pros of staying in Canmore are that it is less touristy.

Banff might be slightly more charming but the crowds in summer ruin the whole experience for many visitors.

Accommodation and food are also cheaper in Canmore, although both towns can be considered expensive.

Read Also:

You don’t even need to go to Banff to find excellent hikes.  Try some of the superb winter hikes in Canmore.

The cons of staying in Canmore is that the town is a little more stretched-out and therefore cannot be easily explored on foot.

Here is an overview of the best hotels in Canmore. If you prefer staying in an Airbnb, take a look at our selection of the best Airbnbs in Canmore.

Where to stay in Jasper

Jasper also has plenty of accommodation options. There are B&B’s, boutique hotels, Airbnb’s and luxury hotels.

If you are looking for a hotel, take a look here. For Airbnb’s, take a look at our Jasper Airbnb selection.

The complete Banff Jasper itinerary

Map of Banff

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 1 Arriving in Banff, explore downtown Banff and its surroundings

There is plenty to do in Banff and its surroundings and 3 days is too short to discover it all.

Therefore we share some day-to-day suggestions and the average time you need for every activity.

This allows you to make your own selection based on your personal preferences.

Since this is your first day in Banff, and chances are you arrived relatively late, this is a great day to discover downtown Banff and its surroundings.

Wander around downtown Banff

Once you’ve checked into your hotel and left your bags head to Banff Avenue. Banff is very picturesque and its main avenue is very lively and atmospheric all-year-round.

The avenue is lined with bars, boutiques, and restaurants and a great place to soak up the atmosphere of this mountain town.

It’s also here that you can take the famous picture of Banff with Cascade mountain in the background.

Average time needed: discovering downtown Banff shouldn’t take longer than 2 hours, including a rest stop in one of the quaint bars.

Banff is a good base to explore the Canadian Rockies
Banff in the Winter with Cascade mountain in the background.

Hike to the Bow falls viewpoint

If you are looking to stretch your legs after this long drive why not hike to the Bow falls Viewpoint.

This is an easy 2.4 km hike, completely flat except for a few stairs. It starts close to downtown Banff at the pedestrian bridge across the Bow River.

The Bow falls are a teaser of all the beauty you will witness in the coming days and this perfect short hike will get you in the mood for more hikes in the upcoming days.

In winter the actual viewpoint may be closed because of icy conditions but you will still be able to see the frozen waterfall.

Average time needed: +-1 hour

Does this taste like more? Here are more easy hikes in Banff and these are some great winter hikes in Banff.

Take a picture at Surprise Corner

Next we head to the Banff Gondola but before we board the cable car to ride to the top of Sulphur mountain we make one quick stop.

On our way to the cable car’s base station we make a small detour to the Suprise Corner Viewpoint.

This is the best spot for a picture of the iconic Banff Fairmont hotel together wih the Bow river.

Time needed: +_15 minutes

The Viista Trail on Sulphur mountain
At the top of the Banff Gondola

Ride the Banff Gondola

Although the Banff Gondola is considered by many locals as a tourist trap our experience is different.

We do agree the price tag is quite steep but also think that you get a lot in return for this price.

The modern top station houses a large interpretive center where you can also watch a beautiful short movie about the region. The boardwalk offers impressive views in all directions and is a nice place to catch the sunset.

The restaurants, there are three of them, offer food in all price classes. Sky Bistro is a great place for a romantic dinner. This place gets raving reviews for the quality of the food, the drinks, and the service.

The Banff Gondola is the most convenient way to get unparalleled views of the Canadian Rockies but it is certainly not the only way.

For one, you can hike to the top station and enjoy the same view, but there are also two other lesser-known sightseeing gondolas.

Read this complete guide about the Banff gondola and the alternatives if you’re not 100% sure whether you want to spend your hard-earned money on the for a ride to the top.

We based this article on our visit to the Banff Gondola during winter, but the post will give you an idea of what there is to do and what you can expect from your visit.

The switchback trail to the top follows a steady grade up and will absolutely get your heart rate up as well.

It is a good alternative if you don’t want to spend your money on the Gondola but as it is somewhat challenging and rated as moderate it might be a little too much for your first day in town.

We hiked this trail during winter and loved it. In winter, the path is icy in places, we’ve heard it can be quite muddy at other times of the year, especially when the snow just starts to melt after winter.  You can read more about our experience here. 

Time needed: On average you need two hours but of course, this depends on what you want to see and to do. If you want to explore all areas of the station, hike to Samson’s peak and have dinner in one of the restaurants you may want to preserve a little more time.

Even with these steep prices the Banff Gondola remains one of the town’s more popular attractions, we would advise you to buy your tickets well in advance. Especially if will be in Banff in the busy summer season.

Check prices and availability:
Banff Gondola Tickets

Drive to Mount Norquay Lookout

A visit to the Mount Norquay lookout can serve as an alternative to the Banff gondola but nothing stops you from doing both.

The lookout is located 10 minutes by car from Banff.

On sunny days it offers splendid views of Banff with Mount Rundle and Sulphur mountain with the Vermilion lakes in the foreground.

And if you are lucky you might even see some wildlife roaming around the viewpoint and on the meadows right behind it.

Time needed: 15-20 minutes

If you are traveling during winter in Banff, Mount Norquay is a great place for skiing. If you don’t ski, tubbing is a great alternative. We went tubbing one afternoon and had loads of fun.

If think the above mentioned activities are enough to make a great first day in Banff. If you still have some time you can continue a little further along this road to the Norquay sightseeing chairlift and soar to an elevation of nearly 7,000ft for more amazing views.

Now let’s take a look at what we will be doing during your second day.

Day 2: Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake,

Start your day in Banff early and head to Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.

Watch the sunrise at Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake is the small brother of Lake Minnewanka. It’s a great place to watch the sunrise light up Rundle Mountain and see it reflected in the lake.

It’s true that Two Jack lake is not as often mentioned as Lake Moraine when one is talking about sunrise but the advantage of going to Two Jack Lake is that you don’t need to be here 2 hours in advance in the summer months. The experience is much more peaceful.

Go hiking

This is also a great spot to put on your hiking shoes since some of the best short and longer trails start on the shores of Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.

These are hikes that we recommend. Click on their names to find out more about the trails:

Don’t forget that you are in grizzly territory. Even though many of these trails are heavily trafficked it is still recommended to take bear spray in summer.

If you aren’t an avid hiker these 2 lakes offer plenty of other possibilities to enjoy their beauty.

Go kayaking or paddleboarding

Both lakes a great places to jump in a kayak and discover the beauty of the lake from the water. If you love to go paddleboarding, then Two Jack Lake is more suited since it’s calmer than Lake Minnewanka.

How to reach? Two Jack Lake is the little brother of Minnewanka Lake. It is located right next to it.

Coming from downtown Banff head north on Banff Ave and then continue onto the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive.

Time needed: The time you spend here will of course depend on the activities you will be doing. Unless you do a day-long hike you should still have time to explore a few other things in Banff.

Vermilion Lakes in Winter
Vermilion Lakes in Winter

Make a scenic drive along Vermilion Lake

Bird lovers and just about everybody that wants to soak up nature will love driving along the Vermillion Lakes.

The 4.3 km scenic road offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching including Osprey and Bald Eagles and to gaze at Mount Rundle, one of Banff’s most recognizable mountains.

Take your time to drive along the lake and make sure to stop from time to time to take pictures.

This is also a great place for watching the sunset.

Since this place is quite popular for sunset viewing, we advise you to come 30-60 minutes before the sun sets.

Time needed: +_ 1 hour

Cave and Basin National Historic site

If you want to add some culture to your Banff itinerary we recommend that you visit the Cave and Basin Natural Historic site.

This place, that started the entire national parks system, lies a little outside town, across the Bow river. It’s a 25-minute walk from Banff but since we’re under way with our car we recommend driving there. There is a large parking lot.

Here you can learn more about the natural and cultural history of the mountains. The historic site consists of an artificial cave that leads to a natural hot spring, a replica of a boathouse, and a restored 1916 swimming pool. The visitor center also constantly hosts seasonal exhibitions.

You could explore this site on your own or take a guided tour.

Cave and basin Park Pass

Opening hours:  from 9:00 am or 11:00 am, season depending, until 5:00 pm daily. There is a small fee of approximately $4 CAD for adults to enter but if you have a National Park Pass the entrance is free.

Time needed: Depending on your interests, we recommend spending 45 minutes- 2 hours.

Go hiking around the Cave and Basin National Historic site

The Cave and Basin site is also the starting point of several hiking trails such as the Marsh Loop and the Sundance Trail. These trails can be done all year around.

The first offers excellent opportunities to see moose and is also very popular among birders. Here you can find more info:

Time needed: 1 hour for the Marsh loop, 2 to 3 hours for the Sundance trail.

Banff Upper Hot Springs on a snowy day
The Banff Upper Hot Springs are also great to warm up after a cold day in the snow

Go bathing in the Banff Upper hot springs

There is no better way to end a sporty day outside than with a dip in the Banff hot springs.

With a water temperature between 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit ( 36-40 degrees Celsius ), it is a great place to rest your sore muscles after this active day.

Note that the water is 100% natural. Because of that, it has a strong sulfur smell. However, don’t let this put you off. We had a great time splashing in the hot water.

How to reach: These hot springs are located at the foot of Sulphur Mountain, 2 miles south of Banff.

Note that the hot springs can get busy and there is limited parking for cars. A good alternative is to take the Roam public transit bus which conveniently drops you off at the same parking lot.

Time needed: +_ 1 hour

Day 3: Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon

We will organise day 3 differently depending on whether you want to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake.

Sunrise at Lake Moraine is very popular which means that the parking lot is often completely filled up 2 hours before the actual sunrise. The road is closed once the parking lot is full which means you will need to wake up in the middle of the night. It would take an additional hour to drive from Banff to Lake Moraine.

Therefore we really advise staying in Lake Louise if you want to witness the sunrise at Lake Moraine.

Wondering where to stay in Lake Louise? Lake Louise is really just a tiny hamlet but because it is flooded with tourists each summer it offers plenty of accommodations for every budget. From luxurious hotels such as the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to homey B&B’s.

If you start your day at Lake Moraine you will visit Lake Louise next and then stop at Johnston Canyon on your way back to Banff.

If you love your bed too much to get up at 3 am we will start this day with a visit to Johnston Canyon instead.

In that case, it’s also not necessary to look for a hotel in Lake Louise. From Johnston Canyon, continue to Lake Louise and then Lake Moraine before driving back to Banff.

Moraine Lake Banff National Park Alberta Canada
Moraine Lake

Experience the sunrise at Moraine Lake

If you want to enjoy the sunrise at Moraine Lake, you will be off for an early start of the day.

In summer the parking lot is always full before dawn and once the parking space is packed, you will be turned away.

Although the lake is at its most beautiful in the morning we do want to warn you that it may not be the peaceful and romantic experience you have in mind.

The viewpoint is flooded with photographers that in a combative way stand their ground to take the perfect picture.

How to reach Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake can be reached from Lake Louise village by driving uphill on Lake Louise road until you reach the crossroad with Moraine Lake Drive. The journey takes about 18 minutes.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise, named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta ( 1848-1939), is one of the most famous lakes in the Canadian Rockies.

The view of the lake is stunning but it has much more to offer than just its incredible turquoise water.

Here are some suggestions to do around Lake Louise.

Lake Louise during summer
Go hiking

The Lake Louise area is a hikers walhalla with trails suited for all levels.

The Fairview Lookout, Lake Agnes trail, and plain of the Six Glaciers trail are just some of the popular day hikes. There are plenty of other great trails. For a complete overview, click here.

Go paddling

Canoeing or kayaking is a great way to see the turquoise waters and to enjoy the scenery.

Don’t expect it to be a cheap activity but, if you are traveling during high season, it is a good way to escape the crowds.

Note that if you are a guest of the Fairmont Chateau, you get priority and a discount.

Canoes on Lake Louise
Canoeing is a great way to escape the crowds at Lake Lousie
Ride the Lake Louise summer Gondola

If you are visiting Lake Louise during summer, you should definitely ride the Lake Louise Gondola.

The 14 minutes gondola ride offers stunning views, especially on the way down as you get to see Lake Louise. If you are lucky, you might also spot a grizzly bear.

Besides enjoying the view, there are plenty of other things to do.

It is the starting point for several hikes and you can visit the Wildlife Interpretative Center where you will learn more about Banff Park.

If you are hungry, you can have lunch at the Whitehorn Bistro while enjoying the views ( make a reservation if you don’t want to wait too long ).

Insider tip: Check out the local guides for a small discount for the Gondola ride.  Usually they contain $5 off coupons.

If you plan on having lunch at the Whitehorn Bistro, you can save a few dollars by buying a combo-ticket that includes the gondola ride and $25 food and beverage credit.

Visiting Lake Louise in winter

In winter Lake Louise turns into a winter wonderland.

Besides hiking you can go skiing, snowshoeing or ice skating on the frozen lake.

Romantic souls can make a sleigh ride and dog lovers should consider making a dog sledding tour.

Here you can read more on the best things to do in Lake Louise in winter.

How to reach Lake Louise

Lake Louise is 58 km (36 miles) from Banff.  It takes 40 minutes by car via the Trans- Canada Highway (Highway-1).  For a more scenic route, you can opt to follow the Bow Valley Parkway which will take 30 minutes longer.

Visiting Johnston Canyon is one of the top things to do in Banff
The Johnston Canyon is one of the best sights in Banff and can be visited year round

Explore the Johnston Canyon

If you are only to make one hike while in Banff, it should be the Johnston Canyon.

This 2.7 km easy hike along smooth trails and footbridges is a must-do while you are in Banff. Here you can find more info.

The upper and lower falls are breathtaking especially during winter when they are frozen.

If you are looking for a longer hike, you could hike the trail beyond the upper falls to the Ink Pots which are 7 stunning pools of green-colored mineral springs.

They are  placed in an open meadow about 3 km from the Upper Falls.

How to reach the Johnston Canyon

The Johnston Canyon can be found 25 kilometers from Banff and 33 km from Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Highway. It’s a quick 30 minutes drive from Banff or 36 minutes from Lake Louise.

Day 4: Drive the Icefields Parkway to Jasper

Map of the Icefields Parkway:

The 232 kilometers long Icefields Parkway ( Highway 93 North ) connects Lake Louise with Jasper. You will see this highway featured in many ‘top scenic road’ lists.

For a good reason. It truly deserves its status as one of the most scenic roads in the world.

Whatever the season you’re in. Driving this highway is like driving from one amazing postcard view to another.

Fill up your car before you leave for Jasper.  There is only one gas station along the Icefields Parkway and it is closed during the winter.

Read these additional safety tips if you will be driving the parkway in winter.

Time needed

You will need at least 3,5 hours to drive from Banff to Jasper. That is without stopping and when you’re here you really have to make at least a few stops to take in the amazing beauty of this place.

In this itinerary, we have provided a full day so that you have enough time to explore the highlights of the Icefields Parkway.

These are the not to be missed spots.

Stopping at all these places guarantees an exciting but jam-packed day. It is best is to start your day early, especially if you also plan on doing some of the recommended hikes or if you want to spend some extra time at the Columbia Icefield.

Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake

The Crowfoot Glacier is our first quick stop on the Icefields Parkway since it can be seen really well from the roadside stop.

Bow Lake is just a few kilometers further. It’s a breathtaking sight to see the beautiful lake surrounded by the majestic mountains and it makes a great photo stop.

The Bow Lake stop also offers an amazing view of both the Bow and Crowfoot Glacier. If you don’t want to stop at Crowfoot Glacier you can head directly to Bow Lake and see the glacier from there.

Time needed: 15 minutes at Crowfoot Glacier, 30 minutes at Bow Lake

Distance to the Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake

  • Distance from Lake Louise: Crowgoot Glacier 37 km and Bow Lake 39 km
  • Distance from Jasper: Crowfoot Glacier 196 km and Bow Lake 175 km
Peyto Lake Banff National_Park_Alberta_Canada
The turquoise blue Peyto Lake in Banff National Park

Peyto Lake and Peyto Lookout

Our next stop is at the world renowned Peyto Lake.

The amazing turquoise blue water you always see in pictures looks unreal and may have you think that it is photoshopped. Now you have the opportunity to see it for real, it really is as beautiful as the pictures.

The beautiful turquoise blue color comes from glacial dust that is taken down from the mountains by the glacier and mixes with the water.

The first viewpoint attracts large crowds. For a more peaceful experience it is better to continue a little further along a 2.6 km trail to the upper viewpoint. It is not exactly hiking, it’s more of an easy walk.

Her you can find more info about thise easy trail.

Time needed: 20 minutes if you only go to the first viewpoint, 30 minutes to an hour if you continue to the upper viewpoint

Distance to Peyto Lake and the Peyto Lookout:

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 46 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 188 km

Water Fowl Lakes

Our next stop is at the Water Fowl Lakes which is a 10-minute drive from Peyto Lake. The Water Fowl lakes are accessible from June to early September.

Both the lower and upper waterfowl lakes are beautiful but if you are an avid photographer we advise you to head to the Upper Waterfowl lakes since they are slightly more pretty and photogenic.

These lakes make a great spot for a short break if by now you’re already a little hungry.

If you plan on hiking it’s time to strap on your hiking shoes since the Waterfowl Lakes are the starting point of the Chephren Lake Hike. This 7.7 km out and back trail offers amazing views on the lakeside, and the Howse and Chephren peaks.

Time needed: 20 minutes for lower waterfowl lake, 40 minutes if you want to go to upper waterfowl lake, add 2 hours if you want to hike the Chephren Lake trail.

Distance to Water Fowl Lakes

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 66 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 171 km
Photogenic Mistaya Canyon, just a short hike from the Icefields Parkway. A must visit on every Banff Jasper itinerary.
Photogenic Mistaya Canyon

Mistaya Canyon

This canyon is located alongside the Icefields Parkway but unlike our previous stops you won’t find a viewpoint right next to the parking lot.

To witness the beauty of this distinctive curvy canyon you will have to hike the 2km short and easy loop trail.

The trail leads to a wooden bridge that offers an open view of the canyon. and several small waterfalls.

Time needed: 30 minutes

Distance to Mistaya Canyon

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 75 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 158 km

Saskatchewan River Crossing

Saskatchewan River Crossing was an important settlement in the early days when fur traders and explorers first traveled through the Rocky Mountains.

Nowadays, it the only place on the Icefields Parkway that has a shop, a restaurant, and lodging.

Note that these facilities are all closed during winter.

At Saskatchewan you can witness the meeting of the North Saskatchewan, the Mistaya, and the Howse rivers.

This is also the only gas station along the parkway. Make sure to check your fuel meter to see if you can make it until Jasper before you continue your way and refuel if necessary.

The gas station is also closed in the Winter!

Distance to Water Fowl Lakes

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 79 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 153 km
View towards Athabasca Glacier on the Icefields Parkway
The Columbia Icefields in the winter

The Columbia Icefields

The Columbia Icefield is definitely one of the highlights of the Icefields Parkway. It is one of the largest non-polar ice fields in the world, the Athabasca Glacier.

The glacier is visible from the parkway but what you’re seeing is just a tiny fraction. There is also a path leading from the parking lot to the base of the glacier, but you cannot walk on it.

Here is how you can see the whole of this giant pack of ice and snow and set foot on it.

Columbia Discovery center

Start your visit by heading to the Columbia Discovery center where you will learn more about glaciers and how they are formed.

Here you can also buy your tickets for the Columbia Icefield Adventure tour and the Columbia Icefield Skywalk.

Columbia Icefield Adventure tour

The Columbia Icefield Adventure tour takes you to the Athabasca Glacier on a giant Ice explorer, a specialized bus outfitted with impressive tires.

Once arrived at the impressive glacier you can walk around freely for about 20 minutes.

Dress in layers and wear appropriate shoes with grippy soles.

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

The Columbia Skywalk is a 400-meter long glass-floor walkway that’s hanging approximately 280 meters above the valley.

Ironically, and despite being so close to the Athabasca Glacier, you won’t be able to see the glacier from the Skywalk.

It offers a bird’s eye view over the neighboring Sunwapta Valley. A beautiful view but nothing you can’t see in other areas of the park where you don’t need to pay.

The big difference of course is that here you experience the thrill of standing on a glass-floored lookout.

Tickets used to be separate, but have since been combined in a package with both the Icefield adventure and the Icefield Skywalk.

Time needed: 2-3 hours

Note that both these activities are closed in winter.

Distance to the Columbia Icefields

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 179 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 56 km

Stutfield Glacier

A few hundred meters from the Columbia Icefields you can find the stunning Stutfield Glacier.

This glacier might not be as widely known as its neighbor but it is certainly worth a stop.

Some even think it is more impressive than the Athabasca Glacier.

This glacier can be seen from the parking lot alongside the Parkway. No hiking is necessary.

Time needed: 15 minutes

Sunwapta Falls

Our next stop brings us to the Sunwapta Falls which consists of upper and lower falls.

The upper falls are just a short walk from the parking lot. If you also want to see the lower falls, you need to hike 2km on a well-marked trail through the forest.

Although the Sunwapta Falls are less impressive than the nearby Athabasca falls they are still worth a stop.

Time needed: 20 minutes for the upper falls, add one hour if you want to hike to the lower falls

Distance to the Sunwapta Falls

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 179 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 56 km
The frozen Athabasca Falls in Winter
The frozen Athabasca Falls in Winter

Athabasca Falls

As we reach Jasper, we make a final stop at the Athabasca falls.

This impressive fall is another must-see spot on the Icefields Parkway.

This is not one of the highest waterfalls in Jasper national park but certainly one of the most powerful.

To see this waterfall you just follow the trail which will lead to several different viewpoints.

Besides gazing at the waterfall, the area has plenty of other fun things to offer. During summer you can hike or wild water raft and during winter it’s a great place for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

We visited these impressive falls during winter. The trail gets very slippery in winter, on the steep sections, and on stairs, we recommend wearing ice cleats.

You can read more about hiking these falls here.

Time needed: 30-45 minutes

Distance to the Columbia Icefields

  • Distance from Lake Louise: 202 km
  • Distance from Jasper: 33 km

This concludes our beautiful journey along the Icefields Parkway. It’s time to continue to Jasper where more adventures await.

Day 5 Jasper: Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake, Jasper sky tram

Although 3 days in Jasper isn’t a lot, it is enough to cover the highlights. Today we start by visiting 2 stunning lakes.

Jasper map:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Watch the sunrise at Patricia Lake and take a picture at Pyramid Lake

Start your first day in Jasper early by heading to Patricia lake to see the sunrise.

If you’re not an early bird you can also catch the sunset at Patricia lake, it’s an equally mesmerizing experience.

Pay a quick visit to the nearby iconic Pyramid lake to take a picture with the Pyramid Mountain in the background.

If you want to explore the lake from a different perspective you can also rent a kano or kayak.

Time needed: 30 minutes

How to get there: Patricia lake and Pyramid lake are only a 10-minute drive from Jasper.

Take the Jasper SkyTram to Whistlers Mountain

Our next stop is the Jasper SkyTram. In just a few minutes this tram travels nearly 2300 meters up to the top of Whistlers mountain.

If you are riding the Jasper SkyTram during peak season, we would advise you to buy your tickets in advance.

Check prices and availability:
Jasper SkyTram

Once at the top station it is only 1200 meters more to the mountain ridge.

Although it’s a short hike, it’s quite steep, so definitely wear proper hiking shoes, hiking leggings, and dress in layers. You should count around 30-45 minutes to reach the top.

Once arrived at the top of Whistler’s mountain, you will be rewarded with an amazing overview of Jasper and the surroundings.

Where to find it: The Jasper Sky tram lies 8 km South of Jasper. You can park at the Whistlers mountain tramway parking lot.

Time needed: Allow 2-3 hours to make the most of the Sky tram experience.

Jasper Sky Tram
The Jasper Sky Tram to the top of Whistlers mountain

Hike to the summit of Whistlers Mountain

If you’re an avid hiker you will probably rather hike to the top than pay for the tramway.

Be warned that this is a tough climb, it becomes steeper as you progress and it will definitely wear you out.

It is 6,8 km to the top station and an additional 1,2km to the mountain ridge. Be sure to provide plenty of water and some snacks. The first part leads through a forest but once you pass the tree line there is no more shade.

Time needed: Between 3-6 hours depending on your fitness level

Where to find it: If you plan on hiking to the summit you can start the hike, at the West end of the Jasper Sky Tram parking lot.

Explore downtown Jasper

Although tiny, Jasper is a charming town to explore. You can easily spend a couple of hours strolling through the main street and exploring the boutiques.

The Jasper museum shows a wide collection of local historic artifacts.

Attention beer lovers, be sure to stop at the Jasper brewing Company for their happy hour.

Watch the sunset at Edith and Annette lake

End you day by watching the sunset at Annette and Edith lake.

With some luck you can even spot wildlife.

Maligne Lake  in Jasper National Park is not to be missed on a Banff and Jasper itinerary
Maligne lake is one of the enchanting lakes in Jasper National Park

Day 6: Maligne Lake, Medicine lake, Maligne Canyon

Today we will explore the sights around Maligne Lake Rd.

We start at the eponymous lake located all the way at the end of the road and then gradually make our way back to Jasper.

Maligne Lake

We start our day by driving to Maligne Lake, stretching approximately 22 km, this is the largest natural lake in Jasper National Park.

There are plenty of fun things to do around Maligne Lake.

If you love hiking you can choose from many different trails.

If you are looking to spend a relaxing morning, you can take a scenic cruise on the lake or rent a canoe or kayak.

If you are visiting Maligne Lake during winter it’s a great place for snowshoeing.

Time needed: 20 minutes to see the lake, 2 to 6 hours if you want to go hiking or do any of the other activities

How to get there:

Maligne Lake lies around 45 km from Jasper along the Maligne Lake Road. It takes about an hour to reach it.

Medicine lake

From Maligne Lake, we will return to Jasper the same way we came.

Our next stop is Medicine lake.

This lake, which is formed by the Maligne river, is a very special lake since it disappears in autumn when all the water drains out.

It’s a great spot to have lunch while enjoying the impressive scenery.

There is a good chance you may see some wildlife such as sheep, bears, and moose.

If you are looking for more beautiful lakes in Canada, click here.

Time needed: 20 minutes

Maligne Canyon

Our next and last stop for today is at the Maligne Canyon which is one of the highlights of Jasper. The canyon is impressive in every season.

The Maligne Canyon is with a depth of more than 50 meters the deepest canyon in the Rocky Mounties and a great place to spend a couple of hours.

Things to do at Maligne Canyon in summer

Maligne Canyon in summer is gorgeous.

If you love hiking, there are different trails of varying distances to choose from.

One of the best is the Maligne Canyon Loop Trail. This easy 3,4 km loop takes you past all the 6 canyon bridges and offers countless scenic views of the gorge.

You can start and end this hike at the first bridge where you will also find the Maligne Canyon Wilderness kitchen. A place that serves excellent food for a reasonable price. Here you can quell your hunger or thirst before you start your hike.

Maligne Canyon in winter

We visited the Canyon in winter and took a guided Maligne Canyon Ice walk tour.

I can truly say this was one of the highlights of our trip. You can find more info about the Maligne ice walk here.

Definitely visit the Maligne Canyon while you are in Jasper
Maligne Canyon, a favorite of hikers during all seasons
Hike The Valley of the Five lakes

The Valley of the Five lakes is an amazing 4,6 km moderate loop that brings you around 5 beautifully colored lakes that range from bright blue to emerald green.

At one of the lakes you will also see the famous red chairs.

Count around 2 hours to hike the loop.

If you are traveling during high season, we advise you to start early to avoid the crowds. 

When hiking during summer, bring bugs spray since there are lots of mosquitos.

How to reach the starting point

To find the trailhead, proceed along the Icefields Parkway, south of Jasper.

The parking lot is along the road.

Jasper Dark Sky Preserve

Jasper was designated a Dark Sky Preserve in 2011. It’s one of the few places that is easily accessible and has limited light pollution.

This offers excellent opportunities for stargazing.

The Jasper Planetarium offers tours where, weather permitting, you can look at the sky through the largest and most powerful telescope in the North American Rockies.

Day 7: Sulphur Skyline hike and Miette hot springs

Hike the Sulphur skyline

The Sulphur Skyline hike is a challenging 8 km out and back uphill hike to the Sulphur Skyline summit.

The trail starts on a paved path and then transitions to gravel leading through the forest for most of the time.

When continuing the path it will change into steep switchbacks once you get closer to the top.

At the summit you will be rewarded with 360 degree views.

Bears are often seen during this hike. We therefore recommend that you bring bear spray and bells.

Goats and other wildlife can also be seen.

Sulphur Skyline in Jasper National Park
The feeling that you’re standing on top of the world

How to reach the starting point

From Jasper drive North East on highway AB-16 towards Edmonton for 44 km to the Pocahontas and the Miette Road Junction. Drive for 15-20 minutes on the Miette RD. Then you will reach the Miette hot springs.

Where to start the Sulphur Skyline hike

The hike starts above and right of the Miette hot springs.

Miette hot springs

The hot springs will be a real treat for your sore muscles after this demanding hike.

The complex features 4 outdoor pools of different temperatures.

It’s a great place to unwind before driving further to Edmonton or back to Calgary.

Here you can find more info about hot springs.

Note that they close for the winter season.

Conclusion

Banff an Jasper are 2 amazing destinations in the Rocky Mountains. There is so much to see and to do that you need to prioritize.

In this post, we shared a sample Banff-Jasper itinerary for 7 days.

Feel free to adapt this itinerary to your own preferences.

We hope you have an amazing holiday in the Canadian Rockies.

Here is an overview of more amazing national parks in Canada.

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