The Icefields Parkway is a 145-mile stretch of double-lane freeway in Banff Nationwide Park that connects Lake Louise to Jasper, Alberta in Canada. All through this scenic drive, guests can soak up views of towering Rocky Mountain peaks, frozen ice fields, and delightful valley landscapes. Plus, there are tons of alternatives to get out of the automobile and expertise mountain climbing trails, Rocky Mountain cities, nice tenting, and different adventures.
I’ve been fortunate sufficient to discover the Icefields Parkway on three completely different highway journeys and I take into account this area a must-visit for any out of doors fanatic. With practically a dozen campgrounds alongside the route, the best solution to journey right here is by automobile or van. Tenting (vs staying at inns that are few and much between) will put you nearer to the paths and the entire different superb websites alongside the way in which.
On this submit, I share my two-week Icefields Parkway itinerary that options one of the best mountain climbing trails, lakes, campgrounds, highway journey stops, and extra.
Necessary Reminder: Because it goes in the entire locations we share, please observe good path etiquette and bear in mind to Go away No Hint. This implies packing out all your rubbish (together with rest room paper), being respectful to others, and following the established guidelines.
The place is the Icefields Parkway?
The Icefields Parkway stretches 145 miles between the Rocky Mountain Alberta cities of Lake Louise within the south and Jasper within the north. Whereas that is the ‘official’ route, there are many facet journeys you possibly can add to your travels together with Banff and Yoho Nationwide Park in British Columbia, which we added to our two-week Icefields Parkway itinerary under.
- Driving from the US: The Icefields Parkway is well accessible by automobile if you happen to’re coming from the northwestern US. You may even make an extended highway journey out of it by visiting Glacier Nationwide Park as you make your manner towards Calgary.
>> Learn subsequent: Biking Going-to-the-Solar Street in Glacier Nationwide Park
- Fly into Calgary: In case you’re flying, the most suitable choice is to fly into Calgary, Alberta the place you possibly can hire a automobile. From Calgary, it’s a couple of two-hour drive to Lake Louise the place the Parkway begins.
Finest time of 12 months to go to
I’ve visited the Icefields Parkway in June, August, and February. Whereas I’ve but to go to in fall, which I hear is gorgeous, for one of the best possibilities for good climate, I like to recommend visiting in late summer time. Peak bug season is over, snow has melted at larger elevations, and the entire trails will probably be accessible. The draw back of this time of 12 months is the extra fashionable websites will most definitely be crowded.
Fall is understood for the attractive golden larches that mild up the mountainside, however the climate is unpredictable. You’ll have to be ready for rain and even snow which has the potential to thwart your mountain climbing plans.
In case you go to within the spring, you possibly can catch the wildflowers blooming, but additionally remember that some trails and areas should still be lined in snowpack. Trails this time of 12 months even have potential to be closed because of grizzly exercise because the bears awake from their winter hibernation.
For individuals who can bear the chilly, winter alongside the Icefields Parkway presents solitude, snowboarding, snowshoeing, mountaineering and different winter recreation.
Parks Canada Discovery Cross
You need to pay to enter the Icefields Parkway (identical to you’ll within the US Nationwide Parks). You should buy a single-day go or you should purchase an annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass.
You should buy this nationwide park go on-line, but it surely’s tremendous straightforward to do in particular person. You will get your go at data/guests facilities at park entrances or at campgrounds the place there’s an attendant.
Tip: In case you’re following this itinerary, you possibly can choose up a Discovery Cross on the entrance of Yoho Nationwide Park, the primary vacation spot. You’ll really be visiting three completely different nationwide parks: Banff Nationwide Park, Yoho Nationwide Park, and Jasper Nationwide Park so the annual go can pay for itself in simply this journey.
There is no such thing as a cell service alongside the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, so that you’ll must print out maps or obtain this itinerary to your cellphone.
For navigating trails, I extremely suggest upgrading to an AllTrails Pro account, which lets you obtain maps to make use of offline.
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Icefields Parkway Map
The map under exhibits the route of our two-week Icefields Parkway itinerary. We included Yoho Nationwide Park in British Columbia, which isn’t technically a part of the Icefields Parkway, however undoubtedly price a go to you probably have time.
Two-Week Icefields Parkway Itinerary
The 145-mile Icefields Parkway will be pushed in a day, however I like to recommend taking no less than a number of days to discover the numerous mountain climbing trails, tenting spots, and out of doors recreation alternatives alongside the route. We took two weeks for our Icefields Parkway highway journey and felt like that gave us simply sufficient time to see and do the whole lot on our listing.
In case you don’t have two weeks, you possibly can pare this Icefields Parkway itinerary all the way down to every week or perhaps a few days if you happen to solely go to the southern half.
- Day 1: Drive to Monarch Campground in Yoho Nationwide Park
- Day 2: Hike the Iceline Path in Yoho Nationwide Park
- Day 3: Drive to Lake Louise and hike the Plain of Six Glaciers
- Day 4: Enter Icefields Parkway / Hike Bow Glacier Falls
- Day 5: Helen Lake hike
- Day 6: Go to Peyto Lake and hike Boundary Lake path
- Day 7: Hike Wilcox Cross Path
- Day 8: Hike Magnificence Creek to Stanley Falls
- Day 9: Lake Annette and Pyramid Lake / Discover Jasper
- Day 10: Hike Valley of 5 Lakes or Edith Cavell Meadows
- Day 11: Go to Maligne Lake
- Day 12: Hike Parker Ridge Path
- Day 13: Drive to Banff
- Day 14: Return to Calgary
Day 1: Yoho Nationwide Park & Emerald Lake
Yoho Nationwide Park is situated in japanese British Columbia on the border of Alberta. It’s recognized for its unimaginable Rocky Mountain panorama together with towering peaks, speeding rivers and waterfalls, and crystal-clear lakes.
For this highway journey itinerary, I like to recommend staying no less than 2 nights in Yoho to expertise a few of its greatest hikes and sights.
If in case you have additional time and may plan upfront, I additionally HIGHLY RECOMMEND including a few additional days and attempting to get a allow to camp at Yoho Nationwide Park’s Lake O’Hara. I’m not together with the small print of that space on this submit, however I’ve written all about mountain climbing and tenting at Lake O’Hara right here.
- Calgary to Monarch Campground in Yoho Nationwide Park (2 hours quarter-hour / 128 miles)
- Monarch Campground to Emerald Loop Hike (16 min / 10 miles)
Camp at Monarch Campground
Relying on the place you begin your journey, replenish on groceries and provides in both Canmore (if you happen to’re coming from Calgary) or Golden (if you happen to’re coming from British Columbia).
After stocking up, drive to Monarch Campground in Yoho Nationwide Park and get a primary come first serve web site. This campground has pit bogs, water, firewood, and picnic tables. It’s greatest suited to tents and autos below 27 ft.
I personally want the websites in your proper after you enter. They provide extra privateness and are furthest from the highway.
Tip: the primary come first serve campsites do refill within the busy season so get there earlier within the day to safe your spot earlier than happening to hike and discover.
Hike the Emerald Lake Loop
After you’ve secured your campsite, drive to Emerald Lake (10 miles) and hike the three.2-mile Emerald Lake loop. The water was pretty heat right here in August so it’s an amazing place to swim. There have been good locations all alongside the path to get within the water.
>> Learn subsequent: The Final Information to Banff, Jasper, and Yoho Tenting
Day 2: Iceline Path & Takkawaw Falls
- Monarch Campground to Iceline Path (12 minutes / 8 miles)
- Iceline Path to Lake Louise (45 minutes / 24 miles)
Hike the Iceline Path
You’ll wish to pack up within the morning and get an early begin on the Iceline Path. This path begins from the Takakkaw Falls Parking space and makes its manner up by means of the forest till you come out above the treeline once you’re granted superb views throughout Yoho Valley and the Rocky Mountains.
You may both do the Iceline Path as a 9.3-mile out-and-back (which is what I did) or make it an extended 10.3-mile loop by persevering with previous Celeste Lake and descending down Little Yoho Valley Path to Yoho Valley Path.
After you’re performed, head over to the Takkawaw Falls and take a look at the falls.
Notice: The highway to the Iceline Path and Takkawaw Falls has a bit of steep switchbacks. Automobiles longer than 24′ aren’t really helpful to journey on the highway.
In case you’re on the lookout for a better hike, take the 5.2-mile path to Laughing Falls. This can be a a lot simpler route that we opted for throughout my most up-to-date go to once I was 16 weeks pregnant. It’s largely flat alongside the river with some sections within the forest and results in a ravishing waterfall on the finish the place yow will discover a pleasant place to have lunch.
Camp on the Lake Louise overflow lot
After your hike, drive to the Lake Louise overflow lot outdoors of Banff the place there’s in a single day parking in an enormous gravel lot. You don’t want a reservation. The payment for tenting is $11.50 an evening and there’s a porta potty obtainable.
Day 3: Lake Louise & Plain of Six Glaciers Path
Get up early (like 5:00 am) and instantly head as much as Lake Louise (the precise lake). Parking on the lake can refill as early as 6, at which level your solely choice is to take the free shuttle. Nonetheless, the shuttle requires a reservation and no pets are allowed.
Eat breakfast within the car parking zone and attempt to be on the lake for dawn.
Observe the shoreline path to the top of Lake Louise the place the Plain of Six Glaciers path heads up the valley. This 9.1-mile route is reasonably difficult, however the views are properly definitely worth the effort. For perspective, I used to be 17 weeks pregnant once I did this hike. There’s additionally the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea Home close to the highest, so convey some money for a cup or tea and a bowl of soup.
This path can get very crowded, so the sooner you begin the higher. We had the path largely to ourselves on the way in which up, however the crowds had been fairly thick on the way in which down.
In case you’re not an early riser, you can begin this hike later within the day as soon as parking spots begin to open up within the late afternoon. Carry a headlamp if you happen to do it this fashion.
Camp on the Lake Louise Overflow lot
Keep another night time in Lake Louise overflow.
Day 4: Bow Lake
- Lake Louise to Mosquito Creek Campground (24 minutes / 18 miles)
Immediately will probably be your first day on the Icefields Parkway. Drive north from Lake Louise onto Route 93, which is the beginning of the Parkway.
Tip: Refill on fuel at Lake Louise. The following fuel station is at Saskatchewan Crossing which was very costly after which Jasper which is 232 km (144 miles) north.
Camp at Mosquito Creek Campground
You’ll wish to head straight to Mosquito Creek campground to get a primary come first served campsite. If there are not any spots obtainable, they do permit for overflow in a single day parking right here.
There are some spots proper on the river however they’re uncovered and never very non-public. The loop to the correct is the place we stayed, and there have been some good websites which might be only a brief stroll to the river.
Hike the Bow Glacier Falls Path
A very nice average hike is the 5.5-mile Bow Glacier Falls Path, which begins at Bow Lake. You may park within the lot the place the lodge is or wherever alongside the grime highway resulting in the car parking zone.
This path has nice views all the time and just one difficult part the place there’s a sequence of steep stairs constructed into the path.
Afterward, seize a drink on the cafe and go calm down on the shores of Bow Lake.
Day 5: Helen Lake
Spend the day exploring Helen Lake, which is only a brief drive away from Mosquito Creek campground.
The Helen Lake Path is a difficult hike if you happen to plan on summiting Cirque Peak (if we had been extra ready, and I wasn’t pregnant we’d have thought-about it). At a minimal, it’s price climbing the 7.2 miles as much as Helen Lake. You get unimaginable views of Helen Lake and the encompassing peaks.
We heard the height was spectacular but additionally a bit sketchy with numerous free scree. In case you select to go up there I might suggest sturdy footwear, lengthy pants, mountain climbing poles, layers, and many water.
Whereas we didn’t hike to the height, we did proceed above the lake the place we had nice views throughout the valley.
>> Learn subsequent: What to Put on Mountaineering
Spend one other night time at Mosquito Creek Campground.
Day 6: Peyto Lake, Boundary Lake, & Athabasca Glacier
- Mosquito Creek Campground to Wilcox Creek Campground (1 hour quarter-hour / 62 miles)
Rise up early to pack up camp and begin driving north on the Icefields Parkway.
Cease at Peyto Lake for a scenic overlook. You may comply with the path under the lookout level for a personal view and higher photograph alternatives.
Proceed driving north to Wilcox Campground and seize a first-come-first-serve campsite. The decrease websites have one of the best views.
After you’ve obtained your web site and arrange camp, drive 1.8 miles again south to the Boundary Lake Trailhead, which is correct on the border of Banff and Jasper Nationwide Park.
The path as much as Boundary Lake is a simple afternoon hike to a very fairly lake. We solely noticed two different individuals, which is uncommon to seek out that a lot solitude on any of the better hikes within the area. You may comply with the lake all the way in which round the correct facet to the glacier moraine.
After your hike, drive 3.2 miles north to Athabasca Glacier (if you happen to’re too drained, simply skip the hike and go to the Glacier as a substitute). You may take a tour from the Columbia Icefield Centre the place you journey on a tour bus out onto the glacier. Another choice is to do the Columbia Icefield Glacier Skywalk. This glass-bottom boardwalk sits 918 ft off the valley ground and presents uninterrupted views out over the glacier. Each the bus tour and skywalk must be booked upfront.
We opted to only see the glacier from the point of view reached by a brief stroll uphill. It’s loopy to see how far the glacier has retreated during the last 100 years and particularly the final 30.
Day 7: Wilcox Cross Path
The Wilcox Cross Path is a highly regarded hike and you may stroll to the trailhead out of your campsite at Wilcox Creek Campground. Begin early to beat the crowds and the solar. Carry lunch to eat on the high the place you’ll have wide-open views of Columbia Icefields.
Tip: In case you do the complete 7.1-mile one-way size of the path, you’ll descend down the opposite facet and meet up with the Icefields Parkway highway. In case you don’t wish to do 14 miles out-and-back, merely flip round once you really feel prepared to move again.
Keep one other night time at Wilcox Creek Campground.
Day 8: Stanley Falls & Sunwapta Falls
Pack up camp and proceed driving north.
- Wilcox Creek Campground to Mount Kerkeslin Campground (50 minutes / 44.5 miles)
The primary cease alongside this present day’s drive is Magnificence Creek Path to Stanley Falls. This can be a 2.4-mile brief path with a average pitch proper off the Icefields Parkways that follows a gorge and results in a sequence of lovely waterfalls. It’s quiet and a pleasant place to stretch your legs through the day’s drive.
After your hike, proceed driving north and cease at Sunwapta Falls the place you possibly can benefit from the views of the higher falls. I didn’t assume the decrease falls had been actually definitely worth the effort, but it surely’s a brief straightforward hike if you happen to’re trying to get extra steps on this day.
Get a first-come-first-serve campsite at Mount Kerkeslin Campground (you’ll be right here for 4 nights). The websites close to the doorway are nearer to the Athabasca river, however manner much less non-public and nearer to the freeway. Observe the highway to the second loop for bigger and extra non-public websites.
We discovered that this campsite had extra availability than a few of the others within the space. It’s about 20 minutes south of Jasper and far smaller than the websites like Wabasso and Wapiti, that are instantly south of city and take reservations.
Whereas it was an additional drive than different days, we loved the quiet nature of this campground. In case you want a bathe, the larger campgrounds nearer to Jasper have extra facilities.
Day 9: Lake Annette and Jasper
- Mount Kerkeslin Campground to Lake Annette (40 minutes / 26.5 miles) and again
Drive by means of the city of Jasper to Lake Annette, the place you are able to do a pleasant stroll across the lake. Lake Annette was one of many clearest lakes I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen lots of lakes!). Take a swim or you probably have a paddleboard, this may be an amazing place to bust it out.
In case you’re on the lookout for extra lake-time, you may also go to close by Pyramid Lake.
After you’re performed swimming and paddleboarding, spend a while exploring the city of Jasper. I extremely suggest consuming at Ravens Bistro. They’ve nice vegan choices and an exquisite patio that’s shaded within the mid-afternoon.
In your manner again to the campground, cease at Athabasca Falls simply earlier than the solar goes down. It’s much less crowded at this hour and the lighting is gorgeous. Search for beautiful solar rays and a rainbow within the waterfall mist.
Evening 2 at Mount Kerkeslin Campground.
Day 10: Valley of 5 Lakes or Edith Cavell Meadows
You will have two choices for hikes at present: Valley of 5 Lakes or Edith Cavell Meadows
Valley of 5 Lakes
The two.9-mile Valley of 5 Lakes loop is a pet-friendly hike that was extraordinarily busy once we visited because of its accessibility, fairly lakes, and simple terrain. This wasn’t my favourite path on our journey, however practically the entire alpine hikes close to the city of Jasper aren’t dog-friendly because of wildlife.
With that stated, if you happen to get a really early begin this can be a nice path. For swimming, there have been some good entry factors at First Lake in addition to Fourth Lake. If you wish to add some mileage, there are alternatives to make it an extended loop.
Edith Cavell Meadows
If we didn’t have our canines, that is the path we might have performed. Test the Nationwide Park web site for updates on which trails are dog-friendly around Jasper).
The Edith Cavell Meadows path is a 5.1-mile loop that gives breathtaking surroundings of wildflower meadows, glaciers, and mountains. Whereas the views are epic, the terrain is difficult with over 1,800 ft of climbing. Carry trekking poles, snacks, numerous water, and a layer or two because the temperatures get colder close to the highest.
Evening 3 at Mount Kerkeslin Campground.
Day 11: Maligne Lake
- Mount Kerkeslin Campground to Maligne Lake (1 hour quarter-hour / 52 miles)
If it’s a sunny day, driving out to Maligne Lake is a should. The lake has a few of the prettiest water I’ve ever seen. I used to be there in 2017 and paddled all the size of the lake, tenting on the finish at a backcountry campsite known as Coronet Creek Campground.
If you will get a allow and wish to do an in a single day journey, it’s properly definitely worth the effort. If that’s not doable, you possibly can nonetheless hire a canoe or kayak for a few hours and go exploring. If the water and wind are calm, this can be a nice solution to spend the morning.
In case you don’t wish to paddle, there’s a tour boat that leaves roughly each half hour that takes you out to Spirit Island. The boat tour is dear, however if you wish to see the lake with minimal effort, this can be a good choice. I additionally assume the lake will get prettier the additional down you go. Reservations are extremely really helpful for the Maligne Lake Cruise.
In case you’re on the lookout for a hike to do after paddling, head out on the Opal Hills (additionally not dog-friendly). This 5-mile loop climbs up above Maligne Lake for excellent views out over the water and valley. Be forewarned, although, this can be a difficult ascent!
For a better afternoon, go discover Maligne Canyon. We began on the backside of the canyon from Sixth Bridge. We did the uphill first and adopted the river on the way in which up after which stayed excessive on the downhill portion, making a loop out of the path. The prettiest a part of the hike, for my part, was between the fifth and 4th bridges the place you have got a transparent view of the river and the way it’s carved by means of the canyon.
Evening 4 at Mount Kerkeslin Campground.
Day 12: Parker Ridge Path
- Mount Kerkeslin Campground to Waterfowl Lakes Campground (1 hour 40 minutes / 86 miles)
Pack up camp and get an early begin driving again south. Immediately you’ll drive about midway down with a pleasant hike and layover on the way in which.
The 4-mile Parker Ridge Path is a must-do that isn’t too arduous and comes with huge rewards. On the high, you’ll get views of the Saskatchewan Glacier which was much more spectacular than Athabasca for my part.
This can be a busy path with no shade, so the sooner you can begin the higher.
Proceed driving south and get a primary come-first served campsite at Waterfowl Lakes. If that’s full, you possibly can hold driving to Mosquito Creek Campground.
Day 13: Banff
- Waterfowl Lakes to Banff (1 hour quarter-hour / 71 miles)
From Waterfowl Lakes, exit the Icefield Parkway and head straight to Banff. There’s free parking together with for RVs on the way in which into city simply previous the prepare tracks. It’s a lot simpler to stroll from there because of visitors and parking restrictions on the town.
If you wish to stretch your legs, do the fast 2.8-mile Tunnel Mountain Path to get an amazing overlook of the city of Banff. If you wish to paddle, Two Jack Lake is a good place to get out your paddleboards or kayaks.
In case you’ve had sufficient mountain climbing, hop on the gondola as much as Sulphur Ridge the place you possibly can take within the superb Rocky Mountain views from the highest. There’s additionally a path to the summit, so you possibly can select to hike up and/or again down.
Camp at Banff overflow car parking zone.
Day 14: Drive to Calgary
- Banff to Calgary (1 hour half-hour / 80 miles)
In case you’re ending your journey in Calgary, the drive from Banff to Calgary is about an hour and a half.
you probably have time, one other nice hike in Banff is the Johnston Canyon to Higher Falls path, which is 3.2 miles and takes you alongside the very scenic Johnston Creek with elements of the path on a suspended boardwalk. The path ends at a ravishing waterfall with a deep blue pool at its base. Nonetheless, remember that this is among the hottest hikes in the entire Canadian Rockies, so get a really early begin to get parking and keep away from the crowds.
If you’d like a much less crowded hike, head to Coronary heart Creek Path, which begins from the small city of Lac de Arcs. This path is 3-miles and in addition follows a creek as much as a waterfall.
What to Pack to your Icefields Parkway Street Journey
Try our automobile tenting guidelines for an entire listing of what to pack to your highway journey. Listed below are a number of gadgets particularly essential for the Icefields Parkway:
- Icefields Parkway Map – there isn’t a cell service between Lake Louise and Jasper
- Bug spray – mosquitos will be ferocious in the summertime!
- Layers – relying on what hikes you do, chances are you’ll come near ice fields and glaciers. Pack layers to remain heat
- AllTrails Professional App downloaded to your cellphone – there isn’t a cellular phone service alongside the Icefields Parkway, so make sure to have the AllTrails Professional app downloaded to your cellphone so you possibly can navigate the paths offline
- Bathing swimsuit – for the numerous lovely lakes to swim
What questions do you have got about this Icefields Parkway itinerary? Have you ever been already? What would you add to this highway journey itinerary? Go away a remark under!