From Jasper to Banff-Canada’s Premier Road Trip

Terra bus that takes visitors up into the Athabasca Glacier, in Alberta Canada.
Terra bus that takes visitors up into the Athabasca Glacier, in Alberta Canada.

By Isabelle Kagan

The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper National Park, called the Icefields Parkway, is not only one of Canada’s most treasured destinations, but also known as one of the most beautiful, scenic drives in the entire world.  There are few places where you gasp around so many corners as you view the pristine scenery of this legendary Canadian park.

Chateau Lake Louise, like a Fairytale castle!
Chateau Lake Louise, like a Fairytale castle!

The world-class drive is only 232 kilometers, yet you see some of the most amazing sights on this short trip, including stunning mountain lakes, over 100 glaciers, and countless waterfalls.

If you’re coming from far away, be sure to rent a car in Calgary to set out on the incredible drive, and to bring your camera, because you will be taking pictures at every turn.

Banff National Park

Although the drive on Highway 93N only takes three hours, you will need a full day to stop and see each highlight along Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Make sure to get a full tank of gas before you leave, because you will not be able to refill your tank until you reach Jasper.

Maligne lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada. Habeeb Salloum photo.
Maligne lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta Canada. Habeeb Salloum photo.

If you wish to lodge beforehand, you can stay at Alberta’s first ski lodge, the famous Mount Assiniboine Lodge just south of Banff. Many wealthy visitors used to travel cross-country to stay there, and now people even helicopter in from all across western Canada.

Another option is to stay at Chateau Lake Louise, a hotel that looks like it is straight out of a fairytale.

In Banff National Park, the first of many stops, you will definitely want to see Bow Lake, Hector Lake, and Peyto Lake, which are known to be so beautiful they don’t even look real, almost like paintings. There are many trails you can follow to reach the various viewing decks, where you will see the bluest water in your life!

Bow Summit is the highest point on your drive, and there you can get the best pictures of Peyto Lake, which is the most photographed and visited point out of the entire Canadian Rockies. A lookout at Hector Lake will also reveal the Crowfoot Glacier, the first of many you will see on the drive.

Driving onward, you will see the famous Weeping wall, which is a series of waterfalls cascading down from Cirrus Mountain, as if the mountain was crying. If you past this towards the end of the day, the sun will hit the water just right and create rainbows in the waterfalls!

Columbia Icefields

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, in Alberta Canada.
Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, in Alberta Canada.

The Columbia Icefields are the next stop on the drive, and is home to one of the most accessible glaciers in the whole world. It is the must-see part on the entire route, perhaps even the highlight of the journey.  With the rate of melting, you’ve gotta get there soon to see any ice at all!

The massive Athabasca Glacier flows within a close viewing distance of the parkway, but to actually walk safely onto the Glacier, you need an experienced tour guide and must buy a ticket for the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure, where you will be transported by comfortable snowcoaches onto the thousand year old ice, that extends for miles; the most ice you will ever see in your life.

The ticket will also buy you access to the Glacier Skywalk, a long glass platform that hangs over a cliff overlooking the mountains and valleys. Although a completely unique experience, it may not be for those afraid of heights!

Sunwapta Falls, just one of many dramatic sites on this epic road trip.
Sunwapta Falls, just one of many dramatic sites on this epic road trip.

Sunwapta Falls

Be sure to stop at many of the cascades along the parkway to get some incredible photos. Tangle Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls carry tons of water down from the mountains and are amazing to see because of the force and power of the water.

The drive also has an amazing variety of wildlife to be seen, including over 53 mammals such as bears, caribou, elk and mountain goats. Wildlife is best observed in the early hours of the morning, however along the route sightings are very common. Besides animals, you will also see alpine floral meadows that add to the scenery.

Jasper National Park

From Athabasca Falls, the journey ends upon your arrival at Jasper Park Lodge, where you can see more of the turquoise blue waters, such as at Horseshoe Lake.

There are multiple different hikes available on the roadtrip, ranging from short walks off the highway to multiple hour excursions. The Parker Ridge trail offers a dramatic view of the Rockies. Yet the Bow Summit is the easiest and the most popular hike of all, although the Teahouse trail along Lake Louise is also rewarding.

Driving, biking, and even helicoptering are all options to cross the Icefields Parkway. The Canadian Rockies must be seen to be believed; a sight that cannot be missed in your lifetime. The emerald lakes, scenic hiking trails, abundant wildlife, and visible glaciers have all earned it the spot of the most epic drive anywhere on this planet.

For more information on the Iceland Parkway, visit the official website. To rent a car for the roadtrip, get yours at the Calgary International Airport from Alamo. One tip is to consider using Allianz for your rental car insurance when you book it. You’ll save money and the coverage is more generous.

This story was sponsored by Allianz travel insurance, but the opinions are the author’s own. 

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Isabelle Kagan

Isabelle Kagan

Isabelle Kagan is a writer from the south shore of Massachusetts. She spent five months studying in Paris and exploring Europe, becoming an avid fan of traveling. In her spare time she also writes for a satire blog. She currently lives in western Massachusetts.