Icefields Parkway Itinerary Best Photo Stops for Lakes Waterfalls Hikes

Looking for a scenic drive in the Alberta Rocky Mountains? This Icefields Parkway itinerary will get you the best photo ops at the most stunning spots between Lake Louise and Jasper. This road trip is rated as one of the Top 10 most scenic drives in the world and it takes you through the top 2 most visited national parks in Canada, Banff National Park and Jasper National Park.

The 230 km (143 miles) Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) in Alberta, Canada linking Lake Louise (near Banff) to Jasper is one of the most beautiful road trips in Canada, and the whole wide world. Without making any stops the drive takes around 3 hours one way. Add a few stops and it takes several more hours. Plan to spend the whole day, or longer, on your epic road trip journey through the Canadian Rockies.

 

Icefields Parkway itinerary Banff to Jasper road trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Top photo op tops along the way.

 

Icefields Parkway Itinerary

If the planets align and you are given the golden opportunity to drive this gorgeous stretch of road JUMP at the chance and go for it! You MUST drive the Icefields Parkway if you are planning a road trip anywhere near Alberta. Follow along with this Icefields Parkway itinerary to plan your stops on your Alberta road trip.

If you are doing a return trip back down the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 from Jasper back to Lake Louise or Banff then you can pick half of these stops for your Banff to Jasper itinerary and half for the trip back to Banff.

Buckle up! Let’s have a look at all the best photo stops on the Icefields Parkway from Banff National Park to Jasper.

 

Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta is rated as one of the top scenic road trips in the world

Icefields Parkway is rated as one of the top scenic road trips in the world, make it a multi-stop itinerary

 

 

Herbert Lake

On the west side of the Icefields Parkway
62 km from Banff

 

 

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Hector Lake

On the west side of Icefields Parkway
78 km from Banff

 

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Bow Lake

On the west side of the Icefields Parkway
94 km from Banff

If the parking lot closest to the highway is full there is a big parking lot at Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge right at the lake. Tour buses make regular stops here. They don’t stay long before they are on the move to the next stop on their Icefields Parkway tour on the way to Jasper or headed back to Lake Louise.

 

Bow Lake with turquoise glacial fed water with a spectacular Rocky Mountain landscape in Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

Bow Lake with turquoise waters surrounded by the Rocky Mountains

 

Peyto Lake – Best of Icefields Parkway Itinerary

On the west side of Icefields Parkway
100 km from Banff

IMPORTANT – Watch for Bow Summit sign and turn left or you will miss it! Driving from Jasper to Banff there is proper signage for Peyto Lake but not on the Banff to Jasper route.

If you are headed north bound towards Jasper, take the Bow Summit exit on the left – this is the Peyto Lake exit. Don’t miss out!

 

Peyto Lake, shaped like a fox and stunning turquoise in color, is one of the most popular stops on the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta Canada

Peyto Lake is one of the most popular stops on the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93

 

 

Waterfowl Lakes

On the east side of the Icefields Parkway
115 km from Banff

 

 

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How do I choose which lakes to stop at?

You have at least five lakes to choose from in the first 90 minutes of driving, yikes it’s too many and how am I supposed to decide which is the best lake to stop along the Icefields Parkway?

Five lakes in a row is more lakes than I need to see in the first couple of hours on a one-day road trip. Plan to spend 15 minutes or more at each stop. If you hike Peyto Lake to the outlook add another hour.

In a hurry, don’t have time, don’t feel like stopping every 20 minutes then choose just one beautiful glacial lake. But which ONE?!

My pick is Peyto Lake if I could only make one stop on this stretch of the Icefields Parkway.

If you can’t stand crowds, then either skip Peyto Lake or spend the extra time at Peyto to hike to the overlook that most tourists skip. Someone told me that 93% of tourists won’t go more than one km beyond where they stop at a sightseeing spot. Think about that for a moment. Good way to avoid the bus tour crowds is to go the extra mile… I mean kilometer!

Easiest stop will be Waterfowl Lakes because it’s on the east side of the Icefields Parkway. That alone will save you time and the hassle of getting past cross traffic into and out of the parking areas on the west side of the parkway. If you drive back to Banff via Hwy 93 you can pick a few stops for that trip too. That way you can easily stop at all of the top photo stops along this top rated scenic drive.

 

Mistaya Canyon – Best of Icefields Parkway Itinerary

Mistaya Canyon is a short easy hike with a waterfall. Mind you I haven’t done this hike but it’s only 2.25 km (1.5 miles) total on an out and back trail with 57 m (187 ft) elevation gain. Easy peasy with extraordinary views of the canyon so this one is on my bucket list for next trip to Jasper.

 

 

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Parker Ridge Trail – Best of Icefields Parkway Itinerary

 

When my sister and I took a weekend getaway in the Rockies, Parker Ridge is where we stopped on the way to Jasper to hike the trail for an amazing panoramic view of a glacier. Even if you aren’t much into hiking you can enjoy this little trek in the Rockies.

The thing is you don’t have to hike the whole trail to see the outrageously gorgeous view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. This is an easy hike and highly recommended for the stunning landscape.

Check out my full post on hiking Parker Ridge Trail

 

 

Stunning view of Saskatchewan Glacier at Parker Ridge Trail, easy hike along the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) in Banff National Park

What a view! Easy hike to this stunning view of Saskatchewan Glacier at Parker Ridge Trail

 

Wilcox Pass Trail

On the west side of the Icefields Parkway
182 km from Banff and 107 km from Jasper

I haven’t hiked this beauty yet but it’s also on my list for my next road trip from Calgary to Jasper.

 

 

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Columbia Icefield Snocoach – Icewalks

On the east side of Icefields Parkway
185 km from Banff and 104 km from Jasper

There is a big parking lot at the Discovery Centre where you can buy tickets for the Icewalks and Snocoach tour. Save 10% by booking in advance online here.

Buses transport everyone to the other side of the highway for the Snocoach tours and icewalks on the Athabasca Glacier.

 

 

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Toe of the Athabasca Glacier – Best of Icefields Parkway Itinerary

Easy hike to a glacier?! Hell yeah! And it’s no charge to do the hike. Other FREE stuff here includes visiting the Discovery Centre where you can get info from Parks Canada and a free map of the area. The hike to the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier is only 1.4 km (a little less than 1 mile) so give it a go!

 

1982 marker on the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier hiking trail marks where the glacier used to reach to on the mountain.

1982 marker on the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier hiking trail

 

This is a short easy hike to the base of the Athabasca Glacier, or the toe as they call it. There are six toes to Athabasca glacier.

The parking lot for the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier hike is a dirt parking lot across from the Discovery Centre. You access the trailhead from the parking area, walk across a small foot bridge and up a fairly steep incline to the the base of the glacier. There are a few info boards along the trail.

 

Info boards at Toe of Athabasca Glacier hike - Icefields Parkway. Top pick for free walk to the base of a glacier in the Canadian Rockies

Info boards at Toe of Athabasca Glacier hike -Icefields Parkway

 

If you have children with you please do pay attention to where they are at all times. Do not let them roam outside of the specified trail area or beyond the rope marking the end of the trail.

Toe of the Athabasca Glacier hike is open year round and it is free of charge.

 

Toe (base) of the Athabasca Glacier - Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Toe (base) of the Athabasca Glacier – Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

 

 

Glacier Skywalk

Glacier Skywalk is on the west side of Icefields Parkway
190 km from Banff and 98 km from Jasper

Walk on a glass observation platform overlooking Sunwapta Valley in the Columbia Icefields of Alberta.

If you purchase tickets in advance you get a discount of 10% off regular rates. Check hours and rates for Glacier Skywalk here.

 

 

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On our Jasper getaway my sister and I thought we would do the skywalk on the way back to Calgary, but it was closed due to a thunder and lightning storm. We could have waited it out, but we opted to drive on to Peyto Lake for a hike instead.

Tickets for the Skywalk and Columbia Icefields Snocoach are expensive.

Skip the Snocoach walk on a glacier and the Skywalk view of glaciers if you are on a budget or don’t feel like blowing around $100 to be surrounded by a bunch of tourists. Some people say it’s worth it and others say it’s too much money for the experience. To each their own. You decide what is right for you and your budget. Do what makes you happy.

 

Tangle Falls

On the east side of the Icefields Parkway
191 km from Banff and 97 km from Jasper

Tangle Falls is an easy stop on the Icefields Parkway because the falls are right there by the highway. In fact you can get a quick glimpse of the falls on the right-hand side of the highway even if you don’t stop. Waterfalls have a great vibe. Always a good choice to take a moment to gaze at a waterfall and let nature pour magical therapeutic good vibes your way.

 

Tangle Falls on the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 on your way to Jasper

Stop at Tangle Falls on the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 on your way to Jasper

 

Sunwapta Falls

On the west side of Icefields Parkway
234 km from Banff and 56 km from Jasper

 

Beautiful Sunwapta Falls is a great photo stop on the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper road trip

Beautiful Sunwapta Falls is a great photo stop on the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper road trip

 

 

Kerkeslin Goat Lick

246 km from Banff and 42 km from Jasper

 

 

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Athabasca Falls – Best of Icefields Parkway Itinerary

On the west side of the Icefields Parkway
257 km from Banff and only 32 km from Jasper

 

Athabasca waterfall is a must stop photo op on any Icefields Parkway itinerary. Rated one of the most scenic road trips in the world, the Icefields Parkway connects Lake Louise to Jasper Alberta

Athabasca waterfall is a must stop photo op on the Icefields Parkway

 

 

Top 5 Picks – Best of Icefields Parkway Itinerary

With 15 outstanding photo op stops how can you decide on the best places to stop on the Icefields Parkway? Let me help you out with the top five picks from this Rocky Mountain road trip itinerary.

All top 5 picks are FREE stops along the Icefields Parkway.

  1. Peyto Lake

  2. Mystaya Canyon

  3. Parker Ridge Trail

  4. Toe of the Athabasca Glacier

  5. Athabasca Falls

 

This Icefields Parkway itinerary of the top 5 picks gives you a taste of the exquisite turquoise glacial lakes, waterfalls, and a couple of hikes with spectacular panoramic views in the Canadian Rockies.

There you have it! Your Canada road trip itinerary should include this world famous scenic drive in the beautiful Canadian Rockies of Alberta. Put the Icefields Parkway on your bucket list and start planning the road trip of a lifetime today!

 

Canyon view of the Athabasca River, on the same site as Athabasca Falls - one of the most popular stops on the Icefields Parkway in the Alberta Rocky Mountains of Canada

Canyon view is on the other side of the Athabasca falls – make sure to walk around to this side

 

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Icefields Parkway itinerary Banff to Jasper road trip through the Canadian Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Top photo op tops along the way.

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About the Author

Susan Moore's first solo travel experience was traveling around SE Asia for 7 months in 1993. It was life changing and extraordinary. Currently Susan is living a nomadic life, working and roadtripping around the USA and Canada. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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