Buckle up and prepare for one of the most beautiful and spectacular road trips you'll ever encounter.
The ultimate Icefields Parkway road trip
It’s official – you simply can’t go to Canada without opting in for the ultimate Canadian road trip: Icefields Parkway - it’s practically the law. But what is it? Icefields Parkway is a double-lane road stretching over 200 km between Jasper National Park and Banff National Park, taking around 3.5 hours to complete in total and boasting over 100 ancient glaciers along the route. Yep, as Canada glacier tours go, Icefields Parkway is without a doubt one of the most spectacular of them all. Gushing waterfalls, tick. Sweeping mountainous views, even bigger tick. Sparkling emerald lakes..you get the picture. So, without further ado, buckle up and prepare for one of the most beautiful and spectacular road trips you’ll ever encounter.
What’s the best way to see it?
First thing’s first. With all the Canada glacier tours around you’re probably wondering what the best way to cover the Icefields Parkway route is and the answer is simple. Self-drive. Why? Simply put, it’s because you’ll want to pull over and stop. A lot. Whether that’s to stare eyes wide, jaw open at the views, hike until your heart’s content or to simply watch the local wildlife meander along the road, you’re going to want the flexibility to stop and do all the things you want to do and in your own time. Although the drive from Banff to Jasper (or the other way round) should take less than half a day, we recommend taking the whole day to do it. Trust us, you’ll understand when you’re there.
If you decide to see the Canada Icefields through one of our incredible itineraries, your experience will start in cosmopolitan Calgary where you’ll pick up your car. Known for its abundance of chic restaurants, boutiques and bars, Calgary is more famously known as the gateway to the postcard perfect Banff National Park. After spending two days here, you’ll begin one of the most beautiful Canada Glacier tours there are in the Icefields Parkway’s most iconic point: Lake Louise. And this’ll be just a taster of all the sparkling emerald lakes you’ll come across throughout the tour. If we can give you one piece of advice, it’s to bring your hiking gear because trust us, you’ll want to get off the beaten track and find those hidden gems!
The best stops on route
Located just a 20 minute drive from Lake Louise, Hector Lake is one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park. Offering sweeping views of the surrounding mountains, Hector Lake is often overlooked by most tourists meaning that if you’re looking for a serene spot, this is the place to pull the car over. If you’re up for a hike, you’ll be able to take the 5 km route which is long enough to really appreciate the surrounding scenery but short enough for you to have time to see everything else Icefields Parkway has to offer. Win win, right?
Next, just a 15 minute drive from Hector Lake you’ll find one of the most beautiful of the Canada Icefields– Petyo Lake. Named after Bill Peyto, an early trail guide in the Banff area, Petyo Lake features everything you’d expect from a picturesque Canadian Rockies view – vibrant blue water surrounded by dramatic mountain views and dotted with countless pine trees. Yep, this is one for the gram. That being said, with jaw dropping scenery comes crowds of tourists so we definitely recommend getting here as early as possible or getting your hiking gear on and exploring further than the tourist hubs!
The next stop on your itinerary should be the Weeping Wall. This site is truly a sight to behold in all seasons - by winter, it’s a gorgeous ice-covered climbers haven and by late spring, the wall begins to “weep” water as the ice begins to melt, creating multiple waterfalls gushing down the cliff which stands at over 350 metres. And the best thing? The best view is actually from the car park meaning this is one of the best places in the Canada Icefields to have a lunch stop and rest your legs before heading into Jasper National Park.
Next up and about a 30 minute drive from the Weeping Wall, we recommend you pull your car over at Tangle Ridge. This is definitely one of the most difficult hikes along Icefields Parkway but it will definitely be worth it for the views. Or, if you’d prefer to keep it leisurely, you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of small bright blue lakes dotted around countless pine trees and the surrounding Rocky Mountains. We can sense you thinking of all the photo opportunities already, are we right?
Located another 30 minutes into Jasper National Park, you’ll find Sunwapta Falls. This iconic waterfall consists of upper and lower waterfalls meaning you’ll get two for the price of one, all in one spectacular combination. If you want to keep it short and sweet, the upper falls are very easily accessed from the car park where you’ll find a gorgeous backdrop of around 18 metres with graceful gushing glacier water - this will be at its most impressive in the late spring or early summer as the ice starts to melt. If instead you’re looking for something a bit more active, you can also hike down to the lower falls and witness the view from a different perspective. If there’s one waterfall stop you should make a priority on your Icefields Parkway itinerary, it’s this one.
The final stop that we recommend you take before you finish your Icefields Parkway tour is the hair-raising Athabasca Falls. This particular waterfall is famous for being both powerful and picturesque with views consistent with the rest of The Rockies – a spectacular backdrop of pine forests and mountains to look out to, but this time, you’ll have a roaring river beneath you, again at its most powerful in late spring.
So, does this sound like something that would tickle your fancy? Of course it does! And let’s be honest, you’ve definitely been thinking about all the incredible pictures you could take so you can post the obligatory boast post on social media when you return home, are we right?
If you’re interested in discovering what this incredible part of Canada has to offer, check out our Canada holidays which include this unforgettable Canada Icefields tour on top of the opportunity to experience Calgary, Sunpeaks and Vancouver. If you’re feeling really adventurous you could even add in a trip to serene Victoria and skiing hub Whistler. So, what are you waiting for? Explore our Canada holidays now.