This amazing scenic drive takes you through a world of breathtaking natural beauty, where jagged peaks pierce the sky and pristine glaciers glisten under the Canadian sun. The Banff to Jasper drive is absolutely incredible!
Here’s everything you need to know before you make this adventure – including the must-see stops along the way.
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The drive from Banff to Jasper is a road trip you’ll never forget! Just outside of Banff is Lake Louise, and from there you’ll drive north to Jasper. This famous road from Lake Louise to Jasper town is the Icefields Parkway, one of the most famous road trips in the world!
Whether you have a long weekend to explore the Canadian Rockies or a few weeks in the area, a road trip from Banff to Jasper is simply delightful. It can be done any time of year – a Banff summer is amazing! You’ll just take a few more precautions in winter, of course.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for your epic road trip, where to stay, what to pack and stops to make along the way.
Let’s dive in!
Must-see video: Banff to Jasper drive
From Banff to Jasper: map
If you’re a visual person like I am, this map is made just for you! Pinch and zoom to see a few landmarks in Banff and Jasper (yellow icons), plus the stops along the way (orange icons).
Use this map to plan your road trip adventure!
Map notes: since Moraine Lake doesn’t allow personal vehicles, it’s an icon on the map but does not include step-by-step directions. A tour or timed entry reservation will leave from the Lake Louise village area (as specified by the vendor).
The Banff to Jasper road trip map is broken down into two parts: Banff to the Saskatchewan River Crossing, then the Saskatchewan River Crossing to Jasper. (See the ‘intermission’ after stop 6 on the list below.)
📍Banff National Park and Jasper National Park are located within Treaty 6, 7 and 8 First Nations, Mountain Métis and the Métis Homeland. It was original to many indigenous peoples, including but not limited to Anishinabe, Aseniwuche Winewak, Dene-zaa, Nehiyawak, Secwepemc, Siksika, (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Tsuu T’ina, Piikani (Peigan), and the Stoney Nakoda Nations of Chiniki, Bearspaw and Goodstoney. Be respectful and celebrate the origins of this land and treat it kindly.
Drive from Banff to Jasper: what you need to know
Jasper to Banff or Banff to Jasper is easily done via car, bus, train or private tour. One of the most fun ways to experience the Canadian Rockies is to take a road trip so you can be on your own time! Stop when and where you want, without having to worry about timelines!
If you need to rent a car for the journey, check out Discover Cars. They do the online work for you to find you the best deals from the major car rental companies – and it’s all for free! I typically save 10-30% using Discover Cars!
Distance from Banff to Jasper
If you’re wondering how far is Jasper from Banff, it’s 288 km, or 179 mi. Most of the scenic route weaving through the heart of the Canadian Rockies is along Icefields Parkway (AB-93), although the part of it from the town of Banff to Lake Louise is along the TransCanada Highway (AB-1).
How long does a Banff Jasper road trip take?
The Banff to Jasper drive is just about 3.5 hours, if you were to drive straight through. But trust me, that’s crazy talk! You’ll want to stop at many lakes, overlooks, waterfalls and even hikes along the way.
To be honest, the perfect Banff Jasper itinerary would have you flying into Calgary, staying in Banff a few days, making the trip to Jasper via Icefields Parkway, staying in Jasper a few days, then driving back down to Banff.
That would give you basically two full days to make the Jasper to Banff drive. That way you could take your time during the stops and not feel rushed. This would also allow for weather or traffic delays as well.
Obviously do what works for you and your timeline! Consider that the drive from Banff to Jasper Canada will take every bit of an entire day, if you plan to see all the main highlights.
Tips for driving the Banff to Jasper highway
Whether you’re local to the region or flying in and renting a car, you’ll definitely want to be prepared for this scenic drive from Banff to Jasper. Here are a few tips to make the most of your experience.
- This is a heavily trafficked road year round, but it does close occasionally. Check for any road closures with 511 Alberta before you depart.
- Wildlife is abundant along the route! Be cautious of wildlife, especially near the road. Keep a safe distance and don’t feed them. And keep in mind other cars could be abruptly stopping when they see wildlife so be careful at all times.
- Gas is extremely limited. Fuel up in Banff or Lake Louise and Jasper. During the summer months, there’s an open gas station along the route – more about this later.
- Similarly, food is extremely limited along the way. During the summer season you may have a few restaurants open (with long wait times to go along with). This is a great opportunity to pack a picnic lunch and eat at an overlook or lake!
- Follow the Leave No Trace principles. That means pack out what you pack in. Dispose of trash properly – even biodegradable food scraps! Don’t disturb rocks, sticks or nature in any way so you’re respectful of animals and microorganisms that live in the parks.
- If you don’t already have your accommodations, book them now! The further in advance, the better, especially during the busy summer season. Hotels, hostels and campgrounds fill up quickly!
- Expect crowds and practice patience. This is one of the best scenic drives in Canada and around the world, so it will likely be busy! Use patience for pedestrians and full parking lots. Kindness always wins!
- Restrooms are scarce. Use one when you see it. Find flushing toilets at Lake Louise, Columbia Icefield (closed during winter) and Saskatchewan Crossing (closed during winter). Pit toilets are available at Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon and Athabasca Falls.
Safety tips for the Icefields Parkway and Jasper to Banff drive
- Winter tires or chains are required to drive Icefields Parkway in winter (November 1 – March 31) or during snow-covered. Keep this in mind if you’re planning your adventure during the winter season!
- Carry essential items like a first-aid kit, flashlight and extra food and water. Fill up your reusable water bottles instead of buying single-use plastic to be kind to mama Earth!
- There’s virtually no cell phone service from Lake Louise to Jasper. Bring a 2-way satellite communicator in case of emergencies. It’s perfect for hiking or road trips (mine has come with me on this road trip, as well as other adventures like hiking the Grinnell Glacier Trail in Montana, the best hikes in Colorado and so many more places.)
- Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Be bear aware at all times.
Drive from Banff to Jasper requires a park permit
A national parks pass is required for Banff and Jasper. In fact, the entire drive from Banff to Jasper is within the national parks, so you’ll need a pass your entire trip.
Each person, each day needs to be covered. Buy your Canada Parks pass in advance or when you arrive.
Banff to Jasper drive is RV-friendly
A Banff Jasper road trip via RV might just be the perfect way to experience this magical drive! It’s a popular spot to rent an RV as well.
Most parking lots are RV-friendly, and there are many areas in Jasper and Banff that are specifically for RVs, which is nice if you’re in a big vehicle. A little more patience in parking is common when you’re traveling via RV, but it was nice to see Parks Canada was so accommodating.
My family found the Banff to Jasper road trip really RV-friendly, and hadn’t seen so many since our Utah National Parks road trip through those 5 famous national parks. We enjoyed bringing our dogs, having food and restrooms accessible throughout the adventure, too.
What to pack for the drive from Banff to Jasper
Before diving into the best stops along the Jasper Banff highway, let’s go over some essential items to pack for your road trip adventure.
- Dress in layers. The weather can be unpredictable, even in summer! (Don’t ask me about wearing shorts to Moraine Lake in July and freezing!) Pack versatile, moisture-wicking, and insulating layers. Include lightweight, waterproof jacket plus heavier coat and outerwear depending on the season.
- Sturdy hiking shoes. There are some absolutely amazing hikes in Banff and Jasper National Parks, plus some fun ones along the Icefields Parkway drive. Don’t forget the hiking socks, too!
- Hiking backpack and trekking poles. If you plan to step foot on a trail, be prepared! My husband and I love our Osprey hiking backpacks and my children love their smaller kids hiking backpacks. And trekking poles come in handy during pretty much any hike in the Canadian Rockies!
- Good camera with telephoto lens for when you see wildlife (even a cell phone zoom is adequate). For fabulous road trip footage, a GoPro is a must! Many of the photos and videos in this guide were taken with my GoPro (it pretty much travels with me everywhere).
- Binoculars. You shouldn’t be too close to wildlife, so binoculars are perfect. My family used our binoculars while on these easy hikes in Glacier National Park just before making our way north to Banff and we saw a grizzly bear – so cool!
- Collapsible cooler for food and water. Perfect for road trips snacks or picnicking. Bring extra water if you’re planning on being active or doing some hiking!
- Hat and gloves (even in the summer months!) Hard to believe it stays this cold, but it absolutely can be really cold in Banff and Jasper. The wind coming off the glacier lakes is freezing too.
- Sun protection. A hat and eco-friendly sunscreen – you’re at high elevation here.
- Bear spray. There’s a lot of wildlife in these parks and bears are very common. Be prepared with bear spray at all times.
Where to stay in Banff
If you don’t have your accommodations ready yet for your trip, get on it! Hotels, vacation rentals and even campgrounds fill up months in advance in Banff, especially if you’re traveling during the busy summer season.
Here are a few recommendations for you:
- Fairmont Banff Springs. Bougie and dream-like – stay in an almost castle amongst the Canadian Rockies.
- Rimrock Hotel & Spa. Relax in between the sightseeing and hiking before you start your epic road trip driving Banff to Jasper.
- Tunnel Mountain Village Campground. Beautiful views in Banff town, this is the campground to be at if you’re bringing your RV to the Canadian Rockies.
Note: if you can’t find a spot to stay in Banff, try the nearby Canmore, located just 20 minutes south of Banff town.
Where to stay in Jasper
Hopefully your Canadian Rockies itinerary allows for a few days in Jasper National Park. It’s simply an amazing park! Here are some recommended spots to stay if you don’t have accommodations yet!
- Whistler’s Inn. Close to all the action in downtown Jasper, this hotel is perfect for grabbing dinner and shopping between hikes and sightseeing.
- Pyramid Lake Lodge. This beautiful and pet-friendly lodge is located on the gorgeous Pyramid Lake in the heart of Jasper National Park.
- Whistlers Campground. Great for RVs, tent camping or even cabin rentals, this campground has tons of amenities.
From Banff to Jasper: best stops along the way
From turquoise lakes to ancient icefields, unbelievable wildlife encounters to moments of tranquil reflection, the Banff to Jasper drive is an adventure that will make your heart race and your spirit soar.
As you make your way out of the town of Banff, you’ll drive north on the TransCanada Highway (AB-1). Just about 40 minutes north of Banff is Lake Louise Village and the start of Icefields Parkway (AB-93).
This drive from Banff to Lake Louise is pretty, but not as scenic as Icefields Parkway. One of the most fun features are the wildlife bridges that are built over the highway. There are several of them, which allow wildlife to cross over the busy highway without being injured.
These aren’t stops, more of just a point of interest. In fact, from Banff to Lake Louise there aren’t really stops – just an opportunity to enjoy the ride!
1. Lake Louise
Recommended time: 1 hour, up to a day if you’re planning on hiking
As you exit the TransCanada Highway and turn onto Icefields Parkway to make your Banff Jasper road trip, you’ll want to stop at Lake Louise. This portion of your trip can be done if you’re spending a few days in Banff, or even if you’re staying in Lake Louise Village.
You’ll definitely want to plan this out in advance, as exploring Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (see #2) aren’t easy to access due to the high volume of visitors who are hoping to also visit at the same time as you. That is, if you’re traveling to the Canadian Rockies from June to October.
The easiest way to see Moraine Lake and Lake Louise is to get reservations on the Parks Canada shuttle. These begin selling in the spring.
For just visiting Lake Louise, you can park a private vehicle for a small fee. Just be prepared as the parking lot is often full from sunrise to sunset, so plan to get there really early or get a lucky parking spot!
Once you’ve successfully made it to Lake Louise, walk the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail along the edge of the water. It’s a beautiful spot to take photos during any season!
And if you’re up for amazing alpine lake views, grab your hiking shoes for the Big Beehive hike, Little Beehive hike or the Beehive Circuit. Combining the trail and doing the circuit is over 14 km (8.6 mi) and 1032 m (3385 ft) in elevation gain. But you’re rewarded the views of Lake Louise from above are phenomenal!
2. Moraine Lake (a favorite stop on this Banff to Jasper drive)
Recommended time: 1 hour, more if you’re having lunch at the cafe
This next stop is really just 20 minutes from Lake Louise, but Moraine Lake is closed to private vehicles, so a shuttle, hike or bike in is your only option here. You’ll need a timed entry permit to visit Moraine Lake or a book a tour. It requires advanced planning but is sooooo worth it!
Visiting Moraine Lake is a bucket list destination, for sure! The vibrant teal lake color looks to stunning, it’s hard to believe it’s real. Truly jaw-dropping!
It’s so blue, it’s hard to believe. Kind of reminds me of the first time I saw the Similan Islands, Thailand – so incredible!
For the best views of Moraine Lake, be sure to walk to the overlook. Just to the east of the lake, near the parking lot is the Trail to Consolation Lakes. Take that trailhead but instead of following the trail, climb the steps up to Rock Pile viewpoint. It’s only about a 10 minute walk and totally worth it.
You’ll get stunning views of Moraine Lake! Grab some stunning photos from here, but be patient as it gets really busy. You can also walk the Moraine Lake Lakeshore Trail, which will take you to the spot where the picturesque canoes are lined up – perfect for more photos!
There’s a gift shop and cafe here as well. This is by far one of the absolute best stops on the Banff to Jasper drive, and a favorite spot in all of the Canadian Rockies!
3. Herbert Lake
Recommended time: up to 1 hour
Distance from Lake Louise: 6 km / 3 mi
Distance from Jasper: 227 km / 141 mi
One of the most underrated stops on this drive Banff to Jasper! Herbert lake isn’t one of the bright teal-colored alpine lake that’s directly glacially fed. Instead, it’s a serene lake nestled within the trees, just 6km (3 mi) from Lake Louise.
Herbert Lake is a great spot for picnicking, with many places to park and tables for eating. It’s also a great spot for swimming! With milder water temperatures than many of the other lakes on this guide, this is the spot for swimming along the Icefields Parkway.
And if you’re up for stretching your legs, take the loop around the lake. Coming in at just 1.6 km (1 mi), this trail is easy for all skill levels. Just remember your bear spray as you’ll be walking part of the path through wooded area.
4. Bow Lake
Recommended time: less than 30 minutes
Distance from Lake Louise: 37 km / 23 mi
Distance from Jasper: 196 km / 122 mi
As you make your way through the Icefields Parkway on your way from Jasper to Banff, you’ll literally drive right by Bow Lake. This is an overlook you’ll want to stop to see!
This beautiful lake is a great spot to stretch your legs a bit. If you have a surplus of time, there’s a great hiking trail that takes you to a waterfall near Bow Lake and it’s simply stunning.
The Bow Glacier Falls trail is 8.8 km (5.5 mi) and rated as moderate for the elevation gain. It’s doable in about 3 hours if you’re looking for a great hike that’s now overcrowded!
Otherwise, there is typically plenty of parking at Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway, so it’s worth stopping and checking out the views of this pretty lake.
5. Peyto Lake (a must-see on this drive from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park)
Recommended time: less than 1 hour
Distance from Lake Louise: 43 km / 26 mi
Distance from Jasper: 190 km / 118 mi
This is a must-see in Banff National Park, as it’s so stunning in real life! Famous for its wolf-head appearance, Peyto Lake is a must-do on the drive from Banff to Jasper!
The parking lot is quite large, although could get full during the peak summer season, especially on weekends. The walk up to the lake is 0.6 km (0.3mi) each way, but it’s a bit of a steep incline. Totally worth it though!
Stand at the overlook and marvel at this phenomenal creation – Mother Nature at her finest! The overlook at Peyto Lake is large but is often really busy with others wishing to see this beautiful lake along Icefields Parkway.
There are a few hiking trails in the area, some of which provide alternative views of Peyto Lake. Since you’re on a drive from Jasper to Banff (or vice versa), I’d recommend just checking out the overlook and hopping back in the car. It’s a gorgeous lake and there’s so much more to see on your road trip!
6. Mistaya Canyon
Recommended time: 1 hour
Distance from Lake Louise: 74 km / 46 mi
Distance from Jasper: 159 km / 99 mi
If you’re up for a short hike, Mistaya Canyon is the perfect adventure for you! Just 0.6 km (0.4mi) round trip, the Mistaya Canyon can be done in a relatively short time. The hill leading down to the canyon is a bit steep though, so be prepared for the incline on the way back up.
Mistaya Canyon is impressive, and reminds me of Box Canyon, one of the best things to do in Mt Rainier National Park in Washington, USA!
There’s a bridge spanning the Mistaya Canyon that allows you to look down, directly into the steep canyon below. The river is rushing so fast through the canyon it’s seriously impressive! Be careful not to drop anything (like a cell phone) below – you’ll never get it back!
Powerful currents over thousands of years have carved out the canyon, eroding the edges of the limestone rock. You can walk past the bridge and get more viewpoints of the canyon, which is fun too.
This is a fun stop of the Banff to Jasper drive, and shouldn’t take more than an hour of your day.
Banff to Jasper road trip – continued
Gah! Can you believe this epic road trip?! There’s so many stunning lakes, waterfalls and viewpoints to see along the way. But part of the beauty of this adventure is simply staring out the window of your car, in full marvel at the majestic Rocky Mountains.
While it’s never advised to stop on the road for photos, the great thing about the Icefields Parkway is that there are so many pull-offs. Grab simply amazing photos at any moment!
And if you’re in a group, one person could (safely) put their arm out the window or sunroof with a GoPro for excellent video or photos of this dramatic landscape. It’s seriously so stunning!
Intermission during the Banff to Jasper National Park trip: quick stop at Saskatchewan River Crossing
Recommended time: less than 30 minutes
Distance from Lake Louise: 80 km / 50 mi
Distance from Jasper: 153 km / 95 mi
This technically doesn’t have a number because I don’t believe it’s a ‘must-see’ while driving from Jasper to Banff or vice versa. However, the Saskatchewan River Crossing is a great spot for a restroom break and light food.
This is also THE SPOT to grab gas if you need to fill up. The convenience store also has ice, drinks and snacks too. There’s even a pub and gift shop, if you so desire.
Note: services here are seasonal so you can plan this stop in summer but use caution relying on this stop during the off-season.
7. Big Bend Viewpoint
Recommended time: less than 30 minutes
Distance from Lake Louise: 121 km / 76 mi
Distance from Jasper: 112 km / 70 mi
This is one of the most underrated stops on the Icefields Parkway, and one that just makes sense as you drive from Jasper to Banff and vice versa.
The Big Bend Viewpoint, Nigel Pass and Panther Falls are all within really close proximity to one another, so I’m lumping them in together as there are a few different pull-offs. You’ll notice you’re getting there when you approach the dramatic ‘C’ curve in the road – it’s the only one on this entire Banff Jasper road trip!
Driving north towards Jasper, you can pull off on the left side of the road for a picturesque waterfall view just before the curve. Or, if you drive through the curve, on the right-hand side of the road there’s a perfect spot to stop and admire the view.
You’ll see the majestic mountain peaks darting from the ground, with the perfectly places Icefields Parkway cutting through the valley. Off to either side of the mountains are magnificent waterfalls, that can be seen from the viewpoint.
It’s worth a quick stop, for sure!
8. Athabasca Glacier & Icefield Center (one of the best things to do while road tripping from Banff to Jasper Canada)
Recommended time: 1+ hour
Distance from Lake Louise: 130 km / 80 mi
Distance from Jasper: 103 km / 64 mi
Are you ready for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure? That’s what this stop offers you along your way from Banff to Jasper!
There’s so many things to do at Icefield Center along the Icefields Parkway, if you’re traveling from May – October. During the winter, this drive is beautiful but the attractions at the Icefield Center are closed.
Activities at Icefield Center
- Hike to the Athabasca Glacier (free and quick). The Toe of the Glacier trail is just 1.4 km (0.9 mi) round trip, and is really cool to see the glacier up close!
- Take a specialty vehicle “Ice Explorer” to drive on the Athabasca Glacier (book a tour in advance). Drive on and walk on a glacier – what a surreal experience.
- Columbia Icefield Skywalk (book a tour in advance). Step out onto solid glass to see waterfall views and the glacier-shaped landscape from 280 meters (918 feet) above.
9. Tangle Creek Falls
Recommended time: up to 30 minutes
Distance from Lake Louise: 137 km / 85 mi
Distance from Jasper: 96 km / 60 mi
Another underrated stop on the Jasper Banff highway, Tangle Creek Falls is a roadside attraction that’s worth exploring. Just a few minutes north of Icefield Center, this waterfall will sneak up on you!
Tangle Creek Falls is on the right side of the road as you drive from Banff to Jasper, with parking just past it on the left side of the road. Use caution when crossing the road to get to the waterfall from the parking lot.
I’d highly recommend water shoes for this stop, especially in a hot summer day. Depending on when you go, the water could be gushing and you’ll want to use caution if you plan to step into the water at the base of the falls.
It’s a picture-worthy spot, even if your stop is just for a few minutes. 💦
10. Sunwapta Falls
Recommended time: up to 1 hour
Distance from Lake Louise: 179 km / 111 mi
Distance from Jasper: 54 km / 33
Another fun waterfall along your Canadian Rockies road trip, Sunwapta Falls is a beautiful stop, and one you’ll love. This is a fun stop because you can spend a little time here or much more if you’re up for a good hike!
The walk to the overview is relatively short – less than 0.6 km (0.4 mi) round trip.
Offering a lot of bang for your buck on this short walk, you’ll see the beautiful Sunwapta Falls cascading down the rock, flowing under a bridge which has carved a large canyon – so cool!
If you’re looking for more hiking trails while driving from Jasper to Banff, there’s three at this parking lot and trailhead:
- Lower Sunwapta Falls: 2.6 km / 1.6 mi (up to 1 hour)
- Big Bend: 15.6 km / 9/6 mi (4-5 hours)
- Fortress Lake: 47.6 km / 29.5 mi (2-3 days)
Of course, if you’re doing one of the longer hikes, you’ll want to adequately prepare with the right gear, food and water. But the Lower Sunwapta Falls and just walking to the viewpoint is definitely a worthy stop on this Banff to Jasper National Park road trip!
11. Goats and Glacier Lookout (one of the most underrated stops from Banff to Jasper)
Recommended time: less than 30 minutes
Distance from Lake Louise: 196 km / 122 mi
Distance from Jasper: 37 km / 23 mi
Another one of the most underrated stops on the Jasper to Banff drive is the Goats and Glaciers overlook. Also sometimes called Goat Lick, this roadside stop is one you could easily miss if you’re not paying attention. The parking lot is small but not often full.
Hop out of your vehicle and see the amazing view of the Sunwapta River at the overlook. This accessible lookout is just about a 2 minute walk, and worth the stop.
Apparently it’s a great place to see mountain goats, although both times I’ve done the Icefields Parkway drive, I haven’t seen them. Maybe next time!
12. Athabasca Falls
Recommended time: 1 hour
Distance from Lake Louise: 203 km /
Distance from Jasper: 30 km /
It’s hands-down one of the best waterfalls on Icefields Parkway, and one of the must-see stops on your Jasper to Banff drive! The Athabasca Falls has a large parking lot, which is often utilized by tour buses, so be aware of the large crowds at this stop.
The Athabasca Falls is a powerful waterfall and the roaring echo is heard as you approach. There’s quite a view walkways and viewpoints in the area, so you can spend a bit of time walking and checking out the waterfall in all it’s glory.
Be sure to walk across the bridge and through the cove to the lower falls. You’ll feel the mist coming off the falls, so wear layers as it can be chilly!
Athabasca Falls is just outside the town of Jasper, and is the last official stop on this Banff to Jasper drive!
Banff to Jasper (or Jasper to Banff) road trip
Wow, what an incredible road trip! From Banff to Jasper, this guide walked you through everything you’ll need to know before you depart on your journey.
Get ready for the sweeping Rocky Mountain views as you make your way through these scenic national parks. Make as many stops as time allows – and have fun!!
Let’s review those 12 stops along the scenic drive from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park again, in a much more succinct fashion…
From Banff to Jasper drive: best stops along the way
- Lake Louise
- Moraine Lake
- Herbert Lake
- Bow Lake
- Peyto Lake
- Mistaya Canyon
- Big Bend Viewpoint
- Athabasca Glacier & Icefield Center
- Tangle Creek Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Goats and Glaciers Viewpoint
- Athabasca Falls
Related content to read next:
Banff Summer Guide: 21 Amazing Things to Do (Plus What to Know Before You Go)
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