Best time to visit Banff & Jasper National Parks

Icefields Parkway in Banff & Jasper National Parks

Drive through the wildest and most remote parts of Banff and Jasper National parks

Best time: June–September (all year round)

Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, full of unforgettable views of the Canadian Rockies. A 230-km (143-mi) mountain road winds through Banff and Jasper National Parks, linking Lake Louise and the town of Jasper. The distance can be covered in about three hours, but reserve some time to appreciate the scenery along the way. The road is open all year round, but it's mostly used from June to September when the weather conditions and wildlife watching opportunities are better. During the winter season, weather can get harsh in the Canadian Rockies: heavy snowfalls, blizzards, and strong winds are typical.

Icefields Parkway is a paved two-lane road, which is generally easy to drive. There are a few areas though with steep grades and switchbacks. Visitors will pass over 100 glaciers, turquoise lakes, waterfalls framed by rock spires and abundant wildlife. Look for bears, elks, wolves, and rare birds. Numerous hiking trails and campgrounds may keep you on this road for a while.

You may visit the Athabasca Glacier, or stop by Bow Lake to see the Crowfoot Glacier shaped like a crow's foot. There is also Crowfoot Mountain, Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, and Mount Thompson to explore. Peyto Lake is the most photographed site in the Canadian Rockies. Take a picture of it from Bow Summit from 2,088 m (6,800 feet) above sea level, the highest point on the Icefields Parkway. Another interesting phenomenon of a "crying" mountain—the Weeping Wall at Cirrus Mountain.

Don't miss the point where three rivers meet: North Saskatchewan, the Howse, and the Mistaya. Saskatchewan Crossing is also a starting point for tours on the Columbia Icefield. It is the largest ice field south of the Arctic Circle with an area of 325 sq km (125 sq mi). Visitors can travel onto the glacier in "snowcoaches." There is also the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre and natural history museum. Glacier Skywalk is another unique experience on the road that puts visitors on a glass-floored observation platform, 280 m (918 feet) over the Sunwapta Valley.

Practical info

When is the best time to explore the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Parks?

Viewing the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Parks is best done between June and September when weather conditions are optimal, and the sunniest days make the area most beautiful. There is a higher likelihood of spotting wildlife, including elks, wolves, bears, and rare birds during this period. Winter months are harshest, with heavy snowfalls, strong winds, and blizzards for driving challenges. Show more

What options are there to appreciate glaciers along the Icefields Parkway?

Accessible glaciers along the Icefields Parkway include Peyto Lake, Athabasca Glacier, Weeping Wall, Bow Lake, Bow Glacier, Mount Thompson, and Wapta Icefield. With boundless fun and excitement, visitors can also explore the stunning glaciers via the Columbia Icefield, measured up to 325 sq km (125 sq mi), making it the largest south of the Arctic Circle. Visitors can take a unique journey in a snowcoach or experience the Sunwapta Valley's impressive view through the glass-floored observation platform at the Glacier Skywalk. Show more

What is available to visitors at Saskatchewan Crossing?

Saskatchewan Crossing is a point where North Saskatchewan, Howse, and Mistaya Rivers converge, which is ideal for touring Columbia Icefields. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful river views and have a picnic or camp just for the adventure. Kayaking, canoeing, and fishing provide extra excitement. The Crossing Resort, comprising 80 simple guest rooms, a restaurant, coffee shop, and gift store, makes for a cozy and comfortable stay while exploring the area. Show more

How long does it take to navigate the Icefields Parkway?

Tracing its way over 230 km (143 mi), the Icefields Parkway can be driven within three hours if not stopping for a scenic view along the way. Visitors can anticipate vast picturesque views of over 100 glaciers, turquoise lakes, and cascading waterfalls enclosed by rock spires, accompanied by wildlife sightings. The addition of camping grounds and hiking trails provide further reason to take the time and appreciate the beauty of the area. Show more

What exciting advent happens at Glacier Skywalk, and where can it be found?

Glacier Skywalk's glass-floored observation deck is located in the Icefields Parkway and is a novelty that offers visitors an unobstructed view of the Sunwapta Valley. Providing a unique way of experiencing the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies, it surely is worth visiting. Besides giving visitors an unforgettable viewing experience, Glacier Skywalk is also an opportunity to learn better about the biological and ecological environment of the area. Show more

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