The Best Photo Spots and Stops on the Icefields Parkway Drive Between Jasper and Lake Louise
Named as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, Icefields Parkway really does live up to its reputation with all the glaciers, lakes and waterfalls along the drive. This blog will show you all the things to do on the Icefields Parkway Drive including the best photo stops and attractions on the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper.
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When I visited Banff and Jasper National Park, I had the chance to drive on the Icefields Parkway twice (to and back between Banff National Park and Jasper National Park). I thought Banff was beautiful but I was truly blown away by what I saw on the Icefields Parkway.
It was mid June and the peaks were just starting to melt so the combination of snow capped peak, green hills and turquoise lakes made this drive extremely beautiful and enjoyable.
I finally understood why the Icefields Parkway drive is named one of the most beautiful drives in the world given all the things to do and see there.
The attractions on Icefields Parkway include some of the best hikes in Banff National Park and Jasper National Parks.
Depending on how much time you have, you may or may not stop at all of the viewpoints and hikes. I will highlight all the most famous scenic stops on the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper National Park.
Where is Icefields Parkway?
The Icefields Parkway is located in the province of Alberta in western Canada, and it stretches between the towns of Jasper and Lake Louise. Jasper is situated in the northern part of Jasper National Park, while Banff is located in the southern part of Banff National Park.
The Iceifleds parkway is a two-lane highway and along the way, it passes through some of the most stunning landscapes in the Canadian Rockies, including towering mountains, pristine lakes, and vast glaciers.
The southern end of the Icefields Parkway is at Lake Louise, one of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park.
From there, the parkway continues northward, eventually ending in the town of Jasper.
The entire length of the parkway is approximately 232 kilometers (144 miles) long, and it takes about three hours to drive without stopping. But most people stop at least a few spots on the Icefields Parkway to fully experience this beautiful drive.
When is the best time to drive the Icefields Parkway?
Summer and early Fall (mid June – early October) are the best time to drive the Icefields Parkway. In the summer months there is no ice or snow on the drive and most of the hikes and view spots are open (unless there are specific closures due to infrastructure update or construction).
You can also start your drive earlier during the day and end later as the day is very long during summer in Alberta.
Do keep in mind that since most people visit Banff and Jasper National Park in the summer, you can expect a lot of cars on Icefields Parkway and a lot of visitors at the scenic spots (especially the ones without hiking) along stops on Icefields Parkway.
Can You Drive Icefields Parkway in the Winter?
You are required to use snow tires from November 1 to April 1 on Icefields Parkway. According to Parks Canada, snow tires should have the “M+S” or Snowflake symbol.
Is There Gas Station on Icefields Parkway?
There is only one gas station on Icefields Parkway, at the Saskatchenwan River Crossing Resort. It is at Kilometer 80 (from Lake Louise).
The prices for fuel at this only Icefields Parkway gas station is higher than what you would get in Banff or Jasper. Therefore you should try to fill up before driving Icefields Parkway.
Is There Cell Phone Signal on Icefields Parkway?
Unfortunately cellular reception is very spotty along Icefields Parway. There is no cell phone towers in this area. You may occasionally get 1 bar of signal but you should plan on having no reception.
In order to make sure you have maps that still work, you should use offline Google Map and download the Jasper and Banff area so you can access directions on your Google Map.
Best Photo Stops on the Icefields Parkway From Lake Louise to Jasper
Kilometer 0 – Lake Louise
The Icefields Parkway officially starts from Lake Louise, hence Kilometer 0 according to the official map from Canada Park services.
Lake Louise is located about an hour north of the town of Banff and it is famous for its turquoise colored lake with the perfect reflection of the glacier and mountain peaks.
Kilometer 6 – Herbert Lake
Facilities at Herbert Lake: Bathroom, Picnic Site
Herbert Lake is a small glacier lake about 6km from Lake Louise parking lot. It also has that perfect reflection early in the morning.
You can hike around Herbert Lake and Canoe on the lake.
It’s not a very well known lake as it tends to be overshadowed by its neighbor Lake Louise but if you have time definitely stop by.
Kilometer 36 to Kilometer 40 – Lake Helen, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Bow Glacier
Bow Lake is one of the most popular lakes located along the Icefields Parkway. It has the stunning views of Bow Glacier and Crowfoot Glacier.
Bow Lake is one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park as it sits at an elevation of 6300 feet.
It is rumored that Bow Lake is the last lake to thaw in the spring.
The historical red roof Num-ti-Jan Lodge is only open between the month of May and October. If you want to check out Bow Lake during sunrise or sunset time then it’s perfect to stay in Num-ti-Jah Lodge and also do some walking trails around the lake.
Not too far from Bow Lake is another small lake called Lake Helen.
Kilometer 43 – Peyto Lake at Bow Summit (My Personal Favorite No.1)
Facilities at Peyto Lake: Bathroom & Map
Peyto Lake is one of the most famous lakes on the Icefields Parkway. Even if you don’t recognize Peyto Lake by name, you would for sure recognize its baby blue/ turquoise colored water that looks almost fake.
You will see a stop called “Bow Summit” as you drive towards Jasper on Icefields Parkway. It takes about 50 minutes from Lake Louise to Bow Summit stop.
Exit to Bow Summit and you will come across a huge parking lot with maps and public bathroom. The viewpoint of Peyto Lake is about a 10 minute walk on paved road although some part of the path is a little steep.
Peyto lake is so blue that I often thought people photo-shopped their pictures but I learned that what makes the water of Peyto Lake so blue is the large amount of glacier rock flour that flows into the water in the summer.
The Peyto Lake viewing platform during the summer months can be quite crowded but there are some makeshift trails going slightly lower than the viewing platform that offer a more empty viewing experience.
Kilometer 60 – Waterfowl Lakes (End of June to early September)
Facilities at Waterfowl Lakes: Camping Ground, Toilet/ Shower, Picnic Shelters
If you are looking for a nice place to camp on the Icefields Parkway then Waterfowl Lakes Campground is the perfect location. There are over 100 campsites with picnic tables at Waterfowl Lakes Campground.
The Icefields Parkway runs along the Lower Waterfowl Lakes but rumor has it the upper Waterfowl Lakes is more beautiful. There are also a number of hiking trails from Waterfowl Lakes, such as trail head to Chephren Lake and Cirque Lake.
Kilometer 74 – Mistaya Canyon
Mistaya Canyon is one of the hidden gems along the Icefields Parkway. It’s not as frequently visited compare to the other waterfalls but it’s nice to stop by nevertheless. From the parking lot it’s about a 10 minute downhill walk to see the canyon and waterfall.
Kilometer 80 – Saskatchewan River Crossing
Saskatchewan River Crossing is where the North Saskatchewan, the Mistaya and the Howse rivers meet.
It’s the only place on the Icefields Parkway that has a gas station and a restaurant.
Saskatchewan River Crossing is a nice area to stop and admire the view of the surrounding glaciers and a river flowing in front of you.
There is a hotel near by that many people decide to stay as there are some hiking trails around this area. Even though this place has really nice view and a picnic table when I was there we were literally the only people!
Kilometer 109 – Weeping Wall
If you want to see random waterfalls from Cirrus Mountain then be sure to watch out for the Weeping Wall at Kilometer 109. During the right time of the day (before sunset), you can see rainbows fro the waterfall. There are more than one waterfall at the Weeping Wall from a height of 100m (330 feet).
Kilometer 115 – Big Hill & Big Bend
The Big Bend on the Icefields Parkway is one of the most mighty view along the entire drive.
After driving the windy road uphill for a bit you will finally hit the top with a large parking area to admire the valley down below. Most people take a break here to admire the view but be sure to park your car on the side and not block the road.
Kilometer 120 – Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is another waterfall that people sometimes stop to look at. I personally didn’t stop because there are just so many amazing waterfalls along the Icefields Parkway but if you have time, be sure to stop to grab a photo.
Kilometer 121 – Parker Ridge (My Personal Favorite No.2)
Facilities at Parker Ridge: bathroom
Located about half way on the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, Parker Ridge is an amazing hike and in my opinion one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park and one of the must do things on the Icefields Parkway.
I loved the Parker Ridge trail because of the amazing panoramic view at the top of the ridge for such a short hike.
Parker Ridge Hike is a 5 km round trip hike with moderately steep switchbacks and a 250m elevation. Part of the Parker Ridge trail is in a forest and part of it is exposed. This is one of the most popular hikes on the Icefields Parkway so you should expect a huge crowd during the summer.
Since half of the trail is exposed, it can get very hot to hike in mid day; remember to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen for this hike.
Since it’s such a popular hike, the Canadian government had to put signs to deter visitors from taking “short cuts” and cause further erosion of the trail.
There are also numerous rails and steps the Canadian government installed in the hope of guiding visitors along the Parker Ridge trail.
Since the hike is almost all uphill, be sure to be somewhat fit before attempting it. After an hour or so of uphill, you will be rewarded with some of the best views of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
Be aware that around late afternoon there are a lot of bugs and mosquitoes on Parker Ridge so bring bug spray if you don’t want to get eaten alive by bugs like I did!
Kilometer 127 – Wilcox Pass
Facilities at Wilcox Pass: camping from early June to September
Wilcox Pass is another popular hiking trails along the Icefields Parkway. The Wilcox Pass trail is 8km round trip (2-3 hours) with a relatively gentle incline.
You will be hiking above the tree lines with view of the glacier while avoiding the crowd at Columbia Icefield. There are some red chairs at a look out point on the hike but you can certainly go further up for an even better view.
Kilometer 130 – Columbia Icefield Center (mid-April to mid-October)
Opens May to October only
Restaurants, Tours, bathroom available
Columbia Icefield Discovery Center is a popular tourist attraction on the Icefields Parkway. It is located at the largest glacier of the Canadian Rockies.
The Icefield Center is a great stop for anyone, especially families to learn more about Jasper National Park and even get a chance to truly experience the glaciers and their surroundings.
The top attraction at the Icefield Center is the Columbia Icefield Adventure. It’s a cool activity during which specialized vehicle will drive you up to Athabasca Glacier and an experienced guide will let you walk on the glacier. Another top attraction at the Icefield Center is the Glacier Skywalk.
Kilometer 139 – Stutfield Glacier
Facilities at Stutfield Glacier: bathroom
Located not too far from Columbia Icefield Center, Stutfield Glacier is another stunning glacier and view point that you can enjoy.
Stutfield Glacier was named after Hugh Stutfield by John Norman Collie. Hugh Stutfield had climbed with Collie when they explored the Canadian Rockies.
Kilometer 179 – Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls is a pair of waterfalls of the Sunwapta River that is a popular attraction along the Icefields Parkway.
There is an upper falls and a lower falls at Sunwapta Falls. The falls are a 18.5 meter (61 ft) drop and there are railings along the side of the falls to prevent people from climbing over for photos.
The upper falls is easier to access as the lower falls are a short distance walk. If you have time I suggest you explore both the upper and lower Sunwapta Falls. The water of Sunwapta Falls is fed by the Athabasca Glacier.
Kilometer 196 – Goats and Glaciers
I honestly don’t really remember the glaciers here but I do remember the goats. There are glacier salt in this area which is why you will see goats licking the ground.
But if you have a car please do not follow the goats or get out of the car OR PARK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. I witnessed the car in front of me stopping suddenly on the Icefields Parkway and I almost ran into that car.
Kilometer 203 – Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls is a breathtaking waterfall on the upper Athabasca River in Jasper National Park.
There are a few viewing stations around the falls that’s easy to walk to and family friendly. If you want to explore a little more, you can follow the trail to walk down to the river as well as the canyon.
Don’t climb over the fence as every year a few people die there trying to take photos after climbing over the fence.
Kilometer 208 – Athabasca Pass Lookout
Not far from Athabasca Falls is the Athabasca Pass Lookout, a nice view point. You can actually see Mount Edit Cavell from here.
Kilometer 224 – Valley of Five Lakes
Valley of Five Lakes is a 4.5km hiking loop along the Icefields Parkway to see 5 lakes. The hike takes about 2 hours and there are different elevations but generally is not considered a very difficult hike.
Kilometer 233 – Jasper
Finally you have arrived at Jasper! If you aren’t already impressed by your drive from Banff to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway then I don’t know what will impress you!
But in all honesty there are a ton of amazing hikes, waterfalls and beautiful lakes in Japser National Park that even if you weren’t impressed by the Icefields Parkway I’m sure you would be impressed by Jasper National Park.
Where to Eat and Stay on the Icefields Parkway
Most people tend to spend the day (of half day) driving through the Icefields Parkway and stay either in Banff of Jasper, however, if I could re-do Banff, I would definitely spend one night on Icefields Parkway to fully explore this amazing drive.
Since there are many hotels and hostels on the Icefields parkway, they also offer restaurants for travelers to dine in.
Hotels & Hostels on the Icefields Parkway
There are a number of hotels and hostels on the Icefields Parkway. I listed a number of them above under each attraction, but to summarize here is the full list based on the official map. Many of these hotels also have an on-site restaurant so you can eat there even if you are not staying at the hotel.
Camp Grounds and RV Camp Grounds on the Icefields Parkway
If you are not looking to stay at a hostel or hotel on the Icefields parkway you have the option to camp or drive your own RV.
There are numerous camp grounds all throughout the Icefields Parkway and I will list them below. However be aware that most of these camp grounds are only accessible from mid June to early to mid September.
Mosquito Creek (Kilometer 27): Campground is open from June to September and there is a max of 25ft restriction for RVs
Silverhorn Creek (Kilometer 60) & Waterfowl Lakes Campground (end of June to early September). Both campgrounds are available but Waterfowl Lakes Campground has restrictions on the months its open and there is also a 25ft height restriction for RVs.
Rampart Creek Camp Ground (Kilometer 91): opens early June to September. Has a 25ft height restriction for RVs.
Wilcox Creek Campground (Kilometer 127): opens early June to September. RV has 25ft height restriction.
Icefield Centre & Icefield Tent (Kilometer 130): Icefield Tent opens mid-May to mid-September.
Jonas: Camping and RV campground that’ sopen from mid-May to early September. Has 25ft height restriction for RVs.
Honeymoon Lake Campground: Not too far from Sunwapta Falls, this campground is open mid-June to early September and has a 25ft height restriction for RVs.
Kerkeslin: Located near Goats & Glaciers, this camp ground is open mid-June to early September and also has RV height restriction.
Wabasso Campground: this camp ground is located near Junction with Highway 93A and has access to Cavell Road for Mount Edith Cavell. It’s open from mid-June to early September.
Final Thoughts on the Best Attractions and Photo Spots on the Icefields Parkway
You truly need at least 2 days to fully explore the Icefields Parkway (or a VERY LONG day) to see all the photo spots and attractions I mentioned in this Jasper blog. But no matter how long you spend on the Icefields Parkway I am sure you will be impressed.
OTHER CANADIAN ROCKIES TRAVEL RESOURCES
Over the years I have written a ton of other blogs on the Canadian Rockies since I love it so much. If you are still planning your trip to Banff, Jasper or Yoho National Park, be sure to check out some of my articles below.
Banff Itinerary and Things to Do
Jasper Itinerary and Things to Do
Canadian Rockies Hikes
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