19 Unbelievable Icefields Parkway Stops: 1 Day Itinerary

The Icefields Parkway is undoubtedly one of the worlds most scenic drives. This 230 kilometre stretch of road winds through the rugged terrain of the Canadian Rockies. There is something new to be experienced around every corner. From hanging glaciers, majestic wildlife to the jaw-dropping Peyto Lake. This post includes all the best Icefields Parkway stops that you need to add to your Canadian Rockies itinerary. 

If you only have the one day, there are some things that can be missed. Below are the top spots on the Icefields Parkway, you can pick and choose your favourites depending on time allocation. Read on to discover all the essential information you need to plan your Icefields Parkway road trip.

A City Girl Outside contains affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading!


Icefields Parkway Stops Map


Planning your Icefields Parkway Road Trip

Best Time To Drive The Icefields Parkway

The best time to drive the Icefields Parkway is during the summer months between June and September when the road is free of snow and ice.

As there is no cell service here and only one gas station it’s important to be prepared when driving this road any time of year. Keep in mind that the Icefields Centre and the only gas station on the Parkway are closed during the winter. Many of the hikes and attractions will be covered in snow this time of year and therefore may also be closed.

The winter months are more dangerous as the road can become slippery and there is also the danger of an avalanche. Be sure to check the road conditions before heading out.

How Long Does It Take To Drive The Icefields Parkway?

The drive time without stopping is just over 3-hours. You’ll need at least a day to truly experience the monumental landscape of the Icefields Parkway. However if you do have more time, I would absolutely recommend stretching it to at least two. There is so much to do that it can get tiring.

Tips For Driving The Icefields Parkway

  • Get gas before you leave – There is only one place along the Icefields Parkway to get gas, which is the Saskatchewan River Crossing. It’s also really expensive here so filling up before you head out is recommended. 
  • Purchase your parks pass – If driving from Banff or Jasper, you’ll no doubt have a Parks Pass by the time you embark of your Icefields Parkway road trip, but if not you should purchase it the day before to make your drive as smooth as possible. Passes can be purchased from any Parks Canada kiosk. 
  • Leave early – I recommend leaving first thing in the morning, around 7am. The earlier you leave the better as you get to see the road with little to no cars – which also makes for amazing photo opportunities! 
  • Drive the Parkway in both directions – The Icefields Parkway drive can be done in either direction, in fact if you are spending 2 weeks in the Canadian Rockies I would highly recommend doing it in both directions. This way if you do miss anything, you can do it on the way back. This is exactly what I did!
  • No Cell Service – There is no cell service along the Icefields parkway so it’s important to be prepared for this drive prior to departing. If you do want access to WiFi during this road trip, the only place to access it is at the Icefields Centre just by the Athabasca Glacier. The WiFi is free to use and available throughout the whole centre. 
  • Watch For Wildlife – It’s possible to spot wildlife at any point during the drive along the Icefields Parkway. Drive with caution as animals can walk out into the road at any moment or be hanging by the roadside. It’s possible to spot a multitude of wildlife including bears, elk, bighorn sheep and caribou. 
  • Download The Gypsy App – You can purchase the Gypsy audio guide for $10. This guide is definitely an enhancement to the drive. Turn off your music and put the audio guidebook on, it will make you look at things you wouldn’t notice otherwise but also teaches you about the history and geology of the area. 
  • Have your camera at the ready – There are views to be had along the whole Icefields Parkway drive. There will be viewpoints and many more stops not mentioned in this post that you may want to take a quick photo of. Not to be mention that there will be encounters with wildlife dotted along the parkway that you’ll definitely want to have your camera ready for. 
  • Bring snacks – Not only are there very few restaurants on the parkway, but the places that do sell food are expensive. And who wants to be hangry on a road trip? We had leftover pizza and wings from our time in Lake Louise (both make great road trip snacks) but I’d also recommend bringing something substantial. The day before you head out, go buy some yummy sandwiches ready to go for your drive. 

The Best Icefields Parkway Stops

If you are planning a road trip through the Canadian Rockies, you’ve probably got the Icefields Parkway on your must-do list. This iconic road connects Banff National Park with Jasper National Park.

The scenery along the Icefields Parkway has to be seen to believe. Photographs do not do this incredible place justice.

There is so much to see along the Icefields Parkway, the tough part is deciding where the stop. This list compiles all the best stops on the Icefields Parkway including how long to spend at each location. 

1) Herbert & Hector Lakes

Herbert & Hector Lakes are some of the most overlooked stops on the Icefields Parkway but both are worthy of stopping for. You will first come to Herbert Lake which is close to the road and a quick stop, there is public parking and washrooms here. 

Hector Lake requires more effort to reach with a 5km hike. If you just want to get a quick glimpse of the lake there is a lookout point labeled “ Hector Lake Viewpoint” on the map. 

  • Time Needed: 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on whether you decide to hike.
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 7.4 km to Herbert Lake & 23km to Hector Lake
  • Distance from Jasper: 211km to Hector Lake & 226km to Herbert Lake

2) Bow Lake

On the first stops you should make along the Icefields Parkway is Bow Lake. Bow lake is one of my favourite lakes in the Rockies and is incredibly beautiful early in the morning. 

Arriving here early is great for several reasons. There are far less crowds and the lighting is perfect for photographs. The early morning light sits softly on the mountain peaks and really creates a serene setting. On a calm day the lake reflects the surrounding mountains perfectly in it’s clear waters. 

  • Time Needed: 20-30 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 39km
  • Distance from Jasper: 195km
A crisp morning at Bow Lake
Bow Lake in Banff National Park
Bow Lake is one of many glacial lakes along the Icefields Parkway.

4) Peyto Lake

One of the most famous lakes in the Canadian Rockies, Peyto Lake is one of the best stops on the Icefields Parkway. Peyto Lake and Bow Summit are the highest point along the Icefields Parkway.

In 2021 a new viewing platform was revealed to enhance the experience for visitors. Peyto Lake is fed by the Wapta glacier and gets its bright blue colour from the meltwater. 

The best time to visit Peyto Lake is during the summer when the snow has melted. If you are visiting in winter you may want to consider bringing micro spikes for the walk from the parking lot. 

  • Time Needed: 30 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 46km
  • Distance from Jasper: 188km
Peyto Lake in Banff National Park is one of the best Icefield Parkway Stops.

3) Waterfowl Lakes

The next set of lakes that you’ll reach on the Icefields Parkway is Waterfowl Lakes. This is a great spot for photographers and early in the morning the calm waters reflect the mountain peaks perfectly.

In the late summer these lakes are a beautiful shade of blue and wroth making a quick stop to see. The pyramid shaped mountain you see towering over the lakes is Mount Cephren. 

  • Time Needed: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 60km
  • Distance from Jasper: 174km

5) Mistaya Canyon

Considering how easy of a walk this is, I’d suggest making this stop a must-do. The hike to Mistya Canyon takes around 30-minutes there and back. It’s a short slightly downhill hike that the majority of visitors will be able to do.

Although this hike is short, the views are stunning and you’ll want to spend some time taking photos of this beautifully rugged canyon. The small effort vs big payoff is a reason this stop should be on your Icefields Parkway itinerary. 

  • Time Needed: 30 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 75km
  • Distance from Jasper: 158km
Mistaya Canyon, Banff National Park

6) Saskatchewan River Crossing

The Saskatchewan River Crossing is where three rivers meet, the North Saskatchewan River, Howse River and Mistaya River. This is a great area to stretch your legs and grab a coffee mid-way through your Icefields Parkway road trip.

If you are low on gas this is the only place to fill up until you reach either Banff or Jasper. If you can avoid getting gas here I’d recommend holding out as the gas is so expensive (We found it cheap coming from BC however!) 

  • Time Needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 80km
  • Distance from Jasper: 153km

7) Weeping Wall

The Weeping Wall is a rocky mountainside where water slowly trickles down resembling tears, hence the name. This viewpoint is more impressive in winter when the water freezes and creates an amazing abstract scene. 

This is a quick pitstop along the Icefields Parkway and should only require a few minutes to really enjoy. If you don’t wish to stop or are low on time, you can still enjoy this stop from your car window. 

  • Time Needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 109km
  • Distance from Jasper: 125km

8) The Big Bend & Cirrus Viewpoint

The Big Bend is exactly what it sounds like, a giant bend in the road. But it’s much more exciting than it sounds! You’ll know this section when you reach it however at the end of the Big Bend is the Big Bend Lookout. 

Just after you are about to exit the Big Bend you’ll see a big pullout on the right hand side of the road. Pull off here and keep walking, you’ll eventually come to what is probably the most iconic scene along the Icefields Parkway – the Cirrus Mountain viewpoint. This viewpoint really showcases the vast landscape of the Icefields Parkway.

Don’t be fooled by the “lay by” this is more than just a stop to stretch your legs. 

  • Time Needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 116km
  • Distance from Jasper: 118km

9) Wilcox Pass Hike

If you are chasing glaciers along the Icefields Parkway, the Wilcox Pass hike is one of the best. At 9.3km it’s a bit harder than the Parker Ridge hike but features just as many stunning viewpoints.

Although this hike is longer, many people hike to Wilcox Ridge offering views of the Athabasca. About 1.7km into this hike you’ll find two of the iconic red chairs which are positioned perfectly to enjoy views of Dome Glacier, Athabasca Glacier and Mount Athabasca. 

  • Time Needed: 4-5 Hours
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 127km
  • Distance from Jasper: 107km

10) Parker Ridge Hike

If you are going to add one hike to your Icefields Parkway itinerary, this should be it. The Parker Ridge hike is 5km in length and leads to some fantastic views of the Saskatchewan Glacier.

The Saskatchewan glacier is tucked behind the mountains and difficult to see from the road, so heading out on this hike is the best way to see it. With an elevation of 250 metres this a moderate hike and will take around 2 hours. This is a great alternative to the Athabasca Glacier tour. 

  • Time Needed: 2-3 Hours
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 121km
  • Distance from Jasper: 112km

11) Columbia Icefield & Athabasca Glacier

The Athabasca Glacier sits on the edges of both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park and is one of the largest glaciers in the world. 

I really enjoyed my time touring the Athabasca Glacier but this did take up most of the day. In total the tour and Sky Walk took around 3 – 4 hours. If you are not a fan of guided tours then consider one of the hikes along the Icefields Parkway. You can also opt to take a guided hike on the glacier but this will also take up a few hours of your time. 

There are a couple of restaurants at the Icefields Centre but they are on the pricey side. For example, the sandwiches were around $18. There is also a Starbucks if you’d just like to stop for coffee.

Although the Icefields Centre is expensive for food – the bathrooms and Wifi are free! Whether you decide to take the Ice Explorer tour or not, you should take advantage of this stop where you can stretch your legs, use the bathrooms, access free Wifi, check out the gift shop and take amazing photos – all for free! 

  • Time Needed: 2-4 Hours
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 130km
  • Distance from Jasper: 104km
The Ice Explorers
The Athabasca Glacier

12) Glacier Sky Walk

The Skywalk is included in the Ice Explorer tour ticket price, but it can also be purchased separately. The Skywalk is a glass platform that juts out of the side of the mountain and features views of the thick layers of the Columbia Icefield.

If you decide not to do the Athabasca Glacier tour, then you can probably skip this stop for something more interesting. While I enjoyed my time at the Sky Walk, there at better views ahead for free. The Sky Walk is situated in an area that doesn’t really showcase anything in particular. 

  • Time Needed: 45 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 136km
  • Distance from Jasper: 98km
Glacier Sky Walk
The Sunwapta Valley

13) Tangle Creek Falls

Another quick stop along the Icefields Parkway is Tangle Falls. This stop only requires about 10-minutes but can also be done on the drive back to Banff if you are short on time. This can also be enjoyed simply by driving by if you were to slow down.

There is a parking lot on the opposite side of the road from the falls to allow you to stop and get up close to the waterfall. It’s a good idea to add this to your Icefields Parkway map to ensure you don’t miss it! 

  • Time Needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 137km
  • Distance from Jasper: 97km

14) Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint

There are an abundance of glaciers to spot along the Icefields Parkway, and one of the easiest is the Stutfield Glacier. Named after Hugh Stutfield, an early explorer in the area, the Stutfield Glacier flows from the Columbia Icefield.

There is a parking lot to allow visitors to stop and take some quick snaps of the glacier across the river. This section of the Icefields Parkway where you will get to experience a land of ancient glaciers. 

  • Time Needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 139km
  • Distance from Jasper: 95km

15) Sunwapta Falls 

Sunwapta Falls is fed by the Athabasca Glacier and is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. Seeing Sunwapta Falls in person really highlights the power behind this waterfall. 

The main viewing area is around a 5-minute walk from the parking lot. If you want to venture further, you can hike to the lower falls which is a short 1.3km. 

  • Time Needed: 20 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 179km
  • Distance from Jasper: 56km

16) Goats & Glacier Lookout

In my quest to finally see a Mountain Goat we stopped at the Goats & Glaciers lookout. This area is known for its abundance of Mountain Goats as they like to lick the ground. The dirt here is full of glacial debris which is rich in minerals. Although we did not see any Mountain Goats here the viewpoint alone is incredibly remarkable. 

  • Time Needed: 10 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 195km
  • Distance from Jasper: 38km

17) Athabasca Falls & Canyon

This Icefields Parkway stop is worth spending some time at. Athabasca Falls is located 30 km from the town of Jasper and is an easy 5-minute walk from the parking lot.

There are several viewpoints and easy walks in the area to really appreciate the falls. On a hot day the mist from the falls feels so refreshing. There are walkways that lead down to the Athabasca Canyon or you can drive over the bridge to reach the lookout shown below. 

  • Time Needed: 10-20 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 202km
  • Distance from Jasper: 33km
Athabasca Falls is located along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park.
Athabasca Falls on a sunny day
Th Athabasca Canyon in Jasper National Park.
The Athabasca Canyon

18) Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake is a lesser visited lake along the Icefields Parkway and is 28 km from the town of Jasper. Its name comes from its distinct horseshoe shape. This lake is glacial fed and features a rich blue colour.

Because of it’s location and shape, this lake is almost always calm and peaceful which makes it great for cooling off in the summer months. Horseshoe Lake is easily accessible and is just a short walk from the car park. 

  • Time Needed: 20-30 minutes
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 202km
  • Distance from Jasper: 28km

19) Valley of the Five Lakes

One of the top hikes in Jasper, the Valley of the Five Lakes is a great trail for families. This favourite Jasper hike leads to 5 of the most beautiful blue lakes. 

The great thing about this hike is that it is only a ten minute drive from Jasper so you can always leave this for another day. If you are spending a few days in Jasper during your Canadian Rockies vacation, this is a great option to add to your itinerary. 

  • Time Needed: 2-3 Hours
  • Distance from Lake Louise: 223km
  • Distance from Jasper: 10km
Valley of the Five Lakes is one of the best Icefields Parkway stops close to Jasper.

Where To Stay On The Icefields Parkway

Hotels, Hostels & Lodges

There are very few hotels along the Icefields Parkway, but if you do want to spend a night here below are the best lodging options. 

The Num Ti Jah Lodge is a historical lodge that sits on the shores of Bow Lodge. The lodge is named after explorer Jimmy Simpson who opened the lodge 25 years after camping here in 1898. The lodge has not changed much since completion of construction in 1950. 

The Glacier View Lodge is located next to the Icefields Centre and features spectacular views of the Athabasca Glacier. This luxury hotel is open seasonally and perks include morning guided tours of the Athabasca Glacier. 

For budget travellers the HI Rampart Creek Hostel which is popular among tour groups.

Campsites

There are many camping options along the Icefields Parkway which are great for accessing hiking trails. Some of the popular campgrounds include Waterton Lakes Campground, Columbia Icefield Campground, Wilcox Pass and Wabasso Campground. 


Explore more of the Canadian Rockies

Want to explore the best of the Canadian Rockies? Check out these other detailed travel guides to help you explore!

Canadian Rockies Travel Guides:


Click A Pin Below To Save For Later!

Icefields Parkway 1 day itinerary
Best Icefields Parkway Stops, Banff Canada
19 Unbelievable Stops on the Icefields Parkway

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.