Every twist and turn of the spectacular 143-mile (230-kilometer) Icefields Parkway reveals cloud-piercing peaks, valley-carving glaciers, teal lakes, and dense forests. Running from Jasper to Lake Louise, this scenic Alberta drive offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies, with lots of roadside lookouts and trailheads along the way.
While it’s possible to drive the whole route, from Jasper in Jasper National Park to Lake Louise in Banff National Park, in just over three hours, the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountain peaks inspire most visitors to spend a lot longer exploring the Icefields Parkway (also known by the generic name of Highway 93). Guided tours—which run from Jasper, Banff, and Lake Louise—allow you to forget about navigating and driving, and to focus entirely on the show-stopping scenery. Organized excursions along the parkway often include a tour of the Athabasca Glacier on the all-terrain Ice Explorer; visits to the glass-bottomed Glacier Skywalk; sightseeing stops at lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers; and, in some instances, guided hikes and walks. For a more novel way to explore the route, opt for a tour by motorcycle sidecar, or perhaps a helicopter flight that carries sightseers above the immense craggy peaks.
Things to Know Before You Go
- If you’re up for a long but memorable ride, note that bicycles are permitted on the Icefields Parkway.
- In winter, the Icefields Parkway can become icy and treacherous.
- Fill up your tank before departing Jasper or Lake Louise. The lone gas station on the road is open only during the summer season.
- There is no cellphone coverage along parts of the highway.
How to Get There
The Icefields Parkway runs from Jasper to Lake Louise in Alberta. If you’re coming from Banff, take the Trans-Canada Highway 1 West and exit onto Highway 93 at Lake Louise.
When to Get There
Avoid the Icefields Parkway in winter, when conditions can be hazardous and facilities along the route are closed. Summer months are the busiest period, though even then, the route is rarely congested.
What to See Along the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway, which traverses parts of both Jasper and Banff National Parks, has tons of vistas and lookout points worth pulling over for. Among the many highlights are the Weeping Wall of Cirrus Mountain, where thin cascades trickle down like teardrops; the bright blue Peyto Lake; and the Columbia Icefield, after which the road is named. This colossal mass of ice and snow comprises several glaciers, and is the largest icefield south of the Arctic Circle. The Columbia Icefield Center offers the best views.