10 Things To See On The Icefields Parkway

Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most iconic drives in the world, and it’s easy to see why. This breathtaking route winds through the Canadian Rockies, connecting Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, passing by the Columbia Icefield.

If you were to go straight through, the drive would take about three hours, but I would plan to spend at least half of the day on the parkway. There are a ton of places you’ll want to stop and see, so I’ve narrowed them down to my top ten for you. All ten spots are easily accessible; a few can even be seen from the road. 

This guide goes south to north (Banff to Jasper) but can easily be flipped if you plan to drive from Jasper to Banff. Make sure to also check out my Guide to Banff National Park to complete your trip to the Canadian Rockies

Before You Go

Make sure to fill your gas tank up before you leave Banff, as there is only one gas station along the route, and it’s closed during the winter. Bring lots of water and snacks. Download offline maps ahead of time as there’s limited cellphone service on the parkway.

1. Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint

One of the first glaciers you’ll see on the parkway is Crowfoot Glacier, named because of its shape like a crow’s foot. The glacier used to have three “toes” extending out, but the bottom toe has retreated and is no longer visible. It’s an easy roadside stop. 

2. Bow Lake

Less than a mile from the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint is the Bow Lake Viewpoint. Bow Lake is one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park. It also has the beautiful turquoise color, which many Canadian Rockies lakes are known for. 

There are a few options for exploring Bow Lake. While you can see it from afar at the viewpoint, you can also walk along the lakeshore trail. If you have the time, the Bow Glacier Falls Trail is a 5.5-mile hike to see the meltwater from Bow Glacier that eventually flows into Bow Lake.

3. Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake along Icefields Parkway

If you choose just one trail on the Icefields Parkway, it should be the 1.5-mile loop to the Peyto Lake Panorama Overlook. The viewpoint is up high, so you’ll be able to see the entire lake and appreciate the color. This and the Columbia Icefields are arguably the two most popular spots along the parkway so expect large crowds.

4. Mistaya Canyon

Mistaya Canyon

From the parking area, it’s about a 10-minute walk to a bridge that allows you to go right over the canyon. The shape has been carved out over hundreds of years by the rushing water of the Mistaya River.

Many people like going out on the unfenced rocks along the canyon’s edge. Just be careful of slippery rocks. 

Saskatchewan River Crossing

This is not part of the ten on the list, but I wanted to note it as it’s the only place you can fill up on gas while driving between Banff and Jasper. The Saskatchewan River Crossing is significant because it’s where the North Saskatchewan, the Howse, and the Mistaya River meet. The Crossing Resort now sits here and has dining options and a general store. 

5. Weeping Wall

If you don’t want to pull over, you can actually see the Weeping Wall while driving. However, this is a roadside attraction, so it doesn’t take up much time. A series of waterfalls along the cliffs make it look like the wall is “crying.” The main fall is appropriately called Teardrop. 

6. The Big Bend

Big Bend on Icefields Parkway

You’ll know this spot is coming up when you see the big switchback on the map. After the big turn, you’ll get this amazing view. There’s an area to stop, but make sure you’re entirely pulled off the road. 

7. Columbia Icefield

Columbia Icefields

The Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre is right about halfway between Banff and Jasper, so it’s the perfect place for a break. There are restaurants to grab lunch and clean restrooms, and you can stretch your legs through the displays. 

The Discovery Centre is also where the Columbia Icefield Adventure starts. The tour takes you out on an all-terrain vehicle onto the Athabasca Glacier. It’s one of the six major glaciers that make up the Columbia Icefield. You’ll be able to walk on the glacier, and some people bring an empty water bottle to fill with glacier water. To be honest, its a little pricey, but it’s also a pretty cool experience.   

The other way to see the icefield is the Columbia Icefield Skywalk. It’s a glass floor platform 918 feet above the Sanwapta Valley floor. 

8. Tangle Falls

Tangle Falls along Icefields Parkway

Tangle Falls is another quick stop and might be easy to miss. The falls are alongside the highway, so you could just drive by, but if you want to stop, there’s a small parking area opposite the falls. While it’s not the most impressive waterfall, the multiple tiers make it different from some other falls along the Icefields Parkway.  

9. Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls is a pair of waterfalls off the Sunwapta River fed by the Athabasca Glacier. The Upper Falls can be seen from the bridge, which is a short walk from the parking area. To get to the Lower Falls, there’s a trail, about a mile downhill, that starts after the bridge.

10. Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

You’ve made it to the last stop (and it’s a good one)! The trail here is nice and short, just over ½ mile roundtrip, and will take you to see one of the most powerful ones you’ll find in the Rockies. There’s a viewpoint where you can see the falls, but if you keep going, there’s also a bridge where you can see the small canyon that the waterfall has carved out over time. 

Overall

While in the Canadian Rockies, exploring the Icefields Parkway is an absolute must. It’s an unforgettable road trip and one you’ll want to do again. With snowcapped mountains, unbelievably blue lakes, and neverending sights to see, the Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives on Earth. 

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