Top 10 Spots Along Icefields Parkway (Banff-Jasper, Highway 93 Alberta)

January 15, 2021laurenslighthouse

Last updated on August 23rd, 2023

Hi friends! I’m so excited for you as you plan to take on one of the most awe-inspiring road trips there is on the planet. From one of Canada’s most remarkable national parks to another, the scenic drive of Icefields Parkway is unmatched. Banff and Jasper are both incredibly breathtaking, but wait and see how the route that connects both parks becomes its own wonder to marvel at.

After we’ve ventured along Icefields Parkway more than a handful of times during the summer and fall months in the past decade, we determined that these 10 sights are the best and most easy to access views off Route 93. Along a span of only 230 km are majestic landscapes you can’t miss during your road trip through the Canadian Rockies. Alberta’s most iconic landscapes are nestled on the sides of Icefields Parkway and just a short walk away from well constructed parking lots. You simply cannot drive on this road without making the stop for them!

Both this video and blog post will take you along to venture these incomparable sites, driving north from Lake Louise to the town of Jasper. Be sure to save this post with the below interactive map so that you can come back to it when you’re ready to take on this road trip.

Enjoy the sweet drive that awaits you!

Map created using Wanderlog, a trip planner app on iOS and Android

1. Herbert Lake

Herbert Lake is the first site you’ll spot shortly after taking the exit off TransCanada (Highway 1) to AB-93 from Lake Louise. When driving north towards Jasper, most of the landmarks you’ll see will be on your left and Herbert Lake is one of them. The lake has a designated parking lot and outhouse, with a footed downhill path leading to the lakeshore. Be careful in the winter as the lake may not be completely frozen under the snow and stick to the shore to admire the mountain behind the trees from this calm body of water.

Herbert Lake, Alberta winter

Tip #1: In the winter months (October to June), the road conditions may be deemed “poor” as you enter Icefields Parkway. Always ensure your vehicle has functioning winter tires on for safer traction on the snowy/icy road.

2. Hector Lake Viewpoint

Hector Lake is the next great lake you’ll spot from Icefields Parkway. Though Hector is some distance west of the road, you’ll be able to see its vastness from the side of the highway. There is no lookout area to park at but you’ll be able to snap a few photos from the Icefields Parkway as you drive past the vista.

Herbert Lake, Alberta viewpoint with low cloud and alpine winter

3. Bow Lake

One of the most notable destinations on AB-93 is Bow Lake and you definitely don’t want to miss the creeks, streams and bridge that lead to one of Banff’s best views. There is a viewing area of Bow Lake on the south end but the place to be is at the north shore where you’ll find a secluded lodge and parking lot. The shoreline is calm, quiet and walkable on the small pebbles as you face the mountainous walls and glaciers of Mount Thompson and Bow Peak.

4. Bow Summit & Peyto Lake

Now back open with a much better observation platform, Bow Summit/Peyto Lake Viewpoint is a site you cannot miss! There are two parking lots for this destination when you drive up Bow Pass: the first is on your right near the highway, the second is in the open area at the end of Bow Pass about 10 minutes walk from the first. The main parking lot is open year-round to allow for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. From here, you’ll be able to take the short hike to Peyto Lake Upper Viewpoint either via the foot trail or up the Bow Pass road continuation to the second parking lot that’s closed during the winter and taking the fair flat foot trail from there.

The viewing deck is now much more spacious and open for visitors as construction finalizes. Peyto Lake is one of the most insane lakes to see on the north end of Banff National Park because of its pristinely opaque green-blue colour and its fox-like shape.

There’s also an incredible “secret” Peyto Lake viewpoint just a 10-15 minute short and flat hike from the main viewing platform! Instead of crowding around the main viewpoint that everyone flocks to, escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the mountainous landscape with an even better view.

5. Waterfowl Lakes

Waterfowl Lakes might be the quickest stop along Icefields Parkway and you’ll love it nonetheless because of the majestic mountain behind the blue water. It makes for a gorgeous skating spot in the winter when the lake freezes and a marvellous canoeing spot in the summer.

6. Mistaya Canyon

Icefields Parkway doesn’t just offer views of mountains and lakes but waterfalls and canyons too! The river that leads all the way to the northern Waterfowl Lake we viewed earlier originates from this very point. The bridge that offers a panoramic view of Mistaya Canyon can be accessed from a short 300 m downhill hike from this site’s parking lot. In the fall/winter, the hike feels like a stroll through a magical winter wonderland and will definitely be worth the brief out-of-breath feeling you’ll get later on as you head back up from the canyon. Mistaya Canyon is the last destination on the itinerary before you’ll reach the very first crossroads on AB-93: Saskatchewan River Crossing.

Tip #2: There are no gas outlets or charging stations along the whole 268 km length of Icefields Parkway so make sure you fill up your car in Lake Louise before you head up!

Tip #3: Saskatchewan River Crossing is the only place to dine at on Icefields Parkway apart from in Columbia Icefields so take a pit stop here if you’re stomach starts to grumble. You’re now past the halfway point in your Banff-to-Jasper road trip itinerary!

7. The Big Bend

As the road continues northwest up to Jasper, it horseshoe bends about 25 minutes north of Saskatchewan River Crossing to ascend up further in elevation. After this switchback in the highway, a scene looking back and down to the road just travelled can be taken in from the Icefields Parkway Viewpoint, or the Big Bend. It’s only accessible going northbound along the highway (people going southbound along the parkway may not be able to enter the parking lot due to blindspots on the curved road). The view is incredible with the captivating Cirrus Mountain.

Icefields Parkway viewpoint

8. Columbia Icefields

You have now officially made it into Jasper National Park and you get to experience one of the park’s most renown landmarks: the Columbia Icefields. Even in the dead of summer, the glaciers here are pronounced and can be reached via hiking or bus tour. The buses that get to Athabasca Glacier are particularly special in that they have these massive traction tires that can drive uphill on ice.

When we came in July and took the Columbia Icefield Adventure tour, it was still extremely cold up on the glacier – we had to wear windproof clothing and traction boots to walk on Athabasca Glacier, but the trip up was well worth the freshest sip of glacier water we’ve ever had. If you ever decide to take the glacier tour, be sure to bring fillable water bottles with you to get a real taste of the mountains!

Columbia Icefields

Across from the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre building you’ll find one of the most picturesque sceneries you might ever experience in your life if you decide to take this trip in the winter. Drive into the Snocoach Road parking area to capture this gorgeous vista. A couple of hiking trails that lead to the glaciers start at this point as well if you decide to continue on.

Columbia Icefields winter snowy mountains

One final attraction in Columbia Icefields you might decide to check out is the Skywalk. This one is a little underwhelming as the glass floor of the curved bridge doesn’t offer much of a spectacular experience. You might, however, be able to save some money by driving up to the parking lot and viewing the valley lookout from the skywalk area without actually paying to get onto the skywalk. Watch our video to see the kind of view you’ll still get!

Columbia Icefields skywalk view winter

BONUS STOP: Tangle Creek Falls

Shortly before the Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint is a beautiful yet hard-to-spot waterfall on the east side of the highway. Be sure to be on the lookout of the falls as the signage is minimal and the parking area is on the other side of the road. You might see the pedestrian crosswalk before you realize that Tangle Creek Falls is right there. Check it out if you can, it’s beautiful!

Tangle Creek, Icefields Parkway

9. Sunwapta Falls

Now here come the gorgeous waterfalls I mentioned earlier. Sunwapta is one of the most iconic in Jasper with the little forest island that finds itself dividing the Sunwapta River before it crashes down astoundingly down below. In the winter, the short descending pavement path that takes you down to the Sunwapta Falls viewpoint bridge can get icy so be prudent as you make your way down to see the gorgeous waterfall. Now onto our last amazing spot along Icefields Parkway before we finally reach Jasper, Alberta!

10. Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls is very popular for a reason that you’ll see for yourself when you get to this destination. It is only about 15 minutes north of Sunwapta Falls and has a number of walkways and bridges to offer views of the reverence of the crashing drop of the Athabasca River, the majesty of Mount Kerkeslin and the depth of the Athabasca Canyon behind you which you can view from Highway 93A.

After driving up from Banff to Jasper on one of Canada’s most scenic drives, you won’t be able to deny the glorious beauty of Icefields Parkway. And what you’ll find is that not only are these 10 spots memorable must-see’s, but that the drive itself is a whole experience of its own. You might find yourself wanting to stop every 10-15 minutes just to snap pictures off the road spotting rivers, cascades and mountains that catch your eye with no intention of letting it go.

Give yourself plenty of time to do this road trip from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park! 230km can be as quick as 2.5 hours to drive through with no stops, but with these top 10 spots, you should aim to have at least 5 hours at your disposal.

Icefields Parkways near Jasper in fall

When you arrive in Jasper, there will be much more to explore, especially if you only have a weekend to spare! If you have 24 hours, our itinerary for the best spots in Jasper is just a click away!

Icefields Parkway, highway 93, Banff to Jasper in fall and winter

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Comments (12)

  • kwarren29

    March 10, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    These sites are gorgeous. I particularly like seeing them in the winter. I like the photos that are the same but shot in different seasons or point of view. Excellent.

    1. laurenslighthouse

      August 21, 2023 at 8:21 pm

      Thank you! These spots are gems no matter the season. So if folks visiting Icefields Parkway later in the year or outside of summer months, they can still enjoy them (as long as the road is open of course)!

  • Patricija

    March 10, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    Wow! I knew Canada had some amazing scenery and mountains, but Hector Lake Viewpoint really takes the cake – absolutely stunning!

    1. laurenslighthouse

      August 21, 2023 at 7:56 pm

      I’m glad you liked Hector Lake Viewpoint out of all of them! Most people skip over it and don’t even realize it’s there, as it’s truly just a brief sight from the highway. We truly have to keep our eyes peeled on Icefields Parkway!

  • Krista

    March 11, 2021 at 3:10 am

    I would love to go on a road trip around this area! It’s been on my bucket list for a while, so thanks for the helpful tips on where to stop along the route!

    1. laurenslighthouse

      August 21, 2023 at 8:22 pm

      You’re welcome Krista! It’s honestly so worth it, even if you just had enough time to spend one night in Jasper and road trip back down the next day.

  • shelbylambmcw

    March 12, 2021 at 6:05 am

    Mistaya Canyon is gorgeous! Thanks for sharing – we love finding the pretty backwoods spots!

    1. laurenslighthouse

      August 21, 2023 at 8:24 pm

      Us too! And every time we’ve visited Mistaya Canyon, it was actually very quiet. That’s what I love about the spots in the north part of Highway 93, within Jasper National Park. Even though the sights are a short walk from the parking lot by the highway, they don’t get as crowded as most of the places in Banff.

  • cristinarm937

    March 12, 2021 at 10:55 am

    These spots are absolutely beautiful! I would love to visit more places in Canada 🙂 so I am saving this for the future.

    1. laurenslighthouse

      August 21, 2023 at 8:26 pm

      Thank you Cristina!

  • cvaption store

    October 21, 2021 at 12:22 am

    It was so helpful reading your article. i will be soon visitng there

    1. laurenslighthouse

      April 28, 2022 at 10:09 pm

      I’m glad to hear it! It’s one of the most phenomenal roads in all of Canada, or better yet on the entire planet!

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