Icefields Parkway

Drive along the Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The road runs from Lake Louise in Banff National Park to Jasper in Jasper National Park. It’s rated as one of the top drives in the world, going through big mountains, glaciers, deep blue lakes and numerous hikes. It has it all. It's one of the most scenic drives in the world.

The road, also known as Highway 93 north, is a 232 km (144 mi) stretch of double-lane highway. It was built in 1940 and is one of the most scenic drives in the world. To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. The parkway features more than 100 ancient glaciers, waterfalls cascading from dramatic rock spires and emerald lakes. The route follows the Icefields Parkway, one of the world's most stunning roadways, farther north to Jasper. Along the way, look for elk, bears, and other wild creatures; stop to take guided hikes, tour historic buildings, and attend a campfire chat. This world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, exciting wildlife and broad sweeping valleys. This special travel route winds its way through the national parks of Banff and Jasper, boasting a unique and irreplaceable landscape rich in history and natural beauty second to none. Around every turn on the Icefields Parkway reveals another one of nature’s splendour; from the ancient glaciers at the Columbia Icefields to the mind-blowing colour of Peyto Lake, thundering waterfalls and viewpoints that extend for miles.

The road is asphalted and mainly two lanes with occasional passing lanes. To travel this drive is to experience one of Canada's national treasures and most rewarding destinations. The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. Starting on the fringe of the Great Plains and climbing through the incomparable mountain scenery of Banff and Jasper National Parks, this magnificent drive—one of the crown jewels of western Canada—combines exhilarating vistas of forest, crag, and glacier.

Is the Icefields Parkway open?

It’s one of the most beautiful journeys on the planet and deserves extra time and a bit of planning. The parkway is busy in July and August with up to 100,000 vehicles a month. Winter comes early at high elevations, and lingers late. Snow tires and winter driving skills may be necessary on the Icefields Parkway as early as mid-October, and as late as early May. In the winter months, the road may occasionally be closed completely. The Icefields Parkway is open year round. In the winter time, expect temporary closures (as much as 3 days) after heavy snowfalls as crews clear the highway of snow and avalanche debris. Check conditions before you go. Extreme weather is common in winter. Also note that, while the road is open, all of the facilities along it are closed in winter.

The experience of using this road is very impressive. This world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers and broad sweeping valleys. More than a drive, the Icefields Parkway is a journey through natural history and captivating landscapes. Before you embark on your Icefields Parkway journey, a little bit of planning is recommended. Plan a meal for your drive, fuel up in Lake Louise or Jasper, check road reports (if traveling in the spring, fall and winter). Head out early if you can to avoid traffic volume in the summer and improve your chances of seeing wildlife.
The road climbs up several mountain passes. Its highest elevation is the Bow Pass (2.088 m-6,850 ft). The Sunwapta Pass is the second highest point at 2.035 m (6,677 ft). The breathtaking stretch of road between Jasper and Lake Louise serves up many of the most rewarding travel experiences in the Canadian Rockies. Unlike any other, the stretch of road from Jasper to Lake Louise known as the Icefields Parkway is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls, dramatic rock spires, and emerald lakes set in sweeping valleys of thick pine and larch forests.

How long does it take to drive the Icefields Parkway?

Make sure you leave enough time to make plenty of stops along the way. The Icefields Parkway offers spectacular sightseeing of pristine turquoise lakes, tumbling waterfalls, ancient glaciers and the Columbia Icefields. Along the stretch, big horn sheep, deer, black bears, and coyotes are frequently spotted. Wolves, grizzlies, and goats less so. But witnessing a truly wild sight, like a trio of infant bear cubs under the protection of their mother, is not unlikely. The parkway crosses high country parallel to the continental divide, crossing two mountain passes and countless avalanche paths. Conditions can change at any time and services along the route are limited, especially during the winter. In the summer travelers should pack four-season clothing and prepare for the unexpected. It's a minimum of 3 hours driving time, not accounting for any stops along the way. Give yourself a full day to travel one-way but you’ll want to spend at least a full day or two exploring the sights along its route.