Two of my favorite places in Canada are Banff and Jasper in Alberta. In fact, one of my favorite things I’ve ever done during my 2 years living in Whistler was take a road trip from Banff to Jasper. This is one stunning drive and takes in the most beautiful lakes in Canada like Lake Louise and Peyto Lake as well as the famed Columbia Icefields.
The drive from Banff to Jasper is a whopping 288 km (179 miles) which will take 3.5 hours without stops but I recommend allowing 2 full days to complete this gorgeous drive – there is just so much to see on the way! Most of the stops I’ve listed in this blog post are close to each other so you don’t have to do any really long bouts of driving.
Taking a road trip is one of the best things to do in Banff and the Banff to Jasper route is easily one of the most scenic drives in the world. We also recently completed a road trip from Whistler to Banff and the drive from Whistler to Jasper and I must admit both were pretty epic too!
In this blog, I list 8 of the best stops on the drive from Banff to Jasper.
8 Best Stops Between Banff and Jasper
Taking the AB-93 North, you will first come across Vermillion Lakes and Johnston Canyon before reaching a must-stop on this road trip – Lake Louise. The distance from Banff to Lake Louise is 57 km and the distance from Lake Louise to Jasper is 233 km. After Lake Louise there are several other lakes to see like Bow Lake and Peyto Lake before reaching Columbia Icefields (spend a few hours here if time allows). Then head onto Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls before reaching Jasper.
Should you have time to spend the night along the way (which I highly recommend doing) consider the super-luxurious Fairmont Lake Louise at Lake Louise.
1. Vermillion Lakes
Only a 5 minute drive from Banff town is the gorgeous Vermilion Lakes. Bring a picnic or even a takeaway coffee from Banff (it is only 5 minutes drive away so it will still be hot) and sit on the lake shore and enjoy views of Mount Rundle as it looms over the still water of the lake. There’s also a short 2km boardwalk loop – a great way to stretch your legs before continuing onto Jasper. The most beautiful time at Vermillion Lakes is at sunrise so aim to get here early to watch the sun breaking over the ridgeline.
2. Johnston Canyon
25km from Banff is the Johnston Canyon hike, a popular day hike with locals. The trails are well-maintained and relatively easy and bring you right into the canyon itself. You will also spot two huge waterfalls on the trail. It should take up to 2.5 hours to complete.
If you’re visiting Johnston Canyon in Winter a great activity is a half-day ice walk through the Canyon which takes in the iconic upper falls which has turned into a glittering tower of ice that rises 30 meters.
3. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is world famous for its gatorade-blue waters and it attracts millions of visitors every year. The Victoria Glacier, the luxurious Fairmont Lake Louise hotel, and the incredible hiking trail and skiing on offer all add to its appeal.
Rent a canoe from the boat dock and see the lake from a different perspective. Worth noting is that Lake Louise is frozen over half the year, so, ice skating is a popular activity during the winter. You can also enjoy sleigh rides, ice climbing, skiing, and snowshoeing during these colder months.
In Lake Louise you can book onto a full-day hiking tour through the Canadian Rockies taking in sights such as Victoria Glacier, hanging valleys and of course some epic viewpoints of Lake Louise itself.
You need a National Park Pass to enter Lake Louise, you can purchase one here. Cost is from $10 per adult.
4. Bow Lake
Bow Lake is approximately 30 minutes north of Lake Louise, off the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) The lake sits at an elevation of 1920 meters and spends most of the year locked away in ice. This makes it a popular spot for winter activities like snowshoeing and ski touring. While during the Summer many tourists rent a canoe and take it out on the lake.
The Bow Lakeshore is a great family-friendly hike. If you’re looking to stretch your legs and enjoy the sublime nature along the shoreline, it’s the perfect stop and one of the easiest hikes in Banff. The trail is a nice mellow grade and gains no elevation. It does move over some large sections of roots, so a stroller would not work on the lakeshore trail.
5. Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is famous for its turquoise blue glacier-fed waters. The brilliant display of blue is fed by the Peyto Glacier high above the lake and part of the Wapta Icefield.
It is located 50 km north of Lake Louise and a popular stop on the drive from Banff to Jasper.
The viewpoint is one of the most spectacular in all of Banff National Park and a super popular spot for photographers. In my opinion, its as pretty as nearby Moraine Lake but without the crowds. The trail to the viewpoint starts at the far end of the car park. The hike up to Peyto Lake Lookout is short and sweet and takes around 10-15 minutes uphill.
6. Columbia Icefields
The Columbia Icefields is one of the most unique stops on the drive from Banff to Jasper and it’s the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies. You can join a walking tour that takes you right onto the Athabasca glacier! We choose to just visit the Icefield Skywalk as we were short on time. It’s a glass-floored lookout, which was a little scary but it’s well-worth it as along the way you learn about the story of the Icefields. You will also be treated to an epic view of the Sunwapta Valley.
If you’re hungry you can grab a bite to eat here – there’s a casual restaurants and a fancier option. Just time it right as they can both get very busy with tour groups.
IMPORTANT INFO – to drive through the Icefields Parkway you need to purchase a daily pass which costs $10 per adult or $20 for a family of up to 7 people travelling in one vehicle. These daily passes expire at 4 pm the next day. To purchase your pass there are pass kiosks located at each end of the Icefields Parkway near Lake Louise and Jasper. They can also be purchased online at Banff/Lake Louise Tourism.
7. Sunwapta Falls
Fed by the Athabasca Glacier, the Sunwapta Falls is a stunning place to stop. The falls are 18 meters tall. This site is good for a quick stop – the upper falls can be viewed from the car park if you’re short on time. You can go white-water rafting (imagine!) and there are many awesome hiking trails two of the most popular being the hikes to the Lower and Upper Falls.
8. Athabasca Falls
This waterfall stemming from the Athabasca River is 23-meters tall. There are a number of lookout points where you can see the power of the falls. The falls itself are not very high compared to others in the Canadian Rockies, but the size of the river makes these falls one of the most powerful in the country!
Jasper is one of my favorite towns in Canada, when I visited I could really imagine myself living there. Not only is it incredibly scenic, it’s the right mix of small town charm with lots of activities and great restaurants. Some of my favorite restaurants/Cafes in Jasper include Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria; Sunhouse Cafe and Evil Dave’s Grill.
Jasper National Park requires a pass to enter, it costs $10 per adult and can be purchased from Parks Canada.
Jasper is home to the world’s second-largest dark sky preserve in the world. The annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held in October every year, it draws thousands of visitors and has had guests speakers from NASA as well as Hollywood celebrities in the past. Jasper has over 1200 kms of hiking trails and some of the best in the area include Pyramid Lake and Maligne Canyon.
Another great thing to do in Jasper is to hop on the Jasper SkyTram – Canada’s highest and longest, guided aerial tramway up to the top of the 2263 meter summit. Grab some food at the restaurant at the top and views of Mount Robson (in the next state B.C). If you’re visiting Jasper in the Summer and you’re feeling adventurous then you must book onto the two hour white water rafting tour on the Athabasca River. This is grade 2 rafting so expect to get wet!
Where to stay in Jasper
- Fairmont Jasper Park is a collection of luxurious log cabins located on the emerald-green Lac Beauvert. This is the ultimate bucket-list-worthy hotel in Jasper!
- Chateau Jasper is a cozy hotel surrounded by the mountains of Jasper National Park and a 10 minute walk from the center of town.
- Jasper Inn and Suites just off Highway is a cozy inn-style property with a pool and a sauna.
- Bear Hill Lodge relaxed cabin-style accommodation (with fireplaces) surrounded by woodland.
Thanks for reading my blog, Aimee x
It’s easy to see why a road trip from Banff to Jasper is one of the best and most popular things to do in Canada. I mean, not only are there lots of amazing activities to enjoy but there are scenic mountain views, gatorade-blue lakes and the chance to spot unique wildlife.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this guide has helped you plan the perfect road trip between Banff and Jasper! If you found this blog helpful, be sure to browse around some more! I have guides on unique things to do in Whistler; Canadian road trip tips, luxury vacation to Whistler as well as doing a ski season in Whistler and so much more!!
PIN THIS for later!