The Best Stops Along the Icefields Parkway

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A couple smiling at a stop along the Icefields Parkway

What do the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, the Sea to Sky Highway in British Columbia, and the Viking Trail in Newfoundland have in common?

They’re three of the most beautiful scenic drives in Canada. From the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian Rockies to the L’anse Aux Meadows, the landscape of our northern neighbor is breathtaking!

Let’s take a look at some of the best stops along the Icefields Parkway, a stretch of highway that starts about four hours north of the U.S. border and travels through two Canadian national parks in Alberta. Let’s dive in!

What Is the Icefields Parkway?

The Icefields Parkway is one of the most traveled highways in Canada. It’s a beautiful stretch between Lake Louise and Jasper in Alberta.

Day tours take visitors along the Icefields Parkway to enjoy the unique landscape. Banff National Park and Jasper National Park are accessible via this road.

A road sign pointing to Jasper National Park and Lake Louise

How Long Is the Icefields Parkway?

As part of Alberta Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway starts at Lake Louise in the south and ends at the junction with Highway 1 in Jasper in the north. It’s about 140 miles long and parallels the Continental Divide. If you were to drive in without stopping, it would take about 2.5 hours.

But who wants to drive through this beautiful area without stopping? If you plan to stop along the way at various hikes, overlooks, and attractions, plan on spending your entire day.

Can You Drive an RV on the Icefields Parkway?

Thankfully, the Icefields Parkway is paved the entire way, which makes it much easier to travel with an RV. Parks Canada maintains the road, so you’ll need a Parks Canada Pass to drive it. 

Parking is the biggest problem with traveling in an RV along the Icefields Parkway. Finding a parking space large enough for an RV could be difficult if you want to stop at a trailhead or cafe. But the open road has no low clearances and is RV-friendly.

An RV parked off the Icefields Parkway

10 Best Stops Along the Icefields Parkway

As mentioned above, ensure you have a Parks Canada Pass to drive the Icefields Parkway. It travels through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. You can find information about purchasing this pass on the Parks Canada website.

When you’re ready to hit the road, we have 10 of the best stops along the Icefields Parkway. Whether you want to walk on a glacier, view beautiful waterfalls, or have a picnic at a lake, you have so much to do and see along this gorgeous drive!

1. Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint

Starting at Lake Louise, one of the first stops you should make is at the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint. It will only take a few minutes, but it’s worth a stop to see the glacier, the Bow River, and the mountains. It’s a great photo spot!

2. Bow Lake

Bow Lake is about a mile from the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint as you continue traveling toward Jasper. This viewpoint of Bow Lake is simply breathtaking. It has some nearby trails and more lookouts, but the reflection of the landscape in the water is stunning!

3. Peyto Lake

Another popular stop along the Icefields Parkway is Peyto Lake, about 5 minutes from the Bow Lake Viewpoint. You’ll need to walk to the Upper Viewpoint from the parking lot. 

Although it’s an easy trail, it’ll take about 10 minutes. You can look down at the stunning turquoise waters from this vantage point. You’ll feel like you’re staring at a postcard, so have your camera handy.

A couple at Peyto Lake, a stop along the Icefields Parkway

4. Waterfowl Lakes

A bit farther north is a viewpoint for Waterfowl Lakes. Like Bow Lake and Peyto Lake, Waterfowl Lakes offer spectacular scenery with the reflection of the surrounding mountains and forests in the sparkling water. This won’t be a long stop, but it’s worth pulling into the parking lot. 

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5. Weeping Wall

You could make other stops between Waterfowl Lakes and Weeping Wall, including the Saskatchewan River Crossing, where you can refuel and grab a bite to eat. But to keep our list to the top 10, we have the Weeping Wall as the next stop. 

It’s about 25 minutes from Waterfowl Lakes. Here, tiny waterfalls trickle down the cliff face, making it appear like the mountain is crying. In the winter, it freezes over for a beautiful icy scene. 

6. Athabasca Glacier

If you do nothing else along the Icefields Parkway, you must stop at the Athabasca Glacier. It’s about 23 minutes from the Weeping Wall. 

The Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefields, is probably the most famous glacier in the world because of its accessibility.

You can’t walk on the glacier without booking a tour, but you can see this massive formation up close as you walk the Athabasca Glacier Trail. It’s less than a mile and fit for most people.

A couple taking a selfie at Athabasca Glacier, one of the top 10 stops off the Icefields Parkway

7. Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre

If you want to book a tour to walk on the Athabasca Glacier, you can do so at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. However, during peak season, tours sell out quickly, so it’s best to reserve your spot ahead of time. 

At the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, you can learn about glaciers, get tips for visiting Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, and board the free shuttle that takes visitors to and from the Glacier Skywalk.

8. Tangle Creek Falls

This next stop on the Icefields Parkway is easy to miss, so pay attention about 13 minutes up the road when you leave the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. The parking lot is on the left, but the falls are on your right. 

You won’t spend much time here, but Tangle Creek Falls is worth a stop. It’s a gorgeous multi-tiered waterfall. In the summer, the streams look like tangled braids flowing over the rock face.

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9. Athabasca Falls

Another waterfall along the Icefields Parkway is Athabasca Falls, about 40 minutes north of Tangle Creek Falls. Whereas the previous waterfall is beautiful, Athabasca Falls is powerful. 

This impressive waterfall is easily accessible from the parking lot, or you can hike a short trail to the opposite side. It only drops about 80 feet, but the force of the water cascading over the rock face into the gorge will take your breath away.

View of Athabasca Falls along the Icefields Parkway

10. Valley of the Five Lakes

Finally, another best stop along the Icefields Parkway is the Valley of the Five Lakes. A 3-mile loop trail takes you through the forest, over a wooden footbridge, and to all five lakes.

It has some uphill and downhill climbs, so if you’d rather enjoy an easy, scenic walk, take the trail counter-clockwise to the fifth lake and return the same way. 

Like the previous lakes along the Icefields Parkway, the blues and greens of the water at the foot of the towering Canadian Rockies create picture-perfect scenery.

When Is the Best Time to Drive the Icefields Parkway?

The Icefields Parkways is open year-round, although it may close occasionally in the winter due to weather. Usually, closures only occur as a result of avalanches. The most up-to-date information about road conditions is found on 511 Alberta. Snow tires are required from November 1 to April 1.

Although the waterfalls and lakes are beautiful winter wonderlands, the best time to travel along the Icefields Parkway for most tourists is late spring through early fall. The summers see heavy traffic, so if you want to avoid crowded parking lots and viewpoints, consider going in the shoulder seasons. 

The snowmelt in the spring will result in rushing waterfalls, and the blooms of the valley will add even more color to the blues and greens of the lakes.

An RV parked off the Icefields Parkway

Soak in the Beauty of Our Northern Neighbor With a Drive Along the Icefields Parkway

If you’ve never visited Canada, you should put it on your bucket list. There is so much beauty!

From massive glaciers to turquoise lakes to rugged peaks to peaceful meadows, the area from Lake Louise to Jasper is stunning. Plan a few days to explore Banff National Park and Jasper National Park and take a drive along the Icefields Parkway.

If you’d like to learn more about traveling to our northern neighbor, check out our articles “Our Favorite Things to Do in Banff in Summer”  and “The Best Things to Do in Jasper for First-Time Visitors.” 

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