I cannot believe I entered my 30s before ever witnessing the majestic beauty of Alberta, British Columbia, and the Canadian Rockies. I can tell you one thing off-bat. I have been totally missing out on life!
And if you’re planning a trip or even just thinking about planning a Canada road trip to visit national park superstars like Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, I am so excited for you! The natural wonders contained within the province of Alberta are jaw-dropping and something that every nature lover needs to witness with their own eyeballs!
The Banff/Jasper area has easily become one of my top favorite destinations for a road trip, offering breathtaking natural beauty and endless outdoor activities.
You can expect a little something of everything! We’re talking hot springs, snow-capped peaks, lush green meadows, glacial-fed waterfalls, and the bluest lakes you’ll ever see in your life.
After my own 7-day road trip of Banff, Jasper, Yoho National Park (and a few other smaller parks), I’m ready to share with you the perfect Canada national park road trip itinerary!
This 7-day Canadian national park road trip itinerary will take you through both British Columbia and Alberta, some of Canada’s best natural landscapes, to the following destinations: Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay National Park, Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Jasper National Park, and MORE!
Some of these might sound familiar, and some probably new. But don’t worry, we’ll get into all the details below!
You ready for one epic heck of a road trip? Let’s get into the details!
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Table of Contents
Where Are Banff and Jasper National Parks?
Banff National Park and Jasper National Park are located in the province of Alberta, Canada.
Banff National Park is located in the southern part of the province, approximately 120 km west of Calgary (1.5-hour drive).
Jasper National Park is located in the northern part of the province, approximately 280 km northwest of Calgary (3 hr 15 min drive) and 370 km west of Edmonton (3 hr 50 min drive).
Both parks are part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and are known for their stunning natural beauty, including mountains, green forests, glaciers, lakes, and wildlife.
Not to be confused with The Rockies in the USA, the Canadian Rockies are a mountain range stretching from the province of British Columbia to the province of Alberta.
This area is a total haven for outdoor lovers! Visitors can explore the parks on foot, by bike, or by car. No matter the method of getting around, taking in the breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys is effortless — the beauty literally surrounds you at all times!
The Canadian Rockies are also home to several charming mountain towns, such as Banff, Canmore, Golden, and Jasper, which offer a range of accommodations, restaurants, and shops for visitors to enjoy.
Best Time To Take A Banff and Jasper Road Trip
The best time to take a road trip through the Canadian Rockies and visit the likes of Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Yoho National Park is during the summer months, from June to September.
During this time, the weather is generally warm and sunny, and the roads are clear of snow and ice. This makes it easier to access the parks and enjoy the many outdoor activities that they offer, such as hiking, canoeing on turquoise lakes, ogling at turquoise lakes, camping, and just being outside in general.
In addition to the pleasant weather conditions, the summer months also offer longer daylight hours, which means more time to explore the parks and take in the stunning scenery. Many of the park’s attractions and activities are also open during this time, including the gondolas, hot springs, and boat tours.
However, it’s important to note that the summer months are also the busiest time of year in the parks, which means that there will be more crowds and higher prices for accommodations and activities.
If you prefer a quieter and/or a more budget-friendly experience, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of May or October. The weather may be slightly cooler, but the parks are still beautiful and offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure.
NOTE: Wildfires in the late summer/fall are something to be aware of. During my own visit to the area last mid-September, there was a large wildfire that ended up closing off most of the Jasper National Park area. Be aware that this may impact your visit — you’ll want to be adaptable with your travel plans if you encounter fire closures.
Where To Fly To Start Your Banff and Jasper National Park Road Trip
The first stop of this road trip is Radium Hot Springs, which is closest to the following major airport: Calgary International Airport (YYC).
If you are flying into Canada, this is where you’ll be catching a flight into and renting a car from.
This 7-day road trip ends in Jasper, so for your return flight, you can choose between either Edmonton or Calgary international airports.
Jasper is approximately a 4-hour drive from Edmonton International Airport (YEG) and a 4 hr 40 min drive from Calgary International Airport (YYC). These are going to be the closest airports from the town of Jasper.
If you’re already in the area and have your own car, this is where you’ll be starting from.
Banff and Jasper Road Trip: Rental Car Logistics
For our road trips, we typically like to pick up rental cars from a nearby airport (there’s often more availability at the airports compared to rental car shops in town). For this road trip, aim to pick up a rental car from the airport you fly into.
We typically like to rent from Hertz. But only when they have good pricing and they happen to be offering no one-way drop-off fee. (Obviously, your results may vary, but check them out regardless!)
And with their Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program (completely free to join), you’ll get counter-free pickup at select locations, and you get to choose your own car upon arrival! You can check out rental car pricing and availability here.
Otherwise, Rentalcars.com is our go-to these days! They’re the world’s largest online car rental service and help you compare prices of all the rental car companies out there. This is the best way to see the lowest prices out there.
Not only does the Rentalcars.com tool allow you to compare rental car prices across the major rental car companies, but most of the time you can book with no prepayment and no cancellation fees. You’ll only be charged if you show up to pick up the car.
It’s great for people like me who like to make ‘just in case’ bookings early on while continuously searching for a better deal up until the week of the actual trip!
7-Day Banff And Jasper National Park Itinerary
Day 0: Calgary
Since this road trip starts with you flying into Calgary International Airport, feel free to spend the first day here. If you’re traveling with a group and you happen to have different flights, I’d recommend grabbing yourself a hotel in Calgary while waiting for others to also fly in.
If you only have one day to spend in Calgary, there are a few must-see neighborhoods and attractions that you won’t want to miss! Start your day by heading to the Kensington neighborhood, which is known for its trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants. Grab a coffee and a pastry at Regal Cat Cafe, then take a stroll through the neighborhood to check out the local boutiques and galleries!
Next, and only if you’re into aerial city views, head to the Calgary Tower for stunning views of the city. From the top of the tower, you can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance, as well as the city’s skyline.
After taking in the view, head down to Stephen Avenue, a pedestrian-only street filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Grab lunch at the popular Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Huong Viet, or try the famous Alberta beef at The Keg Steakhouse.
If you’re into animals, head to the Calgary Zoo to see over 1,000 animals from around the world. The zoo is home to everything from tigers and gorillas to penguins and kangaroos.
After the zoo, head to the Inglewood neighborhood a cutesy area known for its vintage and antique shops, as well as its trendy boutiques and art galleries. Grab dinner at the popular Italian restaurant, Spolumbo’s, or at the nearby Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, Silver Dragon.
Before heading back to your hotel for the night, you can check out Greta Bar for drinks and games or for something a bit different, visit Cowboys Dance Hall, a lively western-style country bar where you can drink, gamble, and dance the night away!
Day 1: Radium Hot Springs
Start your road trip in the town of Radium Hot Springs, located just under 3 hours from Calgary in the Columbia Valley in British Columbia. This small town, set in a valley inside the southern border of Kootenay National Park, is known for its natural hot springs, which are a perfect way to relax and unwind after a long day of driving!
Open year-round, the hot springs pools are filled with naturally heated water containing a unique blend of scentless minerals. They are surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests, making them a perfect spot for nature lovers. There’s one pool that sits at a hot 102°F and a second pool at 84°F to help cool you off!
If you’re reading this road trip itinerary while you’re already on your trip, not to worry! They have lockers, towels, and even swimsuits available for rent.
For more hot spring goodness nearby, consider these too:
- Fairmont Hot Springs pools – just 30 minutes away from Radium. The hot pool, cool pool, and dive tank overlook the Columbia Valley and Purcell Mountain Range. While you’re there, explore the town of Fairmont, where you can go ziplining and shopping.
- Lussier Hot Springs – these are natural hot springs located in Whiteswan Lake Park, near the park entrance at the 17.5km marker on the Whiteswan forest service road.
Day 2: Kootenay National Park
From Radium Hot Springs, it’s time to get your nature on at Kootenay National Park. With your one day in the park, there are a few must-see natural landmarks and hikes that you won’t want to miss.
Start your day by heading to Paint Pots, a unique geological formation that is made up of colorful mineral deposits. The low-intensity out-and-back hike to the Paint Pots is just 1.3 miles (about 2 kilometers) long and takes you through a beautiful forested area. Once you reach the Paint Pots, you’ll be amazed by the vibrant colors and unique landscape!
Next, head to Marble Canyon, a beautiful gorge carved out of limestone and marble that is a popular hiking destination as well. To best experience the canyon, you’re gonna want to hop out of the car again. The trail is just under 2 kilometers long and takes you through the canyon, over bridges, and past gorgeous waterfalls!
If you’re worried about being tired with back-to-back hikes, don’t be! This is a great hike for families and those looking for a leisurely stroll. Both of the hikes above are easy to explore on foot and make for great photo opportunities.
Stanley Glacier Trail
If you’re feeling up for another hike, head to the Stanley Glacier Trail for stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. This hike is a 6.8-mile out-and-back trail (just over 10 kilometers long) and is a bit more challenging than the previous hikes, but the views are well worth it.
Once you’re done exploring Kootenay NP, it’s time to head to your next home base so you can get ready to explore Banff NP the day after.
Pro Tip: You can choose to stay in Banff or in Canmore for your 4-night stay. Though Banff is slightly closer to the national park, accommodations here are a lot pricier than in Canmore. Canmore is just a 20-minute drive away from the town of Banff, so it’s a great alternative for those on a budget!
Where To Stay in Banff:
- Canalta Lodge – free breakfast for guests
- Peaks Hotel and Suites
- Fairmont Château Lake Louise – the ultimate splurge ($$$$), but soooo perfectly located
Where To Stay in Canmore:
- Tamarack Lodge by Spring Creek Vacations – gorgeous condos perfect for larger groups!
- Rundle Cliffs Lodge by Spring Creek Vacations – apartment-style rentals also great for groups
- Falcon Crest Lodge by CLIQUE – lodge rooms with full kitchenettes
IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT CANADA NATIONAL PARK ENTRANCE FEES
Parks passes are required at all Canadian national parks. Unless you have a yearly pass, these are daily entrance fees.
If you don’t get the yearly pass (~$145 for a family or group for one year), it will cost ~$9-10.50 per person per day (depending on if you’re an adult or senior). Youth up to age 17 are FREE!
Traveling with a larger group? The family/group rate ($21 per day) is going to be the best deal. Family/Group = up to seven people arriving in a single vehicle in a national park.
So if you’re looking to save on NP entrance fees, it might be a better idea to rent a minivan instead of two cars for groups of 5 or more.
You can find more info about NP rates here. The rates are the same for all Canadian national parks, including Yoho, Banff, and Jasper NP.
Day 3: Banff National Park
It’s a new day! After waking up at your accommodation not too far away from Banff National Park, make your way to the park.
Located in the Alberta province, Banff is known for its stunning mountain scenery and abundance of outdoor activities. Take some time to explore the park, either by hiking one of the many trails, or by taking a scenic drive through the park. Or both!
First up: Lake Louise. No trip to Banff National Park is complete without a visit to Lake Louise, one of the most iconic destinations in the Canadian Rockies. This beautiful lake is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and is a popular spot for hiking, fishing, and canoeing.
You’ll probably come across other blogs telling you to go canoeing here, but I’d recommend skipping it due to the extremely high prices. (Don’t worry, we’ll go canoeing in another nearby lake with much better prices!) I recommend taking a hike here instead.
Take a hike to Lake Agnes Tea House
The hike that we did (which I highly recommend) was the Lake Agnes Tea House hike. This is basically a hike to a functioning tea house that sits next to a lake!
On this hike, you’ll start with parking your car at the Lake Louise Parking Lot. After enjoying some morning views of Lake Louise, hop onto the Lake Agnes Tea House Trailhead.
Along the way, you’ll encounter two lakes–Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes. Lake Agnes is the star of the show here! Framed by magnificent jagged mountains, Lake Agnes is one of the most scenic lakes in all of Banff National Park.
This trail is wildly popular, so if you don’t get an early start, you can forget about enjoying a warm drink at the tea house. The line gets crazy long by late morning.
Still have energy? The fun doesn’t have to stop here. If you have the time and energy, continue from the tea house onto the Big Beehive Trail.
By hiking the short yet steep Big Beehive Trail, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of Lake Louise found in the entire park. I’m serious, just look at the views! This hike is a must-do!
To get back to your car, just come back the way you came, being sure to soak in the afternoon views of Lake Louise! We found the afternoon views to be much better than the morning views (due to the extra sunlight beaming onto the turquoise waters).
After your hike, it’s time to relax!
Banff Upper Hot Springs
If you’re not ready to go back to town, one thing you could add to your itinerary is the Banff Upper Hot Springs, where you can soak in natural hot springs surrounded by stunning mountain views.
As you soak in the warm waters (preferably after a tiring hike), you won’t be able to stop yourself from also soaking in the amazing views around you!
The water in the Banff Upper Hot Springs is heated geothermally, meaning it bubbles up to the surface from 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) into the earth’s crust. During the winter, the water temperature can be as hot as 116°F (47°C). In the spring, the flow increases and the temperature cools off to a minimum of 81°F (27°C).
The bathhouse is also a federal heritage building, so if you’re into history, take a moment to look at the interpretive exhibits that celebrate the history of this iconic hot spring haven.
You can find more info about day-use rates here.
From there, head back to your home base, either Banff or Canmore, for dinner and a twilight stroll through town!
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE LAKE LOUISE AREA
The hike options from Lake Louise covered above are:
- Distance from lot to Lake Agnes: 4.2 miles (6.8 km) out and back
- Distance from lot to Big Beehive: 6.2 miles (10 km) out and back
Parking Info: Lake Louise has paid parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. between May to October. You’ll be required to pay $12.25 per vehicle per day to park here. At the pay station, you’ll need to input your license plate number. The machines take credit card.
Shuttle Info: If you don’t want to deal with the hecticness of finding parking (especially if you’re visiting later in the day), one of the best options is the Park and Ride shuttle service operated by Parks Canada. These shuttles run from May to October.
IMPORTANT: To use the shuttle, you MUST make reservations in advance. You will need to reserve your shuttle ticket online and park your vehicle at the Park and Ride, located at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
If you book the Park and Ride to get to Lake Louise, you will be able to ride the Lake Connector Shuttle for free! This shuttle is a great way to get to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise at no extra cost.
Hop-On Hop-Off Info: If the Park and Ride is fully booked on the day you plan on visiting, another option is this Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour from Banff. This is one of the best bus tours near Banff since it hits the most popular places (aka the hardest places to find parking) including Lake Louise Lakefront, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon!
Day 4: Banff National Park
Moraine Lake is another iconic destination within Banff National Park. This stunning turquoise lake is surrounded by towering peaks and is a popular spot for photography, hiking, and canoeing.
While Lake Louise is a lighter, brighter hue of blue, Moraine Lake is a deeper, richer shade of turquoise. The lake is also a great place to spot wildlife, with a variety of animals including bears, elk, and moose often seen in the area.
By far one of the most bang-for-your-buck things to do here is to take a “hike” to the top of the Rockpile for a panoramic view of the lake and surrounding mountains. While it looks like it’ll take some effort to get up, the hike up the rock pile will take you no more than 5 minutes. Easy peasy!
Finding parking at Moraine Lake is even more challenging than parking at Lake Louise. Almost tenfold! Apparently, spots fill up by 6:30 to 7 am? Hard to believe, but unless you show up EARLY, the “lot full” sign will be up and the parking lot will be completely closed off to visitors coming by car.
If you want to visit Moraine Lake, you will need to take the Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Public Transit, and commercial buses. As of 2023, these are the only vehicles permitted from June to mid-October. Find out more here to plan your visit.
If you’re open to driving about 30 minutes to your next destination, you’re in for a treat. Peyto Lake is another stunning glacial lake located in Banff National Park, known for its vibrant turquoise color. And by vibrant, I really mean vibrant!
In fact, the view of the lake from the nearby Bow Summit is one of the most photographed views in the Canadian Rockies. I loved spending time at this viewpoint due to the fact that the tourists are few and far between.
It’s a lot calmer than the other more popular lakes (Louise and Moraine), so if you’re looking for a more quiet experience, this is a great little stop.
Take a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain
The iconic Banff Gondola is a must-do if you’re a sucker for mountain views. This gondola takes visitors on a scenic ride up Sulphur Mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
At the top, you’ll find a boardwalk that leads to a panoramic viewpoint, where you’ll be able to make out some of Canada’s most iconic peaks, including Mount Rundle and the Cascade Mountain Range.
You’ll also have the opportunity to explore the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site that was once used for research on cosmic rays. The gondola ride is a must-do activity in Banff and offers a unique perspective on the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies.
Explore the town of Banff
The town of Banff is a charming mountain town with plenty of shops, restaurants, and galleries to explore. Take a stroll down Banff Avenue and check out the local boutiques and souvenir shops.
Stop for a coffee or a bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants in town. This town is buzzing with good eateries and bars! For pointers on where to eat, we really liked Block Kitchen + Bar and Farm & Fire during our last visit.
You can also visit the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to learn more about the history and culture of the area.
And if you’re looking to bring home some goodies for friends/family members, be sure to allocate at least an hour or two for shopping!
Explore the town of Canmore
And if you didn’t have the chance to explore the cute little town of Canmore, today is the day to head out of the park to do so! Like Banff, the town is filled with cute gift shops, restaurants, and bars so do spend an hour or two strolling around aimlessly.
Grab dinner at one of the many restaurants here, then follow up your meal with a cinnamon sugar-laden beaver tail at BeaverTails Canmore! Yum!
Pro Tip: What I like about Canmore is the fact that the accommodations here can be quite a bit cheaper than those in Banff. In fact, this is where we stayed during our last Banff and Jasper National Park road trip!
Day 5: Yoho National Park
It’s time to cross back over to the British Columbia side for the day. Your next stop will be the Spiral Tunnels, a series of railway tunnels located in Yoho National Park.
These tunnels, which were built in the early 1900s to help trains navigate the steep terrain of the Kicking Horse Pass, offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. If you time it right, you can see a train exiting from the top of the tunnel while it’s final cars are still entering at the bottom. Watch from the main viewing area on the north side of the highway.
Another way to experience the Spiral Tunnels is to take a scenic train ride through the tunnels and surrounding area, which offers a unique perspective on the landscape that you can’t get from the ground.
After you’ve marveled at the Spiral Tunnels, it’s time to head to Takakkaw Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies area. Located in Yoho National Park, these falls are fed by the Daly Glacier and drop a staggering 804 feet (245 meters) into the valley below.
The best way to experience Takakkaw Falls is to take a short hike to the base of the falls, where you can get up close and personal with the cascading water. The trail is approximately 0.6 miles (1 km) long and is suitable for all ages and skill levels. You and the whole family will reach it in no time at all!
If you’re feeling more adventurous, there is also a longer trail option that forms a 5-mile loop hike called Laughing Falls from Tekakkaw Falls. This one is more challenging than the trail to the base of the falls, but you’ll get some really unique perspectives of the falls in exchange for the effort! Plus, it’s so nice to feel the mist from the Laughing Falls on your face/body at the end of the hike!
If you choose the latter, be mindful that it can be a bit muddy and slippery in some parts (depending on when you go) so waterproof shoes with good grip are recommended. It’s also best practice to carry bear spray with you as well.
Regardless of which trail you choose, a visit to Takakkaw Falls is a must-do activity in Yoho National Park!
Natural Bridge Lower Falls
Visiting Natural Bridge Lower Falls is a must-do activity for anyone taking a road trip through Yoho National Park of Canada! It’s such an easy stop to make from the main road.
The waterfall is created by the Kicking Horse River, which flows through a narrow canyon and over a series of cascades before plunging into a deep pool at the base of the falls. The water then flows under a natural rock bridge, a unique geological formation that has been carved out by the river over thousands of years.
The falls are easily accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway and are located just a short walk from the parking lot. Once you reach the falls, you can walk out onto the natural rock bridge and feel the spray of the waterfall on your face!
The sound of the rushing water and the beauty of the surrounding scenery make for an unforgettable experience. Plus the fact that there aren’t that many railings will make you feel like you’re living on the edge!
Emerald Lake is a stunning glacial lake located in Yoho National Park. The lake is known for its vibrant turquoise color, which is caused by light reflecting off the fine glacial silt in the water.
This was one of my personal favorite lakes in the entire Canadian Rockies, partially due to the fact that it wasn’t overrun by tourists. Unlike what you’ll experience at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake is actually tranquil and calm.
One of the best ways to experience Emerald Lake is by canoeing on its calm waters. THIS is where I recommend you rent canoes and take off for the waters!
The lake is very calm, making it a great place for beginners to try their hand at canoeing. The rental rates for canoes at Emerald Lake are also relatively affordable, with hourly rates being at least $20 cheaper than at other popular lakes in the area.
Highly recommend getting out on the water for a bit — it’s fun, and a great little arm workout!
Have lunch in Field
Next up on your road trip is the charming village of Field, which is located just outside of Banff National Park. Field is a great place to stop and stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat, and explore the local shops and galleries.
There is no better place to eat in Field than Truffle Pigs Bistro & Lodge!
Be sure to visit the historic train station, which is now home to a museum and gift shop.
After your day out in Yoho National Park, drive back to your home base. Relax, enjoy your final meal in town, and get packed up to head out for Jasper National Park the next morning!
Day 6: Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is a vast wilderness that offers endless opportunities for outdoor exploration! You’re going to love this part.
You’ll want to get an early start today as your first point of interest within Jasper is ~2 hours away from your previous home base in Canmore/Banff.
Start your day by driving the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world. The 230km highway connects Jasper and Banff National Parks and offers stunning views of glaciers, waterfalls, and mountain peaks.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled! During our drive, we came across families of goats roaming along the roads. Too cute.
Along this road, you’re going to come across a few must-see landmarks and attractions.
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is a glass-bottomed walkway that extends 30 meters out from the cliff’s edge and provides stunning views of the Sunwapta Valley below.
Visitors can expect to feel a rush of adrenaline as they walk along the 1,312-foot long (400-meter) walkway, perched 1,000 feet (304 meters) above the valley floor!
Take a hike on Athabasca Glacier
In addition to the Skywalk, one of the most popular things to do at this stop is to take a guided glacier hiking tour on the Athabasca Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in North America. The sheer size of this thing, even in the warmer summer and fall months, was unbelievable!
The tour takes visitors onto the glacier in a specially designed Ice Explorer vehicle, allowing them to explore the glacier’s crevasses and learn about its history and formation.
If you’d like to get closer to the glacier but don’t want to dedicate a whole tour to doing so, you can hop along the Toe of the Athabasca Glacier Trailhead and walk towards the glacier until you’ve gotten your fill of glacier views.
Pro Tip: Bring a warm jacket with you even if it happens to be a warm day — the closer you get to the glacier, the colder it gets!
After you soak in the incredible glacier views in whatever way you choose, you can head back into the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre and enjoy a cup of coffee at the world’s highest Starbucks. The visitor’s center also features a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs, jewelry, handmade soaps, and other Jasper National Park gifts to remember your experience.
Continue driving north towards Jasper at this point. Be sure to stop at Athabasca Falls, one of the most impressive waterfalls in the park!
From the nearby parking lot, you’ll want to take a short walk to the viewing platform. Depending on when in the season you visit, you may encounter torrential, truly-gushing water flow! In the later summer months, the flow may be less intense.
Either way, I recommend you wear sturdy shoes as the paths and stairs can often get slippery with all the spray from the falls!
Take a hike in Jasper National Park
If you still have daylight (and energy to keep exploring), now is a great time to get a little hike in so you can see more on foot!
For an easy hike, head to Maligne Canyon (35 minutes north of Athabasca Falls). The Maligne Canyon Loop trail follows a series of bridges and walkways that lead you through the canyon, past waterfalls, and deep into the heart of the park. The hike is only about 4 km (2.5 miles) round-trip and is suitable for all ages and skill levels.
You’ll only need about 1 hour here as you explore the different viewpoints along the viewing platforms. The best views are between bridges 1 and 4. While you can certainly keep going, I will say that bridges 5 and 6 have just okay views where the canyon is much wider (which means the flow there is a bit less impressive.
For a hike that’s a teensy bit longer but still easy enough to handle in the late afternoon, head to the Valley of the Five Lakes (16 minutes north of Athabasca Falls). The hike is easy, relatively flat, and offers pretty decent views of the surrounding mountains.
The trail is a 4.5 km (2.8 mile) loop trail that takes you past five of Jasper’s alpine lakes, each with its own unique color and charm! Each lake has a different depth and a different shade of blue/green depending on the light and the time of year you visit.
This is also one of the hikes where you can find the famous Muskoka red chairs that are spread around in some of the most scenic locations in Jasper National Park!
Explore Jasper Town
After your hike, head to the town of Jasper and explore its charming shops and restaurants.
Check out Rocky Bear Gifts, which offers a range of souvenirs and gifts, or Mountain Air Clothing, which specializes in outdoor clothing and gear. Honestly, if you love shopping for souvenirs, you could spend hours exploring Connaught Drive and Patricia Street!
From there, visit the Jasper Brewing Company, a must-visit destination for beer lovers. The brewery offers a range of craft beers, as well as delicious pub food. Try the Jasper the Bear Ale, which is brewed with glacier-fed water from the nearby mountains.
For dinner, opt for either Andaaz Indian Cuisine (Indian) or the fancier option, Syrahs of Jasper (seafood and steaks).
For a healthy dose of local history and culture, head right over to the Jasper Yellowhead Museum. The museum offers exhibits such as the First Nations peoples, the fur trade, and the development of the town of Jasper.
End your day by watching the sunset at Pyramid Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the park. With its calm waters and stunning mountain backdrop, it’s the perfect place to end your day in Jasper National Park.
If you decide to snag a room at Pyramid Lake Resort, you can walk right back to your hotel after soaking in the epic lake views!
If you’re still here during the late morning or lunch hour, I recommend grabbing yummy brunch foods at Sunhouse Cafe.
Where To Stay In Jasper: Based on this 7-day itinerary, this is going to be a 1-night stay in Jasper.
- Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – another Fairmont, another splurge if you’re celebrating a special occasion!
- Pyramid Lake Resort
- The Crimson Jasper
Day 7: Jasper National Park
Depending on how much time you have today before needing to head back to Calgary or Edmonton for your flight, there are a few additional things you could do in Jasper. I’ll list them all here!
Jasper SkyTram is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada!
If you love aerial views, then Jasper SkyTram is probably a must-see for you, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. While the tickets are quite pricey, you can actually save a good chunk of change if you visit from 8am – 10am or 7pm – 9pm during the high season (June to September).
Once you get up there, you can choose to dine, wander the interpretive boardwalks outside, hike to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, or even snowshoe (during certain months). From late March to early May, you can rent snowshoes at the top for a truly Canadian experience.
There are two cafés where you can recharge and refuel — The Basecamp Café at the lower station serves light snacks, drinks and ice creams, whereas the Summit Café is a full-service dining experience located on the second floor at the upper station.
Before you leave, visit the gift shop at the upper station for a souvenir to take home!
Whitewater Rafting on Athabasca River
Looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity that’s just right for the whole family? Might I suggest opting for a rafting excursion on the popular Mile 5 section of the glacier-fed river?
This section of the river is a great introduction to river rafting as it begins with an approximately 10-minute float before the class II rapids start! You can experience the gentle thrill of some bumps and splashes on your roughly two-hour excursion.
This one’s nice because the pickup point is conveniently located within the town of Jasper.
Stroll around Annette Lake
Ah, Annette Lake, another chance to lay your eyes on turquoise waters once again! Spending a couple of hours here is a great option for those looking to enjoy a slower-paced morning or afternoon.
Don’t miss the area’s main hiking trail, the Annette Loop, which is paved and an excellent option for novice hikers or just those looking to fit in a morning stroll before embarking on the drive back to the airport.
Canoeing and kayaking are also fun activities you can get into while at the lake! You can rent equipment in town or from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Boathouse, located south of the lakes.
On warmer days, you can even go for a swim or soak up the sun from one of the lakes’ beaches. Don’t forget to pack yourself a picnic when you visit!
Bald Hills Hike
The Bald Hills Loop Hike is a longer, moderate to difficult day hike perfect for people who are looking for a bit more elevation gain in their outings. Plus, the views cannot be beaten! I have to admit, this is a top 3 hike for me — it’s legendary!
The trail is approximately 14.5km (9 miles) and gains 760 meters (2,500 ft) in elevation, making it a challenging hike that’s the perfect half-day outing for experienced hikers. Depending on your hiking speed, you’ll need about 4 – 6 hours for this one.
The trailhead is located near Maligne Lake, and the hike begins with a gradual ascent through a forested area. As you climb higher, the trees begin to thin, and the views of the surrounding mountains become more prominent.
After about 3 km, you’ll reach the treeline, and the trail becomes steeper and more challenging. But get ready for epic views to come shortly!
Once you reach the top of Bald Hills, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, including Mount Edith Cavell and the Athabasca River Valley. The view is truly spectacular and provides a unique perspective of the park’s natural beauty.
How To End Your Banff and Jasper National Park Road Trip
Jasper is approximately a 4-hour drive from Edmonton International Airport (YEG) and a 4 hr 40 min drive from Calgary International Airport (YYC). These are going to be the closest airport from the town of Jasper.
If you’ve flown to Canada for this road trip, choose one of these airports to depart from. After your stay in Jasper, you can drive to the airport and drop your rental car off.
Got More Time? Other Nearby Destinations To Visit
If you have a few extra days to spare for this road trip through Alberta and British Columbia, here are a few other destinations I recommend you make time for:
- Glacier National Park of Canada – Located approximately 2 hours west of Golden, Glacier National Park of Canada is known for its rugged mountains, glaciers, and abundance of wildlife. It offers a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife watching.
- Revelstoke – Located approximately 1.5 hours west of Golden, Revelstoke is a charming mountain town that offers a range of outdoor activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and hiking. It is also home to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort, which is known for its world-class skiing and snowboarding.
- Vancouver and Richmond – Located approximately 8 hours west of Calgary (or a short plane ride away), Vancouver and Richmond are bustling cities that offer a range of attractions and activities. Vancouver is known for its stunning natural beauty, multicultural neighborhoods, and world-class dining and shopping. Richmond is known for its vibrant Asian community, delicious food, and historic sites.
Essential Tips For Your Banff and Jasper National Park Road Trip
Here are some essential tips for road-tripping around the Canadian Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia:
- Plan your route in advance: Make sure you have a clear idea of where you want to go and what you want to see in that day. Cell phone service is spotty and even non-existent in some parts of the National Parks lands.
- Parks passes are required at all Canadian national parks. If you don’t get the yearly pass ($145 for a family or group for one year), it will cost ~$10 per person per day (depending on if you’re an adult or senior). Youth (up to age 17) are FREE! You can find more info about NP rates here.
- Traveling with a larger group? The family/group rate ($21 per day) is going to be the best deal. Family/Group = up to seven people arriving in a single vehicle in a national park.
- Be aware that since Banff the town is located within Banff National Park, you will have to pay the national park entrance fee to enter the town if you don’t have the yearly pass. You’ll want to make sure you only visit Banff town on a day when you also plan to do national park things!
- If visiting Lake Louise, get an early start in order to get parking. Parking is such a hassle within Banff National Park, so it really does take some planning. As long as you arrive early (I recommend no later than 8 am), you won’t have too many issues with finding a spot.
- Lake Moraine is a pain in the butt to visit. Taking public transportation is likely the only viable option going forward. As of 2023, the Parks Canada shuttles, Roam Public Transit, and commercial buses are the only vehicles permitted in the parking lot from June to mid-October. Find out more here to plan your visit.
- A great alternative to avoid all the parking issues at Banff is to opt for the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour from Banff OR this Banff National Park Tour. Both include visits to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake — without all the parking headache.
- Grizzly bears and black bears can be found in BC/Alberta’s national parks. Learn more about the bears of Canada and about wildlife safety here.
- Check the weather every morning before your day begins: The weather in the Canadian Rockies can be really unpredictable, so it’s important to check the forecast before you set out. Pack accordingly, including warm clothing and rain gear. Better yet, just keep a rain jacket or travel umbrella in the trunk of your car in the case of random rain showers.
- Bring a map with you in the car: It’s always a good idea to have a physical map on hand, especially if you’re going to be exploring some of the more remote areas of the Rockies. At the entrance of the national parks, be sure to grab one from the park ranger. Make sure you also have a GPS device or smartphone with a reliable map app. We like to have Google Maps downloaded for offline use!
- Pack plenty of supplies: This is a road trip! Expect hours of driving. Make sure you have enough food, water, snacks, and other supplies to last the duration of your trip. It’s also a good idea to pack a first aid kit, a flashlight, and a spare tire.
- Be prepared for wildlife encounters: The Canadian Rockies are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bears, moose, and elk. Be prepared for encounters by making noise when hiking, keeping a safe distance from wildlife, and storing food properly.
- Respect the environment: The Canadian Rockies and the national parks are a beautiful and fragile ecosystem, so make sure to leave no trace and follow Leave No Trace principles when you’re out exploring.
- Stay safe: Always drive defensively and be aware of your surroundings. Follow the speed limits and be mindful of other drivers on the road.
I hope these tips are helpful as you plan your road trip through Banff, Jasper, and the Canadian Rockies!
ARE YOU ROAD TRIP READY? YOUR QUICK CHECKLIST:
License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.
Jumper Cables / Car Jump Starter | A must-have for any road trip! If you’re looking to invest in something exponentially more powerful/convenient than simple jumper cables, get the NOCO Boost HD Car Battery Jump Starter Box. This tool was sent from heaven and serves as a car jump starter, portable power bank, LED flashlight, and 12-volt portable power–all in one!
iOttie car mount | This is my partner in crime on any road trip. It’s got an amazing grip and popping your phone in and out of the mount could not be easier. If you’re renting a rental car and you’re not sure if it has a navigation screen, bring a phone mount with you. The iOttie attaches by suction, so it’s easy to transport from car to car.
Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This convenient little kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more.
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