Icefields Parkway, Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta

[This is Part 2 of 2 road tripping Canada from Victoria to Jasper. Part 1 here.]

Continuing East from Victoria BC along Canada's Highway 1, past Revelstoke, Glacier, and Yoho National Parks, you cross the border to Alberta. The sights in Banff National Park and Lake Louise are the most well-known, but the 230km drive North to Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway are well worth the time.

Canadian road trip map

Veer North from Highway 1 at Banff National Park to take Icefields Parkway up to Jasper.

Banff National Park

Banff is just a couple hours West of Calgary, on the BC-AB border. It's most recognized by photos of the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise nestled at the foot of opaque, glacier-fed turquoise lakes and towering alpine mountains. Its mountains range up to 3,600m tall and 120 million years old, and are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Banff is a subarctic climate, with long, cold winters and short summers. There's over a thousand glaciers, though most are in backcountry.

The popular tourist destinations and sights in Banff are very busy, even in off-season. Traveling after Labor Day in September, however, gives some reprieve, and temperatures are cool enough to enjoy a long hike without melting.

All photos are in cardinal order from South to North, if you are driving from Banff to Jasper.

johnston canyon

The sheer limestone walls of Johnston Canyon.

johnston canyon inkpots

The Johnston Canyon inkpots, past the crowds that stop at the upper Johnston Canyon Falls.

peyto lake

Peyto Lake. There's an easily accessible interpretive trail to the main lookouts. Definitely gorgeous, but beware of hoards of tour buses!

lake louise

Foot of Lake Louise. There's a 2km trail to the end of the lake. There's single-pitch sport climbing on the right rock face in front of the glacier!

lake louise climbing

The main climbing wall.

lake louise climbing

Quartzite climbing. It's not the best rock--very slick, but you can't beat the view of Lake Louise and the Chateau in the background of climbing the aretes.

lake louise climbing

More aretes at Lake Louise.

icefields parkway

Alpine mountain ranges as you drive out of Banff up to Jasper.

Jasper National Park

Jasper is a continuation of the Canadian wilderness north of Banff. The towns of Banff and Jasper are 230km apart along the Icefields Parkway, named for the most famous Columbia Icefield, the largest glacier outside the Arctic.

Though the major accommodations are at either end in Banff and Jasper towns themselves, the Icefields Parkway drive is a gem. Driving straight through will take about 4 hours, but take a leisurely day to stop at the numerous points of interest. Print out an auto tour map beforehand (you lose cell coverage) and pay attention to roadside signs!

Icefields Parkway

Somewhere along the Icefields Parkway.

Icefields Parkway

Somewhere along the Icefields Parkway.

Columbia Icefield

The Columbia Icefield. The Icefield Center is a huge tourist trap and a huge disappointment. For a national park, there's no museum or education center--it's a hub to pay too much money to ride a bus to the glacier that you can walk to in 1km.

Columbia Icefield

Columbia Icefield. It used to reach to where I'm standing taking the photo.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls.

Icefields parkway

Somewhere along the Icefields Parkway.

Icefields parkway

Driving close to Jasper town. Granite slabs for a lifetime!

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

Bald Hills Trail that starts at Maligne Lake, Jasper. 13km RT, 670m elevation gain, ending at 2300m.

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

Slogging up the Bald Hills Trail to the summit.

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

Made it at 21 weeks pregnant!

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

View from the Bald Hills Trail opposite Maligne Lake.

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

View down the other side of the summit from the Bald Hills trail.

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

Top of the world!

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

Summit traverse at the Bald Hills Trail.

Bald Hills trail, Jasper

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