This post continues our 8 night stay in Canada – We visited Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks.
On Thursday morning we checked out of the Castle Mountain Chalets and headed to Jasper. To get there you have to take the Icefields Parkway. This drive is spectacular… National Geographic even named it as one of the “50 ultimate road trips”!
The parkway is approximately 180 miles from Banff. It will take you around 3 ½ hrs to drive without stops. However, this is not a drive to do without stopping. You need to plan on spending a whole day making this drive.
Tip-Leave early, have a full tank of gas and plenty of snacks and water.
If you won’t be staying in Jasper, I would recommend the furthest you drive is to the Columbia Icefields/Athabasca Glacier. The glacier is apprx 2.5 hrs from Banff and 1.5 hrs from Lake Louise.
There are around 9 stops you can do before arriving to the glacier.
Tip-you can also download an app called GyPSy Guide. It doesn’t use your data and is an excellent app to guide you on your trip down the Parkway. It offers an option of purchasing 3 guides around Banff for $14.99. It’s worth it!
The first stop will be Herbert Lake which was about 20 mins from our cabin at Castle Junction.
There is a less known lake about 10 mins from Herbert Lake called Hector Lake. It’s a 3 mi roundtrip hike. The trailhead is a minor pull off on the left with a little wooden sign labeled “Hector Lake”.
Your next stop will then be Helen Lake …This is a 3 3/4 mi hike one way. The trail access is located at a well signed parking lot across from the Crowfoot Glacier which will be your next stop. This is a very popular and scenic hike however, due to it’s length, we chose not to hike it.
Next you will come to Crowfoot Glacier which is also the same stop as Helen Lake. The glacier got it’s name because it resembled a crow’s foot. I highly recommend this stopCan you see the “crow’s foot” in the above pic?
You will then come to Bow Glacier Falls & Lake. It’s located just a few minutes up the road from your last stop. The hike to the falls is 5.5 mi roundtrip.
The trailhead is located directly behind the historic Num Ti Jah Lodge. You can see the waterfall from the trail. We only walked a short distance.
The first part of the lodge was built in the 1930’s. It has a small coffee shop where you can also purchase a few snacks. There’s a gift shop next to the coffee shop that offers a variety of trinkets, souvenirs, hand crafted items, clothing and more.
You can’t miss this lodge with its brightly colored red roof. I would highly recommend this stop even if you don’t hike the trail.
Your next stop is a must do! It’s the unbelievable Peyto Lake. It’s a 20 min walk on a paved trail that leads to a wooden viewing deck. This is a very popular stop and can be extremely crowded! Go early or later in the day if you can.
Your next stop is Waterfowl Lake. There is also a campground in this area that has 116 campsites.
The next stop is another must do…it’s the beautiful Mistaya Canyon. It’s accessed via a 5 min walk from a roadside pullout.
Tip –There is also a gas station approx 3.5 mi from this stop at the Crossing Resort. They also have a general store. I think this is the only place for gas on the parkway. Jasper is approx 2 hrs from this resort.
You will then come to the Weeping Wall. It will be on your right hand side. It’s a series of waterfalls that drop from the Cirrus Mountain. The mountain wasn’t “weeping” that much when we were there. (You are now 80 miles from Jasper).
Your next stop will be Panther and Bridal Veil Falls. There is no signage for this stop. It appears before the 115 km marker. There is a place to park and you can get out and walk to the vista point.Panther Falls can be accessed by taking a short trail located at the Bridal Veil falls overlook. The signed trailhead is located at the south end of the large parking area. It’s a short but steep hike so wear good shoes. (we didn’t do this hike)
The next stop ,which is a must for a lot of people, is the Parker Ridge Trail (another trail I almost had to be airlifted out of). This is a 1.7 mi one way hike to incredible glacier views. We did this hike and I would allow approx. 2 hrs here.The elevation gain is 820 ft.
Your next stop will then be the Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier. This is a must do. You can actually make reservations to do either an ice walk ($90 adult $45 child) on the glacier or the skywalk overlook ($31 adult, $16 child). You are 65 mi from Jasper.
The skywalk is not in this same location…you have to park at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre to be bused to the skywalk. The shuttle bus runs every 15 mins.
The Glacier Discovery Center area was very busy. They have lots of shops and dining options but it was so crowded we didn’t make a stop. Glacier View Inn is also located here.
Let me give you an important Tip – It’s cold here so be prepared! We were here in July and it was freezing when you walked to the foot of the glacier. Wear warm clothes, good shoes and a jacket.
Walking back to the parking lot from the glacier (pic above)
You will then come to Wilcox Pass Trail– this trail will lead you above the glacier at Wilcox Peak. This is a 7 mi roundtrip hike.
Tip – always be prepared for extreme weather changes when hiking. Wear layers, rain gear & take plenty of water (We didn’t do this stop).
Next is Tangle Creek Falls -this is a roadside waterfall that is approx. 4 miles pass the Columbia Icefields. The parking is on the left and the waterfall is across the road on the right side.
You then come to what’s called the Quartzite boulder field. I didn’t see parking for this area…you will just pass these large pink quartzite rocks that border both sides of the road.
Your next stop will be Sunwapta Falls. This is a must stop! It’s a beautiful area and there are actually a series of 3 waterfalls here. After the first waterfall, which is called upper falls, the river flows through a narrow canyon to form a series of 3 waterfalls called lower falls.
To view the lower falls you will need to walk along the canyon to the trial sign and turn right. Follow the trail for about 3/4 mi . You can climb down the steep section to see a better view of the 3 series of waterfalls that create the Lower Sunwapta Falls.
Just a few minutes up the road from the Sunwapta Falls Lodge, is access to Buck & Osprey Lakes The turnout for the trail is on the right. Buck Lake is just a few hundred feet from the parking area. Osprey Lake is approx 3/4 mi from Buck Lake to the left and is a bigger lake where you can kayak. (we didn’t do this stop)
Near this same area is Honeymoon Lake & Campgrounds. There are 35 campsites located here. It’s approximately 33 miles from Jasper.
The next stop is the Kerkeslin Goat Lick. It’s located 15 mins from Sunwapta Falls. This area is where mountain goats come down from the mountains to lick the salty mineral deposits. They are often seen along the roadside.
We saw them on the way to Jasper but they weren’t there when we returned to Banff. There is a small parking area on the left side of the road. You can follow a short trail up to the lookout area. We didn’t stop we just snapped some pics from the car.
The next stop is the must see Athabasca Falls. It has a 75 ft drop and is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies! It is beautiful! Lots of photo ops here! It’s only a short walk from the parking lot. – Please be careful as several deaths have occurred here.. (You are now 20 miles from Jasper)
The next stop will be Horseshoe Lake. I highly recommend this stop as it was very peaceful. There was only one other couple here when we arrived. It’s just a few mins from your last stop. The hike is about a mile roundtrip and is an easy trail.
Shortly after entering the trail, you will have the option of going left or right. If you go right, it will take you to the higher cliff edges. This is the way we went. If you go left, it will take you close to the water’s edge.
This hike offers a number of small bridges, high cliffs(highest being 80 ft), clear water and great views. A lot of people swim and cliff jump here. However, I wouldn’t recommend this as several people have been seriously injured cliff jumping.
We actually did this stop when we were returning back to Banff.
The next stop will be Wabasso Lake to the Skyline Trail. The hike to the lake is around 1.7 mi however, it’s around 7.5 mi to the Skyline Trail Junction. It takes approx 4-6 hrs to reach the end of the hiking trail. (we didn’t do this hike)
The next stop is Valley of the Five Lakes. The stop is approx 5.5 mi from Jasper. We did this hike on the way back to Banff. It’s about a 3 mi loop that takes you around 2 hrs.
Tip – Please make sure you take plenty of water with you on these trails. I can’t stress that enough. This trail is not well marked and we were going in circles for a bit—the reason we only did the one lake.
The five lakes each vary in shades of green and blue. They naturally appear this way because of the glacial rock dust along with algae and other contributing factors. You can either start the hike clockwise or counter clockwise. The 3rd & 4th lakes are considered the highlights.
I’m not sure which one we saw but it was absolutely stunning!
You will then come to the end of the parkway. There is a turn off to the Jasper Tramway & Mt Whistlers Summit on the left. If you turn right at the intersection it will take you to Annette & Edith Lakes .
The tramway is a gondola that takes you to the top of Whistler’s mountain. Once you reach the top, you can then hike 30-45 mins to the summit. (we didn’t do the tramway) You can buy tickets here. Adults are $47, youth 6-15 are $25, children under 6 are free.
If you are here during the winter, you can ski at Marmot Basin.
They sat us outside in a very nice courtyard and we were the only ones out there. The food was ok….nothing special. Read Reviews here. They also serve breakfast.
After we ate, we headed to our hotel, the Pyramid Lake Resort.
Important Tip – Book your stay in Jasper early! There aren’t as many hotels here like there are in Banff and they book up quick.
I actually could only get 1 night at the Pyramid because I changed my itinerary and decided to do 2 nights in Jasper instead of 1. When I went back to book another night, there was no availability.
I searched everywhere for a hotel and FINALLY found another night available at the Tonquinn Inn. I booked it through Amoma.com. There are Airbnb properties available as well as VRBO but most of those require a minimum of 2-3 night stay.
We LOVED the Pyramid Lake Resort. It was really peaceful here. You should definitely take a stroll around the lake. Lots of great photo ops here. The resort also offers canoe rentals.
Unfortunately, they had a pine beetle infestation going on and a lot of the trees around the lake were dead.
The next day, which was Fri – Day 6, we sadly checked out of our hotel. I had made reservations for the Maligne Lake Boat Tour to Spirit Island. It was about an hours drive from Jasper and 1 hr 15 mins from our hotel.
The road to Maligne Lake is a popular place to spot wildlife. We actually saw a bald eagle, a black bear eating berries right on the side of the road and a MOOSE! I have been wanting to see a moose for a VERY long time.
I have been to many places in the US that have a moose population but have never been able to see one. The moose literally walked right out of the woods and onto the road in front of our car!
We arrived at Maligne Lake and it was breathtaking! You can hike, canoe and do boat tours here. We had purchased our tickets before leaving on our trip. They offer a variety of boat tours to Spirit Island and the cost ranges from $67-155 for adults & $35-$155 for ages 6-15.
We arrived about an hour or so before our tour so we went inside and purchased some muffins and drinks and sat at a table with an awesome view of the lake. It wasn’t very crowded when we were here. We also ate lunch here after our boat tour.
We walked down to the water about 30 mins before our tour departed . The ride to Spirit Island was so beautiful. The color of the water changes the further south you go due to there being more glacial silt on this end…it was a more turquoise hue.
After about a 30 min boat ride, we arrived to the island. You are then allowed to disembark the boat for approx. 20-25 mins to walk around …there are several different viewing platforms for photo ops.
You aren’t allowed to actually walk on Spirit Island itself. I highly recommend this tour if you are in Jasper. The views are stunning! (that’s Spirit Island behind us in the pic below)
After our tour, we left this area and drove back to Jasper making stops on Maligne Lake road. One of the stops was Medicine Lake. .
The trees, on the left side in the above pic, is where we stopped and saw the bald eagle. It was a baby in a nest. There’s a parking area with signs warning that it’s an eagle habitat.
We then headed to Maligne Canyon. I would highly recommend stopping here.
After making it back to Jasper, we headed to Annette & Edith Lakes. They are beautiful! We stopped and got out and walked around in the shallow part for a while…the water was really cold.
There are a couple of short hikes you can do in Jasper. One is the Old Fort Loop and the other is Valley of the 5 Lakes.(which I talked about earlier in this post). Old Fort Loop is a 2.5 mi loop. Check out the beautiful Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
We then headed back to the town of Jasper and parked and walked around for a while.
When we were visiting Canada, there were fires burning all over British Columbia. The winds blew in smoke almost 300 mi to Jasper! You can see the smoke in the above picture.
Before checking into our next hotel, we stopped and ate at the Whistle Stop Pub. They had great hamburgers and fries! (yes, we eat a lot of hamburgers on vacation!) 🙂
We then headed to our next hotel, Tonquin Inn. It was located right in town. It was ok for a 1 night stay but I personally wouldn’t want to stay much longer than that.
The next morning, my hubby and I headed to Wicked Cup for breakfast while our daughter slept in. The food was very good!
After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel and checked out.
I had wanted to do the Mt Edith Cavell hike but found out that you had to get a hiking permit for this particular hike. It’s about a 5 mi hike but you can reach a glacier after about 1.1 mi.
You can pick up a permit for one of four times each day (8:30 am, 11 am, 2 pm and 4 pm) between 8 and 10 am at the Parks Canada Information Center in town.
Tip – there will be no public access during April – Aug 2018. The road will be closed due to construction.
We then began our drive back to Banff before heading on to Calgary for our last night in Canada.
When planning our trip, we made the decision to go ahead and drive back to Calgary for our last night since our flight left at 10 am. Below are some shots I took while driving the Icefields Parkway.
Before heading back to Calgary, we stopped in Banff for lunch and to purchase some last minute souvenirs. We ate lunch at Elk & Oarsman. I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich and it was so good! The views were pretty good too. 😉
We then headed to Calgary, dropped off our rental car and checked into our last hotel, the Delta Hotel Airport In-Terminal It was so convenient to be able to drop the car off at Enterprise and walk straight to the hotel and check in.
The hotel was nice and I would stay here again if we ever go back to Banff…which I hope we do!
Looking down at the pool in the hotel.
The Calgary Stampede was going on while we were there and we heard rave reviews about it but we didn’t have time to check it out. We really had no time in Calgary at all.
We were shocked at how different the terrain was in Calgary versus Banff. Calgary is very flat.
We were really tired so we ended up just ordering room service.
The next morning we checked out and headed straight to the terminal. I recommend, if you stay at this hotel, that you catch one of the shuttles in the airport and shuttle over to the international flights. It was a VERY long walk.
Goodbye Canada! We had a wonderful time!!
Well, I hope this helps you plan your own trip down the Icefields Pkwy and to Jasper.
Thanks so much for reading and if you have any tips or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment. 🙂