Your Perfect Icefields Parkway Itinerary

This story was created in partnership with: Costsaver 

There’s something special about road trips, isn’t there? Hitting the road and watching the world go by, stopping for snacks along the way, and the countless stories and memories you have once you reach your destination. The best part of a really good road trip is that the journey is just as much a part of the trip as the final destination – and few journeys are more impressive and filled with more to do than a drive along Alberta’s Icefield Parkway. Here, we break down some of our favourite spots to stop, things to see, and activities to do on one of Canada’s best road trips.

What is the Icefields Parkway?

One of Canada’s most treasured road journeys, the Icefields Parkway is a 232 kilometre (144 mile) stretch of highway which runs through the Canadian Rocky Mountains and takes travellers past incredible mountain views, iconic lakes, and seemingly-endless photo opportunities. While every trip along the Icefields Parkway is different (that’s what makes it so great, after all), there are a few spots travellers should rank especially highly. The good news is, if you’re travelling with Costsaver, your travel director will work with you to plan your free time to make sure you experience everything on your list at your own speed.

A stretch of the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada
The Icefields Parkway is an amazing journey! | © Adrian/Unsplash

Points of interest on the Icefields Parkway

Lake Louise

We probably don’t have to explain what makes Lake Louise so amazing. Located within Banff National Park, you have more than likely seen photos of the lake’s incredible turquoise water all over the internet, but seeing it in person is an entirely different experience. Spend time in a tea house, hike on one of the many trails, or just gawk at that incredible water. Lake Louise is often crowded, but arriving early can help with that, and anyway, can you really blame people for wanting to experience it? The best part is that Lake Louise is the eastern point of the Icefields Parkway, ensuring that almost every journey on the parkway includes a stop at this iconic lake.

And why not treat yourself to an extra dose of ease by joining a group tour? We recommend The Panoramic Candian Rockies tour if Lake Lousie is on your bucket list!

Lake Louise, Alberta
The iconic Lake Louise | © Kevin Noble/Unsplash

Peyto lake & Bow Summit

Dubbed “the hiking capital of Canada,” Banff National Park is home to some incredible natural beauty, as well as plenty of hiking trails to satisfy every traveller, from beginner hikers to experts looking for a challenge. Beginning from the highest part of the Icefields Parkway (at 2070 metres), travellers hike beyond the Peyto Lake Viewpoint for about three kilometres to reach Bow Summit, which provides an amazing view of Peyto Lake – a gorgeous, but often less-crowded lake in Banff National Park.

Bow Summit, Alberta, Canada
Reaching Bow Summit rewards travellers with this stunning view | © Nadine Shaabana/Unsplash

The Weeping Wall

Just before Banff National Park’s border with Jasper National Park – the other end of the Icefields Parkway – lives a series of cliffs which span 1000 feet into the air. The Weeping Wall, so-called for the many small waterfalls which escape from the rock, is an amazing sight year-round. In the summer, the cascading waterfalls make the cliffs glint in the sun. In winter, the water freezes, and become perfect for everything from gorgeous photos to some extreme ice climbing.

When the Weeping Wall freezes, it becomes a renowned ice climbing destination! | © Steve Wiesner/Unsplash

Athabasca Falls

Just west of the Icefields Parkway, hidden away in Jasper National Park, you’ll find Athabasca Falls. This stunning class 5 waterfall was created when the Athabasca River fell through a narrow gorge caused by a receding glacier. Around the falls, travellers will find a walking trail sign marked with information about the falls and the Athabasca River, hiking trails of varying difficulties, and some seriously impressive photo opportunities.

Athabasca Falls, Alberta
Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park | © Wenhao Ji/Unsplash

Glacier Skywalk

Visitors to the Icefields Parkway in the spring and summer who aren’t afraid of a little height shouldn’t think twice about taking a stroll along the Glacier Skywalk. Sitting at 280 metres (918 feet) above the Sunwapta Valley, travellers are treated to an interpretive storytelling journey – you’ll learn about the history of the region, the animals that call it home, and discover incredible views of the Rocky Mountains. Once you reach the cliff-edge walkway, look down! The glass floor allows visitors to gain a complete view of the region for themselves. While it may be nerve-wracking, it’s completely safe, and an unforgettable experience.

If you’re travelling with Costsaver on their Wonders of the Canadian Rockies tour, you can also add a ride on the Athabasca Glacier aboard a giant Ice Explorer for a closer look at a different angle.

Tourists on the glacier skywalk, Alberta
Take things to a new level on the Glacier Skywalk | © Daveynin/Flickr

Activities along the Icefield Parkway

Hiking

No matter how much hiking experience you have, there are countless hiking trails along the Icefield Parkway. Whether you’re looking for a day excursion to check out more of the beautiful nature the region is famous for, or you’re an experienced hiker ready to take on a new challenge, your perfect hike is likely along the Icefields Parkway.

  1. Plain of Six Glaciers. This hike, also known as the Teahouse Trail, circles Lake Louise and brings hikers up 365 metres (1200 feet) in an 11-kilometre (7-mile) return circuit.
  2. Helen Lake. North of Lake Louise is a lush green valley surrounded by towering mountains, and this 12-kilometre (7.5-mile) return hike lets visitors see it all.
  3. Mt. Edith Cavell. One of the most imposing mountains in the Canadian Rockies, Mt. Edith Cavell rises 3300 metres (10,830 feet) into the air, and the 14 kilometre trail brings hikers to the mountain’s north face, with views of gorgeous meadows, wild flowers, and views of Angel Glacier.
A caribou in Jasper National Park
Countless animals call this region home – how many will you encounter? | © Abben S/Unsplash

Wildlife encounters

There are incredible wildlife encounters to be had on a Costsaver tour along the Icefields Parkway! Alberta is a naturally diverse region which attracts many different species of animals, from massive bears to delicate birds. Make sure to follow paths on hiking trails, keep food out of reach if you’re camping, and listen to local advice when entering known animal habitats.

  • Grizzly bears: while these impressive animals can grow up to an imposing 320 kilograms, visitors shouldn’t be too concerned with them – a grizzly’s diet mostly consists of plants and berries, and they’ll generally avoid human contact.
  • Caribou: there aren’t any woodland caribou living in Banff National Park, but you may find the at-risk species in Jasper! Living in herds of ten to twenty-five, woodland caribou are a rare treat, and a beautiful sight. Be sure to carefully obey speed limits in Jasper National Park, as accidents involving woodland caribou have occured in the past.
  • Bobcats: these small, reclusive felines live in Jasper National Park, along with others in their family, such as mountain lions and lynxes. While it would be extremely rare to see any one of these impressive animals during your visit, keep an eye out! You never know what you could spot.
  • Pika: Pikas are masters of camouflage, except for one key detail – their piercing “peep” call! Find these small members of the rabbit family on rockslides.

With so much to do along the Icefields Parkway, how do you make sure your trip is the best it can be? Taking local advice, listening to your tour leader’s recommendations, and asking plenty of questions! If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out this video, made in partnership with Costsaver.

The best part about travelling along the Icefields Parkway is that every trip is exactly what you make of it – whether you’re searching for bears, posing in front of incredible lakes, or hiking across glaciers, the journey is all yours. No matter what you do, we’re sure your trip along the Icefields Parkway will be one to remember!

Just don’t forget, this incredible landmark is simply one item on a long list of worthwhile Canadian gems that you can experience with ease while on a tour with Costsaver.

Have you driven the Icefields Parkway? What are your can’t-miss spots?