skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Stunning Hikes To Do Along The Icefields Parkway

5 Stunning Hikes to do Along the Icefields Parkway

Not only is Alberta’s Icefields Parkway a spectacular stretch of road to drive, it offers quick access to world-class hikes (and backpacking trips) with most trailheads immediately beside the highway. Over its 232 kilometres (the distance between Lake Louise and Jasper) there are roughly 30 hikes or backpacking trips you can do. All are in either Banff or Jasper National Park.

Here are five stunning hikes on the Icefields Parkway, all of which could be done as a family, perhaps with a little coaxing along the way.

Parker Ridge – Easy 4 kilometre hike

The Parker Ridge hike is extremely popular so you’ll almost certainly not be alone. The reward for the effort on this four kilometre return hike is very high. 

Within minutes of leaving the parking lot you are treated to expansive views of mountains and the Icefields Parkway looking north. You can even see the Wilcox Pass area (see description below) within minutes of hiking. 

Leave the highway noise after you’ve reached the top of the switchbacks and enter a world full of 3,000 metre peaks. The hiking is easy now and the views of the Saskatchewan Glacier are nothing short of magnificent.

It’s possible to continue along the trail across a scree-covered slope until it fades into a goat trail. But before you retrace your steps, stand in awe of the tiny emerald-green lake that pulls your eyes downward and marvel at the scene before you.

You can knock off the hike to the saddle in under two hours. There is the option to crest the ridge (most people do not) but that adds another seven kilometres and 268 metres of climbing.

Getting to the Parker Ridge Trailhead

The Parker Ridge Trailhead is on the south side of the highway close to the Hilda Creek Hostel. There’s a big parking lot so you won’t have any difficulty finding it. It’s 41 kilometres north of Saskatchewan River Crossing and 9 kilometres south of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre.

Read: The Parker Ridge Trail, Banff National Park 

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
The views on this hike start within metres of the trailhead
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Looking out at the Saskatchewan Glacier – the source of the North Saskatchewan River
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Another in your face mountain view just down from the glacier

Wilcox Pass – An outstanding 8 km round-trip hike

Initially the Wilcox Pass hike is steep (and it will be slippery if it’s wet) but within 15 minutes you pop out of the trees and straight ahead, staring you in the face, is the Athabasca Glacier.

Keep going because in short order you’ll see the red chairs Parks Canada has placed in scenic spots around the country. Sit down and take in the view.

When you’ve had your fill continue upwards until you reach the tussock, flower filled meadows at the two kilometre mark. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep as you continue to saunter across the meadows to the pass.

From the pass you can return; or continue on a trail up to the ridgeline directly above the Icefield Centre for even more magnificent views.

Or continue across the tundra to the Tangle Creek drainage. That trail comes out by the Glacier Skywalk on the Icefields Parkway but getting back can be tricky. You’ll either have to retrace your steps (making it a 22 kilometre hike) or hitchhike back to your vehicle.

Getting to the Wilcox Pass Trailhead

The trailhead is on the north side of the Icefields Parkway, just 2.8 kilometres south of the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. The Wilcox Creek Campground is just beyond the parking at the trailhead.

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Sweet red chair views of the Columbia Icefield
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Expansive views and rolling meadows in a landscape where humans are dwarfed by mountains
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Hiking towards one of the premier views of the Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefields from Wilcox Pass
Civilization seems so close but step back 20 feet and you feel like the mountains are all yours

Beauty Creek – Easy, family-friendly and no crowds 

The Beauty Creek hike was a huge surprise to me. It’s reminiscent of both Johnston and Maligne Canyons, but without the crowds.

John and I saw two people over a couple of hours. Its family-friendly but you will have to watch that your kids don’t get too close to the edge in some places. Pair the hike with a picnic and you’ll have a fantastic half day of fun.

The hike starts off pancake flat along a trail that parallels the Icefield Parkway heading south. Hike through some trees and proceed south (right) along the old highway when you come to a fork. Beauty Creek is reached in another 0.6 kilometres – and then the scenery explodes.

Walk on a well-used trail up the canyon to reach Stanley Falls at the 1.6 kilometre mark. You can still keep going – and in fact the canyon scenery continues to deliver. We turned around when the trail started to disappear into a hill but adventuresome folks will want to take it as far as possible.

Getting to the Beauty Creek Trailhead

This trailhead is not well-marked. Look for a pull-off on the east side of the highway, 15.5 kilometres north of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. There is a hiker sign but nothing that says Beauty Creek.

If you reach the Beauty Creek Hostel on the Icefields Parkway you’ve gone two kilometres too far.

Read: The Beauty Creek Hike to Stanley Falls in Alberta

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
The hike starts off pancake flat parallel to the Icefields Parkway
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
The scenery just gets better and better
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Bring a picnic and lounge by the creek

Lower Sunwapta Falls – Easy and possible to lose the crowds

You won’t avoid people, at least initially as the throngs have come to see Sunwapta Falls, and for good reason. The waterfalls shoot through a narrow cleft with terrifying force so they are an amazing sight to see.

Almost no one continues to Lower Sunwapta Falls, just two easy kilometres away. And yet these falls and the trail are also very beautiful.

To find the trail to the lower falls, stay on the east side of the river until the pavement ends. Look for a sign and the easy to follow trail that leads you down gently through the woods with peek-a-boo canyon views and a couple of excellent lookouts.

The trail peters out into the woods after you reach the last waterfall in the canyon at about the two kilometre mark. It’s a gentle ascent to return to the parking lot.

Getting to the Sunwapta Falls Trailhead

Look for Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Resort on the west side of the Icefields Parkway. It’s 55 kilometres south of Jasper and very well signed. Follow the dirt road to the parking lot. The resort is a good place to grab a meal or picnic supplies. And they make a decent latte too.

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
The start of Sunwapta Falls
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Looking down towards the lower falls
Such power just before the last set of falls
Such power just before the last set of falls

Edith Cavell Meadows – busy but in-your-face glacier views

Unless you visit early in the morning or late in the day, you will be sharing the Edith Cavell trail with lots of people and the occasional marmot. But in my opinion, this is a must do hike for the fantastic views from different angles of the Angel Glacier tumbling down the north face of Mt. Edith Cavell.

Some of the views include the iceberg laden pond below the glacier. Include the side trip on the Path of the Glacier trail but then retrace your tracks and do the Cavell Meadows Trail as a 6.1 to 7.9 kilometre loop. The length varies depending on whether you add in side trails to viewpoints.

The trail is steep in places but switchbacks make it manageable. In July the meadows start to fill with glacier lilies and globeflowers. Bring a picnic and park yourself at one of the viewpoints. Fill your soul with the views.

Getting to the Edith Cavell Meadows trailhead

From the Icefields Parkway, turn west onto Highway 93A, the road that takes you past Athabasca Falls. (Definitely worth a visit too.) The turnoff is 7.2 kilometres south of Jasper.

Stay on this road for 12.5 kilometres until you reach Mount Edith Cavell Road. Follow it as it winds for 27 kilometres up to the parking lot, located shortly after passing the Tonquin Valley Trailhead. Cross your fingers you don’t have to follow some slow poke on the way up or down.

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Include the Path of the Glacier Trail en route to Edith Cavell Meadows
Hard to beat this hike for the close-up glacier views
Hard to beat this hike for the close-up glacier views
5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway
Wildflowers along the trail but not at their peak in early July

2 other hikes on the Icefields Parkway I’d recommend

Two other hikes I’ve done off the Icefields Parkway I’d highly recommend include the 14.4 kilometre round-trip hike to Nigel Pass and the 14 kilometre round-trip hike to the ridge above Helen Lake. This hike in particular offers stupendous views of Crowfoot Mountain and the Crowfoot Glacier.

If you want a backpacking trip I’d suggest the one to Fish Lakes via North Molar Pass but book it in January. 

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do along the Icefields Parkway
Views on the way to Helen Lake

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Where to stay on the Icefields Parkway

If you’re a camper read this post about everything you need to know about camping on the Icefields Parkway.

However if you’re after a hotel or motel check out some of these suggestions.

In Lake Louise

The Post Hotel and Spa is lovely but it’s in the village and not on the lake. The food here is superb.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise enjoys the best views of the lake though it comes with a price. Deer Lodge is a short walk away from Lake Louise. Their updated rooms are great.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort offers cozy log cabins or check out the affordable hostel option in Lake Louise.

Bow Lake

Your only option is the historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.

Saskatchewan River Crossing Area

You have a few choices, mostly hostels. Before you reach Saskatchewan River Crossing there is the option of the Mosquito Creek hostel. The Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel is just north of Saskatchewan River Crossing. Your final hostel option is Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, 42 kilometres north of Saskatchewan River Crossing

For a motel check out The Crossing Resort especially if you also want to explore the David Thompson Highway.

Sunwapta Falls

Spend a night or two at the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge about 100 kilometres north of Saskatchewan River Crossing.

The Athabasca Falls hostel is a less expensive option. It’s located 23 kilometres north of Sunwapta Falls.

Columbia Icefields

If you want to start the morning with a glacier view book The Glacier View Lodge at the Icefield Centre or drive 17 kilometres north of the Columbia Icefields to reach the Beauty Creek Hostel.


For a great location with a price choose the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

An affordable option is the Maligne Canyon Hostel.

I like the look of The Crimson Jasper though I have never stayed here.

If you want to be on a lake with lots of activities the Pyramid Lake Resort would be an excellent option. But for a main street location in Jasper I think Whistler’s Inn is a great choice.

Share the Pinspiration love by clicking on the photo below.

5 Stunning Hikes You'll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway

A big thank you to Travel Alberta for making this post possible.




Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 11 Comments

    1. @Peg Carry bear spray and make noise- and not just bear bells. Except for Beauty Creek these are popular trails and on none did we even see signs of bears. It will be a judgement call. I would go but lots of people wouldn’t.

  1. What would hiking in Jasper be like in mid June? I assume there could be a lot of snow, possibly a lot of bugs… But also very beautiful. What do you think? Thanks so much – excellent post!

    1. @Adam I have hiked in the Jasper area at the beginning of July but those two weeks can make a big difference. Some years it should be fine. It really boils down to what type pf snow year they have. And if you’re comfortable hiking in snow and can read a map you may be able to do quite a number of trails.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search

Pin It on Pinterest