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Canada’s Most Scenic Drive: Banff To Jasper, Alberta

Canada’s Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

The drive between from Calgary all the way through to Jasper, Alberta is a treat. Once you’re about 20 minutes west of Calgary you get into big sky country and from there it just gets better and better. Highlights include the area around Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Bow Lake and the Columbia Icefields. I personally think the drive between Banff and Jasper is the most scenic drive in Canada – though there is some close competition – the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia for instance and the the Trans-Canada Highway between Revelstoke and Golden in British Columbia.

Its 289 gorgeous kilometres (175 miles) of mountainous country between Banff and Jasper. There is so much jaw dropping scenery packed in that distance that I’d suggest taking your time. Plan on a minimum of four hours between Banff and Jasper if it’s your first time driving the Icefields Parkway. There are lots of pull-offs along the way, usually at the most scenic points.

The drive doesn’t require any route finding. You won’t get lost. Just be sure to turn north, not west, onto the Icefields Parkway shortly after Lake Louise. In winter the road can be treacherous – and with almost no cell service – it’s one you don’t want to do in a storm.

Read: 5 Stunning Hikes You’ll Want to do Along the Icefields Parkway

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Castle Mountain north of Banff

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

It pays to look up too

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Big in your face Rocky Mountain views

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

A slightly snowier look in early spring

There are places to eat in Banff, Castle Mountain (just off the highway), Lake Louise, Saskatchewan Crossing, the hotel at Columbia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls Resort and then of course in Jasper.

For great coffees and treats for the car, I recommend the Wild Flour Bakery Cafe in Banff, Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Deli in the Samson Mall in Lake Louise and the Bear’s Paw Bakery in Jasper.

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Be sure to pull over at Bow Lake

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Near Mistaya Canyon – in early spring

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

It doesn’t hurt to look in your mirrors occasionally

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Around Saskatchewan River Crossing

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

North of the Icefields Parkway

"Incredible viewpoint near the Columbia Icefields"

Incredible viewpoint near the Columbia Icefields

Bring some warm clothes for this drive. I’ve left Calgary when the temperature has been in the mid twenties Centigrade and three hours later it was just above freezing at the Columbia Icefields. If you plan to do the Columbia Icefields tour then include a hat and mittens too.

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Two minutes up the Parker Ridge Trail just before the Columbia Icefields

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

No matter what the season get out of your car and walk a little closer to the Icefields

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

An atypical view of the Columbia Icefields

Canada's Most Scenic Drive: Banff to Jasper, Alberta

Near the Beauty Creek Trailhead

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Leigh McAdam

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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 38 Comments
  1. I absolutely love this drive! I saw it several years ago while doing a motorcycle trip through Alberta and British Columbia. I thought our mountains here in Utah were tall, but they’ve got nothing on Canada’s. Lake Louise, glacial water, icefields, ahhhh. Gorgeous pictures…thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. I absolutely love this drive! I saw it several years ago while doing a motorcycle trip through Alberta and British Columbia. I thought our mountains here in Utah were tall, but they’ve got nothing on Canada’s. Lake Louise, glacial water, icefields, ahhhh. Gorgeous pictures…thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  3. Love all the gorgeous pictures here, Leigh! This looks like a gorgeous drive. It would probably take me a long time to drive this as I will be stopping by so many points to admire and take pictures. Those rainbow shots are awesome! I want to go to these parks so badly! My most scenic road so far would have to be the drive along the central California coast.

  4. Love all the gorgeous pictures here, Leigh! This looks like a gorgeous drive. It would probably take me a long time to drive this as I will be stopping by so many points to admire and take pictures. Those rainbow shots are awesome! I want to go to these parks so badly! My most scenic road so far would have to be the drive along the central California coast.

  5. Gorgeous photos and I agree, it is the most scenic drive in Canada (that I’ve ever done anyway). I also love the Wild Flour Cafe in Banff, it’s one of my favorites and I know it’s also popular with locals which is another good sign.

  6. Gorgeous photos and I agree, it is the most scenic drive in Canada (that I’ve ever done anyway). I also love the Wild Flour Cafe in Banff, it’s one of my favorites and I know it’s also popular with locals which is another good sign.

  7. Awesome shots, Leigh! When I lived in Banff back in the 70’s I really wasn’t into photography. Now, I need to go back and bring my camera! However, I do remember the beauty of the Rockies, and these photos certainly bring those memories back.

    Another drive I love is the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. I’m thinking that since you lived in NS you have probably driven it as well.

  8. Awesome shots, Leigh! When I lived in Banff back in the 70’s I really wasn’t into photography. Now, I need to go back and bring my camera! However, I do remember the beauty of the Rockies, and these photos certainly bring those memories back.

    Another drive I love is the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. I’m thinking that since you lived in NS you have probably driven it as well.

  9. Western Canada continues to dazzle me. I agree with Jackie, you’re going to make us all head out there really soon.
    I was in California several years ago and drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Carmel. I was going to say it’s the most scenic drive I’ve taken but I just remembered the Costa Brava. Okay, it’s a tie. Now, I’ll have to add this to my list.

  10. Western Canada continues to dazzle me. I agree with Jackie, you’re going to make us all head out there really soon.
    I was in California several years ago and drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Carmel. I was going to say it’s the most scenic drive I’ve taken but I just remembered the Costa Brava. Okay, it’s a tie. Now, I’ll have to add this to my list.

  11. GORGEOUS!! I was blessed to travel a part of this drive over 10 years ago – I remember the Castle Mountain – wasn’t there a story about the “green” in front of it? They called it one of the US President’s “Greens” for golfing – I don’t remember who but the story is plain as day to me.

    SO BEAUTIFUL! I hope to see it again one day!

  12. GORGEOUS!! I was blessed to travel a part of this drive over 10 years ago – I remember the Castle Mountain – wasn’t there a story about the “green” in front of it? They called it one of the US President’s “Greens” for golfing – I don’t remember who but the story is plain as day to me.

    SO BEAUTIFUL! I hope to see it again one day!

  13. Gorgeous with a capital “G”! Nice job on that full rainbow pic — right place, right time, right photographer. I’ve taken some pretty spectacular drives in my time — Colorado, Hawaii, California etc. Hard to pick a favorite!

  14. Gorgeous with a capital “G”! Nice job on that full rainbow pic — right place, right time, right photographer. I’ve taken some pretty spectacular drives in my time — Colorado, Hawaii, California etc. Hard to pick a favorite!

  15. Not really sure what to say because each of these photos is stunning and I can’t believe you saw all the amazing scenery in just a few hours. Incredible. I need to explore Canada!

  16. Not really sure what to say because each of these photos is stunning and I can’t believe you saw all the amazing scenery in just a few hours. Incredible. I need to explore Canada!

  17. Surreal seeing photos by someone else in a place I was just clicking away in. I was going to say this is one of the most beautiful drives on Earth. Now I have to try the Nova Scotia one. Would love to hear what international “best drives” you’d rate.

  18. Surreal seeing photos by someone else in a place I was just clicking away in. I was going to say this is one of the most beautiful drives on Earth. Now I have to try the Nova Scotia one. Would love to hear what international “best drives” you’d rate.

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