03/10/2022

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7 day Canadian Rockies Itinerary: A Canada Road Trip

7 day Canadian Rockies Itinerary: A Canada Road Trip

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Planning a trip to Banff and Jasper? We have an epic 7 day Canadian Rockies itinerary that you must follow to explore some of the finest places in the Great White North!

Banff and its nearby areas are like a monthly retreat for us. We live four hours away from both Banff and Jasper National Parks, and have visited them under different conditions, seasons and occasions! 

Canadian Rockies mountains
View of the Canadian Rockies

In this Canadian Rockies road trip guide, you will find information on spending a week in Banff and beyond, and we will also share sample itineraries for extending your trip to 14 days as well! 

So let’s get started!

7 day Canadian Rockies itinerary with 3 samples + tips to extend your trip!

Canadian Rockies Itinerary guide

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The Canadian Rockies are one of North America’s most beautiful and varied mountain systems. Banff is just one of the many national parks located in the Canadian Rockies that spread across the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. 

There are five national parks in the Canadian Rockies. They are 

  • Banff National Park (most popular. It is the first National Park established in 1885), 
  • Jasper National Park (largest in the Canadian Rockies), 
  • Kootenay National Park
  • Yoho National Park (located in British Columbia),
  • The fifth national park, Waterton Lakes National Park, lies farther south, straddling the Canada–U.S. border as the Canadian half of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This is a popular visit when exploring Glacier National Park in the US.
Girl in Waterton Lakes National Park
Iconic Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park

Planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies

Just before we share our Canadian Rockies itineraries, here are some quick travel tips to help you plan your Canada trip, 

Visa

To enter Canada, non-visa-exempt passport holders must apply for tourist visas prior to travel. To receive a Canadian tourist visa, you must submit an application from your home country and allow for a processing period of 2 weeks to 1 month. 

Check with the visa office in your nation regarding processing times and delays.

Residents of visa-exempt countries, including passport holders from the USA, are required to get an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) before entering Canada. 

The eTA is not a visa and may be obtained the day before you arrive in Canada. The procedure takes only a few minutes to process. 

Drive through the Canadian Rockies
Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary

Currency: We use the Canadian dollar, which is the only mode of exchange in Banff and Canada in general. In Banff and other national parks, the use of credit cards and debit cards is common. 

Where to stay in Banff and the Canadian Rockies:

We will share the hotel recommendation for each destination within the Canadian Rockies itinerary, including campsite information. But if you need a quick list of top hotels in Banff, then you can click here

Read: Where to stay in Banff National Park

National Parks Entry Fees

There are entry fees at all the National Parks in Canada. For the Canadian Rockies,

  • You can purchase a day pass or an annual pass for an individual or family/group. 
  • Pay for a daily/weekly pass at the gate. Make sure to tape the gate pass on your vehicle’s windshield.
  • Per day pass: The entry fee for individual parks (car pass or family) is $19.60 CAD/day.
  • Discovery Pass: The Discovery Pass provides unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada places that charge a daily entrance fee, valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. Prices start at $136.40 CAD. You can buy a pass online at the Parks Canada website.
  • Parks Canada offers free entry for youth – 17 years and under. 

Pro tip: If you are staying in Banff for 1 to 24 hours, regardless of your accommodation, you will pay a 1-day entry fee. Similarly, if you stay for additional nights, you pay per day for park entry fees.

All the national parks have the same entry fee and the same rules. You don’t have to pay for a second national park on the same day, so long as the time/day/date is covered. 

If you are not entering the national parks but are traveling via the Trans Canada Highway, you do not need to pay any park fees.

Read: Planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies

Arriving in Canada

To kick start your Canadian Rockies itinerary, plan to arrive in Calgary or Edmonton in Alberta to begin your trip. 

We will cover Calgary in detail below, as it is one of the most popular options to touch down in Canada for Banff National Park. 

  • Nearest Airport to Banff – YYC – Calgary International Airport (1.50 hours)
  • Next closest airport – Edmonton (to Banff is 4 hours+. Same for Jasper)

Calgary is about 145 km (90 miles) from Banff. The next-closest airport is in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, which is about 415 km (257 miles) away. 

Scotsman's Hill
Scotsman’s Hill Viewpoint in Calgary

If you are flying to Banff, you will arrive in Calgary. The drive from Calgary to Banff National Park is about 1.50 hours.

Calgary is one of our favorite cities in Canada. We highly recommend staying here at least a day to explore Calgary downtown. 

Arriving late? Book a hotel in Calgary. We recommend staying near the airport area for quick access to Banff, free parking, and also because there are tons of mid-range hotels to choose from! Find hotels in Calgary Alberta

Read: Where to stay in Calgary

Options to get to Banff from Calgary,

7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Start in Calgary, end in Edmonton. Explore Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks (sample 1) 

  • Day 1: Arrive in Calgary. Pick up a rental car and drive to Banff National Park with a stop in Canmore
  • Day 2: Explore Banff town – Banff welcome sign, Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, walk downtown Banff for lunch, Cascade of Time Gardens, Cave and Basin Historic Site 
  • Day 3: Day trip to explore lakes –  Vermillion Lakes, Two Jack Lake, short hike Minnewanka trail, Minnewanka Lake and cruise
  • Day 4: Head to the prettiest Moraine Lake (early hours). From there drive to Yoho National Park (30 min drive from Moraine Lake), explore the Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River, Emerald Lake, and Takakkaw Falls 
  • Day 5: Explore Lake Louise. Read: Perfect 5 days in Banff itinerary
  • Day 6: Drive the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper National Park to the Athabasca Glacier
  • Day 7: Explore Jasper in the first half of the day, return to Edmonton to fly out

Day 1 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Arrive in Calgary, drive to Banff with a stop in Canmore

Welcome to Calgary, Canada. On the first day of your Canadian Rockies itinerary, pick up your car rental, and then drive towards Banff. 

Calgary to Banff is 1.50 hours by road. 

We recommend stopping at Canmore, located about 20 minutes from Banff National Park. Here you can explore the town centre and enjoy a walk at the Policemen’s Creek. 

Canmore in winter

Quick stops in Canmore, 

  • Main Street: Wander the Main Street in Canmore. Stop for food and drinks, enjoy mountain vistas, live music in the summer, and go shopping!
  • The Three Sisters: Soak in the views of “Three Sisters”, a mountain range that has 3 peaks, individually marked as Faith (Big Sister), Charity (Middle Sister), and Hope (Little Sister). 
  • Policeman’s Creek: One of my favorite spots in the city – the Policeman’s Creek is a short hiking trail located very close to the main street of Canmore. It is accessible from the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) Barracks museum site.
  • Big Head Sculpture: Located on 8th Street, on the northeast side of the bridge over Policeman’s Creek, you will find a sculpture of a human head, which is half-buried in the ground. This sculpture is called “Big Head.” Do check it out!
  • Read: Things to do in Canmore: Detailed Guide
Canmore in the summer

From Canmore, make your way to Banff National Park. Keep in mind, you will have to pay park fees when you enter Banff boundaries. 

Alternatively, you can stay in Canmore for the night. Here are hotel recommendations for Banff and Canmore

  • Falcon Crest Lodge: Falcon Crest Lodge by CLIQUE is our favorite in Canmore. It has spacious suites and many come with views of Three Sisters. There is free parking and a hot tub onsite. Check room availability and book it here
  • Elk + Avenue: Elk + Avenue is a beautiful hotel, located in the heart of Banff town. This is a great couple’s option. The property has a ticket service, tour, and hot tub on site. Click to book a room today!  
  • Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa: With an onsite spa, restaurant, and hot tub, Banff Caribou makes for a delightful stay close to Banff Avenue. The property has rustic decor and comfortable rooms with mountain views. Free parking. Check out prices and availability
  • Fairmont Banff Springs: Fairmont Banff Springs need no introduction. This is the ICONIC hotel in Banff with stunning views, restaurants, and an epic stay. View suite photos and booking information here

Once you have checked in to your centrally located hotel in Banff. Wear your comfortable walking shoes to explore Banff town and its beautiful streets. 

You will find free and paid parking spots in the downtown area and you can pretty much walk around the town, soaking in the mountain views and relishing sweet treats before settling down for a nice meal. 

Banff Avenue
View of Banff Avenue

Banff Avenue has souvenir stores, local cafes, distillery bars, and restaurants.

If there is some daylight when you arrive in Banff, you can stop by the “Banff Welcome Sign” for an Instagram photo! 

The sign is located right outside Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre. This center is home to many public programs and community classes, perfect for families traveling with kids.

Day 2 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Explore Banff town, Sulphur Mountains, Sightseeing gondola, Bow Falls, Cave, and Basin Historic Site, Cascade of Time Gardens 

Start bright and early on day 2 of the Canadian Rockies road trip. 

If you are into photography and wish to capture the ‘famous red hydrant’ or strike a pose by the ‘Banff Welcome Sign’, then start early 🙂 to beat the crowds. 

Girl in Banff Avenue
Hydrant and I in the summer
Banff Town - Hydrant
Photo of the hydrant in winter

The famed red hydrant, as seen in Instagram photos, is located on Main Street. 

After a photo, head to Touloulous for breakfast. This place is rated number 1 for breakfast in Banff, so do check it out and set aside some time to enjoy it!

Banff Sightseeing Gondola

After breakfast, head to the Banff Sightseeing Gondola site. Here you can soak in the amazing views of the Sulphur Mountains, by embarking on an 8-minute Banff Gondola ride to the top. 

The gondola ride is wonderful both in the summer and winter seasons. We have taken both trips and have enjoyed the experience every time. 

Banff Gondola Ride in late November
Banff Gondola Ride in winter

The ride makes photography easy, and you can take amazing photos of the town, the summit, and pretty much everything that Banff is known for!

If you are feeling adventurous, you can also hike/walk the Sulphur Mountains in about 2 hours. And then get down via the gondola.

View from the summit in summer

We recommend spending 1-2 hours at the Banff Gondola – with the ride, walk at the summit. Add additional time if you are hiking, one way. 

Gondola rides are open all year round, and seasonal hours apply. 

Click here to book admission tickets and check availability

Bow Falls and Fairmont Banff Springs

From the Banff Sightseeing Gondola, make your way to Bow Falls, located right by the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel parking. This spot is completely accessible without hiking, and offers photography and walk opportunities during summertime.

Bow Falls with rainbow
Bow Falls

We have seen rainbows here often – so don’t miss it!

For lunch, head to Fairmont Banff Springs, and join a Castle Experience tour which includes food sampling with over 25 local brands. 

This tour has limited availability, and if you don’t find a suitable spot, you can head back to Banff Avenue for lunch!

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

After lunch, spend some time at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. This attraction is located on natural thermal mineral springs, at an elevation of 4610 ft. 

The perfect 5 day Banff Itinerary for non-hikers. Enjoy a gondola ride, hot springs with mesmerising mountain views, relax by lakes & gardens in Banff!
Inside of the Sulphur Cave
Banff National Park
Alberta

The historic site consists of an artificial tunnel to a natural grotto, a replica of a boathouse, a restored 1916 swimming pool, interpretive displays, and hiking and snowshoe trails.

Plan to spend 1-2 hours at the Cave and check out the interactive displays. 

You do have to pay an entry fee to get there,

  • Adult: $15.24 CAD*
  • Family: $ 37. 98 CAD 
  • 17* years & under: Free*
  • *Includes entrance to Cave & Basin Historic Site as well as Banff Upper Hot Springs. Free with the Discovery Pass*

From the Cave and Basin Historic Basin, there are 2 boardwalk trails that you can explore – the Marsh Loop and the Sundance Canyon Trail. 

  • Marsh Loop follows the Bow River and offers stunning views of Mount Norquay and the Bourgeau Range (takes 45 minutes to complete the entire loop). 
  • The Sundance Canyon Loop has paved walking/cycling paths and biking options. It has a picnic area as well (and it takes 1.50 hours to complete the entire loop).

If you have additional time, you can surely take a stroll here, particularly on the Marsh Loop (45 minutes to complete the return trip). 

Prefer to soak in thermal waters? Head to Banff Upper Hot Springs instead, as entry fees for both sites are included in the price of the ticket. 

Cascade of Time Gardens

In the evening, enjoy a lovely walk at the Cascade of Time Gardens. This is a lovely green space with gorgeous mountains and a Tudor Gothic Revival-style administrative building in Banff!

Cascade of time gardens
Cascade of Time Gardens

Hungry? Walk to the Silver Dragon – a Chinese restaurant situated near the gardens! Read: Best places to eat in Banff

The Cascade Gardens are located not too far from downtown Banff, so you can easily walk/ drive back to your hotel in no time! 

Day 3 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Discover the 3 lakes Vermillion Lake, Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka

Day three of the Canadian Rockies itinerary is all about lake views, picnics, and relaxed sightseeing! 

Vermilion Lakes

Start with the Vermilion Lakes first, which is located pretty close to downtown Banff. It is only a 5-minute drive away (from downtown, take Mount Norquay Rd north towards the Trans-Canada Hwy 1). 

This area is made up of a series of lakes, and it welcomes you to a gorgeous view of Mount Rundle as its backdrop. 

Lake Vermillion Banff photography
Vermillion Lakes

Early morning hours are great for photos (so are evenings for sunset and northern lights in the winter). 

Drive along the Vermilion Lakes drive route, pull up at the Lakes to capture the amazing scenery with Mount Rundle.

You can also hike the 2.5 km Fenland Trail (1.55 miles). In the summer, kayaking at the lakes is a popular activity (at 40 Mile Creek and to the Bow River). 

Mayuri at Vermillion lakes and Mt Rundle
Vermilion Lakes and Mt Rundle

Vermillion Lakes is open in the winters too. You can go ice skating, or chase the northern lights. 

From Vermillion Lakes, make your way to Two Jack Lake for a picnic and an easy hike. 

Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake is located on the Lake Minnewanka Loop, in Banff National Park. This lake is perfect for swimming and kayaking. 

We got married here in the summer of 2016, and often re-visit the spot 🙂 It’s a beautiful place to sit back and relax with a nice book. Or enjoy a lovely picnic.

Two Jack Lake

You will find picnic tables and parking areas near the lakeside. There are walking areas and greenery where you can sit down and soak in the sun. 

If you wish to camp in Banff, note that Two Jack Lake campground is located nearby. It has about 74 campsites for both RVs and tents. 

Girl in Two Jack Lake
Two Jack Lake

Popular amenities include picnic tables, fire pits, camp kitchens, hot showers, flush toilets, disability access, and interpretive programs.

Two Jack Lake is accessible all year round, and it is near-frozen in winters. 

Lake Minnewanka

Another must-visit lake is Minnewanka. It is located 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) from Banff town. And it is a next-door neighbor to Two Jack Lake.

Lake Minnewanka Views

This lake is accessible in the warmer months only, and in the winter, road access is usually closed. I love this lake so much – the stunning mountains and beautiful waters make for picture-perfect moments. (We got our Banff wedding photos taken here!)

Not only is it one of the best photo spots in Banff but it is also a great place to kayak or take a cruise to Spirit River, tasting some wine and cheese on the go. Sightseeing cruises are available from June to September, more information here

Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka

Prefer to hike? Go on a 40 minute Stewart Canyon Trail (easy to moderate level hiking). 

For advanced hiking, embark on Aylmer Pass (23.4 km or 14.5 miles round trip). The trail includes a climb to 560 meters, to reveal a stunning panoramic view of “The Lake of The Spirits.”

For non-hikers, you can enjoy the cruise, or stroll the beautiful lake Minnewanka boardwalk and sightseeing areas. If you are lucky, you might see some bighorn sheep along the way. 

You can hang out in these areas as long as you like, watch the sun go down, and then return to Banff town. 

For dinner, head over to Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar for a night of drinks and good food!

Park Distillery - Heading to Banff? Get the guide to BEST places to eat in Banff for every meal, occasion and budget. This is your one stop where to eat in Banff planner!
Park Distillery

Day 4 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Moraine Lake, Yoho National Park attractions

Tons to explore on day four of the Canadian Rockies road trip. 

Start with one of the most picturesque lakes in Banff National Park – Lake Moraine. This lake gets very busy during the day, and parking will be difficult, so we recommend starting early. 

Consider visiting before 09:00 am for a better experience at the lake. 

The perfect 5 day Banff Itinerary for non-hikers. Enjoy a gondola ride, hot springs with mesmerising mountain views, relax by lakes & gardens in Banff!
Lake Moraine

Moraine Lake is a glacier-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies. It is best explored in the summer when you can go kayaking and hike in the nearby areas. 

Road access is closed in the winter, starting from Canadian Thanksgiving day in October. Moraine Lake Road is open mid-June through mid-October.

For a 7 day Canadian Rockies trip, we recommend just checking out the site, and then continuing driving to Yoho National Park. (You can easily spend a day at the Moraine Lake with hikes and water activities, but that will leave you with no time for Yoho). 

There are popular hiking trails near Moraine lake (if you wish to skip Yoho),

  • Larch Valley: The Larch Valley hike is an easy hike in the Moraine Lake area. This is even better in the autumn months, and it lasts for 1-2 hours.
  • Consolation Lakes: Another easy hike at 60 meters’ elevation and a duration of 1-2 hours.
  • Sentinel Pass: Sentinel Pass is a continuation of the Larch Valley hike and it will take you to a higher elevation with incredible views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of 732 meters. It’s a 12-km hike or 7.4 miles (round-trip).

Yoho National Park

Yoho National Park is a part of the Canadian Rockies mountain range, and it is located in the province of British Columbia. As Moraine Lake is located on the west end of Banff National Park, you can easily check out a few highlights in Yoho, and return back.  

Banff to Yoho National Park: 1.25 hours | Lake Moraine or Lake Louise to Yoho: 40 minutes 

Yoho National Park is a phenomenal place and is known for the serene Emerald Lake and the powerful waterfalls—Takakkaw and Wapta Falls. But there are also beautiful stops along the way that you must explore!

Yoho National Park in October
Yoho National Park

When you are driving from Banff or Lake Louise, the Lower Spiral Tunnels viewpoint will be your first stop. At this viewpoint, you can see trains entering the Spiral Tunnels on Kicking Horse Pass.

These tunnels were created when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation and a railway network was constructed. Today, 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels every day.

There are two Spiral Tunnel viewpoints – lower and upper tunnel viewpoints. Access to the viewpoints is closed during the winter months, from October to April. But you can drive by the Trans-Canada Highway, in winter.

The next stop is my favorite – the Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge is a beautiful and convenient spot to capture the nature-scape of the Canadian Rockies. 

Natural Bridge Yoho National Park
Natural Bridge Yoho

Natural Bridge is the name given to this bridge-like structure created by 2 rocks, with the stunning turquoise blue water that passes through it, making it very unique!  

Now, you don’t have to hike or spend hours to get to this beautiful spot. The bridge is easily accessible via the Trans-Canada Highway and parking is available right in front of it. 

From here, continue driving to reach the stunning Emerald Lake. 

Emerald Lake is enclosed by President Range, Mount Burgess, and Wapta mountains, making it one of the picturesque locations in the Canadian Rockies. 

Emerald Lake Yoho National Park
Emerald Lake Yoho National Park

The best time to visit Emerald Lake is in the summer months of June and July. Keep in mind, it is rainy during this time. 

In the summertime, you can rent a canoe or take walks. In addition to that, this is the perfect time to capture the turquoise color of the lake (especially in the month of July).

This area is prone to heavy snowfall in the winter, making it a paradise for cross-country skiing. The lake is accessible in the winter, and it freezes from November to early June.

Field

Hungry? Make a stop at Field. Field is a historic hamlet that was established in 1885 with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. 

This is where you will find local restaurants and cafés for lunch or dinner. Our favorite: Truffle Pigs Bistro & Lodge.

Way to Truffle Pigs Bistro in Field

About 4 km (2.48 miles) from the town of Field is the Yoho Valley Road, located off the Trans-Canada Highway. This road leads to one of the most powerful falls – Takkakaw – in the Canadian Rockies. 

At about 3 km (1.86 miles), you can stop to access the Upper Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint in Cathedral Mountain. You can also view the meeting point of the Kicking Horse River and the Yoho River. This access is open from mid-June to mid-October. 

The Yoho Valley road is steep and narrow, with a set of switchbacks that makes driving both challenging and interesting. If you have a longer or bigger vehicle, you might have trouble doing a reverse maneuver to navigate tight turns.

The scenic drive to the Falls takes about 30 minutes. On your way, keep an eye out for wildlife. However, don’t stop for pictures here. The roads are steep and narrow, which means you can easily cause traffic congestion. 

Once you are at the parking lot, a short trail will take you to a wooden bridge from where you can enjoy the Takakkaw Falls. 

The water rushing down to the edge of the barren cliffs and the surrounding sea of coniferous forest make Takakkaw Falls one of the most picturesque scenic points in the Canadian Rockies.

You can end the sightseeing for the day here, and then return to Banff or Lake Louise Hotel. 

Where to stay in Lake Louise?

Note: If you stay in Lake Louise, you can easily explore the area on day 5. 

Looking for an adventure? Considering swapping any of the days above for a full day of hike on the Iceline Trail. This is one of the popular hikes in Yoho National Park, starting at the end of the Yoho Valley Road. It requires a full-day hike of 7-8 hours.

Day 5 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Spend a day at Lake Louise

Day 5 is all about the stunning Lake Louise. This turquoise lake is one of the most recognizable images of the Canadian Rockies. 

Lake Louise in Banff national park with mountains and forest in Canada.
Lake Louise in Banff national park with mountains and forest

If you are staying in Banff, note that Lake Louise is about a 90-minute drive away. 

Lake Louise is the perfect place to take things slow and enjoy the wonderful mountain and lake views. The most popular activities in Lake Louise include horseback riding day trips during the summer season and sleigh rides in the winter. 

It is a popular tourist spot, but the good news is that parking is free and we never had any issues finding a spot even in the peak seasons. 

In the summer months, you can enjoy a hike up to Lake Agnes Teahouse (6.8-km or 4.2 miles, return). Or rent a canoe from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s Boathouse to go deeper and closer to the scenic mountains. Rentals start at $85 CAD per hour. 

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a thing of beauty in itself. Book one of the deluxe spa treatments whilst enjoying amazing views, or afternoon tea! We are sure you will love it!

The hamlet of Lake Louise also has gift shops, public washrooms, and restaurants. You can also enjoy views from the Lake Louise gondola in the summer!

Banff Winter Activities - Lake Louise covered in snow
Lake Louise covered in snow

In the middle of winter, the lake is completely frozen. You can skate on a natural ice rink or admire the sparkly white weather of Lake Louise. The tourism board also organizes many ice-craving activities in Lake Louise during the winter. 

The Lake Louise Ski Resort is open year-round and features a wildlife interpretive center, accessible by the gondola.

During crossover months, the lake is partially frozen and you may not see its turquoise colors. It is also not apt for skating or canoeing, subject to temperature and weather conditions. 

Banff and Lake Louise in winter
Banff and Lake Louise in winter

Always pay attention to avalanches and ‘thin ice’ warnings posted near the Lake Louise entrance. 

Day 6 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Drive Icefields Parkway, arrive and explore Jasper

On day 6 of the Canadian Rockies itinerary, drive the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper National Park to the Athabasca Glacier. 

Aerial view of vehicles on scenic Icefields Parkway highway between Banff and Jasper National Parks during summer in Alberta, Canada.
Scenic Icefields Parkway Between Banff and Jasper in Alberta

Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. The nearest airport to Jasper is Edmonton. We recommend flying out from Edmonton to make the most of your visit (day 7 or 8)!

  • Banff to Jasper Town drive is 3 hours, 29 minutes (287.9 km or 179.8 miles)
  • Lake Louise to Jasper Town is 2 hours, 57 minutes (233.0 km or 144.7 miles)

It is probably BEST to reserve a FULL day for enjoying Athabasca Glacier. The glacier is best explored as a day-long tour to the Columbia Icefields Parkway, located in the Canadian Rockies. 

When driving from Banff or Lake Louise towards Jasper, make a stop at the Icefield Discovery Centre. There are guided tours, with glacier walks and skywalk services to the Athabasca Glacier which you can enjoy. 

Icefields Parkway in winter
Icefield Parkway from Jasper towards Banff

Entry to the Discovery Centre is included in the park admission fees, but tours are priced separately. 

The Banff Jasper Collection tour collective offers Athabasca Glacier tours which include a trip to the Glacier and Skywalk. Tours start at $80 CAD.

You will be taken to the glacier in a special vehicle and will be allowed time on the glacial surface. 

Take pictures, walk the surface, and live the experience.

Part of your Athabasca Glacier tour includes the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, which is a glass floor, a cliff-edge walkway of 1 km (.62 mile) in length. 

Below the Skywalk glass, you can see the stunning Sunwapta Valley and experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and valleys.

If you are not keen on the Glacier tour (or visiting in the off-season), don’t worry there are plenty of natural sites that you can check out. 

First off, the Icefield Parkway is a scenic drive in itself, and the road is accessible all year round. This drive connects Banff and Jasper National Parks. 

Other than the drive, you can visit places like Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls (closer to Jasper) along the way. 

Sunwapta Falls in winter
Sunwapta Falls in winter

Plus there are TONS of things to do in Jasper National Park. 

If you are arriving in the afternoon or in broad daylight, rest assured that you will encounter some wildlife along the way. The road to Jasper National Park is lined with wildlife corridors and a delight for every outdoor lover!

On arriving in Jasper, head over to Patricia Lake. Named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, this lake is a beautiful spot to catch a sunset.

If arriving during the day, you can swim, canoe, or picnic here in the summer months. The lake has a resort with boating facilities (Patricia Lake Bungalows).

Pyramid Lake - Get the ultimate Edmonton to Jasper Itinerary and guide, with a comprehensive list of things to do in Jasper and places to visit in Jasper National Park.
Lakes at Jasper National Park

Or go snowshoeing in the winter.

From here, drive to Downtown Jasper, to check in to your hotel. This mountain town is filled with street-side cafes, bars, and restaurants. 

You will also see amazing mountain views from the lanes of downtown Jasper and your hotel room! 

We recommend staying at Connaught Drive so that you are close to restaurants and sightseeing areas. 

Girl in snowy Jasper National Park
Lodges and Cabins in Jasper National Park (Pocahontas Cabins)

Where to stay in Jasper?

  • The Crimson Jasper: The Crimson Jasper is a lovely hotel in the heart of Jasper. Restaurants and shops are located near the property, and you can also book a room with views. Check out availability here 
  • Marmot Lodge Jasper: This is a decent 3-star property in Jasper town, with hot tubs and a restaurant on site. Free parking is provided and rooms are spacious. Book your stay here
  • Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge: A little further away from Connaught Drive is the gorgeous Fairmont Jasper. You can choose from a variety of accommodations here, including spa treatments and restaurants. We enjoyed this property in the winter months, particularly around November and Christmas time. Book your stay here
  • Jasper House Bungalows: A 3 star property, close to nature and the centre, Jasper House Bungalows are a perfect abode away from home. These chalet style accommodation offers a panoramic view of the neighboring mountains and the Athabasca River valley. Check out photos here and book a stay
  • Pocahontas (or now Miette Mountain Cabins): This is a 2-star property, located about 40 minutes away from Jasper town, near Miette hot springs. We stay on the east and west end of the national park when we visit, but it surely does add a lot of driving time! Check out rooms here
  • Jasper East Cabins: Check availability here

Day 7 of 7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Jasper attractions and drive to Edmonton

Start your morning with warm waffles and coffee in downtown Jasper, and then head straight to Pyramid Lake.

Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake is a kidney-shaped lake in Jasper, Alberta. It is located less than a 10-minute drive away from the downtown area. 

The lake lies at the foothills of the Pyramid Mountain, which overlooks the town. 

View of Pyramid Island in Jasper in winter
View of Pyramid Island in Jasper in winter

Within a short distance of the lake, the popular Pyramid Lake Resort can be found. You can join a canoe tour or go kayaking at Pyramid Lake. Or hike in the summer. 

The Pyramid Lake Hike is an easy hike (5.2 km or 3.2 miles one way). It begins near the Jasper Activity Centre parking lot and ends at the end of Pyramid Lake Road. 

Parking, picnic table, accessible washrooms are located at the Pyramid Lake resort nearby.

Pyramid Island also makes for a nice stroll/light hike. During winters, this place is great for snowshoeing, dog sledding rides, and ice skating.

Jasper Skytram

The Jasper Skytram is the highest and longest tramway in Canada. On a short trip to Jasper (especially in the summer), it is a good idea to ride (7.5 minutes) the SkyTram and take in the views of the Canadian Rockies at 2,277 metres above sea level. 

Jasper Skytram - Get the ultimate Edmonton to Jasper Itinerary and guide, with a comprehensive list of things to do in Jasper and places to visit in Jasper National Park.
Jasper Skytram

You can also grab a meal at the Summit Mountain Restaurant, to celebrate your stay in the mountains, before starting for Edmonton to fly out.

There is so much to do and learn in the Skytram area that it is recommended that you allow 2-3 hours for your visit.

During the peak summer months, the Skytram opens at 8:00 a.m. 

During the fall, the Jasper Skytram opens its doors at 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. It is closed in winter. You must pay an entry fee to access the Jasper Skytram. 

After one or two nights’ stay in Jasper, you have 2 options for completing your exploration of the Canadian Rockies (and Alberta),

  • Return to Calgary from Jasper: Total driving time is 4 hours, 50 minutes.
  • Drive to Edmonton and fly out from YEG airport: Total driving time is 3 hours, 50 minutes.

Heading to Edmonton will make for a shorter ride (1 hour), and along the way, you can also cross small prairie towns of Hinton, Edson, and Entwistle (in that order)—one every hour. 

Girl in Edmonton Alberta
Explore Edmonton

If you need to stay overnight in Alberta’s capital city, you can find hotels in Edmonton Alberta.

Read: Edmonton to Jasper road trip itinerary

Canadian Rockies Itinerary 7 days: Start and end Calgary. Explore Banff, Lake Louise, and Yoho National Park (sample 2) 

Here is a second sample of the Canadian Rockies itinerary 7 days, without driving to Edmonton, or Jasper National Park. 

  • Day 1: Spend 1-3 days in Banff – Arrive in Calgary. Pick up a rental car and drive to Banff National Park
  • Day 2: Explore downtown Banff Avenue, Banff Gondola, Sulphur caves (Cave and Basin National Historic Site), Banff Upper Hot Springs, Bow Valley, Banff Park Museum National Historic Site
  • Day 3: Vermillion Lakes, Two Jack Lake, Minnewanka Lake, Canoe on Lake Minnewanka, go on short hikes, Moraine Lake
  • Day 4: 1 day in Canmore 
  • Day 5: 1 day in Lake Louise – Explore the beautiful Lake Louise, go canoeing. Hike to Agnes Tea House. Skate during winters or attend the ice festivals at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel
  • Day 6: 1 day at Yoho National Park
  • Day 7: Head to Johnston Canyon in the morning for hiking. Late afternoon/evening, head back to Calgary

The first 3 days will be similar, to the itinerary above. You will arrive in Calgary, pick up a car rental and then head to Banff. 

Explore the lakes, sightseeing gondola, and other attractions in Banff town.

On day 4 spend a whole day in Canmore and nearby areas. You can also set aside time for a hike on this itinerary.  As mentioned, Canmore is a resort town located about 20 minutes outside Banff. 

Canmore

Here is what you can explore in a day, 

  • Main Street
  • Enjoy the views of the Three Sisters 
  • Policeman’s Creek: Enjoy an easy walk on the Policeman’s Creek wooden boardwalk that runs through the creek. Stop by North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) Barracks, if you have time
  • Big Head Sculpture: Check out the sculpture of a human head, half-buried and deep in thought, located on 8th Street, on the northeast side of the bridge over Policeman’s Creek
  • Grassy Lakes Hike: This is a 3.2-km (1.98 miles) trail and is great for hikers of all levels. During summers, the waters reveal a stunning turquoise blue color. During winters, certain areas of the trail are still accessible and can be used for hiking.
  • Grotto Mountain Winter Hike: If you are visiting Canmore in the winter, you can join a 4-5 hour guided tour of the Grotto Mountains. 

Canmore has over 70 km (43.5 miles) of trails. It is a paradise for trail lovers, offering easy to difficult route levels, all of which are accessible within the town’s boundaries.

For meals, there are a ton of options in Canmore, from Mexican, Indian restaurants, coffee shops to breweries! 

On day 5, head to Lake Louise from Banff. Spend a day there and then return to Banff (your accommodation will be in Banff all throughout).

Same drill for day 6, where you will drive to Yoho National Park, and explore its highlights. 

Final day in Banff, go on a guided adventure to Johnston Canyon in the morning. Set aside 4-5 hours, and then in the later afternoon/evening start your drive back to Calgary (to fly out).

7 days in Canadian Rockies Itinerary: Banff to Jasper road trip  Explore Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper National Park (sample 3) 

Here is a third sample of the Canadian Rockies itinerary 7 days, which includes Banff and Jasper National Park, with more hiking time in both. 

  • Day 1: Arrive in Calgary. Pick up a rental car and drive to Banff National Park. Explore downtown Banff Avenue, Banff Gondola 
  • Day 2: Two Jack Lake, Minnewanka Lake, Canoe on Lake Minnewanka, go on short hikes, Moraine Lake
  • Day 3: 1 day in Lake Louise – Explore the beautiful Lake Louise, go canoeing. Hike to Agnes Tea House. 
  • Day 4: Icefield Parkway drive, arrive in Jasper National Park
  • Day 5: Explore Jasper National Park
  • Day 6: Jasper National Park
  • Day 7: Drive back to Calgary in the afternoon

In this 7 day Canadian Rockies itinerary, arrive in Calgary and after picking up car rental head to Banff town. Explore Banff downtown, grab any hiking or road trip essentials on the first day.

The next day (day 2), drive to explore the 3 lakes – Two Jack Lake, Minnewanka, and Moraine lake. Hikes in and around Moraine Lake are amazing, so spend the majority of the time there. 

Beautiful Canadian Rockies Road trip
Canadian Rockies Road trip

Spend a day in Lake Louise (day 3). You can stay overnight in Lake Louise, to make it easier for a drive the next day. 

Day four is full of scenic drives and roadside attractions. Drive on the Icefield Parkway, and plan to stop at the following spots,

  • Peyto Lake
  • Athabasca Glacier/Icefield Discovery Center
  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Arrive in Jasper by evening. Check in to your hotel

On day 5, enjoy hiking at one (or two) of the following areas in Jasper National Park,

  • Pyramid Lake/Island: Enjoy easy hikes in and around Pyramid Lake
  • Pyramid Trail: Moderate hike of 1-2 hours, part of the Jasper Connector Trails
  • Wapiti Trail: Easy hike of 2-4 hours, pet friendly and bikes are also allowed. 9.4 km or 5.4 miles trail length 
  • Edith Cavell Meadows Trail: Mount Edith Cavell is probably the MOST prominent peak within Jasper National Park. There is an Edith Cavell Meadows Trail – a 6.1 km or 3.7-mile loop trail, which is perfect for hiking and bird and nature watching
  • The Sulphur Skyline Trail: This trail offers some of the most stunning views of Jasper National Park. (Note this road is closed in the winters, and usually opens in May) 

When visiting in the winter, you can surely swap this day, for time at the Marmot Ski Basin. 

Marmot Ski Basin Jasper
Marmot Ski Basin Jasper

On day 6 of the Rockies itinerary, venture on a mini road trip to check out some of the pretty spots located away from the Jasper town centre. 

Start with the Athabasca Falls. It is located about 15-20 minutes from downtown Jasper. The waterfalls cutting through quartzite and limestone mountains create a beautiful canyon and potholes with a misty glow.

Athabasca Falls is located on the west side of the Icefields Parkway—Columbia Icefield. It receives water from the glaciers of the Icefields Parkway, making it the largest river system in Jasper National Park.

Athabasca Falls - Get the ultimate Edmonton to Jasper Itinerary and guide, with a comprehensive list of things to do in Jasper and places to visit in Jasper National Park.
Athabasca Falls

You can also enjoy hikes in and around the Falls area. 

But you don’t need to hike to check out the falls from the viewing area. A short walk along the trail to the boardwalk will take you to these majestic falls. 

Next drive to the Maligne Canyon, located about 12-15 minutes away from downtown Jasper. The canyon area contains waterfalls, underground stream outlets, birds, flora, and fauna. Hiking trails are available for all levels.

Maligne Lake road
Maligne Lake road

There is a beautiful Maligne Canyon Loop Trail, which is a 3.4 km or 2.11-mile trail along which you can see waterfalls and do some bird watching. It is great for walking and hiking and is rated at a moderate level. 

In the winter, you can enjoy an ice walk at the Maligne Canyon. 

Maligne Lake is next. This is a beautiful lake with rare turquoise waters and a small islet called Spirit Island. It is surrounded by stunning mountain peaks. 

The drive to Maligne Lake is also one of the most scenic routes in the Canadian Rockies. 

The drive starts near the town of Jasper and ends at Maligne Lake. This route is built along the glacier valley that runs between the Maligne and Elizabeth mountain ranges. 

This is why you will see stunning mountain peaks, glacier lakes, and tons of wildlife on your way.

Along the way, you can stop at Maligne Canyon and the popular Hanging Valley viewpoint.

The Hanging Valley viewpoint offers a stunning view of the Athabasca Valley, with Pyramid Mountain in the background. You can locate the lookout point at 6 kilometers along Maligne Lake Road from Highway 16.

Note: Maligne Lake accessibility is limited in the winter. The frozen lake can be viewed from Moose Lake Loop – an easy 2.60 km or 1.6-mile trail open for winter activities. Maligne Lake cruises are closed in winter, and they reopen in spring. 

The last stop for the day is Medicine Lake. It is located within Jasper National Park, about 20 km or 12 miles, southeast of the downtown area. 

Medicine Lake is shallow and forms part of the Maligne Valley watershed. It is glacier-fed.

On day 7 of the Canadian Rockies itinerary, head to the Jasper SkyTram to ride the gondola and check out exhibits and displays on the mountaintop. 

From here, you can drive to Calgary or Edmonton to fly out!

14 days in Canadian Rockies: A bonus 2 week Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary 

As promised, here is an extended highly recommended 14 day Canadian Rockies itinerary for you. This guide starts in Edmonton (where we live), and finishes in Calgary – from where you can drop off the car rental and fly out! 

  • Day 1: Arrive in Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta. Pick up a rental car, explore downtown Edmonton (Legislature Grounds, Royal Alberta Museum, etc). Stay overnight in Edmonton (2 nights)
  • Day 2: Explore more of Edmonton culinary scene, shopping, or museum visit (Strathcona, West Edmonton Mall, Muttart Conservatory, etc.)
  • Day 3: Start bright and early to explore the towns of Entwistle, Edson, and Hinton. Arrive at Jasper National Park in the evening. Stay overnight in Jasper or Hinton (5 nights)
  • Day 4: Breakfast in Jasper downtown. Head to Pyramid and Patricia lakes, canoe or snowshoe (depending on the season), Jasper SkyTram
  • Day 5: Explore Athabasca Falls, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lakes, Edith Cavell Meadows Trail 
  • Day 6: Sulphur Skyline Trail hike – 6 hours, and relax at the Miette Hot Springs (evening)
  • Day 7: Athabasca Glacier / Columbia Icefield exploration, Sunwapta Falls
  • Day 8: Drive to Lake Louise via Icefields Parkway and explore. Stay overnight in Lake Louise (2 nights)
  • Day 9: Head to Yoho National Park from Lake Louise, explore 
  • Day 10: Leave Lake Louise for Banff. Explore Banff town. Stay overnight in Banff (4-5 nights)
  • Day 11: Explore the lakes of Banff National Park – Two Jack Lake, Minnewanka Lake, and Moraine Lake
  • Day 12: Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, Cave and Basin Historic Site, and Cascade of Time Gardens in the evening
  • Day 13: Half or full-day exploration in Canmore. Go on day hikes in Canmore and the nearby Bow Valley or Spray Valley Provincial Park
  • Day 14: Head to the Johnston Canyon in the morning. Drive to Calgary, for your flight by evening

Other Canadian Rockies itineraries

A road trip to the Canadian Rockies is ideal to explore the gems of Banff National Park and nearby areas. As a first-time visitor to this part of Canada, you will be in awe of the natural beauty that exists here. 

But there are various permutations and combinations of the Canadian Rockies road trips and itineraries that you can create. Here are a few that we have enjoyed over the years,

1. Vancouver to Banff

Many travelers from the US, fly into Vancouver and then start their Canadian Rockies road trip from Jasper, making their way to Banff and Calgary (to fly out). If you are planning such a trip, here is our detailed Vancouver to Banff road trip itinerary

2. Vancouver to Jasper

This Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary starts in Vancouver and heads north to the town of Jasper. 

The drive from Vancouver to Jasper takes around nine hours, so it’s a good idea to break up the journey with a few stops along the way. There are plenty of things to see and do in Jasper, including hiking, rafting, and skiing.

3. Jasper to Banff

The drive from Jasper to Banff takes around three and a half hours. But there are many highlights along the way. So it’s a good idea to stop along and spend 2-3 days here and explore the area. 

4. Banff to Lake Louise

The drive from Banff to Lake Louise takes around an hour and a half, and this is one of the most scenic sections of the Canadian Rockies road trip. It can very well form a one-day Rockies itinerary where you explore Lake Louise, relax and enjoy the views. 

There are plenty of things to do in Lake Louise, including hiking, canoeing, and horseback riding.

5. Lake Louise to Kananaskis Country

Kananaskis Country is a beautiful area of the Canadian Rockies that offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. 

Girl in Bow Valley - Things to do in Canmore Travel Guide
Bow Valley

The drive from Lake Louise to Kananaskis Country takes around two hours, and there are plenty of lakes, falls, and provincial parks with hiking trails and picnic areas in the area.

Additional Travel Tips for your Banff, Jasper, and Canadian Rockies trip!

Here are some additional tips to help plan your trip!

Vancouver to Banff road trips
Canada road trip planning

Car rental tips: Canada road trip

Here are some quick car rental tips for the Canadian Rockies, 

  • We drive on the right side of the road. And cars are left-hand drive vehicles. So the steering wheel is on the left side of the vehicle 
  • Posted Speed Limit in Banff: 90 km/hr max. on major routes and 60 km/hr max. on secondary routes
  • Do bring in your valid driver’s license (Canadian, US, or International)
  • In order to rent a vehicle, you must be at least 21 years of age
  • We recommend getting car rental insurance

Hotel booking tips

Here are some of our TOP tips for choosing the right accommodation in Banff and nearby areas, 

Hotels in Banff (Banff Caribou)
  • Accommodation in Banff town can get quite expensive and fill up very quickly during the summer months, which are from mid-May to mid-August. We recommend booking early if planning to visit in the peak months
  • If Banff or Jasper are fully booked for the summer, or if they are expensive, try looking at sister towns like – Canmore, Kananaskis, Cochrane, Calgary, and hotels near Bow Valley Parkway (for Banff) or Hinton (for Jasper)
  • You can book/reserve a campsite in the summer months. Reservations start as early as April for bookings. Most campsites take requests on a first-come, first-served basis.

When is the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies?  

You must be wondering when you should visit the Canadian Rockies. We can help,

Summer is considered the BEST time to visit Banff and other national parks in Western Canada. During the summer months (mid-May to August), the weather is warm and the lakes are clear blue. 

Summer time in Banff Ave
Summertime in Banff Ave

Because the days are longer, visitors can explore the national parks late into the evening, stay outdoors, and go rafting, hiking, camping, etc. 

Keep in mind that this is also a busy season, so expect crowds, and expensive accommodation. Do reserve campsites, flights, and hotels ahead of time!

The next popular season is winter, which runs from November to February. If you wish to attend winter and ice festivals or go snowboarding, skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and skating, then this is the time for you! 

Banff Winter Wonderland
Banff Winter Wonderland

We personally love the fall season in the Canadian Rockies. Right after the civic holiday in September, Banff and other national parks in the Canadian Rockies slow down in terms of tourists and so you can expect fewer crowds and better hotel prices! 

Read: Detailed guide to the best time to go to Banff National Park

We hope you found our Canadian Rockies itinerary useful in planning your trip! Canada is home, and the Rockies are our loving retreat – we head there to celebrate our birthdays, anniversaries, work successes, or just to rejuvenate. 

We love the mountains, and we are sure you will too! 

If you’re interested in exploring more of our Canada guides, check some of the popular posts below

Pin: Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary: 7 to 14 days guide

Canadian Rockies road trip
Canadian Rockies trip

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