Icefields Parkway (Hwy. 93) crosses Banff and Jasper national parks. The scenic highway parallels the Continental Divide for 230 kilometres (143 mi.) between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper, passing through a breathtaking landscape of snowcapped mountains, waterfalls, lakes and rivers. The park's most visited sights are either along the parkway or just a short distance from it. Driving this spectacular route—roughly a 3-hour trip one way—is an experience you shouldn't miss.
The parkway gets its chilly name from the vast bodies of ice you can see along its length, the most impressive being the massive Columbia Icefield, source of eight glaciers including the Athabasca Glacier, which is within walking distance of the parkway just inside Jasper National Park. For an up-close look at the glacier, climb aboard a specially designed Ice Explorer snowcoach departing from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre for a narrated excursion and walk out onto the glacier's frozen surface.
There are too many scenic overlooks and turnouts along the parkway to name, but some of the most outstanding include Bow Glacier, Peyto Lake from Bow Summit and Saskatchewan River Crossing, where several display panels explain the history of the Howse Pass and the fur trade. Farther north are viewpoints taking in the Weeping Wall, Bridal Veil Falls and Cirrus Mountain.
Many turnouts also serve as trailheads for day hikes to even more panoramas. One of the best: Parker Ridge just south of Banff's northern boundary. The trail leads up to a fantastic vista encompassing a narrow river valley with the Saskatchewan Glacier at one end. In Jasper National Park, you can enjoy amazing views at Wilcox Pass or Tangle Falls right from the parkway, and both Sunwapta and Athabasca falls are just a short drive off the main road. Popular viewpoints are Stutfield Glacier and Athabasca Pass, where interpretive panels explain the national importance of this remote location.
Note: Drivers should be alert for slow or stopped vehicles and animals. Snow tires and/or chains are mandatory in winter; check 511 Alberta for weather and road conditions.