Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

por Postcards from IvI

The scenery of Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada is simply incomparable. They’re both located in the Rocky Mountains, in the province of Alberta. This post will help you plan a trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountains even if you don’t know where to start.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

Visiting Banff & Jasper National Parks was one of the reasons I chose to live in the city of Vancouver during my Working Holiday Visa in 2014. They both have stunning landscapes and it’s the dream destination for any nature lover.

Where are Banff and Jasper National Parks located

The Canadian Rockies mountain system extends almost 5000 kilometers from the province of Alberta in Canada to New México in the south of US. Banff is the most accessible park for its location, therefore it is the most popular and most visited. Jasper is a bit more far away so it is less touristy. Both sceneries are similar but each park has its own unique places to discover.

My recommendation is to visit both parks so you can drive through the route that connects both parks which is one of the most beautiful roadways, once rated one of the top 10 in the world by National Geographic.

Getting to Banff & Jasper National Parks

The best way to get to and explore Banff & Jasper National Parks is with your own car. Driving gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and stopping where you want. Traveling by motor home or camper van is also an ideal way to get around as the parks are perfectly prepared with spots where you can park your RV overnight.

For renting a car in Canada you can use, a website that compares prices of all rental companies and usually offers a lower price than by booking directly with the rental company.

The route that leads to the parks starts near Calgary, the biggest city in Alberta so one of the easiest ways is to rent a car there. But you can also drive from Vancouver and include other amazing places in your itinerary.

This is the route I took: Vancouver – Kamloops – Calgary – Banff – Jasper – Kelowna – Whistler – Vancouver. There are many other variations on the route between the west coast and the mountains depending on your time and preference.

If you can’t rent a car, this are some options to get to the parks:

    • Rocky Mountaineer: A luxury train that runs from April to October from Vancouver to Banff or Jasper. It is an incredible (expensive too) way to see the parks. You spend the nights in hotels included in the package.
    • Greyhound: Greyhound buses run between Vancouver and the mountains. They go from one main city to the next as but do not stop at scenic areas.
    • Tours: Several companies offer guided tours to the parks. If you can’t drive, taking a tour is the best option. Moose Travel offers tours from Vancouver or Banff. Other options include taking this 5 day tour from Vancouver or this full day tour from Calgary.

When is the best time to visit Banff & Jasper

Banff and Jasper National Parks

During any season the rocky mountains have stunning landscapes and different activities depending on your likes.

  • From June to September the weather is warm and it is the perfect season for hiking and other outdoor activities. This is also the season with the largest crowds and highest accommodation prices.
  • From September to October there’s less crowds and accommodation prices are cheaper.
  • From December to April the mountains are covered in snow and it’s the season for skiing and other winter sports. The closer to Christmas, the higher the prices as it’s a popular place to spend Christmas season.
  • From March to April there’s still snow but the cold isn’t as extreme as during January or February.

As you can see, you can visit the parks the entire year and the best time to visit Banff and Jasper will depend on what you like to do. I visited in July and I could perfectly enjoy outdoor activities and hiking but some popular sights like Lake Louise were really crowded.

Admission to the parks (prices updated in June 2020)

There different types of passes to enter the parks. You can get day passes, annual passes and group passes.

Admission is free for those under 17 years old. You can check out all the prices here.

Single day passes prices:

  • Adult (17-64 years old): CAD$10
  • Senior: CAD$ 8.40
  • Family/Group (up to 7 people in a vehicle): CAD$20
  • Youth (0-17): FREE

Annual passes prices:

  • Adult: CAD$69.19
  • Senior: CAD$59.17
  • Groups: CAD$139.40

How many days should you spend in the parks?

As a minimum I recommend a week. You need 3 or 4 days to see Banff’s main points of interest and another 2-3 days for Jasper’s.

Accommodation in Banff & Jasper

There are many accommodation options in both parks including hotels, hostels, houses and campings. It’s best to book your accommodation months in advance, especially if you’re travelling during summer season.

If you plan to camp, check out Parks Canada Camping Reservations. If you are looking for hotels, hostels or apartments, you can easily book them online.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

Where to stay in Banff

Where to stay in Jasper

What to see in Banff National Park

  • Banff Town

Banff town is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations. Surrounded by mountains, and close to hot springs and lakes, it is a beautiful place to stop for a night or more. In Banff you will also see the historic Banff Springs Hotel, which opened in 1888. Banff is the perfect place to start your trip, buy anything you need or stop by the information center to get some maps.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in CanadaRoad Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Bow Falls

Bow Falls are within walking distance of Banff. They have a relatively small size but it’s a pretty good place to start your visit to Banff National Park.

  • Tunnel Mountain Trail

A short hike you can take from downtown Banff that leads to a beautiful scenic vista.Totally worth the effort!

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Lake Minnewanka

Located 5 km northeast of Banff town, you can find this beautiful glacial lake. There are short trails you can take that surround the lake. If you visit in summer you will probably see a lot of animals.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in CanadaRoad Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Moraine Lake

This was definitely my favourite lake in Banff National Park. It’s blue-green colour is just breathtaking. The area around the lake has several hiking trails. You can also rent a kayak and enjoy the lake from a different perspective. MUST VISIT.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Lake Louise

Lake Louise is home to the famous Fairmont Château, a magical hotel located on the eastern shore of the lake with unique views of the lake. Lake Louise is one of the most popular lakes on the region and it can get overcrowded in summer, so I suggest to get there early. It is a beautiful spot, with incredible turquoise waters. In winter the lake is used for ice fishing and ice skating.Roadtrip: Banff and Jasper National Parks

  • Peyto Lake

A glacier-fed lake with an incredible bluish color. You can hike to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint which offers stunning views of Peyto Lake.

  • Icefields Parkway

Highway 93 (Icefields Parkway) connects Lake Louise with Jasper to the north.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

This crossing structures serve as safe crossings for wildlife in the parks

What to see in Jasper National Park

  • Columbia Icefield

The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. One of its most important glaciers is Athabasca Glacier which is easily accessible, and the most visited glacier in North America. You can take this tour from Jasper to explore the glacier.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Glacier Skywalk

Glacier Skywalk is a glass platform offering a unique (and vertiginous) views of the mountain peak. The experience begins with a five-minute transfer from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre.

Click here to buy your tickets to Glacier Skywalk

  • Jasper town

Jasper is a small mountain town located in the Athabasca River valley. It is more rustic and smaller than Banff but also beautiful and less touristy. There aren’t many things to do in the town but it is the place where you can stop to buy anything you might need, stay for a night or visit the information center. If you’re visiting in summer, book your hotel in advance or you will end up sleeping in the car like me! LOL.

  • Pyramid and Patricia Lakes

These lakes aren’t so interesting compared to the rest but they are close to Jasper Town and they are perfect to relax and take in the views.

  • Maligne Canyon

Near Jasper townsite, you can find this canyon which measures over 50 metres deep. A short hike goes to the upper reaches of the canyon. If you plan on visiting Maligne Lake you should definitely save some time and stop at Maligne Canyon.

If you have the opportunity to visit Jasper National Park in winter you can take this 3 hour tour and walk into the canyon to see frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and ancient fossils.

  • Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies and it’s definitely one of the most beautiful lakes in Canada. Surrounded by peaks, this lake is famed for the colour of its water and Spirit Island.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Miette Hot Springs

One of the highlights of visiting the Canadian Rockies is going to the hot springs. I visited the Miette Hot Springs which are located approximately 60 kilometres (37 miles) east of Jasper. It is perfect to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

Other hot springs options are visiting Banff Upper Hot Springs or Radium Hot Springs. Find more information here.

Some useful tips for visiting Banff & Jasper National Parks:

  • Respect the wildlife: Do not feed, touch or approach wildlife.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

  • Hiking: Check the weather forecast, carry bear spray, bring enough water, wear the suitable clothing and shoes, hike in groups, do not feed or touch wildlife. Make noise, it prevents sudden bear encounters.
  • Bears: If you visit the parks during summer season it is likely that you see bears. The Mountain National Parks are home to both grizzly and black bears. It is important that you read about the safety tips to prevent having an encounter. Follow the safety tips provided by Parks Canada.

Road Trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks in Canada

Are you also visiting Vancouver Island? Check out why you should go camping on Vancouver Island

I hope this post has helped you plan your trip to Banff & Jasper National Parks. If you have any other questions please feel free to email me or leave a comment below.

This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read more about it here.

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Franca Whyte December 14, 2019 - 1:29 pm

This article is very accurate and relevant

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jen May 7, 2016 - 3:08 am

Wow – What a beautiful place! Time for a road trip!

Postcards from IvI January 11, 2017 - 9:48 pm

It is Jen!

Richard May 5, 2016 - 1:16 pm

Went there in Autumn 2012 and now, people ask me where to go and whether to go on the Rail trip from Vancouver. Although being a train admirer, I think Banff & Jasper is best done by car from Vancouver or Calgary (we did Vancouver) as you can stop anywhere, get out of the car and explore – just as you have done. Thanks for bringing back memories

Postcards from IvI January 11, 2017 - 9:50 pm

Thank you Richard! I agree, I like the freedom of stopping anywhere you like although the train must be an amazing experience too.

Nolan Hubbartt April 6, 2016 - 1:11 pm

So nice of you to share your perspective. Thank you!

Postcards from IvI January 11, 2017 - 9:51 pm

Thank you Nolan!

Len Schlossberg February 16, 2016 - 7:18 am

inspired me to get my own, personal website now

Postcards from IvI January 11, 2017 - 9:52 pm

That’s great Len!

Sarah January 28, 2016 - 3:40 pm

Love this. My friends are going to Vancouver for their honeymoon but totally think they should head north to Banff. Sending to them!

Postcards from IvI January 11, 2017 - 9:53 pm

Great Sarah! Hope they made it to Banff too

Mary January 22, 2016 - 2:58 am

The last time I was in Banff I was just a tiny child!! It’s so beautiful out there – did you get to see the guy with the massive horn near Lake Louise?

Postcards from IvI January 11, 2017 - 9:54 pm

Oh I didn’t know about that guy! Totally missed it, I’ll have to go back 😀

Danielle Des January 22, 2016 - 12:18 am

Wow! The water is so blue!

Kelly Ella Maz January 21, 2016 - 4:11 pm

I’m planning a trip to Banff and your pics gave me so much inspo!! Thanks

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 4:33 pm

Kelly, I’m glad it did! Enjoy it for me 🙂

Janna (@jannaonajaunt) January 21, 2016 - 9:44 am

Moraine Lake and Lake Louise looks so damn beautiful! Wish I can go this year! thanks for sharing!

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 1:39 pm

Hope you can visit Janna! 🙂

Brenda January 21, 2016 - 3:15 am

Definitely loved the views!
Thanks a lot for sharing this story!

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 1:40 pm

Thanks for visiting Brenda! 🙂

Victoria | Girl Tries Life January 21, 2016 - 2:14 am

I live in Calgary and am ashamed to say that I’ve never visited Jasper! I am going to right that wrong this year, however, and will definitely visit Maligne Canyon and lake.

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 2:28 am

Jasper is beautiful, you should visit! I visited Calgary for the stampede on 2014, crazy!

Toni January 21, 2016 - 1:38 am

This bought back all my memories of my time there! I can’t wait to go back! Such pretty places!

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 2:30 am

I’m glad 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

Mary January 21, 2016 - 1:29 am

The last time I was in Banff and Jasper I was a wee kid!! Gorgeous photos – is the guy with the large horn still at Lake Louise? 😛

Laura @ Grassroots Nomad January 21, 2016 - 1:13 am

Stunning! I have a work visa for Canada and am planning on moving at the end of the year – maybe I should try to find a job in Vancouver so I can be close to Banff!
That squirrel photo kills me! He is hilarious!!!

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 2:34 am

Haha yes he is! Vancouver is such a beautiful city.. I lived there for 7 months with my work visa. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions 🙂

kate January 21, 2016 - 1:02 am

The expressions on the Elk’s faces are hilarious. Your photos are stunning.

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 2:38 am

Haha they are, right? Thank you! 🙂

Aimee January 21, 2016 - 12:36 am

So many great photos. I live in Whistler at the moment and will definitely be planning a trip to Banff & surrounding areas in the next few weeks. Will be sure to check out all the places in this post 🙂

Postcards from IvI January 21, 2016 - 2:40 am

Ohhh Whistler is so beautiful as well. Missing Canada! Make sure you check out Moraine Lake 😀

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