A Complete 6-Day Summer Itinerary for the Canadian Rockies: Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and the Icefields Parkway

A perfect itinerary in the Canadian Rockies absolutely must include visiting Banff and Jasper National Parks. And if you’re already going to be in both of those locations, it would be a mistake not to go to Yoho National Park or discover what the Icefields Parkway has to offer as well. The only issue with having all of these great places in the same area, is that it can be overwhelming if you are trying to plan on seeing everything within the confines of a single week! This itinerary manages to do just that, though. And that means that instead of stressing out about the plan, you can use this as an outline for your own trip and then focus all of your energy on hiking, taking in the views, and enjoying what the parks have to offer.

To follow this itinerary exactly, you’ll need to have a rental car and to start in Banff.

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Day 1 – Banff to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway

  • By 9:30am, fill the tank up with gas, grab a lunch to eat on the road, purchase/rent some bear spray, and hit the road
  • Explore the Icefields Parkway, stopping at these locations:
    • Herbert Lake: right off the road, can walk around the lake or swim if you want (~10am)
    • Peyto Lake: ~10-minute walk from the parking lot to the main lookout point (~11am)
    • Mistaya Canyon: ~10-minute walk from the parking lot (~12:30pm)
    • Around 3pm Tour of the Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefield, and the Glacier Skywalk: book tickets in advance and leave from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Center
    • Sunwapta Falls: trail to the lower falls and back is ~1.6 miles roundtrip (~6:30)
  • Check into your hotel in Jasper, and grab dinner downtown
  • Go stargazing at the Jasper Planetarium at 11pm
    • World’s largest accessible dark sky preserve
    • Meet in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, but bring a jacket because you’ll be outside for the telescope experience and it’s usually chilly at night

Day 2 – Check out Jasper National Park

  • 9:30am: Learn about the local flora on the Warrier Women Plant Walk, Make, and Take
  • 11am: Grab lunch in the town of Jasper and get a beaver tail for dessert
  • 12:30pm: Take the Jasper Sky Tram, and then hike up to Whistler’s Summit
    • You have to book a return time when you purchase your ticket up, but if you’re ready to go back down sooner you can typically swap for an earlier return time at the top station
  • 3:30pm: Drive to Maligne Canyon and walk through the bridges
    • All the way to the 6th bridge is a ~6-hour excursion. This itinerary just accounts for going to the 4th bridge and back, which is a more popular option and takes closer to 2 hours.
  • 6:30: Take the Peak-Nic tour for a backcountry dinner with a view
    • A guide will take you up Old Fort Point and help you prepare a backcountry meal with equipment you carried up on the top of the mountain!
  • 9-11pm: Go out to Pyramid Lake to watch the sunset
    • During the summer, sunset isn’t until close to 10pm
    • Pyramid Lake is also said to be an excellent spot for stargazing
    • Make a reservation in advance

Day 3 – See More of the Icefields Parkway and Start Checking Out the Sites in Banff

  • By 9am, grab some more food for the road if you’ve run out and want to picnic along the Icefields Parkway and make sure to fill up the gas tank again before you go
  • 9:30am: Hike the Valley of the 5 Lakes Trail
    • About 3 miles long, and will take 1-2 hours
  • Around 11:30am: Visit Athabasca Falls
    • Short 0.5-mile trail to different viewpoints around the falls
    • This is a really popular stop on the Parkway so the earlier you can get here to avoid the tour buses and crowds, the better
  • At 3 or 4pm when you’re back in Banff, go to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to learn about the birth of Banff National Park
    • Open 11am-5pm Thursday through Monday. If Day 2 is a Tuesday or Wednesday, visit on day 3 or 4 instead
    • If you purchased a Discover Pass for your trip, bring it to the ticket counter so that you get in for FREE
  • 4:30pm: Walk around the Cascade of Time Garden
  • 5pm: Go to Johnson Lake
    • Swim with the locals, or take a stroll around the lake on the Johnson Lake Loop (~1.9-mile trail)
  • Around 7pm: Relax and soak in the views at Cascade Ponds
    • Perfect place for a takeout or picnic dinner
  • Shop for souvenirs along Banff Avenue or stop by one of the breweries for a drink

 Day 4 – See More of Banff National Park

  • By 8:30am, get to Johnston Canyon early enough to beat most of the crowds
    • After hiking through Johnston Canyon and seeing the upper and lower falls, continue on to the Ink Pots (~2 miles past upper falls)
  • Around 1pm, once you get back to the town of Banff, get takeout or pack a picnic for lunch and enjoy it at Mt. Norquay Viewpoint
  • 3pm: Take the Banff gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain
  • 5pm: Walk or drive to Bow Falls and stroll along the river
  • Grab dinner in downtown Banff

Day 5 – Discover Moraine Lake and Lake Louise

  • By 10am, eat a hearty breakfast/lunch before you head to Moraine Lake for a while
  • Spend the day (from ~11am to 5pm) at Moraine Lake:
    • Walk up the rockpile trail overlooking the lake for the classic view, formerly on the Canadian $20 bill
    • Rent Canoes by the hour to go out on the lake and join the “Moraine Lake Canoe Club”
    • Take the Consolation Lakes hike (~8km round trip trail that leads to another lake in the area)
    • Walk along the lakeshore using the Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail
  • 5:30pm: Go to accommodations for the night near Lake Louise and eat dinner there
    • I highly recommend a 1-night stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so that you can enjoy it the area without worrying about transportation and take a walk along Lake Louise at sunset

Day 6 – Finish Off the Trip at Lake Louise and Yoho National Park

  • By 9am, start hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House (7.6 km round trip)
    • Have tea and a light brunch/lunch at the tea house
  • Around noon, canoe on Lake Louise
    • Canoe rentals are for 1 hour
    • If you stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, you can go in an expedited line and don’t really need to worry about the crowds for canoeing. If you didn’t, you probably want to swap the order of canoeing and going to the Lake Agnes Tea House so you can be at the front of the line when the boathouse opens at 8:30am.
  • 1pm: Leave Lake Louise and visit Yoho National Park on the way back to Banff
    • Stop at the Natural Bridge
    • Hang out at Emerald Lake 
      • Wear your bathing suit and be ready to go for a swim in the lake!
    • Visit Takakkaw Falls (short walk from the parking lot to the falls)

A printable version of this itinerary is here.

Other Tips and Tricks

Some days look more packed than others on this itinerary, but the more strenuous hikes are on the days with fewer activities planned, so that every day is pretty much filled to capacity!

Because everything is spread out among multiple parks and difficult-to-get-to areas (in the cases of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake), the best plan is to stay in various hotels throughout the week. Here are some of the places I recommend:

Mount Robson Inn – This hotel is on the main drag that goes through downtown Jasper, so it’s a great central location for exploring the town and the park. It also has a ton of different room size options, 2 hot tubs, and a large breakfast spread! A trip to Jasper can be kind of pricey, so a full breakfast is a huge perk.

Pyramid Lake Resort – Another great option in Jasper with a hot tub is the Pyramid Lake Resort. It’s only about 4 miles from downtown, but (as the name indicates) is on Pyramid Lake, for a backdrop that is more memorable and unique to Jasper National Park. With so many things to see during your trip to Jasper, it’s nice to have instant access from your hotel to the canoeing, fishing, and hiking at the lake.

The Juniper Hotel – The Juniper Hotel is right down the road from downtown Banff, which makes it easy to get to or from your hotel when exploring other parts of the park. The free shuttle offered to and from downtown, or the bike rentals that they offer, make sure that you don’t miss out on anything during your stay though! Their restaurant is known to have excellent breakfast and they also have a hot tub, outdoor fireplace, gardens, and outdoor seating available for all guests.

Elk + Avenue Hotel – This hotel is right downtown, on Banff Avenue! In addition to being in the heart of Banff, the hotel offers parking in an underground garage right around the corner, has a sought-after restaurant on-site, sauna and hot tub available for guests, and nice, spacious rooms. You’ll obviously pay a premium for the location, but it can be worth it for a few nights of your trip.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – For extreme luxury, check out the Fairmont Chateau of Lake Louise! During peak season, you’ll pay upwards of $1000/night because it is the only hotel available on Lake Louise, but guests at the Fairmont have exclusive access that makes it worth splurging for 1 night. You get a guaranteed spot for your rental car there, access to a bathroom without a huge line during your stay, access to the pool and fitness center, gorgeous panoramic views from the rooms, and a much shorter line than everyone else with discounted rates for canoeing on the lake. If possible, staying here one night is highly recommended. 

Entry is free to each of the individual lakes and parks listed in the itinerary, but you must purchase a Canadian Park Pass to get to the Icefields Parkway, Banff, Jasper, or any other National Park in Canada. When you go to buy your pass before your trip, you can enter the details of your visit into the park pass website, and they will suggest either day passes, or a “discovery pass” that’s good for a year, to get you the best value. For a trip 7 days or longer, the discovery pass will be the better choice.

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