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The drive from Banff to Jasper is only 288 kilometers along the Icefields Parkway and is one of Canada’s most scenic drives. Sharp peaks, hanging glaciers, turquoise lakes, waterfalls, and the massive Athabasca Glacier line the trail and tend to turn what is normally a 3.5-hour nonstop drive into an all-day road trip.
There are a variety of transportation options available including self-service, tours, transfers, and private guided transfers. The ride itself is relatively easy along well-marked and maintained roads; however, this is mountain driving, so be prepared for all kinds of weather, even in the height of summer. Also, be on the lookout for “bear jams.” These occur when animals appear on the side of the road and drivers stop to take a look.
If you want to spend time stopping for random hiking or sightseeing, it’s best to drive this route yourself. If you prefer to sit back and let someone else do the driving, and stop at some of the highlights, tours are a great option. Below are the best ways to get from Banff to Jasper.
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1. From Banff to Jasper by car
Although the mileage from Banff to Jasper is relatively low, allow for a full day of travel. The plethora of incredible views along this stretch of road make driving straight up almost impossible. The lure of stunning alpine lakes washing against the shores of massive mountains will have you stopping to gaze in awe in no time.
As you leave Banff and head west, you’ll pass the turnoff to world-famous Lake Louise, where you’ll find not only the lake itself, but great hiking trails. At this point, you decided to explore the area, camp or spend the night in the Fairmont Castle Lake Louise.
Assuming you continue, continue straight west on the Trans Canada Highway until you reach the northbound turnoff for Highway 93, also known as the Icefields Parkway. Pick up a map at the park entrance and take note of the mile markers, all key sights are referenced to these numbers.
You will start a slow and steady ascent from the gates. Your first stop is likely to be at the impressive arch lake. A large turnout and parking area provides incredible views across the lake to Crowfoot Glacier. Proceed up a steeper ascent and be sure to get out and check Peyto Lake, shining like an aquamarine jewel.
Continue forward and up past the hiking and camping signs until you finally reach the Athabasca Glacier Visitor Center. Grab a bite or coffee and then walk to the foot of the glacier. Or, if you prefer, a three-hour ride to the top of the glacier in a Guided Glacier Hike.
After the glacier, the road winds and turns for a while and straightens out as it descends towards the town of Jasper, passing several impressive waterfalls along the way, including the beautiful tangle falls. Finding Jasper is easy, the highway continues into downtown Jasper where you will find hotels and restaurants.
2. From Banff to Jasper on Tour
One of the best reasons to take a Banff to Jasper Ida Excursion it is the knowledge and insight that your guide will provide. All you need to do is show up at the agreed time and be prepared to be transported to the best views this route has to offer.
Another big reason to tour is that parking is an issue. The lots are small and fill up fast, and once they’re full, no more entries are allowed. In the summer, you more than likely won’t be able to get into Lake Louise, and especially Moraine Lake, if you arrive after 9 a.m. Taking a tour helps you beat the congestion and guarantees entry.
Tourist transportation is done in a modern coach with large windows that allow you to see the mountains above. The fully guided tour stops at six of the most spectacular locations in Banff and Jasper National Parks. These include: Lake Louise, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Columbia Icefields, Weeping Wall, and Athabasca Falls.
One of the highlights of the tour is the four-hour stop at the Colombian Ice Fields, where you can walk on the surface of the glacier and also venture out on the Glacier Skywalk. Your adventure is likely to whet your appetite; Fortunately, a picnic lunch is provided with this tour, and one of the highlights is al fresco dining with mountain views as your backdrop.
3. From Banff to Jasper by shuttle
If you’re only interested in getting from Banff to Jasper and aren’t looking to sightsee along the way, a shuttle is the quickest and cheapest option. Transportation services run between Banff and Lake Louise regularly, providing an easy and affordable way to get between the two locations.
Transfers pick you up at your hotel in Banff and drop you off at your chosen hotel in Jasper. A range of operators offer this service, including SunDog Transport Connector Y Excursions in Banff. Note that these are shuttle buses only, not tours – they don’t stop at all the scenic stops like the tours mentioned above.
4. From Banff to Jasper in private luxury transportation with a guide
If your budget allows it, the most luxurious way to get from Banff to Jasper is to hire a private transfer service from Excursions in Banff. You will be transported in a high-end vehicle, usually a large SUV, and you decide the route and the stops. A driver and guide are provided, along with hotel pickup and drop-off, water, and snacks.
Not only will you see the best sights at your own pace, but you’ll also gain insight and insight from your friendly local guide. Your luxury transportation service will ensure you access to all the sights and even take you to some secret scenic spots exclusive to the locals.
You will arrive rested and relaxed at your final destination.