Welcome to western Canada, chock-full of spectacular national parks and diverse wildlife. This five-day road trip starts in Calgary as you set off for Banff National Park through the Canadian Rockies. Immerse yourself in nature as you explore the park and its glacially-fed lakes before visiting the ancient Athabasca Glacier. Then it's on to Jasper National Park, where you'll base yourself in the charming mountain town of Jasper for hiking, wildlife spotting, and a boat trip to the famous Spirit Island.


  • Explore two of western Canada's greatest national parks
  • Learn about the history of Banff at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site
  • Visit the clear glacial waters of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise
  • Walk across the ancient Athabasca Glacier along the Icefields Parkway

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Calgary, Drive to Banff Through the Canadian Rockies Banff
Day 2 Tour Banff National Park & Visit Lake Louise Banff
Day 3 Drive to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway & the Athabasca Glacier Jasper
Day 4 Explore Jasper National Park's Hot Springs, Lakes & Waterfalls Jasper
Day 5 Drive to Edmonton, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Calgary, Drive to Banff Through the Canadian Rockies

Bow Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies

Welcome to Alberta, renowned for its remarkable natural scenery and mountainous landscapes. Upon arrival, you'll collect your rental car and start your journey into the Canadian Rockies, where you can enjoy incredible wildlife, breathtaking scenery, hiking and cycling trails, and many outdoor activities. See if you can spot the grazing elk, black and brown bears, and mountain goats that regularly frequent this area before stopping to admire the waterfalls of the Bow River, which flows through the national park. You'll also have time to climb Tunnel Mountain, an easy 2.8-mile (4.5 km) out-and-back trail with amazing panoramic views from the summit.

Once you've arrived in the small town of Banff, you'll have some spare time to get to know your surroundings. Wander down the lively shop-lined streets or ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for a bird's eye view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Maybe even stop for a bite to eat at Sky Bistro at the summit for a local meal paired with epic views.

Day 2: Tour Banff National Park & Visit Lake Louise

Keep an eye out for wildlife on today's tour of Banff National Park

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Today's half-day private tour begins with an experienced guide introducing you to Banff, taking you through the town's charming streets and providing historical and cultural insights as you set off into Banff National Park. You'll visit key landmarks, including Bow Falls, the Hoodoos, Lake Minnewanka, and the dazzling views at the Surprise Corner. On the way, you'll also soak up the mountain vistas and learn about the plentiful resident wildlife.

After lunch, continue to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the oldest natural history museum in western Canada, where you can learn about the area's geological history and discover the fascinating history of the national park. The tour ends with a stop at the majestic Bow Valley Parkway, allowing you time to take in the sweeping views of the Rockies and the Bow River Valley

After the tour, you still have half a day to make the most of, so continue your exploration of Banff National Park with a visit to Moraine Lake, a glacially-fed lake named after the moraines deposited by the Wenkchemna Glacier. Then, it's on to one of the park's must-see highlights: Lake Louise. Considered one of the most beautiful spots on earth, its turquoise waters and reflective views of the Victoria Glacier are recognizable all over the world. Take your time exploring the area on foot, or stop for lunch with a view at the Fairmont Lake Louise before returning to Banff in the afternoon.

Day 3: Drive to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway & the Athabasca Glacier

Hop on board the Ice Explorer to experience an ancient glacier up close

Continue your exploration of the Rockies with a drive from Banff to Jasper along the magnificent Icefields Parkway, a 144-mile (232 km) stretch of highway and one of the most beautiful drives in the world. You'll stop along the way to hop on a specially-built, all-terrain Ice Explorer vehicle for a quick trip up the Athabasca Glacier, a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice between towering mountain peaks.

After exploring the ancient Athabasca Glacier, get back on the road and pass more soaring mountains and glaciers before reaching Jasper National Park, where you'll spend the night. Keep your eyes peeled for the commonly-spotted bighorn sheep, elk, deer, moose, and black bears along the way. After settling in at your accommodations, spend some time getting to know the small town of Jasper, situated in the middle of the Rockies. It's an excellent destination for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, climbing, wildlife watching, and more.

Day 4: Discover Jasper National Park's Hot Springs, Lakes & Waterfalls

Spirit Island in Jasper National Park

On day four, you'll explore The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jasper National Park, the largest Canadian national park in the Rocky Mountains, covering over 4,200 square miles (10,878 sq km). It shelters the great glaciers of the Columbia Icefield and countless hot springs, lakes, and waterfalls. 

Start with a visit to Maligne Lake, where you can hop on a boat to visit the famous Spirit Island, which is only accessible by boat. This landmark is one of the most famous and photographed spots in the Rocky Mountains. Other highlights include Maligne Canyon, the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, Athabasca Falls, and Sunwapta Falls, less popular than the former. You could also ride on the Jasper Tramway to the summit of Mount Whistler (which owes its name to the whistling of its many resident marmots).

If you're an enthusiastic hiker, lace up your boots, grab a map at the visitor center in town, and set off on one of the many hikes in Jasper National Park, where you're likely to have your own corner of wilderness to explore. Some of the most popular trails are The Valley of Five Lakes, Bald Hills, and Sulphur Skyline.

Day 5: Drive to Edmonton, Depart

Begin your journey back to Edmonton ready to depart your flight back home

Enjoy a final morning amid the blue skies and clear mountain air of Jasper. When the time comes, you'll get back on the road for the 3.5-hour scenic drive from Jasper to Edmonton airport to drop off your rental car before your departing flight. Safe travels!

More Great Canada Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Canada? Check out these other Canadian itineraries, explore different ways to spend five days in Canada, or learn about the best time to visit Canada.


Map of Explore Canada's National Parks: Banff & Jasper - 5 Days
Map of Explore Canada's National Parks: Banff & Jasper - 5 Days