In August 2023, I went on a 10-day adventure through the Canadian Rockies with my fiancé Mike and his parents Denise and Joe. We spent four days in Banff, one day driving the Icefields Parkway, three days in Jasper, and one travel day on each end. This area is one of the most beautiful locations in the world. This is my second time here, and I’m sure it won’t be my last! I hope this post is helpful if you are planning a similar Canadian Rockies trip.


I’ve included our general itinerary for the ten-day trip below. You can read my individual blog posts on the separate areas for much more detail and lots of photos!


We flew from Atlanta to Calgary on our first night and stayed at the Marriott in the Calgary airport. Depending on flights, you could do it this way or fly earlier in the day and go ahead and drive to Banff. The drive from Calgary to Banff is 1.5 hours.


We rented our car from the Calgary airport this morning and headed straight to Banff. After a 1.5 hour drive, we arrived at the Banff gondola.

Banff Gondola

After circling the packed parking lot for about 15 minutes, we finally got a spot and arrived in line at 10:45am for our gondola ticket time. After a short wait in line, we boarded the gondola and took the eight-minute journey to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The views kept getting better and better as we climbed. We walked on the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk along the top, which is about 0.4 miles long and ends at Sanson Peak. We had tickets to take the gondola back down at 12:10pm, but we were ready a little sooner than that, so we headed down early. From the gondola, we drove about ten minutes into town.

Downtown Banff

We spent the afternoon having lunch at Park Distillery and souvenir shopping downtown. There are lots of shops and restaurants to choose from!

Bow Falls Trail

Next, it was time to walk off some of our lunch along the Bow Falls trail, just south of downtown. The trail goes from the pedestrian bridge at the southern edge of the downtown area and crosses the Bow River. The 0.6 mile trail heads south and ends at the Bow Falls viewpoint. There was an outdoor art exhibit set up along the trail while we were there, featuring over 65 displays.


After Banff, we checked into our Airbnb in Canmore, got settled, and then ate dinner at The Wood Restaurant. Dinner was delicious and the view from their patio was amazing! It was a great first day.


Our Saturday was spent checking out some sites in Banff National Park.

Lake Minnewanka

We arrived at the lake at 8:30am. Our tour boat left at 9am and was on the water for one hour. The lake and surrounding mountains are very pretty.

Rundle Forebay Reservoir

This trail in Canmore is very flat and easy and is about 1.3 miles each way. For a Saturday with beautiful weather, I was shocked that we only encountered one other group on the trail while we were there. There were several kayaks and paddle boards out on the water. This would be a perfect spot for it!

Horseback Ride

Our main activity for the evening was horseback riding with Banff Trail Riders. We arrived at the stables at 4:30pm for our 5pm ride. Mike, Joe, and I all went horseback riding, and Denise chose to ride on their covered wagon. It was about a one hour ride to the location for dinner. The scenery along the way was gorgeous! We arrived at the dinner site and they took our orders for how we wanted our steak cooked. Shortly after, we received our food and it was delicious. On the way back, we took a different route that was even more beautiful than the way there. We really enjoyed this horseback ride!

Vermillion Lakes

After we departed from the stables around 8pm, we were only about ten minutes from Vermillion Lakes, a spot well-known for its sunset views. It was perfect timing since sunset was at 9pm. There were several other people there when we arrived (one guy was even swimming), and we waited our turn to walk out on the dock and take some pictures. A perfect end to the day!


Our third day was spent in Yoho National Park and the town of Golden, which is about 1.5 hours from Banff. 

Emerald Lake Hike

Our next stop is probably the most popular spot in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake. The lake is accurately named – it’s very green! There is an easy 3.5 mile trail that goes all the way around the lake. 

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge is close to Emerald Lake, only a ten-minute drive back in the direction you came from. It’s a quick walk from the parking lot, but really cool. The “bridge” is a rock formation that was once a waterfall, but the rock eroded away, creating a hole in the formation. Definitely worth stopping at to see if you are going to Emerald Lake. We ate our packed lunches we’d brought here before continuing onto Golden.

Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre

I’d come across the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre in my research and thought it sounded interesting. This is an educational facility that promotes wolf conservation. For $15 you can see the wolves and take an interpretive tour. There are several wolves there in their large enclosures. A few of them were not up for being seen, but we got to see the rest lying around and even pacing back and forth when their human mom walked by. I thought it was a nice spot and learned lots of interesting facts about wolves.

Golden Skybridge

Our last stop on the day trip was to the Golden Skybridge. There are several activities you can do here including a zipline over the canyon, a mountain coaster, a ropes course, a canyon swing, and the biggest attractions are the two sky bridges that span across the 426 foot canyon.  The park was designed to be a one-way loop, and you must walk the entire thing to get to any of the activities. The first skybridge was way scarier than I thought it would be. It sways a little and bounces when people near you are walking. Fortunately, the steel wires on the sides of the bridge come up to about shoulder height and would make it nearly impossible to fall off. After you cross the first bridge, you do have to cross the second bridge to get back. Since we knew what to expect, the second one was a little easier to cross. It was really cool watching the zipliners fly by overhead as we walked across. 

Moraine Lake 

On our way back from Golden, we stopped at Moraine Lake, which is about halfway between Golden and Canmore. I would’ve normally planned to go to Moraine Lake the same day that we were going to Lake Louise. Our shuttle tickets to get to Moraine Lake were for any time between 5 and 6pm. The shuttle ride took about 25 minutes each way. When we arrived, we headed straight for the trail that goes up the rockpile. The color of Moraine Lake is the bluest you can imagine! There’s really nowhere quite like it. We spent a little time taking pictures at the top of the rockpile and then down along the shore as well. We boarded the shuttle back to our car. 

Eat at Outpost Pub 

We were all very hungry at this point, and wanted to get something to eat nearby. We found Outpost Pub, a pub-style restaurant in the Post hotel in the Lake Louise area. All four of us ordered burgers and they were great.


On our last full day in Banff, our top priority was seeing Lake Louise. 

Lake Louise

By the time we got our packs ready and everyone had visited the bathrooms, we got down to the lake shore around 7am. The sun was rising but the lake was still relatively dark and quiet, compared to what it would be like in a couple hours. 

Mike, Joe, and I would be hiking up to Little Beehive, which is a moderately strenuous 5.5 mile round trip hike. Denise was not comfortable doing that big of a hike, so she walked along the lakeshore trail and then hung out at the Fairmont Lake Louise while she waited on us to finish our hike.

The hike to Little Beehive is gorgeous! I couldn’t believe how amazing the view was! You could see all of Lake Louise, the Fairmont, and the mountains surrounding us. It was a tough hike, but it felt so good to conquer it. I highly recommend this hike!

Bow Valley Parkway

On our drive back to Canmore, we drove the Bow Valley Parkway. This scenic road is known for its wildlife sightings and many pretty stops along the way. We didn’t see any wildlife here, but we stopped at Morant’s Curve and saw a train on the tracks.

Relax and have dinner at Airbnb

We arrived back at our Airbnb just in time to have a late lunch. It was nice to do a couple loads of laundry and pack up our things before heading out the next morning. We made dinner at the Airbnb so we didn’t have to go anywhere and could just chill. Everyone was exhausted and it was the perfect night in the trip to stay home. Our next day would be a big one!


The Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world, lies between Banff and Jasper, Canada. We completed most of our stops on our way from Banff to Jasper on this day.

Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is a must-see, and was our first stop of the day. This is probably my favorite lake in this area. It’s an extremely blue glacier-fed lake and is shaped like a wolf’s head! I also love it because there is a lesser-known path that takes you to an area away from most of the tourists and lets you enjoy the view in peace. 

Jasper National Park Icefield Information Center 

Our next stop was another hour’s drive north of Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefields. This is where we would be spending a good chunk of our day. There is a really nice facility that has a restaurant, lodge, souvenir shop, restrooms, and is the starting point for a couple activities we’d be doing. The restaurant was pretty expensive, so we had picked up sandwiches from Subway that morning to eat. There were several picnic tables outside. We ate our sandwiches outside and enjoyed the view. We then checked out the souvenir shop and restrooms before joining our first tour activity.

Columbia Icefields Glacier Experience 

The two activities we’d be doing at the Columbia Icefields are part of the Pursuit Pass we had. We had tickets for the glacier experience at 12:15pm, so we joined the line about ten minutes before that. After a quick wait, they boarded us onto a bus to get to the edge of the glacier. It was a short drive over, and then they transferred us to the huge all-terrain vehicle that would be driving us onto the glacier. When we got to our destination on the glacier, we all got out and shuffled around on the ice to take some pictures. We really enjoyed this activity. They took us back to the visitor center and loaded us up on another bus to get to the skywalk.

Columbia Icefields Skywalk

The drive to the skywalk is about 10 minutes north. We arrived and they let us wander the site at our own pace. The skywalk juts out over the canyon below. It’s clear, so you can see below where you walk. There were a lot of people there, which took away from the experience in my opinion. I’d say if you have the Pursuit Pass, definitely check it out. It could be passed otherwise. We then boarded the bus to go back to the visitor center.

Athabasca Falls

Another 50 minutes’ drive north will take you to Athabasca Falls. The falls aren’t far from the parking lot. The waterfall isn’t tall, but the amount of water rushing down was quite impressive! There are paths on both sides of the falls and a bridge over the top. I’d say this is worth a stop on your drive.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls is another waterfall 20 minutes north of Athabasca Falls. It is similar to Athabasca Falls, where you can see it from either side or on the bridge over it. I really enjoyed the view from the bridge! In 40 more minutes, you’ll reach the town of Jasper, which is where we stayed.

Overall, I thought the Icefields Parkway was fantastic! If you are going from Banff to Jasper, you’ll have to make the drive. You may as well make a day out of it and stop to enjoy all these beautiful spots!


Pyramid Lake 

On our first full day in Jasper, we started our day at Pyramid Lake, a 10-minute drive outside of town. We decided to do a short hike from the parking area by the lodge to Pyramid Island. There is a hiking trail that runs parallel to the road following the lakeshore. After about 0.8 miles, we reached Pyramid Island. There is a picturesque bridge crossing from the mainland to the island and a trail that follows the perimeter of the small island. We enjoyed this spot!

After arriving back at our car, we visited the kayak and canoe rental shop by the lodge. The four of us headed out in two double kayaks. We planned on just paddling to the other side of the lake and back. The wind made the water a little rough and more difficult to paddle. When we got about halfway across the lake, we noticed some elk swimming in the water over by the other shore. We got so excited and started paddling more quickly. We made it to the elk and were close. The elk just stared at us and kept enjoying themselves. We hung out there watching them for a bit and then headed back to shore. What an awesome experience!

Lunch at Earls Kitchen + Bar

We had worked up quite an appetite so headed to lunch in town at Earls. The weather was absolutely perfect, so we sat outside on their rooftop patio. Everyone loved their meal and the view!

Maligne Lake boat tour to Spirit Island

After lunch, we drove to Maligne Lake, which is about an hour away. The drive is down a road that is known for wildlife sightings. We ended up seeing a herd of bighorn sheep (including babies!) near Medicine Lake. We got in line for our Maligne Lake boat tour around 4pm and boarded the boat and started our cruise to Spirit Island. This lake is gorgeous. I thought it was prettier than Lake Minnewanka, which we had toured in Banff a few days prior. After about 45 minutes, we arrived at Spirit Island. We had 15 minutes of free time to walk around and take pictures of the island. Spirit Island is one of the most photographed spots in the world. I thought it was interesting that it’s not actually an island for most of the year and is connected to the mainland. In the spring, the snow melting raises the water level, causing it to turn into an island. On the boat ride back, Mike and I hung out on the back of the boat most of the time taking pictures. I highly recommend this tour!

Hike Moose Lake Loop

After our tour, we did a quick hike on the Moose Lake Loop, starting from the parking area on the opposite side of the lake. This is a 1.7 mile loop leading to a lake that moose frequent. The hike was easy and we reached the lake after only about 15 minutes of hiking. Thanks to another group who pointed it out, we got to see a moose from across the lake! It was far away so hard to see without a zoom lens or binoculars. We took a few pictures and then headed back to the car.

Dinner at Jasper Brewing Company

After the hour drive back to Jasper, we ate dinner at Jasper Brewing Company. We liked the food and beers we got there!

Witness the dark sky

There was a new moon that night, which is perfect for witnessing the dark sky and Milky Way. Jasper is a Dark Sky Preserve, meaning it has limited light pollution and is an optimal spot for night sky viewing. We saw the Milky Way and probably about a million stars that night!


Valley of the Five Lakes hike

We started our next day with a hike at the Valley of the Five Lakes. This trail is a loop that visits five different emerald-colored lakes. The hike is about 3 miles total. The lakes are all pretty in their own way. I thought this was a nice and relatively easy hike. Not the most gorgeous hike I’ve ever done, but still a fun way to spend a couple hours.

Lunch at Patricia Street Deli

We swung by Patricia Street Deli after our hike to pick up some sandwiches to go. The staff was so friendly and helped us with all of our questions, as the menu is quite extensive. We brought our sandwiches back to the hotel and ate outside. They were delicious!

Whitewater Rafting

We changed into our swimsuits at the hotel and drove to town, where we met up with Jasper Rafting Adventures. I had booked the 1pm Athabasca Mile 5 rafting tour, knowing that the water is very cold and that would be the warmest part of the day. We met our tour guides and boarded the bus. They drove us up the river and gave us a good intro. This was my first time whitewater rafting and I was a little nervous. This particular river section is fairly mild and they said the chances of falling out are low. We boarded our raft and made the one-hour journey down the river. It was so much fun! We all loved it. At the end, they let whoever wanted to jump into the river to cool off. 

After we got done, we went back to the hotel to change and get ready for dinner.

Dinner at Jasper Pizza Place

Jasper Pizza Place had fantastic pizza and we all really enjoyed our dinner. I also loved sitting outside on their patio. After dinner, we got yummy ice cream at Scoops and Loops.


The weather turned on our last day and it was very cold! The mountains even got some snow. We decided not to do too much outside this day.

Breakfast at Jasper Wafflato

We started by getting breakfast at Jasper Wafflato. I got a waffle topped with bacon and eggs. It was good!

Mount Edith Cavell hike

The Mount Edith Cavell trailhead is 45 minutes south of town. You’ll drive up some winding mountain roads and gain a lot of elevation. The hike is only about a mile round trip and is moderate. You’ll start from the parking lot by climbing uphill most of the way. You arrive at Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond. There were also a couple large waterfalls next to the glacier. To finish the hike, you’ll come back the way you come. We really enjoyed this hike!

See the Fairmont

We stopped at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The lodge and the grounds are gorgeous. We walked through some of their shops before heading back into town.

Lunch and shopping in Jasper

We spent the rest of our day getting lunch at Mad Grizzly, popping around into all the shops, and then eventually got dinner at Alba Italian.


Our Saturday was spent driving the Icefields Parkway back to Banff and then Calgary. We didn’t make too many stops along the way. 

Dinner at Central Taps + Food in Calgary

We had dinner downtown Calgary at the restaurant Central Taps + Food. It was beautiful outside and we sat on the patio. Dinner and drinks were delicious!

After dinner, we walked down by the water and across the Peace Bridge. We were all pretty tired, so after this we decided to head to the hotel. We stayed at the Marriott at the airport again, so we dropped off our rental car and hung out at the hotel for the evening.


We had an early flight back to Atlanta this morning, so it was really nice to be staying at the airport. It was a wonderful trip, but we were excited to get back home to our own beds!

Costs per Person (in USD)

Note that we were a group of four, so certain things would be more expensive if traveling alone!

Flight & bags: $390

Lodging: $730

Rental car: $130

Gas: $75

Parking (including at home airport): $50

Activities: $510

Food: $380

Travel insurance: $80

TOTAL: $2345


The weather can really vary this time of year. You will have the best chances for warm weather if you visit in August. Our first couple days were gorgeous, with highs in the 70s. Then we had several days with highs in the high 80s. On our last full day, the temperature dropped and the high was in the low 50s. Even on the hot days, the temperature still got down into the 40s every night. It is important to bring layers, and be able to shed them during the day as the temperature rises! We only had one day of rain our entire ten days here.

Ice cream is always good, even if it’s cold and rainy!


Driving and renting a car is very easy here if you are used to driving in the US. The traffic rules are pretty much the same as in the US and the roads were all in great condition.

Parks Pass

You will need a national park pass to drive through the parks, even if you’re just visiting the towns. Our Airbnb in Banff had an annual pass we were able to borrow during our time there, which saved us a little money. For the rest of the trip, we had to purchase daily passes. If you are spending more than a few days here, it may be worth purchasing an annual Discovery Pass instead of daily passes every day.

The Pursuit Pass

We purchased the Pursuit Pass before our trip, which included several of the activities I knew we would want to do. We got the “Rockies” option, which is $275 CAD as of February 2024. This pass includes tickets to the Banff Gondola, Columbia Icefield Skywalk, Columbia Icefield Adventure, Maligne Lake Cruise, Lake Minnewanka Cruise, and the Golden Skybridge. You are able to select your ticket time for each activity when purchasing if you already have an idea of your itinerary, or you’re able to go back and pick times at a later date. I thought this was really handy to have all of our tickets already taken care of, and the value truly was worth it! If we had purchased each of these tickets separately, the total cost would’ve been much more.


-Start your days early! Banff and Jasper are becoming filled with more tourists each year. Fortunately, most tourists don’t start their days until around 9am. If you can get up for sunrise or even by 7am, you may get a few quiet hours to yourself!
-If you are visiting Moraine Lake, make sure to book your shuttle tickets in advance, as you can no longer drive there yourself. You can book shuttle tickets here. Reservations open on April 18 for the 2024 season.
-Carry bear spray when hiking. We bought a can from the Banff Convenience Store and they bought it back from us at the end of the trip.
-If you are interested in exploring the town of Banff, I recommend coming on a weekday. We visited the town on both a Friday and Saturday and it was significantly more packed (with tons of traffic) on Saturday.
-Book your lodging in advance, especially if you want to stay near the town of Jasper. We started looking in January for our August trip and were surprised how few options there were left!

You may also be interested in:

How to Spend Four Days in Banff
Day Trip to Yoho National Park and Golden, BC
Driving the Icefields Parkway
Three Days in Jasper National Park
Banff National Park Trip Logistics
Hiking Banff
The Lakes of Northern Banff
Activities Near Banff Townsite


  • Jeff

    February 16, 2024

    Absolutely beautiful. Scenery, hiking, people…looked like a fun vacation!


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