From Lake Louise to Jasper: 4 Best Ways to Get There
The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is 253 kilometers along one of the most scenic highways in Canada, the Icefields Parkway. The route is almost impossible to do straight through; you'll most certainly be distracted and have to pull over multiple times to stare at the turquoise lakes, roaring waterfalls, or the impressive Athabasca Glacier. Count on a full day to drive from Lake Louise to Jasper.
Transport options include driving yourself, taking a tour, hopping on a non-stop shuttle, or hiring a private transfer service complete with a guide. The route itself is well-marked and easy to follow. The highway is single-lane in both directions the entire way, with limited passing opportunities. If you get stuck behind a slow-moving RV, be prepared to stay there for a while.
A trip along the Icefields Parkway is true mountain driving. Even in the height of summer, be prepared for all conditions, even snow. In the winter, this route is very lightly traveled and receives significant amounts of snow.
If you plan to drive this in the off-season, ensure you have the right vehicle and all the survival equipment. No matter what time of year you go, be sure your tank is full. Fill up in Lake Louise; fuel is available at only one place along the entire route, and it is expensive. Note that the Columbia Icefield Visitor Center is closed in the winter, and no services are available.
If you're interested in hiking or random sightseeing, our recommendation is to drive this route yourself. If you'd rather enjoy the ride, learn a bit about the area, stop at only the highlights, and let someone else do the driving, tours are a great option.
Below are the best ways to get from Lake Louise to Jasper.
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1. From Lake Louise to Jasper by Car
This option provides the most freedom of all. If you see an amazing lake, just pull over. Bear on the side of the highway? Stop and grab a picture. Brought the hiking boots and want to take a stroll to an amazing lookout? Park and start walking. It's all this freedom that makes the relatively short distance stretch out into a full day of driving.
If you are looking to rent a car, it's best to do this in Banff prior to getting to Lake Louise; options for car rental here are quite limited.
Once you are in your car, just head west from Lake Louise until you see the turnoff for Highway 93, also known as the Icefields Parkway. Once you make that turn and pass through the park gates (fee required), just stay on this road, and you'll end up in downtown Jasper. Nothing could be easier.
If you'd like an audio accompaniment with details about what you see, buy the low-cost Icefields Parkway: a Smartphone Audio Driving Tour. It's like having a guide sitting in the seat next to you!
As you ascend from the park gates, the first place you'll likely want to pull over is at Bow Lake. This large aquamarine lake is set majestically beneath the Crowfoot Glacier.
Should you feel the need for a swim in the ice-cold water, and surprisingly a number of people do, a beach is just below the pull-off. High up and off in the distance, past the red-roofed Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, is Bow Glacier Falls, reached via a very scenic 9.2-kilometer return hiking trail. This is one of the top hikes in Banff National Park.
After Bow Lake, ascend farther and be on the watch for the turnoff for Peyto Lake. Reached via a short trail, this lake, turquoise in color, is one of the most spectacular sights on the entire highway. As you continue towards Jasper, you'll pass a number of wonderful campgrounds and lookouts, eventually ending up at the Athabasca Glacier. Stop here, and stretch your legs with a walk to the toe of the glacier, or take a guided tour on top of the ice.
After the glacier, the road follows the river towards Jasper. Sights along the way are mostly waterfalls and include Tangle Creek Falls, Athabasca Falls, and the incredible Sunwapta Falls. Eventually, you'll end up in the center of Jasper, where you'll find all the services you need.
The first two-thirds of the drive are by far the most spectacular. The portion from the Athabasca Glacier down to Jasper descends gradually down a wide valley and is less scenic.
2. From Lake Louise to Jasper by Shuttle
If you just want to transit between Lake Louise and Jasper and don't need to stop along the way for sightseeing, a shuttle is a good option. Less costly than a tour, the shuttle will get you here in three hours.
The shuttle is operated by SunDog Tours. Passengers are transported in a mid-size coach with large windows. Your fare includes one piece of luggage, one carry-on, and one personal item. Extra fees are charged for additional luggage and oversized items like skis or bikes.
3. From Lake Louise to Jasper by Tour
If you want to maximize your time and leave the driving to someone else, take the 10-hour Lake Louise to Jasper One-Way Tour. This tour stops at all the highlights along the way, including Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Columbia Ice Fields Weeping Wall, and Athabasca Falls.
In addition to stopping at the key sights, you'll receive interesting insight from your knowledgeable and personable guide.
Lunch is included, as is a guided glacier walk and the Glacier Skywalk at the Icefields Centre. This tour is part of the longer Banff to Jasper tour, so when you step on the bus, don't be surprised that it's partially full. The tour will pick you up at your hotel in Lake Louise and drop you off at your hotel in Jasper.
4. From Lake Louise to Jasper by Private Transfer
If your budget allows, for the ultimate mountain experience consider hiring a private transfer between Lake Louise and Jasper from SunDog Tours as part of the Journeys service. You'll be picked up at your hotel in a luxury SUV and transported at your pace to the sights you want to see.
This option provides the maximum flexibility to see and do whatever you choose whenever you like. It's almost like a local giving you a ride from Banff to Jasper. Be sure to request that your driver/guide stop at the following spots: Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Peyto Lake, the Athabasca Glacier, Tangle Creek Falls, Athabasca Falls, and the incredible Sunwapta Falls.
Returning from Jasper to Lake Louise
It's important to note that tours, shuttles, and private transfers also run in the opposite direction, from Jasper to Lake Louise. Tours stop at all the same spots along the way; shuttles do not stop, except for bathroom breaks.
Lunch Stops along the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is a true wilderness experience and as a result, few restaurants are located along the way. But, with a bit of route planning, you'll be able to see all the sights and enjoy a decent lunch en route.
The main place to grab a bite is the Athabasca Glacier visitor center. If you'd like to spend a bit of time soaking up incredible views over a fine meal, plan a leisurely lunch at the Altitude Restaurant. A locally sourced menu offers the best of what the Canadian Rockies have to offer.
For a quick bite in a self-serve cafeteria-style setup, visit The Chalet restaurant. This is a good option for families with small children or those on the move.
If hunger strikes before you get to the Athabasca Glacier, stop at Saskatchewan Crossing and head to Mt. Wilson Restaurant for an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Or, for a more informal and interesting experience, pop into the Parkway Restaurant where they provide all the ingredients for a great lunch, and you cook it yourself on the grill.
The cheapest and perhaps most scenic option is to pack a picnic lunch. Stop in at the grocery store in Sampson Mall in Lake Louise and stock up on all your favorites. When hunger strikes, head for the most scenic picnic table you can find and enjoy your homemade feast!