There is no better way to see scenery and wildlife in a short time span than by driving the roadways of Banff National Park. Originally accessed only by railroad, the paved roadways of Banff and Lake Louise were developed during the post-war era to accommodate the increasing automobile traffic to the mountains. Nowadays, these roads enable visitors to Banff and Lake Louise to take some of the most scenic drives in the world. Take a short cruise up Tunnel Mountain or an all-day adventure down the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). From the road, view the local wildlife and stunning landscape, and take the time to stop and explore the many easily accessible roadside attractions and activities.
Named as one of National Geographic’s fifty drives of a lifetime, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) connects Banff to Jasper in the most scenic route possible.
Winding its way for 230 kilometres (142 miles) underneath towering mountains and beside dozens of enormous glaciers, the Icefields Parkway is a drive not to be missed. Take a full day to explore its beauty and the many roadside attractions along its length.
This stretch of roadway connects Banff and Lake Louise, as part of its route which reaches across Canada from the west coast to the east. Tracing the Bow River, the Trans-Canada (Highway 1) will take you beneath iconic mountains such as Castle Mountain and Mount Temple. There are multiple wildlife crossings, a unique demonstration of ecological design that enables wildlife to cross the highway safely.
Bow Valley Parkway
A smaller roadway, the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) parallels the Trans-Canada (Highway 1) to take motorists alongside the crystal waters of the Bow River. Only two lanes wide, the slower moving pace allows for better opportunities to view wildlife and take in the views. In addition, there are many interpretive sites, scenic stops, and roadside attractions along its length to be explored.
Tunnel Mountain Drive
This short drive just outside the town of Banff winds its way around Tunnel Mountain. This slow moving road is popular with cyclists and hikers, who use it to access trails. The many picnic spots provide airy vantages over the town of Banff and are a great place to pause and enjoy the views and fresh air. For those interested in geology, there are unique rock formations called hoodoos along the roadside, which resemble towers of rock.
Vermilion Lakes Road
Just off the Trans-Canada (Highway 1), this roadway parallels the tranquil Vermilion Lakes. The lakes are popular for picnicking, swimming, spotting wildlife, and viewing the reflections of Mount Rundle during sunrise and sunsets.
Road conditions can change quickly throughout the winter so it's important to stay up to date on closures and be prepared for snowy/icy conditions. Be sure to check the weather forecast and road conditions before driving. Road closures due to extreme weather conditions can occur at any time. Snow tires are recommended for winter driving and they are required to drive the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper from November 1 to March 31. Find more information on planning for the weather in Banff National Park here.