Author Topic: ICEFIELDS PARKWAY -- JASPER-BANFF  (Read 9213 times)

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Offline pro.frank

« on: March 12, 2012, 06:33:43 am »
I am driving my car west from VA and plan to bike the Icefields Parkway, loaded touring, in later August 2012 (after the ACA loaded Glacier-Waterton loop tour, some backpacking in Glacier, and then Ride Idaho Aug 4-11). 

I would appreciate any suggestions on riding the Icefields Parkway, including pros/cons of leaving my car at the N or S end of the Parkway, number of days to plan for, places to stay, good side trips including day hikes, etc.


Offline geegee

« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2012, 10:25:46 am »
I cycled the Icefields Parkway (Jasper to Lake Louise) in two days as part of a much longer tour, but if you might want to take a extra day if you intend to go on the tours into the glaciers.

I think the climbs are less steep going north to south. ( cut and past from a previous post: Lots of campgrounds along the way, most of them rustic (no showers or flush toilets) except the ones that are close to towns (Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff which have complete services). There are a few basic hostels along the Parkway at 2, 6, 32, 85, 111, 142, and 206 kms from Jasper. There are motels and restaurants at the following points from Jasper: 54 kms at Sunwapta Falls, 103 kms at the Icefields Centre, 153 kms at Saskatchewan River Crossing, and 196 kms at Bow Lake.)

Jasper is a lot calmer than Banff which on the busier Vancouver-Calgary route. Personally, I hate driving a route before I bike it because I like the element of discovery when I ride — if you're like me, I would suggest driving to Jasper via Edmonton, cycle the Icefields N-S to Banff, grab a shuttle back to your car in Jasper, then possibly drive down the parkway to stop at places you wanted to spend more time in.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 10:37:59 am by geegee »

Offline 2bikegirl

« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 05:33:50 pm »
There is also some great information here on this board:;topicseen#msg50517

We will be taking the Train north to Jasper this summer.

Offline adventurepdx

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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 06:44:06 pm »
My girlfriend April and I rode the Icefields as part of a bigger bike tour last year. More on that here:
We really loved the Icefields, and I think you'll have a great time!

As for logistics, you can ride the whole Parkway in 2 or 3 days, but we took longer than that in order to soak up the ambiance and do things along the way. Remember there are two passes on the Parkway, Sunwapta is the northernmost and Bow the southernmost. Both are around 7,000 feet (2,100 m) in elevation, but the elevation doesn't drop below 4,000 feet at any point on the route. The Parkway is 140 miles long and only goes between Jasper and Lake Louise. Banff is about 40 miles away via the Bow River Parkway. While the ride is not as "epic" as the Icefields Pkwy. it's still a nice ride.

We took five days on the Icefields, which I thought was an appropriate amount of time, though we could have taken longer. There's places to stay about every 20-40 miles along the route. We opted to use the primitive hostels along the way. These are also spaced about 20-40 miles apart, and if one were to use them, one could make a credit card/inn-to-inn tour the whole way from Jasper to Banff. Most of these hostels are bunks only, most don't have electricity or phones (though one has internet via satellite!), nor hot water or showers. There is running water and propane heating, and a few within Banff Nat'l Park have saunas! These hostels are very popular during the summer, so you'd need to book them in advance to guarantee a spot.

We had no trouble with the passes, but we had already encountered many more passes in Washington and Montana, so we were ready. Even with that, the climbs are not that long, I remember the climb northward to Sunwapta was about 3 miles at 8% grade. I've heard that biking southward (Jasper to Lake Louise/Banff) is tougher but can't speak from first-hand experience.

My tips:
  • Stock up on supplies in the bigger towns like Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, and Canmore, as there are few restaurants and stores on the Parkway. (There's just enough, however, so that you'll pass something daily.) Prices along the Parkway and in the towns are going to be steep!
  • Take your time, stop at all the things you can stop at.
  • There is a good chance you will see bears, even on the side of the highway. We saw a combined number of seven during our time on Bow River Pkwy, Icefields Pkway, and 93A.

I agree with geegee about Jasper (town and park) being calmer than Banff (town and park). Banff townsite is overrun during the summer.

Can't help you about parking, but can help you with photo inspiration.


  • Guest
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 07:53:37 pm »
I will put in a word for the Parker Ridge Trail. A Google search will get you all the directions and maps you need. We took a break from cycling on the Icefields Parkway to spend a half day on foot. It's a moderate hike, easily done in bike shoes with recessed cleats, leading up to grand views of the Saskatchewan Glacier, better than any of the valley views. We got lucky, stopping for lunch about 50 feet from a family of mountain goats. The kids cavorted around on steep rocks lacking visible footholds, as carefree as human kids on a playground.


Offline SeanWhalen1

« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2012, 05:46:34 pm »
We bicycled there several years ago. My son and I drove through there 2 years ago. The difference is like night and day. The place is very crowded now, especially Banff.

We parked a motor-home at the Banff train station for free. We had 3 couples and bicycles with touring equipment in the motor-home. It took us 3-4 days to cycle the parkway with stops at the Valley of 10 Peaks, Lake Louise, and Johnson Canyon. We camped along the way and enjoyed the trip very much. We tried to take a bus back but the bus wouldn't handle 6 bicycles. It would handle two then. So, we ended up hiring a driver with a van. It cost us $400 to get back to Banff. That was in August of 1995 or 6. The two pass' are not to difficult. Sunwapta is steeper but short, Bow is gentle and long. If you plan on not camping, I would suggest reservations.

I hope this helps. Enjoy!


Offline litespeed

« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2012, 03:42:36 pm »
$400 for a fairly short ride in a van? Doesn't surprise me. Jasper-Banff is about the most spectacular scenery in the world but the place is a tourist trap. $5 to change money (although most places accept US dollars). No water fountains anywhere but plenty of expensive bottled water for sale. High prices for most everything. Plan ahead. If I go again it will be in the shoulder season - maybe just after they go back to school or before they get out.