Ten Must-see Spots in Banff and Jasper National Parks
Be a tourist in Alberta. Just do it.
No one wants to spend their vacation doing the dreaded tourist activities, lost in a selfie-stick-holding crowd looking for the perfect Instagram shot. It’s natural to want to find the hidden gem, to be alone in nature, to have enough solitude to take the perfect landscape shot and revel in true wilderness.
If you’re heading to Banff or Jasper National Parks in Canada, let go of that desire and expectation. Accept that you’re going to encounter people hiking in jeans or dresses and wearing loafers. Somebody is going to step directly into the shot you painstakingly set up. Many will then ask you to take their picture.
Think of it as a challenge to be more patient and a better photographer. The sights are worth it. If you only have a few days and want to see the easy-access beauty of Alberta, consider these hot spots:
Icefields Parkway – Arguably the most jaw-droppingly beautiful drive in the world, the road winds 144 miles through two national parks filled with sweeping valleys, pristine lakes and glaciated mountains. It’s also your chance to let the wild come to you in the form of grizzly bears, big horn sheep, deer and black bears.
Lake Louise – This is the quintessential Canadian Rockies scene. Sparkling blue waters set at the base of rocky peaks will draw you right in and the network of hiking trails, ski runs and gondola rides will keep you busy.
Peyto Lake – The amazing aqua water will fill you with so much awe you’ll forget it only took you 10 minutes on a paved walkway to get to the lookout (keep going to Bow Summit for fewer people and a better view).
Johnston Canyon – This has to be the most popular destination in the Banff area. A cool catwalk takes you to a lower falls (which has a tunnel you can walk through to get a good view), an upper falls, numerous other falls along the creek and ink pots if you hike just a wee bit further.
Moraine Lake – Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, this iconic lake is most recognized these days by the colorful canoes that dot its shoreline. It’s easy to see why its blue-green waters are one of the most photographed locations in Canada. The lake has even earned the nickname “Twenty Dollar View” since it was featured on the back of the $20 bill from 1969 to 1979.
Sunwapta Falls – This 75-foot waterfall is set against a gorgeous mountain backdrop in a series of three falls. You can play it safe and ogle from a wooden bridge or you can jump down onto the slippery rocks and get an up-close view of the gorge and limestone walls that the river runs through.
Athabasca Falls – The volume of the river makes this the most powerful waterfall in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a short jaunt down a walkway to see the thundering water but there are plenty of trails and bridges to view the falls – and the lower canyon – from different angles.
Maligne Lake – Not only is this the largest natural lake in the Rockies at nearly 14 miles long, it’s also ringed by snow-capped mountains and has its own islet. Three glaciers can be seen from its waters and while you aren’t allowed on Spirit Island, its picturesque locale makes for a stellar photo opp.
Tunnel Mountain – Where else can you hike three miles to the top of a peak in the middle of a town via well-maintained switchbacks? You won’t just be looking down on rooftops though – enjoy panoramic views and a close glimpse of Mount Rundle before ending on a rocky outcrop at the top.
Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake – These beauties are on the same loop right outside of town and ideal spots for picnicking, swimming or boating.