Cycling Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff

Cycling-Icefields-Parkway-from-Jasper-to-Banff-Alberta

An Iconic Multi-Day Rocky Mountain Road Bike Adventure in Alberta Canada

A 300km, 3-day Cycling Trip on One of the World's Most Beautiful Mountain Roads

Cycling Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff is a bucket list adventure for road bike enthusiasts from around the world. The Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is known as one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Famous for its snow capped mountain peaks, turquoise mountain lakes, waterfalls and over 100 glaciers, the views are not to be missed.  For these reasons the Icefields Parkway is truly a iconic Canadian destination.

The Stunning Icefields Parkway passes through Jasper and Banff National Parks in Alberta Canada. Photo Credit Janet Guthrie

Cycling Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park Alberta Canada

As it is about a four hour drive from Edmonton to Jasper we drove out the night before starting our ride. This way we could get an early and stress free start to our adventure.  We booked a front country camping spot at Wapiti Campground in Jasper National Park. The air was hazy and had an orange tinge due to smoke from forest fires in British Columbia. As we lay down to sleep, nervous with anticipation for the start of our adventure, all we could do was hope that the air quality would be alright for us to ride for the next few days. Although still smoky in the morning the air quality improved enough for us to start our journey.

A Toast to Start our Journey at Wapiti Campground. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
288km to our final destination, Banff Alberta. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Day 1: Cycling from Jasper to Honeymoon Lake in Jasper National Park

You know what they say about any great adventure, "It's about the journey not the destination". This is particularly true of the spectacular views to be enjoyed cycling from Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway. Wait, what?  Spectacular views? Where? Unfortunately for us the smoke obscured the views. Therefore, it was starting to look like this journey was going to be more about the physical challenge than enjoying the scenery. Either way, this is one of those iconic Alberta rides that all road and touring cyclists should do.

Jasper, the start of our iconic Alberta adventure. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
I swear, the views on the Icefields Parkway are some of the best in the world. Trust me. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Highlights: Waterfalls and Wildlife in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Our first day of riding was a short and fairly easy one at only 56km with 561m of elevation gain. There were no significant climbs planned for the day as we were saving the steepest one for the start of the second day. Although we couldn't enjoy the mountain views today, we did take in Athabasca Falls, saw some wildlife and relaxed at Honeymoon Lake.  Wildlife is usually easy to spot, as it is where all the cars are randomly pulled over to have a look. We saw a few mountain goats and a brown bear. The bear was spotted just outside of the entrance to the Honeymoon Lake campground. Fortunately, the Park's Canada Wardens were there to make sure everyone, including the bear were safe. Never-the-less, we took extra care to properly store our food overnight at the campground and were fortunate that the bear wandered off instead of paying us a visit.

Day 2: Cycling from Honeymoon Lake, Jasper National Park to Rampart Creek in Banff National Park

With the air quality continuing to improve, we could finally start to see the mountains and the views again. The ride from Honeymoon Lake in Jasper National Park to Rampart Creek in Banff National Park was both more scenic and more challenging than the day before.  Besides enjoying the mountain views, highlights from this section included Sunwapta Falls, Tangle Creek Falls, The Columbia Icefields and Skywalk.

Tangle Creek Falls. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Enjoying the view at the top of the first big climb by The Columbian Icefields Skywalk. Photo credit: PW Guthrie

Ride Highlights: What Goes Up Must Come Down

Day two of our journey cycling Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff saw us ride 91km with nearly 950m in elevation gain. 272m of the elevation gain came from the 3.5km climb up to The Columbia Icefields Skywalk. This is the steeper but shorter of the big climbs along the Icefields Parkway. It's average gradient is 7.6% with portions tipping over the 10-12% mark. Fortunately, for those of us that don't love climbing there are several viewpoints to stop and enjoy along the way. Just a few kilometers beyond the Skywalk is the Columbia Icefields Glacier Discovery Centre where we stopped for a picnic lunch. After the lunch break we were rewarded with the best downhill of this journey. With smooth pavement and an almost 10km long descent we let our bikes fly down the hill. While still being mindful of the vehicles pulling in and out of the viewpoint we took the time to enjoy the ride.

Day 3: Cycling from Rampart Creek to Banff Alberta

This was the longest day of our journey. We rode 150km from Rampart Creek Campground near the Saskatchewan Border Crossing all the way into the Town of Banff. The ride was mostly uphill until reaching Bow Summit, then it was more or less downhill all the way into Banff. Bow Summit is the second of the big climbs along the Icefields Parkway. Although less steep than the climb to The Columbia Icefields Skywalk it is much longer and there are no rest points on the hill. With an average 4-6% gradient the climb to Bow Summit is just a long, long grind. Somewhat disappointing after the effort taken to reach the summer, there is no sign letting you know that you made it.  However, the Peyto Lake viewpoint, which was closed when we road past would make an ideal celebration point. Peyto Lake is quite possibly thee most famous lake along the Icefields Parkway. It is the one that looks like a dog.

Return of the Rocky Mountain Views

This was the clearest day and the views were magnificent. After getting split upon the climb, we regrouped at the Bow Lake viewpoint for lunch.  From there we continued onto the Village at Lake Louise for the next rest stop. Surprisingly there are fewer rest stops and bathrooms in Banff National Park compared to Jasper National Park so be sure to take advantage of the opportunities when they arise. From the Village at Lake Louise we followed the Trans Canada Highway into Banff.  As we got closer to town we moved off the highway and onto the Banff Legacy Trail. Too tired to head out on the town to celebrate the end of the journey we opted to order Banff's beloved Aardvark Pizza and had it delivered to our Tunnel Mountain campsite.

Our Icefields Cycling Adventure Route Map

Cycling from Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway. This map shows key cycling locations, where we camped and key attractions along the route.

Other Ways to Cycle from Jasper to Banff

For our journey we opted to travel with a support vehicle and to camp along the route. There are plenty of campgrounds, hostels and accommodation options along the route to choose from. This makes it easy to customize your trip. Another option is to be completely self-sufficient and to bike-pack the route. Of course, fully supported tours are available as well. Many of these tours, like Mountain Madness Tours provide shuttle services to and from the mountains as well. Although, we didn't choose to go with a tour company I know people that have taken part in the Mountain Madness Tours and loved it. Ben, at Mountain Madness takes care of all the logistics, photos and moral supported needed on those hill climbs. He even has a variety of road and e-bikes to choose from. Of course, there are other tour companies, this is just the one that I am most familiar with. Whichever way you choose you will need to purchase a park pass to travel in a Canadian National Park.

Cycling from Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway

We saw wildlife, waterfalls and incredible mountain scenery as we rode our bike from Jasper to Banff along the Icefields Parkway. Not only were we happy to have completed this iconic cycling trip but we also conquered some challenging climbs and made sure to stay rubber side down on the best downhill ever.  This is one of those epic Alberta road cycling journeys that every road and bike touring fan needs to make.  I think next time, we'll ride all the way into Canmore and will try to complete it in just 2-days. Until then, happy riding! 

An Iconic Cycling Adventure in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Cycling Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Banff

Travel Guide

  • British Columbia

Canada Parks

  • British Columbia

Location (Map)

Icefields Pkwy, Alberta, Canada
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Comments 14

Diana Mohrsen on Sunday, 16 April 2023 05:26

Janet, I've done that drive in a car and I'm very impressed with your uphill climbs. Great undertaking and a very nice description of your adventure. Bad luck with the smoke obscuring views early on.

Janet, I've done that drive in a car and I'm very impressed with your uphill climbs. Great undertaking and a very nice description of your adventure. Bad luck with the smoke obscuring views early on.
Janet Guthrie on Sunday, 16 April 2023 14:56

Thank you Diana. It is such a beautiful drive isn't it?

Thank you Diana. It is such a beautiful drive isn't it?
EH Canada Marketing Group on Sunday, 16 April 2023 16:33

Great route and the scenery. Ah La La.

Great route and the scenery. Ah La La.
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 17 April 2023 00:49

Thank you

Thank you
Rene Coatta on Sunday, 16 April 2023 18:16

Wow, that is incredible!!

Wow, that is incredible!!
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 17 April 2023 00:49

Thank you Rene.

Thank you Rene.
Cora Lee Rennie on Sunday, 16 April 2023 18:41

A really epic adventure and a really great article. Amazing photos! Way to go Janet!

A really epic adventure and a really great article. Amazing photos! Way to go Janet!
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 17 April 2023 00:50

Thank you

Thank you
Cora Lee Rennie on Sunday, 16 April 2023 18:44

Amazing adventure and photos. This was a very enjoyable read and a true bucket list adventure.

Amazing adventure and photos. This was a very enjoyable read and a true bucket list adventure.
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 17 April 2023 00:50

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the kind words.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the kind words.
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 17 April 2023 00:51

Thank you Lori

Thank you Lori
Andrea Horning on Monday, 17 April 2023 01:17

I have always driven by those cyclists along that route and thought how strong they must be! Impressive adventure, Janet!

I have always driven by those cyclists along that route and thought how strong they must be! Impressive adventure, Janet!
Janet Guthrie on Monday, 17 April 2023 02:34

Thank you Andrea.

Thank you Andrea.
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Guest - Kyle on Tuesday, 21 May 2024 18:57

Have you completed this in two days? If so, how did you make out? Planning on doing this in late July (in 2 days)

Have you completed this in two days? If so, how did you make out? Planning on doing this in late July (in 2 days)
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Friday, 12 July 2024

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