10 Must-Do Adventures from Banff to Jasper

Discover the best of the Canadian Rockies.

By: Will Cebron

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It goes without saying that the Canadian Rockies should be at the top of your adventure bucket list. With snow-capped peaks, emerald lakes and abundant wildlife, there's beauty around every corner. One of the more popular stretches of this area is the ~290km drive from Banff to Jasper. If you follow landscape photographers on Instagram, there's a good chance you've seen shots of the iconic sights in this area. Some of the most well known locations are Spirit Island, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.

With so much to see and do in this area, trying to narrow down your must sees can feel overwhelming. To save time, I've outlined ten of my favorite adventures along the way from Banff to Jasper.

1. Mount Norquay's Green Spot

Photo: Will Cebron

When you first get to Banff, it's nice to get the lay of the land. Drive up to the Mt. Norquay Green Spot and enjoy sweeping views of Mt. Rundle, the Bow River and downtown Banff. If you're lucky, you might even run into the group of bighorn sheep that frequent this area. Learn more.

2. Johnston Canyon

Photo: Will Cebron

Johnston Canyon is an easy hike that hugs the river and takes you past a series of waterfalls. One of the highlights is the hidden cave between the lower and upper falls. There's an easy to follow path to the cave (outlined here), so avoid tramping off trail in your search to find it. Learn more.

3. Moraine Lake

Photo: Will Cebron

If there's any must see on this stretch, it has to be Moraine Lake. I'd recommend getting here for sunrise (or sunset) so you can enjoy this beauty in solitude. If you can't get up early, any time before 9am works. After that, the tour buses start pulling in and by mid-morning parking becomes a nightmare. If you want to canoe, rentals typically start around 10am. There's also several great hikes that start from here like Sentinel Pass below. Learn more.

4. Hike to Sentinel Pass

Photo: Brenda Lin

This hike can be an all day affair, but make sure to finish the final switchbacks for some amazing views of Larch Valley and Paradise Valley along with the surrounding peaks. Full disclosure, my friend had a close-up encounter with a grizzly while at the top of the pass. Make sure you pack bear spray and hike in groups for this one. Learn more.

5. Hike the Plain of Six Glacier

Photo: Colin Ayers

This hike leaves from Lake Louise so you get two adventures in one. I'd recommend stopping by the boathouse for a few minutes, snapping a couple photos and then heading out on this hike to escape the overwhelming Lake Louise crowds. There are a couple ways to get to the Plain of the Six Glaciers, but if you have time, take the path that allows you to detour to Big Beehive and Lake Agnes teahouse. It makes for a long day but the views of Lake Louise and the valley below are worth it. Learn more.

6. Peyto Lake

Photo: Will Cebron

A must stop on the Icefields Parkway, Peyto Lake is considered the bluest lake in the Canadian Rockies. From behind the main viewpoint, take the trail upwards to reach several less crowded outlooks with better views. Learn more.

7. Horseshoe Lake

Photo: Will Cebron

One of my favorite lakes in Jasper National Park, it's the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon. Pack a lunch and do some cliff jumping and swimming. Odds are you'll have the place to yourself. Learn more.

8. Mount Edith Cavell

Photo: Will Cebron

One of the best hikes in Jasper, this loop takes you by a glacial lake and through Cavell Meadows before ending on a summit above both. The parking lot can get crowded, so make sure to get here early. Learn more.

9.  Kayak to Spirit Island

Photo: Christin Healey

If you're headed to Maligne Lake and want to see Spirit Island, you have two options. Option one is the guided boat tour, which is extremely popular so reserve ahead. The tour only allows for 15 minutes to explore the area near Spirit Island, which isn't enough. The second option is to rent (or bring your own) kayak and paddle the 28km round trip. If you're up for it, check the weather, start early and enjoy a memorable day on the lake. Learn more.

10. Edge of the World

Locals in Jasper are pretty protective of this hike, so I didn't create an adventure for it. If you ask around, someone may tell you how to find it (or I'm happy to help). The hike is very short but opens up onto a ledge that makes you feel like you've reached the end of the world. It's an aptly named trail. Pack bear spray as we saw a black bear with her cubs a few hundred feet from the trailhead.

While in Jasper, we were told that ~90% of all tourist do not venture further than 1km from their cars, and it felt true. The main attractions may feel crowded at times, but hike even a few hundred feet away and you'll be able to appreciate the beauty of Jasper and Banff in solitude. Words and pictures don't do this place justice, you have to see it for yourself. Personally, I'm already counting the days until I can make it back.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.