Whether you’re travelling from Edmonton or Calgary, a road trip to the Canadian Rocky Mountain ski towns of Banff and Jasper in Alberta, provide many exciting stops along the way.
Winter or summer you’ll get up close and personal with wildlife. The roads are well maintained and regularly visited by native critters, so keep your eye out and your camera ready.
Whether you are driving yourself or arriving under the direction of another, there is a lot to see along the way. Both Rockies airport gateways, Calgary and Edmonton, have several car rental options on site fitted with proper winter tires. If a transfer is more your thing, SunDog Tours provides daily connections from Edmonton to Jasper or you can catch the Via Rail train which continues onto Vancouver.
Edmonton to Jasper
Driving from Edmonton to Jasper is a four hour drive along the Alberta Provincial Highway No.16, commonly referred to by locals as Highway 16. The road is straight and flat until Hinton, when the Rocky Mountains become more apparent and the road starts to move with the terrain.
Along the way there are several stop points of interest to enjoy. Departing Edmonton, just two hours into your drive you will come across the quaint town of Edson, in the heart of Alberta’s rolling woodlands. Explore the regions wild-west past stopping by Edson Galloway Station Museum & Travel Centre, providing a fascinating showcase of the region’s pioneering history of trappers, tie hackers, railroaders and miners.
Another 60 minutes on-ward you will come to the town of Hinton. For wildlife lovers, Hinton has a must-see free to access 3km Beaver Boardwalk, located around Maxwell Lake. It’s the world’s largest freshwater boardwalk and a great spot to stop and eat at the Old Grind restaurant.
Heading onto Jasper, just inside the park boundary are the Miette Hot Springs, which feature the hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies with water kept between 37 and 40 degrees Celsius. The facility includes washrooms, showers, a gift shop and café. Miette Hot Springs is also renowned for great hikes, take a stroll to the springs source along the gentle Source of the Springs Trail and learn how hot springs are formed. You may also like to challenge yourself on an 8km return 700m elevation on the Sulphur Skyline trail for breathtaking views of Jasper National Park.
The town of Jasper is in the heart of Jasper National Park. Winter highlights include skiing at Marmot Basin, snowshoeing on Maligne Lake, winter wildlife tours and the Maligne Canyon Icewalk. Pay a visit to the Visitor Information Centre run by Jasper Tourism in downtown Jasper, for useful information on attractions and winter activities. The township has a good variety of restaurants and cafes, bars and local gift shops. Jasper is also the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, due to its limited light pollution so be sure to look up at night.
Jasper to Banff
Connecting Jasper and Banff National Park is the famous Ice fields Parkway. This route running north-south is considered one of the most scenic stretches of highway in the world. The road is maintained by Parks Canada and cleared of snow in both directions. It’s always wise to check the road conditions during heavy snowfalls to ensure Parks Canada are allowing access. The Icefields Parkway stretches for 288km and driving should take no more than four hours in clear conditions.
In Banff National Park there are two feature resort townships. The quaint town of Lake Louise and the heart of the park being Banff township. Here visitors are drawn to a deluge of fine dining options, museums, shops, three world class ski resorts, hot springs, and sightseeing gondolas all enveloped by magnificent Rocky Mountain scenery.
The three mountains to choose from in the park are Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay. All resorts are skiable on the one lift ticket, providing up to 8,000 acres of skiable terrain when combining all three resorts. Pay a visit to the Visitor Information Centres located centrally downtown and at the railway station for further planning on arrival.
Calgary to banff
If you’re driving from Calgary to get to Banff National Park, there are two scenic driving routes to consider. The first and most direct being the Trans Canada Highway approximately two hours from Calgary, or an alternate route being Highway 1A via Cochrane and Highway 1 near Morley, which is 30 to 40 minutes longer depending on snow conditions.
Both routes are scenic and full of surprising sights. If you choose to take a private transfer the only option is the Trans Canada Highway with daily airport services running regularly from Calgary Airport to Banff and Lake Louise.
Driving by car opens up some fun things to do on-route to Banff. If you take the Cochrane route, a must stop is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, a facility that provides education on wolves and wolfdogs, where guests can enjoy an interactive tour and learn all about the magnificent minds of the elusive wolf.
If travelling on the Trans Canada highway, a must stop town is Canmore. Here you will get your first taste of Rocky Mountain scenery as you marvel at the famous Three Sisters mountains. This thriving town is lined with local’s charm featured throughout the restaurants menus and retail outlets. Be sure to try one of the famous burgers at the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.
Hitting the road in the Canadian Rockies in winter is a fantastic experience, and travellers should ensure they’re well prepared. Some tips include, checking the weather forecast at weather.gc.ca and planning to start early and complete your drive during daylight hours.
Cell reception can be limited, therefore it’s recommended to check road conditions prior to setting off and ensure your vehicle has a full tank of gas, as there are limited petrol stops between townships.
Contact us to discuss the Canada ski holiday of your dreams.