Last updated: February 3rd, 2020
For those visiting or living in Calgary, you’re in an incredible place. There are so many epic road trips that start from Calgary, and quite possibly the best one of them all is the drive from Calgary to Jasper.
Located in the foothills just next to the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is a great base for exploring some of Canada’s best scenery, including Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Kootenay National Park, Yoho National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park, and so many others. Wow, that’s a lot of national parks.
What’s awesome about driving from Calgary to Jasper is that first, you have to drive from Calgary to Banff! Driving from Calgary to Banff is already an epic road trip in and of itself but now you get to extend it and go even deeper in the majestic Rocky Mountains.
There are so many things to do in Jasper and in Banff. Whether you’re interested in hiking, mountain biking, downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, fishing, or delicious restaurants, Jasper has something for everyone. While we certainly recommend taking some time to experience some of the awesome things to do in Calgary as well, the goal of this travel guide is to help you get from Calgary to Jasper.
Where is Jasper?
Jasper is located approximately 412-km Northwest of Calgary, Alberta. It’ also just 366-km from Edmonton, which makes it an excellent road trip from Edmonton to Jasper as well. Coming from Calgary without stopping, the drive will take around five hours via the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) and the world-famous Icefields Parkway. However, you will want AT LEAST one full day to do this drive. Trust us when we say that you will be stopping a lot. The scenery is some of the best on the planet. This is a drive you want to enjoy. In fact, we recommend spending some nights along the way in places such as Banff or Canmore. But even if your goal is to only spend some nights in Jasper, dedicate an entire day to this drive.
The drive is generally fast and easy but if you’re driving in the summer and/or the weekends, it can be busy. If you’re driving in the winter, the highway can be anywhere from smooth to dangerous.
Jasper Park Pass
As is the case with all national parks in Canada, you will need a pass in order to enter. Daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day. However, depending on the amount of time you have, a yearly pass is a much better value.
You’ll find the park gates just after the town of Canmore on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary. If you’d rather purchase in advance, you can also purchase them online at the Parks Canada website.
The current daily fees are:
Youth (up to 17 yo): FREE
Family/group (up to 7 people): $19.60
Commercial group (per person): $8.30
The daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day.
If you’re spending one-week or more exploring national parks anywhere in the country, you are better off purchasing a one-year Discovery Pass. These are an incredible value. For one small fee, you can enjoy all national parks and historic sites across Canada for an entire year.
The prices for the Discovery Pass are:
Best Time To Go?
Generally speaking, the warmer months are always the best time for a road trip anywhere in Canada. The winter months can be a beautiful time to visit the mountains but driving is much more hazardous. If you have no experience driving in snow and on ice, you may have difficulties. In addition, the highway can be closed due to avalanche, which can cause delays in your trip. By late spring, most snow will be gone and the roads will be much easier to navigate. However, the summer months present another challenge. It gets very busy in both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park between June and September. As long as you’re cautious, you’ll be okay, but keep in mind that the highways will be busy with tourists who vary in driving capability. There is also a lot of wildlife in the summer months, so you’ll need to look out for that and also for the cars who sometimes stop in the middle of the highway just to take a photo of a bear. (Note: please don’t do this. Pullover to a safe area of the highway or just keep on driving).
The weather can change dramatically in this part of the country, so we recommend installing the Weather Network app or checking The Weather Network online. You can easily check the weather in Banff, Lake Louise, and in Jasper, but if you’re trying to determine what the weather is like along the Icefields Parkway, one good option is to look for Saskatchewan River Crossing. This is approximately the halfway point between Lake Louise and Jasper.
How to Get from Calgary to Jasper
After the beautiful drive from Calgary to Banff, you’ll then continue a little further towards Lake Louise and then go North via the incredible Icefields Parkway. Few drives match the beauty of the Icefields Parkway. Often ranked as one of the most scenic drive in the world, the Icefields Parkway takes you through both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. You’ll pass by hundreds of mountains, as well as turquoise lakes and rivers, waterfalls, lush pine forests, and glaciers.
There are dozens of places to stop, including world-famous sites such as Banff, Lake Louise, and the Athabasca Glacier. There’s also a lot of wildlife on this highway, so you might see bears, moose, deer, mountain sheep, or elk. For this reason, as well as the potentially crowded season of the summer or the slippery roads of the winter, you will want to take your time, be alert, and just enjoy the road trip.
Calgary to Jasper by Car
If possible, we highly recommend taking your own car. With so many places to stop along the way, driving your own vehicle is the best way to experience the drive between Calgary and Jasper. This drive will easily take you from dawn until dusk and the only way to maximize your time is to have your own set of wheels.
Note: the driving conditions are very different between the summer months and the winter months. The summer months are a much safer time to go, although you will still have to be alert for wildlife and other cars as this is a very busy time of year on the highway. In the winter, however, the roads can be very slippery and covered in snow or ice depending on the time of year. If you have no experience driving in the snow, this might not be a good time to go.
As we’ve already mentioned, there is a lot of incredible scenery along the route as well as the potential for a lot of wildlife sightings. You’ll notice a lot of people pulling over or slowing down to take photos. However, we’ve also noticed people stopping in the middle of the highway sometimes. DO NOT DO THIS! Please find a safe place to pull over or just keep driving. Stopping in the middle of a highway can be very dangerous and we don’t want you or anyone else to get hurt.
If you’re looking to rent a car for your trip, you can rent them in Calgary, Banff, or any other major city. There are many different rental car companies and we typically just use a search engine such as Expedia or Booking.com to scour prices and find a good deal. There’s also the option of renting an RV or a campervan, which is another very popular thing to do in this part of the world.
If you’re looking to experience the drive by car but aren’t able to drive your own, you may want to consider rideshare. People have been doing this for a long time with sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, but this is not always the safest way to do it. However, now there’s Poparide.com, which allows you to select your driver based on reviews as well as your luggage requirements. Prices vary but typically go for roughly $40-$60.
If you can’t find anyone going from Calgary to Jasper, you might consider taking a ride to Banff and then continuing on from there. Of course, you’ll need more time built into your schedule, but this is another option for making your way to Jasper, Alberta.
Calgary to Jasper by RV
If you’re looking to have more of a “home on wheels”, consider renting an RV or campervan. RV rentals are a very popular thing to do in Canada thanks to how big the country is and how many parks we have.
Here are some options below:
- CanaDream: This is a big RV rental company. They have everything from the little guys to the big guys.
- RVezy: This is the Airbnb of RV’s. You rent someone else’s RV.
- Wheel Estate: This is also the Airbnb of RV’s. Many options for renting someone else’s RV.
- Karma Campervans: This is an option for campervans. Typically, it’s a regular size van with two front seats and the back area has been converted into a mini living area with a bed and a kitchen.
Calgary to Jasper by Private Car
If you’d rather not drive your own car but also don’t want to be cramped inside a bus, you may want to consider a private tour. Obviously, these will be much more expensive, but they also come with an experienced driver who can tour you around worry-free.
- SunDog Tours offers private tours in a sedan, SUV, or shuttle between Banff and Jasper depending on the size of your group.
- Airport Shuttle Express also has different options for arranging a private charter.
Calgary to Jasper by Bus
Despite the popularity of this area, there are very few options for taking a bus from Calgary to Jasper. If you do land one, it’s a great way to sit back and relax, but you’ll lose the ability to see sights along the way.
- SunDog Tours offers a one-way bus ride from Calgary to Jasper that takes around 7 hours. However, this bus only leaves in the winter months. In the summer, you’ll have to get to Banff first and then continue on to Jasper.
As you can see, there are almost no options for going direct from Calgary to Jasper. However, if you go to Banff first, then there are more options for getting up to Jasper, such as:
- Banff Tours provides a coach shuttle service between Banff, Canmore, Lake Louise, and Jasper. The Pick-up points are at various hotels within each destination and tickets go for $120 per person each way.
- Brewster Express offers a shuttle service from Banff to Jasper. For $120 per person one-way, your departure and drop-off locations can be customized to where you’re staying.
What To See Along the Way
We’ve written some detailed articles on this site about things to do in Banff, things to do in Canmore, things to do in Jasper, and things to do in Calgary. We’ve also written an extensive guide for the drive between Banff and Jasper. There are so many places to see and things to do along this drive but below are some of our favourite things to do if you only have one solid day.
(Note: depending on time, you may not be able to do all of them)
(Located 126km from Calgary)
One of the most famous towns in all of Canada, Banff is home to some of the world’s top scenery, as well as many activities, restaurants, and accommodation options. If you’re only passing through, you won’t have time to do much, but we’d still recommend stopping here for lunch and just getting a taste for this magical mountain town.
(Located 25km from Banff and 263km from Jasper)
You’ll need a lot of time to do this hike, as it will add a good three hours to your day. However, it’s a beautiful and relatively easy hike inside a canyon to see some spectacular waterfalls. It’s gorgeous in both the summer and in the winter when the waterfalls freeze over for a truly special Johnston Canyon Winter.
(Located 57km from Banff and 231km from Jasper)
If you’re visiting this part of the world, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard about Lake Louise. It’s one of the most famous sites in all of Canada and is the last place you’d visit before embarking on the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper. The lake itself sits in front of the Fairmont hotel and has gorgeous mountain and glacier views above the turquoise-coloured lake. Even if you stop just to take a look, it’s worth the effort. If you have more time, consider going on a hike or renting a canoe to go for a paddle. In addition, if you visit the nearby Lake Louise Ski Resort, you can go skiing in the winter or take a summer tour on the gondola to see amazing views and perhaps a Grizzly bear.
Bow Summit/Peyto Lake
(Located 100km from Banff and 188km from Jasper)
This will be your first stop along the Icefields Parkway and is one of the most photographed lakes in the country. The short 2.9-km hike takes you to a viewpoint overlooking beautiful Peyto Lake and the surrounding mountain valley.
Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefields
(Located 185km from Banff and 103km from Jasper)
This massive icefield, which is one of the largest on Earth, is another must-see along the Icefields Parkway. It’s as deep as the ocean and can easily be seen from the highway. You can stop and view the icefield and the glaciers for free, but if you want to walk onto the glacier itself, you’ll have to pay for a Columbia Icefield tour. There are some unique walking tours as well, but for most people, the most popular thing to do is to the Glacier Adventure tour, which takes you on to the Athabasca Glacier via an all-terrain explorer.
To guarantee your spot on the tour, you’re going to want to book in advance. The tours run every 20 minutes or so. They start at the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre, which also has a hotel. You’ll find a souvenir shop, a small restaurant, and an outdoor viewing area.
(Located 185km from Banff and 103km from Jasper)
The Glacier Skywalk is a glass-floor bridge that hovers 918-feet above the valley floor. It’s just a few kilometres away from the Columbia Icefields and can be included as a package with a tour of the Athabasca Glacier. For those afraid of heights, this will be a real thrill!
Time to allow: 1 hour or more.
(Located 234km from Banff and 54km from Jasper)
This is one of the most popular stops along the Icefields Parkway. The walk to the waterfall is very short and you can just admire the beautiful colours for as long as you want. If you want to hike more, there are lots of trails that start here as well.
Time to allow: 30-minutes or more
(Located 257km from Banff and 32km from Jasper)
Another extremely popular spot with photographers and tourists, this is not only a beautiful waterfall but also a small canyon that cuts through the valley. With sunlight, the water is bright turquoise, resembling that of a tropical beach.
Time to allow: 45 minutes or more
Things To Do in Jasper
You made it! Somehow, despite all the incredible scenery, you still managed to reach your final destination. Lucky for you, you’ll continue to be amazed by the jaw-dropping scenery. Jasper is also home to mountain views, outdoor activities, and loads of wildlife, as well as an array of restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, and shops. For more on what to do, check out our 3-day itinerary for things to do in Jasper.
Where to Stay in Jasper
There are a variety of places to sleep in Jasper, ranging from backcountry camping to luxury hotels. In the summer, there are loads of options and it will be very busy. In the winter, there are fewer options but it will also be much less busy.
Camping in Jasper
If you’re up for camping, there are plenty of options for Icefields Parkway camping. Keep in mind though that they fill up very fast. You’ll want to book months in advance, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. You can book a number of camping options through Parks Canada.
Budget Accommodation in Jasper
If campings not your thing but you’re still looking for budget accommodation, there are a variety of options, including hostels and hotels. Hostels include the Jasper Downtown Hostel, HI Maligne Canyon, and HI Athabasca Falls. A popular hotel that isn’t too expensive is Maligne Lodge.
Mid-Range Accommodation in Jasper
There are a number of mid-range hotels right in the town of Jasper, including Whistler’s Inn. However, we love renting cabins! Our favourite place is Becker’s Chalets, which is just 10-minute south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway. They’re located right along the Athabasca River. Another option is Jasper East Cabins, which are 40-minutes away and closer to Miette Hot Springs.
Luxury Accommodation in Jasper
Without a doubt, the most luxurious place to stay around Jasper is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. It has impressive views of Beauvert Lake and sits right on its own award-winning golf course. You’ll also find a whopping 8 on-site restaurants and a spa.
Things To Do Around Jasper
Since there’s no airport in Jasper, it’s not going to be your final destination. So what’s next after Jasper? Well, it depends on what you want to do. You could drive back down the Icefields Parkway towards Banff, admiring the views from an entirely different angle. From there, you could go west to British Columbia. If you’d rather ditch the mountains for the city, you could travel northeast to Edmonton and enjoy some time in West Edmonton Mall. You could also go halfway down the Icefields Parkway and then drive highway 11 (David Thompson Highway) to Rocky Mountain House and back to Calgary or Drumheller via the prairies.
Either way, there are so many things to do!
For more things to do in the area, check out the following articles: