Which national park you visit really depends on two things: what you want to see and how much time you have to spare. The vast majority of visitors kick off their stay in Banff, thanks to its comprehensive facilities, plentiful restaurants and family-friendly activities, not to mention easy access to wonderful trails.
If you have a bit more time for your trip, Jasper is the next natural stop, particularly if you’re interested in wildlife watching and backcountry hiking. Glacier receives far fewer visitors than the other two parks, so it’s the best option if you prefer the trails to be quiet and the crowds to be few and far between.
There’s a good reason that Banff is Canada’s most popular national park – it’s home to some of the most fabulous mountain scenery in the Rocky Mountains. Gleaming glaciers, snow-dusted peaks, roaring rivers: Banff’s got it all.
Banff’s lakes are impossible to miss, reflecting a myriad of colors under ever-changing skies, from vivid turquoises to emerald greens and fiery oranges. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake draw the biggest crowds, but there are many more to discover.
Banff is synonymous with its geothermal springs. They were the park’s main attraction for early visitors, and they’re still a highlight. Sit back in the naturally heated hot pools and drink in the wraparound mountain views.
If it’s walking in the wilderness you’re after, Jasper boasts some of the best backcountry hikes in North America. The Skyline Trail and the Tonquin Valley are two of the best-known trails, but there are tons more to explore.
The stretch of Hwy 1 between Banff and Glacier, colloquially known as the Icefields Parkway, is often referred to as the world’s most spectacular road. It’s certainly one you won’t forget in a hurry: glimpse glaciers, lakes, mountains and wildlife without ever leaving your automobile.
Biking & Horseback Riding
Mountain bikers rave about Jasper’s challenging single tracks, and they’re ideal if you prefer to see your scenery from the saddle. A popular trail network leads out directly from the townsite, and is also open to hikers and horseback riders.
For many people, the main reason for visiting Glacier is the chance to see its famous icefields. But you’d better be quick – experts think that they could have all disappeared within a matter of decades due to climate change.
If you’re keen on wildlife, you’re in for a treat in Glacier. The combination of relatively few visitors and plenty of remote backcountry means that it’s one of the best parks for spotting wild animals, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats and a healthy population of grizzly bears.
Six historic boats ply five different lakes in Glacier, but if you prefer to explore under your own steam, there’s plenty of opportunity for kayaking and canoeing too.