Great National Parks to Visit in Alberta Canada

Great National Parks to Visit in Alberta Canada • Tour Travel Hotels

On the one hand, the Banff vs Jasper died on arrival. These two national parks are among the most beautiful in the world, with timeless natural landscapes, world-class facilities and four well-defined seasons, each more amazing than the last.

On the other hand, Alberta is an absolutely gigantic province, which can take weeks or even months to fully explore. Since most travelers (especially Americans heading north of the border) only spend 7-10 days in Alberta, like my sister and I did on our road trip a few years ago, you should probably choose one of these two parks.

Great National Parks to Visit in Alberta Canada

The good news? Your next trip to Alberta probably won’t be your last. The best news? Whatever choice you end up making, you’ll find everything you need to help you decide on the next few paragraphs.

NOTE: Covid-19 (in particular, policies established in response to the coronavirus pandemic) has a significant impact on travel to and within Canada.

Understanding the geography of Alberta

Before getting into the differences between Banff and Jasper, I thought a geography lesson would be helpful. Well, nothing too in-depth or particularly complicated. On the contrary, understanding even the basic special arrangement of Alberta’s national parks, both in relation to the major cities in the province and the Canadian Rockies, will make planning your trip much easier (I mean, assuming that you didn’t want to go old school and look at a map!).

If you think of Alberta as a rectangle, the cities of Calgary and Edmonton are on the right side – Calgary in the bottom corner, Edmonton in the bottom corner. On the left side, Jasper is in the top corner, Banff is down; the Rockies divide the rectangle into two halves, more or less. Still confused? Consider using CBD roll on to focus your mind and reduce your distractions, then reread what I just wrote.

Great National Parks to Visit in Alberta Canada

Main differences between Jasper and Banff

Location and access

Banff National Park is located less than two hours by car from Calgary, Alberta’s largest city; buses (although not particularly convenient for most travelers) also connect Calgary to the town of Banff. Jasper, on the other hand, sits west of Edmonton, which is both smaller and less connected to the world and North America than Calgary.


For one thing, comparing Banff’s attractions to Jasper is pointless – they’re all gorgeous and absolutely worthy of any trip you have to take. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that Jasper attractions such as Maligne Canyon or Athabasca Falls are as well known as Lake Louise from Banff or even the Columbia Icefields.

Best time to visit

To some extent, Banff and Jasper are 365 day destinations. On the flip side, Banff warms up a bit earlier in the year and stays warmer for longer – June and September can just as easily see summer conditions as it does spring or fall. In Jasper, on the other hand, winter hits harder and more immediately, which is a plus for snow lovers.


When it comes to popularity, certainly among foreign visitors, there isn’t much competition between Banff and Jasper. Banff received more than 4 million visitors in 2019, the last year before Covid-19, while only about 2.5 million visited Jasper. This does not necessarily reflect the quality of either; indeed, many travelers will prefer the comparable tranquility of Jasper.

Optimal travel length

Assuming you don’t combine the parks into one trip (which, in the end, is my recommendation), you will need about the same time (3-5 days) to explore each of the famous national parks in Alberta. Although Jasper is a bit bigger and has more extensive attractions, Banff has more places of interest, connected by better and easier to drive roads.

Why should you drive on the Icefields Parkway

A trip to Alberta is not really a trip to Alberta unless you are driving in the province. Part of it is practical. Public transportation outside of major cities in Alberta is lacking; even if the schedules were more robust, the sheer size of the province would make bus and train travel untenable. On the other hand, part of it has to do with the other adage (and, now, cliché) of the trip about the trip in relation to the destination.

Ironically, given the topic of this article, driving the Icefields Parkway (the beautiful highway that connects Alberta’s national parks) somewhat nullifies the Banff vs Jasper debate. Driving between Banff and Jasper shows how the distinction between parks exists only in name and because of the artificial boundaries between them. In fact, their beauty bleeds together, deliciously.

Great National Parks to Visit in Alberta Canada

Other Banff vs Jasper FAQs

Which is better, Banff or Jasper?

Banff and Jasper are teeming with natural beauty, fine hotels, and delicious dining and bar experiences. What really sets them apart is their convenience and the ubiquity of their attractions. It’s easier to get to Banff, which is near the big city of Calgary, than to fly into little Edmonton and get to Jasper. Plus, nowhere in Jasper is as universally known as Banff’s Lake Louise.

Is it worth going to Jasper from Banff?

If you have enough time to travel between parks and then to devote at least 2-3 days to exploring the treasures of Jasper, it is absolutely worth continuing north from Banff. If, on the other hand, you just want to check Jasper National Park off your Bucket Canada list without really knowing it, you can save it for another trip.

How many days do you need in Banff and Jasper?

While you can spend months, if not years, exploring Alberta’s national parks without seeing everything, let’s face it: most people only have a few weeks a year to travel! With that in mind, I would say a 10 day trip will allow you not only to see the highlights of Banff and Jasper, but to at least spend the night in Calgary and / or Edmonton on the outward or return trip, to enjoy some creature comforts of the city.

The bottom line

If you are in the United States and ready to travel to Alberta and the beautiful nature of Canada? Choosing between Banff and Jasper is like choosing between chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream – can you really say “delicious” is better than “delicious”? While Banff, being near the big city of Calgary, is more easily accessible to the majority of travelers, it’s also worth visiting Jasper whether you’re driving between the parks or taking a flight to Edmonton. The wonderful thing about this debate – which, let’s be honest, isn’t really a debate – is that no matter which one you choose, you will have an exceptional vacation that you will never forget. .

Robert schrader

Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who has traveled the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, offers a mix of travel tips, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.

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