Banff Glacier Tours: 7 Great Ways to Admire the Icefields

The Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield seen from the Icefields Parkway

One of the main attractions of Banff National Park is its glaciers. The Victoria Glacier, Crowfoot Glacier and the massive Columbia Icefield are just three of these impressive rivers of ice in the Canadian Rockies. Below you’ll find 8 tours that allow you to watch them up close. Hence, you can even explore one while standing on it! 

This post contains affiliate links, and any sale made through such links will reward this site with a small commission – at no extra cost to you.

One of the main attractions for visitors to Banff is the Columbia Icefield, the largest ice field in the North American Rockies

Although it’s technically in Jasper National Park, it’s very accessible from Banff as it’s on the Icefields Parkway, a must-do scenic drive that runs through Banff and Jasper National Parks.  

Ice Explorer vehicles will take you up to the Athabasca Glacier, where you’ll be dropped off to explore the glacier on foot. It doesn’t get much better than that. Fortunately, most of the tours below offer this option.

They’re all different, though, so I’d advise you to read through the descriptions to find out which one you like best.

Nuff said, let’s have a look!

1. Athabasca Glacier Snow Trip from Banff

Several Ice Explorers seen in the distance riding on the enormous Athabasca Glacier near the Icefield Parkway

Icefields Parkway (Bow Lake – Crowfoot Glacier) – Athabasca Glacier – Icewalk | 11 hours

This tour has a badge of excellence on Viator, and rightly so. With nearly 200 five-star reviews, you will surely get great value for your money.  

At around 8 hours, this tour will keep you busy the whole morning and afternoon. 

It includes everything you could possibly want from a visit to the Athabasca Glacier: a ride on the Ice Explorer to the glacier, a walk on the glacier and access to the nearby Skywalk for stunning views across the valley. A picnic lunch is included. 

ALSO READ: All you need to know about the Athabasca Glacier

The tour starts in Banff, where you’ll be picked up at your hotel or from the public bus parking behind the Mount Royal Hotel. As a bonus, you’ll get to see most of the stunning scenery of the Icefields Parkway, as the Athabasca Glacier is located along this scenic drive in Jasper National Park. 

It includes a stop at Bow Lake, where you’ll also get to see the Crowfoot Glacier. 

Your group will be a maximum of 24 people.

BOOK NOW: Athabasca Glacier Snow Trip from Banff

2. Columbia Icefield Adventure 1-Day Tour from Calgary or Banff

Close-up of the Athabasca Glacier along the Icefield Parkway in Jasper National Park

Bow Lake – Crowfoot Glacier – Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre – Peyto Lake | 9-12 hours

If the price of the above tour is a bit too steep for you and you still want value for money, the Columbia Icefield Adventure from Calgary or Banff is a good alternative

You’ll travel to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre along the Icefield Parkway in an air-conditioned vehicle with traffic accident insurance (10M). Before you reach the Icefield, you will stop at beautiful Bow Lake and the nearby Crowfoot Glacier

The Columbia Icefield is the highlight of the tour. Here you can walk to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier and see the ice up close. If you wish, you can also board the Ice Explorer to take you onto the glacier. 

This is not included in the tour, so you’ll have to pay for it separately. The same goes for the nearby Skywalk, which offers breathtaking valley views. 

On the way back, you’ll also stop at Peyto Lake. This famous turquoise lake is a must-see when visiting Banff. 

The tour has a maximum of 50 participants and includes the required National Park fee.

BOOK NOW: Columbia Icefield Adventure from Calgary or Banff

3. Glacier Day Tour: Calgary, Bow Lake, Columbia Icefield

The Crowfoot Glacier from up close, with clouds hanging over it

Bow Lake – Crowfoot Glacier – Peyto Lake – Columbia Icefield | 11 hours 

If you’re staying in Calgary and enjoy road trips, this tour is for you! You’ll drive through the foothills beyond Calgary, straight into the Rocky Mountains, past Canmore, into Banff National Park and finally onto the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world! 

It’s all about the latter part of the tour. You’ll be oohing and aahing the entire Icefields Parkway. Yes, it’s that beautiful. A stop at Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier will allow you to stretch your legs and get some stunning Insta-material before continuing to at least as beautiful Peyto Lake, famous for its mesmerizing turquoise colors.

The highlight of this breathtaking road trip is the Columbia Icefield. Here you’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the awe-inspiring Athabasca Glacier

The Columbia Icefield is the world’s largest ice remains outside the Arctic Circle! You can hike to the glacier’s toe. If that’s not enough, you can hop on an Ice Explorer vehicle for an additional fee. It will take you to the top of the glacier. You’ll be able to get off and explore the glacier directly from the ice. 

The maximum number of people on this tour is 50. You’ll travel in an air-conditioned vehicle. Bring your own drinks, snacks and lunch, as they are not included in the tour. 

BOOK NOW: Glacier Day Tour

4. 4-Day Banff Yoho Jasper Three National Parks Guided Tour

Overview of the Athabasca Glacier and it mountainous surrounding along the Icefield Parkway

Town of Banff – Banff Gondola – Banff Springs Hotel – Johnston Canyon – Lake Louise – Moraine Lake – Bow Lake – Peyto Lake – Columbia Icefield – Town of Jasper – Maligne Lake – Maligne Canyon – Emerald Lake – Natural Bridge | 4 days

Wanna indulge in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies in a relaxed and comfortable way? Then the Three National Parks Tour is for you. In one comprehensive package, you’ll visit Yoho, Banff and Jasper National Parks

While this tour requires a larger budget than most – more than $800 per person – you’ll surely see all the major highlights the Canadian Rockies offer. And yes, that includes the Columbia Icefield. 

Some of the other notable sites you’ll visit include Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park, the town of Banff, the Banff Gondola, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow and Peyto Lakes in Banff National Park, and the town of Jasper, Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park. 

As you can tell, the itinerary is packed with one stunning location after another. You’ll visit a total of 25 (!) sitesThree overnights are included. Meals, however, are not. 

The Best Western Premier Calgary Plaza Hotel & Conference Centre and the Delta Hotels by Marriott Calgary Downtown are pick-up locations. The Banff pick-up location is the Canalta Lodge in the Town of Banff. 

BOOK NOW: 4-day Banff Yoho Jasper Three National Park Guided Tour

5. 3-Day Rocky Mountains Columbia Icefields Banff and Yoho NP Tour

Close-up of the ice of the Athbasca Glacier in Jasper National Park

Lake Louise – Moraine Lake – Bow Lake – Crowfoot Glacier – Peyto Lake – Icefields Parkway – Columbia Icefield – Emerald Lake – Natural Bridge | 3 days

If you want to see many of the highlights of the Canadian Rockies and don’t have a week or more to explore the Rockies? Then I highly recommend the 3-day Rocky Mountains Columbia Icefields Banff and Yoho National Park Tour. 

Yes, that’s quite a mouthful, but it’s a pretty darn full itinerary. The tour operator can pick you up at the Calgary airport to save you even more time. Jump on a tour right after landing, with two overnights arranged; how convenient is that? 

Three days, two national parks (well, actually three, more on that below), and twelve stops. Impressive numbers, sure. But what will you see? 

For starters, the Columbia Icefield – in Jasper National Park – and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the impressive Athabasca Glacier, right at the edge of the glacier’s toe. If you want to hop on the Ice Explorer to admire this glacier while standing ON the ice, you can for an additional fee. 

You’ll also stop at Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier and Peyto Lake in Banff National Park and drive the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world! In Yoho National Park, you’ll stop at Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge.  

This tour includes park entrance fees and hotel accommodations for two nights. Meals are not included. You’ll also travel in an air-conditioned vehicle and have traffic accident liability.


BOOK NOW: 3-Day Rocky Mountains Columbia Icefields Banff and Yoho Tour

6. Private Tour of Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway for up to 12 guests

The valley at the foot of the receding Athabasca Glacier, close to the Icefield Parkway

Bow Falls – Two Jack Lake – Lake Minnewanka – Lake Louise – Moraine Lake – Icefields Parkway – Bow Lake – Banff | 8-9 hours  

This extensive private tour for 12 people is a highlights-of-Banff tour. While it doesn’t include ALL the highlights the park is famous for (you won’t visit Johnston Canyon, for instance), it’s a practical and enjoyable way to see the park in a comfortable and relaxing way

And you do get to see major tourist attractions such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake hassle-free (accessing both lakes is a bit cumbersome if you’re on your own). You’ll also drive the must-see Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic highways in the world. And I’m not exaggerating.

ALSO READ: Guide to Moraine Lake and Guide to Lake Louise

As this is a private tour, it’s just you and your group.  

As for glaciers, you’ll get up close to the Victoria Glacier at Lake Louise and the Crowfoot Glacier at Bow Lake. But there are many more along the way. You’ll be able to see them from the comfort of your seat in the air-conditioned mini-bus as you travel along this incredible route. 

While the operator provides some drinks and snacks along the way, lunch is not included in this trip, so bring your own. 

The tour includes hotel pick-up if you’re staying in Canmore, Harvie Heights, Banff, Lake Louise, Field and Golden. 

BOOK NOW: Private tour of Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway

7. Canadian Rocky Mountains 4-Day Tour from Vancouver Including Banff

Groups of people left the Ice Explorer vehicles to explore the Athabasca Glacier from the ice

Vancouver – Kelowna – Yoho National Park – Lake Louise – Banff – Icefields Parkway – Crowfoot Glacier – Columbia Icefield (summer only) | 4 Days

This 4-day tour takes you from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back. It’s an immersive sightseeing trip that allows you to explore the southern part of the Canadian Rockies while visiting many of the most popular attractions. You’ll make an impressive twenty stops over the four days!   

I will list only some of the stops here as the list would be too long. Some highlights include Vancouver, Yoho National Park (including Emerald Lake), the town of Banff, Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway, Bow Lake, Crowfoot Glacier and, of course, the Columbia Icefield.

This guided tour by CoachCanada is for a maximum of 55 people. It includes three nights in a hotel along the way. At less than $500, this tour is a bargain. However, activities such as the Columbia Icefield Skywalk and the Columbia Ice Explorer are not included. The same goes for meals.

The tour is available in both English and Mandarin Chinese

BOOK NOW: Canadian Rocky Mountains 4-Day Tour from Vancouver Including Banff

Banff Travel Guide and FAQ

Where is Banff National Park, Canada?

Banff National Park is in the southwest of the province of Alberta. It’s home to the towns of Banff and Lake Louise and borders the province of British Columbia in the west of Canada. You can easily access famous places like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake and the stunning Icefields Parkway from these locations.

Banff and Lake Louise are situated in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, close to the boundary with British Columbia, as shown on the map of Banff National Park below.

Is Banff, Canada safe?

Generally speaking, yes. Like most areas, Banff has crime, but it’s still a safe travel place. But Banff has a lot of wildlife, including bears and cougars, so you should always carry bear spray and exercise caution when hiking in the mountains.

What is the best time to Travel to Banff, Canada?

The best time to travel to Banff, Canada, depends on your reason for visiting the park. If you’re going for the stunning nature the park’s famous for, you’d better visit from June to September. The best months to ski are from January through March. 


Average min and max temperatures in Banff, Canada

The worst months to visit Banff National Park are November, April and May. It’s too chilly to go sightseeing in November, and there isn’t enough snow on the slopes yet. The iconic lakes in the park are still frozen in April and May, and it can still be quite cold.

How do I travel to Banff, Canada?

Want to fly to Banff? Calgary International Airport (Code: YYC) is the closest airport. It’s 130 kilometers (81 mi) to the east of Banff.  

Several cities, including Toronto, Chicago, Seattle, and Dallas/Fort Worth, have direct flights into Calgary.

Pick up a rental vehicle at Calgary International Airport, or take a private transport service to your destination. The trip to the park takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes. 

Viator has several good options. Click the link to check the options and latest rates.

Banff Car Rental

Want to rent a car during your stay in Banff National Park? Rent one at Calgary International Airport or in the city of Calgary. Yep, there are rental firms in Lake Louise and Banff, but as these are small towns, your rental options can be limited.

Avis is a reputable car rental company, which I’ve used many times. Book now with Avis

What do I pack for Banff, Canada?

The time of year will affect what you should bring with you on your trip to Banff, Canada. If you plan to spend your summer vacation in Banff National Park, you should be okay with light-colored, breathable clothing. Bring a few sweaters, too, as Banff’s summer evenings can be chilly. You’re in the mountains, after all. 

When visiting in winter, bring a heavy jacket, such as a parka, and other winter clothing, such as warm pants, long underwear, and (fleece) sweaters. Don’t take it lightly because Banff’s wintertime lows can reach well below zero.

Banff Travel Planning Guide

Do I need a visa for Banff?

Most likely not. Citizens of the US, most European countries, Australia and New Zealand don’t need a visa to enter Canada. Not sure? Click the link to see whether you need a visa or not. The typical length of stay in Canada for people with visa-exempt passports is 90 days.

Do I need travel insurance for Banff?

You bet. Feel confident while traveling with a plan from Travel Insurance Master, one of the top names in travel insurance, for just USD 10 on average per day.

What’s the best way to book my Banff accommodation?

If you plan to book a hotel, hostel or bed & breakfast, is your best bet. It has the most hotels listed and often offers the best rates.

Do I need to rent a car in Banf?

Absolutely. While Banff is one of the few national parks in North America with a sizeable public transport network, I strongly advise renting a car if you want to make the most of your visit.

Will my phone work in Banff?

It depends. In the towns of Banff and Lake Louise, you should have good to excellent reception. However, in more remote areas, the signal is spotty. In many places, there will be no signal at all.

What’s the best site to buy Banff flights? 

If you’re looking for cheap flights to Banff, I recommend Skyscanner. No surprises with suddenly increased rates (for taxes, seats or luggage) upon checkout. What you see is what you get. 


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite part of the world. I keep coming back to enjoy the park's mesmerising beauty. It never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best information on Banff that you can find on the internet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles