Right along the Icefields Parkway near the halfway point between Banff and Jasper, you’ll find the iconic Glacier Lake hike in Alberta.

It’s a popular spot for hiking, camping, and exploring the great outdoors this amazing country has to offer.

We did this trail as a day hike and it was great – especially since it is 17 kilometres long, you truly get to spend the entire day out in nature.

The fact you make it to a stunning glacier lake deep in the mountains is just the cherry on top!

If you’re looking for a great, long hike without too much elevation near Nordegg (or along the Icefields Parkway), Glacier Lake is the one we would recommend!

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What you need to know about the Glacier Lake hike in Alberta

The Glacier Lake Hike is one of the longer hikes we’ve done this summer but thankfully the elevation isn’t as crazy as say Vision Quest near Nordegg or Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis.

It is long and gruelling – especially since a lot of the hike is in dense forest with limited views but the views you do get are pretty incredible!

Some of our favourite views along the way included the bridge crossing over the North Saskatchewan River and the viewpoint with the red chairs overlooking the Howse River!

With the exception of these viewpoints, this is one of those hikes where the scenery doesn’t change too much but the view of Glacier Lake at the end makes the whole hike worth it.

You truly will feel like you’re out in the middle of the Canadian wilderness on this one even though it’s a very good and well-marked trail!

As long as you follow the AllTrails map for Glacier Lake, bring enough snacks and water, and wear the proper gear for a full-day hike you’ll be set.

It’s one of the longer hikes we’ve done but it’s not crazy steep so it’s a good balance!

🏕️ If you love camping and backpacking, it is also possible to camp at the end of this hike as there’s a great campsite by the lake!

Practical information about Glacier Lake near Nordegg

Distance: 17.1 km return / 10.62 miles return
Elevation: 818 m / 2683 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail 
Length: 6-7 hours return (time for photos along the way) 
Difficulty: Hard 
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Glacier Lake near Nordegg

Here’s a picture of the beginning of Glacier Lake

Hiking Tip: Look up the trail on AllTrails before starting your hike 🗺️. You can find important trail information such as recent wildlife sights and trail closures. Check out the free version here or get a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+ here.

Starting the hike in the Glacier Lake parking lot

Before you start the hike we recommend stopping by The Crossing Café at The Crossing Resort roughly 100 meters down the road on the Icefield Parkway.

It’s definitely overpriced but it’s the only option nearby for snacks, coffee, and using the washroom. It’s the last bit of civilization before you make your way into the Canadian outdoors!

The parking lot for the Glacier Lake Trailhead is a decent size, and you’ll likely see a few other cars as it is quite a popular day and overnight hike.

Especially for people driving the Icefields Parkway making their way between Banff and Jasper.

The beginning of this hike is quite nice as it’s pretty flat and open, and it even has a nice river crossing on a bridge over the North Saskatchewan River where you get some awesome views.

It really is an enjoyable hike and definitely one of our favourites along the Icefields Parkway!

Make your way to the Howse River Valley lookout

A good chunk of the hike is in dense forest so you don’t have too many viewpoints along the way for a 17 km hike which is one of the downsides of the Glacier Lake Trail.

Saying that, the viewpoints you do get are 100% worth it and make this hike worthwhile. 

As you make your way to the Howse River Valley viewpoint you’ll understand what we mean.

There are even two red plastic Canada chairs at the viewpoint. It’s the iconic plastic lawn chairs you see around the country in all the iconic spots and viewpoints!

Definitely worth taking a seat and snapping a few pictures because the view is incredible.

Looking into the valley you feel just how small we are. Especially since this hike doesn’t bring you to the peak of a mountain but further into the mountains it’s quite a unique experience. 

Fun Fact: Glacier Lake is the 4th largest lake in Banff National Park.

Continue through the valley to Glacier Lake

After the Howse River Valley Viewpoint, you’re going to get back into the forest for a good chunk of the hike.

It’s nice and shaded and relaxing in the trees and the smell of fresh air and pine trees is unbeatable. It’s basically just a forest walk with a bit of elevation here and there but nothing drastic.

The trail is very well maintained and easy to walk on which is really nice!

At times it may feel a little long but soon enough you will get to Glacier Lake and at that point you’ll be glad you hiked all the way in.

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Take in the view from Glacier Lake 

You made it! Take some time to appreciate the beautiful views here because they are seriously next-level.

You can also go for a swim in the lake if you’re feeling brave – just remember that it’s a glacial lake so it is pretty cold!

Glacier Lake is the turnaround point for this hike but that doesn’t mean you can’t hike further.

Especially if you plan to do an overnight trip and camp at Glacier Lake Campsite, you can easily continue around the lake for a bit and get closer to the glacier.

We didn’t have a chance to hike around the lake since the hike to Glacier Lake and back already is a full-on day hike, but looking at the AllTrails map for Glacier Lake, it looks like the trail continues for a while.

You can see there’s a trail that makes its way around the lake and closer to the glacier here.

If you’re up for the missions and have some free time and more energy in your legs then it’s definitely worth it!

Who knows, maybe we’ll come back and camp a night one day and see what that section of the hike is like?

One of the campsites by Glacier Lake

This is an awesome spot if you want to camp for a night or two since there is a campsite at the lake and it’s in a pretty incredible spot right by the lake

Even if you aren’t camping, though, it’s still a great place to sit back and relax after a long stretch of hiking. Enjoy your lunch or just take a nice break admiring one of the biggest lakes in Banff National Park.

Back towards the trailhead

After you’ve taken in the stunning views of this beautiful lake you have a bit of a journey back to the trailhead.

Since it’s an in-and-out trail, you just head back the way you came from!

Dom’s all cheesin’ after completing this hike!

It’s nice that it’s not just uphill the whole way back either as the trail is mostly undulating the whole way. You get a few hard stretches and then some easier ones in between.

On the way back you can also see how you’re doing with time and take some additional breaks at the viewpoints if you want.

Eventually, kilometre by kilometre will go by. You’ll cross the bridge that takes you over the North Saskatchewan River and soon enough you’ll be back at the Glacier Lake parking lot.

At this point, you’ll have conquered over 17km and you’ll probably be ready to smack your feet up in the car and relax (at least we were lol).

🐶 PS: This hike is dog-friendly! It’s not always easy to find dog-friendly hikes near Banff, Jasper, or Kananaskis but this one is. As long as your dog is on leash it’s completely fine for Glacier Lake!

What to bring to Glacier Lake

You’ll definitely want to come prepared if you’re planning on hiking all the way to Glacier Lake.

This hike on the Icefields Parkway is a bit more remote than some of the other hikes we’ve done in Kananaskis or Banff – and it’s quite long as well.

Besides The Crossing Resort across the highway from the trailhead parking lot, there isn’t really much in the area. There isn’t even much cell reception nearby either.

It’s really good to come prepared with everything you need for the full day. Bring some extra clothes and snacks as well as water.

Here’s a suggested packing list for Glacier Lake:

  • Water! We always fill up our LifeStraw bottles before hikes or day trips and even during them when we can. Thankfully there are a few places along this hike where you should be able to fill up your LifeStraw.
  • Sunscreen!! Please pack sunscreen for this hike. Summer months get hot even in the Canadian Rockies. You are in the shade for a good section of the hike but it’s still good to come prepared.
  • A power bank is nice to bring because you never know when you’re going to run out of battery especially when you’re in a remote place like the middle of the Icefields Parkway.
  • Bring lots of snacks and food to enjoy throughout the hike. Glacier Lake is 17 km’s return so it’s good to be prepared!
  • Hiking poles are great to have on this hike! Because it is such a long hike, having your hiking poles with you will be nice for your knees.
  • Consider bringing a beacon such as this one from Garmin. You’re deep in the mountains in bear country and there isn’t cellular service everywhere so it’s a good safety item to have.

The best affordable camera for beginners

The Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera

If you’re looking for the best and most affordable camera for beginners, check out the Sony Alpha a6000 Camera.

This is the camera we’ve been using for years and still use to this day.

It’s perfect for travelling and super easy to use – even if you’re a beginner.

Before you go to Glacier Lake  

Check the weather

As a rule of thumb, you should always check the weather before you go hiking. It’s important to be prepared – especially when hiking in the mountains.

There isn’t much reception here either so you really want to check before heading to Glacier Lake.

The summer months can get quite hot but the weather can also change quickly – so come prepared!

Bring water, sunscreen, a hat, and anything else you may need to protect yourself from the heat as well as extra layers in case it should get cold.

You can see the weather for Icefields Parkway here.

The North Saskatchewan River

Wear hiking shoes

We always recommend wearing hiking shoes or trail shoes when hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

This is a 17-kilometer hike on a pretty good trail. But with all the different roots, rocks, and puddles it’s nice to have the right hiking shoes.

This pair from Columbia is a great option. Jo actually bought these last time we were in Canada!

Leave no trace

When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.

This means:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

When is the best time to explore Glacier Lake?

In general, the best time to hike in the Canadian Rockies and up to Glacier Lake is during late spring through early fall.

Ideally, during the summer months when the weather is warm, days are long, and the snow is gone. That’s when you get the best conditions to hike!

This hike doesn’t really get too busy since it is quite far from Banff, Jasper, and even Nordegg so even during peak season, it should be alright to hike it without the trail being packed.

The weather is probably the biggest factor you need to take into consideration when planning this hike.

Go on a nice sunny day so you’re able to enjoy the area and maybe even a swim in Glacier Lake!

How to get to Glacier Lake trailhead

From Calgary (and Banff) to Glacier Lake

  • It’s roughly a 3-hour drive from the center of Calgary to the trailhead.
  • It’s roughly a 1.5-hour drive from the center of Banff to the trailhead (if you’re coming from Calgary, you’ll be driving right through Banff).
  • The directions from Calgary to the Glacier Lake trailhead can be found here.

From Golden, BC to Glacier Lake

PS: If you need a rental car, check out DiscoverCars for the best prices 🚗
(This is the site we use for all of our travels)

Where to stay near Glacier Lake?

Since Glacier Lake is located on the Icefields Parkway, there is a lot of good accommodation in the area!

Just across the road, you have the Crossing Resort which is by far the easiest option, but you also have Lake Louise 1 hour away, Banff 1.5 hours away, Jasper 2 hours away, and Golden, BC 2 hours away – so there are plenty of options to pick from!

Browse hotels and other places of accommodation below!

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Recap of hiking to Glacier Lake along Icefields Parkway

A hut by Glacier Lake

We usually spend more time hiking in Kananaskis or near Canmore but there’s so much beauty along the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper to explore as well.

Glacier Lake was appealing because of the fact you get to hike to a massive glacier lake and see the glacier at the end too!

It’s also not a hike with crazy elevation so it was good because we did this one with Dom’s parents.

We usually do a lot of mountain peaks but this was a nice change where, instead of hiking up the mountain, we hiked deep in between the mountains.

If you’re looking for more hikes like this, consider checking out this hike to Tombstone Campground!

And if you have any questions, you can leave a comment on this post or send us a message on Instagram.

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  1. Lita on April 24, 2024 at 9:24 pm

    Oh! I’m going back to Banff this summer, so I am totally saving this one. I would love to do a hike that was longer along the parkway.

    • redwhiteadventures on April 25, 2024 at 1:28 pm

      Hey Lita,

      That’s awesome! Glacier Lake is stunning especially if you plan to travel between Banff and Jasper.


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