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Ultimate Canadian Rockies Gaycation: Exploring Banff to Jasper on the Scenic Icefields Parkway

by | Jun 23, 2024

The Canadian Rocky Mountains are a spectacular destination, renowned for their towering peaks, pristine lakes, and breathtaking vistas. This awe-inspiring region draws travelers from around the world, offering an unparalleled mix of natural beauty and adventure. If you haven’t experienced the Rockies yet, it’s time to add this dream Banff to Jasper scenic drive vacation to your bucket list. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, the Rockies provide the perfect backdrop. Get ready to embark on the ultimate Canadian Rockies gaycation.

A warm, spring evening at lake with the snowcapped Canadian Rocky Mountains in the distance.

Banff and Jasper, two iconic towns nestled in Alberta, serve as the gateways to the Rockies. They are connected by the stunning Icefields Parkway, which is considered one of the most scenic drives in the world. This route offers a journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see. The drive itself is an adventure, filled with opportunities to stop and marvel at the natural wonders along the way.

Two male travelers at Peyto Lake, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

This guide will cover everything you need to know for the ultimate Banff to Jasper road trip, focusing on the Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection hotels, restaurants, and attractions. You’ll learn about the best places to stay, eat, and explore, ensuring you have an unforgettable experience. From planning your trip to the best activities to do in each location, this comprehensive guide has you covered.

A gay man proudly holding a Progressive Pride flag on the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefields Adventure.

Planning Your Trip

Arrival and Transportation

Start your journey by flying into Calgary International Airport. From there, rent a car to embark on your road trip adventure. The drive from Calgary to Banff takes about two hours, giving you a taste of the scenic beauty that awaits.

A view of Highway 93, between Banff and Jasper, Alberta, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Explore Banff

Spend two days in Banff, soaking in its charm and natural beauty. This picturesque town offers plenty to see and do, from exploring the stunning landscapes to enjoying the vibrant local culture. Take your time to fully immerse yourself in everything Banff has to offer.

A view of the snow capped Rocky Mountains and Lake Minnewanka from the top of Banff.

Drive the Icefields Parkway

The drive to Glacier View Lodge takes about three hours. Along the way, plan for stops at various scenic spots to fully appreciate the stunning landscapes. The Icefields Parkway is not just a road; it’s an experience filled with breathtaking views at every turn.

A gaycation traveling through the Canadian Rocky Mountains from Banff to Jasper.

Overnight at Glacier View Lodge

Spend the night at Glacier View Lodge and explore the surrounding area in the morning. Afterward, continue your journey to Jasper, which is about a two-hour drive. This part of the trip allows you to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the Rockies.

Glacier View Lodge.

Discover Jasper

Dedicate two nights in Jasper to fully enjoy its unique attractions. This charming town offers a different perspective of the Rockies, with plenty of activities and sights to keep you entertained. Take your time to explore and relax in this beautiful setting.

A view of Jasper and the Jasper Skytram from the top of Whistler Mountain.

Return to Calgary

Drive back to Calgary International Airport for your departure. This final leg of your journey allows you to reflect on the incredible experiences you’ve had along the way. The memories of your Canadian Rockies gaycation will last a lifetime.

The top of the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Banff: Where to Stay, Eat, and Explore

Stay: Mount Royal Hotel

Step into history and comfort at the Mount Royal Hotel, proudly part of the esteemed Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection. Located in the heart of Banff, this historic hotel seamlessly blends classic charm with modern amenities, offering guests a unique and inviting retreat. With its central location, the Mount Royal Hotel serves as the perfect starting point for exploring Banff’s vibrant downtown area, as well as the breathtaking natural landscapes that surround it. Whether you’re relaxing in the elegantly appointed rooms, savoring a meal at the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant, or exploring nearby attractions, the Mount Royal Hotel promises a memorable stay steeped in both heritage and convenience.

Read: Discover the Charm of Mount Royal Hotel, Banff: Perfect Stay for LGBTQ Travelers

Eat

Indulge in a culinary journey at these exceptional Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection restaurants in Banff, where innovative cuisine and stunning views await.

Brazen: This contemporary restaurant offers innovative cuisine that delights the palate. The Brazen menu features a mix of local and international flavors, making it a must-visit spot.

Farm & Fire: Known for its farm-to-table dishes and cozy atmosphere, Farm & Fire is perfect for a relaxed meal. The restaurant focuses on fresh, local ingredients, creating delicious and wholesome dishes.

Sky Bistro: Located atop Sulphur Mountain, Sky Bistro offers stunning views and gourmet dining. The combination of incredible scenery and exquisite food makes for an unforgettable dining experience.

Do

Explore the incredible experiences awaiting you in Banff, each offering a unique way to connect with the stunning natural beauty and vibrant culture of the Rockies. These are just a few of the many adventures and attractions that make Banff a must-visit destination.

A Canada flag flying at the top of Banff Mountain.

Banff Gondola: Take a ride up the Banff Gondola for panoramic views of the Rockies. The journey to the top is filled with breathtaking scenery, making every moment memorable. At the summit, you’ll find walking trails, interpretive exhibits, and a state-of-the-art observation deck. It’s a perfect spot for photos and offers a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding peaks and valleys. This experience is part of the Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection, ensuring top-notch service and unforgettable memories.

Pride Crosswalk at the Pedestrian Bridge: This colorful symbol of inclusivity is a great spot for photos and a reminder of the welcoming atmosphere in Banff. Located near the heart of town, the crosswalk celebrates diversity and community spirit. It’s a must-see for visitors, symbolizing Banff’s commitment to being a safe and welcoming place for everyone. Take a moment to appreciate the vibrant colors and what they represent. This inclusive landmark is a testament to Banff’s warm and inviting culture.

The Pride flag at the pedestian bridge in Banff, Alberta.

Bow Falls: A beautiful waterfall just a short walk from downtown, Bow Falls is a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty. The falls are a stunning backdrop for photos, particularly in the morning light. You can hear the roar of the water as it cascades over the rocks, creating a serene and powerful scene. There are several vantage points along the pathway where you can take in the view. It’s an ideal spot for a peaceful walk or a quiet moment of reflection.

Bow Falls, just a few minutes walk from downtown Banff, Alberta.

Shopping on Banff Avenue: Browse local shops and boutiques along Banff Avenue. You’ll find a variety of unique items, from souvenirs to locally made products. The avenue is lined with charming storefronts, each offering something different. Whether you’re looking for artisanal crafts, outdoor gear, or a special keepsake, Banff Avenue has it all. The bustling street also offers cafes and restaurants where you can take a break and enjoy the local flavors.

A view of Mount Rundel from Banff Avenue, in Banff, Alberta.

Wildlife Viewing: Keep an eye out for bears, elk, and other wildlife along the drive. The Rockies are home to a diverse range of animals and spotting them in their natural habitat is a highlight of any trip. Early morning and late evening are the best times for sightings. Remember to bring your camera and binoculars for a closer look. Always maintain a safe distance and respect the wildlife, ensuring their habitat remains undisturbed.

A group of mountain goats along the highway near Banff, Alberta.

Icefields Parkway: Highlights and Attractions

Stay: Glacier View Lodge

Perched near the majestic Athabasca Glacier, Glacier View Lodge stands as a distinctive retreat within the Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection, offering unparalleled vistas and a cozy atmosphere for your mountain getaway. The lodge’s proximity to the glacier allows for convenient access to breathtaking natural wonders, ensuring every moment is filled with awe-inspiring views and opportunities for exploration. Whether you’re hiking nearby trails, embarking on an ice explorer tour, or simply soaking in the serenity from your lodge room, Glacier View Lodge provides a memorable and comfortable base amidst the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

Read: Glacier View Lodge: A Perfect Getaway for Gay Couples Seeking Romance

Eat

Discover delicious dining options at Glacier View Lodge with these Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection restaurants, offering both cozy alpine meals and fine dining experiences.

Chalet: Enjoy hearty meals with a cozy alpine atmosphere at the Chalet. The restaurant offers a variety of delicious dishes, perfect for refueling after a day of adventure.

Altitude: Fine dining with stunning glacier views, Altitude is a great place to enjoy a special meal. The menu features gourmet dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.

Do

Explore the wonders of the Icefields Parkway, where every twist and turn reveals breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable experiences. From serene lakes and thundering waterfalls to thrilling glacier tours and wildlife encounters, these highlights are just the beginning of your journey through this pristine wilderness.

The Ice Explorers make their way down to the base of the Athabasca glacier for the Columbia Icefields Experience by Pursuit.

Bow Lake: Bow Lake is a gem along the Icefields Parkway. Its crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding mountains, creating a postcard-perfect scene. Visitors can take leisurely walks around the lake’s shores or capture stunning photographs from the viewing platforms. The Bow Glacier, visible from the lake, adds to the majestic backdrop, offering a glimpse into the area’s geological history. Whether relaxing by the shore or hiking nearby trails, Bow Lake promises a serene and captivating experience for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.

Peyto Lake: Peyto Lake is renowned for its striking turquoise hue, caused by glacial rock flour suspended in the water. A short hike from the parking area leads to an elevated viewpoint, where visitors are rewarded with a panoramic vista of the lake’s distinct shape against the backdrop of rugged peaks. This iconic view is a photographer’s dream, capturing the essence of the Rockies’ pristine beauty. Interpretive displays at the viewpoint offer insights into Peyto Lake’s formation and the surrounding ecosystem, enriching the visitor experience with educational value.

Athabasca Falls: Athabasca Falls is a must-see attraction along the Icefields Parkway. The powerful waterfall cascades through a narrow gorge, carving its way through limestone rock formations over centuries. Visitors can view the falls from several platforms, experiencing the thundering rush of water and the dramatic landscape. Interpretive signs provide geological context and highlight the role of water in shaping the Rockies’ terrain. Surrounding walking trails offer different perspectives of the falls, allowing visitors to explore the area at their own pace and immerse themselves in its natural splendor.

Icefields Glacier Tour: Experience the wonders of the Columbia Icefield with Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection’s Ice Explorer and The Ice Odyssey tours. These guided adventures take visitors onto the Athabasca Glacier aboard specially designed Ice Explorers, providing a close-up encounter with one of North America’s largest expanses of ice. Knowledgeable guides share insights into glaciology and the icefield’s ecological significance, offering a deeper appreciation for this frozen landscape. The tours also include visits to interpretive centers, where exhibits detail the glacier’s formation, historical explorations, and ongoing research efforts. It’s a journey through time and ice, revealing the secrets of this ancient and awe-inspiring natural wonder.

Icefields Skywalk: Part of the Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection, the Icefields Skywalk offers a thrilling perspective on the Sunwapta Valley. This glass-floored observation platform extends over the cliff’s edge, providing unobstructed views of the valley floor 280 meters below. The experience combines adrenaline and awe as visitors walk above the valley, surrounded by panoramic vistas of glaciers, waterfalls, and rugged mountains. Interpretive panels along the Skywalk highlight the area’s geology, flora, and fauna, enriching the experience with educational insights. It’s a unique opportunity to step into the heart of the Rockies and witness their grandeur from a new and exhilarating vantage point.

Wildlife Viewing: Throughout the Icefields Parkway there are wildlife viewing opportunities abound. The diverse landscape supports a variety of species, including bears, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Patience and vigilance are rewarded with sightings of these majestic creatures against the backdrop of towering peaks and lush forests. Wildlife enthusiasts can explore designated pull-offs and trails, keeping a respectful distance to observe animals in their natural habitat. Binoculars and cameras are essential for capturing these encounters responsibly, ensuring memories of close encounters with Rocky Mountain wildlife endure long after the journey ends.

Jasper: Where to Stay, Eat, and Explore

Stay

Forest Park Hotel: Nestled amidst Jasper’s natural splendor, Forest Park Hotel, a cherished property within the Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection, provides a tranquil retreat immersed in mountain serenity. Surrounded by towering pines and overlooking picturesque vistas, the hotel offers a peaceful oasis for guests seeking respite from bustling city life. With cozy rooms designed to blend comfort with rustic charm, Forest Park Hotel invites you to unwind by the fireplace or take in the fresh mountain air from your private balcony. Whether you spend your days hiking through nearby trails or simply relaxing in the on-site spa, every moment at Forest Park Hotel promises rejuvenation and tranquility in the heart of Jasper.

Pyramid Lake Lodge: Embrace the beauty of Jasper’s natural landscape at Pyramid Lake Lodge, a sought-after lakeside haven within the Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection. Located on the shores of Pyramid Lake, the resort boasts charming cabins offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and easy access to a plethora of outdoor activities. Immerse yourself in nature with canoeing on the lake, hiking through nearby trails, or simply lounging on the lakeside patio with a book. Inside, the resort’s cozy cabins feature modern amenities and rustic decor, ensuring a comfortable stay immersed in the serene beauty of Jasper National Park. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, Pyramid Lake Resort promises an unforgettable escape into the heart of the Rockies.

Eat

Discover the culinary delights of Jasper at these restaurants, each offering unique flavors and unforgettable dining experiences.

Jasper Brewing Co: Enjoy locally brewed beers and pub fare at Jasper Brewing Co. The casual atmosphere and delicious food make it a popular spot for both locals and visitors.

Aalto: This modern restaurant focuses on fresh, local ingredients, creating dishes that are both delicious and sustainable. The Aalto menu features a mix of contemporary and classic flavors.

Terra: A fine dining experience with a focus on sustainability, Terra offers a unique culinary experience. The restaurant’s commitment to using local and organic ingredients shines through in every dish.

Do

Step into Jasper, where each moment unveils new wonders: ascend Whistlers Mountain on the Jasper Skytram for breathtaking views, explore charming shops with locally crafted treasures, and encounter diverse wildlife in their natural habitat at Jasper National Park. Discover a place where natural beauty and cultural charm converge to create unforgettable experiences.

A lake in Jasper National Park with Pyramid Mountain in the distance.

Jasper Skytram: Embark on a scenic journey aboard the Jasper Skytram, ascending Whistlers Mountain for unparalleled views of the Canadian Rockies. As you reach the summit, panoramic vistas stretch out in all directions, showcasing Jasper’s stunning alpine landscapes. This iconic attraction is a must for capturing breathtaking photos and immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the region.

Shopping: Jasper’s charming shops and galleries offer a treasure trove of unique items, from locally crafted art and jewelry to handmade souvenirs. Explore the quaint streets lined with boutiques and studios, where you can find one-of-a-kind pieces that reflect the essence of Jasper’s artistic community. Whether you’re searching for a special gift or simply browsing, shopping in Jasper is an enriching experience that supports local artisans and celebrates creativity.

Downtown Jasper, Alberta.

Wildlife Viewing: Jasper is renowned for its rich biodiversity, providing ample opportunities for wildlife viewing along its scenic drives and hiking trails. Keep your camera ready as you venture through Jasper National Park, home to a diverse array of animals including bears, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. The chance to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat adds a thrilling dimension to your Jasper experience, highlighting the park’s commitment to conservation and preservation of wildlife habitats. Remember to respect wildlife and observe from a safe distance to ensure their well-being.

LGBTQ Friendly and Inclusive Atmosphere

At Pursuit accommodations, restaurants, and activities along the Banff-Jasper route, inclusivity is not just a policy but a core value that shapes every aspect of your journey. From the moment you check in at their hotels to dining at their restaurants and participating in activities, you’ll find a welcoming environment where diversity is celebrated. LGBTQ travelers can feel at ease knowing that Pursuit not only accepts but embraces all guests, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This commitment is reflected in the presence of LGBTQ employees who contribute to creating a respectful and supportive atmosphere. Whether exploring the natural wonders of the Rockies or relaxing at their properties, every guest can enjoy a safe and inclusive experience that enhances the overall enjoyment of their trip.

A gay man holding a Progressive Pride flag from the top of the Rocky Mountains, with Banff, Alberta in the background.

Plan Your Ultimate Gaycation with Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection

Plan Your Ultimate Gaycation with Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection, where every aspect of your Rocky Mountain road trip from Banff to Jasper is meticulously curated for an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re seeking luxury accommodations with breathtaking views, dining options that highlight local flavors and sustainability, or exhilarating activities amidst pristine natural surroundings, Pursuit ensures that every detail of your journey exceeds expectations. 

The honeymoon suite at the Glacier View Lodge.

Begin by exploring their diverse range of accommodations, from historic hotels to cozy lodges, each offering unique charm and comfort. Indulge in culinary delights at their renowned restaurants, where innovative menus celebrate the region’s bounty. Finally, embark on adventures such as hiking through awe-inspiring landscapes, experiencing thrilling glacier tours, or simply soaking in the tranquility of the Rockies. With Pursuit Banff-Jasper Collection, your dream gaycation becomes a reality, promising memories that will last a lifetime. Start planning today and discover why this journey is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The new Ice Odyssey adventure by Pursuit at the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

Share Your Experience

Have you traveled the Canadian Rocky Mountains from Banff to Jasper? Leave your suggestions, recommendations, and ideas in the comments below. Your insights can help fellow travelers make the most of their own adventures.

A gay man exploring Athabasca Waterfalls in Jasper National Park, Alberta.

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A gay man holding a progressive Pride flag with the snow capped Canadian Rocky Mountains in the distance.

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Brian Webb

Brian Webb

Author

Brian Webb is the founder and editor-in-chief of HomoCulture, a celebrated content creator, and winner of the prestigious Mr. Gay Canada – People’s Choice award.An avid traveler, Brian attends Pride events, festivals, street fairs, and LGBTQ friendly destinations through the HomoCulture Tour. He has developed a passion for discovering and sharing authentic lived experiences, educating about the LGBTQ community, and using both his photography and storytelling to produce inspiring content.Originally from the beautiful Okanagan Valley in the southern interior of British Columbia, Brian now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. His personal interests include travel, photography, physical fitness, mixology, drag shows.

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