The Parker Ridge Trail to Saskatchewan Glacier is, dare I say it, the best hiking trail along the Icefields Parkway. The Parker Ridge trail is quick, effortless, and provides dramatic views of the North Saskatchewan Glacier – the reward is well worth the effort here.
It’s important to note that the Parker Ridge trail is in Banff which is a National Park. You’ll therefor need a Parks pass for each day you’re in Banff. You can buy these at the Park gates, online, or at the visitor centre in town.
Now, let’s go hiking!
- Getting to the Parker Ridge trailhead
- Where to stay along the Parkway
- About the Parker Ridge Trail to Saskatchewan Glacier
- Hiking the Parker Ridge Trail to Saskatchewan Glacier
- Essential day-hiking gear
- What to wear hiking in The Canadian Rockies
- Tips for a successful hike
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- 50+ Things to do in Banff in summer
- Best thing to do in Jasper
- Discover more Banff trail guides
- Complete guide to the Icefields Parkway
- Step-by-step guide for planning a trip to Banff
- What to wear hiking in Banff
- Hiking gear guide for Banff
Getting To Parker Ridge Trail To Saskatchewan Glacier Trailhead
The Parker Ridge trailhead is located just South of the Athabasca Glacier Visitors Centre off the Icefields Parkway. Did you know the Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in the world?
The Parker Ridge trailhead is about 2 hours from the town of Banff, an hour and 20 minutes from Jasper, and 3.5hrs from Calgary. If you don’t have a car you’ll need to rent one – there are no shuttles or buses that stop along the Icefields Parkway.
This is a very busy hike so you can expect to find a full parking lot at the Parker Ridge trailhead, especially if you plan to hike during high season. To ensure you get a parking spot, plan to hike early or start late in the day.
Where to Stay Along the Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is a long stretch of highway that connects Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Typically people drive the Parkway in one day and spend the night in Banff or Jasper. The general rule of thumb is you stay in Banff if you’re south of the Columbia Icefields and you stay in Jasper if you’re north of them. Here are the my top recommendations for lodging in Banff and Jasper:
- Banff – Fairmont Banff Springs (luxury), Banff Park Lodge (mid-range), Bow View Lodge (budget), Samesun Banff (hostel.)
- Jasper – Jasper Park Lodge and Pyramid Lake Lodge (luxury). Lobstick Lodge (mid-range), Jasper Gates Resort (budget), HI Jasper & Jasper Downtown Hostel.
If you want to extend your trip along the Parkway, there are a few hotels, hostels, and camping solutions scattered along the Parkway. The following are the best options:
- South of the Columbia Icefields: HI Mosquito Creek, HI Rampart Creek, and HI Athabasca Falls (hostels), The Crossing (at the Saskatchewan River Crossing).
- Columbia Icefields: Glacier View Lodge (luxury).
- North of the Columbia Icefields: Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge.
There are also plenty of reservable and first-come-first-serve campsites along the Parkway. Here’s information regarding the campgrounds on the Banff side of the highay and the Jasper side of the highway.
About the Parker Ridge Trail to Saskatchewan Glacier
- Distance: 5.1km
- Elevation gain: 269m
- Rated: moderate
- Type of trail: out & back
- Estimated time: 2hrs
From the Parker Ridge trailhead to the viewpoint for the North Saskatchewan Glacier you only need to hike a total of 2.5km! The effort is well worth the reward on the Parker Ridge Trail.
The trail is very clearly marked and easy to follow. You can expect minimal exposed roots and rocks, but high traffic volume.
You’ll want to wait until at least mid-late June to hike the Parker Ridge Trail to Saskatchewan Glacier. If you go any earlier you’ll be trekking through deep snow. If you decide to hike in the snow make sure you have snowshoes.
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Hiking The Parker Ridge Trail To Saskatchewan Glacier
The beginning of this hike starts in a semi-forested area where you will gain elevation over a series of switchbacks. Please ensure you stay on-trail as to protect the surrounding vegetation.
The views in the beginning are blocked by trees, but you will cross creeks and small waterfalls with a chance of seeing wildlife.
The ascent doesn’t take long at all and before you know it you’ll reach the viewpoint! If I can give you any advance it’s to wait until you get to the end of the trail to look back at the glacier – the views get better the further you walk.
Once you reach the end of the Parker Ridge trail you can continue to walk along the ridge. I haven’t done this, but according to Alltrails reviews it’s quite easy to navigate for at least a few more peaks. After this the ridge becomes non-navigable and it’s time to turn back. Hiking further along the Parker Ridge trail will give you a more solitary experience.
The North Saskatchewan Glacier is the most unique one I’ve seen. It looks as if someone picked up a brush and painted the glacier between Big Bend and Hilda Peak. This glacier feeds the North Saskatchewan River which can be seen up-close from the Glacier Lake trail.
The North Saskatchewan Glacier is the crown Jewel of the Parker Ridge trail; it’s part of the Columbia Icefields and is just one of Alberta’s 1, 167 glaciers.
Planning to hike the Parker Ridge trail? Ensure you bring bug repellent! I’ve never seen bugs so bag in my life – we were eaten alive. I always recommend bringing a bug suit rather than bug spray. Bug spray is packaged in plastic and is full of harmful chemicals.
Looking for More Banff Adventures?
Banff is an adventurer’s & view seeker’s paradise. If you’re planning a trip to this gorgeous Canadian Park, you can start with this step-by-step guide designed to help you plan the perfect Banff itinerary.
Alternatively, check out this page with all my Banff resources.
Banff Hiking Resources
On this page you can find all my Banff trail guides. A few signature hikes in Banff are these easy trails, Tunnel Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon. If you’re only in Banff for a few days, start with those!
More Banff Resources you Might Find Interesting:
Want to continue your Canadian Rockies expedition outside of Banff? Check out my trail guides & travel resources for British Columbia and Kananaskis Country as well as Jasper, Waterton, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks 🙂
Recommended Hiking Gear
The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!
The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.
Find it on Amazon (CAD).
Find it on Peak Design (US).
A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.
What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies
For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.
Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:
A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.
A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.
Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
More: Day-hiking Gear Guide
Tips For A Successful Hike
- This is a busy and well-trafficked hike. The Parker Ridge trailhead parking lot is oftentimes full and it can be difficult to find a parking spot. If you hike during high season ensure you start early or late in the day
- Bring a bug suit. We were literally eaten alive on the Parker Ridge trail
- Continue walking along Parker Ridge to find a more solitary spot to enjoy the views
Where to Stay in Banff
This post is my detailed breakdown of all the best hotels in Banff – all organized by category.Booking.com
- Hostels – Samesun Banff (best location + bar/restaurant on-site), Banff International Hostel, and HI Banff.
- Budget stays – Bow View Lodge and High Country Inn.
- Mid-range stays – Banff Park Lodge, Mount Royal, Elk & Avenue, and the Banff Caribou & spa.
- Luxury stays – Fairmont Banff Springs and the Rimrock Resort.
- Camp – reservation information.
- See all Banff accommodations.
Travellers can also opt to stay in locations near Banff:
- Lake Louise – Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (luxury), Paradise Lodge & Bungalows (500m from the lake), Lake Louise Inn (value stay), HI Lake Louise (hostel).
- Canmore – Malcolm Hotel (luxury), Stoneridge Mountain Resort (condo suites with fully equipped kitchens), Mountain View Inn (budget), Canmore Downtown Hostel & the Canmore Hostel (party hostel).
- Johnston Canyon – Johnston Canyon Lodge & Bungalows, Castle Mountain Chalets, and HI Castle Mountain Hostel.
- Yoho National Park – Emerald Lake Lodge and Cathedral Mountain Lodge.
- Kootenay National Park – Storm Mountain Lodge & Cabins.
- Kananaskis Country – Mount Engadine Lodge and Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (luxury), Crosswaters Resort (mid-range), and HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel (budget).
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About The Author
HI, I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I now spend my days travelling the world, climbing mountains, and spending nights under the stars in the Canadian Rockies backcountry.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.