The Bow Valley Parkway
Banff National Park
Winding its way through sun-speckled forest, the Bow Valley Parkway provides visitors with a scenic, convenient and leisurely route between Banff and Lake Louise, and a quieter alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway. 48 kilometers of paved road showcase interesting roadside pull-offs and superb views, from ﬂower-ﬁlled meadows to the multi-tiered pinnacles of Castle Mountain.
Although the mountains are generally a harsh place for wildlife to live, the Bow Valley Parkway sits at a lower elevation on the sunny side of the valley, making it prime habitat. Here, water is abundant, winter snows are shallow and the warmth and lushness of summer produces diverse vegetation. .
Keep a sharp eye on the roadside slopes! Year-round, you may see elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mule deer and wolves, while summer provides you with a rare opportunity to see black bears and grizzly bears.
When viewing wildlife:
- Respect the slower speed limits to keep animals safe from collisions.
- Be mindful of stopping suddenly on the road. Pull over where it is safe to do so, use your hazard lights, and avoid creating “wildlife jams”by promptly moving on.
- Keep a respectful distance from wildlife.
- Observe and photograph from the safety of your car.
- Never approach or feed wildlife.
Activities and sightseeing
Driving or cycling the Bow Valley Parkway is a great experience unto itself. Enjoy outdoor activities and roadside pull-offs that make this alternate route unique.
The Bow Valley Parkway is also a continuation of the Banff Legacy Trail, linking Banff and Lake Louise as a cycling route.
new! Ride your bike on the eastern section of Bow Valley Parkway with restricted vehicle use in May, June and September.
- Interpretive displays and marked pull-offs provide the chance to discover more about the landscape, wildlife and history of Banff National Park.
- Scenic viewpoints, open meadows and picnic areas provide opportunities to appreciate the landscape, see wildlife, and relax along the way.
- Remnants of the 1993 prescribed burn demonstrate the importance of fire to forest health and the regeneration of important ecosystems.
- Johnston Canyon is a natural attraction for year-round enjoyment, featuring a powerful, thundering canyon in summer and stunning frozen waterfalls in winter.
- Enjoy hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and camping.
Services and amenities
Visitors exploring the Bow Valley Parkway will find everything they need to stay and explore longer!
- Accommodations include campsites and some of Banff's oldest and most traditional lodging.
- Dining options range from grab-and-go snack bars to cafes to charming bistro-style dining rooms.
- Additional amenities include a gas station, liquor and grocery store and various gift shops.
Bow Valley Parkway Travel Restriction
From March 1st to June 25th, travel is not permitted between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. on the 17-kilometre section of the parkway from Johnston Canyon Campground to the Fireside Picnic Area.
This is to ensure the area remains a high quality home for wildlife. The eastern portion of the Bow Valley Parkway travels through a small but vital part of the park, called the montane, that provides critical habitat for large carnivores, including wolves, cougars and bears.
This seasonal travel restriction also applies to the Bow Valley Parkway Cycling Experience that begins on May 1, 2023 at 8 a.m. Cyclists must abide by the travel restriction and therefore are not permitted access to the Bow Valley Parkway between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.All businesses and commercial accommodations remain open during this mandatory travel restriction and are easily accessible by driving the Trans-Canada Highway and exiting at Castle Junction.
Bow Valley Parkway Closure Map (PDF 11 MB)
Why is this restriction important?
Protecting wildlife is the foundation of a great visitor experience and sustainable future for Banff National Park. This mandatory travel restriction will allow sensitive wildlife to move unimpeded across the landscape, use high-quality habitat, and engage in normal behaviour. It is part of a larger action plan to ensure the ecologically and culturally rich Bow Valley Parkway area continues as a world-class setting for visitors to learn about and experience the park, and as a safe and secure environment for wildlife.
Did you know that the Bow Valley Parkway was the original road linking Banff and Lake Louise in the early 1900s?
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