The Parker Ridge Trail in Banff National Park is an easy day hike with an amazing reward for minimal effort. The 5.1 km long trail with 270 meters of elevation gain takes you over a well-maintained path to the ridge with spectacular views over the Saskatchewan Glacier and surrounding mountains. So if you’re looking for a quick hike along the Icefields Parkway to stretch your legs, then this is a fantastic option. Find in our complete guide all you need to know about hiking Parker Ridge Trail.
Parker Ridge hike key stats
Length: 5.1 km – 6.4 km (4 miles), depending on where you turn around
Duration: 2-3 hours
Incline: Between 269 m and 343 m
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Where is Parker Ridge trail?
Parker Ridge Trail is located along the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. The mountain range called Parker Ridge is located in the upper North Saskatchewan River valley which is surrounded by prominent peaks such as Cirrus Mountain, Mount Athabasca, Castleguard Mountain and more.
The short hike offers spectacular views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and the Columbia Icefield. As you hike to the summit, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of these impressive glaciers, surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
Parker Ridge Trailhead
The Parker Ridge parking and trailhead is located directly along the Icefields Parkway Highway 93 road. From the town of Banff, it is 176 km north toward Jasper National Park. From the Columbia Icefield, it is only a 7-minute drive, which makes it the perfect activity to combine with a visit to the Columbia Icefields. This also gives you a different perspective on the spectacular glaciers.
How long is Parker Ridge trail?
The Parker Ridge Trail is 5.1 km out and back to the glacier viewpoint. But you can hike a bit further for an even better view, then the trail is 6.4 km (4 mile).
How long does it take to hike Parker Ridge trail?
It takes an average of 2 – 3 hours to complete the Parker Ridge trail. On a sunny day you might want to plan a bit longer to have a picnic at the ridge with spectacular glacier views. Remember to pack in what you pack and Leave No Trace.
What is the elevation gain of Parker Ridge trail?
The elevation gain of the Parker Ridge trail is between 269 m and 343 m, depending on how far you continue after the first glacier viewpoint. Therefore is Parker Ridge Trail an easy to moderate hike. The path is also very well maintained, so it’s not a difficult hike at all and people of all ages can join this beautiful hike.
What is the best time to hike Parker Ridge Trail?
The Parker Ridge is located at a height of 2,255 m (7,398 ft). This means that the snow along the trail will only melt half summer. The first snowfall can occur as early as October, therefore the period to hike Parker Ridge trail is short timeframe. The best months to hike this trail are July until October. Before and after this period you might get some snow along the way. Which then results in a muddy path after the thaw.
Parker Ridge trail description
Parker Ridge Hike starts really easy with a gradual incline along a well-maintained path. The first part is through the forest with little views, but as soon as you break through the treeline, the first glimpse of the pointy Hilda peak comes into sight. This beautiful mountain stays the backdrop throughout the hike which is a treat for the eye!
The trail winds its way up higher along the mountain and the path stays very easy to follow. While there are a few shortcuts to be seen, it is not allowed anymore to use them. This is because the ecosystem gets damaged and plants and shrubs die this way. The main trail is there not without reason, so stay on track and don’t use the shortcuts.
Once you get to the ridge, you have to follow the path straight ahead until you get to the summit pole. Here the path continues on the side of the mountain along a narrow trail to the epic viewpoint over the Saskatchewan Glacier.
You can feel the difference as soon as you get to the ridge, because the wind usually picks up here. Therefore I highly recommend not only wearing a beanie, especially in the colder months, but also a jacket or body warmer with a hoodie.
After you have explored the stunning viewpoint of the glacier, you can continue up the ridge on the opposite side. Here you can have a closer view of Hilda Peak and see the top of the Saskatchewan Glacier from a closer perspective. However, the bottom part of the glacier is blocked here by pine forest.
If you’re short in time I won’t recommend hiking up this hill, as the view from the initial viewpoint on the Saskatchewan Glacier is much better.
Getting back to the Parker Ridge parking goes via the same trail and is a quick 45 – 60 minute descent. We loved how easy and quick this hike was but with such impressive views at the summit! Parker Ridge hike is one of the easiest hikes in Banff National Park but with an incredible reward!
Do you need a National Park Pass to hike Parker Ridge Trail?
Because Parker Ridge Trail is located inside Banff National Park, you’ll need a Parks Canada Pass to enter. Depending on the number of days you plan to visit the Canadian National Parks, you can either buy single daily admission tickets or the Parks Canada Discovery Pass which is a multi-park entry pass for 365 days. You can purchase the different Parks Canada Passes online at the Parks Canada website, at the National Park Visitor Centres or at booths upon entering the many national parks. See all the options and prices below.
Single daily admission pass
This entrance fee ticket is sold per person, per day, per National Park. It is only the best option if you are solo traveling and just visiting one or two national parks for a couple of days.
- $10.50 CAD for an adult (from 18-64 years)
- $9.00 CAD for Senior (65+)
- FREE entrance for kids younger than 17 years
Group daily admission pass
For the ones traveling with 2 or more people in one car, you can buy a single-day group admission pass. This pass gives entrance for up to 7 people in one vehicle.
- $21.00 CAD for one vehicle entry for one full day (maximum 7 people)
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass” is the best option for travelers who plan to visit multiple National Parks. Basically, if you’re spending more than 7 days in the Canadian National Parks, you’ll have a much better deal buying the Discovery Pass. This multi-park entry pass is valid for 365 days to access all participating national parks in Canada. These include Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and much more.
- $72.25 CAD for one Adult (age 18-64)
- $61.75 CAD for one Senior (64+)
- $145.25 CAD for a couple or group/family up to 7 people in one vehicle
Where to stay near Parker Ridge Trail
With Lake Louise and Banff being the closest towns to Parker Ridge Trail, it is most advisable to stay there for a variety in accommodation. You can browse all the options below. The closest camp spot for RV’s is the Icefield Parkway camping, which is also the place where we spent the night before hiking Parker Ridge Trail.
More Canada travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the Parker Ridge Trail in Banff National Park. For more travel inspiration about British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides. See below our Canada guides per National Park and area for more travel inspiration.