Tip: Renting a car is the best way to explore Banff!

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Calgary is a western Canadian city in the Alberta province, and the largest in Alberta for that matter! Although slightly smaller than Vancouver, Calgary has a major international airport, and is much closer to Banff. To put it in perspective, if you are arriving from the east, Banff is a 90 minute drive (87 mile) west of Calgary, Alberta. However, if you are coming from the west, Banff is a much longer 530 miles from Vancouver. You will need to plan out quite the Canadian road trip if you plan on driving from Vancouver to Banff. Getting from Calgary to Banff is super easy, making it a great starting point for anyone looking to explore the area.

girl at lake louise at sunrise
Striking views in Banff
sunrise at lake louise
Sunrise at Lake Louise, Banff

How to get from Calgary to Banff National Park

Calgary International Airport, YCC, is a great entry point if you’re interested in exploring the Canadian rockies. Calgary’s proximity to Banff makes it a popular destination to fly into. You can find direct flights to Calgary from Atlanta, Dallas, Minneapolis, Montreal, Vancouver, and more. 

From Calgary to Banff is approximately 87 miles. It takes about an hour and a half to drive from Calgary to Banff. Another option is to stop about a half hour outside of Banff and stay in the town of Canmore instead. Canmore is great if you’re looking for some more affordable accommodation and dining options in the area. 

girl on log at moraine lake banff national park canada

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3 Days in Banff Itinerary

Calgary to Banff Shuttle

Personally, I think that having a car to explore Banff National Park is absolutely essential. It allows for far more flexibility than joining a tour or using public transportation does. However, if you choose to not rent a car in Calgary, there is a daily shuttle that takes you from Calgary airport to Banff. 

The Banff Airporter has daily shuttles from Calgary to Banff, Calgary to Canmore, Banff to Calgary, and Canmore to Calgary. The shuttle prices are as follows:

  • One Way Calgary to Banff: $79.99 CAD ($59 USD)
  • Calgary to Banff return: $159.98 CAD ($119 USD)
  • One Way Calgary to Canmore: $57 CAD ($49 USD)
  • Calgary to Canmore return: $153.98 CAD ($114 USD)

You can find additional information on pricing and schedule on the Banff Airporter website.

Renting a Car in Calgary

If you are arriving into Calgary airport, I recommend renting a car directly from the airport. The Rental Car Center is located on the Departures Level, directly across the road from the Calgary Airport Domestic Terminal.

There are a ton of different providers at the airport, so you should have no issue renting from your preferred car service.

Here is a list of the car providers are the airport:

  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Thrifty
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Alamo

I recommend booking your car ahead of time, to ensure that there will be one available on your arrival. Snow is possible as early as September, so be sure to rent a car that is suitable in a range of weather conditions.

Where to Eat and Drink in Calgary, Alberta

If you’re looking for a place to eat in Calgary, I recommend checking out Buon Giorno Restaurant for some delicious, classic Italian fare in downtown Calgary. When you’ve finished up dinner, Derrick Gin Mill and Kitchen around the corner serves up some excellent cocktails!

When to Visit Banff

One of the most important things to consider when planning your trip to Banff is when the best time to visit Banff is!

It is typically said that the best time to visit Banff is in the summer, from June to August and December to March, depending on if you are looking for summer hikes or winter adventures.

Where to Stay in Banff

There are tons of accommodation options for those looking to visit Banff: camping, RV, Airbnb, hostels, or, of course, your standard hotels.

Camping in Banff

There are a number of options for both backcountry and front country camping in Banff. Here you’ll find a list of some of the best campsites in Banff.

Hotels in Banff

Hotels in Banff National Park

Staying in Banff National Park itself has its perks, as you will be closer to many of your destinations. However, traditional lodging tends to be much pricier, and the town itself is more touristy than surrounding towns such as Canmore. Here are a few options:

Photo credit: Booking.com

Fairmont Banff Springs 

If you’re looking for a little bit of luxury for your mountain getaway, then I recommend the Fairmont Banff Springs. You can’t beat the location or the views.

Check rates and availability

Hotels in Canmore

If you are looking for slightly cheaper hotel accommodation in a super cute town, then I recommend staying in the town of Canmore. I absolutely loved my time at the Lamphouse Hotel. It is a simple no-frills hotel, but it is perfect if you plan on spending long days at the park. My favorite thing about the Lamphouse Hotel was the self-check-in service and the continental breakfast stocked right to your fridge. We were often out of the hotel before sunrise, so a fridge stocked with complimentary yogurts, fruit, and granola bars was the perfect setup.

Photo credit: Booking.com

Lamphouse Hotel

Lamphouse Hotel is a great budget-friendly option near Banff National Park in the town of Canmore. It’s a great base for exploring the park.

Check rates and availability

If you do not have your own car, Regional Route 3 operates service between Canmore and Banff 7 days a week. The bus service runs every 30 mins between 6AM-9AM and 3PM-7PM. Outside of these time windows, the buses between Canmore and Banff run every 60 mins.

Best Things to do in Banff National Park

Once you’ve made it from Calgary to Banff, there are so many incredible things that you’ll want to see. A have a full 3 Days in Banff Guide that you’ll want to check out, that covers all of the best hikes in Banff, but for now I’ll give you a quick rundown of my favorite spots. 

Experience Lake Louise at Sunrise

Lake Louise is easily one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been to, and definitely one of the best places to visit in Banff. In order to avoid the crowds, you will want to plan to arrive just before the sun rises. The parking lots definitely fill up early!

The lake is located just a short walk from the parking lot, directly across from the Fairmont Chateau.

sunrise at lake louise bank
moraine lake banff canada

Visit Moraine Lake

I have traveled all over the world, and there are few places that rival the beauty of Moraine Lake. I recommend visiting for either sunrise or sunset, to capture the perfect reflection of the mountains in the water.

Unfortunately you are no longer allowed to bring your private car into the parking lot at Moraine Lake. This means that you’ll either need to join a tour or hop on the shuttle. Shuttle reservations cost $8 each way and must be made in advance on the Parks Canada website.

The shuttle runs daily from June to October from 6:30am to 7:30pm.

Moraine Lake Bus Company and Fairview Limousine also offer shuttles to Moraine Lake for sunrise if that interests you.

girl at lake in banff national park
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park Canada
moraine lake banff
Moraine Lake at sunset

Hike to the Big Beehive

The hike to the Big Beehive was one of my favorites in Banff, as it offers some of the best views of Lake Louise down below. Start on the hike to the Agnes Lake Tea House. Once you’ve reached the tea house, continue another 1.6 km to reach the summit. Be prepared for a quick, but tough, hike.

view of lake louise from big beehive
girl on beehive trek banff

Catch the View of Peyto Lake

Head to the viewpoint over Peyto Lake for a glimpse of the bluest waters that you’ve ever seen. Peyto lake is super easy to get to, located right off of the Icefields Parkway, via the Bow Summit exit. From the parking lot it is just a 10-minute walk to Peyto Lake lookout. If you bear a bit to the right, you will find a better view with less crowds. There are also longer hike options available for those looking to really get away from the crowds.

Visiting Banff? Here are some other articles that you should check out:

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