Big changes in Banff this year include the closure of Moraine Lake Road to private vehicles, increased parking fees at Lake Louise, and a new shuttle from Lake Minnewanka Park & Ride to the town of Banff. Read our Getting Around Banff National Park guide before your trip, so you can see all the sights, and get around easily!
Banff National Park is busier than ever, so visiting popular hot spots like the Banff Gondola, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake requires a bit of planning. With Moraine Lake Road closed to private vehicles (unless you have a handicapped placard), and limited parking at Lake Louise and the town of Banff, we highly recommend taking the Parks Canada shuttles or Roam Transit. Here are all your transportation and parking options and what you need to know before you go:
Seasonal Road Closure: Banff Avenue
Banff Avenue is closed to vehicles (except Roam Transit) between Buffalo Street and Wolf Street from May 15 – October 13, 2023. A portion of Caribou Street (one block on either side of Banff Avenue) is also closed to vehicles during this time. Allow a little extra time to get across town if you’re going to the Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff Gondola, or Banff Hot Springs (but for a stress-free experience, we recommend parking your car at the Train Station and taking transit).
Bikes and skateboards are permitted, but advised to travel slowly as there are lots of pedestrians on Banff Avenue.
Getting To, From, and Around Banff by Bike
Bike the Legacy Trail
Bike the Legacy Trail from the Travel Alberta Visitor Centre in Canmore (22.4 km one way), Valley View Day Use (13.1 km one way), or Cascade Ponds (6.1 km one way). Click the Google Maps pins for directions. The paved bike trail is super scenic and can be quite busy in summer, so use your bell when you’d like to pass people!
Bears are often seen along the Legacy Trail and Bow Valley Parkway (I saw FIVE bears in one day in June 2022 between Canmore and Johnston Canyon), so keep bear spray handy in a Bear Cozy (holster that fits in your water bottle holder – shown above) or Scat Belt.
Bike the Bow Valley Trail
Another popular cycling route is from Banff Train Station Parking Lot (free parking) to Johnston Canyon via Vermilion Lakes Drive and Bow Valley Trail. It’s 25 km one way. Ride the road without cars from May 1 to June 25, and September 1 to October 2, 2023.
Read about our experience here: e-bike the Bow Valley Parkway and Hike Johnston Canyon.
Free Bike Valet at Banff Visitor Centre
When you arrive in Banff, visit the free bike valet at the Banff Visitor Centre (224 Banff Avenue) for the following services:
- e-bike charging
- repair station (borrow tools to adjust seat, handlebars, etc.)
- staffed bicycle lock-up
The Bike Valet is open every day from 11 am to 6 pm during the summer.
Parking in the Town of Banff
With a downtown area of 4 square kilometres and 30,000 visitors per day in summer, parking fills up fast! Arrive early, park your car for the day, and take public transit (info follows) to make the most of your visit. Here are some paid and free parking options:
Paid Parking in the Town of Banff
Most of the parking in Banff is $5/hour in summer and $4/month in the downtown core in winter. Paid parking is the same rate whether you park on the street or in a paid parking lot, and the pay stations accept coins (bring exact change, no change provided), credit card, or debit card. We recommend using the Blinkay mobile app so you can pay for and top up parking from your phone. There is only one zone for the whole town and there is no limit on how long you can park in paid parking. For more information, visit Town of Banff Visitor Pay Parking.
FREE Parking in the Town of Banff
Fortunately there are a few places you can park for free in Banff (up to 9 hours):
- Train Station Public Parking Lot: 500 parking stalls on the edge of town (8 minute walk); good option if you are biking the Legacy Trail and your best option if you’re visiting for the day, especially if you have a trailer.
- Bow Avenue: 94 parking stalls near the river and 2 blocks from Banff Avenue
- Bear Street Parkade (Floors 2, 3, & 4 are free – Main floor is $2/hr): 187 parking stalls in the heart of downtown
- East side of Central Park parking lot (closest to Banff Park Museum National Historic Site): There are very few sites here, so I wouldn’t count on getting a parking spot unless you get there very early in the morning.
Additional parking outside downtown
If you can’t find parking in the town of Banff (or don’t want to drive around looking), park at the Lake Minnewanka Park & Ride (Google Maps pin) on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. Parking is free and the Parks Canada shuttle to downtown Banff is free from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm, August 1 – September 4, 2023. Outside of these dates and times, you can take Roam Transit Route 6 to Banff or Lake Minnewanka.
Getting Around the Town of Banff with Roam Transit and Parks Canada
Roam Public Transit Around Town
Roam Public Transit makes it easy to get around the Town of Banff whether you’re headed to the Banff Gondola (Route 1), Tunnel Mountain (Route 2), or Lake Minnewanka (Route 6). You can even take Roam Transit to Canmore and Lake Louise, or book a SuperPass to Moraine Lake! Here are the one way and day pass fares; reservable Super Passes are also available:
- One Way fares (Routes 1 – Sulphur Mountain, 2 – Tunnel Mountain, 4 – Cave & Basin**, & 6 – Lake Minnewanka**): $2 Adult / $1 Youth and Senior / FREE Kids 12 & Under
- Day Pass rates: (Routes 1 – Sulphur Mountain, 2 – Tunnel Mountain, 4 – Cave & Basin**, & 6 – Lake Minnewanka**): $5 Adult / $2.50 Youth and Senior / FREE Kids 12 & Under
- Reservable Super Pass rates*: (Routes 1 – Sulphur Mountain, 2 – Tunnel Mountain, 4 – Cave & Basin**, & 6 – Lake Minnewanka**): $25 Adult / $12.50 Youth and Senior / FREE Kids 12 & Under
*The Roam Super Pass includes “unlimited travel on all Roam Transit services and access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle to Moraine Lake.” It is valid for one day and expires at midnight on the date of travel.
** Routes 4 – Cave & Basin and 6 – Lake Minnewanka only run in the summer.
Parks Canada Shuttle from Lake Minnewanka Park & Ride
Parks Canada Shuttle from Lake Minnewanka Park & Ride to downtown Banff (NEW THIS YEAR): As of August 1, 2023 there is a FREE Parks Canada shuttle from the Lake Minnewanka Park and Ride to downtown Banff. This pilot project was brought in to alleviate parking and traffic issues in the townsite. On July 22, 2023 over 30,000 vehicles were counted at the park entrances resulting in the Lake Minnewanka exit from Highway 1 to be closed for 2 hours.
- Hours: 10:30 am – 5:30 pm, August 1 – September 4, 2023
- Price: FREE
- Parking: Lake Minnewanka Park & Ride (Google Maps pin)
Getting to Banff from Canmore
It’s a 20-minute drive from Canmore to Banff, 22 km bike ride (one way) via the Legacy Trail, or half hour bus ride.
If traveling by Roam Public Transit, take Route 3. Fares are: $6 Adult / $3 Youth and Senior / FREE Kids 12 & Under. Public transit WITHIN Canmore is FREE!
Getting from Banff to Johnston Canyon
It’s a 27-minute drive from Banff to Johnston Canyon, 25 km bike ride (one way) via Vermilion Lakes Drive and the Bow Valley Parkway, or 38-minute bus ride.
If traveling by Roam Public Transit, take Route 9. Fares are: $5 Adult / $2.50 Youth and Senior / FREE Kids 12 & Under.
Peak hours are from 10 am to 5 pm. If you’re able to go earlier or later in the day, the trail will be less crowded, and it will be easier to find parking.
See our story Hiking Johnston Canyon for details on this gorgeous trail.
Getting to Moraine Lake (DYK Moraine Lake Road is Now Closed to Personal Vehicles?)
As of 2023, Moraine Lake Road is closed to personal vehicles (unless you have a handicapped placard), so you can only get there by:
- Parks Canada Shuttle: Goes from the Lake Louise Ski Resort Park & Ride to Moraine Lake. Book tickets 48 hrs in advance at 8 am. Log in shortly before 8 am; tickets sell out within minutes!
- Roam Public Transit: Book the Lake Louise Express (Route 8X) Super Pass which includes transportation to/from Banff and your transfer to the Parks Canada Lake Louise/Moraine Lake shuttle. During larch season (September 19 – October 9, 2023), you can take the Roam Transit Moraine Lake Express Fall Route 10. This bus goes directly from Banff to Moraine Lake without stopping at the Park & Ride or Lake Louise. Reservations recommended. Catch the bus at the Banff High School Transit Hub.
- Private shuttles/tour operators: Pricier than the Parks Canada Shuttles, but they offer the option of going at sunrise and the torus provide in-depth info regarding the flora, fauna, geography, and history of the area. Book your sunrise shuttle tickets at Moraine Lake Bus Company.
- Taxi: good option if you’re staying in Lake Louise
- Bike: Not recommended after the road opens to buses/taxis (typically June 1st, but depends on road/avalanche conditions) as the road is narrow, winding, and has no shoulder. Go in mid to late May if you can!
For complete details on visiting Moraine Lake, see our story How to visit Moraine Lake now that personal vehicles are not permitted on Moraine Lake Road.
Getting to Lake Louise
Driving to Lake Louise
It’s a 45-minute drive from Banff to Lake Louise, or two hour drive from Calgary.
- Plan to arrive by 7 am or after 7 pm to get parking.
- Parking is $21/day or $8/day with handicapped placard from 7 am to 7 pm, from May 19 to October 9, 2023.
Parks Canada Shuttle from Lake Louise Park & Ride (May to October)
See Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in the same day with the Parks Canada Shuttle! Tickets are available online at the start of the season, and 48 hours in advance at 8 am MDT. For example, reserve Wednesday shuttle tickets on Monday at 8 am (log in a few minutes before 8 am to get placed in the online queue).
Tickets are for a one-hour departure window. Depart any time within the hour. Lake connector (Lake Louise to Moraine Lake) and return rides are first come first served.
Shuttle Fares are: $8 Adult / $4 Senior / FREE Kids 17 & Under (+ $3 online reservation fee or $6 phone reservation fee).
Roam Transit from Banff to Lake Louise (Year Round)
If traveling from Banff to Lake Louise by Roam Public Transit, take Route 8X (Lake Louise Express) or 8S (Lake Louise Scenic). The Express Route takes 1 hour. Fares are: $10 Adult / $5 Youth and Senior / FREE Kids 12 & Under.
Know Before You Go
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park.
- You are in bear territory. Review our Bear Safety Tips and keep bear spray accessible. At certain times of year, some areas require you to hike in a group of 4 (see example below). Check the Banff National Park Trail Report for more info.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
- Pack out all trash and do not feed or approach wildlife. There are fines up to $25,000 for feeding or disturbing wildlife.
What can you bring on the Parks Canada shuttles/Roam Transit Buses?
- Small dogs can be brought on the Parks Canada shuttle and Roam Transit provided they are in a dog crate that fits on your lap.
- Inflatable SUPs and small kayaks may be loaded in the Parks Canada shuttle’s cargo area on a first come first served basis (space permitting)
Booking shuttle/transit tickets
- Although kids’ tickets are free, you still need to save them a seat! Make sure you reserve a ticket for everyone in your group.
What to Bring
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Good hiking boots, a down hoody/fleece, toque, gloves, and windproof/waterproof shell are recommended year round. Trekking poles are useful for long hikes, steep descents, or babywearing. You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a first aid kit, headlamp, GPS / satellite communicator or compass, and map of the area, sunscreen (this mineral sunscreen is safe for babies), bug spray (this deet-free one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster or Scat Belt.
Things to Do in Banff National Park
Whether you are dining at the top of the Banff Gondola, paddling on a turquoise lake, mountain biking, trail riding, or hiking to a peak overlooking Lake Louise, you will fall in love with Banff’s stunning scenery! Here are some of the top things to do in Banff National Park:
- Hikes near the town of Banff: Tunnel Mountain, Johnson Lake, C Level Cirque, Stewart Canyon, Sundance Trail and Sundance Canyon, Sulphur Mountain and Sanson’s Peak
- Hike Johnston Canyon
- Hikes at Lake Louise: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, Mount St Piran, Mount Fairview
- The Best Stops on the Icefields Parkway from Peyto Lake to Athabasca Falls
- Visit Peyto Lake
- Banff Summer Fun Guide
- Banff FREE Fun Guide
- Gondolas and Sightseeing Chairlifts: Ride the Banff Gondola or hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain; Ride, Hike & Dine at the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola; Ride the Mount Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift and Dine at Cliffhouse Bistro
- Visit Moraine Lake
- Bike the Bow Valley Parkway
- Experience Banff on Horseback with Banff Trail Riders
- Alpine Adrenaline on Mount Norquay’s Via Ferrata
- Paddling at Lake Minnewanka
- Lake Minnewanka Lake Cruise
Where to Stay
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Hidden Ridge Resort has spacious condos on the side of Tunnel Mountain, just a few minutes from downtown Banff. We loved having a full kitchen, hiking and mountain biking trails next to the resort, and outdoor pools with a view!
Elk + Avenue, on Banff Avenue, has lovely loft suites, underground parking, a hot tub, and awesome onsite dining. See our story How to Have a Fun Girls’ Weekend in Banff this Fall for more info
The luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has lovely lakeside rooms, several restaurants to choose from, and an onsite spa. Open year round.
Deer Lodge offers rustic elegance with wood burning fireplaces, TV-free rooms, and great views from the rooftop hot tub. (They’re located next doo to the Fairmont.) Their restaurant is fantastic too, featuring Canadiana fare like elk, bison, and venison. Open February 10, 2023 – October 1, 2023.
Lake Louise Inn is a more affordable option in the hamlet of Lake Louise with a pool, hot tub, gym, and onsite dining. Open year round.
There are also several great campgrounds in Banff. See Parks Canada | Banff Camping for more information.