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Getting to Banff is Easier Than You Think

Published Date
Jun 12, 2018
Highway 1, Banff National Park

Landing at the Calgary International Airport on a clear day, you can see snow-capped peaks rising in the distance. These are the beautiful mountains of the Canadian Rockies, and your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Once that airplane hits the tarmac, you’re just a short drive away from the heart of it all: Banff and Lake Louise.

The final drive to Banff takes just 90 minutes, with Lake Louise requiring only an additional 45 minutes. But, this is no ordinary drive: As you leave Calgary you have vast farmland to gaze at before rolling foothills indicate that larger mountains are about to come into view. Suddenly, that landscape changes and you’re winding through valleys nestled amongst some of Banff’s most famous peaks. These mountains sure know how to welcome you.

How you make that final drive is up to you! Once you’ve picked up your bags, you have your choice of transportation options leaving straight from the airport.

Local Tips:

  • All visitors entering the national park will need a Park Pass, which you can purchase at the park gates or order your pass in advance and bring it with you to save time.

Take an airport shuttle

For travellers not requiring a car or looking for alternate transportation, a number of companies, such as the Banff Airporter or Brewster Express, operate airport shuttle services that will deliver you to the doors of your hotel or chosen accommodations.

Trust the locals on this one! Many swear by airport shuttles and buses to get them from A to B. This is a relaxing way to travel, and if you’re looking to connect with work or family back at home, most shuttles offer free WiFi.


  • If you have time to wait for your shuttle, drop your bags off at the registration desk and grab a snack or move your legs before you are required to board.
  • Travelling with small children? Shuttles offer car seats and booster seats, so be sure to ask for one when you book your seats!
  • Some shuttles offer a discount on round-trip bookings, so you can save money by booking your return transportation at the same time.

Take On-It Regional transit

With ten departures from Calgary every Saturday, Sunday, and long weekend Monday from May 20 to September 2022, it’s easier than ever to get to Banff. Tickets on the On-it Regional Transit are just $10 each way, with children between the ages of two and five riding free. Board the bus in downtown Calgary or the Crowfoot LRT station and enjoy the scenery while you ride stress-free.

Other options from Calgary

If you've enjoyed some time in Calgary, and the On-It bus isn't available, you've always got the option of The Banff Express. With two departures a day, The Banff Express will deliver you to the Banff Train Station and collect you from four different locations in Calgary.

Rent a car

If you like the flexibility and convenience of having your own vehicle, a number of car rental companies are located at the airport or nearby (off-site rentals require only a short shuttle ride to retrieve your vehicle).


If you do have a vehicle, squeeze in some extra exploring before you arrive in either the Town of Banff or the hamlet of Lake Louise. Some ideas?

  • Turn right towards the Lake Minnewanka Road at the first exit to Banff. On this loop, you can explore Lower Bankhead (an abandoned mining town), Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake and Johnson Lake.
  • Get off at the second exit to Banff and take a quick right onto Vermilion Lakes Road. This quiet drive takes you past three lakes and offers that famous view of Mt. Rundle

If you’re going all the way to Lake Louise, take the Bow Valley Parkway. This road parallels the Trans-Canada Highway, but is much slower-paced, giving you the chance to enjoy the scenery and, if you’re lucky, see some wildlife.

Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.