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.
Local tip: Try downloading a GyPSy guide tour to take your through the natural wonders during your trip to Banff.
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.
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 Banff Airporter 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.
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).
Your vehicle will require a Park Pass, but the good news is that Banff National Park entry is free for 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday! You can order your free pass in advance and bring it with you to save time at the Banff National Park gate.
If you do have a vehicle, squeeze in some extra exploring before you arrive in either the Town of Banff or 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 TransCanada Highway, but is much slower-paced, giving you the chance to enjoy the scenery and, if you’re lucky, see some wildlife.