Skip to main content

How to Get to Banff and Lake Louise

Published Date
Feb 20, 2024|
Themes
Sustainable Travel
A wildlife overpass on Highway 1 in Banff National Park as seen from an aerial view.

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 journey away from the heart of it all: Banff and Lake Louise.

The final trip 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.

How to Get to Banff National Park from Calgary:

  • Airport Shuttle
  • On-It Regional Transit
  • Rent a Car

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.

And thanks to Banff's public bus network, you'll be able to explore the park easily car free. And you never need to worry about finding parking or navigating while taking in these glorious views. You can even do most of Banff and Lake Louise's most famous hikes and attractions without a vehicle.

Find an Airport Shuttle

Tips:

  • 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 from Calgary to Banff

With ten departures from Calgary every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and long weekend Monday during the spring and summer, it’s easier than ever to get to Banff. Tickets on the On-it Regional Transit are just $12.50 each way, with children between the ages of two and five riding free. Board the bus in downtown Calgary and enjoy the scenery while you ride stress-free.

Two people walk by the On It bus in Banff on a summer day.Two people walk by the On It bus in Banff on a summer day.Two people walk by the On It bus in Banff on a summer day.

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).

Whenever possible, we suggest carpooling or taking shared transportation. Not only is this healthier for the environment and reduces traffic congestion in the park, but it makes for a more relaxing trip when all you have to do is sit back and soak up the scenery.

Tips:

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.

Exploring Banff Car-Free

Banff and Lake Louise are fantastic destinations to visit car-free. Thanks to the local Roam Public Transit and guided tour options, there is no need for a personal vehicle to visit the best spots while in Banff National Park.

In fact, on some days, you are better off taking public transit to the most popular destinations - like Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, and the Banff Gondola. To get to Moraine Lake, you must take public transit, a guided tour, or hike the road.

This guarantees you will see these beautiful spots, and you won't miss out or waste time looking for parking.

Plan Your Trip to Banff and Lake Louise

Start planning your dream trip to Banff and Lake Louise today with our easy to use Trip Builder. Curate you perfect trip from start to finish with accommodation, dining, activities, sightseeing adventures and more!

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.