There are some must-see attractions in Banff National Park that everyone has on their list. Here are some helpful hints for you to consider while enjoying these popular sites.
The easiest way to access the Banff Gondola is to take Roam Transit (Route 1) from downtown Banff to the gondola, or take the shuttle from the Elk + Avenue Hotel or Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (free with a gondola ticket).
If you must drive, go early. The gondola opens at 8 a.m. and the magic happens in the morning where you can enjoy the morning light on a peaceful walk along the boardwalk while marveling at the surrounding peaks. Plus, receive one free child ticket for each regular priced adult ticket before noon.
Another great option is to stay later and enjoy sunset from the mountaintop. Banff experiences long summer nights, and the gondola is open until 9:30 p.m. from May 17 - June 27, and until 10:30 p.m. from June 28 - September 2.
With limited parking, this day-use area is most popular on weekends. For the best experience, consider getting out of your car. Cascade Ponds is accessible by bike from the town of Banff and is also on Roam Transit (Route 6). For alternative picnic locations, consider Upper Bankhead, Muleshoe, Valleyview, or Fireside day-use areas.
If you are driving, arrive earlier in the morning or later in the evening for a more peaceful and quiet experience.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
There is ample parking available here, but the parking lot can fill up between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m so be sure to arrive early. A short, gentle walk from the Bow River bridge takes you to Cave and Basin, birthplace of Canada's first national park. Alternatively, take Roam Transit (Route 4) from downtown Banff. Local tip: the nearby recreation grounds are a great spot for a picnic dinner.
The best way to explore Johnston Canyon is by taking transit. Roam Transit (Route 8S) offers a scenic summer service from Banff to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway with stops at Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, and Baker Creek. Or, take Roam Transit (Route 9) directly to Johnston Canyon and back. This route starts June 21 from downtown Banff.
If you must drive, when P1 is full, park in P2 and enjoy a short walk along Johnston Canyon to reach the canyon trailhead. Both parking lots are often full between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the summer months, especially on the weekend.
Parking on Bow Valley Parkway is prohibited due to wildlife and safety. Arrive early or later in the day, or consider nearby Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park or the Inkpots hike via Moose Meadows trailhead as close-by alternatives. For more ideas, check out 8 Must-Visit Stops On The Bow Valley Parkway.
Lake Louise is one of the most iconic sites in Banff National Park and transit is the best way to get to this popular attraction. Roam Transit (Route 8X) travels on Highway 1 and is the express route between Banff and Lake Louise. If you're looking for the scenic route, Roam Transit (Route 8S) travels from Banff to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway with stops at Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, and Baker Creek.
If you're driving to Lake Louise, you can park at the Lake Louise Park and Ride (5.5km east of the village) and take the Parks Canada shuttle to Upper Lake Louise or into the village. Lake Louise shuttles run every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., return trips run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Or, check out the Lake Louise Gondola which offers ample parking and a free shuttle into the village and Lake Louise lakeshore.
On weekends, the peak time is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. For convenient access, park at the Minnewanka Park and Ride or the Banff Train Station and take Roam Transit (Route 6) which provides access to Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and Cascade Ponds. For the more adventurous, rent a bike in town and ride to the lake!
The best way to visit Moraine Lake is on transit. Starting May 24, daily Parks Canada shuttles are available from the Lake Louise lakeshore to Moraine Lake and depart every 20 minutes from 8:40 a.m. to 4 p.m. with shuttles returning to the Lake Louise Park and Ride.
Starting June 24, an early bird shuttle will be available for hikers looking to make the most of their day. The shuttle will depart from the Lake Louise Park and Ride to Moraine Lake every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.
For these attractions, check out pc.gc.ca/Banffnow to receive real time information on parking capacity, camping, major traffic events and more.
For more information on transit and shuttles, visit explorethepark.ca.