In June 2019 I crossed off Banff, Canada from my bucket list! This destination is becoming super popular because of the beautiful sparkling blue lakes, great hiking trails, and gorgeous views of the Canadian Rockies. Since I’ve gone friends and family have been asking for Banff travel tips, so here they are!
Getting to Banff
Banff is located in Alberta, Canada. The nearest big city and airport is 90 minutes east in Calgary, Alberta.
Fly into Calgary International Airport (YYC). Calgary is the largest city in the Canadian province of Alberta. I wish I got to spend more time there. My friend and fellow blogger Rachel of Frankly Ray is your best resource for finding things to do in Calgary.
If you’re in the LA area you can get a direct flight from LAX and it’s only 3 hours. Search for flights here.
The Calgary airport is 90 minutes west of Banff.
Renting a Car
The Calgary airport is about an hour from Canmore and Banff is another 30 minutes further. There are shuttles that can take you from Canmore to Banff (30 min drive) but having a car made everything a lot easier/better/more flexible.
Shuttles to Banff and Canmore
A roundtrip shuttle from Calgary Airport to Canmore alone is $130 making renting a car your best bet especially if you’re in a group.
Roam Shuttle around Canmore and Banff
If you decide not to rent a car you can travel between Canmore and within Banff on public transit on ROAM shuttles.
Here’s more tips for car-free travel in the Canadian Rockies.
Entering the Banff National Park
Banff is a national park and to enter you have to pay $10 per person or $20 per vehicle (up to 7 people) per day to enter.
Cost of Transportation in Banff
Rental car + park fees and gas Wed-Sun with 5 people it was $110 each.
The Best Time to Visit Banff
Banff in the Summer
Peak summer season in Banff is from June to August. I went to Banff at the end of June and it was is an absolutely beautiful time to go to Banff.
The weather forecast for the end of June said snow and I thought I’d maybe see a flake or two, but I ended up basically experiencing all 4 seasons! Check out my blog post on What to Pack for Banff.
Banff in the Winter
December to March is peak winter and ski Season for Banff. It is extremely cold, but a beautiful winter wonderland.
Shoulder Seasons in Banff
Mid-September to mid-October are good times to get lower rates if you’re traveling on a budget. It will be cold and you will likely see snow, but it’s not peak ski season.
Read More on the Best Time to Visit Banff:
How Long to Stay in Banff
I arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and left on a Sunday morning and I think it was a perfect amount of time to visit. I got to see Lake Louse, Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, Lake Agnes, Mirror Lake, and Lake Minnewanka. I did the Lake Agnes Trail Hike, Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk Trail, Castle Mountain Trail Hike, Peyto Lake Lookout hike, and walks and hikes around the other lakes. I got to spend a short time at Banff Town (downtown Banff) which is all I really needed. I also spent a half day biking all around Canmore and was able to explore downtown Canmore. We fit a lot in!
On Saturday the traffic began getting pretty crazy in tiny Canmore and everything got much busier. These areas are getting super popular so they’re always somewhat busy, but if you want a more chill vibe definitely visit during the week!
I’m not a super outdoorsy girl (more of a Wilderness Girl a la Troop Beverly Hills) so 4.5 days was plenty of time for me to see everything. If you’re doing more intense day-long hikes and camping out in different places then you would likely want to stay longer.
Where to Stay When Traveling to Banff
Where to Stay in Banff
If you can’t afford the Fairmont Banff Springs or Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise stay in Canmore which is 30 mins away- the town is way cuter with lots to do and great food and bars! It’s also much less touristy and congested than downtown Banff.
If you’re bougie on a budget like myself don’t worry, you can still enjoy the gorgeous Fairmont hotels without staying there. I had lunch and Tea Time at the Chateau Lake Louise and it was incredible! And I didn’t have to spend $1k a night to do it.
Where to Stay in Canmore
Canmore is a smaller town 30 minutes outside of Banff National Park. You can get there by car or ROAM shuttle. It’s surrounded by mountains and very picturesque. It also has a quaint downtown with a lot to do.
Canmore is growing in popularity which means it is starting to get busy especially during peak season, but not nearly as busy or touristy or cheesy as Downtown Banff.
Lamphouse Hotel in Canmore
We stayed at the Lamphouse Hotel in Downtown Canmore and I really liked it. Staying in Canmore is more affordable than Banff, but is still not cheap.
Reviewers online described it as a “boutique motel” and I would say that’s accurate- but it’s upscale and clean! Plus it has 2 nice queen beds in each room so it’s great if you’re traveling in a group and want to share rooms to save money.
There’s free parking at the Lamphouse Hotel for guests. You’re also right in Downtown Canmore so you can walk to cafes, restaurants, bars, and hikes.
The rooms had Nespresso coffee machines, electric kettles, cocktail shaker and drink supplies, plus mini fridges. They also had real glasses to use. For breakfast they come around at about 9am to deliver muffins, but if you’re going into Banff for the day you’re probably long gone by 9!
There’s no restaurants on premises or room service, but you can easily walk to cafes, restaurants, bars, convenience stores, liquor stores, and the grocery store.
Tip: This hotel is very popular so book it as early as you possibly can for your trip!!
I split this room with a friend and for 4 nights it was $510 each or $1020 CAN total. Right now the dollar is strong so this translates to $386.24.
Plus there are adorable baby bunny rabbits EVERYWHERE in Canmore.
If you’re thinking about going to Banff- DO IT!! You will not be disappointed! Plus the longer you wait the more crowded it will be- go now!