Compiled by the Road Trip Alberta team
Last Updated on January 23, 2023
It’s quick and easy to get from Calgary to Banff. Off in the distance, the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains line the horizon, and the drive makes it no wonder that it’s one of Alberta’s most popular tourist destinations. However, no matter the method of your arrival in Calgary, it’s the view to the west which is the immediate appeal for most. Especially in the winter, the mountains are begging to be explored by ski or dogsled. And in the summer, hiking trails line their valleys and ridges.
Nestled at the base of the Rockies is the charming resort town of Banff. While the stunning scenery and outdoor activities are the main draws, this town inside a National Park of the same name appeals to everyone. Think soaking in hot springs, a deluge of fine dining options, museums displaying Banff’s unique history, and much more.
While Calgary is a worthy destination in its own right, getting to Banff is what attracts the masses. Below you will find options for making the trip from Calgary to Banff and some fun options for what to do along the way.
About the Route
The distance between Calgary and Banff varies if you’re taking the fast or scenic route.
- Fastest route – The most common route is by taking the Trans-Canada (Highway 1). The distance from Calgary to Banff is 127 km and the driving time is approximately 1.5 hours.
- Slightly more scenic route – An alternative and scenic route, if you have the time, is to consider taking Highway 1A through to Canmore before rejoining Highway 1. The distance on this route is 134 km and driving time is approximately 1 3/4 hours. You could also take this on your return trip from Banff to Calgary.
Note that these driving times are in optimal conditions and are not necessarily representative of winter driving or peak traffic. Weekends are always busy – if you plan to get to Banff on a Friday night and back on Sunday, you should expect additional time on the road.
Calgary to Banff Map
It’s easy to get from Calgary to Banff, but if you need a map, we have made one for you with driving routes and stops along the way.
Banff National Park Pass
IMPORTANT: Banff National Park requires a pass to enter the park.
Effective January 1, 2023 daily fees are:
- Adult: $10.50
- Senior: $9.00
- Youth (up to 17 yo): FREE
- Family/group (up to 7 people): $21.00
- Commercial group (per person): $9.00
The daily passes expire at 4 pm the following day. If you’re looking to enter multiple times or staying longer, consider the Parks Canada Discovery Pass. It gives you unlimited admission for a year to all the national parks in Canada.
Discovery Pass fees are as follows:
- Adult: $72.25
- Senior: $61.75
- Family/group: $145.25
The park gates are 100 kilometres west of Calgary on Highway 1, and passes can be purchased upon arrival. Alternatively, they can also be purchased online in advance. For more information, visit the Parks Canada website.
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Transportation to Banff
Assuming that you are arriving in Calgary via airplane (YYC), the following are all options to get you to Banff.
Calgary to Banff National Park by Car
Fortunately, the drive to Banff National Park is scenic and full of surprising sights as the prairies give way to foothills and ultimately lead to the Rocky Mountains. Going by car allows you to take as many photos and other stops along the way as you like.
Please be mindful of driving conditions, especially in winter. While Alberta’s highways are in great shape and well-maintained, snowstorms can wreak havoc for days, and construction can slow things down in summer. Learn more about Alberta’s road laws and driving guidelines. In addition, check current road reports before you leave.
The closest airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport, located on the north end of Calgary. From the airport, the best way to get to Banff is via highway 2 north to Stoney Trail (201), which meets up with Highway 1 (also known as the Trans-Canada Highway) and takes you all the way to the town of Banff.
Fortunately, there are also plenty of car rental options at the Calgary airport. Book in advance to ensure less hassle:
- We recommend booking via RentalCars.com to select the cheapest rate or to book with whichever company you prefer.
If you are not interested in a traditional car rental through an agency, you can also rent cars through a website called Turo (think Airbnb for car rentals). The Calgary International Airport is a frequent pick-up/drop-off point.
Just arrived in Calgary and need a hotel?
If you are not in a rush, or want to spend an extra night in Calgary because you arrive late, there are plenty of hotels in the area. Those right onsite at the airport tend to be more expensive, so we prefer these options:
- Hotel Clique is a super chic and affordable hotel that has free parking, free WiFi, and a great restaurant onsite. It is a quick shuttle ride from the airport, and we have stayed here several times when we have an early flight out of Calgary. Bonus: it has two rooftop pools!
- Want to start the journey and cut down on the drive the next day? The Four Points by Sheraton is on the western edge of the city, just off of Highway 1. You’ll get an easy jumpstart to Banff the next day. Parking and WiFi are both free.
Want to see more options? Then check out our definitive list of the best hotels in Calgary, and our guide to Calgary Airbnbs. Both are structured by city quadrant and also highlights some near the airport.
Calgary to Banff by Bus or Shuttle
Taking the bus to Banff can be a great idea for those who want to sit back and enjoy the scenery. There are several options for a Calgary to Banff shuttle, and the following companies offer the service:
Brewster Express has been connecting Calgary to Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis, Lake Louise, and Jasper for 125 years. They offer departures from the Calgary airport (YYC) and downtown Calgary right to your hotel door in Banff. As of September 1, 2022, there are multiple daily departures, and the fares are:
- Adult $74 one way / $126 return trip
- Child (5 – 17) $37 / $63 return trip
- Children under 6 – FREE
The Banff Airporter provides the most extensive bus service between Calgary and Banff, starting as early as 3 am from Banff and departing as late as midnight from Calgary International Airport. As of September 1, 2022, there are seven departures daily, and the fares are:
- Adults – $77.99 one way / $155.98 return
- Seniors (65+) – $70.19 one way / $140.38 return
- Child (6-17) – $38.99 one way / $77.99 return
- Children Under 5 – FREE
Discover Banff Tours
Travel safely and comfortably with Discover Banff Tours, which offers a shuttle that is a quick and easy way to get from the Calgary Airport to Banff or from Calgary downtown to Banff. As of September 1, 2022, there are multiple departures daily from Calgary International Airport and a few daily departures from Calgary downtown. The rates are:
- Adults – $78 one way
- Child – $39 one way
- Senior – $70 one way
New to the shuttle scene are RTB Tours & Shuttles. They offer daily shuttle service from Calgary (from several downtown locations and the Brentwood Transit station) to Banff & Canmore. When arriving in Banff, they stop at most hotels. As of January 1, 2022, their rates for shuttle service from Calgary to Banff are:
- From town:
- Adult – $45 one way / $86 return
- Child – $41 one way / $78 return
- From the airport (YYC)
- Adult – $65 one way / $114 return
- Child – $61 one way / $106 return
On-It Transit Service
In the summer, On-It Transit bus service is an easy and affordable way to get from Calgary to Banff by bus on weekends and is only $10! It departs from several transit spots and is in downtown Calgary (but does not stop at the airport).
Calgary to Banff by Private Transfer
Want to arrive in Banff in style? Private transfers from Calgary International Airport to Banff National Park are a convenient and relaxing way to get to the Rocky Mountains without waiting in lines or making multiple shuttle stops. Some private transfer options are below:
- Banff Transportation Group – Departing from Calgary airport to Banff or vice versa.
- Banff Sedan – Luxury never looked so good! For 3-5 people, it’s approximately $500 (for up to 10 people, roughly $700) for a one-way journey, and the stylish ride on your schedule is worth it.
- Limo To Go – This service has luxury sedans and SUVs, limos, and stretch limos to help you get from Calgary to Banff in style.
Calgary to Banff by Other Options
- Taxis are always an option, and plenty will be waiting at the airport for your arrival! Note that it can cost approximately $250 for a one-way journey.
- Uber is in Calgary; however, consider that drivers may not be willing or capable of making the drive, and the price is close to what a taxi would cost for just one way.
- Consider Poparide.com. There are options to select your driver based on your luggage and equipment requirements if you are travelling with skis, bikes, etc. Poparide charges per seat, so you have an opportunity to meet other visitors if you are travelling solo to Banff National Park. Currently, no seat appears to cost more than $20 for the ride from Calgary to Banff.
- Currently, there is no train between Calgary and Banff, although there are plans to eventually build one. There is also no airport in Banff; the closest international airport is Calgary International Airport (YYC).
Fun Things to do Along the Way
If you arrive in Calgary early and travel by car, there are so many things to do on the way to Banff.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Located on the way to Banff off Highway 1A, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a fantastic place to visit. It is one of the only sanctuaries in Canada to pair successful rehabilitation and re-homing of wolfdogs with public education. Three possible tours are offered: A sanctuary walk, an intro tour, and an interactive one. The first two are drop-in friendly, but the interactive tour requires booking at least 1-2 weeks in advance.
If your travels bring you through during summer and you have the kiddos in tow, consider a stop at Calaway Park to blow off some pent-up energy from a long flight. The park has 32 rides, 24 games, and exciting live shows to enjoy. The different rides are suitable for children of different ages so that everyone can have fun.
Kananaskis Nordic Spa
A little off the path and located near Canmore is the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. It’s the first of its kind in Alberta, bringing traditional Scandanavian wellness practices to a stunning mountain setting.
Stop in Canmore
You can’t just drive by the whole town of Canmore without a stop (and from there, it’s only a few more minutes from Canmore to Banff). This is a great place to grab something to eat, stretch your legs, and get your first taste of the Rockies by marvelling at the famous Three Sisters mountains. Then, treat your sweet tooth at the Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe, enjoy local photographers’ and artists’ work at the Canmore Art Guild Gallery, or explore the nearby Canmore Nordic Centre.
There are plenty of great Canmore restaurants for avid foodies (or hungry people) – Check out the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company for great burgers, Crazyweed Kitchen for great everything else, or PD3 for the unique experience of eating out of a double-decker bus! Read our complete guide of things to do in Canmore.
Upon Arrival in Banff
You made it!
Where to Eat in Banff
Hungry? Then you will have no problem finding a restaurant in Banff. There are so many options from casual to fine dining. Read our guide on Banff restaurants to know where to go.
What to Do in Banff
There is so much to do in Banff in both the summer and the winter. From hiking to biking, canoeing to canyoning, or shopping and spa-ing, there is something for everyone. If you would like to get some helpful information on Banff attractions, hiking trails, and much more, check out the top things to do in Banff National Park, but you can also pay a visit to the two Visitor Information Centres in the national park:
- Banff Visitor Centre at 224 Banff Ave
- Banff Visitor Information Kiosk at the Banff Railway Station
Where to Stay – Find a Hotel in Banff
The accommodations in Banff are plentiful, and most are centrally located and close to the main downtown area. While the locations of the accommodations are quite similar, the main difference is the price points.
- Fairmont Banff Springs (Luxury) – We cannot mention hotels in Banff National Park without presenting the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs. This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of stay that is totally worth the experience. (We’ve stayed once, so we can say that!) This beautiful and historic hotel is full of shops, a world-class spa, and amazing restaurants that offer breathtaking views of notable peaks.
- Canalta Lodge (Mid-Range) – As the Fairmont can run many hundreds of dollars a night, a more budget-friendly option is the Canalta Lodge. Recently renovated, we really enjoyed our stay amid its eclectic design. This property has been recognized as the best value in Banff, with a hot tub, complimentary breakfast, and underground parking.
- Banff International Hostel (Budget) – If your budget is better spent exploring all that Banff has to offer and you don’t want to splurge on any form of accommodations, then look no further than the Banff International Hostel. It’s located on the beautiful property of the Banff Centre, has a fully equipped kitchen for all to use, complimentary breakfast, and is highly rated.
- Home away from home. There is a selection of Banff Airbnb options in and around the town. If you can’t find anything in Banff, we recommend looking for a Canmore Airbnb, which is just next door to Banff.
Need some help planning your itinerary? Check out our guide for all the things to do while visiting Banff National Park.
If you plan to enjoy Calgary as well, check out our complete guide of fun things to do in Calgary.
And before you hit the road out of town, grab a pick-me-up from one of the great Calgary coffee shops.