Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper Attractions
Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are great Canadian Rockies destinations. We hope you will come and visit this beautiful part of Canada. While not covering everything, here are some suggestions on attractions and transportation which could make your visit more enjoyable! We have added a link to many of them. We have also added "Getting around," which should make your visit easier.
Take the time to plan your visit. One full day of sightseeing usually takes at least two nights of accommodation. Like other National Parks in Canada, hotel and camping space can be in short supply during the spring, summer and fall. Take out a map of the area and note the different areas, attractions and hikes. Attractions may require you to wait to purchase your tickets unless you have pre-booked tickets. Some even give you a discount when you purchase admission in advance.
If you have problems obtaining hotel space in Banff, don’t forget "Canmore", about 20 minutes east of Banff. There are frequent public transit buses between Canmore and Banff.
If you want to see the major attractions in Banff, get to them early before their parking lots fill up or arrive "late." The attraction may direct you to an overflow parking lot. In the summer, sunlight extends well into the evening. For today's Banff’s sunset, please click here with twilight continuing for about an hour. For today’s real-time parking in Banff, click here or here. For real-time parking outside Banff for the Banff Lake Louise areas, click here .
- If travelling from Calgary, budget a two-hour drive from Calgary to Banff and three hours from Calgary to Lake Louise.
- Our suggestion from the Calgary Airport is to take an express bus or a chauffeur sedan to/from Banff or Canmore. The Sedan service will take you to your hotel in Canmore or Banff. The scheduled service drops/pickups are at the Coast Canmore Hotel but will take you to any address/hotel in Banff.
- There are also express buses or chauffeur sedans to/from Lake Louise
- In Banff and Canmore, you have motorcoach tours, car rentals or public transit. In downtown Banff, most sites are within walking distance.
- You do not really need a car with the public Roam Transit Service. Roam Transit has day passes: i.e. CAD$5.00 Adult/CAD$2.50 Senior for a Banff-Canmore, Lake Minnewanka Pass. Canmore’s Route #5 no charge within Canmore to 31 Dec. 2019!). A day pass is also available from Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise for CAD$25.00 Adult/$12.50 Senior). Check the Roam link for full details. Check the Roam link for times and dates of the service!
Possible Suggestions: The attractions' information is shown below and can be taken in any order. You can also spend two to three days seeing all the sites :
Day #1 Walk Banff
- Purchase the Roam Transit day pass or walk thru downtown Banff. You do not need a car.
- Banff Park Museum National Historical Site,. Canada’s oldest natural history museum..
- Banff Indian Trading Post Indian crafts and trinkets with the "Merman" (Copenhagen has the Mermaid).South of Banff Avenue, across the traffic bridge and turn right.
- Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, is located behind the Indian Trading Post. A great museum of the Plain Indians during the 19th century.
- Cascade of Time Gardens , across the bridge and straight ahead, These gardens are seasonal by the Administration Building. Some of the Garden’s pictures.
- Bow Falls is a short walk along the Bow River roadway from the Cascade Gardens, the Luxton Museum or the Indian Trading Post. Walk along the road by the Bow River to the Falls, just below the Banff Springs Hotel or walk down to the falls from the hotel.
- For lunch try the Banff Springs Hotel restaurants/coffee shop or their Walderhaus Pub, which is on the way up to the hotel from the falls.
- The Banff Springs Hotel is a must see and should be visited.
- Banff Cave and Basin Historical Site Canada’s National Park birthplace is on the Roam Transit route.
- Banff Gondola - Suggest a late afternoon or early evening visit. Take the Roam Transit or a taxi to the Gondola station. The service takes guests to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Reservations, usually with a discount, are suggested as the ‘line for tickets" can belong.
- Banff Gondola also has a dinner package with a lift. They have several family/children discounts depending on the time of day when booking in advance.
- Canoes can be rented on the Bow River or into the Vermillion Lakes.
- If you have a car, you may wish to take an evening drive around the Banff Springs Golf Course or along the shore of the Vermilion Lakes to view possible wildlife.
Extra Days Banff
- Of course there are other suggestions which could extend your stay for one, two or more extra nights!
- Remember to check the times/dates for all of the attractions that you are interested in visiting.
- Mt. Norquay Lift or Via Verrata with their "free" transfer bus from downtown Banff.
- Sightseeing/hiking at Sunshine Village with their "free’ transfer service from Banff.
- The Upper Hot Springsis close to the Banff Gondola and is on the Roam Transit Route.
- Horseback riding and Carriage rides from one or more hours to BBQ Cookouts and ride.
- Rafting or a float trip on the Bow River (non white water). A different view of the area for about an hour on the river.
- Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies , an art and heritage museum.
- Banff Centre with a possible performance at the to name a few.
- Brewster Motorcoach Tours You can also do some of the above with the Brewster Banff Tour which can include a cruise on Lake Minnewanka, the Columbia Icefield’s Day Tour or the Mountain Lakes and Waterfall Tour.
Day #2 Banff Lake Louise
- Head to Lake Louise via the Roam Transit bus, your car or a Brewster Tour. (parking see below)
- Brewster’s Mountain Lakes and Waterfall Tour is one of the best. . This tour covers Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Spiral Tunnels, Takkakaw Falls with lunch at Emerald Lake.
- You can also do this tour in your rent a car with possible parking problems at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake unless you get there earlier or late in the day.
- The Roam Bus only goes as far as Lake Louise.
- The"tea house" is just one of the hikes in the Lake Louise area.
- Other hikes in the Lake Louise Area. Lake Louise walks or hikes suggestions.
- Horseback riding in the area of different durations including rides to the tea house, Plain of Six Glaciers and much more.
- Canoeing on Lake Louise.
- Lake Louise Ski area & Summer Gondola/Chairlift. If you have a rent a car consider parking at the Lake Louise Ski area. They provide a ‘free’ bus to Lake Louise Junction and Lake Louise itself. They also have a lift and breakfast package for the early risers.
- Grizzly Bear sighting are frequent off the Lake Louise lift.
- Lake Louise hotel space is usually tight. Book early or stay in Banff, about an hour away.
Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Parking!
If you are a summer visitor to Lake Louise consider the ‘overflow’ parking lot about 5.5. kms east of Lake Louise Junction on the Trans-Canada Highway. Look for the ‘overflow" sign. There are summer buses from there to Lake Louise with a change of buses should you wish to continue to Moraine Lake. Parking at the lake itself is very limited. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise does have a parking for their guests. For full details on park shuttles and their rates please click here. Remember the Roam Transit bus from Canmore/Banff or the full day the Mountain Lakes and Waterfall Tour.
Day #3. Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefields is about 325 square kilometers (125 square miles) of ice and snow on the Continental Divide between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Its waters flow to the Atlantic via Hudson Bay, the Pacific and the Arctic.
- The Athabasca Glacier, an arm of the Columbia Icefields.
- The Ice Explorer offers an hour tour onto the Athabasca Glacier.
- The Glacier Skywalk offers a panorama view of the glacier and the surrounding mountains.
- The easiest way to visit is via a Brewster Columbia Icefield Tour from Calgary,Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise. Lunch is included in these tours as well as tickets and times for the different the Ice Explorer and the Glacier Skywalk.
- From Jasper there is also a return tour to Jasper of the Columbia Icefield.
- Icefield Parkway Columbia Icefield Tour from Calgary, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise TO Jasper is a one way tour..
- Icefield Parkway Columbia Icefield Tour FROM Jasper to Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore or Calgary
- Should you decide drive to the Icefields Calgary is 310 kms/192 miles; Banff 185 kms/115 miles; Lake Louise 130 kms/82 miles. Within the Parks the speed limit is 90 kms per hour (56 miles per hour).
- Stops can be made at Lake Louise,
- Crowfoot Glacier,
- Bow Lake,
- Peyto Lake Viewpoint (a must),
- the Big Hill and the
- Columbia Icefields itself.
- Parker’s Ridge, if you are a hiker, depending on the snow/weather conditions. Some comments from Parker Ridge hikers click here.
After the Columbia Icefields, Jasper is about an hour's drive if you are heading north without any stops. You may wish to stop at two waterfalls, both worth the stop.
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Jasper Sky Tram will give you a great view of the area with some trails at the top.
- Jasper Rafting Adventures, Rocky Mountain River Guides, and Whitewater Rafting will give you a whitewater experience on their river trip.
- Jasper Stables – has horseback riding and carriage rides in the area.
- Jasper Park Lodge – Is an interesting drive, even if you are staying at the lodge.
- Brewster Jasper Sightseeing Tour – Will cover most of the area and can include a cruise on Maligne Lake.
- Jasper Hikes – 1-3 hours hikes with a guide.
- Jasper Day Hikes – Information on different hikes in the area.
- Mount Edith Cavell and Maligne Lake are worth the drive from Jasper.
Jasper hotel space can be tight. You have motels like the Mount Robson Inn and resort properties like the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The Jasper chain, Mountain Park Lodges, has a number of properties. There is also a downtown youth hostel. If you are using a hotel booking system (i.e. www.hotels.ca or www.booking.com), make sure you ask for Jasper Alberta. Some clients have accidentally booked themselves into Jasper, Alabama, by mistake!
Get out of Jasper!
If you have taken the one-way motorcoach tour or the express bus to/from Jasper, you may need to "get out of Jasper!" You can take the once daily express bus from Jasper to Calgary with stops in Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore. This express service picks up and drops at a number of Jasper hotels and drops at a number of Lake Louise and Banff Hotels as well as a select number of downtown Calgary hotels. There is also a one-way tour bus from Jasper to Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore to Calgary which includes the Columbia Icefields
Should you wish to travel from Jasper to Edmonton, Alberta, there is a once-daily service to the West Edmonton Mall OR the Edmonton Airport (YEG).
Via Rail Canada operates from Jasper Alberta to/from Vancouver British Columbia. This overnight train operates three times a week with "coach"seats as well as the hard to get overnight berths. For details click here. Via Rail also operate East to Edmonton,Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. Click here to view the trip.
Remember sunset is late during the summer. For today’s Edmonton sunset click here.
Park Pass – Stopping in Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, or Jasper National Parks requires you to purchase a park pass. (Good for all Canadian Parks). "Children 17 years and under are "free". A park pass is not required if driving thru the park. i.e. no stops. (Exception is the Icefield Parkway). Try to purchase the pass before you arrive at the Park’s gate or you could be in the line to purchase one! Day passes are valid until 1600 hrs (4PM) the next or following day. Park Passes can also be purchased at most of the tourist information booths once you are in one of the Parks.
Discovery Pass – Provides entry into more than 100 National Parks, National Marine Conservation Areas and National Historic Sites across Canada. Valid for a full year until the end of the calendar month of purchase. Available in-person at Parks Canada’s park gates and information centres as well as other offices. click here.
Banff and Jasper have major car rental company outlets as well as in Calgary. You may wish to consider taking the schedule bus service or private sedan service to/from Banff or Lake Louise (Hertz in Lake Louise) and rent your car from there. Remember, most car companies have airport and non-airport pickups.
In Calgary, the non-airport pickup could be cheaper. For instance, to book for 18 August 2024, a one-week full-size car rental with unlimited mileage will cost $3,250.53 CAD when picked up at the airport and booked at the counter; pre-booking brought it down to $2,931.41 CAD. In contrast, a non-airport pickup costs $692.30 CAD at the counter, reducing further to $625.26 CAD when pre-booked. Remember, these rates are just the base prices and do not include taxes, insurance, and other additional fees. It's also important to note that the Canadian Dollar typically values around 30 – 35% less than the US Dollar (as checked on 12 December 2023).