If you’ve embarked on the ultimate Canada itinerary, there’s a good chance you’ll need to nail down how to get from Calgary to Banff. The trip between Calgary and Banff, piercing westward into the Canadian Rockies, is among Canada’s most scenic drives and a must-see for travellers coming to Canada to scope out its vast wilderness.
Although there are plenty of sightseeing opportunities in Calgary itself, the resort town of Banff is where Western Canada truly starts to get interesting for travellers.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Banff is the base for exploring Banff National Park, one of the world’s finest nature destinations. The park spans across 6,641 square kilometres in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, hiding within it glaciers, mountain passes, valleys, and famous glacial lakes like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Peyto Lake that shimmer with turquoise & blue hues.
Gear up for the incredible trip to Banff from Calgary with this complete guide including how to get to Banff from Calgary by car, by bus, and by train.
Getting to Banff from Calgary
With its location in the Canadian Rockies, it’s hardly surprising that Banff doesn’t have an airport of its own. The closest airport to Banff is Calgary International Airport, located about 140 kilometres away.
From Calgary International Airport (YYC), it’s about a 90-minute drive to Banff via the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). There are regular shuttle buses from YYC to Banff and several car rental options at the airport if you’d prefer a self-drive option.
By far, the best way to travel between Banff and Calgary is by car. The journey is among the finest road trips in Canada and getting to experience all the unfettered views at your own pace is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Banff is located about 130 kilometres east of Calgary. There are two options to get there by car:
- The classic route: The quickest way to drive between Calgary and Banff is via the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). The route is 127 kilometres long and takes approximately 90 minutes.
- The scenic route: If you’re looking to through a little twist into your road trip, slide up Highway 1A towards Cochrane. Between Cochrane and Canmore, continue along Highway 1A on the north side of the Bow River, also known as the Bow Valley Trail. At 135 kilometres, the route is slight longer and will take you about 1 hour and 45 minutes in ideal conditions. Keep in mind that this alternative route is not as well-maintained as the main highway. If you’re travelling in winter (especially after a snowfall) or in poorer weather conditions, it’s safer to stick with the “classic route.”
Note that if you’re travelling to Banff on the weekend or during the summer high tourism season, one of the best times of the year to visit Banff, traffic conditions can be a little heavier. Be sure to bank a little extra time for your drive.
When driving into Banff National Park, you’ll also need to purchase a park pass. The current daily park entry fees are:
- Adults: $10.00
- Seniors: $8.40
- Youth (0-17): Free
- Families/Groups (up to 7): $20.00
If you’re planning to tackle a few different national parks on your Canada road trip (including Jasper National Park and Yoho National Park, it might make more sense for you to purchase an annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass. The current costs of annual passes are:
- Adults: $69.19
- Seniors: $59.17
- Families/Groups: $139.40
You can purchase your passes on arrival at the national park gate or online from Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.
Also be sure to check out the Parks Canada official site for more information about the different passes, validity, and what’s covered.
If a Western Canada road trip isn’t in the books, travelling to Banff from Calgary by bus is another good option.
There are a number of bus companies combing routes between Calgary and the top destinations in the Canadian Rockies. Some of the best options include:
- Brewster Express: Operating for over a century, this classic shuttle bus connects Calgary with several destinations in the Rockies including Canmore, Kananaskis, Lake Louise, Jasper, and, of course, Banff. Tickets to Banff run $72 for adults and $36 for children one-way. Return tickets save 15%.
- The Banff Express: Plying a daily route between downtown Calgary to Banff via Canmore, this passenger bus line is one of the best options for budget travellers. One-way tickets from Calgary to Banff are just $42. The journey is two hours.
- Banff Airporter: Running both scheduled and private services, this bus company is a great option if you’re starting your journey at YYC or need to travel outside of the other companies’ scheduled times. One-way tickets for scheduled services are $67.99 plus GST.
- On-It Regional Transit: If you’re travelling to Banff from Calgary on the weekend, this budget-friendly option is a great choice, if just a tad slower than others. Tickets are just $10 each way.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to get to Banff from Calgary?
The journey between Calgary and Banff is about 90 minutes via the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). The alternative route via Highway 1A is about 1 hours and 45 minutes.
What is there to do in Banff?
As one of Canada’s most famous travel destinations, there are a ton of amazing things to see & do in Banff.
In summer, visitors love exploring all of Banff’s best hiking trails, leading to some of Canada’s most iconic natural attractions including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. In winter, Banff is home to some of Canada’s best ski resorts. The best ski resorts in Banff include Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, and Sunshine Village.
Where should I stay in Banff?
Among the most legendary places to stay in Banff is the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Built in 1888, this legendary castle-like hotel is a National Historic Site of Canada and a must-stay for luxury travellers visiting Banff.