5 Amazing Reasons To Visit Banff National Park
A natural retreat into the countryside or the pristine wilderness is often considered a deeply enriching and fulfilling trip. It offers visitors and travelers to get away from the hustle and bustle of cities and immerse themselves into the beauty of the place, enjoy the sheer temptation of the outdoors, and also serves as a relaxing break from the hectic schedules that most of us follow day in and day out throughout our lives. The openness and detachment provided by natural beauty inspire us to seek adventure and go about and explore new places. After all, that is what many have done for ages.
The beautiful and picturesque Banff National Park in Canada offers one such opportunity, allowing one to lose oneself in the great outdoors. Here is all you need to know about Banff National Park, located in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains in Canada, one of the most famous and picturesque places to revel in nature in the whole of North America.
What To Know About Banff National Park?
In Western Canadain Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and 112 miles west of Calgary, Banff National Park stretches over 6642 square kilometers or 2564 miles. Banff National Parks contains landscapes ranging from coniferous forests to glaciers, moraines, ice fields, snowy mountain slopes, lakes, and the alpine tundra. This diverse landscape lends additional beauty to an already breathtaking environment, perched upon the magnificent Canadian Rockies. Banff National Park is a very popular and appreciated destination for nature lovers and the like. According to estimates by the National Park management, more than four million visitors come to Banff National Park from around the world each year to admire Canada’s wilderness and beauty. The Banff town is located in the Bow River valley close to the national park and is the commercial center of the Banff region as a whole.
5 Amazing Reasons To Visit Banff National Park
1. The History Of Banff National Park
Banff National Park has quite a rich and interesting history. It is among the oldest national parks in North America, founded after the Yellowstone and the Mackinac National Park. Before the coming of European settlers in North America, the Banff region in the Canadian Rocky Mountains was home to many different indigenous tribes. Archaeological expeditions have also found the presence of humans in the region dating back to more than 10,000 years ago.
With the addition of British Columbia to Canada, a transcontinental railroad began to be built from coast to coast in the 1870s-1880s. Canadian President John A. MacDonald decided to create a public park in the region following the discovery of hot springs; this was known as the Banff Hot Springs reserve, established in 1885. This makes Banff national park Canada’s first park as well. In the subsequent time, the National park was expanded rapidly and steadily up to its modern extent.
Banff national park owes a lot to the activities of the Canadian Pacific Railways, which also propelled the development of the national park in its early years since its establishment. The Canadian Pacific Railway company was responsible for opening the Banff Springs hotel and the well-regarded Chateau Lake Louise.
During World War I, Banff also had internment camps where Austrian, Hungarian, German, and Ukrainian immigrants worked and were housed. The main camp was at the Castle Mountain site and was shifted to Cave and Basin during the winters. A large proportion of the early infrastructure of the Banff region as a whole was built by these immigrants. Internment camps were set up again in the region during World War II, but they housed mainly POWs.
In 1988, the Winter Olympics winter sports events were held at Calgary. The cross country ski events were held at Canmore, Alberta, right outside the eastern periphery of the Banff National Park on the Trans Canada Highway. Thus, Banff National Park has a rich and varied history overall and is historically significant, which tourists will undoubtedly appreciate when visiting. Banff National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic site as well.
Currently, Banff National Park is managed by Parks Canada, in accordance with the National Parks Act of 1930. It is among the most iconic of Canada’s national parks
2. The Environment at Banff National Park
Banff National Park is located in a diverse environment, ranging from freezing ice fields to lush green vegetation and quite a lot in between. There are several different glaciers and ice fields present in the park. The lakes located in the park offer the wildlife living within the confinerous forests a source of water. The landscape is usually endowed with an abundance of fir, pine, and sycamore trees. The Canadian Rockies offer a refreshing and invigorating natural environment rich in biodiversity, whether plants or animals. Parks Canada plays an important role in maintaining the environment of the Banff National Park intact. Parks Canada also ensures that the large area within and near the park’s immediate vicinity is free from human-induced pollution and littering.
Being close to the Canadian Rockies mountain ranges, Banff national park falls in the subarctic climate zone. Essentially, this means the place experiences chilling and snowy winters with mild and pleasant summers. Banff national park receives annual snowfall ranging from 92 inches up to 120 inches. This means those who love the winter chill would love to visit the place and see the massive amounts of snow it receives.
Typically, temperatures in the Banff region range from 5 degrees Fahrenheit to 23 degrees Fahrenheit in the winters; however, this can drop to around -4 degrees Fahrenheit, especially around the Lake Louise region, which is located at a higher altitude. During the summers, temperatures range from 72 degrees Fahrenheit to around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet conditions are not usually so harsh near the lower elevations of the national park. Many find it ideal for visiting in the summer when temperatures are milder, and the overall weather is usually much easier to tolerate.
Banff National park is also a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts since it houses a good variety of fascinating species of Canada’s rich fauna. Grizzly and Black bears can be spotted in the park’s forest area, along with deer species. Timberwolves, Cougars, Lynxes, Bison, Wolverines, Otters, and Coyotes are other carnivores found in the region. Elk, Mule deer, and White-tailed Deer are easily visible in the lower elevations of the valley region. Other animal species found here include marmots, skunks, beavers, porcupines, hares, and so much more.
Banff national park also houses up to 250 different species of birds. The most notable amongst these are the bald eagle, the golden eagle, the Canada Jay, the three-toed Woodpecker, and the mountain bluebird. Waterbirds like the Loon, Heron and the Mallard are also found here.
Parks Canada has emphasized preserving and conserving species at Banff National Park, where several different species have been reintroduced and are thriving. Therefore, it is recommended that wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers visit Banff and enjoy the presence of the amazing fauna of the Canadian Rockies. Parks Canada tries to keep human interaction with the local fauna in check. No visitor should engage directly with the wildlife or attempt to feed animals lest they become attracted to human presence.
3. Accessibility of Banff National Park
Banff National Park is located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, on the western border of Alberta, where it meets British Columbia. Banff is quite accessible to reach, and over three million visitors show up to the national park each year.
The Banff town is located 80 miles west of Calgary and is 249 miles southwest of Edmonton. The Banff national park also has the Jasper National Park, the Yoho National Park, the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, and the Kootenay National Park in its approximate vicinity and the surrounding regions.
The Banff National Park can be reached by air at the Calgary International airport, located 87 miles away. Calgary itself is connected to the Banff National Park by the On-it Regional Transit, which operates from July to September. One can also drive to Banff National Park using the Trans Canada Highway, which goes through the scenic Canadian Rockies and opens year-round. From Vancouver, the Banff region is a 530-mile drive.
Visitors to the Banff National Park must possess a valid National Park Pass- this can be easily obtained online or physically, in-person at Lake Louise and Banff visitor centers.
4. Accommodation at Banff National Park
The Banff National Park receives over three million visitors annually. Thus, over time, several forms of accommodation have come up in the close vicinity of the Banff National Park and the Lake Louise region.
There are several different options available to the visitors to the Banff National Park-
The town of Banff is a great location for those who love the hustle and bustle of daily life. The Banff town has all the amenities as well as several restaurants and bars to visit at night. It also has a slew of hotels and inns for travelers to stay in. Some of them include:
Of these hotels, the Moose Hotel is the most affordable. Located in the heart of the town at Banff Avenue, it is located close to the many different restaurants at Banff. Moose Hotel also offers an indoor pool, a spa, a gym, indoor parking, and two hot tubs on the roof.
The Juniper Hotel
The Juniper Hotel is located on the outer edges of Banff town and is surrounded by amazing forests and mountains which enrich the landscape. This hotel has more than 50 rooms available and offers amenities like bike rental, an outdoor hot tub, an activity planning desk, and so much more. While staying at the Juniper Hotel, one can also have wildlife sightings nearby, making this an excellent hotel for wildlife lovers.
The Banff Inn
Banff Inn is also an affordable option. It has a unique, rustic ambiance to offer its visitors. It is also only a few minutes away from the multitude of shops and restaurants in the town and offers an indoor pool, an outdoor hot tub, and many other facilities.
The Tunnel Mountain Resort
Tunnel Mountain Resort is also a great spot to stay in. It has 105 units with great amenities like an attached small kitchen to help guests prepare for a day outdoors. It also has two-bedroom condos, a bike rental, a gym, a kids playground (especially useful for families with small children), an indoor pool, and a laundry system.
Alternatively, more adventurous visitors would like to stay closer to the great outdoors. Therefore, they should find a suitable place to stay around Lake Louise or the Moraine lake area.
Paradise Lodge and Bungalows
Paradise Lodge and Bungalows is a great place to stay in the region and is close to popular hiking trails, like Lake Agnes. It is a classic log cabin lodge and would be appreciated by nature lovers, who will enjoy the close access it provides to them.
The Lake Louise Inn
Lake Louise Inn is a great affordable accommodation alternative. This inn has many different room types and can accommodate all visitors; some even come with an attached kitchen or jacuzzi tubs. It also offers a range of amenities like bike rental, game rental, a fitness center, an indoor heated pool, onsite parking, laundry, etc.
The Fairmont Chateau
Fairmont Chateau is located right next to Lake Louise and offers great views of the famous water body. This hotel has up to 5 different restaurants, where guests are preferred; however, reservations can be made prior. The Hotel has a variety of rooms, making the stay very comfortable for a range of guests. It is also one of Canada’s most picturesque hotels, located beside the famous Lake Louise.
When to Visit Banff National Park?
Spring in Banff lasts from April to May, and by this time, the crowds have greatly diminished. However, this period is also known for weather fluctuation, but this improves as days grow longer and chances of a heavy snowfall lessen over time. This is the time when finding accommodation is easiest as well. Springtime in Banff is also good for wildlife which is just emerging from winter. People visiting at this time of year can also find the chance to ski with minimal crowds.
Summer in Banff lasts from June to August and is an ideal time for travelers who would like to see the Banff Valley in full bloom, with the wildlife out and about as well. However, July and August are especially busy months of the season, and it is advisable to visit Banff National Park in June if you don’t like crowds. The Lakes in the region are especially vibrant and inviting in the summer as well.
Fall time is also a beautiful time of the year at Banff, and the landscaped is swathed in red and yellow and gold of the leaves. October and September are therefore also good months to visit the region. The weather can be slightly chilly, with occasional snowfall. During the fall season, there is much less crowding, and the general footfall is also quite lower comparatively, so it is a good time to visit as well. However, several summer attractions will be closed (although some like the Gondola and the Upper Hot springs are perennially open).
Winters in Banff are again a busier time, with many families and tourists coming in to enjoy the beautiful snowy wonderland that Banff has become. The frozen lakes are used for ice skating, skiing is a favorite activity on the mountains, and footfall generally increases. People also love to enjoy the Hot springs during this time. The well-known Northern Lights can also be seen in the nighttime skies, and it is quite the experience to go camping under them.
Thus, each season is a good visiting time for different people, depending on what sort of experience they desire most.
5. The Many Things To Do At Banff National Park
Banff National Park offers a wide range of activities, and there is a bit of something for everyone who visits it.
Nature lovers are in for a treat since Banff National Park offers a wide variety of Canada’s local animal, bird, and plant species that those with a keen eye will appreciate. Wildlife spottings are very common and provide a short but enthralling glimpse into the life of the many wondrous organisms with which we share the planet. Young children are almost guaranteed to be entranced by the many different species in the forests and mountains.
Hiking is another rewarding experience for the outdoorsy portions of the travelers to the National Park. Banff National Park has many famous hiking trails that take one through the Canadian Rockies’ thrill-inducing landscape. Trails and paths stretch in many different directions and are dotted with guesthouses, lodges, and other places to stay at. Hiking offers a sense of adventure and an opportunity to go about and explore new places and revel in the sense of being amidst the beauty of nature.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
Banff Upper Hot Springs date back to 1893 and are well known. The hot springs are open day long and also offer swimsuit and towel rental on site. Guests and travelers often frequent these hot springs and find them relaxing and enjoyable.
Lake Minnewanka, located 11 km northeast of Banff, is the largest lake within the National Park area and has motorboats allowed. It is a good spot for picnicking and also has a popular hiking trail.
Bow Valley Parkway
Bow Valley Parkway, 48 Km Parkway located between Banff and Lake Louise, offers an alternative way to reach Trans Canada Highway. The place has many different viewpoints, picnic spots, and so much more. One can also visit the Johnston Canyon from here.
Johnston Canyon is 26 km along the Bow Valley Parkway and possesses two different waterfalls, with a trail in between the canyon having cliffs made up of sedimentary rocks. It leads up to the Ink Pot springs, named so because of their blue-green water.
Peyto Lake is a popular summertime spot for travelers. It is near the Bow pass, which is the highest pass in Banff at 2068 m. Peyto lake has unique greenish turquoise color and is recommended in the summer when the valley nearby has flowers.
Skiing is another great way to enjoy what Banff National Park has to offer. Skiing on the beautiful Canadian Rockies slopes is bound to be a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone willing to partake in it. Lake Louise Ski resort is well known in Alberta and offers skiing for all levels of ability in terrain, including groomed runs and tree skiing. There is also the Sunshine Village Ski resort, which is also amongst the best ski resorts in Alberta, Canada. It Also runs the Gondola during the summers.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Cave and Basin National Historic Site is another well-known place that all travelers must not forget to visit. This place has different hikes available for those who would wish to undertake an extra dose of adventure. Marsh Trail, almost three km long, showcases exotic plants and the Sundance trail offers picturesque views of the Bow river valley. Interestingly, the Cave and Basin National Historic site was created by the Banff National Park and the national park system.
Sulphur Mountain is among the best places to visit in the Banff National Park for those who love photography since it offers unmatched and stunning views of the Banff region. It also has a mountain top restaurant and trails leading up to the Cosmic Ray National Historic site and the Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station.
Lake Louise is an iconic part of the Banff National Park region and is a phenomenal place that, honestly, no one ought to miss. It has beautiful and distinctive turquoise green water and is nestled between the towering, snow-capped peaks of Canada’s Rockies range of mountains. Mount Victoria, 1469 m tall, is situated at the western end of the Lake. Several different hiking trails are located nearby, as the Fairmont mentioned earlier in Chateau is among the best resorts in Alberta. People can camp beside the lake and go paddling and canoeing as well.
This article is essentially a complete guide about the lush splendor and the rich natural glory of the Banff National Park nestled in the magnificent Canadian Rockies. It is a great destination and a must-visit for people in Canada. Banff national park is one of Canada’s most magical and beautiful places, and an opportunity to visit the place must not be missed. Here is a link to another article on the Banff National Park, the best amongst Canada’s national parks and a UNESCO world heritage site. Banff is also Canada’s first National park and remains a must-visit destination.
Have you ever been to Banff National Park? What other places would you recommend people to visit while in Canada?
Feel free to reply to us in the comments section below.
Why Try Out Rocket.net – IcyCanada’s recommended hosting provider
3 Reasons to Visit Banff National Park Immediately
Are you thinking to visit Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies? You’re in for an amazing trip!
Banff National Park sits in the heart of the Canadian Rockies surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and glacier-fed lakes and rivers.
Whether you’re considering a trip to Banff or have begun to plan your trip, this guide will both help you plan and show you why Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies are an absolute bucket list destination!
Save this guide for later. Pin it.
3 Reasons to Visit Banff National Park Immediately
Setting off for a somewhat spur of the moment trip to Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies, I knew it would be pretty, but oh how mistaken I was!
It was downright unbelievable and I was completely unprepared for the stunning natural beauty of Banff National Park, the Icefields Parkway, and Jasper National Park.
Having arrived in Banff at night, I was totally unaware of the scenery all around. Starting off the next day along Banff Avenue, mountains towered all around, with the quaint town perfectly nestled among them. If you’ve never been to the Canadian Rockies, the mountains viewed from town will take your breath away before you even see an “actual” sight!
Banff National Park quietly and, quite easily, stole a piece of my heart, which is why I made a return trip to Banff in winter. If you’re wondering why you should visit Banff National Park immediately, these 3 reasons (of many!) should convince you.
1. Lakes in Banff National Park
Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, and Moraine Lake to name just a few. The turquoise blue of the glacier-fed lakes, set against the evergreen forests and the majestic mountains, will make you gasp every time you set eyes on them.
Lake Louise is the must-see crown jewel on everyone’s list. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the town of Banff, still within the national park. From Banff, be sure to drive along the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise for a much more scenic drive than the highway. If you’re lucky, you might just spy some wildlife like big-horned sheep or even a bear!
At Lake Louise, you can horseback ride, hike, canoe, have lunch outside at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and of course, just sit lakeside and take in the natural beauty around you.
If you’re up for a moderately strenuous hike, head up the mountain, through the forest, past Mirror Lake, to Lake Agnes Teahouse, where you can give yourself a pat on the back for completing the hike with a light lunch.
Moraine Lake is only a short drive from Lake Louise. Depending on your day’s activities, you could easily see both lakes on the same day.
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake have hiking trails. Just be sure to pay attention to bear safety guidelines and alerts.
Grizzly bears feed on fish in the streams near the trails so it’s best to carry bear spray and avoid closed trails. No need to ruin a fantastic day by upsetting some of Banff National Park’s natural residents!
Lake Minnewanka may not be as famous as Lake Louise or Moraine Lake but it’s an absolute gem! The lake is just 10 minutes by car from the town of Banff and makes for an easy first stop as you begin your day.
There are hiking trails and picnic areas, as well as hour-long boat rides, where you can cruise along the 28-kilometer-long lake, learn about its history including a submerged settlement at the bottom of the lake, and capture up-close photos of the surrounding mountains. Avoid waiting in line for boat tickets and get your tickets in advance or go first thing in the morning.
Two Jack Lake – Near Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake is surrounded by mountain peaks and can be looped on an easy trail to see the lake from all angles.
Vermillion Lakes – Outside the Banff town center, near the Juniper Hotel, the Vermillion Lakes are spectacular spots to watch the sunrise.
2. Banff National Park Wildlife
Banff National Park is home to many different types of animals. Deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bears, grizzly bears, coyotes, and river otters to name a few. Although I saw some animals during the day, I was luckiest in the mornings and just before the evening.
If you’re like me, then seeing an animal like a bighorn sheep or bear in the wild is such a thrill!
Driving or biking the Minnewanka Loop is a popular spot to search out wildlife, in particular, groups of bighorn sheep are commonly seen near the lake parking lot, on the rocky cliffs near the road, and even on the road itself!
Spotting a black bear or grizzly bear is on the top of the wildlife spotting list for most visitors to Banff National Park. This grizzly bear was not far from the road near Lake Louise. You can tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear not by color, but by the characteristic hump grizzlies have by their shoulders.
As excited as I was to spot a grizzly, it was shocking to see how close people got to this bear! Remember you are in their territory. Respecting the animal is more important than getting the perfect photo. Banff National Park is serious about animal and human safety. Feeding or in any way disturbing an animal comes with high fines.
Other Places to See Wildlife in Banff: Vermillion Lakes, Norquay Road, Bow Valley Parkway, Moraine Lake, and the gondola over the Lake Louise ski area in summer. On both of my trips to Banff, in summer and in winter, I’ve been lucky enough to see bears, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and elk in one or more of these places.
If you’re hoping to see a wolf, they’re incredibly elusive. I made time for a visit to the Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary not far from Banff to learn more about wolves and wolf dogs.
3. Banff Mountains
The Banff Rocky Mountains surround the town with awesome jagged peaks that can be seen right from the town center. If you’re a mountain person like I am, visiting Banff National Park will feel as if you’ve found where you’re supposed to be.
Banff sunrise over the Vermillion Lakes in winter. Mount Rundle reflects off the water.
Cascade Mountain is the peak seen as you stroll along Banff Avenue in the Banff town center. Mount Rundle sits behind the Vermillion Lakes and completes the perfect sunrise photo over the water. And at sunset, brushstrokes of colors paint the sky with the mountain as its backdrop.
To fully appreciate the mountains in Banff National Park, take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for spectacular views of the valley in which the town of Banff sits, the mountains surrounding it, and, of course, the turquoise rivers and lakes that are part of the national park. It’s well worth your time and money to enjoy views like these!
How to Get to Banff National Park
The closest airport is Calgary. The airport is serviced by numerous airlines, with flights originating from North America and the U.K. We booked 2 round trip Saver Awards on a United flight from New York to Calgary for a total of 50k miles. For more ideas, see how you can use your points and miles to get to Banff.
It’s about an hour and a half west from Calgary to Banff National Park. The most convenient way to get to Banff is by renting a car and taking the Trans-Canada Highway toward Banff. The drive in the summer is simple to do both day and night because the route is straightforward, just follow the highway to Banff.
Banff National Park Lodging
Banff has plenty of hotels for every type of budget located along Banff Avenue and throughout the town. On my trips to Banff, I’ve stayed at the Fox Hotel and Suites and the Banff Aspen Lodge along Banff Avenue.
I’ve also stayed just 2 minutes away from the town center at the Juniper Hotel, which overlooks the Vermillion Lakes area.
All 3 hotels had comfortable, clean rooms and came with amenities like wifi, parking, and sometimes free breakfast. The Juniper Hotel stood out for its location and views. Even though you don’t have the convenience of walking outside directly onto Banff Avenue to eat or shop, the Juniper Hotel’s location puts you directly in the natural beauty of the park and town.
If you would like to use hotel points for an award stay, you have a few options.
The Best Western Plus Sliding 29 Lodge is located off Banff Avenue in town and the Fairmont Banff Springs located just outside of the town center, closer to the Bow River.
The Banff Royal Canadian Lodge by Marriott is also situated along Banff Avenue. Although reports are, available award nights may be hard to come by.
VRBO and Booking also list many available vacation rental properties.
If camping is more your style, Banff National Park camping is also quite popular. There are over 2,000 campsites. Just be sure to make your Banff camping reservations in advance and get your national park camping permit.
Are you planning to visit Banff National Park?
Like this post? Please share it on social media using the share buttons below!
8 Tips for Visiting Banff on a Budget
A trip to Banff National Park is a bucket-list vacation for many. With towering, rugged Rocky Mountains, exciting wildlife, lush forests and turquoise-blue lakes, Banff is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
As you’d expect in a place with scenery this incredible, Banff is pretty expensive, but our money-saving tips make it easier to travel to Banff on a budget without sacrificing experiences.
Tips for Visiting Banff on a Budget
This post contains compensated links.
How Much Does a Trip to Banff Cost?
Hold onto your wallets – it’s expensive to visit Banff National Park! In fact, many studies have shown that Banff is the most expensive place to visit in Canada, especially in summer and during larch tree season.
Saddleback Pass Hike in fall – Lake Louise, Banff National Park
We’ll help you save money on your trip to Banff with our tips below, but to give you an idea of how much a trip to Banff costs:
The cost of a hotel room in Banff on a weekend in low season will cost anywhere between $200 – $700+ per night, while that same Banff hotel room in the high season will cost more than double at $700 – $1400+.
Data from a recent Government of Canada study shows that visitors to the Canadian Rockies spend 45% of their Banff travel budget on accommodations. Using this measure, we can back-calculate the average daily cost to visit Banff as:
- Average daily cost to visit Banff in low season: $450 – $1500+
Walk to the Vermillion Lakes for free to see this view of Mount Rundle
We live in Canmore (just minutes from Banff) and are always looking for ways to make visiting Banff more affordable. In addition, we’ve traveled to some of the world’s most expensive destinations (like Norway, Italy and Iceland) on a budget. Our experiences in Banff and abroad taught us how to travel on a budget without compromising on amazing experiences.
When we look at the average daily costs to visit Banff, we’re confident we could have an amazing trip to Banff for much less. Here’s how we would visit Banff on a budget.
Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Our Banff Travel Guide has everything you need to get the MOST out of your trip to Banff!
8 Tips to Visit Banff on a Budget
1. Find a Clean, Cheap Hotel in Banff
If the study about Banff travel costs is right about visitors spending 45% of their overall Banff travel budget on accommodations, the best place to save money traveling to Banff is on your choice of hotel.
Affordable Accommodation in Banff – Banff Boutique Inn
A wide variety of quality Banff hotels serve the millions of visitors to this world-class national park annually. By utilizing some of these money-saving strategies, you can find a great place to stay in Banff on a budget:
Get a Banff Hotel Outside Downtown
Banff’s downtown is a fun & exciting place to visit. Jam packed with restaurants, souvenir shops, art galleries and more, a walk down Banff Avenue is always entertaining. Downtown Banff is quite small, occupying only a few city blocks, so the downtown Banff hotels can get quite expensive.
The easiest way to find a place to stay in Banff on a budget is to find a Banff hotel outside of downtown. The best budget hotel in Banff is the Dorothy Motel – it’s on the very far edge of town, about as far away as you can get, but it’s still less than a 20 minute walk to downtown Banff from there. Trust me – a 20 minute walk anywhere in Banff is a pleasure and the walk along Banff Avenue is beautiful!
The Dorothy Motel – cheap accommodations in Banff
If you don’t like walking, you can easily take the local Roam public transit bus which runs up and down Banff Avenue all day long.
Getting Around Banff on a Budget
Stay at a Simple Banff Hotel
If you get a hotel room in some old boring city, you may want to pay extra for a nice hotel with a pool, fitness room, hot tub, etc. But Banff is not that kind of place – people flock to Banff for the stunning mountain scenery and outstanding outdoor recreational activities.
As long as you find a clean Banff hotel with a comfortable bed, you won’t care if your Banff hotel doesn’t have a pool, hot tub or any other unnecessary hotel amenity. Trust me – you’ll be having so much fun enjoying Banff, you won’t even think about not having a pool at your Banff hotel.
Places to Stay in Banff on a Budget – High Country Inn
Visit During the Banff Low Season
The typical cost of a hotel room in Banff during low season is less than half of what it costs during the peak tourist season. Both spring and fall are wonderful times to visit Banff with a wide variety of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Taylor Lake in fall – Banff National Park
Visit Banff Mid-Week
If your schedule permits, a good strategy to find a place to stay in Banff on a budget is to get a Banff hotel room mid-week. Mid-week hotel savings may not be possible during the heart of peak season, where the cost of a Banff hotel room is consistently high throughout the week, but in off-season you can easily save 20-40% on a mid-week Banff hotel room.
Stay Near Banff in a Canmore Hotel
If you are looking to save money on a hotel in Banff, try getting a hotel in Canmore, the nearest city to Banff National Park. Canmore is a small city of 15,000 residents located just minutes outside the Banff National Park gates and a 20-minute drive to the Town of Banff.
Many people like that Canmore is not as touristy as Banff and you’ll still enjoy world-class Rocky Mountain views from all directions. There’s plenty of great outdoor things to do in Canmore and is home to plenty of excellent restaurants and shops to explore.
Being an alternate base camp for visitors to Banff, there are lots of good quality Canmore hotels and vacation rentals to choose from. As a general rule, you’ll find Canmore hotels are cheaper than a comparable hotel in Banff.
Looking down on Canmore at the top of Ha Ling Peak hike
Look for Deals on Banff Hotels
If you have some persistence, patience and a little luck, you can often find a good deal on a Banff hotel. Some Banff hotels offer discounts for Alberta residents, some offer Banff ski packages, etc. Start looking for your Banff hotel as far in advance as possible and keep checking back for a better rate.
For example, a stay at the iconic Banff Springs Hotel is a dream for many visitors to Banff. As a luxury hotel, it’s one of the most expensive hotels in Banff, but even here you can still find deals at the Banff Springs Hotel.
Surprise Corner is one of the many free things to do near the Banff Springs Hotel
Stay at One of our Recommended Cheap Banff Hotels
The good news for visitors to Banff on a budget is that we’ve done all the leg work for you and have recommended the 7 best inexpensive places to stay in Banff. You’ll be happy to know there are a few budget options within our list of the best places to stay in Lake Louise.
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort
If you are visiting Banff with loved ones (furry or not), we also have curated lists of the best family-friendly hotels in Banff and the best pet-friendly hotels in Banff.
2. Stay at a Banff Airbnb or VRBO
Vacation rentals are an excellent accommodation option for people visiting Banff on a budget. Banff Airbnb and VRBO rentals will follow the same seasonal pricing patterns as Banff hotels, but over our traveling history we have found vacation rentals to be more affordable than a comparable hotel. In addition, Banff Airbnb rentals have many extra amenities which are attractive for travelers to Banff on a budget.
- Banff Airbnb and VRBO rentals often come with separate bedrooms. This is especially beneficial for families traveling to Banff with kids, or friends visiting Banff together. Separate bedrooms equals more privacy and better sleeps all around.
We’ve stayed at over 50 Airbnb and VRBO rentals all over the world. We always seek good value for our accommodation dollar and we usually find it with a vacation rental.
To find a great place to stay in Banff on a budget, take a look at our best places to stay in Banff on Airbnb and VRBO.
3. Save Money by Self-Catering in Banff
When you travel to Italy, eating Italian food at restaurants is an integral part of the experience. This is not true when you travel to Banff… no offense to Canadian cuisine, but you won’t be missing an integral cultural experience if you self-cater in Banff.
The study of Banff travel costs shows that the second largest expense for visitors to Banff is on food and beverage. Visitors to Banff on average spend 21% of their overall Banff vacation budget on food and drink.
Banff has many excellent restaurants, and we recommend you try some, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat 3 full meals every day at Banff restaurants. Buying groceries and cooking many of your own meals will significantly reduce the cost of your Banff vacation.
Most of the rooms at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort (one of our recommended affordable places to stay in Banff) have a full kitchen. And of course, most Banff VRBO rentals will have a kitchen as well. Having your own kitchen really helps you more easily enjoy Banff on a budget.
Even better, pack up your lunch and enjoy many of Banff’s best picnic areas!
A Banff Self-Catering Strategy
A self-catering strategy we use all the time is to eat breakfast at the VRBO and pack a lunch to eat on the go. We love this self-catering strategy as it’s a healthier way to eat, and saves you both time and money. When you visit a world class destination like Banff, sitting in a restaurant for breakfast and/or lunch is a huge waste of time – you should be outside having fun!
Shopping at a Banff grocery store is healthier and cheaper
One thing to note is that even food purchased at the grocery store in Banff is expensive. If you have your own car, stop at Costco or a grocery store in Calgary and pick-up your breakfast and lunch supplies. Be sure to grab some high energy snacks to keep you going on your daily adventures.
We love supporting local Bow Valley businesses, but we find the grocery stores here are really expensive relative to Calgary. We’re here to help you travel to Banff on a budget, so if you can, buy your groceries in Calgary instead of Banff.
By following our self-catering strategy, you’ll have significantly more time and money to enjoy Banff. Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll feel like you earned your meal at one of Banff’s excellent restaurants.
4. Visit Banff without a Car
The third biggest component of the cost of a trip to Banff is transportation. On average, visitors spend 16% of their Banff travel budget on transportation.
Measuring a mind-boggling 6,641 km², Banff National Park is a vast mountain wilderness. It’s tempting to think you must have a rental car to visit Banff, but in fact it’s easy to get to Banff without a car, and once you are there, it’s also very easy to get around Banff without a car.
With over 4 million visitors to Banff a year, vehicle congestion and crowded parking lots are a problem, so Banff officials have put in a lot of effort to make visiting the top attractions in Banff without a car as easy and cheap as possible. You’d be surprised at the number of Banff hiking trails you can do without a car.
You might even prefer using the public buses or Parks Canada shuttles to get to Moraine Lake or Lake Louise to avoid the crowded parking lots, or worse, risk not getting a parking spot at all.
There’s no doubt having a rental car gives you ultimate freedom to explore Banff on your own schedule. If you are traveling to Banff on a budget, take a peek at the cost to rent a car for Banff, then read our guides on how to get to Banff without a car and getting around Banff without a car to get a feel for the cost / benefit of this travel expense.
Roam transit serves most of Banff National Park
If you have the flexibility to come to Banff without a car, you’d be helping solve the vehicle congestion problem. These convenient Banff hotels are great for visitors coming to Banff without a car.
5. Visit Banff on a Group Tour
Another excellent strategy for those looking to visit Banff on a budget is to join an organized group tour with an adventure travel company such as G Adventures. We have traveled extensively with G Adventures and have always felt we got excellent value for our money.
The Canadian Rockies – National Parks tour by G Adventures is an awesome 14 day tour between Calgary and Vancouver, with stops in some of our favorite destinations in Western Canada, such as Banff, Jasper, Whistler, Tofino and Victoria. This amazing budget Banff tour only costs roughly $200 -$225 per day depending on season.
There are several other Banff tours by G Adventures with a higher level of service which are a bit more expensive. But, even the most expensive tour through Banff is well below the average daily cost to visit Banff.
It’s important to read each tour description carefully as inclusions and amenities can vary from trip-to-trip.
6. Enjoy the Many Free Things to do in Banff
Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Chances are good that you wish to visit Banff as you love the outdoors, which is great news as most of the best things to do in Banff are free!
The Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike in Lake Louise, Banff
It’s true, some of the top Banff attractions are expensive, like downhill skiing in Banff at the Big 3 resorts or the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. But outside of this, just about everything else to do in Banff is free. You could spend weeks in Banff exploring the most incredible scenery you’ll ever see, and you don’t need to spend a cent.
In summer, you can enjoy endless miles of hiking trails in Banff National Park. For your Banff hiking inspiration, check out:
There are also some incredible cycling opportunities in Banff National Park, like biking the Banff Legacy Trail or cycling Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon.
Hiking Sheol Valley – Lake Louise, Banff, Canada
In the winter, you can enjoy excellent easy winter hikes without any extra equipment. If you have your own gear or have room in your budget for rentals, there are many more Banff winter activities you can do for free:
- Try one of the easy cross-country ski trails in Banff on a frozen lake
- Go on a super-fun ice walk at Johnston Canyon.
Cascade Amphitheatre Snowshoe – Banff, Canada
7. Skip the Banff Gondola
Speaking of the best free things to do in Banff, did you know you can skip taking the expensive Banff Gondola and hike up Sulphur Mountain instead? I love hiking up Sulphur Mountain knowing that I’m getting a great workout, enjoying incredible views of Banff and saving a ton of cash.
Once at the top of Sulphur Mountain, you are free to enjoy all the same facilities at the top as the people who paid to take the Banff Gondola up. Trust me, if you are traveling to Banff on a budget, this is an excellent way to save some money and have an amazing experience doing so.
Save money in Banff by hiking up Sulphur Mountain
The Sulphur Mountain hike is 10km return (5km each way) with approximately 750m of elevation gain. It takes about 2.5 hours to complete the round-trip hike. Granted, the Sulphur Mountain hike is difficult, but it’s common to see people of all ages and abilities making their way to the top.
8. Rent Gear instead of Buying
If you are visiting Banff on a budget, you may wish to avoid purchasing your own expensive sports gear like downhill skis, snowshoes, stand-up paddleboards, etc. You can easily travel to Banff without your own sports gear as you can rent your stuff there.
SUP on Johnson Lake, Banff, Canada
If you can rent your gear in Calgary, you’ll likely enjoy the lowest prices, but Canmore and Banff have a good selection of gear rental shops as well.
Banff National Park is Worth Every Loonie
In closing, don’t let the potential high cost of traveling to Banff scare you off – you can still travel to Banff on a budget. With these 8 easy tips you can easily save tons of money and make your trip to Banff much more affordable. In the end, you will find Banff is more expensive than most destinations, but it is truly worth every single Loonie!
Found this post useful? Save it or share it with your friends!