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How to Visit Banff Without a Car

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Planning a Trip to Banff Canada Without a Car

Banff is a bucket list destination for a lot of people as it is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Have you ever heard of Lake Louise or Moraine Lake? They are both located in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada.

But what if you don’t drive? Is it possible to get around Banff without a car?

The answer is yes! It is 100% possible to visit Banff without a car and still be able to visit the must-see spots in and around Banff and the Canadian Rockies!

This blog will provide you with all of the information and details you need around how to get to Banff without a car and then how to travel around once you are there.

Banff View

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Things You Will Need While in Banff

When visiting Banff, there are a few things you should be aware of that you will need. As you are going to be walking around quite a bit, you should purchase some bear spray to have while you are there. To read more about bear spray and how to use it check out the Parks Canada website.

You should also make sure that you have sunglasses, a good hat, sunscreen and bug spray. The sun is fierce in the Summer especially and so are the bugs.

Bring your swimmers! There is nothing better than jumping into a nice cold alpine lake on a hot day and there are plenty of gorgeous lakes in Banff!

A day pack with plenty of food, water and of course your camera!

Can you Visit Banff Without a Car?

Of course, a car gives you more freedom when travelling anywhere, but do you absolutely need a car in order to visit Banff? The answer is no, you do not need a car to visit Banff. Banff is a very walkable town and there is a great transit system to get around to different points of interest nearby.

There are also loads of tours that you can join to get to some of the more out of the way places from Banff so you definitely don’t need to worry about missing out if you are planning on visiting Banff without a car.

You can also very easily get to Banff from Calgary without a car which I will explain in the next section of this guide.

Banff views

How to Get to Banff Without a Car

I am going to start from the start. How to get to Banff if you don’t have a car.

If you are flying in from another city in Canada or internationally, you will want to fly into Calgary International Airport. There are a few different options from Calgary to travel to Banff without renting a car.

You can take the bus, book a shared shuttle or book a private shuttle.

photo of Banff in the Winter from the bridge

Option 1 – Public Transport

The public transport option is a bus (or coach) called the On-It Transit Service. This is the cheapest way (only $10 one way) to get from Calgary to Banff and you can pre-book online.

This bus doesn’t leave directly from Calgary International Airport, so you will need to first commute into Downtown Calgary.

  1. To get from Calgary International Airport to one of the two On-It Transit stops, you can get a bus or a taxi from the airport.

    I recommend booking the bus from the City stop (205 9 Ave SE) which means you can take bus #300 to get there from Calgary International Airport which will take around 45 minutes.
  2. Once you are on the On-It Transit Service, it will take you just under 2 hours to reach Banff.
Couple sitting at Little Beehive Hike viewpoint over Lake Louise

Option 2 – Book a Shared Shuttle

Sometimes it is just so much easier (and faster) to book a shuttle. This shared shuttle is $69 per person and includes 1 checked bag and 1 carry on bag each.

The shuttle takes you from Calgary International Airport all of the way to Banff or Canmore. The downside of booking a shared shuttle versus a private shuttle is that you don’t get dropped straight to your own hotel and may need to walk or catch a bus once you arrive in Banff.

Option 3 – Book a Private Shuttle

If you are looking for a seamless trip from Calgary to Banff, the best way to travel is by private shuttle. This shuttle takes you all of the way to your Banff hotel from Calgary.

Getting Around Banff Without a Car

Once you are in Banff, it is relatively easy to get around Banff without a car.

If you stay in a hotel in town, such as the Moose Hotel and Suites which are absolutely gorgeous with an awesome rooftop hot tub, then it is super easy to just walk around town. You will be within walking distance to restaurants, shops and tourist information centres.

Things to do Within Walking Distance from Banff

The great thing about Banff is that you don’t have to go far to experience its beautiful scenery and nature. Here are some beautiful spots that you can walk to from Banff’s Town Centre. Once you start exploring, you will soon realise that Banff is a very walkable town.

Bow River Trail – 20 minutes from Town Centre

The river is really pretty and is only a 20 minute walk from Banff Boulevard. You can walk along the river and up over the bridge.

Couple standing on a bridge with a mountain backdrop

Most of the riverside is paved and is wheelchair accessible. There are also lots of wooden benches where you can sit facing the river to take in the views.

Once you reach the river from Banff Town Centre, you can choose to go either right or left to walk along the Bow River Trail. The trail continues along the river and is really peaceful. If you choose to go right when you reach the river, you will eventually reach the Banff Town Sign, however you will need to walk along the road for a bit to get there.

Directions to the Bow River Trail

To get to Bow River from Banff, (let’s start at the Banff Visitors Centre), you will need to walk down Banff Avenue towards Starbucks. Then at the Starbucks take a right onto Caribou Street.

Keep walking and cross over Lynx Street to stay on Caribou Street. Soon you will hit Bow Avenue and the Bow River Trail.

Map of Banff to Bow River Trail

Vermillion Lakes – 2.4km from Banff Town (30 – 40 mins)

Vermillion Lakes is only a 2.4km / 1.5 miles one way walk from Banff Town Centre. The walk will take you around 30 – 40 minutes one way and the lakes are beautiful.

Vermillion Lakes Paddle boarding
Directions to Vermillion Lakes

To get from Banff Visitors Centre to Vermillion Lakes, you will need to walk up Banff Avenue towards Wolf Street and then turn left onto Wolf Street. Walk all of the way down until you reach Lynx Street, where you will need to turn right.

Girl standing on dock at Vermillion Lakes in Banff

Keep walking on Lynx Street and stay left as it turns into Gopher Street and then Mount Norquay Road. You will walk past the Town Sign. Keep going and eventually you will reach a small parking lot on your left where the Fenland Trail starts. You can choose to take this trail through the forest to Vermillion Lakes Road or continue on Mount Norquay Road.

Couple standing at the Banff Town Sign in Winter

If you continue on Mount Norquay Road, you will need to turn left at the next intersection onto Vermillion Lakes Road. This road will take you the rest of the way to Vermillion Lakes and you will pass where the Fenland Trail meets up with it.

Banff to Vermillion Lakes Walking map

Surprise Corner – 1.7km from Banff Town (20 – 25 mins)

Surprise Corner is a really awesome viewpoint that you can walk to from Banff! The walk is uphill but believe me, it is so worth it! You get a view of Bow River, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Sulphur Mountain.

Couple sitting at Surprise Corner viewpoint in Banff
Directions to Surprise Corner

The walk to Surprise corner is 3km / 1.8 miles return with an elevation gain of 60m / 196 ft.

There are a couple of ways to get to Surprise Corner from the Banff Visitors Centre, but the nicest is via the Bow River Trail.

First, walk straight down Banff Avenue until you reach the river and then turn left onto the Bow River Trail. The trail will take you all of the way to Surprise Corner.

map of Banff to Surprise Corner

Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain is a 4.3km / 2.7 mile hike with an elevation gain of 268m / 879 ft hike where you climb up to a viewpoint overlooking Banff. It is probably the most popular hike for people visiting Banff to do but for good reason! It will take you around 1.5 to 2 hours from the trailhead to complete.

To get to the Tunnel Mountain trailhead from Banff, there is no bus but it only takes about 30 minutes to reach the trailhead by foot.

I recommend coupling this with Surprise Corner Lookout as you can just continue up Tunnel Mountain Drive from Surprise Corner until you see the trailhead on your right.

Cave & Basin National Historic Site & the Marsh Loop

Cave and Basin is a historic site consisting of incredible thermal springs located inside caves! If you are into you history, then you will love this place. The springs are beautiful and blue and there are a few different trails that you can do once there to see the different springs.

Directions to Cave and Basin

It will take you around 30 minutes to reach Cave and Basin from Banff Town Centre.

From the Banff Visitors Centre, you will need to walk straight down Banff Avenue towards Bow River. Cross over Bow River Bridge and after walking past Glen Avenue, turn right onto Cave Avenue. Keep walking along Cave Avenue and eventually you will reach the parking lot for Cave and Basin.

Must-See Locations from Banff by Public Transport

There are a few buses that travel in and around Banff which you can use to get to some must-see locations while you are visiting Banff.

Roam Transit Routes

Route 1:  Sulphur Mountain Gondola – Route 1 takes you from downtown Banff to the Banff Hot Upper Springs and the Banff Gondola.

Route 2: Tunnel Mountain – Route 2 takes you from downtown Banff to the Tunnel Mountain campgrounds, Bow Falls and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This route does not take you to the Tunnel Mountain Trailhead, despite the bus’s name.

Route 3:  Canmore – Route 3 will take you to and from Canmore which is a similar, less tourist town of Banff where there are loads of great hikes and things to do.

Route 4: Cave and Basin –  Route 4 will take you from Banff Town to the Cavin and Basin National Historic Site. Note: This route only operates in the Summer months from May to October.

Route 6: Lake Minnewanka – Route 6 takes you from Banff Town to Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake, the Two Jack Lake Campgrounds , Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. This route only operates in the Summer months from May to October.

Route 8X and Route 8S: Lake Louise Express and Scenic – There are two buses that go to Lake Louise Village and the lake. You will need to reserve tickets for these buses through the Roam Transit Website.

Route 10: Moraine Lake in Fall – Route 10 is a Fall only bus and is available to get you from Banff to Moraine Lake from September only.

The Fairmont Hotel

The Fairmont Hotel is like a castle and is worth a visit for lunch or morning or afternoon tea and to explore the grounds and the shops. We found that the Fairmont Hotel was a great visit for a day where we felt like we needed a bit of a break from the usual sightseeing.

To get to the Fairmont from Banff, you can take the bus route #2 which will take about 10 – 12 minutes.

Two Jack Lake

Two Jack Lake is a really beautiful, must-see lake in Banff! It is a great lake for picnicking, swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking and for seeing wildlife!

Couple standing at Two Jack Lake

To get to Two Jack Lake from Banff by public transport, you can take bus route #6 to the lake.

The bus journey from Banff to Two Jack Lake will take around 20 minutes.

Cave & Basin National Historic Site & the Marsh Loop

Not only can you walk to Cave and Basin, but you can also catch bus route #4. Note that this route only operates in the Summer months from May to October.

The bus trip from Banff to Cave and Basin will take around 10 minutes.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is an incredible deep canyon featuring lots of waterfalls which you can visit all year-round! During Winter, the waterfalls freeze and they are really impressive!

To get to Johnston Canyon without a car, you have two choices. You can catch bus route #9 Johnston Canyon from Banff High School Transit Hub.

The bus only takes around 35 minutes to reach Johnston Canyon so you won’t add too much extra time to your trip and costs about $5 one way for an adult ticket.

Alternatively, you can book a ticket on the Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour, which I will talk about more in the tours section of this guide.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is a HUGE glacial lake in Banff National Park and is a popular place for watersports such as paddle boarding. It is one of the best places in Banff to go paddle boarding.

To get to Lake Minnewanka from Banff, you can catch bus route #6 which will take around 25-30 minutes to reach the lake.

Banff Upper Hot Springs

Banff Upper Hot Springs are a great way to spend part of a day relaxing after exploring and hiking. The outdoor Hot Springs are located on top of a hill with mountain views and are the perfect place to relax with a good book.

relaxation in the Banff Upper Hot Springs in Winter

To get to Banff Upper Hot Springs from Banff Town Centre, you can take bus route #1.

The bus from Banff to the Hot Springs will take around 15-20 minutes.

Banff Gondola

The Banff gondola is a great activity to do when in Banff! The gondola takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain where you will get 360 degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges!

To get to the Banff Gondola from Banff Town centre, you can catch bus route #1.

I recommend booking your ticket for the Gondola in advance to ensure you don’t miss out.

The bus from Banff to the Banff gondola will take around 20 minutes.

Spend a Day in Canmore

Canmore is a beautiful, less touristy version of Banff and has a great restaurant and shopping scene and some beautiful hikes. To get to Canmore from Banff, you can catch the Roam Transit Bus Route #3.

Hike in Canmore

The bus from Banff to Canmore will take around 25 minutes.

Here is a list of the must see spots in Canmore in One Day!

Canmore in Summer

How to Get to Lake Louise From Banff Without a Car

If you are visiting Banff your number 1 bucket list location is probably either Lake Louise, Moraine Lake or very likely, both.

Couple standing at Lake Louise at sunrise

You can get to Lake Louise Village and/or the lake itself, by catching one of the 2 Roam Transit buses. There are two buses that go to Lake Louise Village and the lakeRoute 8X and Route 8S: Lake Louise Express and Scenic. You will need to reserve tickets for these buses through the Roam Transit Website.

Visiting Moraine Lake

The only way to get to Moraine Lake (as of Summer 2023) is by bus or a tour. The road has been closed to the public due to the crazy traffic it was causing at 3am in the morning from all the sunrise goers trying to get there before the parking lot filled up.

Parks Canada Bus

To get to Moraine Lake by bus, you will need to book a shuttle through the Parks Canada Website. To get a shuttle, you really need to be ready to book as soon as the reservations open for the season.

Booking the shuttle isn’t as competitive as some of the campgrounds but I can imagine that this will get more and more competitive in the future.

Moraine Lake Tour

This half-day tour will take you to from Banff to both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise with a group and a guide where you will learn about Banff National Park, its history, and what animals you should look out for. Your guide will also take you on a short hike.⛰

 Purchase tickets for the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Sightseeing Tour here!

Visit Moraine Lake at Sunrise

If you are into photography, like Dave and I, then you will be super excited to know that there is now a Moraine Lake sunrise tour so that you can see the gorgeous mountain peaks behind Moraine Lake light up bright orange! Believe me when I say that it is worth the early rise and the extra money!

Check out the Moraine Lake Sunrise Tour here!

The Best Banff Tours

Are you trying to figure out the easiest way to see the major attractions in Banff without a car? Joining a tour will solve all of your travel planning problems! I recommend any of the below tours as these take you to the must see places in Banff!

Hop on Hop off Bus

The Hop on Hop off bus tour is one of the easiest ways to see some of the best sights in and around Banff without a car and without being restricted by a guide or by being stuck in a group.

You can spend as little or as much time as you want at Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Gondola (admission is not included).

Lake Louise and Yoho National Park (from Calgary or Banff)

This full day (8-11 hr) tour will take you from your choice of Calgary or Banff, to not only the most popular lakes in Banff National Park, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise but it will also take you to Yoho National Park. Yoho is one of my favourite places in the Canadian Rockies and it is so underrated!

You will see the gorgeous Emerald Lake which is another bright turquoise lake that definitely does not look real! I can almost guarantee that you will have seen photos of Emerald Lake on social media before! You will also get to visit Natural Bridge and the Spiral Tunnels which are two incredible places.

If you have more than 1 day to explore Banff: I recommend pairing this tour with either the public transport system to see some of the other spots in an around Banff or with the below Classic Banff Day Tour. (Note that you will need to do the Classic Banff Day Tour first as this only goes from Calgary.

Classic Banff Day Tour: Banff, Sulphur Mountain, Johnston Canyon (From Calgary)

This full day (10-11 hr) tour takes you on the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain, on the Hoodoos Trail, to Bow Falls, Surprise Corner, the Fairmont Banff Springs and Johnston Canyon.

I recommend pairing this tour with the above Lake Louise and Yoho National Park tour. Note: You will need to book this tour for day 1 as it only goes from Calgary.

Rockies Select 2-Day Tour (Banff & Yoho National Park) – From Calgary

If you are travelling to Banff from Calgary and only have 2 days to explore, this 2 day tour is perfect to see as much as possible! You will be picked up and dropped off in Calgary.

On day one, you will be taken to all of the major spots in Banff National Park, including Sulphur Mountain, Bow Falls, Banff Avenue, Surprise Corner, Hoodoos Trail and Johnston Canyon.

On day two, you will get to see some stunning spots in Yoho National Park such as the Spiral Tunnels, Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge. You will then finish the tour with a bang by spending some time at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway – Full-Day Tour

Looking for a way to see some of the Icefields Parkway without a car, including the insanely beautiful and bright turquoise Peyto Lake?

This full day (8-9 hr) tour is the one for you! You will get to see not only Peyto Lake, but also Lake Minnewanka, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake and the Crowfoot Glacier.

Girl sitting at Peyto Lake lookout
Peyto Lake

Athabasca Glacier Snow Trip from Banff

This full day (11 hr) tour will take you from Banff to the Athabasca Glacier located along the Icefields Parkway where you will drive past incredible Rocky Mountain peaks, glaciers, waterfalls and emerald lakes. The tour also includes a mountain picnic lunch, Glacier Skywalk and an all-terrain Ice Explorer tour.

Photo from the viewpoint at Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield

Other than the above, there are loads more amazing tours in Lake Louise that are worth checking out when you are planning your trip to Banff!

Commonly Asked Questions

Are there Ubers in Banff?

There are no Ubers or Lyfts in Banff, however there are taxis and plenty of shuttle services.

Can I Visit Banff in Winter without a car?

You can visit Banff at any time of the year without a car, however the most accessible will be during the Summer months. During Winter, some of the Roam transit buses stop their services and walking around is less pleasant than in Summer. Winter is however, more afforable than Summer which is always a nice perk.

I highly recommend investing in a pair of micro spikes if you would like to visit Banff in Winter. These will stop you from sliding around on any of the trails in and around Banff.

If you are visiting Banff, you might also find these guides helpful in planning your trip:

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Tuesday 15th of August 2023

This is so helpful! I've wondered how people get around without cars in that area. I've always had one, but this time I saw people riding a bus and got curious. Thanks for sharing!


Wednesday 16th of August 2023

Thanks Lita! I always choosing hiring a car too because Dave and I love the ease and freedom of it but it's definitely nice to know that there are other options :)

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