You can have your pick of planes, trains, and automobiles to get you to Banff National Park. It simply depends on where your travel originates as well as how leisurely you want your trip to be.
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Certainly, the quickest and most direct transportation to Banff is to fly into Calgary International Airport and then travel by car or shuttle to the park. Calgary is the closest city to the park. While there is a Banff airport, or airstrip, about two miles northeast of the town of Banff, it is not open to commercial traffic. Operated by Parks Canada, the Banff airport is only used for emergencies and diversions when needed.
All major airlines fly into Calgary International Airport including Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, and United. Calgary is a hub for Air Canada and is the headquarters of operations for WestJet, Canada’s second largest airline.
When flying in, remember that Calgary is in the Mountain time zone and does observe Daylight Savings time from mid-March to early November.
If the best flight you can find gets you into Vancouver International Airport, from there you can take a bus, train, or rent a car. Keep in mind Vancouver is 850 km (530 miles) from Banff National Park, so the options are fewer and longer. Rider Express does operate bus service that is affordable, but it’s a long one at 15 hours and 13 stops to get to Banff. Train service is mentioned below, or you can always choose to rent a car for an epic road trip.
If you are visiting or flying into Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, Edmonton International Airport is 360 km (224 miles) north of the park. A drive to the park will take you about 3 hours and 30 minutes.
From the airport, there are shuttle services available to Banff National Park. Reserve your space with Banff Airporter. Their service can take you from the Calgary Airport to Canmore (1 hour 20 minutes) or Banff (2 hours) in a comfortable shuttle bus.
The Banff Airporter offers a variety of pricing options, depending on how many people are in your group and whether or not you require round-trip transportation. Seats are comfortable and the best part is you don’t have to drive. You can enjoy the views, charge your phone, or take a nap to charge yourself up for your Banff adventure.
Perhaps the most affordable transportation to Banff is the On-It Transit service. This service runs a direct route from Calgary to Banff for $10 CAD each way. Yes, you read that right. The catch is it doesn’t run from the airport and doesn’t run every day. It is available from Friday to Sunday, and some Monday holidays, in the warmer months of mid-May to mid-September. Reservations are required.
Calgary Transit operates buses that can take you from the airport to many locations including downtown Calgary. If you aren’t in a hurry to get to Banff, this is your chance to book a hotel downtown and explore the city. Once the weekend rolls around, hop on the On-It service to travel on to Canmore and Banff.
Travel in the Banff Region
Once you’ve arrived in Banff National Park, you need not rent a car to get around. There are several options for traveling around the Banff area using shuttles and public transportation.
Roam Transit, a public transportation option that uses hybrid buses, operates four year-round routes and two additional routes between May to September. You can use Roam Transit to move between Canmore and Banff locations.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers a two-day trip from Vancouver to Banff by train. This train runs from mid-April to mid-October and has stops in Lake Louise and Banff. You can choose a one-way trip or head back to Vancouver after your Banff adventure.
If you can afford the time and the price, this luxurious travel option will give you memories to last a lifetime. The train gets you comfortably to Banff with views as the landscape changes from city to prairie to mountains. Since there are no overnight accommodations on the train, the price of the trip includes an overnight hotel stay in Kamloops.
Banff National Park is located along the TransCanada Highway. This highway is the main transportation route east to west across Canada and is open year-round. This four-lane highway is well maintained and winds its way through the heart of Banff National Park.
If you are coming from the east, the main entry gates to Banff National Park are about an 1-1/4 hour (125 km or 77 miles) drive west of Calgary, Alberta. If you are coming from the west, Banff National Park is a scenic day’s drive (850 km or 530 miles) from Vancouver, travelling through the Coast Mountains, wine country of British Columbia and then the spectacular Canadian Rockies.
From the north, in the Edmonton area, you can take AB-2 South to the Trans-Canada Highway. It will take you to Calgary and then continue on west to the park.
Driving from the south, from cities in the United States, Kalispell, Montana, is a little over 5 hours away (480 km or 300 miles) and Spokane, Washington, is 6 hours and 30 minutes (573 km or 356 miles).
Directions to Banff National Park, Alberta
Here is our handy Banff National Park map for directions to throughout the park and the Canadian Rockies area.