Interested in Banff National Park?
We'll send you updates with the latest deals, reviews and articles for Banff National Park each week.
Topics include Transportation, Dining Scene, Canada: For Foreign Visitors & more!
The vast majority of travellers are admissible to Canada. However, before you buy a non-refundable air ticket, it might be worth mentioning that there are some circumstances in which people, for example those with criminal convictions, are barred from entering Canada. To find out more, read Inside Canada : DWI or DUI (Impaired Driving) Conviction. Now that that is out of the way, the rest of this page will assume that you are able to enter Canada.
Figure out the time of year at which to travel to the area. The latter half of June and the month of September are excellent times to go. The mountain lakes are thawed, so you get to see them at their turquoise best. Yet the mountains are not as crowded as they are in July and August.
An advantage of the latter half of June is that the number of daylight hours is at its peak.
The autumn colours are at their best in mid – late September in Banff National Park and in early October in Jasper National Park . Be aware that lake cruises, some gondola rides, and some side roads are closed after Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday of October).
Do not despair if you are forced to visit in July and August. Although the mountain resort towns and popular scenic lookout points are more crowded then, you’d be amazed how quiet things can be if you walk just a few yards into the forest.
To start gaining an understanding of the logistics of visiting this area, read Inside Banff : First time visitors.
To understand the transportation options in the Canadian Rockies, read Inside Vancouver : Getting to the Canadian Rockies. The information on that page is equally relevant whether you're travelling from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies, or from the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver. It also is quite relevant if you are approaching from another direction, such as Calgary or Edmonton. The page explains the pros and cons of
Get a rough idea of the amount of ground you can cover as well as the major attractions you can see in the time you have available. To do this, read Inside Banff National Park : Itineraries.
If you are more familiar with kilometres than miles, you can change Map Quest's default setting from miles to kilometres.
Remember that estimated times account for driving only. They do not account for stops for eating, refuelling your vehicle and looking at scenery.
To save you looking up the information on Map Quest, here are some common driving times from Banff and Jasper.
If you will be taking off from Calgary Airport , you need to understand how much time to allow for the drive from the mountains to the airport and for check in. The time of your departure from Calgary Airport will determine whether you can spend the last night of your trip in the mountains or whether you need to spend that last night in Calgary . Read Inside Calgary : Departing for USA.
Check if your trip will coincide with any public holidays.
In the summer and fall of 2007, holidays in Alberta and British Columbia fall on
Make your airline reservations. There is no point in having your hotel reservations in place if you cannot get to your destination in time.
If you want to get an idea of air fares, you might try these websites for comparison purposes:
You can use the Seat Guru website to find out the best seats on a given plane.
Reserve your ground transportation.
If you will be driving, be aware that the Canadian Rockies are served by good, paved roads. A regular vehicle will serve you perfectly well. You do not need a 4-wheel drive vehicle in summer.
Some people like to drive through the mountains in a convertible so that they can admire the scenery with the top down. That’s not a necessity, but if you can afford it, go for it.
When you rent a vehicle, make sure you understand the terms and conditions (insurance coverage, whether or not you get unlimited kilometers, whether or not there is a one-way drop-off fee). Get everything in writing.
Another challenge that travellers sometimes encounter is when they want to land in Calgary, rent a car, drive into the United States, and then fly home from there. There are few car rental companies that permit a cross-border drop-off, and those that do charge a huge one-way drop-off fee. It is, however, all right to rent a car in Canada, drive down into the United States, return to Canada, and drop the rental car back in Canada -- as long as you have the car rental company's written authorization. A notation on the car rental agreement is enough.
There is a round-about way of picking up and dropping off a car in Alberta or British Columbia, catching a shuttle bus to Montana, and then picking up a different rental car there. From July through September, Mountain Perks operates a shuttle service from Calgary, AB to Banff, AB, Lake Louise, AB, Golden, BC, Panorama, BC, Invermere, BC, Kimberley, BC, Cranbrook, BC, Whitefish, MT and Kalispell, MT.
Lake Louise and Jasper get booked up well in advance. “Early bird” travellers start making their summer reservations for those towns in January. If you wait till March / April to make your reservations, you still will have some accommodation choices. From May onwards it becomes difficult to find affordable summer accommodation in Lake Louise and Jasper. Tip: Look out for 2-night or 3-night minimum stay requirements and stringent cancellation policies in Lake Louise and Jasper. For more detailed information on finding accommodation in Jasper, see Inside Jasper : Accommodation.
Canmore and Banff are more “forgiving,” in the sense that they are bigger towns with a larger stock of accommodation. Usually it is possible to find last minute accommodation in Canmore or Banff . Even there, however, it is wise to book in advance if it’s important for you to find moderately priced accommodation.
If you will be visiting Calgary during the Stampede, it is imperative to book in advance. It would be best to make your reservations in January, but March / April still would be all right. After that it becomes increasingly difficult to find vacancies during Stampede.
It used to be easy to find accommodation in Calgary outside of the Stampede. However, the boom in Alberta ’s oil industry has changed that. Hotels get booked up during industry conferences. Also, long-term accommodation in Calgary is in such short supply that newly arrived workers live in hotels till they can arrange alternative accommodation. So it would be prudent to make advanced reservations regardless of when you visit Calgary .
If you will be staying in Calgary on your way to or from the Canadian Rockies, figure out which part of the city will suit you best. Different neighbourhoods are better suited to arriving, departing, sight seeing and taking in the Calgary Stampede. If you need to select a Calgary hotel, read Inside Calgary : Hotel Districts.
You usually can find last minute accommodation in the Okanagan Valley ( Kelowna , Penticton , etc.) and Vancouver. However, there again, to find moderately priced accommodation that has specific features that you want, you would be well advised to book ahead.
The Rocky Mountaineer train stops in Kamloops and fills up the town’s hotels and motels on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights through the spring, summer and fall. If you will be passing through Kamloops on those nights, it would be safer to book in advance. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, last minute accommodation is more readily available in Kamloops
Ensure that you have the documents you need to enter Canada . To find out more, read Inside Canada : Crossing the Border.
Ensure that you have medical insurance to cover the cost of medical emergencies while you are in Canada . If you do not have medical insurance, the cost of emergency medical treatment could be shocking.
The weather in the mountains is extremely variable. You can set out on a bright, sunny morning, and find yourself in a rain shower and much cooler temperatures later in the day. For this reason, you need to pack layers, and you have to take a waterproof jacket wherever you go. To find out more about what to pack, read Inside Banff National Park : Clothing.
If you will be driving in Western Canada, you should be aware that gasoline stops often are between an hour and an hour and a half apart. Sometimes they even are two hours' drive from each other. It would be prudent to fill up with gas when your gas gauge indicates the gas tank is half full.
There are other tips about driving in Western Canada on the TripAdvisor page entitled Inside Canadian Rockies : Driving in the Mountains.