Banff represents the best in travel. From its earliest days as a destination, visitors stepped off trains and marveled at where they had landed. Today, you can visit by car or train and see some of the world's greatest scenery.
Nearby Cities with Budget Rooms
Banff is located within the park boundaries and offers some limited budget room selections. Canmore, south of Banff, has a larger selection of budget inns and moderately priced rooms.
Camping and Lodge Facilities
Banff has 12 campgrounds within its boundaries, representing a wide variety of services and comfort levels. Tunnel Mountain in the Banff townsite offers the widest array of services and the highest prices: $32-$38/CAD night. Others come down from that price to as low as $15.70 for primitive sites in more remote areas.
Back country permits cost $9.80. If you'll be in the area for more than a week, an annual permit is available for $68.70
Top Free Attractions in the Park
Once you've paid your entry fee, there are scores of thrilling sites to experience that won't cost any additional money. One unforgettable journey is the Icefields Parkway, which starts just north of Lake Louise and continues into Jasper National Park to the north. Here you'll find dozens of pull offs, hiking trail heads and picnic areas amid some of the world's best scenery.
Three of the more famous Banff attractions are lakes: Louise, Moraine and Peyto. Their trademark turquoise waters and the mountains that frame them are gorgeous. If you visit prior to June, all three could still be frozen.
Parking and Transportation
Parking in the town of Banff is provided for free, even in municipal garages. Elsewhere, it's free when you can find it. Peak visitor months could make parking scarce or inconvenient at the major attractions.
Highway 1, also known as the Trans Canada Highway, cuts east-west across the park. It is four-lane in places and under improvement because of the large numbers of annual visitors. For a less traveled route, take Highway 1A, also known as the Bow River Parkway. It is two-lane and the speed limit is lower, but the views are better and entrances to attractions such as Johnston Canyon are more accessible.
Highway 93 begins its Banff N.P. trek near Lake Louise and stretches northward toward Jasper. It is also known as the Icefields Parkway and is perhaps among the most scenic drives in the world.
Canadian national park entry fees do not apply to people simply driving across a park with no intent of stopping. But when you actually visit the overlooks, hiking trails and other attractions, adults pay a daily fee of $9.80 CAD, seniors $8.30 and youth $4.90. This adds up quickly, but fortunately you can pay a fixed fee for your entire carload of $19.60 per day. The fee can be paid at visitor centers, and for convenience it's best to pay for all the days at once and display your receipt on the windshield. These fees also entitle you to enter any other Canadian national park during the time of validation. Those who try to avoid paying the fees become subject to big fines, so don't try it.
Nearest Major Airports
Calgary International Airport is 144 kilometers (88 mi.) from Banff town site. Keep in mind that Banff National Park covers a very large area, so some parts of the park will be a much longer drive from Calgary. The closest U.S. airport of any size is Spokane International, 361 miles to the southwest. It's nearly an eight-hour car trip from there to Banff, much of it mountain driving.
Budget Airlines to Shop
WestJet is a budget airline serving Calgary.
For more information, visit Banff National Park within the Parks Canada Web site.