An Ideal Banff Itinerary For Those Without a Car

Visiting Banff without a car is an excellent way to enjoy the park, especially if you plan to experience the most iconic sites in the summer. A reliable public transit system, shuttles, tours, and bikes are all available to help you enjoy the best of Banff. You’ll trade the stress of searching for car rentals, sitting in traffic, and parking for more advanced planning and scheduling.

We’ll break down the best ways to spend a few days car-free in Banff. While you could spend a lifetime exploring this beautiful place, we’d recommend at least 5 days to enjoy the highlights.

This car free Banff itinerary is focused on visiting in the summer, between June and October when more bus routes are running and when you’ll find open blue lakes, long sunny days, and comfortable conditions for walking and biking. 

Getting to Banff


The closest airport to Banff is located in Calgary, over 100km away. Fortunately, regular airport shuttles make it easy to cover this distance. The Banff Airporter provides excellent door-to-door service with almost hourly departures from morning to evening. We can’t recommend this service enough, but keep in mind that booking in advance is highly recommended during the summer season.

Upon arrival at the Calgary International Airport, you will find the Airporter kiosk after baggage claim. Then, you can sit back and watch prairie fields grow into towering peaks on the two-hour drive from YYC to Banff. The shuttle will likely stop in the town of Canmore first before dropping you off at whichever Banff accommodation you have booked.

While the most popular, the Airporter isn’t the only shuttle connection to Banff. Brewster Express offers similar service at a comparable price point, while Vivo Green, or Mountain Park Transportation offers slightly cheaper rates for fewer daily trips.

Familiarize Yourself With Roam Transit

roam transit station

Before we dig into this car free itinerary, we should note that traveling to Banff without a car relies heavily on using the Roam Transit buses. This is the only public transportation company in the Bow Valley. They run routes to many of the major tourist destinations in the summer months. We recommend looking at their website and studying their routes to determine where you can go. Below, we’ll suggest Roam Bus Routes that make sense for you.

Day 1 – Banff Town

Stroll Down Banff Avenue


Whether you’ve woken up from a restful night in the mountains or checked into your hotel in the morning, starting your car-free trip to Banff by strolling the town is a great way to get the lay of the land. Grab a coffee from Whitebark Cafe to enjoy along the way. 

The main street, Banff Avenue, offers an inviting array of shops, galleries, restaurants, and cafes that you can browse for as much or as little time as you’d like. If you’ve booked a hotel in downtown Banff, there’s a good chance you’re already on Banff Avenue! Make note of the Banff High School Transit Hub on your walk down the street, as you’ll likely be using this in the coming days. 

 Banff High School Transit Hub
Banff High School Transit Hub

During the summer, the two main blocks of Banff Avenue between Wolf and Buffalo Streets become a pedestrian zone, providing ample space to meander and rest. With many patios extending onto the street, you won’t be short on restaurant options and this is a great opportunity to scout out appetizing menus for dinners in the coming days. Nearby Bear Street also offers cute shops and eateries, one of our favorites is the Three Bears Brewery.

Walk to Bow Falls

bow falls in banff

Once you’ve had your fill of downtown Banff’s commercial attractions, cross one of the bridges over the Bow River and continue walking along the forested pathway that follows the riverbank downstream.

You should reach the scenic Bow Falls in about 20 minutes, although you’ll likely hear the roaring waters sooner. While smaller than many other waterfalls in Banff, the accessibility of Bow Falls is hard to beat and there are many vantage points to marvel at the powerful currents. If you’re looking to extend your experience along the waters, try a scenic raft tour along the Bow River past the hoodoos.

Explore (& Eat) at the Castle

banff springs hotel

The iconic Banff Springs Hotel sits uphill from Bow Falls, a longstanding symbol of tourism in the Canadian Rockies and a National Historic Site. You don’t need to stay at this lavish resort to enjoy the impeccable amenities and the famous castle is well worth a stop while in the neighbourhood.

Check out the small museum above the lobby explaining the hotel’s history and significance to Banff National Park. Those jet-lagged from travel could opt to relax for a few hours in the mineral pools at the Fairmont Spa.

If your stomach has started rumbling from the morning’s wanderings on foot, you’ll find a few mid-day meal options at the hotel. Waldhaus Pub and Biergarten offers unbeatable views and classic alpine fare in a fairy-tale cottage just above Bow Falls. Quench your thirst with a patio pint and watch golfers tee off on pristine greens. For a quick and casual bite, STOCK in the hotel lobby provides grab-and-go meals.

Waldhaus Pub and Biergarten

Undoubtedly, one of the most decadent dining experiences you can enjoy is afternoon tea, served between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the elegant Rundle Bar. This old-world tradition comes with a higher price tag, but hey, you’re saving money by traveling without a car! Just make sure to reserve in advance.

Wander Cascade Gardens


Walk back towards downtown along Spray Avenue until you reach the Cascade of Time Gardens, a slice of serenity amid the bustle of town. It’s a lovely free site that offers excellent opportunities to photograph the surrounding mountains, particularly the classic view up Banff Avenue towards Cascade Mountain.

There’s also plenty to capture your attention at ground level with glorious flowers that bloom here during the summer months. Just outside the garden on Mountain Avenue, you’ll find the Roam Transit stop, which will take you to the next part of this itinerary.

Go Up Sulphur Mountain

banff gondola

For one of the best views in Banff, head up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola. Your ticket includes a free return bus trip on Roam Transit Route 1 – simply show your reservation to the driver when boarding. Gondola ticket holders also have the option to hop on the Rimrock Resort Shuttle or Banff Gondola and Brewster shuttles departing from the Buffalo Luxton Museum across the street from the Cascade Gardens. Check the summer schedules here.

As the region’s most renowned gondola, the Banff Gondola will whisk you up 2,292 ft in 8 minutes. On your journey, you will be treated to breathtaking views of the Spray and Bow Valley. There is much to enjoy at the summit, so give yourself time to explore and to walk the boardwalk to the Cosmic Ray Station.


If you’re visiting Banff on a budget or eager to move your legs, you can hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain instead. This moderate trail totals 10km with approximately 700m of elevation gain over a series of switchbacks under the gondola. Most hikers reach the summit station in about 2 hours.

The evening hours atop this mountain are some of the most magical, particularly in the summer. Savour the the sunset with refreshments at Peak Patio or indulge in fine dining at Sky Bistro. It’s one of the most scenic places to eat in Banff, so make a reservation ahead of time (bookings open 30 days in advance).

Descend down the gondola and catch the bus or shuttle back to downtown and recharge for another exciting day in Banff National Park.

is the sky bistro experience worth it
Sky Bistro at the Banff Gondola

*Alternatives: You can also complete this itinerary in reverse by starting your day at Sulphur Mountain, busing back downtown for lunch before walking to Cascade Gardens and Bow Falls. Those keen on summits could also start the day with a hike up Tunnel Mountain instead.

Day 2 – Lake Louise & Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Today, you’ll visit two of the most famous and beautiful lakes in the world! Given their popularity, it is essential to plan this day in advance and secure reservations for transport.

This car-free Banff itinerary details how to access the iconic lakes using the public transit system. However a more hassle-free way to do this day is by booking a private full-day tour, using private shuttles with hotel pick ups (like Via Via), or opting for the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus that travels the scenic Bow Valley Parkway to reach Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

If seeing sunrise at Moraine Lake is high on your bucket list, then a private tour or shuttle is your best option, like this one offered by Radventures or Via Via Shuttle offers pick ups in Banff. Private full-day tours typically include hotel pick-ups and drop-offs and last about 7 hours with 2 hours of free time at each lake, while a shuttle offers more flexibility. If hiking is your priority, Roam Transit or Hop on Banff offer more flexible schedules.

Roam Transit Super Pass

During the 2024 summer season, the Roam Transit Reservable Super Pass provides all route access for one day. For $25, this One Day Reservable Super Pass allows unlimited travel on all Roam routes, including Lake Louise and is the sole fare option granting access to the Parks Canada – Lake Connector Shuttle between Lake Louise Lakeshore and Moraine Lake.

The Reservable Super Pass must be pre-purchased exclusively online at Roam Transit and you’ll be asked to select departing and returning buses between Banff and Lake Louise. Reservations are subject to availability, so purchase your pass early to secure your spot.

Bus to Lake Louise

Roam 8X Bus

To reach the crown jewel of the Rockies, catch the Roam Transit Route 8X Lake Louise Express that you’ve reserved in advance from the Banff High School Transit Hub. Opting for an early departure will allow you to make the most of the day and avoid some crowds.

You’ll ride for about an hour to the Lakeshore stop. Just a short walk from here will bring you to the mystical turquoise waters. Lake Louise is best enjoyed by hiking to different vantage points like from the Beehives, or getting out on the water with a canoe rental.

The Little Beehive and Beehive Circuit

If you’ve arrived on one of the earliest buses, you should be able to get ahead of the crowds on the popular Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail. The hike to Plain of Six Glaciers also includes a teahouse and exceptional views (bring cash if planning to make purchases at a teahouse). Either of the Beehives could also be hiked in the morning for a bird’s eye view of Lake Louise. For a shorter excursion, walk the lakeshore or head up to Fairview Lookout.

Connect to Moraine Lake

on the lake connector Shuttle
On the Lake Connector Shuttle

Parks Canada’s connector shuttle between Lake Louise and Moraine Lake provides service every 30 minutes between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Show your Roam Transit Super Pass to Parks Canada staff at the stop to obtain a boarding pass. The Lake Connector shuttle operates on a first-come, first-served basis, so there is no need to reserve a time slot in advance.

At Moraine Lake, most visitors complete the short walk to the top of the rockpile for the stunning postcard panorama of the blue lake set against the backdrop of the ten pristine peaks. Once featured on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill and known as the ‘twenty-dollar view,’ it feels priceless to witness such an exceptional scene.

Again, you’ll have options to canoe or hike. Detour to Consolation Lakes for a short, easy hike, or attempt Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass for a more challenging Rockies classic.

how to get to moraine lake

Moraine Lake is more rugged than Lake Louise, without cell service, Wi-Fi, running water or other services. Only pit toilets are available. Dining options are limited at both lakes so I’d recommend packing a lunch to enjoy on this day or stopping at the Grab and Go Cafe inside the Chateau Lake Louise. You won’t find more scenic venues for a picnic. Take care to dispose of all waste in designated bins and avoid feeding any wildlife.

To return from Moraine Lake, catch the Lake Connector shuttle back to Lake Louise (not the shuttle to the Park and Ride!) with enough time to board your return Roam 8X bus to Banff. End the day with a nourishing dinner in town.

Views from the Larch Valley - Sentinel Pass hike
Views from the Larch Valley – Sentinel Pass hike

Day 3 – Minnewanka Loop

lake minnewanka

The theme of today is water – with stops at four beautiful lakes just a few kilometers away from downtown Banff! Roam Transit’s daily summer service on Route 6 makes it easy to visit these lakes in whichever order suits you. Or try two-wheeled transport, as the scenic Minnewanka Drive is one of the best bike routes in Banff. Rental bikes and e-bikes are readily available in Banff to help you complete the 28km loop. If this distance seems daunting, rest assured that each segment is only 7km or less.

Banff wildlife love this area as much as we do and can sometimes be seen feeding in the meadows and woods or scaling cliffs. Traveling by bus or bike will make it easier to spot any furry residents, like bighorn sheep, elk, deer, or even the occasional bear.

Stop by Cascade Ponds

Stop by Cascade Ponds

To start this scenic lake loop, hop on Roam Transit Route 6 (or your rental bike). The first stop, Cascade Ponds, is most serene before crowds of picnickers arrive midday. Spend some time wandering over the quaint bridges and marvel at the grandeur of the surrounding mountains. Be sure to catch the onward bus from the same stop, continuing in the direction of Lake Minnewanka.

Cruise Lake Minnewanka

lake minnewanka cruise

Lake Minnewanka has been long revered for its natural beauty. Beholding the sweeping shores, it’s no wonder that the Indigenous Stoney people named it “Lake of Spirits.” There are many ways to experience the majesty of Minnewanka – from hiking, to picnicking, to boating. You can even scuba dive to a ghost town that existed before the power dam flooded the valley.

One of the best experiences is to take to the waters on an hour-long panoramic cruise operated by the Pursuit Collective. Traveling to Devil’s Gap at the end of the lake and back, the Lake Minnewanka Cruise is a stunning way to take in the surroundings. Beer lovers should save this stop for the end of the day so they can enjoy the Beer Voyage Cruise that runs at 5pm. This 90-minute version of the tour includes tastings of local craft brews. Like the Banff Gondola, a cruise ticket also provides free travel on the local bus!

Roam Transit stop at Lake Minnewanka
Roam Transit stop at Lake Minnewanka

Another enjoyable activity at Lake Minnewanka is to walk the shoreline trail, an easy hike with fantastic lake views. While exceptionally popular during the summer months, crowds thin out after the Stewart Canyon Bridge over the Cascade River.

Photograph Two Jack Lake

two jack lake banff

Rounding the corner from Lake Minnewanka, it’s hard not to stop when greeted by the sweeping views over Two Jack Lake. As one of the most photographed places in Banff, you’ll want to add a couple snaps to your own collection. The day-use area has the most iconic vistas and its own bus stop.

Roam Transit also stops at the Two Jack Lake campgrounds, so those with a sense of adventure could spend a night sleeping under the stars before returning to the comforts of town!

Swim at Johnson Lake

swimming johnson lake

By this point, you’ve been around lakes, on lakes, over lakes. Now it’s time to get in a lake! Sheltered from the wind, Johnson Lake provides some of the calmest and warmest waters in Banff, making it a popular venue for swimming and paddling in the summer.

Bikers will find this a welcome reward after a long day of pedaling the Minnewanka Loop. Before diving in, know that Johnson Lake is warm only by Rockies standards, so it’s quite refreshing. The grassy areas along the shore are also ideal for lounging and picnicking on hot days.

You could also complete the easy hike around the lake on the 3km shoreline loop that offers astounding views of nearby Cascade Mountain. With minimal elevation gain, this is a relaxing walk with a few hidden surprises like a rope swing and hermit cabin.

Day 4

Hike Johnston Canyon

johnston canyon - banff

Johnston Canyon is a highlight for many on their trip to Banff and a wonderful family-friendly hike. It’s also one of the most popular places in Banff, so try to head here early or later in the day. Roam Transit Route 9 will get you from Banff to Johnston Canyon as they provide daily direct service to Johnston Canyon between 9am and 7pm. To experience the canyon outside these hours without a car, book a night at the Johnston Canyon Lodge or go by bike along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway.

Hiking the trail to the upper falls and back should take about 2 to 3 hours. If you have spare time and stamina, continue as far as the Ink Pots (11km total) before returning to Banff.

*Note that the Hop on Hop Off Bus also stops at Johnston Canyon, so you could also include this as a short visit as part of Day 2.

Adventurous Alternative: Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata

Mt Norquay via ferrata

If you’re looking for fewer crowds and more heights, book a tour on the Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata, an exciting excursion that allows beginner hikers to scale seemingly impassable slopes. On this assisted climbing experience, you’ll use ladders, cables, and suspension bridges to navigate one of five routes up Mount Norquay, all of which are accessed from the sightseeing chairlift. Thanks to Mt. Norquay’s free hourly shuttle service from downtown Banff, this activity is easily reached without a car.

Paddle the Bow River

bow river paddle

If you didn’t rent a canoe on the lakes on Day 2, now is your chance to get out for this quintessential Canadian activity. The Banff Canoe Club rents canoes, kayaks, and standup paddleboards from docks along the Bow River for considerably more affordable rates than Lake Louise or Moraine Lake rents. Paddlers can enjoy this gentle section of the Bow River or even go up to Vermillion Lakes. Keep a keen eye out for the wildlife that frequents the banks.

Sunset at Vermillion Lakes


Vermillion Lakes is one of the best places to enjoy the sunset in Banff and is close enough to walk from downtown. Grab some snacks from Nestor’s for a picnic dinner on the benches or docks and watch the colors change on Mt. Rundle.

Day 5 – Explore Canmore

Bike the Legacy Trail

biking the legacy trail

Canmore is the town neighboring Banff, and worth visiting on a trip to the Canadian Rockies. The best way to get between Canmore and Banff without a car is to bike the Legacy Trail, although there is also the option to hop on Roam’s Regional Route 3.

The 25km Legacy Trail is entirely paved and mellow enough for novice cyclists, especially if traveling towards Canmore. Although you’ll lose a bit of elevation in this direction, you can cruise most of the way and admire the beauty of the Bow Valley.

Enjoy Lunch on a Patio

canmorre main street

Once in town, quench your thirst with a local brew and lunch at one of Canmore’s many restaurants. Like Banff, Canmore’s main street becomes a pedestrian zone in the summer, but isn’t nearly as busy. Many restaurants extend patios into the street, so you’ll have plenty of options with fantastic mountain views.

It’s worth browsing many of the shops that line Main Street. Stonewaters, Rocky Mountain Soap, and Alberta’s Own Marketplace all have unique, locally-made products.

Walk Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk or the Engine Bridge

canmore engine bridge

After lunch, enjoy a nice walking trail such as the Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk or the Canmore Engine Bridge over the Bow River. This bridge is enjoying a moment of fame after being featured in HBO’s The Last of Us.

Since you’re probably tired from the day’s active explorations, you could catch the regional Route 3 bus back to Banff from the 9th Street Transit hub. If you have bikes, these can be loaded onto the exterior racks at the front of the bus, though keep in mind they have limited space for bikes. Check Roam Transit’s transportation policies for more information and instructional videos as you will be responsible for lifting and unloading your own bike. Keep in mind if you have ridden a bike from Banff you can always ride it back!

Icefields Parkway & Jasper Without a Car

Icefields Parkway Morning Light And Fog

Car-free transportation becomes more challenging if you opt to continue north, as there is no public bus service on the Icefields Parkway or in Jasper.

You can still witness the raw and rugged beauty of the Icefields Parkway without a car by booking a day tour from Banff. Radventures runs a very fun tour with hotel pick ups and drop offs. If extending your trip to Jasper, choose a one-way tour that includes stops at the Colombia Icefield and more. Or do without stops and travel on the daily shuttles operated by Brewster Express and Sundog Tours.

Once in Jasper, you’ll need to rely on your own walking power, taxis or organized tours to get around. While you could walk or bike to a few sites that are reasonably close to town (Old Fort Point, Lac Beauvert, and Pyramid Lake), many notable attractions like Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake, and the Jasper Skytram are simply too far and would require an organized tour.

Other Activities in Banff Without a Car

biking the bow valley parkway
Biking the Bow Valley Parkway

There are so many activities to enjoy in Banff without a car! While not an exhaustive list, here are more options not covered in this itinerary:

Know Before You Go

roam transit in banff
  • National park passes are required for all visitors to Banff regardless of transportation type. 
  • Base yourself in the Town of Banff to make traveling without a car easier. You can walk to many sites in town and easily connect to buses that depart from the town center. Lake Louise is more remote and while the Town of Canmore is walkable with it’s own attractions, it’s an extra bus ride away from Banff’s most popular sites.
  • Reserve in advance where possible. Banff receives over 4 million visitors a year, with many traveling during the summer months, leading to strong competition for shuttle and bus bookings. 
  • Check returning bus schedules and make sure to give yourself ample time to make the return trip to Banff. While Banff has an exceptional bus service for a mountain town, buses do not run at all hours and many stops do not have cellular service.
  • Consider renting a bike. On two wheels, you can visit many sites close to Banff on your own time.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Or embark on an epic campervan trip, we like to compare camper prices on Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals and like to use travel credit cards to hack our way into free flights and hotels! Our favorite cards are the Capital One Venture X and Chase Sapphire, which both work well in Canada and have no foreign transaction fees.
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Miranda Spessot

A professional planner by day, Miranda works to better understand human habitats and create more livable, sustainable, and inclusive communities. She also applies this spatial sense in personal pursuits by mapping brewery bike tours for friends, navigating transit systems abroad, and road tripping around western Canada. Outside of office hours, Miranda can usually be found adventuring outdoors: hiking, scrambling, camping, skiing, paddle-boarding, running, or trying to photograph her dog. Raised in Ontario, Miranda lives in Canmore, Alberta.

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