Considering Alberta’s vast expanse, the distance separating Banff and Lake Louise is relatively short. While it’s possible to drive right between the two, many visitors like to make the most out of their Lake Louise day and see as many sights as they can, and there’s a whole lot to see in 60km!
After having a delicious breakfast in Banff, hit the road by vehicle, tour, or bus! We’ll break down all your options for getting to Lake Louise, including the best stops along the Trans Canada and the Bow Valley Parkway!
How Long Does it Take to Get From Banff to Lake Louise?
From Downtown Banff to actual Lake Louise, it takes about 45 minutes without traffic if you drive on the Trans Canada (Highway 1). If driving the Bow Valley Parkway route, it takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to the actual lake without any stops. We’ll break down all the best stops along each route below.
- (Fastest Route) Downtown Banff to the Lake Louise Lakeshore on the Trans Canada: 44 min (61.3 km)
- (Scenic Route) Downtown Banff to the Lake Louise Lakeshore on the Bow Valley Parkway: 1 hr 13 min (68.2 km)
How Do You Get From Banff to Lake Louise?
Banff to Lake Louise: By Car
If you have a car while visiting, the easiest way to get from Banff to Lake Louise is by vehicle, especially if you are a group and can carpool. Parking at Lake Louise is rarely an issue in the winter, except around the holidays.
However, in the summer, the area is very congested, not too surprising when you consider that Lake Louise is on most visitors’ Banff itineraries. To get parking at Lake Louise in the summer, you’ll need to arrive well before 8 am, and we even suggest before 7 am if it’s a beautiful August day. Parking at Lake Louise is not free in the summer and costs $21.
To avoid waking up at the crack of dawn on your vacation, we recommend utilizing the Lake Louise shuttle run by Parks Canada. If you get shuttle tickets, you’ll drive and park at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and then shuttle into Lake Louse. The great news is that shuttle reservations include Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, so this is the best way to see both lakes in one day!
Banff to Lake Louise: Public Transport
It is possible to take public transport from Banff to Lake Louise via Roam Transit. Route 8X – the Banff/Lake Louise Express takes visitors right to the Lake Louise Lakeshore.
The bus costs $10 one way, or you can purchase a $20-day pass. In the summer, you can also buy a $25 Super Pass from Banff to Lake Louise which includes use of the Parks Canada shuttles that go to Moraine Lake as well. If it’s a summer day, we recommend looking into reservations.
Banff to Lake Louise: By Tour
There are plenty of tours traveling from Banff to Lake Louse, and most also include other stops! Here are just a few to consider.
This full-day tour has pickups in Calgary, Canmore, and Banff. In Canmore, the pickup point is the Canmore Inn and Suites. Expect an action-packed day traveling to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, and Johnston Canyon. You’ll also get some time to enjoy Banff Avenue, Bow Falls, and Surprise Corner. It’s one of the best tours if you haven’t seen these sights in Banff yet, but they are on your list!
If you want to go to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake the Radventures Earlybird Explorer offers small group (max 14 guests) guided tours, starting and ending with hotel pick up in Banff, with local interpretation and an amazing guide on hand to answer questions. Enjoy complimentary hot drinks, see the best spots at Moraine Lake to view the sunrise, and get set up for sunrise photos (as their guiding team has photography training). After guests can get an optional hot cafe breakfast at Trailhead Cafe, before heading to Lake Louise, where you can canoe rental on Lake Louise if you want. Book that tour here.
Hop on Hop off Bus: If you want to explore popular spots in Banff at your own pace we recommend the Hop On Hop Off Bus where you can hop on and off as you please. The bus takes visitors to Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and the Lake Louise Summer Gondola.
Banff to Lake Louise: By Bus Transfer
Another option for traveling between Banff and Lake Louise is booking a transfer. These are just transfer services and not sightseeing services. Brewster Express offers transfers between Banff and Lake Louise. Within the Town of Banff, they pick up at all hotels and at the Brewster Transportation Centre. This is a great option if you want to transfer between Banff and Lake Louise and don’t want to make any Stops. This is not a tour.
Brewster Express is a legitimate company owned by Pursuit, which also operates tours and offers tickets at many popular attractions in the Canadian Rockies, like the Banff Gondola and Jasper Skywalk. You might also use the Brewster Express service to travel between locations like Banff or Jasper.
Brewster Express Rates
Another option is the more affordable Rider Express. The Rider Express travels every day from Calgary to Vancouver. They make one stop in Banff at 100 Gopher St and stop at the Lake Louise Village on their route (not the lakeshore), which costs $38.
The Best Stops Between Banff and Lake Louise
Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive
The Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive is just outside the town of Banff, and if you haven’t visited the stops along this route yet, it may be worth doing the loop on your drive from Banff to Lake Louise.
Hop on this road and you can see four lakes in 24 km. Every bend along the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive unveils fresh panoramas and concealed wonders. From shaded nooks and vantage points with stunning lake views to remnants of a bygone mining town you can stop at Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka. If you are visiting Banff with kids or are a history buff you may even enjoy a short visit to the Bankhead Ghost Town.
Vermilion Lakes is just outside the town of Banff on your way to Lake Louise. It’s a wonderful place to stop, even if just quickly, as it provides amazing views of Mount Rundle. Get an early start on your day and it’s possible to witness a magical sunrise here. Or hit it on your way back from town after a day at Lake Louise and catch the sunset here!
Trans Canada Route
There are two routes that you can take to get between Banff and Lake Louise. The fastest, and most direct way to get to Lake Louise is the Trans Canada Highway. Though there aren’t too many stops along this way, compared to to the alternative.
About a 25 minute drive from Vermilion Lakes is the turn off for Castle Junction, and you can pull off here to have amazing views of Castle Mountain and the Bow River.
It’s also possible to hop onto the Bow Valley Parkway at this point, and still see sights like Morant’s Curve.
This isn’t exactly on the way to Lake Louise, and involves a short 20km detour (one way) down Highway 93, though if you have the time it’s well worth it.
If you venture this way you’ll venture into British Columbia, and into a new national park. Marble Canyon is one of the best things to do in Kootenay National Park. It’s a lovely hike through a canyon often filled with thousands of wildflowers in the summer and delightfully snow-covered in the winter. The trail follows the canyon and has a series of bridges that cross over the rushing Kootenay River.
The trail is well-marked and maintained, it’s very easy to follow and straightforward for families seeking just a little bit more of outdoor time.
Optional Hike: Taylor Lake
Taylor Lake is a long 13 km hike that involves 700+ meters of elevation gain. It’s easily a half day hike or longer, depending on your pace and fitness. I’m only mentioning it here if you want to to include a hike into your journey to Lake Louise for a very long, but epic day outside.
Taylor Lake sits at the base of Mt Bell and opens up to some spectacular views, especially during the larch season when the area is awash with fall colors. It’s a really serene place and a fantastic day out in the mountains for active visitors who come to Banff.
Bow Valley Parkway Route
The Bow Valley Parkway, or 1A, is the much more scenic route between the two. Though if you stop at all the main sights along the way, it will easily take a few hours to complete the drive between Banff and Lake Louise. To make the most out of your time, consider driving the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise, and the Trans Canada from Lake Louise to Banff. There are plenty of stops along the Bow Valley Parkway, but we’ll just name of a few of the notable ones here.
Perhaps the most famous and stop along the Bow Valley Parkway is Johnston Canyon, and for many, a highlight of their trip to Banff. It’s a nice easy hike the whole family can enjoy on a maintained trail. It’s great to walk in both the winter and summer, though in the summer you can expect the trail to be incredibly busy. Because of this we recommend trying to be at the trailhead before 9am or after 5pm for a more crowd free experience.
There’s a gift shop here, as well as a restaurant, cafe, as well the Johnston Canyon Bungalows to stay at if you want ot stay along the Bow Valley Parkway.
Read all about hiking Johnston Canyon here.
Storm Mountain Lookout
This is another fantastic lookout on your left hand side that is almost similar to Morant’s Curve (mentioned below) in the fact that you can see the train pass by here. You also get great views of Storm Mountain here. Here there is a small parking area as well as a few picnic tables to enjoy lunch or s anack at. If you get lucky and time it right, you’ll be able to see a train coming through the beautiful Bow Valley.
Just before you get to Lake Louise, you’ll pass a spot on your left that overlooks the train tracks down an epic valley. This is called Morant’s Curve and is quite a photo hot spot in the Rockies, especially in the winter, with the scenery covered in white.
It looks great without a train, but to really nab a great photo, you’ll need to hang out at the overlooking waiting for a train to pass by. In the winter, this requires patience and very warm clothes.
Woohoo – you made it to Lake Louise! While it’s likely that you will want to spend some time along the lakeshore gazing at the stunning Lake Louise, here are just a few of the outdoor activities that you can enjoy on your visit:
- Canoeing: Rent a canoe at the Lake Louise lakeshore e. It’s the closest you’ll get to the lake’s turquoise waters!
- Lake Louise Gondola: In the winter you can head to the Lake Louise Ski Area and take the sightseeing gondola to get majestic views
- Hiking: There are several epic hiking trails around Lake Louise. Lake Agnes Teahouse is popular, or you can also try the Plain of Six Glaciers or Mount Fairview Lookout.
- Skiing: If visiting Lake Louise in the winter, the Lake Louise Ski Resort is only 10 minutes from Lake Louise. Skiing or snowboarding here is a great option for those looking to hit the slopes.
- Skating: During winter, bring your skates and enjoy the most gorgeous views while skating on Lake Louise. You can rent a pair at Chateau Ski and Snow Rentals near the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise lobby if you do not have skates.
Well, you have made it to stunning Lake Louise. While this might be your final destination, we will take a wild guess that you want to also see Moraine Lake sometime during your Banff trip. Driving to Moraine Lake and parking in the parking area is no longer an option for personal vehicles. However, there are some ways to still get to Moraine Lake from Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake Shuttle Bus: If you have purchased a spot on the Parks Canada shuttle to Lake Louise, it will also take you to Moraine Lake via the Lake Connector Bus.
Radventures Earlybird Explorer: One of the best tours that runs through Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is the Radventures Sunrise tour, which will take visitors to Moraine Lake at sunrise, followed by time at Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake Bus Company: Choose the option that includes both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise!
Renting a Car in Canada
If you don’t have your own car but would like the freedom of your own wheels, renting a car in Calgary before your trip to the Rockies is ideal. You can rent one at Calgary International Airport (YYC) or Downtown Calgary. There are a few locations to rent a car in Downtown Banff, but they are typically more expensive than in the city.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
If you plan on staying in Lake Louise you may have an idea of where you want to stay, but just in case you don’t, below are just a few options for accommodations in Lake Louise. Note when booking your accommodations that the village of Lake Louise is located about 4km from the lakeshore along a steep and often busy mountain road.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: The most luxurious option and only hotel on Lake Louise. Visitors here have the beautiful Lake Louise mere steps outside the hotel. Accommodation here is expensive, but it is the only hotel along the lake.
- Paradise Lodge and Bungalows: Only 500 meters from Lake Louise, this accommodation provides charming and rustic lodging with convenient access to the lake. Note that this accommodation is only open in the summer months.
- Lake Louise Inn: This hotel is located in the village of Lake Louise and is a more budget-friendly option when staying in the area.
Looking for additional accommodation options? Check out this list of 10 Awesome Lake Louise Hotels.
Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service that will connect you right from YYC to the town of Banff or Canmore.
- Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- 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!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.