How to Get From Canmore to Banff (With or Without a Car)

Getting from Canmore to Banff is extremely simple, and you can easily connect the two mountain towns. Canmore and Banff are two of the most popular places in Alberta, so it makes sense that you want to see both during your trip to the Canadian Rockies.

Whether you’re staying in Canmore or Banff, do not worry; you can rest assured seeing the other town will be seamless. The two towns in the Bow Valley share many amenities and are inextricably linked. Let’s dig in on how to get between the two.

How Long Does it Take to Get From Canmore to Banff?

How Long Does it Take to Get From Canmore to Banff?

The distance between Downtown Canmore and Downtown Banff is 24.4 km via the Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W. It takes about 20 minutes to drive from Canmore to Banff, depending on traffic conditions.

You’ll pass the Banff Park East Gate between Canmore and Banff. If you already have a Parks Canada pass, stick to the right-hand lanes and keep going. If you have yet to purchase your park pass, stop at one of the booths to buy your pass. You can pay for your pass with cash or a credit card.

Exits for Banff
Exits for Banff

There are two exits for Banff. The first is on your right-hand side when driving from Canmore and is the Banff Avenue exit, and it happens right before you pass Cascade Mountain with Cascade Ponds on your right. This exit will bring you right into Banff Ave if you take a left off of it, and if you take a right, it will bring you to the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive (so exit here if you want to see Cascade Ponds, Lake Minnewanka, and Two Jack Lake).

The second exit is the Mt. Norquay Road Exit on your right-hand side. If you get off here, you are closer to Mt. Norquay Scenic Drive (on your right) or turn left towards Banff. This will allow you to stop at Vermilion Lakes or the famous Banff Sign on your way into Banff. This option does not bring you down Banff Avenue but instead skirts the town, and you can easily turn onto Banff Ave.

If you are only coming to Banff and not staying in a hotel in Banff, the second exit may be best for you as it brings you closer to the train station, where it’s easier to park.

How to Get From Canmore to Banff?

You have a few options for traveling between Canmore and Banff.

By Car

Canmore to Banff: By Car

The most popular and easiest way to get from Canmore to Banff is by car. You’ll need your own vehicle, or a rental car, which we recommend getting in Calgary. When driving to Banff, make sure you have your Parks Canada Pass. You will need it to enjoy all the best things to do in Banff!

You can get your Parks Pass online or at the Parks Booths, which you’ll come up upon before entering the park. There is no benefit to buying ahead besides saving a little time if there is a line. Display your Parks Canada Pass around your mirror or on your dashboard, depending on the pass you bought (day pass vs. yearly).

Guide To Purchasing A Banff Park Pass

By Bike

Cameron On The Legacy Trail

My favorite way to travel from Canmore to Banff is by bike. There are two main ways to get between Banff and Canmore via bike. Though one is much more popular than the other. The first and most popular is the Legacy Trail. The Legacy Trail is a 26.8 km paved pathway from the Bow Valley Parkway to the Travel Alberta Visitor Information Center in Canmore.

Most of the Legacy Trail runs alongside Trans Canada. It is a unique multi-use recreation pathway that bikers love come mid-April when the snow melts. There are rest stops, picnic areas, and epic spots to take in the views.

Depending on pace, the ride from Canmore to Banff on the Legacy Trail can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours one way. We love to ride the Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff on a nice summer day and sometimes connect it with the Lake Minnewanka Loop, finishing with a beer at a Banff Brewery to make for an epic day.

The other biking option is the Goat Creek Trail, best reserved for mountain bikes. The Goat Creek Trail starts at the Goat Creek Parking Lot near the EEOR Trailhead and ends at the Spray River West Trailhead, approximately 150 meters from the Banff Springs Hotel. The trail is best completed starting from Canmore, so you go downhill most of the time. If you begin in Banff, you’ll ride almost all uphill, biking against the traffic flow.

Biking the Goat Creek Trail

The trail is nearly 18 km in the backcountry but is easy and family-friendly. The path is not paved but is well-graded. Once you get to Banff, enjoy the town before hopping on the Legacy Trail back or taking a bus back to Canmore. You can rent a bike from Rebound Cycle in Canmore if you don’t have a bike to ride the Legacy Trail or Goat Creek Trail.

For intermediate to experienced mountain bikers, there is an option to hop on the Rundle Riverside Trail from the Goat Creek Trail. This is not beginner-friendly.

By Bus

Roam Transit Bus Driving Over A Bridge In Canmore
Roam Transit in Canmore

Getting to Banff on the Roam Transit bus is possible by taking Route 3. The bus starts early in the morning and runs well into the night, making multiple stops in Banff and Canmore. You can see the schedule here. The bus costs $6 one way, or you can purchase a $15-day pass. You can also buy a $25 Super Pass from Canmore to Banff to Lake Louise, the Super Pass also gets you access to the Lake Connector, which can get you to Moraine Lake.

By Taxi

If you don’t have a car or bike or want to take the bus, you can get from Canmore to Banff via taxi. However, this is the most expensive option. You can expect a cab ride between the two towns to cost anywhere from $50-$80 (one way). We recommend Three Sisters Taxi.

Rideshare or Hitchhike

Another option to get to Banff is to check PopARide, which offers rideshare services. However, because the distance is so short, it’s not the most popular route for those looking for a rideshare.

The last option is to hitchhike if you feel comfortable. Hitchhiking is semi-popular in the Rockies, and you may see a few people holding up a sign or two, trying to get somewhere. Hitchhiking is always at your own risk, though finding someone traveling between Banff and Canmore is generally straightforward.

Do You Need a Parks Pass to Visit Canmore?

Smith Dorrien Highway
Driving the Smith Dorrien

A National Parks Pass is not necessary to visit Canmore. However, many trails, lakes, and areas to recreate around Canmore are within Alberta Parks. The collection of provincial parks is considered Kananaskis Country and requires a valid pass to visit — this includes the popular Canmore Nordic Center. It’s called the Kananaskis Conservation Pass and is connected to your vehicle.

Some popular hikes near Canmore that would require a pass include Ha Ling Peak and EEOR. You can find more information about the Kananaskis Conservation Pass on the Alberta Parks website.

Do You Need a Parks Pass to Visit Banff?

Canoeing on Vermilion Lakes
Canoeing on Vermilion Lakes

Anyone visiting Banff National Park needs a Parks Canada Pass. Depending on how many days you plan on visiting, it may be worth getting a Discovery Pass. If you plan to bike into Banff, you still need a Parks Canada Day Pass.

Parks Canada Day Pass Rates
Pass TypeRate
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (7 Persons)$22.00
Day passes expire at 4 pm the following day.
Parks Canada Discovery Pass Fees (Yearly Pass)
Pass Type (Yearly Pass)Rate
Youth (up to 17)Free
Family/Group (up to 7 Persons)$151.25

Should You Stay in Banff or Canmore?

Cascade Mountain from Banff Avenue - Downtown Banff

We get this question all the time. Is Banff or Canmore the better place to stay on your vacation? It is all up to you and what you want from your holiday. We break down the pros and cons of each town here.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • 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!
  • 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 prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: 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!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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2 thoughts on “How to Get From Canmore to Banff (With or Without a Car)”

  1. I have another recommendation for cycling between Canmore and Banff: the Rundle Riverside Trail. It’s the shortest, but most rugged cycling option, I prefer a full suspension mountain bike for this one, which connects the Canmore Nordic Centre to Banff Springs Golf Course.

    Also, while technically true that a parks pass is required to visit Banff National Park or the Kananaskis Parks, they never ever check bus passengers, cyclists, hikers, skiers or paddlers. The passes are only ever checked on motor vehicles.

    • As an intermediate mountain biker, I won’t recommend the Rundle Riverside Trail to most visitors unless they are experienced mountain bikers. We do it once a year, as my husband is an avid mountain biker with a full suspension. While you can bike it it’s not super enjoyable unless you are pretty into mountain biking, which many visitors are not, and it could lead to unsuspecting tourists getting in over their head.

      Additionally – Why would I promote not buying a pass simply because it’s unlikely Parks Canada employees will check a person? Everyone recreating in the Park should support the park they are in. It’s a small price to pay to enjoy the nature here, and I hope that you too support the park, Jeremy.


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