Is it feasible to visit the Rocky Mountains without a vehicle? The answer is yes, but there are some limitations to what you can see. Public transportation is not widely available and some attractions, sights and hiking trails will only be accessible by booking through a tour company. Self driving is the best way to fully explore the mountains, it allows you to set your own pace and schedule and go to the places that interest you. However this doesn’t mean you can’t have an enjoyable visit without a vehicle.
Getting Around Banff
Walking In Banff
The town of Banff is one of the easiest places to visit without a vehicle. It’s small and compact, making it very pedestrian friendly. Much of the accommodation, restaurants and attractions are all within walking distance of each other. Pick up a map from the Parks Canada visitor center on Banff Avenue. It will show all the main tourist attractions that you can walk to such as the Bow Falls, the Banff Park Museum, the Whyte Musuem and Cascade Gardens.
There are several walking and hiking trails close to town.
- Fenland Trail
- Vermillion Lake Trail
- Spray Loop
- Tunnel Mountain Meadows
- Hoodoo Trail
- Tunnel Mountain Summit Trail
Banff Public Bus System
Banff has an excellent public transportation system. You can’t miss seeing the buses around town, they are fashioned with giant photographs of the local wildlife. You will come to affectionately know them as the wolf bus, the bear bus, the elk bus and so on. They run daily between 7am and 11pm and you can pay as you board. Check with your hotel, if it is on the Roam route they may provide free bus passes to their guests. Some of the attractions on the Roam route are the Banff Gondola and hot springs, the historic Cave and Basin, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. www.roamtransit.com
Update: Starting in the summer of 2017 the Roam Bus will expand it’s service to Lake Minnewanka. It will be a two year summer pilot program. The service will start on the Victoria Day May long weekend and operate 7 days a week through to the September Labour Day Long weekend. There will be a stop on Banff Avenue and additional stops along the route at campgrounds and popular day use areas. As it gets closer to the launch date the Roam bus site will have more schedule information.
Banff Taxi Service
Taxis are a reasonably priced and efficient option for getting around town. They can also organize custom sightseeing tours, which can be economical if you have a group of people to share the cost.
- Banff Taxi/Taxi Taxi 762-4444 or 762-0000
- Legion Taxi 403- 763-3353
Banff On Bicycle And Rental Options
Outside of the winter months when the roadways are not full of snow and ice a bicycle can be a great way to get around. Banff/Lake Louise Bike Shops And Rentals. One of the popular areas to bike to is Lake Minnewanka. There is a bike trail route available from Parks Canada for the area.
Banff Local Tours
Without your own vehicle there are some attractions that are not going to be accessible other than by booking a tour. One such area is the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) This is where the popular Johnston Canyon hiking trails are.
- Brewster Tours
- Discover Banff Tours
Getting Around Lake Louise
Walking Around Lake Louise
Lake Louise does not have a public transportation system. The village area is very small and easy to get around on foot. The ski hill is close enough that you can walk to it from the village, but it is a bit of a trek with your ski gear. There is a ski shuttle bus that does pickups at the various Lake Louise hotels. It also runs between Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise. Lake Louise Ski Transportation.
The actual lake is located up a long, steep hill approximately 4km’s from the village. People do walk it, but it’s definitely a workout.
The good news is that once you arrive at Lake Louise there are several hiking trails that start right near the shores of the lake.
Lake Louise Taxi Service
Besides walking the only other way to get between the Lake and the village is by taxi. There is only one in town and it is not always readily available and it’s expensive. Between the Lake and village the fare is a set price per person not by the meter. The last noted fare was $9 to $12 per person depending on the amount of people and the destination.
Mountain Park Transportation (403) 522-522-2525 or (403) 522-2700
Moraine Lake – There is no public transportation to Moraine Lake. A seasonal shuttle run has been started by the same company that runs the Lake Louise taxi. It operates during July, August and to approximately mid-September.
The shuttle runs makes stops and pickups at the Lake Louise Inn, Samson Mall, the campground, Chateau Lake Louise hotel and its staff housing. 8:30am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:30pm, 4:30pm and 6:30pm are the start of the runs leaving from Lake Louise Inn.
The cash fare is $20 for adults ($10 one way), and $10 for children under 12.
Mountain Park Transportation (403) 522-522-2525 or (403) 522-2700
The only other options for getting to Moraine Lake are hiring the taxi to take you there, finding a ride or renting a bicycle. Keep in mind it is 14km’s from the village of Lake Louise to Moraine Lake with the first 3km’s being up a steep hill.
The road to Moraine Lake is closed to all vehicle traffic from approximately the beginning of October through to the beginning of June. (depending on the avalanche safety conditions)
Getting Around Canmore
Walking In Canmore
Downtown Canmore and the surrounding area is compact and easy to get around on foot. This is where tourists spend most of their time. The other section of Canmore sits across the highway and is mostly residential, but it does have several hiking and walking trails as well as a few restaurants and shops. The Cougar Creek underpass allows people to safely get from one side of the highway to the other on foot or bicycle.
Trails and walks within walking distance of downtown Canmore:
- Bow River Trail
- Canmore Creek Trail
- Three Sisters Pathway
- Larch Island
- Policeman Creek/Boardwalk Trail
- Palliser Pathway
- Benchlands Trail
- Silvertip Trail
Canmore Public Bus System
Canmore now has its own Public Roam bus service. It travels from downtown with stops at Elevation Place, the Seniors Lodge to Cougar Creek and out to Three Sisters and to the Canmore Nordic Centre on weekends. For the full schedule and more information see: Canmore Roam Transit Local Service
Canmore Taxi Service
There are a number of taxis in Canmore which for the most part are readily available and reasonable in price for getting to various areas around town.
- Canmore Cabs 403- 996-2229
- Cougar Creek Taxi 403 707-8772
Canmore By Bicycle And Rental Options
Getting around Canmore by bicycle is a viable option. There are a number of scenic areas to ride a bike, the Three Sisters Parkway being one of the most notable. In the non-winter months the cross country ski trails accessed from the Nordic Center become an excellent spot for mountain biking. Canmore Bicycle Rentals
Getting Around The Icefields Parkway
There is no public transportation for the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) runs from Lake Louise north to Jasper. You can book a tour from one of the local companies such as Brewster or Sundog Tours.
Getting Around Jasper
Walking In Jasper
The town site of Jasper is navigable by foot, it spans a few kilometers with a central downtown. Many of the accommodation options are within easy walking distance of the shops and restaurants. Make a stop at the Jasper Information center to pick up a brochure and map to get orientated with the town and it’s attractions. The only way to get to some of the trails and attractions such as Maligne Canyon and Miette Hotsprings is to book a tour or hire a taxi. Jasper does not have a public transportation system. The Discovery Trail wraps around the perimeter of the Jasper townsite and makes for a nice way to explore some of the surrounding nature. It can be accessed from several points around town.
Shuttles To Jasper Attractions
- When the Maligne Lake boat tours are operating from May until early October they offer a shuttle from town out to the lake.
- The Jasper Tramway also offers a shuttle to and from town.
Jasper Taxi Service
There are several taxi cabs that are readily available and fairly reasonably priced to take you to different areas around town. They may be cost effective to organize a custom tour if several people are sharing the cost.
Jasper By Bicycle And Rental Options
Biking Jasper and the surrounding area is a viable option, there are several bike trails connected to the town site and many road riding options as well. There are plenty of low grade or flat areas, which make biking a great way to explore the area.
Bike rentals are available at:
- Source For Sports
- Freewheel Cycle
- Pyramid Lake Resort
- Vicious Cycle
Jasper Local Tours
- Sundog Tours
- The Jasper Tour Company
Transportation Between Banff, Lake Louise And Canmore
- Brewster Bus has several runs a day between Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise. It’s reliable and generally on time. The pick up/drop off in Canmore is at the Radisson Hotel at 511 Bow Valley Trail, in Banff the depot is located at 100 Gopher Street and in Lake Louise out front of Samson Mall in the village and near the entrance of the Fairmont Chateau Hotel near the lake. Tickets need to be purchased ahead of time either in person at a depot or online.
- Greyhound Bus – is cheaper than the Brewster Bus, but be it can be unreliable and late at times. The run coming from the west is particularly bad in the winter months. If it can’t get through the mountain passes due to heavy snow or an accident it re-routes south making it several hours late. The station in Banff is the same as the Brewster buses at 100 Gopher Street, in Canmore in front of the Canmore Tourism office at 907 7Ave. In Lake Louise it is at the front area of the Samson Mall in the village. The Greyhound bus does not go up to the lake. Tickets need to be purchased ahead of time online.
- The Roam Bus – A public bus transportation route has been implemented between Canmore and Banff. It runs 7 days and takes approximately 25 minutes. In peak hours the buses are every 30 minutes in peak morning and afternoon hours and every 60 minutes during the rest of the day. Canmore/Banff Roam Transit
Transportation Between The Calgary Airport/Downtown Calgary Hotels To Canmore, Banff And Lake Louise
The Banff Airporter has daily scheduled shuttles that run between the Calgary Airport and various downtown Calgary hotels to Canmore and Banff. The Brewster does the same and also goes to Lake Louise. You shouldn’t have a problem timing one of them with your flight arrival unless it is arriving very late in the evening. In this case you would have to overnight in Calgary.
Getting To Jasper From Calgary, Banff Or Lake Louise
There is no public bus transportation to get to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway. The options would be to book through Brewster or Sundog Tours. The Brewster bus runs to Jasper from May 1st to mid-October. The Sundog Tours operate from mid-October to May and they also provide service from the Edmonton Airport and West Edmonton Mall to Jasper.
The Greyhound Bus does not travel on the Icefields Parkway. It is available to board in Lake Louise and Banff where it backtracks to Calgary, then north to Edmonton and then onwards to Jasper. It is a long eleven hour journey.