Best places to stay in Banff National Park
Within the Park
Banff is a bustling little town where all the action happens. Although Banff has a population of 8000 residents, with so many tourists, it almost feels like a big city, but without buildings and surrounded by wilderness. It has the best access to all sights and attractions around the National Park. With a wide variety of services and accommodations, there are options for all budgets and preferences.
There's a vibrant nightlife, lots of name-brand stores and restaurants, souvenir shops, and basically, any indoor activities cities offer. It also gives you easy access to tons of outdoor activities for all experience levels. The town is overlooked by mountains, some of which are within walking distance from downtown, where you can hike or bike. During the winter, Banff becomes a skiers' paradise with its 3 Ski Resorts. On the west side flows the Bow River where you can practice river-based activities, except swimming because the water coming from glaciers is terribly cold.
Accommodation in Banff
Within the Park
This tiny town is famous for its magnificent lake overlooked by the Fairmont Hotel. Although there are only a few hundred residents, Lake Louise attracts over 15 000 visitors daily, but if you don't stay by the Lake, you won't be too overwhelmed. Besides the classics of canoeing on Lake Louise and riding the Gondola, there are plenty of hiking trails and other gorgeous lakes to see around such as Lake Moraine and Lake Agnes.
Lake Louise is an ideal destination for ski enthusiasts as it has one of the top Ski Resorts in Canada. The town offers an amazing variety of restaurants for its tiny size and again, the Bow River allows fun water activities. In terms of services, Lake Louise has the bare minimum. There are no pharmacies, commercial stores, or grocery stores, so you need to run errands in Banff, which is 40 minutes away. Accommodation options are also limited as most people live in the Fairmont staff residence.
Accommodation in Lake Louise
Within the Park
Castle Junction is the place to be if you want to stay close to all the services but away from crowds. It's located 25 minutes north of Banff, thus it's the perfect spot for people who want to take advantage of what the lively town has to offer, but also enjoy some peace and quiet. This locality offers very limited services, so anyone staying there must run errands in Banff. As for accommodation, be ready to make one with nature and dive into the cabin or camper lifestyle.
Around Castle Junction area, there are miles of cross-country skiing trails in the winter and cycling trails in the summer. The scenic route that connects Castle Junction to Banff is simply breathtaking! You can contemplate it riding down the Bow Valley Parkway or on the Bow River. This part of the river offers some class 2 rapids which are ideal for intermediate kayaking, rafting, canoeing or even paddle boarding.
Accommodation in Castle Junction
Outside the Park / 20-min drive
Canmore is Banff's quieter big sister. Although it's twice the size of Banff, it has a smaller selection of services and indoor options. Nevertheless, there's a recreation center, Elevation Place, and many shops, restaurants, and museums. On the other hand, it does offer a better selection of accommodations for long-term stays and is better in value. The main street is the heart of the art community where you can appreciate art galleries, live music venues and local theatre performances.
From downtown, you have easy access to Policeman's Creek Boardwalk and the Bow River for river-based activities. Because it's right outside the gates of the National Park, there's no need for a pass, so it does make life a bit easier for people staying in Canmore. Although not within a walking distance but still close by, Canmore offers many great hikes outside of town. You’ll also find more golf courses and bike mountain trails in Canmore compared to Banff.
Accommodation in Canmore
Outside the Park / 2-hr drive
Golden is a growing mountain town sitting at the heart of 6 National Parks, giving countless day trips opportunities. Golden is as big as Jasper, but without the crowds, so it's the ideal place to settle down for people in search of the great Canadian wilderness. With its world-class whitewater rafting and kayaking river, and significant biodiversity, thanks to the Columbia Wetlands, Golden is a paradise for hard-core adventurers, but it suits any outdoor lover levels.
In addition, it's not located inside a National Park, which means there're fewer restrictions. Hence, motor activities are allowed; in fact, all the tours offered in Banff National Park starts in Golden. There's also no need for a park pass or to work in the park. Since it's a hidden gem, the town offers all types of accommodation for a cheaper price and all the services its multicultural community might need.
Accommodation in Golden
Outside the Park / 3-hr drive
The geographic situation of Jasper is less accessible than Banff; it’s a 3-and-a-half-hour drive from Edmonton and the North entrance (Banff), which makes it less crowded, but equally beautiful. Jasper is a quaint little town with about 4000 residents and offers a good range of services that covers everyone's needs. It has a rustic charm and a laid-back atmosphere, with more local businesses and older buildings. It does however offer limited accommodation options which makes the pricing higher. No public transportation is available in Jasper, so you need a vehicle. Jasper features the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies: The Miette Hot Springs.
Although it has fewer hiking trail options than Banff, Jasper has an amazing playground for outdoor activities including Marmot Basin Ski Resort, several lakes and hikes, and the Athabasca River. With its Dark Sky Preserve and fewer crowds, Jasper is the perfect place to contemplate the Milky Way and more active wildlife.
Accommodation in Jasper