From Vancouver to Banff: 5 Best Ways to Get There
Western Canada is incredibly scenic – but it’s also quite vast. For example, the distance between the coastal city of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Banff Rocky Mountain National Park, Alberta, is approximately 900 kilometers – to put that into perspective, Munich, Germany, and Paris, France are closer to each other!
That doesn’t mean you can’t easily travel between Vancouver and Banff. On the contrary, the journey between these two world-class destinations is breathtakingly beautiful and well worth doing if your timing (and time) permits. What this means, however, is that you have to plan ahead in order to achieve it.
To help you with your planning, we’ve broken down the five best ways to travel from Vancouver to Banff.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
On this page :
- Vancouver to Banff with a tour
- Vancouver to Banff by car
- Vancouver to Banff by train
- Vancouver to Banff by bus
- Vancouver to Banff by flight
1. From Vancouver to Banff with a tour
One of the best ways to experience the journey between Vancouver and Banff – and all the highlights in between – is to take a tour. The tour operator takes care of all the logistics, from booking hotel rooms to navigating the routes, while you can sit back in a comfortable coach and enjoy the ride.
These tours are more than just a mode of transportation – they also leave time to explore and visit other amazing destinations near Banff, such as Jasper and Lake Louise. In just four days, a small-group tour will take you from Vancouver to the heart of the Rockies and back. As someone else is doing all the driving, you’ll have plenty of energy to enjoy each of the spectacular stops along the way.
As we will soon see, the roads between Vancouver and Banff can be treacherous during the winter months. For this reason, these tours are only offered during the warmer months, between may and september. Traveling in summer means enjoying long days, lots of sunshine, abundant wildlife and ideal conditions for many outdoor activities.
2. Vancouver to Banff by car
Think of it as the Great Western Canadian Road Trip – traveling from Vancouver to Banff by car is an unforgettable adventure. There are several routes to choose from: the first leg of the journey takes you to Kamloops, or heading north beyond Whistler along Highway 99or to the east through the Fraser Valley along Highway 1 and going up through Merritt on Hwy 5. The first is arguably the more scenic of the two routes, but the second gets you to Kamloops faster.
From Kamloops you will head east through the interior of British Columbia along Highway 1. The advantage of having your own car means you can stop off at some interesting spots along the way, such as the ski town of Revelstoke or pristine Glacier National Park.
Driving from Vancouver to Banff in the summer is an extraordinary road trip. Driving from Vancouver to Banff in the winter is another story. Whichever route you choose, you’re likely to encounter some serious winter road conditions – snow, ice, that sort of thing. Don’t even consider making the trip without winter tires, and if you don’t have experience driving in snowy conditions, then you might want to make other plans if the forecast calls for stormy weather.
In perfect conditions and if you are driving non-stop, the trip can take as little as nine o’clock. Of course, if the weather is this good, chances are you’ll want to make a few stops along the way to enjoy your surroundings.
If it’s part of a larger trip in Western Canada or even across Canada, you can check out our list of routes in Canada to help you plan your routes and stops.
3. From Vancouver to Banff by train
Everyone aboard the Rocky Mountaineer! Getting to Banff from Vancouver by train is the best of both worlds. You’ll never have to deal with traffic, you can take in the views from the comfort of your seat, and you can stretch your legs whenever you feel like it. The route of the Rocky Mountaineer follows what is arguably one of the most scenic drives in all of Canadaso be sure to grab a window seat if you can.
It’s necessary two days to reach Banff by train from Vancouver (one way), including an overnight stop in Kamloops. The train departs every few days, but only from mid-April to mid-October – so if you’re hoping to get to Banff for skiing, this might not be the best option for you.
Traveling by train is also quite expensive compared to most of the other options on this list – it’s even more expensive than flying! But ask anyone who splurged on this trip, and they’ll tell you it’s a trip you’ll remember for a long, long time.
4. Vancouver to Banff by bus
If you want to visit Banff in the winter but prefer not to make the trip yourself, book a bus ticket. It will take a little longer than driving on your own – since the bus stops at other destinations along the route, it takes approx. 13 hours and 15 minutes – but you can sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.
Unlike the train or a small-group tour, the bus to Banff operates throughout the year, making it a good (and relatively affordable) option for those traveling in the winter. Of course, in the event of a storm, you can expect delays – but at least you won’t be driving. Rather than worrying about driving, you can get lost in a book or try to spot wildlife outside.
5. From Vancouver to Banff by plane
Although you cannot travel directly to Banff, you can fly from Vancouver to Calgarywhich is only about an hour and a half from Banff. Air Canada and WestJetboth offer direct flights between YVR and YYC. Flight times are short – just under 90 minutes – but remember to give yourself extra time to get to the airport and work your way through security.
One-way flights cost a few hundred dollars, but prices fluctuate depending on the time of year. Expect to pay more if you are planning a ski trip during the holidays, for example. For a cheaper option, check out Air Flair. This is a no-frills airline that offers a much lower base price than Air Canada and West Jet, but expect to pay more for extras, including luggage that goes in the overhead compartment. .
From Calgary, there are many options (eg, shuttle, car rental, taxi) to get to Banff, depending on your budget, schedule and personal preference.