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How to Get From Banff to Lake Louise: Driving, Parking, Shuttles, and Tours

Banff and Lake Louise are the most popular places to visit in Banff National Park. These two beautiful mountain towns are only 40 minutes apart (about 57 km) making it easy to visit both even on a weekend trip. 

Getting from Banff to Lake Louise is done via vehicle; either driving your own or through a secondary provider like transit, shuttles, or a tour. The two mountain towns are connected by the Trans Canada highway (Highway 1), a double-lane highway with a 90 km speed limit. 

The Trans Canada is the main transportation corridor to the West Coast. As you can imagine, this highway can get very busy. Add in some construction zones or bad weather conditions and you have a recipe for congestion, which is why during the summer season, May to October, the recommended mode of transport is bus or shuttle service.

I’ve spent many hours on the highway between Banff and Lake Louise. Here’s my take on the best ways to get from Banff to Lake Louise.

cars driving down road with snowy peak in distance

Driving from Banff to Lake Louise

There are two routes you can drive to get from Banff to Lake Louise: the Trans Canada and the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A).

The Trans Canada highway is the fastest route from Banff to Lake Louise. Follow the highway west out of Banff. Take the right overpass exit to Lake Louise then turn left onto Lake Louise Drive. 

This is not the route to take if you want to stop and view the scenery. There are some roadside turnouts and rest areas, but the volume of traffic and transport vehicles doesn’t make for a premium viewing experience.

Map showing directions from Banff to Lake Louise
Bow River next to the railroad tracks Banff

The Bow Valley Parkway is the scenic route between Banff and Lake Louise. This is the route to take when you are not on a schedule and are pressed for time.  The speed limit is lower at 60 km, and it’s a single-lane highway with limited opportunities for passing. 

This route is full of roadside turnouts with spectacular viewpoints and historical information boards. There are also rest stops with washrooms and picnic areas. 

Anticipate seeing wildlife on this route, especially in the spring. From May 1 to June 25 a 17 km stretch of the highway west of Banff from the Trans Canada exit onto the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon is closed to all modes of human travel from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM to protect spring animal migration.

The Bow Valley Parkway is popular with cyclists so expect to share the road. To support the cycling experience, the same section of the road mentioned above is closed to private vehicles from May 1 to June 25 and September 1 to October 2. If you have the opportunity to cycle this road while it is closed, I highly recommend doing so; it’s a local favourite. During the road closure, Johnston Canyon is accessed via Castle Junction.

Winter tires are highly recommended from October to April anytime you are driving in Banff National Park. 

Entrance to Bow Valley Parkway
Signs for Bow Valley Parkway
View of Bow Valley Parkway with mountains in distance

Parking at Lake Louise

Driving from Banff to Lake Louise is easy, trying to find parking, especially during the summer months is the hard part which is why using a secondary provider is a good idea.

If you plan to park at Lake Louise check the Parks Canada parksnow app for real-time parking updates.

The best time to get parking at Lake Louise is 6:00 AM or after 5:00 PM. Most people only stay a few hours so there are always people coming and going; I find it no different than trying to find a spot at a busy shopping mall. However, if it’s too busy you are not allowed to aimlessly circle the parking lot, parking attendants will direct you back out to the road. 

From May to October parking fees are in effect, ~$21 a day. Parking is paid via kiosks located in the lower and upper parking lots. Make sure you know your license plate number as you’ll need it to purchase parking.

There are no fees or parking restrictions from October to May but parking starts to get scarce by 10:00 AM. Predicting winter parking is tricky because more snow means less parking as snow piles decrease lot space. 

Accessible parking is available for vehicles with a parking tag for disabilities on a first-come basis. The fee is ~$8.

Remember to have your Parks Canada pass. Passchecks are often set up in parking lots during the winter months. 

Lake Louise with mountains and clouds behind

Transit and Shuttles

Taking shuttles or transit is the best way to get from Banff to Lake Louise during the summer months. From mid-October to mid-May some shuttle and transit routes stop operating. The cheapest shuttle and transit options are the Parks Canada shuttle and ROAM transit system.

People getting onto shuttle bus to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Banff
Map of Lake Louise and Moraine lake shuttle routes

Parks Canada Shuttle

Parks Canada operates a shuttle from mid-May to early October to Lake Louise village, lakeshore, and Moraine Lake. The shuttle operates as a park-and-ride (free to park) from the Lake Louise Ski Resort parking lot which is about 6 km from the lakeshore.

Shuttles operate daily from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM.

Fees:

  • Adults (18-64): ~$8
  • Senior (65+): ~$4
  • Youth (17 & under): Free

Reservations are required for the shuttle and should be made in advance either online or by calling 1-877-737-3783. It’s cheaper to book online as there’s a ~$6 fee if you book by phone and only ~$3 if you book online.

I find the Parks Canada reservation site confusing, and struggle with it every time I use it. Here are a few steps that might make your experience a bit smoother.

  1. Before making a reservation, create an account if you don’t already have one. You need an account to make a reservation.
  2. If you are not a Canadian, select GCKey as your sign-in option and follow the instructions to create an account. 
  3. When you reach the reservations page, select ‘Day Use’ from the green heading bar (you might have to hit the scroll arrow on the side).
  4. Select the ‘Shuttle to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake’ option.
  5. In the ‘Park’ box select Banff-Lake Louise, then your arrival time and the number of people in your party. Hit ‘Search’. 
  6. A map with dots and lines will appear, and one will say ‘Shuttle’. If the dot is red, there are no shuttle reservations available; try another day. If it’s green, select the Shuttle dot and it will bring up the times available for that day for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
  7. Once you select your time, you’ll get another table to select your departure time. 
  8. Continue to follow the instructions to verify and complete your registration.
screenshot of shuttle reservation Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
screen shot of shuttle reservation map
Parks Canada reservation booking website www.reservation.pc.gc.ca
Lake Louise with mountains behind and clear blue skies

Shuttle reservations are released on a rolling basis. If you don’t get a shuttle reservation right away all is not lost, only 40% of the reservations are released for pre-purchase. The remaining seats are available for booking 48 hours in advance of departure.

Shuttles can accommodate small pets, various watercraft, and strollers but have limited wheelchair availability. Wheelchair patrons should use the ROAM bus.

ROAM Transit

ROAM Transit is a flexible and cheap option for getting from Banff to Lake Louise. There are two service options for Lake Louise:

Route 8X – Lake Louise Express provides service from downtown Banff to Lake Louise village and lakeshore every day year-round. 

Route 8S – Lake Louise Scenic is a seasonal route that offers the same route service plus additional stops to Johnston Canyon, Castle Junction, Protection Mountain, and Baker Creek.

Advanced online reservations are recommended for both routes, especially in the summer. A general reservation booking is for a seat on a single route. One-way fares are ~$10 for adults and ~$5 for seniors and youth 13-18. Children under 12 are free (but still need a reservation).

If you want to reserve a return trip you need to purchase the ROAM Super Pass. The ROAM Super Pass gives you unlimited travel for a day on all ROAM buses as well as free access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector shuttle, which will allow you to travel from Lake Louise lakeshore to Moraine Lake and back. The Super Pass for adults is ~$25, and ~$12.50 for seniors and youth 13-18. Children under 12 are free (but still need a reservation).

During peak tourist season, arrive at your scheduled departure spot 15 minutes or more before your departure time. If you miss your departure time you can still use your ticket but you will need to wait in the non-reservation queue for the next available walk-up seat. 

ROAM buses have limited space so anything you bring aboard should be able to fit on your lap or under your seat, this applies to strollers which must be folded and stored so it does not block the aisle or take up additional seats. Each ROAM bus can carry three bikes on its outside racks. All ROAM buses are wheelchair accessible.

TRAVEL TIP: The ROAM bus can always be used to return to Banff at your convenience. Finding space to return to Banff is easier than getting to Lake Louise. This is a great option if you opt to leave your tour early, miss your shuttle, or are doing a one-way cycling trip.

ROAM transit bus in Banff

Private Shuttles and Tour Operators

Several private shuttle operators offer service to Lake Louise, and many tour operators have Lake Louise as part of their itinerary if you’re looking for a multi-stop excursion.

Wow Banff operates a double-decker bus that operates from early June to early October from the Lake Louise Ski Resort. You must select a departure time but you can board any shuttle back to the parking lot. Dogs are allowed but have to sit outside on the upper deck. 

Hop On Banff (book here) offers flexible shuttle service itineraries to various locations on school-type buses. The buses stop briefly at each attraction before continuing to their next destination. Reservations are highly recommended, but if there’s space available the day of, you can pay in person on the bus. The rates are ~$80/adult and ~$65 for children (6 to 17). This shuttle service is not conducive for young children. Dogs are not allowed.  

Moraine Lake Bus Company offers daily shuttles to Lake Louise from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM from ~$29-39 with departures from Lake Louise Ski Resort and Lake Louise Village (Samson Mall). Reservations are highly recommended however if there is availability on the shuttle you can purchase a ticket directly from the driver without a reservation. Shuttles accommodate small pets, strollers, and most other large sporting equipment except rigid canoes and kayaks. These buses are not wheelchair accessible.

Fairview Limousine and Shuttle Service operates from the Lake Louise Inn and has a fleet to accommodate 6 to 30 passengers. Pets are allowed if well-behaved, an extra fee may be applied. Contact them directly to make a booking. 

Banff Adventures also operates out of the Lake Louise Ski Resort with daily shuttles to Moraine Lake with some stops at Lake Louise. 

Brewster Sightseeing Mountain Lakes and Waterfalls Tour will take you to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Takakkaw Falls, and Emerald Lake. 

Brewster private tour bus Banff

Discover Banff (book here) offers a Lake Louise and Moraine Lake tour. 

Radventures (book here) has a small group adventure tour that includes a Moraine Lake sunrise and two hours at Lake Louise, as well as other stops.

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Banff is crowded!

Need a game plan to avoid the crowds? Check out our itinerary

Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times.

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
BANFF

BANFF TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Banff National Park, check out our Banff Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Banff has to offer including Lake Louise, Banff Hot Springs, the Cave and Basin Historical Site, and shopping downtown

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out how to get to Banff and what reservations
you may need

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Banff National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Banff YouTube Playlist

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