The Town of Banff has ample room for people to walk, bike and explore without a car this August long weekend. But with finite roads and parking, the town site does not have enough space for everyone to travel in personal vehicles without experiencing traffic jams.
With advanced planning and environmental responsibility, visitors can create great memories instead of driver frustration.
“The best way to experience the Town of Banff is out of a vehicle, so it is essential that more people use public transit to get here, and those who need to drive to Banff, park as soon as possible in the large parking lots at the entrance to town and walk, bike or hop on transit to get around,” said Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno.
“We have fantastic pedestrian zones, parks and riverside trails in Banff. When people continue to drive around town looking for parking, they are not just stuck in traffic, they are traffic, and they are missing out on nature and mountain scenery, while contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. We want people to get out of their vehicles to create a more enjoyable and more environmentally responsible experience for everyone, fitting of a visit to Canada’s first national park.”
In 2021, the Town of Banff entrance trackers counted 105,099 vehicles at both entrances of town for the Friday-Monday August long weekend. In pre-pandemic 2019, the entrance counters logged 121,594 vehicles for the four days of the long weekend, with each day exceeding the 24,000-vehicle threshold that results in traffic delays within the town site. This year, based on trends for the 2022 May and Canada Day long weekends, the Town of Banff is on track to see this August long weekend vehicle traffic near pre-pandemic 2019 levels, despite continuing COVID and airline issues. This will result in traffic congestion and long delays – especially for drivers on the south side of the river – unless more people park and take transit or walk.
The Town of Banff provides these tips for visitors to help create an enjoyable and environmentally responsible time in Banff, that should be primarily car-free:
- Take On-It Regional Transit from Calgary to Banff for only $10, any day on the long weekend. The service is subsidized by the Town of Banff and Parks Canada (www.onitregionaltransit.ca)
- Consider other Calgary-Banff public transit services (visit explorethepark.ca for services such as Banff Express, Banff Airporter, Brewster Express, Discover Banff Tours, Mountain Park Transportation and Banff Chauffeur.
- For people who need to drive to Banff, use the Norquay Road exit from the TransCanada Highway. and park in the large, free, all-day parking lots at the Train Station. Walking to the downtown pedestrian zone is a pleasant 8-minute stroll.
- People driving RVs/motorhomes/campers are urged to drive to the campgrounds via the Banff Avenue exit, and proceed directly to the campground and take the free Roam Transit shuttle into town. Avoid driving downtown; there are no suitable parking spaces.
- For RV drivers not camping in the Town of Banff area, avoid driving downtown; there are no suitable spaces. Drive to the Train Station parking lots for dedicated RV parking.
- For people wanting to visit top attraction – the Sulphur Mountain Gondola or Hot Pools – people are urged not to drive across the vehicle bridge to the southside and up to the attraction. The parking lots on Sulphur Mountain are full by 10 a.m. More than 50% of people who drive across the river are turned away by Parks Canada officials because the parking lots are full. Those drivers then get caught in a traffic jam re-entering the town of Banff and could experience traffic delays over 60 minutes.
Park in Banff and take transit. If going to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, people must reserve ahead and take the free Gondola Shuttle from downtown or the Train Station.
- Avoid parking and traffic hassles at attractions around town by taking Roam Public Transit from downtown Banff to Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, the Gondola, Bow Falls, the Fairmont Banff Springs, the Cave & Basin historic site, Johnston Canyon and even to Lake Louise. The Roam Transit Superpass is an exceptional value and convenient way to see all destinations.
Roam Public Transit and Parks Canada Shuttles in Lake Louise are often the only way to guarantee seeing Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon and other attractions because parking lots fill up around sunrise.
- Cyclists in Banff or those taking the Legacy Trail from Canmore are invited to use the free, staffed bike lock up – the Bike Valet – in the Banff Pedestrian Zone. It’s centrally located for convenient access to cafes, restaurants and bike shops.
- People looking to shop, dine, people watch, stroll – are invited to the Downtown Pedestrian Zone and the Bear Street plaza. These are perfect for the mountain scenery and exceptional food & beverage choices as well as outfitting or planning mountain adventures.
- Because this is the busiest time of year in Banff, bookings and reservations are essential to avoid disappointment.
- Call ahead to one of the many places to eat for restaurant reservations or take-out for a nice picnic.
- Parks Canada Lake Louise and Moraine Lake shuttles must be booked in advance. There is no walk-up service available and shuttles are at or near capacity most days during popular times.
- Roam Transit service to Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon has very limited walk-up availability and reservations are highly recommended
- Popular attractions, such as summer chair lifts and gondolas at the Banff Gondola, Banff Sunshine Village and Norquay offer free shuttle services daily from convenient pick-up locations in the Town of Banff.
- Those looking for activities in wonderful natural setting close to downtown are encouraged to walk along the Bow River Trail, visit the canoe docks (rentals available), stroll the pedestrian bridge with great views over the Bow River, or walk to the Bow Falls along an Art installation along the trail. Short hikes are possible to summit Tunnel Mountain (about 1 hour from downtown to summit and back downtown) or take Roam Transit to the base of Sulphur Mountain for an enjoyable hike under the gondola (about 2 hours to the summit). E-Bike and bike rentals are available in town for those who did not bring their bicycle for scenic rides to places like Bow Falls and the flat loop around the Fairmont Golf Course (1 hour return), or longer trips on the Legacy Trail to Canmore (1.5-2 hours each way) or west on the Legacy Trail to the Bow Valley Parkway and the beautiful route to Johnston Canyon, Castle Junction and Lake Louise.
- Visitors are obligated to help protect the environment and respect the local stewardship efforts and resort community standards.
- Leave no trace – ensure all garbage is disposed into bear-proof bins around town or out on trails. Take garbage with you if bins are unavailable or full. Everything that has been in contact with you can be an animal attractant for wildlife like bears, wolves, cougars and coyotes. Take extra care to prevent litter in the town site to avoid attracting wildlife, which could be a death sentence for the animals coming into town, and hazards for people and their pets.
- Keep dogs on leash – use one of the two off-leash dog parks in town for expending energy, otherwise keep pets on leash for their safety and to avoid antagonizing wildlife – a criminal offence and a potential death sentence to aggressive wildlife.
- Obey the speed limit– it is 30 km/h everywhen in the Banff town site. This is enforced for everyone’s safety. Cyclists and skateboarders are required to use roads, not sidewalks. The slower speed is more inviting to cyclists of all abilities, safer for pedestrians who may be unfamiliar with North American traffic rules and direction, and it doesn’t add much to travel times in a town 4 square kilometres in size.
For more information:
For media, contact:
Jason Darrah, Communications Director
Town of Banff