This is a one day excursion I took whilst I was in Banff (in July 2005) and it took me across Great Divide of the Rocky Mountains, Johnstone Canyon, Lake Louise, Valley of the Ten Peaks, Victoria Glacier, Moraine Lake, Yoho National Park's Takakkaw Falls, Spiral Tunnels, Emerald Lake and Natural Rock Bridge. It was a wonderful day and we had sunshine all throughout the day.
This tour costs 99.95 CAD (April 2011) and offers complimentary pick up and drop off service to accommodation in Banff.
I think sometimes people let their imaginations run wild when they picture the roads in the Canadian Rockies. Some people imagine dirt or gravel roads hugging the cliffsides. Other people imagine one-way bridges and real backwater, middle-of-nowhere scenarios. While I know that many people associate Canada with "north", and many people associate north with "undeveloped", don't let your imaginations run away from you. While there are certainly large tracts of undeveloped land in Canada, the road infrastructure is excellent, safe, and well-maintained, especially in the Rockies!
While there are certainly some steep sections in the Rockies, and while you will encounter some switchbacks, all the roads leading through the Rockies are paved, 2 lane highways with frequent passing lanes. The drive is safe, but requires concentration because of the constant change in directions and the occasional change in speed. Signs leading to the trails, campgrounds, glaciers, lakes, and scenic locations are very well marked.
Over the years I've noticed a lot of misconceptions about driving conditions, so I'm using this as a chance to clarify the issue as I feel that visitors, especially international visitors, often feel anxious about driving in the Rockies. In fact, I feel that visitors should be encouraged to drive around to explore the Rockies as it enriches your experience infinitely as practically all attractions, lakes, and trails are not accessible by public transit. And bus/coach tours only give you limited time at the locations. And while the trains can get you to the Rockies, they can't get you around the Rockies.
The roads leading to Banff, whether you take the Trans Canada highway (Hwy 1) or the Icefields Parkway... they're all well-maintained, professionally-engineered, top quality, paved highways. Any regular car can more than handle the highways in Banff, so do not assume you need an SUV or a 4 wheel drive vehical to get around. As you can see from this dated photo, even a K-car will do!
We used Greyhound buses to get from Calgary to Banff. If there are 2 of you travelling, I recommend getting a companion fare. It is so much cheaper than paying for 2 separate tickets.
The only catch is that you both MUST travel together, or your ticket is invalid. I guess most people will travel together, however, if for any reason one of you should miss the bus for example, the Companion fair is void.
With the companion fare we paid in total around $40 (around £20).
The journey takes around 75 - 90 minutes.
It is a very nice drive..... especially since you get closer and closer to the rockies each second!
Calgary Bus depot is located to the West of the city on 9th Avenue, and the Banff bus depot is on your left just as you enter Banff from Highway 1.
We hired a car from Hertz car hire for 3 days while staying in Banff. The hire of the car itself costs around $70.... although this obviously depends on the size of car you hire!
We hired a Chevrolet Malibu, which is a very spacious 4 door car..... very nice to drive!
There are other costs on top of the daily hire rate such as insurance and gas..... but again, the cost of these depends on how much insurance you wish to take and how much gas you intend on using.
All in all we paid just short of $400 (around £200). This may seem quite expensive, but we managed to drive from Banff to Lake Louise, then from Banff to Jasper and back as well as a few short drives in between. All we had to do was add another $10 of gas to make sure we could get the car back to the hotel!
The Hertz car hire office can be found at the Banff Springs hotel, which is not centrally located, but there are buses run from the town centre to the hotel evey 30 minutes or so.
Some say this is the most beautiful 200km stretch of highway in the world. It connects Lake Louise with Jasper thru stunning mountain scenery.
200 kms doesn't seem like it would take long to drive, but plan to spend the entire day. There are many spectacular viewpoints to stop at and you don't want to miss a single one. There will also be opportunities to get out of the car and stretch your legs....be sure to have your hiking boots handy!
What we did we flew from Windsor Ontario to
Calgary Alberta , we made arraingments through Travel agent in Windsor for car rental .Just a tip for you guys,we always ask for the smallest cheapest car available.
Then when you get to the car rental place ,a few surprises will wait for you . First they will tell you ,oh the little cars are so uncomforetable you should upgrade to a bigger car , we never do .Guess what many times you will get the bigger car anyways.
Then you are asked about the insurance it could cost a lot of money to buy extra insurance ,if you have a Gold Visa Card you can get your extra Car insurance covered for no charge.Then they will ask you will you leave the province, and if yes ,you will be limited to a certain amount of mileage,we were allowed 3500 KM for two weeks.
It was enough to do what we wanted to do.
Ok we had a great car ,brand new Sun Fire ,and we paid the price of a small car ,we did good.Total price of two weeks rental car was only $354,66 Canadian dollars.
BREWSTER conducts daily tours from Calgary to both Banff & Jasper. Please proceed to its official site at www.brewster.ca for details & reservation.
A company with highly professional staff. I highly recommend going with them if you don't wish to drive or are on your own.
Alternatively, there are also train services that take you around the Rocky Mountains for a different experience.
I strongly suggest you that you should rent a car. If the car has the wheel handle in the opposite side, please don't be scard. The roads are very wide and Canadian drivers are polite.
If you are the happy owner of an ISIC student ID, you should use it in connection with Greyhound. You get up tio 25% off and you can get additional tickets for the same trip very cheap.
Banff is a nice town to walk around, but if you are tired, one can still explore the city with this trolley. Another great way to travel!