This is a time limited tip. There is some major road construction going on in Banff National Park right now (late 2010). The worst of it is on Highway 1 with some on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93).
The roads are down to single lanes in each direction for about 37 km with a much reduced speed limit. Lovely congestion too. If you are heading to Lake Louise (from Banff) and beyond, be prepared!
Banff National Park is an immense area, let alone if you take into consideration it being surrounded by Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks. You really need a vehicle to properly explore just Banff so it is likely you will drive to the park.
We came from Vancouver in our own car, making a stop in Kamloops for the night which is about the half-way point. Vancouver is 850 kilometers and about 9.5 hours driving time. We saw an incredible red full moon just outside of Kamloops and knew it was time to call it a night.
Heading east from there to Calgary, the more typical gateway city, is 125 kilometers and 1.5 hours. If you are going all the way to Glacier National Park in Montana as we were, it is about 500 kilometers or 6 hours. We broke this trip up as we spent the day in Banff and left in the latter part of the afternoon, stopping just short of the Montana border for the night.
The Trans-Canada Highway runs right through the heart of Banff National Park and is quite an engineering feat with numerous animal corridor crossings running over what has become a four-lane highway. The entire corridor, 60 kilometers of highway, is fenced off. It is likely best for animal migration and certainly for their safety if you are going to run such a big highway through a National Park.
It is an incredibly scenic road without a doubt but I found it a bit disconcerting driving on such a highway within the confines of a National Park. Speed limits are posted and are slow enough considering it is fenced off, but it's easy to start speeding when you have such a straight wide road in front of you. Now, it must be understood that this is also a major Canadian Highway, not just a park road so under different strains.
Enjoy the drive and watch your foot on the pedal.
Access to Banff National Park is by the Trans Canada Highway , the main east/west route across Canada.
This highway is now twinned throughout most of the park including a three metre chain link fence protecting the animals from the vehicles (and vice versa).
That also means that any time you leave the highway, you will cross a Texas gate (a way to keep animals from getting onto the highway).
I read that they are also considering extending that same fence to enclose the town of Banff. That would mean no more wapiti coming down to the town to chew on the pretty flowers.
From the UK - fly! Cheaper to fly to Vancouver and get an internal flight to Calgary.
Hire a car at Calgary and after touring the rockies drive back to Vancouver and drop off the car. Enjoy the sights of Vancouver before returning.
Pyramid Lake Road, 5 km from Jasper, Jasper, Alberta, T0E 1E0, Canada
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