The Ultimate 3-day Calgary/Banff Itinerary

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February 20, 2024
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We've curated the ultimate local insights for your upcoming road trip from Calgary to Banff. Discover must-see local gems, indulge in delicious eats, and find the best places to stay along the way. With Banff National Park's breathtaking beauty and its iconic status in Western Canada and North America, let us guide you in planning the perfect itinerary for your summer journey.

Know Before You Go

There are many transportation options within and around Banff National Park, ranging from public transportation and private shuttles to the convenience of renting a vehicle.

Public Transportation

  • Vivo Green Shuttle: A seamless connection from Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Canmore and Banff. With comfortable buses, multiple daily departures, enjoy pickups and drop-offs at Northwinds Hotel in Canmore just minutes away from other Basecamp Resort properties.
  • On-It Transit: Travel to Canmore and Banff for just $10 starting May 19, 2024. Enjoy daily departures from three convenient locations in Calgary.
  • Roam Transit: An eco-friendly option to travel between Canmore and Banff. Roam Transit is free within the Town of Canmore limits for all riders. Explore the Bow Valley with scheduled bus services connecting key points in the region.
Source: Vivo Green Shuttle

Renting a Vehicle

Choose from various rental agencies at YYC, giving you the freedom to explore the stunning landscapes of Calgary and beyond at your own pace. Check out the various car rental companies conveniently located on the Departures level at the Calgary International Airport.

Purchase a Park Pass

Entry to Canadian National Parks, including Banff, necessitates a National Park Pass. These passes, aiding visitor services and facilities, can be obtained online, at park gates for those driving to Banff, or at Visitor Centres in Banff or Lake Louise. It’s always best to purchase passes in advance.

Day 1: Calgary to Canmore

Driving from Calgary to Canmore via the Trans-Canada Highway offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies. This 1 hour and 20 minute journey has several scenic stops along the way:

Lac Des Arc Viewpoint: A stop along the highway before entering Canmore.

Grotto Pond: A peaceful spot with Grotto Mountain views.

Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park: For outdoor activities and scenery.

Three Sisters Mountain Viewpoint: Iconic peaks visible upon reaching Canmore.

Source: J Bartlett - Three Sisters Viewpoint | Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Explore Canmore


Take a leisurely stroll through Canmore's charming downtown. Explore local cafes, shops, galleries, and maybe pick up some unique souvenirs from Stonewaters.


Take a walk on the Bow Loop Trail for beautiful views of the river and mountains, with a chance to see wildlife. Policeman Creek is also worth visiting for an easy and enjoyable walk, and it's great for stargazing at night when the sky is clear. You may even want to rent an e-bike to cover more ground as a lot of the trails are paved!

Best Trails & Hikes in and around Canmore:

Local Grub

Begin your day at Communitea Café, a Canmore favorite known for healthy bowls and wraps. Don't miss their excellent coffee, crafted to perfection with local beans.

For a satisfying, farm-to-table meal with regional flair, don't miss Rhythm and Howl. Indulge in their diverse menu featuring Belgian waffles, Roasted Mojo Prawns, housemade Falafel, and more mouthwatering options and pair your meal with one of their expertly crafted cocktails.

Source: Rhythm and Howl

Top Picks for Your Perfect Stay

Experience Canmore's diverse charm by choosing a stay that aligns with your preferences – whether it's mountain vistas, downtown access, or a luxurious retreat.

Basecamp Resorts Canmore: Rooftop Hot Tub Views

  • Unwind with stunning mountain views from the rooftop hot tub at Basecamp Resorts Canmore, blending comfort and convenience with a touch of natural beauty.

Lamphouse: Main Street Accessibility

  • Enjoy motel-style living with endless views, conveniently located on Canmore's main street.

MTN House Hotel: A Touch of Luxury

  • Indulge in luxury at MTN House Hotel, offering upscale amenities, a renowned restaurant, and beautifully designed interiors for a truly pampered experience.
Source: Anthony K Do - MTN House Hotel

Day 2: Canmore to Banff

Recommended Things to do in Banff


Just west of the Town of Banff  is Vermillion Lakes, this is a perfect spot to catch the sunrise against the backdrop of Mount Rundle. It's a peaceful way to start the day and a great location for photography. Drive along the entire Vermilion Lakes Road. This drive offers multiple pull-offs with exquisite views of Mount Rundle reflecting in the lakes.


Tunnel Mountain is sometimes overlooked in favor of more famous peaks. It offers a moderate hike with rewarding views of the townsite of Banff, the Bow River, and surrounding mountains. The trailhead is located in the Town of Banff, making it an accessible option for a short hike with a stunning panorama. This hike takes on average 1h 40 min to complete and is a 4.3km out-and-back trail.


Cap off your afternoon with a scenic drive along the Minnewanka Loop. Stop at Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka for short walks or photo opportunities. These lakes offer beautiful mountain backdrops and crystal-clear waters.

If you have extra time and energy, Sulphur Mountain is a must-see. Choose between hiking or taking the Banff Gondola (starting at $58 CAD) to the top. The summit offers stunning sunset views, panoramic sights of the surrounding peaks and the Town of Banff. Don't miss the boardwalk to Sanson's Peak and the historic Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station.

Source: Shannon Martin - Two Jack Lake

Before Dinner

Explore Banff Avenue and its array of local shops and cafes, situated along the main street and branching off into side alleys. Discover a diverse selection of art galleries, souvenir shops, and local ski/snowboard stores, creating a vibrant shopping experience.

Source: Roam Creative - Banff Ave | Banff and Lake Louise Tourism

Banff Bites

For budget-friendly breakfast options, consider stopping by Melissa's Missteak, where you can enjoy a variety of affordable morning delights. Alternatively, for quick and delicious on-the-go options, Wild Flour Bakery offers an array of wraps, breakfast sandwiches, and freshly brewed coffee to kickstart your day.

For Lunch check out Bear Street Tavern. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, Bear Street Tavern offers a relaxed atmosphere with a great selection of pizzas, sandwiches, and beers.

For a luxurious dinner, try the Sky Bistro with panoramic views of the mountains while indulging in exceptional cuisine and scenic beauty. Indulge in superb Italian cuisine amid a charming atmosphere with fantastic cocktails and happy hour deals at Lupo in Banff.

Source: Chris Amat - Sky Bistro | Banff and Lake Louise Tourism

Top Places to Stay in Banff

Basecamp Suites Banff: Perfect for Families

  • Stay right downtown and enjoy 360 degree mountain view rooftop hot tubs for added relaxation. Plus, benefit from fully equipped kitchens and spacious living areas while taking in panoramic views of Banff from the comfort of your accommodation.

Baker Creek by Basecamp: A Lake Louise Retreat

  • Opt for a secluded retreat just 25 minutes outside Banff, towards Lake Louise. Explore cabins and suites set on their own idyllic property, surrounded by nature.
Source: Victor Arden - Basecamp Suites Banff
Source: Sarah Magyar - Baker Creek by Basecamp

Day 3: Banff

Exploring Banff Further


Start your day with a visit to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. This is the birthplace of Canada’s National Parks and offers a unique glimpse into natural hot springs inside a cave. There’s also a boardwalk around the site for a leisurely morning walk.


Head to Surprise Corner for a stunning view of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel with the backdrop of Sulphur Mountain. Then, take a leisurely walk along the Bow River Trail, enjoying the peaceful river views and lush forest.

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy by the Bow River. There are several scenic spots along the riverbank where you can relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Banff.


Wind down your day with a relaxing soak at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. The mineral-rich waters offer a therapeutic experience with an incredible view of Rundle Mountain. It’s a perfect end to a day of exploration.

Source: Roth and Ramberg - Banff Upper Hot Springs | Travel Alberta

More Banff Restaurants

Embark on a culinary journey in Banff with must-try eateries like The Bison Restaurant, known for its locally sourced Canadian cuisine in a cozy setting.

Park Distillery Restaurant & Bar offers a unique combination of a distillery and restaurant, featuring creative cocktails and flame-cooked dishes.

Beyond Banff

If you're thinking of extending your 3-day itinerary to 5 or 7 days, don't miss the chance to visit iconic destinations such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which are easily accessible via the convenient shuttle service from Baker Creek (Ten Peaks Shuttle). Secure your spot for the summer 2024 service now and ensure a memorable visit to these breathtaking locations.

Or, explore the captivating destinations of Golden or Revelstoke in British Columbia along the route. These locations in BC boast some of Canada's most stunning waterfalls, lakes, and trails. For accommodation suggestions, explore our diverse properties listed on Dive into our additional blog posts for more insights on must-see sights and the best activities to make your journey unforgettable.

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