Everything you need to know about doing Banff by bus.
On-It recently launched their Calgary to Banff weekend bus service. Running until September 4 the pilot project is hoping to ease the traffic congestion and parking conundrum at Banff National Park. While it’s obviously a great option for people without cars, even those with cars should consider giving it a shot.
At $10 per ride it’s a cheap option for anyone looking to make a solo trip and is substantially cheaper than the Greyhound, the other longstanding bus option. Tickets can be booked online but can also be bought on the bus if seats are still available. If you’re tentative about a time it shows you how many tickets are left for each one so you can decide whether or not to chance it. Kids under the age of 5 are free, although still need a reservation if they’re old enough to require their own seat.
Catch the bus in Calgary at either the Somerset Bridlewood Train Station or Crowfoot Station. Both LRT stations have plenty of room in their park and ride on the weekends. Select buses also stop in Okotoks, Cochrane and Canmore.
The bus is substantially more comfortable than a Greyhound so you can easily sleep (headphones recommended), work and eat( technically not supposed to but everyone does). There’s plenty of storage space below so feel free to bring your luggage along, however bikes are not allowed.
The bus will drop you off right at Banff Train Station and Banff High School. From the Banff Train Station you can head to Lake Louise on a free Parks Canada shuttle running hourly. A nice coach bus takes you to Lake Louise Village where you then get off and grab a cheese wagon to the top. From the Banff Train Station you can also catch a free shuttle to Norquay departing every hour.
From Banff High School you can catch any of the Roam, Banff’s local bus system buses for free when you show your On It Ticket. Route 1 takes you to Sulfur Mountain, Route 2 goes to Tunnel Mountain and Route 4 goes to Cave and Basin. The 3 buses all come by every 1/2 hour to 40 minutes with a digital display showing real time information. Route 6 goes to Lake Minnewanka and also stops at Cascade Ponds, Johnson Lake Road and Two Jack Lake. It only runs once every hour but an additional Parks shuttle runs the opposite way so your wait time should only be around a half hour. There is also conveniently a public washroom and water fountain right by the high school so you don’t have to worry about lugging around too much water.
On-It, Roam and Parks Canada have made busing to and in Banff almost as smooth of an experience as you can make it. While bussing does slow you down a bit and you do need to be more time conscious in order to catch the buses, the system is very well organized, has lots of signage and has lots of friendly staff to assist you. Most of the Roam buses and park shuttles run frequently enough and early and late enough to accommodate your hiking needs. The one exception to this is Lake Louise where the bus only runs every hour and the shuttle shuts down at 6.
If you can make do with the slight inconvenience of bussing, the limited number of destinations and the inability to transport your bike with you Banff by bus is a viable option. For anyone that gets aggravated looking for parking spots that may or may not exist, anyone that doesn’t like driving or anyone that is environmentally conscious taking the bus is highly recommended.