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Established back in 1885, Banff National Park was the first-ever national park in Canada. This sprawling mountain paradise sits along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and is home to unmatched natural attractions, from pristine lakes to towering glacial peaks. The breathtaking wilderness along the highways leading to the center of town makes for a scenic road trip to Banff.
The park extends across 2,564 square miles, 96% of which is wilderness. Considering its size, the “stayable” areas here are too far apart. This is exactly why it’s a good idea to stay somewhere that fits your definition of a perfect holiday. Some spots here are best for shopping and dining, some for hiking, and some for relaxing.
Your primary choice of hotels, though, is obviously the town of Banff itself, but there is more to exploring the national park than just the town! You can find several other great choices nearby that offer a change of scenery, and if you want to maximize your visit, you should definitely consider staying in a few areas.
Here are my top recommendations for where to stay in Banff; perfect for all kinds of travelers, whether you want to spend time in the wilderness or enjoy a luxurious stay in the mountains.
What are the Best Areas to Stay in Banff National Park?
When looking for Banff National Park hotels, there are five main areas you should check out.
The first and easily the most obvious choice is the town of Banff. It’s right in the national park and is a vibrant town to stay in. There are dozens of fun things to do in Banff, including amazing tours, cafes, breweries, gondola rides, and stores. It’s like any other resort town with a decent collection of shops and restaurants and lively nightlife.
You also have Lake Louise located north of Banff town but still within the boundaries of Banff National Park. This is a smaller mountain village but is equally stunning.
There are also a few accommodation options along the Bow Valley Parkway and Icefields Parkway. If you’re after a peaceful cabin escape, choose Bow Valley. But if you’re on your way to Jasper and want a remote stay, the Icefields Parkway is the way to go. Luckily, there are lots of options when it comes to deciding where to stay on the Icefields Parkway.
For tourists traveling on a tight budget, consider booking a room in Canmore. This town is just outside of the national park and has more hotel options. The accommodations are budget-friendly, too, and you’ll be close to plenty of shops and restaurants.
Can’t decide which one to pick? Keep reading to learn more about these areas, including the best hotels in each area for all budgets!
About Staying in Banff Town
Banff town is easily the most popular and common choice when deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. Serving as the entranceway to the national park, the town is perfect for first-time visitors wanting to commune with nature.
Mt. Rundle and Mt. Cascade dominate the landscape of Banff, local wildlife frequents the main street early in the mornings, and you’ll have access to endless hiking trails and outdoor activities – including some of the best wildlife tours.
But this isn’t to say that Banff is more wilderness than modern. In fact, the town itself is a spirited place full of fun and excitement. The downtown area is dotted with high-class shops, restaurants, bars, and even art galleries and museums. There are a plethora of hotels you can choose from in downtown Banff, too, but expect them to be a bit pricey.
Advantages to staying in Banff Town:
- Lots of cafes and delicious restaurants
- Lots of hotels
- Most amenities are within walking distance
- Lots of things to do in Banff town itself – near ski resorts, some hikes
- Vibrant nightlife
Disadvantages of staying in Banff Town:
- Hotels aren’t the best value for money
- Limited parking
- Can be busy, so not the most peaceful stay
- Far from some popular attractions like Lake Louise and Lake Moraine
- Need a Parks Canada Pass for the duration of your stay
3 BEST Hotels in Banff Town
The below three hotels are the best hotels in Banff National Park if you want to actually stay in Banff town!
$$$ – The Fairmont Banff Springs
You must stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel if you actually want an experience AND a hotel, all in one. This lavish hotel is actually an 1888 Scottish castle that has been designated as a National Historic Site and turned into a luxury hotel.
The Fairmont is Banff National Park’s most prestigious hotel, including a variety of restaurants on-site as well as several activities. Bowling, tennis, and swimming in the huge lap pool are just some of the many amenities available to guests. They don’t cut corners when it comes to details either – the rooms are carefully designed with guest comfort in mind, while still maintaining the original architecture of the castle.
The location is close enough to town to walk, but a complimentary hotel shuttle is also available. The views from most of the rooms are also breathtaking. You’ll also be close to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, which are a must-see during your vacation to Banff in the winter. This hotel really transports you to a different time with its old-world charm and luxury.
The Fairmont is also well-known for hosting a variety of events. If you’re visiting Banff around the holidays, make sure to take advantage of the hotel’s many family-friendly events, like their famous gingerbread house display or the Santa Claus Parade.
The Fairmont Banff Springs is definitely the most expensive hotel on this list, but it’s worth every penny. It’s perfect for those who want to be treated like royalty or those who are visiting Banff on a honeymoon! Room rates start at $549 CAD per night for a standard room with a queen-sized bed. The rates can be less expensive in the off-season, such as the fall in Banff, depending on what time of year you’re in Banff.
You can check availability and book your stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs on Booking.com.
$$ – Banff Inn
Because of its reasonable prices, great rating, and excellent facilities, I’ve chosen the Banff Inn as the “best value” hotel in Banff town. This hotel has everything you could possibly need without the added costs of all the extras. We really loved the cozy cabin feel of our room, and the staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful. The Inn is also located in a great spot – just a short 10-minute walk from downtown Banff and all of the shops and restaurants.
The rooms are spacious, and the staff is friendly. The enormous hot tub is ideal for unwinding on a cold winter day, and the location is ideal for getting into town easily to join winter tours or summer activities. On-site amenities include a sauna, restaurant (Carlito’s Pizzeria), and bar. They also provide complimentary underground parking, which is great because parking in Banff town can be expensive and limited!
This hotel is also ideal for families, as the regular room has two queen beds and can accommodate up to four people. The rooms also have air conditioning, which is essential for Banff’s hot summer days. In addition, you can use their ski storage in the winter in between your snowboarding and skiing adventures.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Banff town that won’t break the bank, but will still give you everything you need, The Banff Inn is certainly the greatest choice for you. It’s the perfect comfortable but reasonable place to stay in Banff!
The rooms at Banff Inn start at $132 CAD per night for a standard room with a queen-sized bed.
You can check availability and book the Banff Inn online here – they often are fully booked so you should book in advance.
$ – Samesun Banff
The Samesun Banff is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a budget hotel in Banff. Rooms start at less than $180 CAD per night and include a private bathroom, a small balcony, and free parking. They also offer dorm rooms, which are perfect for budget travelers/backpackers and especially those traveling solo.
The location is great for strolling to many of the sights and activities in the area, since it is located in the center of Banff.
However, the incredible price tag does come with a few trade-offs. There is no onsite pool, and the rooms lack air conditioning (which isn’t usually a problem in Banff but is worth mentioning). Because the on-site bar may get rather chaotic and loud, this may not be the greatest place to stay for light sleepers. That all being said, the reviews of this hotel are incredible for the price and there is a reason it is almost always booked full months in advance!
This hotel is a great choice for those who just want a place to crash after a long day of exploring Banff National Park. If you’re looking for more of a party scene, this is also a great choice since it’s right in the heart of the action.
The Samesun Banff starts at $175 CAD per night with dorms starting at as low as $28 CAD.
About Staying in Lake Louise
Sitting off the Trans-Canada Highway, just 40 miles northwest of Banff town, the small village of Lake Louise is unlike any other you’ll see in the Banff National Park. This hamlet is framed by the towering Victoria Glacier with the turquoise water of Lake Louise in the middle, giving you that iconic blue glacial backdrop for your photos.
Although tiny, Lake Louise is packed with all the establishments you can find in any other regular-sized town. There’s a small shopping center, bakery, grocery store, deli, bar, and a wide array of restaurants. You can’t miss the Lake Louise Ski Resort, too, which is one of the reasons why tourists flock to the area.
Being close to the mountains and the lake, the village offers visitors a slew of activities all year long. Go paddling in the lake in the summer and dog sledding in the snow in the winter. Crowds of winter sports enthusiasts also visit the village for snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing.
With so many things to do in the area, Lake Louise is one of the best choices if you still don’t know where to stay in Banff National Park. It’s also a great base if you’re planning to explore the nearby Moraine Lake, which is only a 15-minute drive away from Lake Louise Village.
Advantages of staying in Lake Louise:
- Beautiful location
- Close to Moraine Lake (easier to find a way to get there since parking is no longer allowed)
- Close to the world-renowned Lake Louise Ski Resort
- More tranquil than Banff town
- Has lots of restaurants, cafes, and shops in the village
Disadvantages of staying in Lake Louise:
- Limited accommodation options
- Most hotels are expensive
- Can be very busy during the day when tour buses come to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake
- Limited parking
- No real “vibe” in town
- No nightlife
3 BEST Hotels in Lake Louise
The below 3 hotels are the best hotels if you want to stay in Lake Louise in Banff National Park.
$$$ – Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
There isn’t a more lavish alpine accommodation in Banff National Park than Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. An AAA four-diamond resort on the shores of Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau will spoil you with all the luxuries during your stay.
As soon as you step into the property, you will be welcomed with lavish grand spaces and exquisite decor. Your brightly lit room is just as elegant and comes complete with cable TV, a coffee maker, and large windows with gorgeous views of Lake Louise and the Bow Valley mountain range. Select rooms are styled with extra facilities like a bar fridge and in-room pay movies to complement the experience.
Beyond the comforts of the room, I love how the Fairmont Chateau makes it easy to enjoy the great outdoors. They have a so-called “Mountain Adventure Program,” where you will be taken on a scenic walk around Lake Louise or to the lookout point. The guides are fully accredited and very friendly, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy exploring the local flora and fauna. If you prefer to do it yourself, you can always venture out into the many hiking or ski trails nearby.
Back on the property, you can spend some downtime in the lobby that features panoramic views of the Victoria Glacier. The luxurious body scrub and facial at the in-house spa is also a great way to rejuvenate.
But to really refuel your body, I suggest dropping by one of the hotel’s seven restaurants. Yes, you’ve read that right. There are seven dining choices right on the property! You have the Fairview Bar and Restaurant, where elegant dishes are served; the Lakeview Lounge, where you can sip your favorite cocktail; the Walliser Stube, where you can dig into European alpine cuisine; the Alpine Social which features gourmet comfort food; the Lago Italian Kitchen that serves Italian dishes; The Guide’s Pantry, where you can enjoy some fresh salads; and the Ice Bar that will quench your thirst for mulled wine.
In-room dining is readily available, too, should you like to enjoy your meals in private.
Rooms at Fairmont Chateau start at $600 CAD to $1,200 CAD for double occupancy. You can check availability and book the Fairmont Chateau on Booking.com.
$$ – Lake Louise Inn
Lake Louise Inn is the mountain retreat you want to stay in if you’re after an elevated experience in the wilderness. This rustic hotel is nestled just a 9-minute drive away from Lake Louise in the heart of Lake Louise Village and offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, something that had me sold from the get-go.
All of the 247 guest rooms here are modernly appointed with the comforts of a standard hotel: flat-screen TV, telephone, coffee maker, and Wi-Fi. However, I strongly recommend booking a room with a balcony, so you can maximize the stunning mountain views. Some of the more luxurious rooms also come with a kitchen, fireplace, and jet tubs!
The best part of the rooms at the Lake Louise Inn, though, is the fact that most of them are open to dogs! You won’t have to leave your four-legged baby behind anymore, and they, too, can enjoy the Canadian Rockies in style.
Speaking of enjoyment, the property prides itself on its high-end on-site amenities that are sure to refuel you after a day of exploring the outdoors. My favorite is definitely the heated indoor pool and whirlpools. Although they are inside a building, there are large floor-to-ceiling windows by the pool so you can still take in the beauty of nature. For guests who like to stay active, complimentary bikes and snowshoe rentals are available, and the fitness center is open 24 hours a day.
You won’t run out of meal options at Lake Louise Inn, too, with its three on-site restaurants. There’s the Legends Restaurant ready to serve you a filling Canadian lunch. If you’re after a more casual setting, head to the Timberwolf Pizza Cafe and Explorers Lounge, where you can dig into local favorites like The Rocky Mountain pizza and burger specials. I wouldn’t want to miss the live entertainment at the Explorers Lounge every Saturday night, too.
Lake Louise Inn features ten different room types with rates starting at $127 to $542 CAD a night. You can check availability and book your stay on Booking.com.
$ – HI Hostel Lake Louise
If you’re still figuring out where to stay in Banff National Park that puts you close to Lake Louise on a budget, check out HI Lake Louise Alpine Center. This hostel is just eight minutes by car to the gorgeous lake and easily walkable from some of the best local trails in the area. It’s located in the center of Lake Louise Village but is surrounded by hiking trails and trees.
While you can find several establishments around HI Lake Louise, you really wouldn’t need to leave the property unless it’s for an outdoor adventure. You see, the hostel has all of the amenities you might need for a comfortable stay. There’s a cozy common room, complete with a TV, fireplace, and large windows. You can spend some downtime in the library, too.
If you’re like me who loves to really relax after a day out in the wilderness, you’ll be happy to know that the hostel has an in-house sauna! You can also find a cafe/restaurant and two self-catering kitchens on the property.
When it comes to the rooms, there are shared rooms (which can either be women-only, men-only, or mixed-gender) and private rooms. If you’re visiting with your family, make sure to book the family loft rooms, which are much more spacious and sleep up to 6 people.
About Staying on the Bow Valley Parkway
When deciding where to stay in Banff National Park that’s away from the crowds, the Bow Valley Parkway is an excellent choice. This 48-km (30 miles) stretch of road is a secluded spot halfway between Banff and Lake Louise and runs parallel to the TransCanada with the Bow River.
Driving down Bow Valley Parkway is the perfect way to unwind as you’ll be met with gorgeous views of Morant’s Curve and Castle Mountain and lots of chances to see wildlife in Banff. This route also gives visitors access to several must-try snowshoes, bike trails, and cross-country ski tracks.
Unfortunately, accommodations are limited in this area, but you’ll get a decent collection of cabin and bungalow rentals lining the parkway.
Advantages to staying on the Bow Valley Parkway:
- Very quiet, beautiful area
- Not busy
- Near popular attractions like Johnston Canyon and Morant’s Curve
- On the road between Banff and Lake Louise, so easy access to both
- Hotels feature log cabins and a peaceful wilderness escape from busy towns
Disadvantages of staying on the Bow Valley Parkway:
- Limited hotels
- Limited restaurants and services
- Expensive hotels and food
- No “vibe”
The Best Hotels on the Bow Valley Parkway
If you’re looking for a quiet stay in Banff National Park, these next three hotels on the Bow Valley Parkway are the perfect choice!
$$$ – Baker Creek by Basecamp
This unique resort gets our number one spot for an ideal location for exploring the area! Why? Well, although Baker Creek by Basecamp is about a 40-minute drive from Banff town, it is centrally located in Banff National Park with access to some of the best attractions in the area.
The Johnston Canyon Valley Walk is only 20 minutes away, Lake Louise Ski Resort is 15 minutes away, and Sunshine Village is 40 minutes away. It is set out in nature among some incredible views. There are tons of hikes, waterfalls, and viewpoints to explore along this stretch of road that connects Lake Louise with Banff.
In terms of the actual hotel, it has rave reviews. Not only for its beautiful and unique location but also for the services and comfort they offer. Staying in a rustic-style lodge in the middle of the forest is an experience on its own, but the hotel doesn’t sacrifice comfort.
Rooms are all fitted with fireplaces as well as kitchenettes. They have a highly rated bistro onsite serving Canadian specialties like Bison ribs.
Baker Creek also goes above and beyond offering amazing experiences for guests such as horseback riding in Banff during the summer and ice skating in the winter! Have a fire outside, or enjoy the sauna!
When it comes to choosing the ideal accommodation in Banff National Park, this hotel is definitely worth considering for your upcoming trip! Room rates begin at $218 CAD during the low season.
You can check availability and book Baker Creek by Basecamp on Booking.com
$$$ – Castle Mountain Chalets
Castle Mountain Chalets are located right in the middle of the Bow Valley Parkway. This makes it a great spot to stay in the national park surrounded by wilderness but still just a short drive from popular attractions.
You can stay in a spacious, individual chalet with a rustic and cozy feel to it. The chalets were originally built back in 1939 and staying in one will make you feel like you stepped back in time. That’s not to say these chalets aren’t luxurious, though, because they totally are! Each chalet comes equipped with a full kitchen, fireplace, and stunning mountain views.
Winter or summer, Castle Mountain Chalets is a beautiful place to stay. Just be warned, a place this spectacular doesn’t come cheap and you can expect to pay between $150-575 CAD per night depending on the season that you visit. However, when compared with other hotels in Banff National Park, this is a reasonable price to pay for such a unique and beautiful place.
If you’re just passing through, there’s also a General Store and gas station located here to stock up on snacks and fuel (it is pricey, though, so if you can fuel up before starting your road trip, do so.)
You can check availability and book Castle Mountain Chalets online here on Booking.com.
$ – HI Castle Mountain
For outdoorsy people who want to experience the wilderness but still enjoy some modern comforts, HI Castle Mountain is one of the best Banff National Park hotels.
This hostel is located halfway between Banff and Lake Louise, just off the quiet highway of Bow Valley Parkway. Aside from being one of the best areas to spot wildlife, the property also offers views of the stunning Castle Mountain and quick access to Rockbound Lake Trail (about 50m away).
After a day of adventure, you can retreat to the hostel’s cozy common room. I like that it has big bay windows to easily see the wildlife passing by and a wood-burning fireplace for those chilly days. Unfortunately, you won’t find any shops or restaurants within walking distance, but you can always cook your meals in the self-catering kitchen and BBQ area.
The rooms at HI Castle Mountain are all shared and have comfy bedding plus ample storage for your belongings. A night’s stay here costs about $28 CAD – one of the cheapest places to stay in all of Banff National Park!
About Staying in Canmore
Canmore is a small mountain town that is a great place to base yourself to explore Banff National Park. It is technically not in the Banff National Park, but it’s very close (about a 20-minute drive southeast). Because it’s not in the park itself, it has more town amenities like large chain supermarkets, shops, and restaurants.
Just like Banff, Canmore is characterized by massive rocky mountain ranges. But what Banff lacks that Canmore has is accessibility to not just one national park, but also a state park! This mountain town is flanked by the Banff National Park to the north and the Kananaskis Region to the east.
This makes Canmore the perfect base as you won’t run out of things to do and see here. You’ll find lots of easy hikes in Canmore as well as restaurants, cafes, and breweries. Plus, there are tons of hotels in Canmore to choose from!
While hotels are still pretty pricey, the quality is generally better than Banff and gets you more bang for your buck. The accommodations here are also more updated, and you’ll have plenty of places to choose from. So if you’re on a budget but still want to be as close as possible to Banff, Canmore is one of the best areas to stay in Banff National Park.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about renting a car to get to and from Banff since Banff’s local bus #3 runs through Canmore.
Advantages of staying in Canmore:
- Better quality hotels than Banff
- More accommodations to choose from
- Have some good budget-friendly hotels
- A fun town with good nightlife
- Lots of restaurants
- Beautiful mountain views
- You don’t need a Parks Canada Pass in Canmore
Disadvantages of staying in Canmore:
- Not actually in the national park (a 20-minute drive from Banff)
- Can be busy
- Not a super peaceful town
3 BEST Hotels in Canmore
If you think Canmore is the right place for you, check out the 3 hotels in Canmore that are our personal favorites!
$$$ – The Malcolm Hotel
Combining luxury, peace, and mountain views in a beautiful creekside setting, The Malcolm Hotel is exactly the kind of hotel you want to stay in for an extravagant escapade in the Canadian Rockies. It’s just five minutes on foot from Canmore’s main street, so you’re always a quick walk away from the restaurants and shops.
But beyond the convenient location, what really had me sold is the property’s top-notch amenities. As soon as you walk into the lounge, you’ll be met with an interior inspired by the pageantry of the previous Scottish King, Malcolm III.
There’s a lovely heated pool and hot tubs outside, where you can float all day while enjoying the 180-degree view of the Three Sisters Mountain range and Mount Lawrence Grassi. More stunning views await you in the rooftop fire pit and open-air mezzanine. But if you feel like lazing around, the Highland Games Lounge is open to entertaining you with books and board games. There’s even a poker table, pool table, and foosball here.
For outdoor enthusiasts, The Malcolm Hotel has a full-service concierge for your itinerary needs. They can plan your day for you in the Canmore area or help you host a special occasion.
Although the property is really close to dozens of restaurants, you really wouldn’t need to leave as the hotel has everything covered for you. I personally loved the Stirling Lounge which has private booths, Scottish-inspired dishes, and craft beer, but the Sterling Grill is also a must-try, mainly because of the live-action chef station in the dining area and the iconic mountain views. If you’re visiting in the summer, you’d love the Creekside Patio, which lets you wine and dine in the sun with the majestic views of Spring Creek in the distance.
Naturally, The Malcolm Hotel’s 124 rooms are just as elegant as the rest of the property. You have all the modern amenities like a flat-screen TV, coffee machine, wet bar with mini-fridge, air conditioning, and rain shower. Every unit also has stunning views of the Policeman’s Creek and Lady MacDonald Mountain Range or the Three Sisters Mountain Range, but to elevate the experience, I recommend booking the rooms with a furnished balcony.
Rates here start at $279 to $457 CAD per night. You can check availability for The Malcom Hotel and book on Booking.com.
$$ – Coast Canmore Hotel
Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre is our absolute favorite place to stay in Canmore. It is affordable without sacrificing any of the comforts you’ll need for a relaxing and enjoyable stay – suitable for almost all travelers and budgets. They have an onsite pool, hot tub, and fitness center, along with a delicious bar and restaurant (Table Food + Drink.)
Coast Canmore Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Canmore within walking distance from 8 Street (Main Street in Canmore), and just across the road from the Canmore Shops where you have a selection of restaurants, cafes, and takeaway places. One of our favorite things to do is order pizza from Rocket Pie Pizza and bring it back to our room at the Coast.
Oh, and did I mention the views from the hotel windows are breathtaking! You get a direct view of the Three Sisters Mountain range from almost anywhere in the hotel.
This is an excellent choice for those looking for a central location, comfortable rooms, and affordable rates. Because of its location, this hotel also offers some of the best views in Canmore!
This is one of the most affordably priced hotels in Canmore, with rates starting at just $130 CAD per night.
You can check availability for Coast Canmore Hotel easily on Booking.com. Be sure to book as far in advance as possible because these guys are usually fully booked!
$ – Canmore Downtown Hostel
Canmore Downtown Hostel is one of the best hostels to stay in Canmore (and all of Banff National Park) as it puts you close to the town amenities. The property itself is in The Shops of Canmore, so shopping and dining are made easy. It’s also right next door to the Calgary Airport Shuttle and the Banff/Canmore Shuttles stop and just a block away from the Elevation Place Recreation Center.
Apart from putting you in the middle of the action, Canmore Downtown Hostel also makes sure that your stay is as comfortable as possible. It doesn’t have a restaurant in-house, but you’ll have access to a shared full kitchen for the days you don’t feel like eating out. I also loved hanging out in the airy lounge, where you’ll be surrounded by lush foliage and mountain views.
For the rooms, the property offers two types: dorm and private. Both types are modestly appointed with night lights, outlets with USB ports, and cozy comforters. I like that the dorm rooms here aren’t very stuffy and are actually pretty airy with big windows bringing in some natural lighting.
Rates for a bed in the dorm room start at $35 CAD per night, while the private rooms cost $198 CAD to $220 CAD. You can check the availability for Canmore Downtown Hostel on Booking.com or Hostelworld.
About Staying on the Icefields Parkway
If you’re on a road trip to Jasper or just looking for a super quiet, secluded stay in Banff National Park, the Icefields Parkway or Hwy 93 is the way to go. It’s a 232-km double-lane stretch running from Lake Louise to the town of Jasper.
But the convenience of getting to Jasper isn’t the only thing that makes this highway one of the best areas to stay in Banff National Park. You see, the Icefields Parkway is deemed to be among the most scenic roads in the world. With every turn, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of ancient glaciers, mountain peaks, rock spires, and turquoise lakes. Driving down Icefields Parkway is definitely an experience in itself.
Since it’s practically in the middle of nowhere, staying in a hotel along this highway means you’ll enjoy nothing but peace and quiet. It’s also a good break from the journey from Lake Louise to Jasper and will get you closer to nature.
Advantages to staying on the Icefields Parkway:
- Quiet, beautiful location
- Have some good budget-friendly options
- Good location for those making their way to Jasper
- Peaceful, nature escape with most places not having cellphone reception or any modern amenities
- Parks Canada Pass is required to be on the Icefields Parkway
Disadvantages of staying on the Icefields Parkway:
- Very limited hotel choices, especially in the luxury range
- Far from restaurants and services
- Limited cell phone service
The Best Hotels on the Icefields Parkway
If you want an epic place to stay on the Icefields Parkway, these next hotels are the best options for any budget!
$$$ – Glacier View Lodge
The Glacier View Lodge provides more than just accommodation; it offers guests a worthwhile experience. Located in the high alpine zone, this boutique hotel is exactly where you want to stay in Banff if you’re after a premium holiday or want to be close to some of the top tours on the Icefields Parkway.
The rooms here are very cozy, elegantly designed, and appointed with a Nespresso machine, TV, seating area, and free high-speed Wi-Fi. Whichever one you pick, though, you’ll be treated to a stunning view of either the Rocky Mountains or the Athabasca Glacier right from your bedroom window.
If you really want to make the most out of your stay, you’d want to book the Glacier View Rooms, which are more spacious. And of course, the vista of the glacier in these rooms is simply magnificent.
However, the really jaw-dropping views of the glacier can be seen right in the hotel’s lounge. With the lounge’s floor-to-ceiling window, you’ll get to see the whole postcard-worthy scenery. I assure you that the photos you’ll take here will be the stars of your Instagram feed.
The Viewing Deck is also one of my favorite spots in the hotel. You can really enjoy the sparkling night sky on the deck, which is perfect and romantic if you’re on your honeymoon.
As for dining, there are two options available in the hotel: the Altitude Restaurant and the Chalet. At the Altitude, you can enjoy Canadian cuisine while taking in the beautiful glacial views that wrap around the restaurant. On the other hand, the Chalet is more of casual self-serve dining, featuring a variety of freshly prepared hot dishes.
There are two ways to stay at the Glacier View Lodge. You can book the rooms only starting at $399 CAD per night or you can go for the Columbia Icefield Guided Experience. It’s a package that comes complete with a guided evening tour on the Columbia Icefield Skywalk and a guided morning tour on the Athabasca Glacier with a hot beverage for an additional average of $210 CAD per person per night.
You can check availability for the Glacier View Lodge and book your stay on Booking.com.
$$ – The Crossing
Don’t know where to stay in Banff National Park but want to be close to the must-see sights of The Icefields Parkway? Then The Crossing Resort is worth looking into. It’s located at the halfway point on the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper.
It is a rustic motel but with a modern feel, sitting at the foot of Mt. Wilson and within a half-hour drive from many of the area’s major attractions. While its alpine setting is already a valuable feature, what really made me fall in love with The Crossing is its unmatched mountain vistas that make for a superb photo backdrop.
You can get a glimpse of these stunning mountain views right from your room’s semi-private deck. Speaking of the guestrooms, they are all modernly appointed with a satellite TV, fridge, and coffee maker. But to elevate the experience, I recommend staying in the exclusive suite, where you get a living room with a pull-out queen bed, a separate dining area, and a bathroom with a jacuzzi tub.
The Crossing will also spoil you with its unparalleled amenities. The first on the list is the Parkway Pub, known as the Icefields Parkways’ most popular pub. Here, you can drink your favorite beer while enjoying the picturesque view of Mt. Murchison and Mt. Sarbach. If you’re visiting from mid-June to mid-September, don’t pass up the chance to participate in the pub’s little event, where you get to grill your own entrée of choice!
If you prefer eating somewhere more relaxed, The Crossing features another on-site dining option, the Mt. Wilson Restaurant. Enjoy an expansive all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner buffet here, on top of an a la carte menu and bar in the evenings. You can also find more dish choices at the Crossing Cafe, which serves box lunches and picnic essentials.
Other amenities available on the property are the hotel’s General Store, Service Station, and RV Services.
A night’s stay here costs about $117 CAD to $230 CAD. You can check availability and book The Crossing Resort on Booking.com.
$ – HI-Mosquito Creek Hostel
If you deem yourself a true backpacker and adventure traveler, one of the best Banff National Park hotels for you is HI Mosquito Creek.
Tucked away in the heart of Banff National Park, about 20 minutes north of Lake Louise, HI Mosquito Creek is really isolated. You won’t find any other establishments within walking distance, and there’s no phone, electricity, or running water here. This makes this simple cabin the true definition of a rustic wilderness experience in the Canadian Rockies.
But while the hostel is out in the middle of nowhere, it still offers everything you might need to make your stay comfortable. You’ll have access to a fully equipped kitchen, complete with lighting and refrigeration (from solar panels), propane heating, and purified water. There’s a shared lounge to meet new friends and a backyard to enjoy the wilderness more.
The highlight of staying here, though, is the outdoor activities you can do. In the summer, you can go cycling and hiking on the trails, and in the winter, cross-country skiing and ice climbing are a must-try. When you return to the property, you can warm yourself up in the outdoor fire pit or spend the rest of the night relaxing in the wood-burning sauna.
When it’s finally time to retire for the night, you can choose from either shared dorms or private rooms. The guestrooms are all modestly appointed with wooden furniture and fresh linen, and rest assured you’re safe from bears.
Rates for a bed in the dorm room start at $30 CAD per night, while the family room starts at $135 CAD per night. You can check availability for HI Mosquito Creek and book your stay on Booking.com or Hostelworld.com.
Other Things to do While You’re in Banff
While planning your trip, there are so many incredible things to do in Banff. But with so much to choose from, it might feel overwhelming. So below, I’ve picked some of my favorite activities in the area to help you out!
- Hike Johnston Canyon – There are tons of amazing hikes in and around Banff, but I especially loved hiking Johnston Canyon and seeing its spectacular waterfalls. You can drive to the trailhead on your own or book a tour. This e-bike and hiking tour is excellent for those who want to combine both activities. Or if you just want transport, take the hop-on-hop-off bus that stops here. If you visit Johnston Canyon in winter, this Icewalk tour will show you ice formations and frozen falls!
- Visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – If you want to see more stunning lakes in the area, check out these two! Parking at Lake Louise can be tricky (and impossible at Moraine Lake!), so we’d recommend this Banff National Park Tour. You’ll get to visit Lake Louise as well as Moraine Lake in one go – with enough time to walk around, learn the local history, and snap postcard-worthy photos.
- Ride the Banff Gondola – If you want the best vantage point in town, ride up the Banff Gondola! You’ll climb 698 meters (2,292 feet) to the top of Sulphur Mountain where you’ll have a view of six different mountain ranges. Tickets do sell out in the busy season, so make sure to purchase yours ahead of time!
- Look for wildlife – Banff is home to some pretty incredible wildlife. You might just spot elk, bears, deer, foxes, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and more! The best chance you have of seeing the most critters is on a wildlife tour in Banff. We really liked this small group tour where the guides tailor the itinerary to recent wildlife spottings and you get to see highlights of the national park along the way.
- Explore Banff town – While many nature-based activities are nearby, you shouldn’t neglect Banff town itself! Start your morning by visiting one of the cute local cafes, or grab patio drinks along Banff Avenue in the afternoon. To avoid traffic, check out the pedestrian-only Bear Street, with even more restaurants, cafes, and shops. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a Farmers Market every Wednesday in the summertime.
Related Read: Planning a quick trip? Learn about how to spend one ideal day in Banff with our crafted itinerary!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass”Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
- Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $28 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Thanks for reading!
Banff National Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a scenic adventure in the wilderness. It’s so big that it covers over 2500 miles of land, but this is exactly what makes it a headache for people wanting to book a hotel in the area.
Hopefully, this post helped you narrow down the best places to stay in Banff, so you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest. We know you’ll love Banff just as much as we do!
Planning a trip to Banff or somewhere else in Canada? Stay a while and check out some of our other Canada blogs for some more travel inspiration!