Want to Go to Banff? Stay in Canmore! (And Save)

Aerial view of Canmore

If you want to spend your vacation in Banff National Park, it seems to make sense to stay in the town of Banff. It has many hotels and the town itself is exciting and entertaining. However, I advise you to bed down in Canmore. It’s cheaper, has lots of amenities, and is very close to the park entrance. 

The headline of this article may seem a bit contentious, but some good arguments support this stance. The most important ones you’ve already read. To find out the details, keep reading. It may help you make the right decision when you’re about to book your vacation or stay in (or near) Banff National Park.  

Canmore Is Cheaper

This is the most important reason for staying in Canmore. It is valid for groceries (slightly cheaper), gas, restaurants, you name it. And yes, also for its plentiful hotels, although hotel prices in Canmore are still quite steep because of its vicinity to Banff. But if you’re staying in the area for a week or longer, you can easily save hundreds of dollars on accommodation.  

Besides, why pay a premium price in Banff, where many hotels are old and dated? Yes, the Fairmont Banff Springs is stunning and situated in gorgeous surroundings, but its prices in the high season will set you back as much as CAD 800 per night. Not to mention the prices for the hotel’s suites. In short: If price is your primary consideration, Canmore is your best bet.

If you want to compare Canmore’s hotels to Banff’s, check out the comprehensive post that lists most Banff, Canmore, and Lake Louise hotels.

Canmore Has Everything You Need

Canmore is a town of nearly 15,000 residents with many amenities you need for a town this size. It’s quite a bit bigger than Banff (which has almost 10,000 residents), so it also has lots of restaurants, bars, and shops besides many hotels.

Canmore Has Similar Scenery

Just like Banff, Canmore is situated in the Bow Valley and was built along the shores of the Bow River. It’s surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, its scenery is similarly gorgeous to Banff’s. Sure, the backdrop of Banff is more beautiful (if you ask me), but Canmore is still a stunning place to stay and a beautiful place to explore, with the iconic Three Sisters as its most prominent landmark.  

Canmore Offers lots of Outdoor Possibilities

Because of its location in the Rocky Mountains, Canmore is perfectly suited for many outdoor activities. Think of hiking, cycling, snowshoeing, kayaking, cross country skiing, ice skating, dogsledding, you name it. And because it’s not as touristy as Banff National Park you’ll probably encounter fewer tourists on your explorations of the area.

Downtown Canmore
Downtown Canmore

Canmore Has its Own Charm

Canmore has its own characteristic downtown area. Go visit the center and take in the atmosphere, which is very different than Banff’s – although it can still be quite busy in high season, it’s not nearly as busy – and there are lots of things to see and do. The town’s center still has a bit of a frontier vibe, which is cool. If you’re looking for a nice place to have lunch or dinner, stroll through 8th or 9th street and you’ll find many good options.  

Parking in Canmore Is Much Easier

Parking in Canmore is relatively easy, making it a pleasant town to drive around and explore. Banff, on the contrary, is a parking nightmare. Good luck finding a vacant parking place if you take your car to downtown Banff. And if you manage to do so, there’s a short maximum duration in many locations. Nothing like that in Canmore.    

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Your Banff Experience

Canmore is just outside the park gates (5.3 km or 3.29 mi from the center of town) so staying in Canmore is a perfect base for exploring Banff National Park. The town of Banff is only 25 kilometers (15.5 mi) or a 25-minute drive away from Canmore. Lake Louise is located at a still not too distant 85 km (67,58 mi). 

Even if you don’t have a car during your stay in Canmore, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. There’s a bus service between Canmore and Banff and Lake Louise that runs daily (see Roam Transit’s website for more information). You can even cycle to Banff over the 22.3 km (13.83 mi) Banff Legacy Trail, built in honor of the park’s 125th birthday in 2010.  

So no, there’s no reason to sacrifice your Banff experience when you’re staying in Canmore.  

Recommend reading: want to know about other cool destinations beyond the park’s boundaries read the post dedicated to this subject.

What Does Banff Have that Canmore Doesn’t?

Well, this question cannot be left unanswered, now can it? Of course there are good reasons for staying in Banff. I’ve listed some of them below.

Banff’s location is more convenient. Distances are shorter as Banff is close to the park’s border. So staying in Banff means you’re closer to all kinds of world-famous attractions like Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Peyto Lake and the Icefields Parkway, just to name a few.

• One of the most obvious things Banff has and Canmore doesn’t is its gorgeous setting. The location is exceptionally picturesque, its beauty is unparalleled and it feels much more like a mountain town. In general it is just more attractive. It has a more adventurous spirit to it, if you will. 

Sure, Canmore’s setting is beautiful too, but it’s built along the sides of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) in a wide valley. This highway splits the town in two which doesn’t make for the prettiest setting. Because of the town’s locals vibe, it feels more like your ordinary commuter’s town.   

• The compact size of Banff makes it perfect for exploring on foot. Getting around is a breeze. Getting around Canmore on foot is a whole different ballgame. It’s too big for that.

• Banff has many more bars and restaurants than Canmore, making it easy to find a cuisine to your liking and always set in beautiful surroundings. 

• Banff has a higher density of shops, like clothing and outdoors shops, although quite a substantial part is gift shops. 

• Banff is bustling and has an exciting vibe that you can’t find in Canmore. Though this obviously is a matter of preference. I must say I like it very much. Others might find it a bit too much. 

• Banff has more museums and galleries to enjoy the region’s history and art. 

• Banff has the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which has many interesting plays and musical performances on the program.  

If you want to get an idea of Banff hotel prices, I recommend reading the post I wrote about how much a hotel in Banff costs on average at different times of the year.


As a former Banffite, I love writing about my favorite part of the world. I keep coming back to enjoy the park's mesmerising beauty. It never fails to impress me. With my extensive knowledge of the area, I aim to provide you with the best information on Banff that you can find on the internet.

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