The premium parking spaces within the Town of Banff and Lake Louise Lakeshore are no longer free. Not to worry, you can still find plenty of free parking in Banff and Lake Louise if you know where to look. In addition, there is plenty of amazing things to do in Banff with free parking.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Find Free Parking in Banff:
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Town of Banff Paid Parking Details
Paid Parking in Town of Banff
Visitors to the Town of Banff will need to pay for parking within the town centre. The rate for paid parking in Banff is be $5/hour in the summer and $4/hour in winter.
Where to Find Free Parking in Town of Banff
Even though the premium downtown Banff parking spaces will be paid parking, there are still many spaces to park for free in Banff. You can enjoy 9 hours of free parking in Banff at:
- The Train Station Public Parking Lot: this is the biggest free parking lot in Banff with 500 stalls. It’s a short, enjoyable 7-minute walk to downtown Banff or a 10-minute free shuttle (on weekends) to downtown’s main street.
- Bear Street Parkade: The ground floor parking spots in the Bear Street Parkade will be paid parking, but the remaining 187 stalls will be free downtown Banff parking. These 187 stalls are the Holy Grail of free Banff parking – they are in the heart of downtown Banff. Get there early or good luck!!
- Bow Avenue: There are 94 free parking spaces on Bow Avenue between Wolf Street and Buffalo Street. These coveted free Banff parking spots are only 2 minutes from downtown Banff’s main street.
This useful free parking map of Banff shows the location of the free parking spots in Banff.
Your best bet to find a free parking spot in the Town of Banff is to utilize their mobile-friendly parking website BanffParking.ca.
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Lake Louise Paid Parking Details
Paid Parking in Lake Louise
Due to extreme competition for parking at the Lake Louise Lakeshore parking lot, Parks Canada has implemented mandatory paid parking from May long weekend to mid-October. This Lake Louise paid parking permit is required from 7 am to 7 pm. The rate for paid parking in Lake Louise is $21 per vehicle per day.
Where to Find Free Parking in Lake Louise
It’s important to note that the paid parking in Lake Louise is only for the Lake Louise Lakeshore parking lot and is only in effect from May to October. From mid-October to mid-May, parking is free at the Lake Louise Lakeshore parking lot. There is very limited parking in the village of Lake Louise.
To visit Lake Louise Lakeshore, the best plan is to park at the FREE park and ride at the Lake Louise Ski Resort. Book a Parks Canada Lake Louise shuttle or a reservation through one of these other commercial operators:
- The Moraine Lake Bus Company offer shuttle service throughout the day to Moraine Lake with select time slots stopping at Lake Louise.
- The Radventures Early Bird Explorer tour offers a multi-hour sunrise tour of Moraine Lake that includes an early morning visit to Lake Louise.
- The WowBanff open-top double decker shuttle has an option to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake from the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
- The Hop On Banff bus offers a hop-on hop-off service in Banff. It makes stops at Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise Gondola, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. You don’t need to specify the time you want to leave, you just need a ticket for a specific day.
- Discover Banff Tours offers a Lake Louise and Moraine Lake Tour. As part of the tour, you will drive the Bow Valley Parkway to get from Banff to the stunning lakes. There are two departure times a day (8am & 1pm) for this 4.5 hour tour.
Alternatively, to get from Banff to Lake Louise, there is a regional bus that operates from Banff to Lake Louise (either express or scenic). Either Roam routes will take visitors to the village or right to the Lake Louise lakeshore, but the scenic Route 8S only operates in peak summer season.
Be aware that paid parking in Banff and Lake Louise does not include admission to Banff National Park. A valid Banff park pass is still required.
The 10 Best Things to do in Banff National Park with Free Parking
The reason we are starting to see paid parking in Banff is that the most popular attractions are over-crowded during the peak summer season. We think the best thing to do in Banff in peak season is to go somewhere else to get away from the crowds.
Here are the 10 best things to do in Banff National Park with free parking:
1. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is a popular day use area a 20-minute drive from the Town of Banff. A majestic mountain lake surrounded by Rocky Mountain peaks, Lake Minnewanka is one of the best spots to have a picnic in Banff.
You can also enjoy a beautiful lake cruise on Lake Minnewanka, or enjoy one of these stunning Lake Minnewanka hiking trails, such as the easy Stewart Canyon hike or the longer but very scenic hike along Lake Minnewanka lakeshore.
Being one of the most popular day use areas in Banff, Lake Minnewanka has a very large, free parking lot.
2. Johnson Lake
While Lake Minnewanka is known for strong winds, Johnson Lake is a better alternative for visitors to Banff looking to kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
Banff and Lake Louise are not the only two spots implementing paid parking – the ever-popular Quarry Lake in Canmore is also introducing paid parking. As Johnson Lake is an excellent alternative to Quarry Lake, you can expect this free Banff parking lot to fill up quickly!
3. Cascade Ponds
Sitting nearly 1.5km below the looming summit of Cascade Mountain, the Cascade Ponds are an incredibly scenic spot for a picnic in Banff.
Blessed with a very large, free parking lot, you’ll enjoy a nice walking trail through Cascade Ponds with half-moon bridges through the tranquil ponds. There’s an abundance of picnic tables, many of which have fire pits.
The Cascade Ponds are also an access point for several popular Banff cycling trails. From the Cascade Ponds you can ride your bike on the Banff Legacy Trail along a paved trail to the Town of Banff or all the way to Canmore. Another very popular option is to cycle the Minnewanka Loop from the free Cascade Ponds parking lot.
4. Two Jack Lake
Can you tell we love the beautiful lakes of Banff National Park? Two Jack Lake is a small offshoot from Lake Minnewanka, giving it a more intimate feel.
At Two Jack Lake you can enjoy a picnic, swimming, a hike along the lakeshore, kayaking and/or stand-up paddleboarding.
The parking lot at Two Jack Lake offers free parking, but it’s pretty small so have a back-up plan just in case.
5. Banff Hiking Trails
One of the many reasons Lake Louise is so popular is that many of Banff’s best hiking trails originate there. Thankfully, Banff National Park is a huge place with plenty of excellent hikes with free parking.
- Tunnel Mountain Trail: a short hike to the summit of a small mountain near the Town of Banff.
- Sulphur Mountain Trail: skip the Banff Gondola and hike to the summit of Sulphur Mountain instead. Hikers can enjoy all the Banff Gondola facilities at the top (except for a ride down).
- C Level Cirque Trail: a challenging hike up the western slopes of Cascade Mountain to an incredibly beautiful cirque. Along the way you’ll pass remnants of Banff’s old coal mining days.
- Boom Lake Trail: a long, but reasonably easy hike to a majestic Banff lake surrounded by majestic Rocky Mountain peaks.
- Castle Lookout Trail: a short hike up the southern slope of one of Banff’s most majestic mountains to an incredible viewpoint.
- Taylor Lake Trail: an enjoyable walk through the forest to a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. Taylor Lake is an especially nice larch tree hike in Banff.
- Bankhead Ghost Town: Enjoy a fascinating short walk through an abandoned coal mine complex in the Lake Minnewanka Loop.
6. Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The discovery of hot springs at the Cave and Basin site led to the creation of Banff, Canada’s first national park. Visitors to the Cave and Basin will walk through a narrow tunnel to see the mineral rich water in an atmospheric cave. Then spend some time watching the movies and learning from the interactive exhibits at the Visitor Centre.
There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy at the Cave and Basin as well. In addition to the many beautiful, easy hiking trails along the Bow River, we really enjoy the kid-friendly bike ride to Sundance Canyon.
Given the Cave & Basin is the birthplace of Canada’s national park system, it’s very popular and has a large free parking lot. If you are so inclined, it’s only a 2km (20 minute) walk from the Cave and Basin to downtown Banff.
7. Bow Falls
Short, wide and powerful, the Bow Falls are worth a quick visit while in Banff. Enjoy a short walk along the Bow River from the short-term free Banff parking lot to the Bow Falls.
While you are there, take a short walk up to explore around the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs, Canada’s Castle in the Rockies.
8. Mt. Norquay
One of Banff’s Big 3 ski resorts, Mt. Norquay is also a fun place to visit in summer. Best of all, being a ski resort, it has a huge, free parking lot!
There are several good hikes at Mt. Norquay including:
- Stoney Lookout Hike: A 5km hiking trail to a viewpoint at the summit of Stoney Mountain. Stoney is one of the easiest mountains to summit in Banff with an elevation of just 1,868m above sea level. Compare this to its closest neighbors Cascade Mountain (3,000m) and Mt. Norquay (2,522m)
- Cascade Amphitheatre Hike: A scenic and sometimes challenging hike to a beautiful amphitheatre at the base of Cascade Mountain’s alpine zone.
One of the most exciting things to do at Mt. Norquay is the Via Ferrata, an assisted climbing experience. With four routes to choose from, you’ll cross suspension bridges and climb ladders, while soaking in the incredible views of Banff. Via Ferrata tickets aren’t free of course, but the parking is!
If you aren’t up for the Via Ferrata, then take a ride up the Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift and have an incredible lunch at the Cliffhouse Bistro. You’ll have to take your eyes off the stunning mountain scenery long enough to enjoy the delicious food!
9. Johnston Canyon
Hiking Johnston Canyon is so popular, there are two massive parking lots, both of which offer free Banff Parking. Johnston Canyon is one of the best free things to do in Banff National Park. For that reason, even with two big parking lots, it will get extremely busy in the summer and you’ll see cars spilling out onto the highway. Try to visit on a weekday or earlier in the day. Arriving later in the afternoon also works, since the daylight hours last so long in the summer.
A significantly more fun option is to cycle the Bow Valley Parkway from the free train station parking in the Town of Banff. While many enjoyed this cycling opportunity when the road was closed, it’s now fully open. We only recommend this if you are comfortable riding on the road shared with vehicle traffic.
10. Lake Louise Summer Gondola
The Lake Louise Summer Gondola is a fun experience in Banff National Park that gives visitors the best chance of spotting grizzly bears. The Lake Louise sightseeing gondola can be ridden in either an open-air chairlift or an enclosed gondola.
At the top of the gondola at Lake Louise, there is a viewing platform with incredible mountain views which also includes the famous Lake Louise. The Whitehorn Bistro offers one more opportunity to take in the views while enjoying an incredible meal. There is also an interpretive centre and two short Lake Louise hikes that leave from the same area.
Get Free Parking with a Banff Hotel Stay
No matter where you go in Banff in summer, the parking situation can be competitive. If you’d like to guarantee yourself a Banff parking spot, consider staying at a Banff hotel for your visit. Hotels, of course, are not free, but at least you’ll get a great Banff parking spot.
And finally, the road to Moraine Lake is now closed to the public, but guests of the incredible Moraine Lake Lodge are able to drive and get a coveted parking spot at Moraine Lake.
Visit Banff Without a Car
If you are able, one of the best things visitors to Banff can do to help with the vehicle congestion problem is to visit Banff without a car. It’s easier than you think to get to Banff without a car and it’s also easy to get around Banff without a car. Once you are there, choose from these transit-friendly Banff hotels.
We hope this guide on how to find a free parking spot in Banff and Lake Louise useful. Enjoy your visit to Banff!
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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.