Where To Stay? Canmore or Banff

Planning a trip into the Rockies? If you’re hitting up Banff National Park you may be wondering where to stay for your trip. Canmore and Banff both have jaw-dropping landscapes, bustling communities, and countless great accommodation offerings. The two towns share a lot in common but have some key differences that will attract different types of travelers.

Spoiler: Both destinations are truly amazing and you can’t go wrong with either. The key differences are that Canmore is more affordable and less touristy, Banff is more costly but offers more to do as a tourist and is in the heart of Banff National Park. Unlike Banff, Canmore offers more community amenities such as large grocery and big box stores.

The entire Rocky Mountain region is unreal and should be fully explored by anyone visiting. Therefore the real question you should be asking is “where should I visit first Canmore or Banff?”

Location & Geography

Both the communities of Banff and Canmore are in and around the beauty of Banff National Park. While the town of Banff sits within the borders of Banff National Park, Canmore sits just outside which provides some unique differences in regards to vibe and governance. The park, wildlife, mountains, rivers, and beauty of the area is the major attraction for both communities.

Heading west from Calgary you’ll hit the town of Canmore in an hour. In order to reach Banff you’ll need to pass through Canmore another 20 minutes along the Trans Canada Highway. The two towns are neighbours and I strongly suggest if you’re staying in one that you make the trip to visit the other.

Please note: To enter Banff National Park you’ll need to purchase a park pass.

Canmore Mountain Biking

Things To Do: Canmore

  1. Canmore Cave Tours: If you have fears of enclosed spaces maybe give this a miss but for a true adventure delving deep into a cave hits the spot. Visit Rat’s Nest Cave (lovely name I know) deep under Grotto Mountain.
  2. Grassi Lakes: If you’re not interested in seeing beneath a cave why not visit the beautiful vistas at Grassi Lakes. These trails are local and tourist favourites. You’ll be stunned by the unique turquoise colour of the lakes.
  3. Grizzly Paw Brewery: I don’t go anywhere without sipping the local craft brewery, this goes double when in Canmore. Head to Grizzly Paw Brewery and try the Grump Bear Honey Wheat and Rutting Elk Red.

Things To Do: Banff

  1. Banff Gondola: Visit the summit of the towering Sulphur Mountain. From up here you’ll have unobstructed views deep into Banff National Park. The summit also hosts an interpretive centre, theater, and multiple restaurants.
  2. Bow Falls: Bow River runs down from the Canadain Rockies, through the town of Banff, past Canmore, and beyond to Calgary. The Bow River and Falls are mighty and vibrant ecosystems that must been seen!
  3. Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tours: Using the Hop-on Hop-off bus system in Banff is a great way to easily move throughout the community and to major tourist hotspots such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Samson Mall, and Johnston Canyon.

Things To Do: Shared

  1. Banff National Park: If you’re staying in Canmore or Banff, you must venture into the wild, rugged, and picturesque Banff National Park. The park is full of mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, trees, and wildlife. Canada’s first national park! If you didn’t come to see the beauty of this place I’m not sure why you came.
  2. Skiing & Snowboarding: Banff and Canmore are both only a short drive to four ski resorts! Pick between Sunshine, Mount Norquay, Nakiska, and Lake Louise or why not visit them all?! You won’t have a shortage of skiable terrain when visiting.
  3. Dog Sledding: Dogs! Yes please. If you want something truly memorable reach out to Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours. Nothing beats sliding along the snow to some of the regions most remote spots can’t be beat. Maybe you’ll be extra lucky and get the chance to watch the Northern Lights and have the dogs howl into the night.
Dog Sledding, Northern Lights, Canmore


As previously stated Canmore is more affordable than its neighbour Banff. In regards to vacation rentals Canmore has an average nightly rate of $253 based on 1284 active rentals. Banff vacation rentals have an average nightly rate of $307 based on 102 active properties. Canmore has more vacation rentals because of government restrictions that limit vacation rentals in with Banff National Park.

Looking for Help Booking Your Trip?

Lifty Life provides amazing vacation rentals to visitors of both Canmore and Banff. Reach out and learn about our affordable properties in the region and get our recommendations for the best things to do!

Rundle Hike, Canmore