Categories > Guides and Tips

Jasper vs Banff Which park should you visit

Jasper vs Banff: Which park should you visit?

Many tourists visit Canada for its beautiful mountain parks. If you want to see the Canadian Rockies, try to check out Jasper or Banff – both offer stunning views in Alberta.

These amazing places are worth visiting in Alberta because of the breathtaking views, especially if you don’t live in the country. Alright, alright, I’m biased.

Jasper and Banff are both amazing destinations to visit in Alberta. They both offer many outdoor activities for adventurers and have captivating scenery.

If you want to avoid big crowds, Jasper is the ideal place because Banff is a more popular park. 

So, what resulted in this answer?  Stick around and find out because we’ve written this article to give you some ideas on what to expect and some recommendations for the best time in Canada!

Jasper vs Banff: Why should you visit them?

Jasper vs Banff Why should you visit them
Photo by Ivars Krutainis

Jasper and Banff are worth visiting in Canada because they have beautiful scenery. They also offer many outdoor activities for any season.

It’s no secret that Alberta is a beautiful province with many to offer. Aside from the low cost of living than other provinces, which is excellent, it’s home to some of the most beautiful parks and is home to many animals.

So, why should you visit these parks?

Firstly, Jasper and Banff are some of the busiest parks in Alberta. They attract thousands of visitors (international and local) each year who are excited to capture the exhilarating scenery.

In fact, over 4 million people travel to Alberta just to visit Banff, making it a crowded place. Meanwhile, Jasper welcomes more than 2 million people annually.

Secondly, Jasper and Banff are national parks in Canada. Both are also part of a UNESCO World Heritage site because they’re Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.

It’s not surprising once you visit these places. Trust me, the scenery will take your breath away as it did mine!

Thirdly, there are many activities you can do in Banff and Jasper. If you hear mountains, you will naturally think of hiking, right?

But hiking’s not the only thing you can do here. These national parks offer so much more for solo travellers and families, which we’ll get into later.

Transport Options in Jasper vs. Banff

Transport Options in Jasper vs. Banff
Photo by John Arano

Getting to Jasper and Banff is not difficult because there are various transportation modes available. You can fly to Edmonton’s and Calgary’s international airports and take a bus or car to the parks.

Since Jasper and Banff National Parks are highly visited by many people each day, getting here won’t be a problem. You can do that via plane, bus, rail, or car!

You’re lucky if you’re staying in Calgary or Edmonton because you can rent a car there and drive to the mountains, just like how the locals do it. But don’t worry if you live outside Canada because we’ll show you how to get there!

Getting to Jasper

Getting to Jasper's Homepage
Photo by Eelco Böhtlingk

Jasper National Park is close to Edmonton and Calgary’s international airports. You can rent a car and drive about 4 to 5 hours to the mountain park.

Pack your bags because getting to Jasper is not difficult. It’s time to schedule your time off and finally cross this off your travel list!

By Air

Getting to Jasper means you have to get to Alberta first. Edmonton and Calgary are closest to Jasper, and both cities have international airports that service major airlines.

If you’re staying in Vancouver and want to see Jasper National Park, you can fly to Edmonton and travel from there.

International Airports with Flights to Jasper
Edmonton International Airport
Calgary International Airport
Vancouver International Airport

By Bus

To get to Jasper National Park, you can ride a shuttle via SunDog Tours. It’s one of the easiest ways if you’re flying to Alberta.

They offer airport shuttles, sightseeing tours, and transportation to Jasper National Park. In addition, they can even pick you up from Edmonton International Airport. 

They also have private journeys if you want a more relaxed tour during your visit. You will have a private driver and choose the vehicle that will fit your group, which is one of the most convenient ways for groups with kids and senior citizens.

Here’s a table of the transportation rates of SunDog tours. But these prices aren’t inclusive of GST, airport pick-up fees, and admission tickets to attractions.

SunDog Transportation Services
Vehicle TypeAirport Shuttle (Edmonton – Jasper)Sightseeing (5 hours)Sightseeing (10 hours)
Sedan (max 3 people)$1,025$765$990
SUV (max 5 people)$1,080$805$1,025
1×10 (max 8 people)$1,130$865$1,170
1×20 (max 16 people)$1,340$925$1,235
1×24 (max 20 people)$1,400$990$1,330
1×29 (max 25 people)$1,450$1,090$1,405

By Train

If you want to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery while you get to Jasper National Park, you can ride the train. The amazing views will make you feel like you’re in a movie!

You can ride VIA Rail Canada or Rocky Mountaineer. Oh, don’t forget to check the available offers to save some money!

Trains to Jasper
VIA Rail Canada
Rocky Mountaineer

Via Car

Via Car's Homepage
Photo by Tim Gouw

If you’re already in Edmonton or Calgary, one of the best ways to get to Jasper is by car. If you’re a tourist, there are many car rental shops in these cities and at airports, just make sure to bring your driver’s license.

You can drive on the main route to Jasper via the Trans-Canada Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway). This trip will take around 3 hours and 45 minutes without traffic.

But make sure to leave earlier than planned, considering the traffic and weather. Also, be careful when driving because you may come across wild animals crossing the road.

Moreover, the maximum speed limit is 90km/hr, buts some parts require slower speed limits because of the wildlife in the area. Remember to check the road conditions before driving for your safety.

Getting to Banff

Getting to Banff's Homepage
Photo by Jacky Huang

Banff National Park is one of the most popular destinations in Alberta, and you can get there via plane, car, train, or bus. It’s only a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary International Airport, the closest airport to Banff.

Banff National Park is one of the most visited places in Alberta. Naturally, there are many ways to get there. Check out how below!

By Air

The closest airport to Banff is the Calgary International Airport. Once you land there, you can rent a car and drive to Banff for an estimated 90 minutes.

There are other airports, but that require longer drives. Below, we made a table so you can check the nearest airports to Banff National Park.

International Airports Close to Banff
AirportEstimated Drive Time
Calgary International Airport1.5 hours
Edmonton International Airport3.75 hours
Kelowna International Airport5.5 hours

By Bus

Once you’re in Calgary, getting to Banff is pretty easy. There are many shuttle buses you can ride from Calgary International Airport.

In addition to that, there’s a shuttle from Downtown Calgary. So, if you’re staying at a hotel there, you can take a day to visit the mesmerizing mountain park!

Shuttle buses can take you from Calgary to Banff National Park, but these transportation services have different schedules, which may change depending on specific circumstances.

Furthermore, you can book a one-way ticket if you’re staying in a hotel near the park. But there are two-way tickets as well to get back to Calgary.

You also need to book a schedule, and the rates are subject to change. 

Shuttle Buses to Banff
Shuttle BusContact Details
Banff Airporter1-888-449-2901
141 Eagle Crescent #1, Banff, AB T1L 1C3, Canada
Discover Banff Tours1-877-565-9372
215 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1C1, Canada
Banff Chauffeur Airport Transportation1-403-678-7980403-678-7980
Mountain Park Transportation403-522-2700 (WhatsApp)
10 Gleneagles Close, Cochrane, AB T4C 1N7, Canada

By Train

The Rocky Mountaineer can take you to Banff via train from Vancouver. This mode of transportation is a pretty sweet deal since driving from the Vancouver International Airport to Banff can take about 10 hours!

This transportation can be exhilarating, especially if it’s your first time going to the Canadian Rockies. There’s a luxury train as well, which has a glass dome allowing you to take in all the beautiful scenery!

Trains to Banff
VIA Rail Canada
Rocky Mountaineer

By Car

If you’re in east Calgary, you can arrive in Banff via car in just about 2 hours. Without traffic, you can slash 30 minutes off from that.

The drive is through Trans-Canada Highway, which means it’s going to be a scenic drive. You will also see wildlife crossings along the highway, providing safe routes for animals in the area.

Another route is through Bow Valley from the west, but that will be a long drive, and we mean looong. It’ll take you 8 to 10 hours!

Budget Considerations for a trip to Jasper vs. Banff

Budget Considerations for a trip to Jasper vs. Banff
Photo by John McArthur

The budget you need to bring to Banff and Jasper depends on the attractions and activities you will go to. You can save some money if you stay at budget accommodations and do outdoor activities that don’t require admission tickets.

A trip to Banff or Jasper for two people can cost an average of $2,000 to $2,200 for one week. But that still depends on your activities because the rates will vary greatly.

In addition, you can stay at budget hotels for $200 or under per night. You also need to consider your transportation there.

Moreover, you can find affordable car rentals in Edmonton and Alberta to save some money. If you plan on riding the train, try to avoid the luxury cabins because those cost a tonne of money!

Meals can cost $30 to $40, but you can find cheaper ones at around $20. You can try to avoid high-end restaurants because meals there can cost about $60 or more.

Another way to budget your trip to the Canadian Rockies is by visiting during the off-season. That’s around late March to early May.

If you compare Jasper and Banff based on budget, the latter is more expensive because it attracts more tourists each year. Also, hotels in Banff tend to be more expensive than Jasper.

Activities in Jasper vs. Banff

Activities in Jasper vs. Banff
Photo by Mike Markov

There are countless outdoor activities to do in Jasper and Banff. The rivers, lakes, and mountains offer outdoor adventures for beginners and experts.

It’s pretty impossible to stay in Banff and Jasper for a short time and do every single thing you want to do. These parks are big and you will find many activities regardless of the season.

For sure, you need to return to both mountain parks because they are just incredible places to visit in Canada! We’re biased, but it’s the truth!

If you’re an adventurer or just want to breathe in the fresh air and capture the scenery, then Banff and Jasper are the places for you!

We’ve listed some of our favourite activities on these two sites. Check them out!

Activities at Jasper

Activities at Jasper's Homepage
Photo by Neil Cooper

There are many outdoor activities in Jasper for anyone. Apart from hiking the mountains, you can join some sightseeing tours and learn more about the history of the place!

Here are some of the best activities you can do in Jasper National Park! No matter the month you go there, you will certainly find one to enjoy!

Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Columbia Icefield Skywalk's Homepage
Photo by Andy Holmes

Location: Highway 93, Icefields Pkwy, Improvement District No. 12, AB T1L 1J3, Canada

The Columbia Icefield Skywalk is not for the faint of heart. But it’s an activity you can cross off your bucket list!

Here, you will walk on the mountain’s edge. Literally! The platform was built on the edge, giving you a full view of the scenery down below!

Then, you will reach the glass platform that can make your knees weak from fear! It can happen, you know, especially when kids start to jump.

In all seriousness, this is one of the best ways to spend your first day in Jasper National Park. It’s very Instagrammable as well. So, capture the moment!

Columbia Icefield Skywalk Admission Rates

Prices are subject to change anytime

Whitewater Rafting

Location: 618 Connaught Dr, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada

Another adventurous activity to cross off your bucket list is whitewater rafting! Try whitewater rafting at Jasper via Rocky Mountain River Guides!

Yes, it’s a scary activity. But if you’re looking for a thrilling adventure in Alberta, you should check this out and let the waters drag you faster than you can imagine! It’s fun, though! *wink wink*

But seriously, this is a fun adventure for families and groups of friends. The Athabasca Mile 5 is a beginner-friendly rafting adventure because you’ll start with mild Class I water and then rapids at Class II.

For experienced adventurers, the Sunwapta River can take you on rapidly moving waters! It’s a thrilling adventure, for sure!

Down below are the rates for Rocky Mountain River Guides whitewater rafting. There are suggested ages for each trip, so keep that in mind if you’re bringing children.

Rocky Mountain River Guides Whitewater Rafting Rates
TripAdult (ages 13 and up)Child (ages 5 – 12)
Athabasca Mile 5$84$42
Athabasca Falls$104$52
Sunwapta River$109$54.50

Prices do not include GST and Parks Canada Levy

Maligne Canyon Icewalk

Location: Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada

One of the most magical adventures in Jasper is the Maligne Canyon Icewalk. It’s so mesmerizing that it’s difficult to put into words.

The experience was one of my highlights at Jasper, and I’m sure some of you will feel the same. Naturally, it’s not open year-round.

But if you’re planning to visit Jasper National Park during the winter season, this is one of the most recommended activities. You will fall in love with the breathtaking ice formations!

Moreover, you will find these dazzling icefalls mostly from December to January. Also, each trip is special because it’s weather-dependent!

The trip only takes 2.5 hours. Just remember that because this activity depends on the weather in the mountains, the length may vary anytime.

Activities at Banff

Activities at Banff's Homepage
Photo by David Wirzba

There’s no shortage of fun activities to try in Banff, regardless of the season. There are plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, cruising, and cycling.

It’s a coveted tourist destination in Alberta, and many locals love visiting the park! Consequently, there’s a tonne of exciting stuff here, both for beginners and expert adventurers!

So, check out some of our favourites!

Bow Falls Trail

Location: 229 Bow Ave, Banff, AB, Canada

Try hiking the Bow Falls trail to get to Bow Falls! This is a perfect start to your Banff adventure because the hike only takes about 30 minutes.

But you’ll probably take an hour or so because there are so many picture-worthy shots. The hike is only 1.2 km with 10 miles of elevation gain, so it won’t take too much time out of your day.

You can bike here because there’s a bike trail! There’s also a pedestrian-only path, perfect for a morning walk to start your day in Banff!

The views throughout the Banff trail are incredible! Who wouldn’t want to take a leisurely walk while seeing the powerful rapids of the Bow River?

Via Ferrata

Location: Improvement District No. 9, AB, Canada

A thrill-seeking adventure at Banff is the Via Ferrata. It’s an exhilarating activity and is not for the fainthearted.

You can cross the suspension bridge, which can be scary, but don’t worry because you’re safe! The activity provides safety harnesses and helmets.

There are different routes to choose from that will all take you to greater heights! The shortest path takes 2.5 hours, while the longest is 6 hours.

Moreover, this hike is a guided tour. You will feel safe because all guides are ACMG-certified, and they are undoubtedly knowledgeable about the area.

Remember that this is a tough and scary hike… for some! But it’s definitely a challenge you can be proud of.

You can book your thrilling activity through Banff Norquay. Do check the opening seasons because some activities are weather-dependent.

Below are the activities and rates.

Banff Norquay Via Ferrata Activities and Rates
ActivityRatesActivity TimeRestrictions
Explorer Route$194.252 – 2.5 hoursMinimum age – 12 years
Minimum weight – 40kg
Maximum weight – 140kg
Ridgewalker Route$252.003.5 – 4 hoursMinimum age – 12 years
Minimum weight – 40kg
Maximum weight – 140kg
Alpinist Route$283.504 hoursMinimum age – 14 years
Minimum weight – 40kg
Maximum weight – 140kg
Skyline Route$309.754.5 – 5 hoursMinimum age – 14 years
Minimum weight – 40kg
Maximum weight – 140kg
Summiteer Route$388.506 hoursMinimum age – 14 years
Minimum weight – 40kg
Maximum weight – 140kg

Johnston Canyon

Location: Bow Valley Pkwy, Improvement District No. 9, AB T1L 1K2, Canada

One of the most wonderful things to do in Banff is tour the Johnston Canyon. You can do this trip in the summer and winter!

Don’t worry if you’ve never gone to a cave before because there are tour packages for beginners. You can even learn to rappel in a cave! Incredible, huh?

Furthermore, you can tour the secluded areas of the canyon. There are night tours as well, which makes the cave even more stunning!

Your experienced guide will illuminate the place while escorting you inside. A night walk in the canyon is a one-of-a-kind experience, promise!

What’s even more incredible is you can tour Johnston Canyon during the winter night. This is available from December to March and will take 2.5 hours, but you’ll want to return to do it again. Believe me!

Johnston Canyon Activity Rates
Heart CanyonAdult (18+) – $295Youth (15 – 17) – $275
Ghost CanyonAdult (18+) – $195Youth (15 – 17) – $175Child (12 – 14) – $165
Johnston Canyon Evening IcewalkAdult (13+) – $89 (starting)Child (8 – 12) – $56 (starting)

Jasper vs. Banff: What’s the best time to visit?

Jasper vs. Banff What’s the best time to visit
Photo by Niv Rozenberg

The best months to visit Banff and Jasper are from May, June, and September because of the warmer climate. Around May, the snow in the mountains is melting, giving you better views of the scenery.

If you’re not used to cold temperatures, you might have a hard time in the mountain park in Canada, so it’s best to avoid December to March.

But if you’re looking to do some winter activities, you can start to visit Banff and Jasper at the end of November. Also, September and October are low seasons, so there aren’t a lot of people in the parks.

What to Bring to your Trip in Jasper or Banff

What to Bring to your Trip in Jasper or Banff
Photo by Ali Kazal

You need to bring hiking gear and comfortable clothes. You also need to bring long-sleeved clothing because the mountains can get cold.

You must have waterproof bags for your devices in case of rain. To add, you must have a safety kit in your bag.

Going to a beautiful national park means you need to be prepared. You don’t want to get there and realize you forgot some things at home… like me.

It’s best to write a checklist so you can cross off all the things you have. It’ll keep things organized!

So, remember to bundle up! Wear comfortable clothing that will keep you warm because the temperatures in Banff and Jasper can get cold, which can be particularly challenging for non-Canadians.

You should also keep a safety kit that includes bear spray. Hiking in Banff and Jasper means you’ll encounter wildlife, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t worry, though. We’ve made a list you can follow for your trip to Banff or Jasper, or both!

Packing Essentials for Banff and Jasper
• Light backpack
• Fleece jacket or hoodie
• Long sleeve shirts
• Pants and shorts (preferably quick-drying)
• Wool socks
• Hiking shoes/boots
• Gloves
• Hat
• Rain jacket
• Hiking poles
• First aid kit
• Sunglasses
• Bug spray
• Sunblock and moisturizer
• Refillable water bottle
• Safety kit (bear spray, compass, whistle, knife, paracord)
• Camera and extra batteries
• Phone charger
•Satellite communication device (especially when hiking)
• Waterproof bag

Jasper vs. Banff: Our Final Thoughts

Overall, Banff and Jasper National Parks offer many opportunities for adventurers. There are countless activities in every season you can do.

Additionally, there are beginner-friendly tours and packages for those not used to outdoor activities. They’re both incredible places for families, couples, or solo travellers.

To end, check out this table we made to compare the two!

Reason to visitTieBanff and Jasper are national parks in Canada and offer incredible scenery.
TransportationTieJasper and Banff have multiple modes of transportation because they are popular tourist spots.
ActivitiesTieBoth national parks provide many outdoor activities on land and water.
BudgetJasperBanff attracts more visitors than Jasper, resulting in more expensive accommodation.

FAQ about Banff vs Jasper

Related topics