Glacier National Park to Banff – US to Canadian Rockies Road Trip

When it comes to national parks that everyone should experience during their lifetime, both US Glacier National Park and Banff are at the top of the bucket list. 

At first glance, these two parks seem similar (both have jaw-dropping landscapes in the Rocky Mountains, glaciers, alpine lakes, and wildlife like black bears). 

But the truth is that they are each incredible in their own right. One does not substitute for the other.   

Now, many people visit these parks on two separate trips. But instead, visiting both in one Glacier to Banff road trip could be the ultimate North American journey of a lifetime. 

If this seems a bit overwhelming, don’t worry! Here we’ve created a Glacier to Banff itinerary to make planning easy – from border crossing to undertaking one of the most epic Canadian road trips through the Rockies.

There’s so much here that you can plan an epic return trip from Banff to Glacier National Park too! But before we get into the details of the itinerry, let’s cover the basics.

Canada Family Road Trip planning tips

Distance from Glacier National Park to Banff 

The direct route to drive from US Glacier National Park to Banff National Park in Canada is 253 miles on AB-2 North and the Trans Canada Highway / AB-1 West. Passing through Calgary, this route is less scenic and has fewer hills, which could be a positive if you’re RVing. 

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Glacier National Park, US  to Waterton Lakes National Park, CA27 miles (43 kms)40 minutesWaterton Park, CA
Waterton Lakes to Calgary, CA161 miles (260 kms)2 hours 35 minutesCalgary, CA
Calgary to Canmore, CA65 miles (105 kms)1 hours 12 minutesCanmore, CA
Canmore to Banff National Park, CA16 miles (26 kms)25 minutesBanff, CA
Banff to Kootenay National Park, CA25 miles (41 kms)30 minutesRadium Hot Springs, CA
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Another option is to take Route 22 north. It’s a bit longer than AB-2, at 280 miles, but considerably more beautiful scenery to enjoy.  

Those looking for the drive with the most beautiful landscape definitely consider taking BC-93 North and BC-95 North. It’s only about 30 miles longer than the one on Route 22, but you’ll be travelling through the gorgeous lands of British Columbia, including Kootenay National Park (more below, arguably one of the most scenic drives in the world!). 

If you’re driving a camper or towing a trailer, be aware taking the BC-93 involves significant elevation changes and some tight curves.

How Long is the Drive From Glacier National Park to Banff?  

If you’re looking to drive straight to Banff from Glacier National Park without really stopping, your three routes will take just over four hours on Route 2 (AB-2), just under 5 hours on Route 22, and closer to 6 hours on Route 93 & 95. 

Keep in mind that you will be crossing the Canadian border on this trip. Wait times and border control will definitely tack on more time to your trip, no matter which routes you take.  

Let’s be honest here, doing this Glacier National Park to Banff road trip is all about enjoying the ride. So instead of rushing to get there, you could make the trip over a number of days. Even up to a week or 10 days.

Click on our map here and you can see some of the various routes mapped out for you to compare them in journey length.

Best Time of Year to Drive Glacier National Park to Banff 

Both Glacier National Park and Banff are open year-round. So you could make this epic road trip at any time, but when travelling between the late fall and early spring, you’re likely to find parts of the parks and major roadways closed.

That’s why the best time of year to drive to Banff from Glacier National Park is during the summer months. Between late June and early September, you’ll have the best chance for warm weather, open roads, and gorgeous scenery.

  • Pro Tip: There is a Canadian Glacier National Park too. Although it’s a fabulous place in its own right, this Glacier to Banff itinerary is all about the US Glacier National Park

Best Stops on a Glacier National Park to Banff Road Trip

In this Glacier to Banff itinerary we will take you broadly through Route 2 (AB-2) with some side detours you need to make!

Glacier National Park, US  

You’ll be starting off your Glacier National Park to Banff road trip in one of the most beautiful places in North America. Known as the Crown of the Continent, you’ll be in awe of the park’s alpine meadows, valleys, mountain lakes, and of course, glaciers. 

The outdoor adventures in Glacier are endless. You’ll love hiking any of the 700 miles of trails and visiting the lakes and glaciers. 

Camping within Glacier is ideal. Various options, from tents to RVs. Remember to make reservations ahead or try your luck at the first come, first served sites.  

Going-to-the-Sun Road and Logan Pass are must-dos at Glacier. Depending on what route you plan to take for your Banff road trip, the scenic Going-to-the-Sun will easily get you to the east or west side of the park. 

Pro Tip: Make sure you have everything you’ll need for Glacier National Park, including vehicle reservation and park pass – it is one of the few US National Parks with timed entry rules. Requirements change depending on the season, so stay up to date with info on the NPS website.

Waterton Lakes National Park, CA

Just to the north of Glacier National Park is its Canadian sister, Waterton Lakes National Park, a must on the Glacier to Banff itinerary.

The drive between the two parks is only about 50 miles. Take Montana Highway 89N to 17N, then in Canada, follow AB 6 North to AB 5 West. Be prepared to cross the Canadian border at Chief Mountain.

CA Glacier National Park to Banff - Waterton Lakes National Park

Together, Waterton Lakes and Glacier form the impressive International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make sure to visit the Peace Park Plaza for gorgeous views and reflect on the park’s goal of peace and goodwill between the two nations of North America.

In the park, you’ll enjoy hiking the terrain like on the Lineham Falls trail, driving scenic roads like Akamina Parkway and taking in the view from Bear’s Hump trail.

Pro Tip: Waterton Lakes National Park entry fees are $10.50 per person, with discounts for seniors. Kids 17 and under are free.

Kootenay National Park, CA

Kootenay is another one of Canada’s splendid national parks. Located just to the southwest of Banff, it’s the perfect stop on the Glacier National Park to Banff road trip. On the other hand, it might be better suited to visit on the return trip, making it a Banff to Kootenay National Park journey instead.

Either way, Kootenay is an absolute must. You’ll love hiking the 125 miles of trails and driving on the scenic Banff-Windermere Highway. Located in the magnificent Canadian Rockies, you can even walk along the Great Continental Divide. After a day exploring the park, relax by soaking in Kootenay’s Radium Hot Springs.  

Unique to Kootenay, you’ll be able to find Burgess Shale fossils while on hikes in the park. These fossils are over five million years old.

Pro Tip: Download the Canada Parks app to get a self-guided audio tour of Kootenay’s Banff-Windermere Highway scenic road. 

Calgary, CA

Calgary is a definite stop to make when doing the Glacier to Banff road trip from the east on either Route 2 or 22. As the largest city in Alberta, there’s so much to do and see. 

Kids will love to see all the animals at the Calgary Zoo and step back into time at the Heritage Park and Historical Village.

CA Glacier National Park to Banff - Calgary Tower

If you’re doing the Banff road trip in the summer definitely make plans to visit The Calgary Stampede. As the largest rodeo, there’s so much to see and do during the 10-day event.

Get the best view of the city from Calgary Tower. You’ll see discounts on ticket prices when you buy online. Perfect for the whole family, kids under 13 and seniors enjoy a reduced price. 

If you’re looking to just have some fun with the family head to Calaway Park in nearby Springbank. Open daily in the summer. It’s the best outdoor amusement park around.

Canmore, CA

Canmore is a great place to stop just before arriving in Banff when coming from Calgary (less than an hour away). You’ll love strolling down 8th Street with the mountains in the background. It’s the perfect place to get a bite to eat and window shop. Don’t miss taking a family photo in front of the “Big Head” sculpture in Canmore.

Explore underground at the Canmore Caves. The best way to experience it is with a guide that will help everyone in the family enjoy the dark caverns. The minimum age for tours is 10, making the Canmore Caves great for families with older kids. 

Yes, your final destination is the magnificent Banff, but just outside, in Canmore, is another natural beauty not to miss. Grassi Lakes in the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park have the most incredible blue-green waters you just have to see. The hike to the water’s edge is a perfect way to stretch your legs on this Glacier National Park to Banff road trip.

Pro Tip: You may also find accommodation a little cheaper in Canmore, and the streets a little less crowded, though the secret is out, it may not stay this ways for long!

Banff National Park, CA

Here it is: Your final destination on this Glacier National Park to Banff road trip. Known across the globe, Banff is not only Canada’s first national park, it is also the world’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site.

CA Glacier National Park to Banff - Banff National Park

The astounding beauty of mother nature is overflowing in Banff. Everything from the rugged mountains of the Canadian Rockies to the pristine turquoise lake waters is impressive in photos but jaw-dropping in person. 

There are so many ways to experience Banff. Get an aerial view on a Banff gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Paddle through the incredibly blue waters of Moraine Lake. Relax in the hot spring waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs. Get an up-close look at a glacier like the Plain of Six Glaciers at Lake Louise. 

  • With summer traffic around Banff you should look to park and ride from May to early October. The summer shuttle services run from Parks Canada Park & Ride in Banff to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake – pre-booking for desired timeslots a must. (Last minute tickets released on a rolling basis 8am MDT 2 days prior)

Something not to miss is a drive along the Lake Louise Icefields Parkway. Travelling north along the Canadian Rockies, the Icefield Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in North America. You’ll love the views of the rugged mountains, waterfalls and over 100 glaciers.

Banff Accommodation

One of the best ways to experience Banff is to stay within the park itself. Camping options range from glamping and full hookup sites to backcountry camping. Although some sites are first come, first served, it’s best to plan ahead and make a reservation well in advance.

  • Pro Tip: You must have a parking pass to visit Banff National Park. Daily passes are $10.50 with discounts for seniors and free for kids 17 and under. Buy yours in advance at BanffLakeLouise.com. There are days (like Canada Day) when entry to the park is free, but you must still “buy” and display your ticket even though it costs $0. 

Accommodation in the town of Banff can book out well in advance, no matter the season. It pays to book this part of your journey as soon as you have your itinerary dates in place.

More Tips for Road Tripping Glacier National Park to Banff 

  • You’ll be crossing the Canadian border, so remember, passports for everyone in the family! Know what to expect when crossing the Canadian border and coming back into the US and factor this in to your trvael time.
  • Stay up to date on border crossing requirements and hours of operation. Here are a few websites that can help:
    • Carway – on US Highway 89  (7am-11pm year-round)
    • Roosville – on Route 93 (open 24/7 year round)
    • Chief Mountain – on Montana Highway 17 (May 15 –September 30, hours of operation vary)
  • No need to worry about changing your clocks on this drive to Banff from Glacier National Park. You’ll be in the Mountain Time Zone the whole time, even if you travel Route 93 & 95, which pass into British Columbia. This area of the province is still on Mountain Time.
  • Keep an eye on road conditions during your Banff road trip. Here are good resources to use:

Continuing Your Road Trip Through Canada

Whilst Banff might be your ultimate destination, there is so many more driving adventures in western Canada to enjoy. After completing this epic mountain drive, you may like to continue onward to explore:

  • More of the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) and enjoy the best of Jasper National Park – a further 3 hour drive to the north. You’ll get to include stops at Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefields.
  • On a circular trip, if you took Route 22 or the AB-2 north, return south on Route 95/93. After Kootenay and Radium Hot Springs, consider stops at Fernie, BC, and back through the stunning scenic Montana drive via Whitefish, Columbia Falls, West Glacier, and Lake McDonald for even more spectacular views.
  • Road trip from Banff to Vancouver – many exceptional towns you’ll want to stop at as you complete your journey through the Rockies to the Canadian west coast
  • If Vancouver is the ultimate end point of your trip, allow at least 1 day to explore Vancouver
  • Alternatively, Calgary International Airport (YYC) would be your closest international departure point and rental car return.
  • Starting your journey in Seattle? picking up even more highlights from Pacific Northwest, try this driving itinerary from Seattle to Glacier National Park.
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