The 25 miles between Banff and Lake Lousie is one of the best drives in Canada. Many people just drive it without taking advantage of the many things to see and do in between. While it may be possible to drive between these two towns in less than an hour, you could easily make it a fulfilling day excursion. So, don’t just speed between Banff and Lake Louise, take your time and enjoy yourself. You’ll be missing out if you don’t.

Here are some tips of what to see on the drive between Banff and Lake Louise.



Which Route Should You Take

Firstly you have to make a decision on which route you want to take. You can take the highway (Route 1) or the side road (Route 1A). The map above shows the highway choice, but you can easily see the alternative side road. We strongly suggest taking that side road. Yes, the side road takes a little longer, but you will feel more “in nature” than on the high speed highway. On the side road it’s easier to pull off if you find some wildlife or just want to chill for a while. It’s also much quieter, which I’m sure is one of the reasons you wanted to come to Banff National Park.

On a side note you will need a pass to drive around in Banff National Park. You can either buy it online, or you can buy it when you arrive.



Johnston Canyon

Definitely the pick of all the stops on the drive between Banff and Lake Louise.  This walking track follows Johnson Creek from a car park along A1 to two waterfalls. The trek to the first waterfall (called Lower Johnson Falls) is fairly easy and even suitable for children. The trek to the Lower Falls is about 0.8 miles and is easily achievable in 30 minutes (one way). It may take a little longer if you take advantage of the ample photo opportunities and places to sit back and relax.

For the more adventurous you can venture up to the Upper Johnson Falls, which is about a 1.5 miles trek (one way). This one will test you out a bit more, but even the only moderately fit won’t have a problem making it. This trek has some steeper sections, but the reward is well worth it.

It can get pretty busy, so we strongly recommend getting there early before the crowds arrive. Don’t forget your warm clothes (even in summer), as well as plenty of drinking water.

You can find Johnston Canyon 15.5 mile from Banff along A1.



Morant’s Curve

If you want a great view with a little bit of history, this is the place for you. Morant’s Curve is where photos were taken by Nicholas Morant in the mid 20th century as promotional material for the Canadian Pacific Railways. They are known the world over. Just pull over and chill for a while taking in the view. This is a great spot to have lunch and enjoy the quiet.

You can find Morant’s Curve 33 miles from Banff along the A1.



Look Out for Wildlife

There’s plenty around. All you have to do is keep your eyes open and you will find it everywhere. While you will see some as your driving along (be careful not to hit any!), you’re more likely to see some when you park and go for a quick walk. Last time we drove between Banff and Lake Louise we saw plenty. Our favorite was a black bear that crossed in front of us while we were driving along the A1. We were also lucky enough to see it by ourselves. While a lot of the time when you are in a National Park you will be among a crowd when there is a bear sighting, on this quieter side road we got it all to ourselves. Seeing it just a short distance from the car, with no one else around, was one of our highlights of our San Diego to Toronto trek.


That’s just 3 things to do between Banff and Lake Louise, but there are plenty more on one of our favorite drives in Canada. Do you have any other suggestions?


Photo credit – Morant’s Curve.