Heading to the Rocky Mountains? Trying to decide where you should stay for your vacation? I have stayed in both Canmore and Banff many times, and love them both for different reasons. But, I want to break down exactly what you should expect between these two towns so that YOU can decide which is better for your trip!
First off, it’s important to note that these two towns are only about a 20 minute drive away from one another, so you can always stay in one, and go to dinner in the other (if you have a car). At the end of the day, both towns are gorgeous and there is no wrong answer.
Canmore has a more cozy family friendly atmosphere, and is about a 10 minute drive to the National Park entrance. You will often see people hanging around Canmore having just finished a hike, and although there are tourists, it doesn’t have the same touristy vibe that Banff does. Banff on the other hand is right inside the National Park and is a very charming town, but is typically more busy and touristy (especially in the summer months).
What are you planning to do on your trip?
Are you stopping by for only a couple days? In this case, you may want to choose Banff as it is closer to more attractions such as Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Are you planning to do lots of hikes in the Kananaskis area? If so, then you may rather stay in Canmore. What you are planning to do on your trip can really help decide which place you should stay.
Unsure what to do on your trip? Check out the Guide to the Top things to do in Canmore.
Location. Location. Location.
As I mentioned earlier, Banff is located right in the National Park. If this is important to you, then I would definitely pick to stay in Banff. Banff is closer to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (although still a decent drive away). Canmore is closer to Calgary (by 20 minutes), closer to the Nordic Centre and to some very popular hikes including Ha Ling (that sunrise hike is a bucket list activity for sure), East End of Rundle, and Grassi Lakes Trail. You don’t need a National Park Pass to stay in Canmore (as it is not in the National Park) however you still would need one for any days you are planning to go into Banff.
Both Canmore and Banff have many different hotels to pick from, but Banff definitely has more options. You may be able to find a cheaper place in Canmore, but because Canmore is growing in popularity I find that overall the pieces are quite similar. Banff has the Fairmont, so if you are wanting to splurge you may choose to stay there. However, Canmore has really nice hotels too such as The Malcolm – see my post about it here.
Hotels | booking.com
Hostels | hostelworld.com
Banff has more stores and also has more “mall” stores including Lululemon, Hudson Bay, Patagonia, The North Face. It can be a great place to go if you are looking for outdoor gear, a tourist shirt, or a yummy treat (chocolate stores, candy stores, Beavertails, ice cream – this list goes on and on). Canmore also has some shopping, however there are fewer stores on the main street and they are more “one of a kind” stores including Alberta’s Own and Project A.
Canmore does have two big grocery stores (Safeway and Save on Foods), a Canadian Tire, and a Mark’s.
Food and Drinks
Banff definitely has more restaurants, however Canmore still has some great options as well. Some of my favorites include:
Overall, both towns are great options! As someone who has stayed in both locations many times, I typically opt to stay in Canmore for the less touristy feel – and will typically go into Banff for dinner. If you are coming to the area for the first time and only staying a few days, I would probably choose Banff for the more touristy experience. Either way, you will feel completely in awe by being surrounded by the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
If you’ve stayed in both before, which one is your favourite and why?