Banff or Canmore? Where to Stay :
The mountain towns of Banff and Canmore are only a few minutes’ drive away. Both provide a base to explore one of the most beautiful mountain ranges on earth – the Canadian Rockies.
So when researching and booking your holiday, you will likely need to decide whether to book your vacation rental in Banff or Canmore. And while these towns are close together there are some important factors that a visitor should understand before deciding which location is their preferred option.
Hotels vs. Condo Resorts
One of the big differences between Banff and Canmore is that more of Banff’s vacation properties can be characterized as traditional hotels. Unless you are booking a luxury sweet, your standard Banff hotel property is typically a smallish room with no separate kitchen or bedrooms. We have all stayed in a hotel so you know the picture I am trying to paint. The Banff Springs Hotel is a great example.
Canmore, on the other hand, has more condo resort style properties. These properties are typically one, two or even three bedroom properties that include kitchens. Often these properties are privately owned, but managed like a hotel by a professional company. Solara is a great example.
So if a property with separate bedrooms and a actual kitchen is a primary concern, then Canmore might be the place for your to start looking at vacation rentals.
Banff generally has a significant advantage over Canmore in the number of amenities available. The number of restaurants, shopping options, and night spots really can’t be compared. That’s not to say that Canmore doesn’t have good restaurants or some cool stores, but there is far more to do in Banff.
But the towns are close together so you can always drive between locations if there is a restaurant or shopping option that you prefer over another.
For me, the biggest difference between the two towns is walkability. Banff is a compact town with the many of the hotels located in the heart of town. For the most part, you can easily walk the from your hotel to any restaurant even with kids. And if you are staying outside the central part of the town, at a place like the Banff Springs Hotel, the Banff bus really makes travel quite easy.
Canmore, on the other hand, is not nearly as walkable. You really need to drive and park in the downtown area since many of vacation properties are not within walking distance. Elsewhere the walk is often not enjoyable or there are actually no sidewalks.
I don’t want to be too negative, but Bow Valley Trail in Canmore where many of the hotels are located is too ugly and to pedestrian unfriendly to walk at all. In my view, Canmore’s biggest fail as a mountain town is that the hotel properties and the historic centre of the town are disconnected.
How does this translate in reality? On your average Banff evening the sidewalks are packed full of people enjoying themselves. On your average Canmore evening, you won’t find many people out on the sidewalks at all.
I have stayed in both Banff and Canmore a number of times. The walkability issue is the biggest and most important factor in my choice between Banff and Canmore. And frankly, the times we stay in Canmore are usually the times that we were too slow to book our hotel in Banff and nothing affordable is left.
Banff and Canmore Overall
Basically, Canmore is a great place to stay if you absolutely need that extra bedroom or kitchen. I would not recommend booking a standard hotel room in Canmore ever. Banff provides a much better mountain experience at approximate pricing, with better dining, shopping and entertainment options all within walking range of the majority of hotels.
Unless you have money, however, your Banff hotel room likely won’t be huge. But I don’t recommend spending much time in your hotel room while in Banff in any case.
If you are interested in a more detailed review of the Banff Springs Hotel please check out my review here. If you are looking for some tips on accessible landscape opportunities in the Canadian Rockies please check out my guide here.