Banff National Park

Banff National Park in Alberta is the oldest of 43 Canadian national parks, and the third oldest national park in the world after Yellowstone in the US and  Royal National Park in Australia. Like them, Banff too was established in the late 19th century; in 1885, to be more precise. It’s located in the Canadian Rockies, some 70 miles due west of Calgary which gives it a very favorable strategic position.

This is one of the reasons Banff has been visited by more than 3.6 million tourists in 2014/15. It’s a perfect retreat for when city crowds become unbearable, but that’s far from Banff’s only attraction. After all, it hasn’t been a national park for 130 years already without a reason.

Banff National Park in Canada

This is one of the reasons Banff has been visited by more than 3.6 million tourists in 2014/15. It’s a perfect retreat for when city crowds become unbearable, but that’s far from Banff’s only attraction. After all, it hasn’t been a national park for 130 years already without a reason.

Geography Position & Location

Like most national parks, Banff started off as a limited preservation area of only 26 square kilometers or 10 square miles. It now consists of a much larger area encompassing 6,641 square kilometers or 2,564 square miles. Furthermore, Banff is not the only national park in the area as it practically connects to Jasper National Park to the north-west and Yoho National Park to the west. On the other hand, Kootenay National Park is close by to the south.

Banff National Park in Alberta offers a plethora of tourist activities. They range from conventional winter ski to modern eco-friendly activities. In other words, there’s something for pretty much everyone, but all activities are enhanced by Banff’s gorgeous, pristine nature.

Lakes – a symbol of Banff Park

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Banff is probably best known for its lakes. Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, Lake Minnewanka, Vermilion Lakes, Johnson Lake, Bow Lake, Lake Agnes, and Hector Lake are all worthy of a visit. Some are larger, some are smaller, but they all offer colorful scenery and breathtaking landscapes which you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. The best thing it’s actually free. Don’t forget you won’t be the only one there, though, especially if Lake Louise is your destination. Be prepared for crowds at certain points.

Ski resorts are another one of Banff’s recognizable trademarks. There are three of them, all accessible by the same lift pass. Mount Norquay and Sunshine Village are both within 10 miles of the Banff town itself, but the largest and best-known ski resort Mount Louise is some 40 miles further away. They are all easily reachable by the shuttle bus and all offer perks of their own. Even though Lake Louise is the largest of the three, missing the former two would be a mistake.

Banff National Park – natural wonders

Banff National Park

Natural wonders of Banff National Park in Alberta don’t stop there. Banff is riddled with glaciers, mountain peaks, waterfalls, canyons, and a plethora of other attractions. Bow Glacier, Crowfoot Glacier, Peyto Glacier, and Vulture Glacier can easily be seen from the Icefields Parkway which is the epitome of scenic roads (Highway 93 North). Saskatchewan Glacier can be accessed from it, and there are also Wapta Icefield, Waputik Icefield, Hector Glacier, and Ram Glacier which too are well worthy of a visit.

Sulphur Mountain, Mt. Norquay, Mount St. Piran, Mount Hector, Mount Rundle, Castle Mountain, Cascade Mountain, Mount Assiniboine, Mount Robson, and many more enrich Banff’s already eyed appealing horizons with their own splendor. Takakkaw Falls and Bow Falls shouldn’t be skipped at all, and so shouldn’t be Mistaya Canyon and Johnston Canyon.

All that, and we’re not even close to all that Banff National Park in Alberta has to offer. Apart from rich wildlife, northern lights make a habit of appearing every once in a while. Needless to say, that’s a splendid sight, to say the least. Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the actual epicenter of Canada’s national park system, is included in those initial few square miles at Banff’s implementation. It’s actually one extensive Hot Springs Reserve consisting of nine such natural hot springs.

There are attractions of a different kind at Banff as well. Golf courses are common here, and so are numerous trails and sky gondolas with imposing views. One shouldn’t forget Banff Park Museum and Roman Baths in Banff Upper Hot Springs. All in all, Canada’s first national park is a place with an abundance of history and natural wonders. Simply by looking at its potential one can easily figure out why it’s Canada’s first and one of most visited national parks.

When to Go

banf national park

Open year-round, Banff offers amazing wildlife viewing and sightseeing, plus plentiful shopping and dining options, any time of the year. Summer is popular for hiking, paddling, mountain biking, and cycling, photography, and climbing. The best time for viewing seasonal color is fall when the larch trees—the only coniferous trees to lose their needles in winter—turn yellow.

In winter, the mountain landscape makes for incredible downhill and cross-country skiing. In fact, three major downhill ski resorts operate within the park. Lake Louise Ski Area, Sunshine Village, and Mount Norquay combine to offer a large skiable terrain, not to mention the backcountry trails available throughout the park. The ski season, which runs from November to May, is one of the longest in North America. Visitors can also enjoy wildlife tours, ice walks, snowshoeing, and dogsled, and horse sleigh rides.

Weather in the Canadian Rockies can change quickly. A single day can have a mix of sunshine, snow, wind, and rain, so dress in layers. Summers are warm with low humidity. Temperatures average a high of 70ºF, and daylight lasts until 11 p.m. Autumn brings cool nights and crisp air. Winters can be frigid. In January, the average daytime high is minus 19ºF, but by April it is 49ºF.

How to Visit Banf?

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Visiting the park by car or tour bus is most common. In the town of Banff, you can also catch the ROAM bus, a publicly accessible and environmentally friendly hybrid outfitted with wildlife information. Pick up a map or bus schedule at the Banff or Lake Louise visitor information centers. GPS guides are also available.

To get the most out of the park, plan to spend a day in the town of Banff and the rest of your vacation outdoors, immersing yourself in the mountains, especially if you’re an experienced skier or hiker.

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