Banff National Park is Canada’s alpine adventure.
Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National Park you can enjoy year-round discovery of the 6,641 km2 mountainous landscape. As the first national park established in Canada and a coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site, what makes Banff National Park so special is its combination of vast unspoiled wilderness, mountain lakes like Lake Louise, and the gateway to it all: the Town of Banff.
Whether you’re on a camper’s budget or living it up in luxury, Banff offers a choice of accommodation, restaurants, boutique shops and activities to make your trip a memorable one. The history of this mountain town is also well preserved at a number of museums and heritage sites, while new memories are created throughout the year at world-class festivals and events.
The allure of Banff is also its close proximity to the park’s incredible attractions and best-kept wilderness secrets. With 1600 kilometres of trails, two gondolas, three ski areas, an exciting heritage and more dining options and activities than you have time for, Banff National Park is a premier destination for authentic hospitality and outdoor exploration.
The History of Canada's First National Park
With its towering peaks and stunning glacier-fed lakes, it’s hard to believe that an area as beautiful as the Canadian Rockies once lay dormant to Western eyes, known only by the native peoples who dwelled in the valleys below. It wasn’t until the 1700s that Europeans arrived, thus beginning an exciting tradition of exploration in the mountain landscape.
In 1883, two years before the completion of Canada's first transcontinental railroad, three railroad workers stumbled upon a series of hot springs on the lower shoulder of what is now called Sulphur Mountain. By 1885, after a heated ownership dispute, the springs and surrounding area were set aside as Canada's first national park. The Canadian Pacific Railway immediately recognized the tourism potential of the Canadian Rockies. In 1888, under the direction of William Cornelius Van Horne, they opened the elegant 250-room Banff Springs Hotel.
The railway then constructed a series of grand hotels along its main line and began advertising Banff as an international tourism stopover on the steel highway that had suddenly become the fastest and most direct route from Europe to the Far East. The Rockies quickly became popular with the Victorian gentry, who came to drink in the scenery and soak in the soothing hot springs.
Soon visitors were not just stopping over - they were coming to stay. Now, approximately 8300 people call Banff their home. Residents of both Banff and Lake Louise are proud to share their local knowledge and appreciation for the nature, history and culture of this World Heritage destination. The history of the area is also captured by a number of museums, including the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff Park Museum, Luxton Museum and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.