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Banff National Park, Alberta, AB T0L, Canada

GPS: 51.497022999925, -115.92740575554

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Banff National Park is located in western Canada, some 100 km from the city of Calgary. It is part of the Canadian Rockies, a huge mountainous region spread across the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. This 1,200 km long mountain range houses a total of four national parks linked together by a network of panoramic roads: these are Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho national parks, all border residents with Banff National Park. Associated with the protected areas of British Columbia, they together form the Parks of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks stretching for nearly 23,000 km. This high mountain landscape, covered with snow and glaciers, is listed as Unesco World Heritage.

Created in 1885, Banff is the third oldest national park in the world, after the Yellowstone National Park (proclaimed in 1872 in the United States) and the Royal National Park (established in 1879 in Australia). This territory, with an area of 6,600 km², constitutes the country’s first protected natural area and the most visited national park in Canada. It quickly aroused the curiosity of the public after workers from the Canadian Pacific Railway company discovered in 1883 a cave containing hot springs from Mount Sulphur (Cave and Basin National Historic Site). Already known for centuries to Aboriginal peoples who use the site to heal or improve their well-being, this thermal heritage was updated at the time of the gold rush. The authorities decide to create a national park to promote the development of tourism in the region while carrying out actions to conserve its fauna and flora. Building on its growing success, Banff National Park became one of the national emblems with the Fairmont Château Lake Louise, a luxury hotel built in 1890 on the banks of the sumptuous Lake Louise.

Endowed with vast wilderness surmounted by dazzling points of view, Banff National Park brings together in one place an incalculable number of natural sites: peaks of 3,000 meters above sea level, mountain passes, cashed canyons, ice fields, dense forests, large valleys, Alpine meadows, limpid rivers, waterfalls, limestone caves, circuses and glacial lakes with mirror effects in a beautiful setting. The mountainous lands of Banff National Park offer more than 1,600 km of hiking trails and interpretation tracks as well as a lot of varied outdoor activities to take advantage of its sublime landscapes in any season.

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  • The observation terraces at the top of Mount Sulphur, surrounded by six mountain ranges (accessible by the Banff Gondola cable car); the Valley of the Ten Peaks; the rock formations Big and Little Beehive
  • Canada’s largest cave system (Castleguard Cave); the Columbia Icefield (on the border with Jasper National Park) encompassing the glaciers Athabasca, Castleguard, Columbia, Dome, Stutfield and Saskatchewan; Lake Louise’s cable car (Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola) offering a breathtaking view of the glaciers from the summit of Mount Whitehorn
  • The several lakes (Louise Lake, Moraine Lake, Minnewanka Lake, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake, Vermilion Lake); the Banff Upper Hot Springs (naturally heated under the effect of the loopholes of the Sulphur and Rundle mountains); the Johnston canyon and Lower Falls (specific to climbing activities and ice walking in winter); the park’s waterfalls (Bridal Veil Falls, Sunwapata Falls, Bow Falls, Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Silverton Falls…)
  • The interpretation trails (Summit Walk, Banff Culture Walk and Aylmer Lookout); the hiking trails (Plain of the Six Glaciers, Sunshine Meadows, Banff Legacy Trail, Tunnel Mountain Hoodoos Trail, Parker Ridge Trail, Spray River Loop Trail, Larch Valley Trail, Cory Pass Trail and Cascade Amphitheater Trail) ; the bike itinerary of Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail (26 km) ; the routes by car (Icefields Parkway and Bow Valley Parkway) ; the luxurious train trips aboard the Royal Canadian Pacific company (departures take place from the city of Calgary) ; the various train routes offered by the Rocky Mountaineer railway company
  • Climbing activity on the slopes of Mount Rundle (reserved for experienced climbers) ; the ski areas of Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise Ski Resort (open from November to May) ; camping possibilities; sunrise and sunset sceneries in the Canadian Rockies; the activities offered by the Cave and Basin National Historic Site (bath in thermal waters, walk trails, guided tours day and night)
  • The multitude of fauna (American black bear, grizzly bear, migratory woodland caribou, wapiti, moose, wolf, Canada lynx, coyote, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, marmot, salamander…) and the variety of flora (pine forest and fir tree, poplars, flowering plants, wild flowers…); the presence of 280 species of birds in the mountain, subalpine and alpine areas of the park
  • The many activities (hiking, swimming, sailing, boating, fishing, rafting, canoeing, climbing, golf, skiing, rackets, ice skating…) ; the Trans-Canada Highway crossing the park from east to west through the Canadian Rockies
  • The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (historical museum), the Buffalo Nations Museum and the Banff Park Museum (natural history museums) all located in the city of Banff; the curious work of art representing a man-siren in Banff (visible in front of the Banff Indian Trading Post store); the presence of fossilized corals (350 million years) attesting to the ancient presence of an ocean
  • The ice sculpture competition in January on Lake Louise (Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition) ; the Calgary Stampede in Calgary (rodeo festival in July); the Banff Summer Arts (cultural festival from June to August); the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival (in October or November)
  • Originally named Rocky Mountains Park, this first protected natural area in Canada changed its name in 1930 to be renamed Banff National Park (in reference to Banff thermal spring).
  • During the First and Second World War, immigrants from Eastern Europe were sent to forced labour camps in Banff to help build many road infrastructure.
  • The Canadian Rockies are made up of hundreds of glaciers, which would have lost 25% of their volume during the 20th century. The Columbia Icefield alone covers an area of 215,000 m², just over twice the size of Paris intramural.
  • Remains of fossilized corals, 350 million years old, testify to the ancient presence of an ocean in the region (the formation of the Rocky Mountains is the result of a long geological process initiated about 75 million years ago).
  • The warm waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs site are Canada’s highest thermal springs (1,500 meters above sea level).
  • In 2017, North American bison were reintroduced into the eastern part of Banff National Park. Exterminated by settlers over 140 years ago, this large emblematic land mammal of North America populated the large meadows of the Canadian Rockies by thousands in the days of the native tribes. In the space of 3 years, the number of bison in Banff National Park has increased from 16 to 45 individuals (10 bison calves were born in 2020).
  • Canada is the country with the largest number of protected natural sites in the world (more than 5,000 entities covering 10% of the national land territory).
  • Summer offers the greatest choice of outdoor recreation and autumn the most beautiful shades of colour. Be sure to respect the closing periods of certain areas and access roads to the park, especially in winter (it can fall 4 meters of snow per year).
  • If you are looking for peaceful and virgin corners of any human presence to appreciate the wild nature of the park, favour the discovery of sites far from the city of Banff (3 million people visit the park each year).
  • The Banff National Park ski resorts allow the practice of numerous outdoor activities (alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, hiking, racketeering, ice skating…).
  • Between mid-December and mid-April, Louise Lake turns into a giant skating rink in a ruffling natural setting with the Fairmont Château Lake Louise as a backdrop (the site is also accessible and lit after dark).
  • From the neighbouring towns of Edmonton or Calgary, starts Highway 93. Nicknamed the Icefields Parkway, it offers a picturesque route of more than 200 km through the wonderful landscapes of the Banff and Jasper National Parks.
  • Elks or moose (the largest species of deer) are particularly feared by drivers because they cause numerous road accidents, sometimes fatal. Take care to comply with speed limits and exercise caution in risk areas indicated by road signs.

Where to eat

  • Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
    (high mountain tea house)
  • The Juniper Bistro
    (panoramic view)
  • Storm Mountain Lodge
    (picturesque cottage)

Where to go out

  • Canmore Cave Tours
    (underground explorations)
  • Ha Ling Peak
    (impressive track)
  • Yoho National Park
    (breathtaking landscapes)

Where to sleep

  • Rocky Mountain Bed & Breakfast
    (friendly and well located)
  • Post Hotel & Spa
    (close to Lake Louise)
  • The Fairmont Banff Springs
    (inspired by Scottish mansions)

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