Text by John Marriott. Photos © Jeff Waugh.
In the fall of 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. From that humble beginning was born Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park and the world’s third. Spanning 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 square miles) of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, Banff National Park is one of the world’s premier destination spots. Visitors can tour our historic sites, soak in hot springs, stroll along the shores of Lake Louise, spend a night in the historic Banff Springs Hotel, and drive the Icefields Parkway into adjoining Jasper National Park.
Banff National Park is a hiking wonderland, containing over 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) of trails, more than any other mountain park. Hikers can find anything from a one-hour jaunt up a mountain to a month long backcountry excursion into the lonely wild regions of the park. Banff is home to a number of outstanding geological and ecological features. In addition to the hot springs, the Castleguard Caves in the remote northwest corner of the park are Canada’s longest cave system. The park also contains Alberta’s southernmost herd of the endangered woodland caribou. The park is in the Rocky Mountain natural life zone, with terrain divided into three separate eco-regions: the montane, the sub-alpine and the alpine. Each eco-region is characterized by a different plant and animal regime, as well as a different climate and elevation. The Trans-Canada Highway, the Banff-Radium
Highway, the scenic Bow Valley Parkway and the awe-inspiring Icefields Parkway are all major travel routes that bisect the park, enhancing visitors’ chances of seeing the abundant wildlife inhabiting the mountain regions. Lucky travellers may see elk, deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, black bears, grizzly bears, wolves and a host of other large and small mammals.
Park Information | Banff National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations