Set amid the spectacular Rocky Mountains, Canada's oldest national park, created in 1885, is home to a seemingly endless variety of natural wonders, with a vast network of rivers, hiking trails and driving routes criss-crossing its pristine alpine landscapes. This is a land of rugged mountaintops and plunging canyons, dramatic and untamed; of emerald lakes and carving glaciers; of high meadows springing with flowers. And, amid all the beauty is a wonderfully rich diversity of wildlife, from elusive bears to bighorn sheep and wandering herds of elk and moose.
While national park's endless alpine vistas rightly grab the headlines, the town of Banff itself – appropriately located at the foot of Sulphur Mountain – is a bubbling hotspot of natural springs. First discovered by railroad workers back in 1883, today the springs attract visitors from across Alberta and beyond to soak in their healing waters.
Wildlife and Trails
Johnston Canyon is a gorge with two brilliant waterfalls and is visited along the popular trail from Bow Valley Parkway, where you can also see bubbles of water appearing from a natural spring. Explore the old coalmine and ghost town in Bankhead on a short hiking trail from Lake Minnewanka Road. Further into the mountainous wilderness live grizzly bear, caribou, moose, wolf and elk, as well as a variety of birds nestling in the forestry. On hikes around the national park wildlife is never far from your mind.
The biggest attraction of Banff National Park has to be Lake Louise. It's known as the ‘Jewel of the Rockies' for its clear waters, surrounding peaks and stunning views. It's accessible via the Icefield Parkway, a spectacular driving route that links Lake Louise to Jasper National Park. Take a drive around Banff's largest lake and take advantage of the picnic spots and hiking trails at gorgeous Lake Minnewanka.
Due to the Rockies' ever-so-reliable snowfall, winter sees Banff transform into one of North America's premier ski areas. The two resorts most accessible from Banff town are Norquay and Sunshine Village, with Lake Louise also providing superb options for on- and off-piste adventures. There's also the chance to try out heli-skiing to access those more remote backcountry slopes.