Banff National Park is a protected paradise in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is Canada's oldest and largest national park, with more than 2,500 sq. miles of dense forests, lakes, glaciers, and mountains. With so much surrounding beauty and abundance of outdoor fun at visitors' disposal, it's no wonder it is one of the most sought out destinations in the world, welcoming millions of people every year.
Banff National Park is on the western border of Alberta near British Columbia. Calgary is the largest nearby town and is about an hour and a half away by car. The highly traveled Trans-Canada Highway passes through the park and the small towns Banff and Lake Louise.
The park was established in 1885 after the Cave and Basin Hot Springs was discovered and set aside as a reserve. The park area was eventually expanded to include Lake Louise and the Columbia Icefield in the Rocky Mountains. This icefield feeds eight major glaciers in the alpine region.
Glacial erosion over time caused many U-shaped and hanging valleys where waterfalls form. It also contributed to the jagged mountain peaks towering above the land. There are also many small gorges including Mistaya Canyon and Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon has a cascading waterfall flowing out of it seasonally. When this waterfall freezes in the winter, people enjoy ice climbing in the canyon.
The three main ecoregions of Banff National Park are montane, subalpine, and alpine. The subalpine region takes up more than half of the park's area and consists of thick forests. A small part of the park is the lower montane region with a variation in trees including spruce, willow, aspen, fir, and maple trees. The alpine region has glacial valleys and meadows.
The lower montane region of Banff National Park is where most wildlife can be found. The park has 56 mammals that call it home including bears, cougars, otters, elk, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, moose, caribou, and beavers.
Banff National Park is on the eastern side of the Continental Divide and receives almost 20 inches of precipitation every year. The warm Chinook winds keep winter temperatures in this region tolerable, ranging from 6-degrees F to 24-degrees F in the town of Banff. Summers are mild with average July temperatures averaging 45 to 70-degrees F.
Each year, people come from all over the world to explore this Canadian gem. There are numerous resorts and luxurious hotels including the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. During their stay, visitors like to take advantage of the mountainous terrain by downhill and cross-country skiing. There are also many day and backcountry hikes, particularly around Lake Louise. Climbing is a great option, and mountain climbing is a popular activity in the park all year.
Summer activities include visiting the local hot springs or swimming, canoeing, and kayaking in on one of the park's lakes. Mountain biking and horseback riding are other great ways to explore the rugged landscape. There are many adventures possible at this vast Canadian park. A variety of rentals are available around the lakes where people can boat and fish in the summer or ice skate and ice fish in the winter. No matter when people visit, there are many ways to have an enchanting adventure at beautiful Banff National Park.