Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park, founded in 1885. Located in the Rockies of Alberta, 110 kilometers (68 miles) west of Calgary, Banff covers around 6,640 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) of ice fields, dense coniferous forests, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise and connects Jasper National Park to the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park border on the west, while Kootenay National Park is to the south and Kananaskis Country is found to the southeast. The main economic center of the park is the town of Banff in the Bow River Valley.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was invaluable in the early years of Banff, building the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, and attracting tourists through extensive advertising. At the beginning of the 20th century, roads were built in Banff, sometimes by World War I trainees and as public works projects during the Great Depression. Accommodation in the park has been open all year round since the 1960s, with annual tourist visits to Banff reaching more than 4 million in the 1990s. Millions more pass through the park on the Trans-Canada Highway. With more and more visitors each year, Banff’s health is threatened. In the mid-1990s, Parks Canada responded by launching a two-year study that resulted in management recommendations and new policies to maintain environmental integrity.
Banff National Park has a subarctic climate with three ecoregions, including mountain, subalpine and alpine. The forests are dominated by Lodgepole pine in lower positions and Engelmann spruce in the upper-lower limit of the forest, above this is mostly rocks and ice. Animals such as grizzly bears, cougars, wolverines, moose, bighorn sheep, and moose, along with hundreds of bird species are found in the park. Reptiles and amphibians also inhabit the park, but only a limited number of species have been recorded. The mountains were formed from sedimentary rocks that were pushed east on top of newer rock strata 80 to 55 million years ago. Over the last few million years, glaciers have sometimes covered most of the park, but are now found only on mountain slopes, although they include the Columbia Icefield, the largest glacial mass in the Rockies without interruption. The swell of water and ice cut the mountains into their current form.
Check out the handy links below to help with planning your next trip to Banff National Park.
Important Bulletins – Current Parks Canada warnings, closures, restrictions, and prohibitions for the National Park.
Trail Conditions – Conditions and descriptions of all of the popular trails in the park.
Roam Public Transit – Local and regional bus service provided by the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission.
Road Conditions – Includes closures, incidents, construction, as well as weather alerts for highways throughout Alberta.
Banff Parking – A handy site with information on all Town of Banff-operated parking lots as well as the town’s new paid parking initiative.
Banff Maps & Apps – A neat Town of Banff website full of maps for things like street parking locations, bike rack locations, heritage buildings, municipal trails, location of the off-leash dog parks, public art, park locations, satellite imagery, and a whole lot more.
Getting Around – A detailed overview of all public transit options within the park.
BanffNow – Provides real-time up-to-date information including parking availability, road conditions, and suggestions on places to visit within the park.
Camping – Provides information on the 13 front country campgrounds, backcountry camping, what to bring, rules and regulations and is the place to reserve your campsite in Banff.
Town of Banff – Official website for the only town located within Banff National Park.
Banff & Lake Louise Tourism – The official tourism website for Banff & Lake Louise. A great resource for planning and booking your next visit to the park.
Visitor Safety – An overview of driving and mountain safety, weather, wilderness, and wildlife hazards as well as the weekly bear report.
Things To Do – Guides provided by Parks Canada on a variety of activities to do in Banff such as biking, hiking, diving, fishing, skating, scrambling, wildlife watching, and a whole lot more.
Plan Your Visit – Details you need to know before arriving such as fees, park passes, what to see, regulations, hours of operation, and a handy pre-arrival checklist.
Brochures – Informative guides provided by Parks Canada on things such as hiking, biking, camping, fishing, scrambling, diving, ice climbing, wildlife safety as well as maps detailing things such as the Icefields Parkway and public transit.
Nature & Science – A guide detailing animals, plants, and the environment within Banff National Park as well as current conservation initiatives.
Banff Culture – Details about the various national historic sites, federal heritage buildings, and archaeology sites located throughout the park.
Improvement District No. 9 – The municipal governing body for all land within the national park outside of the Town of Banff.
Banff Life – BanffLIFE is dedicated to promoting healthy, balanced lifestyles for young adults living in Banff.
Ski Big 3 – The official site for Banff’s 3 ski hills. Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise.