Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest and most famous national park. It was founded in 1885 after the discovery of the Cave and Basin Hot Springs. From humble beginnings as a 26 square kilometre hot springs reserve, Banff National Park now consists of 6,641 square kilometres of unparalleled mountain scenery nestled in the heart of the magnificent Canadian Rockies. Each year, millions of visitors come to Banff to marvel at the emerald waters of Lake Louise, walk amongst the flower-filled heavens at Sunshine Meadows, and drive beneath the towering jagged peaks lining the Ice fields Parkway between Banff and Jasper.
Ten thousand years ago, natives camped on the shores of the Vermilion Lakes beneath the windswept peak of Mount Rundle. They were the only people here to enjoy the mountain landscape, the beautiful sunrises and the hot springs. Nearly ten millennia later, a struggling nation forged a crazy dream of connecting itself from sea to sea with steel rails, and from this railway venture was born Canada’s most famous park, Banff National Park.
Banff National Park contains some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. Snow-capped peaks, glistening glaciers, ice fields, alpine meadows, blue cold crystal clear lakes, raging rivers, mineral hot springs, deep canyons, hoodoos and sweeping vistas are just one part of the allure of Banff National Park. The park is also the home of some of North America’s wildest creatures, including black and grizzly bears, caribou and wolves.
Banff and Lake Louis are two major towns in Banff National Park. As the largest town in the park, Banff is “Canada’s Highest Town” at 1384 m (4540 ft) above sea level. Lake Louise, with its blue-green water set against the stark backdrop of Victoria Glacier, is the highest permanent settlement in Canada at 1,536m (5,039 feet) above the sea level and probably the most beloved and most photographed scene in the Canadian Rockies.
In Banff National Park, driving through the Bow Valley Parkway, one of the world’s most scenic highways, is a good opportunity to see animals, particularly deer, bears and moose. Banff National Park is part of the UNESCO Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.