The elements that make the Canadian Rockies a year round dream destination are all right here in Banff National Park, a beautiful 90 minute drive west of Calgary. Established in 1883 after three railway workers stumbled onto a thermal mineral spring, it became Canada’s first national park in 1885. Today it is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nestled in the heart of the park, the town of Banff and nearby hamlet of Lake Louise have all the creature comforts and are your gateways to year round adventures.
In summer, set up camp and explore 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of trails as you watch for deer, elk, moose and bear. Take in the Banff Summer Arts Festival, with over 200 events by local and international artists. Tee off in the alpine paradise of the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Resort. See for yourself why National Geographic rated the Icefields Parkway one of the 10 Greatest Drives in the World.
Come back in winter and dive into deep powder on skis and snowboards. Enjoy snowshoeing, dog sledding and canyon ice walks. Snuggle with your loved one on a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride. Indulge in après ski spa treatments and world class cuisine.
Big peaks. Big elk. Big caves. Big festivals. Here’s your insider Banff National Park checklist!
Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola and take in the breathtaking views in every direction. Surrounded by six mountain ranges, see the townsite of Banff nestled far below. Take a short hike along the walkway to Sanson’s Peak and watch for wildlife.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
No trip to Banff is complete without a soak in the restorative waters of the famed Banff Upper Hot Springs. Visitors from around the world have been coming to “take the waters” for decades. Stay for an expert massage in the historic bathhouse.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
This recently restored iconic landmark is the site of the 1883 discovery that led to the creation of Canada’s first national park. Take the Discovery Tour to the original hot spring.
Explore the largest lake in the park, just 15 minutes from the Banff townsite. Walk or cycle the trails around the lake, take an hour boat cruise and enjoy a picnic lunch in the midst of spectacular alpine scenery.
Rent a canoe and paddle to the far end of this turquoise alpine lake to where the Victoria Glacier reaches down toward the shoreline. Take an easy stroll around the lakeshore and be back for tea at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. In the summer, take the Lake Louise Gondola to an elevation of 2,088 m (6,850 ft) and watch for grizzly bears below. At the top there are a number of easy to intermediate hikes.
Not many national parks have ski resorts tucked inside. Banff National Park has three: Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise Ski Resort. With a superb 4,200 acres of skiable terrain spread over four mountain faces, Lake Louise is consistently ranked one of the best places to ski in Canada.
Can’t get enough of this addictive mountain getaway? Explore more of the Canadian Rockies.