Banff National Park

Travel Guide North America Canada Alberta Banff National Park

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Introduction

Banff National Park is a park in the central west of Alberta, Canada. Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110-180 kilometres west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 km2 of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Park is located to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley.

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Geography

Banff National Park is located in the Rocky Mountains on Alberta's western border with British Columbia in the Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion. Banff is about an hour and half driving distance from Calgary, and four hours from Edmonton. Jasper National Park is located to the north, while Yoho National Park is to the west, and Kootenay National Park is to the south. Kananaskis Country, which includes Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Spray Valley Provincial Park, and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, is located to the south and east of Banff.

The Trans-Canada Highway passes through Banff National Park, from eastern boundary near Canmore, through the towns of Banff and Lake Louise, and into Yoho National Park in British Columbia. The Banff townsite is the main commercial centre in the national park. The village of Lake Louise is located at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Icefields Parkway, which extends north to the Jasper townsite.

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Sights and Activities

The most common wildlife seen in the park are bighorn sheep, deer, and North American elk. Moose are more elusive (their population is in decline) and mountain goats are virtually undetectable on the mountainsides without a good pair of binoculars. (Visitors often mistake female bighorn sheep for mountain goats, because female bighorns have short horns somewhat like those of mountain goats.) Although caribou are present in the park, they are rarely seen by visitors. It is important to keep in mind the park is also home to black bears, grizzly bears, wolves, coyotes, and cougars (mountain lions).

On the warmer and fuzzier side, the park is home to many tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots. The occasional porcupine and beaver may also be found. Bird lovers will want to watch for Ruffed Grouse, Bald Eagles, and the ubiquitous Canada Goose.

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Cost

All visitors stopping in the park (even just for gas) require a park permit. If you are driving through non-stop, the pass is not required. Day passes and annual passes are available.

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Getting There

The following connections are all related to Banff town, located within the park.

By Plane

Calgary International Airport, (airport code: YYC) is the nearest airport, almost 2 hours away from Banff. Air Canada connects Calgary to more destinations across Canada, the USA and the rest of the world direct from here. WestJet flies from Calgary to destinations across Canada, as well as select places in North America. In addition, many US airlines fly to Calgary.

By Train

Between Mid-April and Mid-October, the two-day, all daylight Rocky Mountaineer travels between Vancouver or Whistler, British Columbia and the Rocky Mountain destinations of Jasper, Banff or Calgary Alberta.

By Car

Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) bisects the park east/west. Banff is about an hour and a half from Calgary Alberta and the same from Golden British Columbia. Other ways to enter the park by automobile include the Icefields Parkway from Jasper, Highway 11 from Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer Alberta, and Highway 93 from Radium Hot Springs and Cranbrook British Columbia.

By Bus

Greyhound Canada has buses to Calgary (almost 2 hours) and Vancouver (14 hours) and many places in between. Brewster Transportation offers pick up from the hotel to Lake Louise (1 hour) and Jasper (4,5 hours). Sundog Tours has transfers to Jasper as well.

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Getting Around

  • By far the easiest way to get around is by vehicle. Vehicle rentals are available in Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise. The only places to purchase fuel in the park are in Banff and Lake Louise.
  • It is also possible to cover the park on bicycle, but the mountainous terrain will make this quite a workout. Bicycle rentals (town, road and mountain bikes) are also available with in Banff and Lake Louise, visit the Parks Canada information centre for road and trail routes.
  • GyPSy Guide provides the self-drive visitors with a guided tour. GyPSy Guide automatically plays audio commentary, depending on your location, and through the stereo of any vehicle as you tour through the National Parks and beyond. No buttons to push, it knows where you are!

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Eat

With inventive panache, chefs relentlessly reach new culinary heights. Recipes change according to the seasons and make use of the freshest local ingredients. During the fall and winter, this means game, squash and legumes, while spring features asparagus and mushrooms and summer highlights edible flowers and fresh fruits. The majority of restaurants are found in Banff town, with a few at other resorts in the park.

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Drink

Banff town has a large variety of places to sit and enjoy a drink whether it is après ski or a patio.

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Sleep

Whether camping or looking for a high class hotel, Banff National Park has something to offer. Camping spots are found throughout the park. Camping outside of designated spots is illegal without a special backcountry permit.

There are many hotels and lodges and bed-and-breakfasts throughout Banff. Vacation rental apartments can also be found easily. Some resorts provide log-cabin rentals. RV parking is available very close to Banff township.

  • Simpson's Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, ☎ +1 403-522-2167. Rooms, dining, coffee shop and small gift shop.
  • HI-Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel, Hwy 1A and Hwy 93 South, ☎ +1 778 328-2220, +1 403 762-2367, toll-free: +1-866-762-4122, fax: +1 778 328-2215. Check-in: 5P:00pm check-out: 10:00am. A small hostel about halfway down the road towards Banff, and offers a very laid back atmosphere. The facilities are excellent, with a sizeable kitchen, friendly atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. Reservations are required during the winter months, as closure dates may apply, and recommended during the summer months to ensure a bed. Dorm beds from $23, with a $4 surcharge for non-members, ski packages available. Pets not allowed.
  • HI-Mosquito Creek Hostel, Hwy 93 North directions, ☎ +1 778 328-2220, toll-free: +1-866-762-4122, fax: +1 778 328-2215. Check-in: 5:00pm, check-out: 10:00am. It is a simple, rustic but clean hostel, in the middle of the Rockies at 1816m along the glacier-fed creek, offering a true back-to-nature "off-the-grid" Canadian experience. World-class outdoor pursuits are literally at your doorstep here, with an on-site sauna to soothe weary muscles at the end of the day! Pets not allowed. Dorms $20-23 members, $24-27 non-members. Private rooms $58-60 members, $66-68 non-members.
  • The Crossing Resort, ☎ +1 403-761-7000.
  • Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service, ☎ +1-514-335-4813, toll-free: +1-877-737-3783. Banff National Park uses Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service for campsites within the park TTY: +1-866-787-6221.
  • Parks Canada, ☎ +1 403-762-1550, e-mail: banff.vrc@pc.gc.ca. For registration if you are planning on camping in the backcountry.

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This is version 9. Last edited at 13:34 on Mar 21, 18 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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