Visit Banff National Park
Banff National Park is southeastern Alberta Rocky Mountains,You can visit Banff National Park any time of the year to enjoy outdoor adventurers Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Banff National Park is Canada’s first and oldest national park, established in 1885. Home to Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise
National Park Passes are required if you are stopping in or using the park in any way.
Access to Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise
The TransCanada Highway, Hwy 1, offers multiple turn-offs approaching Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise coming from the east (Calgary). Approaching from the west you will come upon Lake Louise, Banff then Canmore. All are located on the south side of the TransCanada.
Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise
There are many small towns throughout Banff National Park, but the trio of Canmore (pop est. 15,000), Banff (pop est. 8,200) and Lake Louise (pop est. 700), are the main locations travelers seek out for their accommodations when visiting and planning activities.
Home to Winter Sports – Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise
Embracing winter sports is a huge part of life in mountain park towns, whether a permanent resident or the never-ending stream of out of town enthusiasts. Backpacking, snowshoeing, hiking, or award-winning photography opportunities, there is always something to do or see in this winter wonderland.
The 1988 Winter Olympics really showed the world what was hidden away in the western Canadian Rockies (other than the Jamaican Bobsled Team). Along with host-city Calgary, Olympic locations were used in Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise. These locations offer some of the very best ski hills, venues, accommodations, and everything that goes along with Olympic and World Cup Skiing. The secret was out.
Spring and Summer in Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise
The hills come alive when the snow is gone. Banff National Park also has a unique landscape through spring, summer, or fall. The winter-loving-local-folks are joined by everyone else who would rather play in warmer temperatures.
Fishing. Hiking. Picnicking. Walking. Biking. Accessible trails and pathways are plenty and clearly marked.
Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise are ideal locations to become one with nature or visit a mountain resort, without a parka. However, it is the mountains, so make sure you’ve packed for a warm day and a possibly chillier evening.
* 5-minute drive from Banff
*Ski by the hour
*Smallest of the main three locations.
*Ski season: mid-November to mid-April.
*Mt Norquay’s website has all information on schedules and fare details.
Lake Louise Ski Area:
* 10-minute drive from the hamlet of Lake Louise, 45 minutes from the town of Banff and 55 minutes from the town of Canmore.
*Ski-shuttle connects the town of Banff to the Lake Louise Ski Area.
*First stop on the World Cup downhill skiing circuit in late November.
*Canada’s largest single ski-area with levels for all from beginners to the steep chutes and wide back bowls.
*Consistently rated as having the best scenery of any ski resort in North America.
*Snow-Cam live 24 hours.
*Lake Louise Ski Area website has all information on schedules and fare details.
*Ski season: early-November to early-May (weather permitting, fingers crossed).
* 20-minute drive from Banff, 35 minutes from Canmore, 45 minutes from Lake Louise.
*Sunshine Village is a large ski area offering a huge variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders.
*Levels for every kind of skier from beginner to the adventurous.
*Some expert-runs require you to carry an avalanche beacon
*Many mellower, easier slopes for the rest of us.
*Sunshine Village is the only on-hill-accommodation in Banff National Park at The Lodge.
*Snow-Cam live 24 hours.
*Ski-shuttle connects Sunshine Village to Banff and Lake Louise.
*Sunshine Village website has all information on schedules and fare details.
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park: (Canmore townsite)
*Originally developed for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games for the cross-country ski events
*Over 65 km of groomed, machine-made and natural snow trails at the base of Mt Rundle
*Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, tobogganing, winter disc-golf
*It is one of the few operational Olympic Nordic Skiing venues in the world.
What Can I Do in Banff National Park Without the Snow
Canmore has grown to near 14,000 people, yet the town has kept much of its mountain-feel with the Spirit of the West alive and well. Once thought of as a winter sports town, Canmore’s location alone allows never-ending activities and adventures all year round.
Plenty of hotels, motels, lodges, inns, and B&B locations for accommodations and close to 120 restaurants within 10 km of Canmore.
*Three Sisters Mountains – Faith, Hope, and Charity are the names of the sister mountains that stand guard. How far you decide to climb will determine your experience and views of the close to 10,000 foot Three Sisters Mountain. A good camera-lens goes a long way here.
*Cave Tours – Rats Nest Cave tours are year-round and offer great insight into Canmore’s geology. You should dress in good outdoor-wear that you’re not afraid to get a little dirty.
*Grassi Lakes – An easily accessible location mere minutes from Canmore. The Grassi Lakes hike offers a low-stress hike for beginners of all ages including smaller children, but the more difficult trails will highlight better vistas.
*Ha Ling Peak – located at the northwestern end of Mount Lawrence Grassi, just south of Canmore, east of Spray Lakes Road. This is not a beginner’s hike.
*Quarry Lake – a joint project between Rocky Mountain Heritage Foundation and the Town of Canmore, Quarry Lake Park is located at the base of Ha Ling Peak on Spray Lakes Road. This is accessible by car, bicycle, or on foot from Canmore. Here you will find picnic tables, grass lawns, benches, and swimming areas to cool off.
*Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk – the creek itself offers a wonderful place to hang out in Canmore for photographs of the Three Sisters Mountains and surrounding areas. The Boardwalk itself is a beautiful 30-minute walk highlighting again, all of the opportunities for classic, natural, world-class photographs.
*Grotto Canyon – 25kms (15.5m) east of Canmore, the Grotto Canyon Trail is a popular location with a well-used back trail where dogs are welcome (leashed of course). Photographs of the canyon wall are displayed proudly in many households around the world. Hiking is all year round, but ice-footwear is advised for winter hikes.
*Canmore Mountain Market – for over 20 years this special mountain market has been operating annually from May to October. Over 60 vendors offer locally and regionally produced fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, jams, coffee, and baked goods. Here you will also find wonderful artistry in jewelry, clothing, and hanging or decorating art.
*Canmore Winter Festival – the first two weeks of February really highlights the lifestyle of western Canadian winters. There is ice carving, skating with the skating party, street hockey tournaments, and log-sawing. There are even dog-themed events and a Pooch Parade.
*Canmore Folk Music Festival – the longest-running folk-fest in Alberta runs on the August long-weekend for 3 days. Family-oriented fun and music to be enjoyed by all!
*Canmore Highland Games – the year 2021 will see the 30th Anniversary of the games. Celtic culture is highlighted with these games of caber-toss and the other ‘heavy’ contests and vendors offer traditional food and beverages, including a beer tent with live music. Very inspiring are the drumming and bagpipe competitions.
*Legacy Trail between Canmore and Banff – 22 km (14m) of paved bike pathway between two beautiful locations, Canmore to Banff. A popular ride for locals and travelers alike with many stopping options along the way as it somewhat follows the TransCanada Highway.
*Bow River – legendary fishing, hiking, picnicking, or just strolling, the ‘mighty Bow’ is a rather tepid ambling through Canmore. Lots of opportunities to take to the river with various companies offering different rafting/floating packages.
The Canadian Pacific Railway developed the Banff townsite near the railway station as a service centre. In 1990, the Town of Banff became the only incorporated municipality within a Canadian national park. As of 2018, the population of Banff was at 8,142. Certainly, the busiest of the towns in the Canadian Rockies, Banff has over 3-million visitors per year as the world-renowned name is a huge attraction internationally.
*Banff Gondola – an 8-minute ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain some 2,286 metres (7500 feet) up. The stunning vista of the Bow River Valley.
*Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – a National Historic Site of Canada opened in 1888.
The Chateauesque style hotel was featured prominently in the 1980 Jack Nicholson thriller movie “The Shining” and exposed this gem to millions.
For many, a stay here is stroking off another item from life’s bucket list.
*Legacy Trail between Banff and Canmore – 22 km (14m) of paved bike pathway between two beautiful locations, Banff to Canmore. A popular ride for locals and travelers alike with many stopping options along the way as it somewhat follows the TransCanada Highway.
*Moraine Lake – a part of the Valley of Ten Peaks Moraine Lake is one hour north of Banff and is one of the top photography locations on many bucket lists. The unbelievable vibrant blue hue of Moraine Lake is stunning, as the rock-silt from the surrounding glaciers provide the mesmerizing mountain blue.
*Banff Upper Hot Springs: located near the top of Sulphur Mountain, just minutes from Banff.
Pack a picnic lunch if not using the spas and enjoy the wonderful scenery overlooking the hot springs. Water at temperatures between 36 and 40 degrees Celsius (98 to 104 Fahrenheit) and infused with minerals to make the body and skin feel fabulous. All ages are welcome.
*Cave and Basin National Historic Site – located in Banff and is the site of natural thermal springs around which Banff National Park was established. The park was dedicated in 1885 and the pool structure here was built in 1916 by three CPR workers. The cavern is large enough to accommodate groups of people for tours. Human habitation can be traced back over 10,000 years.
*Lake Minnewanka – this glacial lake is in the eastern area of Banff National Park, just 5 km (3mi) from Banff townsite. Lake Minnewanka is the longest lake in the mountain parks of the Rockies at 21km (13mi). At its deepest, Minnewanka is 142 metres (466 feet) deep.
This is a very popular location for picnicking, hiking, wildlife watching, canoeing, diving, and snowshoeing. Two Jack Lake is also a part of the western portion of this lake system.
*Bow Valley Parkway from Banff to Lake Louise – for many visitors, this is the ride to take. The 51 km (32mi) roadway is world famous from Banff Townsite to Lake Louise. Cutting through the mountains and passes over the Bow River valley, the scenery and wildlife are the main draws.
LAKE LOUISE Hamlet:
*There are two areas when stopping in Lake Louise. One is the lake location itself, the other is the small hamlet of 700 about 4 km down the hill from the lake.
People who work in Lake Louise live in accommodation provided by employers, as there is a “need to reside” requirement to living within Banff National Park.
*Originally known as the ‘Lake of the Little Fishes’, by the Stoney Nakoda First Nations.
*Named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter, Princess Louise Caroline (1848-1939), Lake Louise hamlet was settled in 1884 and renamed after the lake on which it resides.
*Canadian settlers originally named it Holt City, then Laggan, before the official name change to Lake Louise.
*The rock-flour carried by glacial melt-waters is the reason for the unique, mesmerizing turquoise blue of Lake Louise.
*Chateau Lake Louise – opening in 1890 and built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, this 539 room hotel is Bucket List material for so many around the globe. Hard to believe it was constructed as a warm-weather hotel only open in summer.
Winterized in 1982 and offering all the accessories for cold and warm weather visits, the time spent here is picture-perfect. On the lake itself in front of the hotel in winter, you’ll see ice sculpture events, skating, sleigh rides, and of course, hockey. Summer visits are no less spectacular with all of the mountain colors coming to life.
*Saddleback Pass, Fairview Mountain, Mirror Lake, Lake Agnes, Devil’s Thumb, Mount Whyte, and Mount Niblock – all offer wilderness trails and hiking. Some trails are open to biking and horseback. The opportunities abound for rock climbing, exploring, kayaking, or canoeing.
National Park Passes are required if you are stopping or using the park in any way.
Parks Canada website for further information; https://www.pc.
Calgary to Canmore, 103 km/64m
Calgary to Banff, 127km/80m
Calgary to Lake Louise, 190km/118m
Banff National Park – Established 1885
Encompassing 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, glaciers, ice-fields, boreal forests and awe-inspiring alpine landscapes, this bucket-list destination receives well over 3 million visitors a year.
George Stephen, then president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banff, Scotland, named the park.
Once exposed to the beauty and the grandeur of Banff National Park and all that it offers, it is very easy to understand why this is a destination for so many people.