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Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National Park you can enjoy year-round discovery of the 6,641 km2 mountainous landscape.
As the first national park established in Canada and a coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site, what makes Banff National Park so special is its combination of vast unspoiled wilderness, mountain lakes like Lake Louise, and the gateway to it all: the Town of Banff.
Travellers to Banff National Park quickly find out that the incredible scenery inspires not only amazing sightseeing, but also sight-doing. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, art lovers and history buffs alike, and each year attracts visitors from all over the world.
In summer, Banff National Park offers a colourful palette of indigo blue rivers and lakes, stunning wildflowers, grassy slopes, icy white glaciers and brown-grey peaks that jut out into a bluebird sky. Warm temperatures provide the perfect climate for outdoor exploration and a myriad of activities. Discover it on your own or enhance your experience with the help of a knowledgeable guide. At the end of it all, you can relax and unwind at one of Banff’s premier spas or the hot springs.
Rail Travel to the Banff & Lake Louise The Rocky Mountaineer offers world renowned, luxurious train travels by daylight through the wild beauty of Canada’s West and is the best way to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Retrace the steps of 19th century explorers, travel through the legendary Spiral Tunnels and pass by the spot where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. This is the only passenger rail service on this historic route, and its construction is one of the most important in Canadian history as it united Canada from east to west. You’ll also transverse the Continental Divide and be inspired by spectacular mountains and dramatic canyons.
Guided Sightseeing & Tours/Scenic Drives Banff National Park boasts some of the most scenic roads in the world. Whether you have an hour or a full day, there is plenty of the Park you can explore on four wheels. You can also take a GPS Commentary Tour to help you learn more about the area. The most spectacular being the Icefields Parkway - rated one of the world’s great scenic highways by National Geographic, the Icefields Parkway is a journey through expansive mountain wilderness, ancient glaciers, sweeping valleys and mountain lakes of every shade of blue. Popular stops include Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. This road heads north from Lake Louise towards the Columbia Icefield, where you can hop on the Ice Explorer and venture out onto the Athabasca Glacier and well the newest attraction Glacier Skywalk. There are top tour operators that offer fully guided day tours for those wanting to take in the full experience without a hassle of a rental vehicle. Summer also offers plenty of outdoor adventures such as Lake Minnewanka boat cruise, trail hikes and biking, kayaking and canoeing. For aerial views; Sulphur Mountain Gondola and Lake Louise Gondola offer astounding views of the Canadian Rockies or for the more adventurist a helicopter flight over the Rockies will leave you in awe.
Wildlife Encounters Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and first national park in Canada creates a safe haven for the wildlife in the area, therefore wildlife sightings are common and frequent in the park. Wildlife corridors were created along the Icefields Parkway and major highways to minimalize animal road fatalities. Wildlife sightings vary year-round from elk, moose and mountain goats to bears, eagles and wide variety of birds. The list is endless.
Golfing In Banff National Park, the game gets even better with world-class holes that each come with amazing views in all directions. Here, mountains create optical illusions for golfers, making these courses uniquely challenging yet accommodating many levels of ability. Golf courses in the Canadian Rockies are open from May through October (depending on conditions). Golfers can choose to simply play a round or sign on for an exciting golf package (these vary but generally include 9 or 18 holes, a golf cart and a delicious meal). Keeping your eye on the ball holds new meaning when you’re surrounding by eye-catching (and potentially distracting) mountain scenery!
*Spa & Wellness** For more than 100 years, health-conscious visitors from around the world have indulged in the soothing hot springs of Banff National Park. The tradition continues with many opportunities to rejuvenate and recharge: full-service luxury spas (Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Banff Springs is a must!), therapeutic massage, yoga and pilates, relaxing mineral waters and more.
Ski & Snowboard Banff National Park is home to one of the longest ski seasons in North America and three world-class ski areas, which are all located within 45 minutes of the Town of Banff: Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. While some skiers and riders have their favourite ski area in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, mountain enthusiasts can also take advantage of a Tri Area pass known as the “Big 3 Season Pass.” The Tri Area pass provides access to 8,000 acres of ski terrain in Canada’s Protected Playground™ at Mount Norquay (including night skiing), Sunshine Village, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. The Tri Area pass is valid for midweek skiing and riding (Monday through Thursday, inclusive). In addition, the pass provides access to the Lake Louise Gondola in the summer, as well as discounted rates for guests, allowing you to enjoy the scenery of this world-famous area throughout the year.
Shopping If you’re looking to shop, these towns help you gear up for your next adventure, get custom fitted with new ski gear, buy a perfect souvenir from a local boutique or a piece of art from a local gallery. With the assortment of shops and boutiques in both Banff and Lake Louise, you’re sure to find something special to remind you of your mountain adventure.
Dining This travel destination has attracted some of the very best in Canadian and internationally inspired foods, also known as Canadian Rocky Mountain Cuisine. Many restaurants help you sample the regional fare, bringing in organic and sustainably sourced Alberta beef and bison, fine cheeses and wines. If you’re in the mood for sushi, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Swiss fondue or pizza, you’ve got more than enough choice of restaurants to try. Banff boasts a night scene that is sure to fit the bill. After dark you can kick up your heels at a dance club or western saloon, enjoy a glass of wine next to a crackling fire or relax with a beverage at a local lounge.
Banff National Park offers world-class festivals and events than you have time for, its a premier destination for authentic hospitality and year round exploration.
Ice Magic Festival: Mid-January 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of this Banff National Park classic. Experience Lake Louise at its winter finest during the Ice Magic Festival, centrepiece to SnowDays, a month-long celebration of winter in Banff National Park. Annual International Ice Carving Competition is hosted by The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, this 34 hour competition is the most anticipated spectacle of the Festival. As some of the best and loyal carvers from the last 20 years that we've had the pleasure to watch create and execute ice masterpieces. Watch in amazement as internationally renowned professional ice carvers’ work to sculpt towering one-of-a-kind works of art from imposing blocks of solid ice on the shores of Lake Louise. With each ice block weighing a daunting 300lbs, this exceptional art form involves grueling physical labour in a delicate balancing act with precision artistry.
Rocky Mountaineer Wine & Food Festival: Late May Guests can look forward to a fantastic weekend indulging in delectable cuisine from Banff’s most popular restaurants, as well as a wide selection of local and international wines, premium spirits, single malt and blended scotches, specialty liqueurs, and import and micro-brewed beer. The Grand Tasting Hall offers the unique opportunity to explore new products and menus, interact with experts, and savour tried and true favourites.
Banff National Park BikeFest: Mid June 5 races. 4 days. Over $20,000 prize purse. You'll be hard pressed to find a more spectacular setting than Banff National Park. 500 cyclists from Western Canada and the US will participate in five competitive events and two family friendly events in mid-June.
Canada Day Celebrations: 1 July Celebrate Canada Day in the beautiful natural surrounds of Banff National Park. There will be a full slate of festivities in the town of Banff and hamlet of Lake Louise to celebrate Canada Day. Lake Louise events will feature a wide variety of activities for all ages including canoe races, a polar bear dip and community barbecue to name just a few. The ever-popular Canada Day parade will take place on Banff Avenue at 5 p.m., featuring a special Calgary Stampede stage, with fireworks scheduled to follow in Central Park later in the evening.
Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival: Early November The world’s best mountain films, books, and speakers take the spotlight for nine days each fall in Banff. Experience the adventure of climbing, mountain expeditions, remote cultures, and the world’s last great wild places – all brought to life at The Banff Centre.
Christmas in the Rockies: December There is no other time of year like Christmas, and the Rockies truly brings with it the magic of white Christmas set amongst some of the world’s spectacular mountain backdrops. Christmas in the Rockies is celebrated with a variety of events catered to the young and young at heart. Banff kicks off its festivities early in December with the annual Christmas in the Courtyard activities such as ice sculpturing, family fun-filled activities, festive fun with Santa and finally watch the magic and glow of the Santa Claus Parade of Lights along Banff Avenue.
Banff experiences a subarctic climate that borders on a humid continental climate creating winter temperature ranges from a low of −13.3 °C (8.1 °F) to a high of −0.2 °C (31.6 °F).
Summer temperatures in the warmest months are pleasant with an average high of 21.6 °C (70.9 °F) and an average low of 7.3 °C (45.1 °F).