Banff National Park is a natural wonderland that offers you a chance to experience the beauty of the Canadian Rockies. It is the oldest and most famous national park in Canada, only 1.5 hours away from Calgary by car. With so many incredible sights to see, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are the top must-see attractions in Banff National Park to help you plan your trip.
A bit of history
The Canadian Rockies are one of the country’s greatest and most fascinating attractions. Many of North America’s most beautiful mountain trails can be found in the Rocky Mountains. Most visitors visit the very heart of the mountains, where the parks of Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kooteney are located. The importance of these parks was appreciated in 1985, when they were included in the world heritage list. The natural wonders of the Rocky Mountains create extraordinary landscapes where tourism and environmental protection have been reconciled. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the railroad tracks neared the Rocky Mountains from the east, government and private entrepreneurs joined forces to attract tourists and protect the environment at the same time. Mission impossible you think. Smart advertising encouraged tourists to visit the mountains that had been preserved in their natural state. They were provided with the possibility of staying in luxurious chateaux-style hotels. Banff is one of the world’s first great landscape regions to be so protected. The beginnings of the park date back to 1883. After Yellowstone and Australian Royal Park, it was the third national park in the world. In 1887, construction began of the Banff Springs Hotel, an upscale spa hotel to attract rich and famous people to this mountain resort. Now, the hotel is as impressive an element of Banff’s landscape as the surrounding mountains.
Tourist information of Banff National Park
Before going to the mountains, it is worth visiting the local tourist information, where you can find out which routes are worth going, and what to do when you come across a bear on the way. They will tell you about the different routes, but most of all they will show you all the tricks possible to avoid meeting the bear. Long story short, they will probably tell you that when you meet a brown bear, the best way to survive is to pretend you are dead and pray that it had lunch already. Black bears, on the other hand, are timid and mostly don’t feel like fighting. So, yell as much as you can, jump, and basically pretend you’re stronger. Grizzly is unpredictable. So much for the theory. In practice, it is better not to meet bears at all. At most in the zoo. The truth is, bears are made to fight, and we are only meant to fight in our mobile games. I hope you see the odds.
Visit Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the most iconic and picturesque spots in Banff National Park. The turquoise waters of the lake are surrounded by towering mountains and glaciers, making it a popular spot for hiking, canoeing, and photography. Be sure to take a stroll along the lakeshore and admire the stunning views or hike up to the Lake Agnes Tea House for a cup of tea and a panoramic view of the lake. This stunning lake is one of the most photographed spots in Banff National Park. In the winter, the lake transforms into a winter wonderland with ice skating and ice castle displays.
If you are not in shape at all and are just looking for a short walk to the mountains, or want to start with something simple, Sulfur Montain is a good choice. The summit is 2451 m above sea level. But the height difference is only about 655 m, so it won’t take you more than 2 hours to walk and you can already admire the beautiful view of Banff from the top of the mountain. On the way, deers and small striped squirrels called chipmunks can come out on the trail. They are not afraid of anything or anyone. Just jump around the people. Children are especially delighted because they follow them trying to catch one or two. Often unsuccessfully. At the top of Sulphur Mountain, you can enjoy panoramic views from the observation deck or take a guided interpretive walk to learn more about the area's history and wildlife. You can also get to Sulphur Mountain by Banff Gondola. On the way back, you should stop at Banff Upper Hot Springs and relax in the hot pool.
Johnston Canyon is a popular hiking destination in Banff National Park, known for its stunning waterfalls and scenic canyon views. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of all skill levels, with options for shorter or longer hikes depending on your preference. The Lower Falls are a must-see, with a picturesque bridge offering a perfect photo opportunity. For those looking for a longer hike, the Upper Falls offer even more breathtaking views. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water and snacks for the hike.
When in Banff, you have a choice of either taking a backpack and escaping civilization for a few days or taking one-day trips to some nice viewpoints. An example of such a one-day trip is Lake Minnewanka. You go there through the forest for about 12 km. It is not unusual when you meet animals on your way there. Deers are not afraid of people at all. You can literally walk past them, and they don’t care. Before Lake Minnewanka you get to Two Jack Lake. There is really nice view, so it is worth to stop for a while. Then walk along the lake shore. On the trail you will probably meet a few goats. They will also ignore you. Your walk to Lake Minnewanka is a return to nature. It's about enjoying the nature around you and the animals that peek out from behind the bushes from time to time to see who's coming. Enjoy it!