Banff, Alberta, Canada - Tour Canadian Rockies

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Banff AB

At the heart of Canada's first national park (and the world's third after Yellowstone in the US and Royal in Australia) is the bustling mountain community of Banff. A scenic 1.5 hour drive west along the TransCanada Highway from Calgary, Banff is an internationally recognized tourist destination featuring four seasons of limitless outdoor recreational opportunities in an unparalleled mountain landscape. While the surrounding wilderness is rugged and untamed, Banff offers modern resort amenities for even the most discerning visitors. World-class hotels, hundreds of shops, restaurants to suit any taste or budget, and an best recreational infrastructure including magnificent golf courses, ski resorts, hiking trails, lakes, rivers, campsites, natural hot springs and guided tour services to help visitors uncover the endless wonders of the Canadian wilderness.

Touring Banff National Park

Banff National Park resulted from a dispute over hot springs discovered at what is now known as The Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Though previously well known to natives and a couple of American prospectors in 1874, the rediscovery of the springs by three CPR railway workers on November 8, 1883 set the national park ball rolling. There was no plumbing in the Wild West, and hot water was a valuable commodity. Inept handling by the trio abetted by double-dealing and government bureaucracy eventually led to the Canadian government convening a hearing to settle claims and counter-claims for the springs. As a result of the hearing, the springs and 26 sq. km of surrounding area were set aside as a federal reserve – the forerunner of Banff National Park. In 1886, George Stewart was appointed to identify the boundaries of Banff Hot Springs Reservation and recommended that additional area should be added. In June of 1887, Canadian Rockies Park was established based on Stewart's direction. The area around Lake Louise was incorporated into the park in 1902 when the park reached its maximum size. The park officially became Banff National Park in 1930 and encompasses 6641 sq. km.


The town of Banff is unlike any other mountain community in the Canadian Rockies and perhaps North America. Protected by national park regulations, development is highly restricted and great care is taken to protect the natural habitat. In order to live in Banff, you must have a “need to reside”. Because of this, Banff is absent of the major condo and housing developments found in many similar sized resorts in the American Rockies or the mountain resorts of Europe. Banff is also the only self-governing town in a Canadian national park, a status it achieved in 1990.

Summer in Banff, AB

Like all towns on the Alberta side of the Canadian Rockies, summer is the busiest and most expensive time to visit Banff and the National Park. While the permanent residence of Banff is approximately 8,500, almost 30,000 people stay in the vicinity of the townsite during a busy summer night. Why people flock to Banff in the summer is no mystery, but the reasons are endless. An unparalleled network of hiking, biking and horseback trails accented by spectacular scenery make Banff an outdoor adventurer's “dream come true”. Boating and trout fishing are also very popular tour within the park - Lake Minnewanka, a short drive north of Banff, is one of the largest lakes in the Canadian Rockies and the only one that permits motorized boats. Tours are available and don't be surprised if you spot a black bear playing on the shoreline. Designed by legendary architect Stanley Thompson, Banff Springs Golf Course is the only course in Banff National Park and is consistently rated one of Canada's best. Numerous world-class golf courses a short drive to the east in the Canmore and Kananaskis area make Banff a very popular tour golf destination. For a spectacular view of the Banff townsite, the Bow Valley, Lake Minnewanka and the surrounding mountain ranges, the Sulphur Mountain Gondola whisks visitors to an elevation of 2285m in eight minutes where bighorn sheep act as the greeting party.

Winter in Banff, AB

Winter in Banff is a majestically beautiful time of year as the pristine white snow clings to the branches of towering pine trees. Though many people believe that Banff is generally cold, Chinooks provide frequent breaks of spring-like weather to ease the chill of winter and the dry alpine air makes even extreme temperatures feel more palatable. The most popular tour activity in Banff National Park during winter is alpine skiing. Sunshine Village, fifteen minutes west of Banff, is a world-class ski resort with over 33 feet of dry powder, numerous high speed lifts, over 3,200 acres of terrain for all levels, and the world's fastest gondola to get you there. Mount Norquay, just a few minutes from the town of Banff, is a popular tour family ski hill and also offers the Canadian Rockies' only night skiing. Approximately forty-minutes west of Banff is Lake Louise ski resort, the Canadian Rockies' biggest ski resort and host to two World Cup ski events during late November and early December. Other popular tour winter activities in the Banff region include Nordic skiing, skating, ice fishing, ice climbing, dog sledding and taking sleigh rides with loved ones. Budget minded visitors will also notice that the sometimes lofty prices of many Banff hotels drop off significantly during the winter months for a very economical visit.

Banff Springs Hotel

One of the most recognizable hotels in the world, the Banff Springs Hotel is synonymous with the Banff landscape and owes its roots to the transcontinental railway constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway and completed through the Canadian Rockies in 1884. The huge debt incurred in constructing the railway demanded a more immediate cash flow. William Cornelius Van Horne, vice president and general manager of CPR, recognized the potential of the spectacular Rockies and initiated construction on CPR's chain of mountain hotels to bring tourists west and increase revenues. In 1886, construction began on Mt. Stephen House in Field, CPR's first hotel in the Canadian Rockies. Other hotels were built at Rogers Pass, Three Valley Gap and in the Fraser Canyon. For Banff, Van Horne envisioned a luxury resort of unparalleled proportions. Famed architect Bruce Price was commissioned to design the hotel and construction began in late 1886. By the time the hotel opened on June 1, 1888, it was the largest hotel in the world and room rates started at $3.50 per day. The Banff Springs Hotel immediately turned the tiny community into a destination resort for the gentry of the late Victorian era. More than 5,000 visitors arrived the first summer and almost twice that many the summer after – far more people than the 500 person capacity hotel could accommodate. Over the years, the CPR lavished a great deal of money on furnishing the pride of its hotel fleet. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, as it is now called, has hosted many noted guests and can now accommodate over 1,700 guests in its 770 rooms.

Banff Accommodations

While the Banff Springs Hotel caters to very affluent guests and hosts numerous conferences, Banff offers a wide range of accommodation for any budget or situation. The Rimrock Hotel, carved into the side of a mountain and perched high above the Banff townsite, is generally considered Banff's “other premier hotel” and offers luxurious lodging at a more affordable price. A wide range of lodges along Banff Ave provide budget to upscale rooms at very reasonable prices relative to other mountain resorts. There are also a number of resorts with one and two bedroom chalets that are ideal for families or groups of friends. Visit Banff accomodations.

With a few exceptions, the one type of accommodation that you will not find in the town of Banff that is common in other mountain resorts is private vacation rentals (i.e. condos and vacation homes). Visitors that prefer the comfort and affordability of vacation rentals typically stay in nearby Canmore.


Eating in Banff is also a treat. Banff is the dining epicenter of the Canadian Rockies and is considered one of the premier dining destinations in Canada. Every conceivable type of restaurant from every nationality can be found within Banff from fast food to casual to extravagant fine dining. The Rimrock Hotel boasts one of Canada's highest rated restaurants and the Banff Springs Hotel features numerous dining options for all budgets and tastes. For dinner with a view, don't miss out on the restaurant at the top of Sulphur Mountain. Banff also offers numerous pubs and bars for active nightcrawlers.

Weather in Banff National Park

On days where the weather keeps you indoors, Banff provides a lot to do and see. In addition to endless shopping opportunities, some of the attractions that you should include in your visit to Banff include Banff Park Museum, The Banff Centre for the Arts, the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Luxton Museum of the Plains Indian, and Johnston Canyon.

Canadian Rockies

  Banff, AB
  Canmore, AB
  Kananaskis Country, AB
  Lake Louise, AB
  Waterton, AB
  Jasper, AB
  Radium, BC
  Invermere, BC
  Fairmont Hot Springs, BC
  Panorama, BC
  Kimberley, BC
  Fernie, BC
  Golden, BC
  Special Collection
  Accom Index

Canadian Rockies

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          Recommended Sights, Attractions, Hikes and Activities you may want to consider while touring the Canadian Canadian Rockies.

    • Cave and Basin

    • Golf Banff Springs Course

    • Banff Springs Hotel

    • Horse carriage tour of Banff

    • Bow Falls

    • Sleigh ride tour of Banff

    • Hoodoos Viewpoint

    • Relax in Upper Hot Springs

    • Mt Rundle from Vermillion Lakes

    • Hike to Tunnel Mountain Summit

    • Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

    • Hike Cave and Basin Trail

    • Luxton Museum of the Plains Indian

    • Ski Sunshine Village

    • Banff Centre Arts Festival

    • Hike Fenland Trail

    • Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

    • Marsh Trail & Sundance Canyon

    • Sulphur Mountain

    • Gondola Boat tour of Lake Minnewanka
          Additional Canadian Rockies Touring Resources that you will find helpful.

              Banff Centre
              Eye on Banff - Live Webcam
              Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
              Parks Canada - Banff National Park
              Sunshine Village Ski Resort
              Ski Banff Norquay Site
              Town of Banff Official Site
              Banff Crag & Canyon - Weekly News
              Friends of Banff National Park
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