The first thing to know about Banff National Park is that it’s Canada’s leading tourist attraction, so be prepared for summer crowds. Make the effort to walk, bike or paddle away from the main hubs and you’ll readily find a rugged park with unforgettable landscapes, scenic trails and abundant wildlife.
The park’s focal point is the cheerful commercial town of Banff, the unofficial capital of the Canadian Rockies. Nestled in the flat-bottomed Bow River Valley amid majestic folds of a bowl of grey craggy peaks, it’s a buzzing resort town full of services. Among them are a huge selection of comfortable hotels, some hundred-plus quality restaurants – including great Japanese and Korean options, thanks to Banff’s popularity with East Asian visitors – and the best nightlife in the Rockies. Yet, like many official capitals, it’s touristy. In summer, it’s filled with columns of motor-homes and herds of tour buses. You may prefer other Rocky Mountain bases like Jasper.
For all its fame, Banff’s attractions are a bit thin on the ground: a few modest museums, a gondola, a ritzy hotel and a main street – Banff Avenue – that’s lined with souvenir shops, toffee emporiums, outdoor clothing stores and the like. That said, there are some pretty hiking and mountain biking trails that begin almost downtown. The town also has two ski areas on its doorstep: Norquay and Sunshine.
The village of Lake Louise lies 58km to the north of Banff via Trans-Canada Hwy-1, which then heads onward to British Columbia. Another important road is near Lake Louise: just to the north lies the famous Icefields Parkway, an epically beautiful way to Jasper National Park.
The other main park highway is the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy-1a), which offers a more scenic alternative to Hwy-1 between Banff and Lake Louise. Both Parkways are studded with viewpoints and trails to waterfalls, lakes and canyons. All this is set against a backdrop of premium Rocky Mountain scenery – rugged peaks, azure rivers, rumpled glaciers and rolling forests.
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Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in C$.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $5 per person
$$ => Tickets $6-15 per person
$$$ => Tickets $16 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $101-200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $201 for a double
$ => $1-20 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $21-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-30 per person