Banff National Park is one of two parks protecting Alberta’s Rocky Mountains bordering British Columbia; the other park is Jasper.
You’ll see some of the most astounding landscapes on the planet in Banff National Park: snowcapped mountains, huge river valleys, alpine forests, ludicrously blue lakes and charming mountain hamlets.
Covering 6,641 square km (2,564 square miles), Banff was the first national park to be declared in Canada, focusing on the area’s famous thermal hot springs.
Most visitors come to Banff National Park for the legendary skiing, spectacular views and peerless rock climbing and hiking. The park has information centers in Banff, Lake Louise and Upper Hot Springs.
Halfway along the Icefields Parkway, the Athabasca Glacier stretches down to the valley from the Columbia Icefield.
A living remnant of the last ice age, Athabasca is one of the largest of around 30 glaciers in the Rockies’ largest icefield. The glacier is on the move, shifting several centimeters (inches) per day.
The highlight of a visit to the glacier is the Icefield Centre, which provides all the info you need to know about the formation of glaciers.
Guided hikes lead to the toe of the glacier from the center; it takes around four hours roundtrip. For a more novel trip to the glacier, hop aboard a snow coach for a unique drive across the icefield.
No wonder stunning turquoise Lake Louise is known as the jewel of the Rockies.
Set in a small glacial valley, surrounded by snow-topped mountains, the lakeshore is threaded with hiking trails and viewpoints. On a clear day, you’ll see the reflected glory of this spectacular place captured in the lake’s mirror-like surface.
Another iconic site is the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise resort at the northern end of the lake.
While you’re here, ride the gondola to the summit of Mt Whitehorn, go skiing if there’s snow, head to the trails circling the lake or visit the nearby Moraine Lake.