Originally called Banff Hot Springs Reserve, Cave and Basin National Historic Site was the birthplace of both Banff National Park and the entire Canadian National Parks system. Today, 43 national parks, 167 historic sites, four marine parks and one national urban park (which make up the largest network of protected lands in the world), can trace their roots back to these warm mineral waters in Banff, Alberta.
Reopened in 2013 after a three-year renovation project, Cave and Basin is now home to an interpretive museum and a boardwalk hike past countless thermal pools, but the short walk down a stone tunnel into the large hot spring cave remains the most spectacular attraction. A waterfall pours down from the ceiling, filling the jade-green hot spring.
The setting is so beautiful that it isn’t hard to believe that when three Canadian Pacific Railway workers discovered the springs, they immediately laid claim to the land and saw its potential as a major tourism draw. Although much has changed in the past century, their quickly built fence and log cabin formed the first protected area in Canada.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site is located on the west edge of the town of Banff, 2.1 kilometers from downtown.