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Welcome to Banff

Nestled among the soaring peaks and pines of Banff National Park in Canada, the town of Banff is an ideal base from which to explore the mighty Rockies. With Calgary 85 miles (136 kilometers) to the east and the shimmering waters of UNESCO–listed Lake Louise 36 miles (58 kilometers) to the west, Banff is a beautiful slice of Alberta. You can take in sweeping views from the Banff Gondola at Sulphur Mountain, and be on the lookout for hoodoos (tall pillars of rock_. Outdoor adventure is the name of the game, and visitors can see the sights on a guided bus tour with narrated highlights, or enjoy active pursuits ranging from horseback riding to kayaking. If you’re visiting Banff in search of adrenaline-pumping thrills, hit Kicking Horse River on a white-water rafting trip. The river swells in the summer months, providing challenging currents and exhilarating class IV and up rapids—some tours end in a barbecue lunch. Alternatively, take to the skies on a sightseeing helicopter flight for uninterrupted views over the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains, or tackle the heights on a via ferrata tour, in which fixed iron ropes assist climbers of all abilities. Animal lovers can trek by horseback along rugged trails through the wilderness; or spot native bears, elk, and moose on a dusk wildlife safari.

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Top 10 attractions in Banff

Bow River
#1

Bow River

What begins as a drip of water from the melting Bow Glacier turns into the stunningly beautiful Bow River, which flows slowly and steadily through the Rockies in Canada’s oldest national park. The river also flows through Banff, Canmore and Calgary, making it a constant presence on any journey through southern Alberta. The best way to appreciate the beauty of Bow River is by heading out on the wheelchair-friendly walking and cycling path in downtown Banff to complete the short trip to Bow Falls. Countless picnic tables and park benches make Bow Falls an ideal lunch spot, and float trips, in giant inflatable rafts, begin right at the base of the falls, too. Both wildlife and wildflowers are often seen along the river, where canoe trips are popular. The river is divided into three half-day canoeing sections, all of which require intermediate experience: Lake Louise to Castle Junction, Castle Junction to Banff and Bow Falls to Canmore....
Bow Falls
#2

Bow Falls

Bow Falls are located on the Bow River in Alberta’s Banff National Park, within walking distance of the Banff Springs Hotel. The short, wide, cascading falls are a popular sightseeing stop, likely because of how accessible the natural destination is - the falls can be easily enjoyed by people of all abilities and all ages. Trails for pedestrians and for cyclists wind along the south shore of the Bow River and its rapids, and the pedestrian trail climbs up to the clifftop where the falls begin. (Bicycles aren’t allowed at the top.) The viewing areas at Bow Falls offer vistas of the river and the falls themselves. A cement promenade located at the base of the cascading falls has a few benches to sit on, though most people sit on the ledge of the promenade and enjoy the views from there. At the far end of the promenade is a small sandy beach where rafting and kayak tours often begin....
Lake Minnewanka
#3

Lake Minnewanka

The glacier-fed Lake Minnewanka lies just minutes from the town of Banff, and the sight of the Canadian Rockies jutting straight up out of the 17-mile-long body of water proves breathtaking. Lake Minnewanka is the perfect location to begin exploring the wilderness protected by both Banff National Park and the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. Cruises operate around the lake during the summer, but there are plenty of other ways to get out on the water. Minnewanka is the only lake in the Banff area to allow privately operated motorboats, and there are 16-foot aluminum boats available for rental as well. For a more authentic adventure, canoe rentals provide the opportunity to explore for a day or more, as several backcountry campgrounds are located around the lake. Setting out on the area’s trails is definitely worth the effort, too, even if it’s only to complete the two-mile stroll to the Stewart Canyon Bridge that spans the Cascade River....
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
#4

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

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....
Banff Gondola
#6

Banff Gondola

It’s true – the views from atop Sulphur Mountain really are spectacular, and riding the Banff Gondola is the most fun way to get there. From the fully enclosed glass gondola, you’ll see six mountain ranges, the town of Banff and the immense river valley. At the summit, stand on top of the world at the Upper Terminal and follow the self-guided Banff Skywalk along the summit ridge. Hike the South East Ridge Trail, or visit the summit’s historic buildings, including a meteorological station and interactive giant compass. Dinner at the summit is an amazing experience, with views of Banff’s twinkling lights and snow-capped peaks....
Banff National Park
#9

Banff National Park

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....
Johnston Canyon
#10

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular day hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a fairly easy hike on man-made trails to reach the canyon’s two waterfalls, making it a great activity for families and people of every fitness level and age. Johnston Creek flows through Johnston Canyon, a deep blue creek that has cut through the limestone rock over centuries on its way to join the Bow River, creating steep canyon walls with waterfalls, pools, and tunnels. The Johnston Canyon hiking trail begins just behind Johnston Canyon Lodge and gets very busy during peak summer hiking hours, with hundreds of hikers following the catwalks and staircases to the canyon’s Lower and Upper Falls. (Try hiking the trail in the very early morning or right before sunset if you’d like to avoid the crowds.) Less than two miles (3km) past the waterfalls are the Ink Pots: several cold, blue-green mineral pools that bubble to the surface in an open meadow beside the creek....

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How to Spend 1 Day in Banff

How to Spend 1 Day in Banff

How to Spend 2 Days in Banff

How to Spend 2 Days in Banff

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