Banff National Park in Canada
Who’s been here?
Latest updates from our Banff National Park travelers
Highway 1 (Trans-Canada) bisects the park east/west. Banff is about an hour and a half from Calgary Alberta and the same from Golden (British Columbia) Golden British Columbia. Other ways to enter the park by automobile include the Icefields Parkway from Jasper, Highway 11 from Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer Alberta, and Highway 93 from Radium Hot Springs and Cranbrook British Columbia.
Greyhound and Brewster provide regular scheduled coaches that serve Banff and Lake Louise, departing from Calgary and points in British Columbia. Another option is to book one of the many guided bus tours that visit the park. Most of these will depart from Calgary or Vancouver.
Explore the Canadian Rockies by rail. Day rail tours depart from Banff connecting to Vancouver.
Rocky Mountaineer Vacations, http://www.rockymountaineer.com provides independent year round vacation packages to the most unique and scenic regions of Canada, including travel on the world acclaimed Rocky Mountaineer rail journey.
Between Mid-April and Mid-October, the two-day, all daylight Rocky Mountaineer travels between Vancouver or Whistler, British Columbia and the Rocky Mountain destinations of Jasper, Banff or Calgary Alberta. Guests relax in Redleaf or Goldleaf Service, enjoying onboard commentary and bi-regional cuisine as the awe-inspiring scenery passes by at a leisurely pace. For selected departure date in December, the festive Rocky Mountaineer travels through a winter wonderland where the mountain valleys are covered in a blanket of snow.
The Whistler Mountaineer offers an unforgettable three-hour rail excursion through the Sea-to-Sky region between North Vancouver and Whistler, with daily service in both directions and world-class Western Canadian hospitality onboard.
The closest International Airport is in Calgary. Banff does have an airstrip, but there is no commercial service. An expensive charter flight will be required to land right in the park. Vancouver International Airport is an approximate 12 hour drive to the west. Springbank Airport (west of Calgary, towards Banff) is nearly 80 km from Banff. It operates short charter flights and tours over Banff National Park.
By far the easiest way to get around is by vehicle. Vehicle rentals are available in Calgary, Banff and Lake Louise. It is also possible to cover the park on bicycle, but keep in mind the mountainous terrain will make this quite a workout. Bicycle rentals (town, road and mountain bikes) are also available with in Banff and Lake Louise, visit the Parks Canada information centre for both road and trail routes. Or rent a moped from Bactrax/Snowtips http://www.snowtips-bactrax.com to explore the area around Banff!
GyPSy Guide provides the self-drive visitors with a guided tour. GyPSy Guide automatically plays audio commentary, depending on your location, and through the stereo of any vehicle as you tour through the National Parks and beyond. No buttons to push, it knows where you are!
When to go
Although cougar and bear attacks may get sensationalized in the media, statistically the greatest threat for injury or death in the park is driving through it. If you are unfamiliar with driving in winter conditions it is highly recommended you either find other transportation, or visit in the summer. If venturing in the backcountry you must also be aware of avalanche danger. This also applies to skiing out of bounds, in three words: Don't do it.
Elk, moose and deer are unpredictable and potentially dangerous, especially females with young (May and June) and males during the mating season (September through November). Remember, stay at least 30 metres (3 bus-lengths) away from any elk, moose or deer.
Wolves and coyotes are often seen on trails and along roads. Cougars are elusive and rarely seen, but they do live here. The chance of being approached by these carnivores is unlikely, but if you are approached, send a clear message that you are not prey.
Pick up small children immediately. Try to appear bigger, by holding your arms or an object over your head. Face the animal and retreat slowly. Do not run or play dead. Maintain steady eye contact with the animal. If the animal continues to approach, deter an attack by yelling, waving a stick or throwing rocks. If you are attacked, fight back. Hit the animal with a heavy stick or rock.
Rules to follow for your safety and theirs:
Give all the wild animals you see the respect they deserve and the space they need. Use your binoculars to see animals up close, and use telephoto for your photos. Remain at least 100 metres (10 bus lengths) away from bears, cougars, and wolves. Keep back at least 30 metres (3 bus lengths) from elk, moose, and deer. Bighorn sheep are especially tolerant of our presence, but you should still give them at least 10 metres of space. When viewing roadside wildlife remain in your vehicle and move on after a few seconds.
Learn more and educate yourself from a reliable source
Ask park staff about wildlife safety, and how you can keep wildlife wild– and alive, or read Parks Canada wildlife publications available at information centers or on the cs/v-g/pm-mp/guidem-mguide/sec3/gm-mg3_E.asp Parks Canada website.
Ambulance/Police/Fire: 911. Park Wardens-24 hours: 403-762-4506. Banff Mineral Springs Hospital: 403-762-2222. Lake Louise Medical Clinic: 403-522-2184.
This area was inhabited by the Stony Indians thousands of years before the white man arrived. Anthony Henday was the first non-native to see the Canadian Rockies in 1754. The park itself was first 'discovered' by the workers building the transcontinental railway in 1882. At first the park was centered around the Cave and Basin Hot springs Hot Springs, and was officially born in 1885. The first Banff Springs Hotel was built a mere three years later, the current incarnation was built in 1928. The first highway through the park was completed in 1923. The park boundaries as they are today were drawn up in 1930, as part of the National Parks Act passed by Canadian Parliament.