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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Banff National Park

Nestled amidst the breathtaking Canadian Rockies, Banff is a destination that’s long captured the hearts of travelers worldwide with its majestic landscapes and natural wonders. Yet, beyond its postcard-perfect views, Banff holds so much to discover. Banff is one of the most visited national parks in the world, with 4.5 million visitors per year. 

It’s home to the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, one of the most prestigious mountain culture festivals in the world, as well as some of the best natural scenery you’ll ever lay eyes on. There is so much to discover about Canada’s most-visited national park; here are five things you probably didn’t know about Banff National Park.

5. It’s Canada’s First National Park

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Image by Santiago Urquijo

Established in 1885, Banff National Park holds the distinction of being Canada’s first and oldest national park, setting the precedent for the country’s commitment to preserving its natural treasures. Initially known as the Banff Hot Springs Reserve and subsequently as the Rocky Mountains National Park, Banff National Park has evolved from its modest origins as a 10-square-mile hot springs reserve into a vast expanse of 2,564 square miles, embracing unrivaled mountain scenery in the heart of the magnificent Canadian Rockies.

4. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Image by Francis Yap M

In 1984, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, and more.

UNESCO protected this area because it exemplifies the outstanding physical features and unique ecosystems of the Rocky Mountain Biogeographical Province. Remains of glacial geological processes, including ice fields, valley glaciers, and canyons with erosion and deposition can be found in this amazing nature park, which also includes rugged mountain peaks, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, and extensive karst cave systems.

3. There Are Thermal Hot Springs

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Image by Ronnie Chua

Banff is home to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, one of nine naturally occurring hot springs in the Banff area where visitors can soak in warm, mineral-rich waters while surrounded by the picturesque Rocky Mountains. Soak in the waters flowing from the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. The water at the Banff Upper Hot Springs can help with skin problems, promote blood circulation, and ease tense muscles.

If you’re looking for a natural hot spring (without the infrastructure of a pool), Lussier Hot Springs is nearby, as well as Mist Mountain and the secret hot springs beneath Fairmont Hot Springs.

2. You’ll See Turquoise Glacial Lakes

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Image by Matteo Colombo

The glacial-fed alpine lakes in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are among the clearest in the world. The park boasts several exquisite glacial lakes, including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, known for their striking turquoise-blue waters. The turquoise-colored water is a result of glacial rock dust suspended in the lakes. The fine rock dust was produced by massive glaciers rubbing against bedrock. The dust suspended in the water reflects light from the sun and creates the famous turquoise wavelengths.

1. It’s Home to the Highest Town in Canada

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Image by Lisa Marie

Lake Louise, Alberta, is the highest town in Canada, with an elevation of 5,449 feet. The town only has 777 permanent residents, and it is a beautiful place to stop for a visit. Images of Lake Louise often include shots of the fairytale Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, but this isn’t the only five-star hotel in the region. The luxurious Post Hotel is steps from the village center on the banks of the Pipestone River, with a five-star restaurant that boasts one of the most comprehensive wine cellars in the country, plus an ice-skating rink in winter.

The Lake Louise charm extends to the center of town. Stop at the historical Lake Louise Railway Station Restaurant or the Outpost Pub for a drink. Take the trail from the village to the lake through a beautiful forest, but be wary of bears in summer. The ski resort gondola is nicknamed the “Grizzly Gondola” for a reason. In 2017, bears were spotted 29 out of 31 days—and that’s more than enough to merit adding bear spray to your travel bag. 

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