Banff is the largest town in Banff National Park, in Alberta’s Rockies, Canada. At 1,463 m (4,800 ft), it is the community with the second highest elevation in Canada, after Lake Louise. Banff is surrounded by mountains, notably Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain, and is situated above Bow Falls near the junction of the Bow and Spray Rivers. Banff is located 126 km (78 mi) west of Calgary and 58 km (36 mi) east of Lake Louise, on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Banff is a resort town and one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a major destination for outdoor sports and features extensive hiking, biking, scrambling and skiing areas within the region. The three ski resorts located in proximity closest to Banff are Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort.
Banff is a unique destination, and we take pride in accommodating visitors and providing tourism services, without losing the charm of a small mountain community.
Because the Town of Banff is less than 4 km square in size and surrounded by mountain parkland and wilderness, the community really does share its space with the wildlife. Some say that a local on their way to work is as likely to see a deer as a neighborhood dog. Elk, sheep and bear sightings are not uncommon near this town filled with trees, parks and trails.
Our town also abounds with opportunities to experience… everything: from the most rugged of outdoor activities to world-class arts and culture displays
Banff was first settled in the 1880s, after the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley. In 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain. In 1885, Canada established a federal reserve of 26 km2 around the Cave and Basin hot springs, and began promoting the area as an international resort and spa as a way to support the new railway. In 1887, the reserve area was increased to 673 km2 and named “Rocky Mountain Park.” This was the beginning of Canada’s National Park system.
The area was named Banff in 1884 by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banffshire, Scotland. The Canadian Pacific built a series of grand hotels along the rail line and advertised the Banff Springs Hotel as an international tourist resort.
The Banff townsite was developed near the railway station as a service centre for tourists visiting the park. It was administered by the Government of Canada’s national parks system until 1990 when the Town of Banff became the only incorporated municipalitywithin a Canadian national park.
In 1985, the United Nations declared Banff National Park, as one of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, a World Heritage Site. Banff remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada.