Banff National Park

Banff is Canada’s oldest national park, first known as Hotsprings Reserve, and it stretches along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. It is a place of lakes, mountains, and glaciers. The mountains are young—from 45 to 120 million years—and include magnificent peaks such as Mount Amery in the north of the park. Farther north is the Columbia Icefield, the largest ice field on the North American mainland. Its glaciers feed rivers that flow to three oceans—the Arctic,Atlantic, and Pacific. Some glaciers push down to lakes, such as Lake Louise. The runoff fills the lake with suspended sediments that bend the sunlight and make the waters appear a bright blue-green. Meltwater also seeps through the rocks and is heated, pressurized, and pushed up to the surface to form the hot springs that first attracted visitors here over a hundred years ago. The slopes are clothed in thick forests of conifers, while higher elevations have gnarled survivors that finally give way to barren, rocky mountain tops. Wildlife is varied—from hummingbirds to grizzly bears, eagles to moose, and it is all best seen from the over 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) of trails that crisscross the park.