Castle Mountain


Banff National Park, located in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, is the oldest national park in Canada and has a rich history dating back over a century. The park was established in 1885, making it the first national park in Canada and the third in the world. The history of Banff National Park is closely tied to the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the development of tourism in the Canadian Rockies.

The area now known as Banff National Park was originally the territory of the Stoney-Nakoda, Kootenay, Kainai, Peigan, Siksika, and Tsuu T’ina Indigenous people, who had lived in the region for thousands of years. However, the arrival of European settlers in the late 1800s brought significant changes to the area. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was being built across the country, and the company recognized the potential of the area as a tourist destination.

In 1883, three railway workers stumbled upon a hot spring while working on the CPR in the Rockies. The discovery of the hot spring led to the creation of the Cave and Basin National Park in 1885, with the town of Banff being established in 1886. The park’s main attraction was the Cave and Basin hot spring, which was believed to have healing properties capable of curing anything from gout to gunshot wounds. The commercialization of the springs saw the start of tourism in the area and continues to be a feature of the area, although people are no longer permitted to swim in the original site. In the 1930s a new bathhouse was constructed in a different location and, although it has undergone renovations over the years, it is still in use today. For our guests who would like to experience soaking in these natural mineral waters during their free time in Banff, you can find out more information about the present-day hot springs here: Banff Upper Hot Springs. The reserve was named Rocky Mountains Park in 1887, later renamed Banff National Park with the National Parks Act in 1930.

As the popularity of the park grew, the Canadian government began to invest in the infrastructure and development of the area. The CPR built several grand hotels and chalets in the park, including the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. These hotels, along with the park’s natural attractions, helped to establish Banff as a premier tourist destination.


Lake Louise Boathouse at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise


Over the years, the park has undergone significant changes and expansions. In 1930, the park was expanded to include over 6,600 square kilometres, and then in 1949, it was slightly reduced to its current size. The park also underwent significant development in the 1950s and 1960s, with the construction of the Trans-Canada Highway and the development of ski resorts such as Mt. Norquay, Lake Louise Ski Area, and Mt. Temple.

In addition to its natural attractions, Banff National Park is also home to a recorded 56 mammal species, including grizzly and black bears, cougars, North American river otters, wolves, elk, deer, moose, Bighorn sheep, and beaver. To help with the continued conservation of wildlife and their home it is illegal to feed, entice, or disturb any wildlife in the national park.

In 1984 Banff was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the other national and provincial parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. Since then there have been a few amendments working towards finding better ways to address environmental concerns and issues relating to the development of the park.


Banff National Park is within the present-day territories of Treaty 6, 7, and 8, as well as the Metis Homeland.