National Park of the Week: Banff National Park, Canada

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Peyto Lake, one of the many lakes in Banff. Image via authentikcanada.com

Established in 1883 by three railway workers who discovered a natural hot spring on the slopes of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park and the birthplace of the world’s first national park service. Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the park boasts more than a thousand picture-perfect glaciers and glacier-fed lakes, Castleground Caves (the country’s largest cave system), and several national historic sites. It also encompasses Banff, the highest town in Canada at an elevation of 4,540 ft, which makes it feasible and convenient to enjoy the sights over a period of days (which you will surely want to do).

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Image via mountainsoftravelphotos.com

Within the 1,641,026 acres of park area is Legacy trail, a nonmotorized, paved trail for the likes of walking, cycling, and in-line skating. The 16-mile trail runs primarily along Trans-Canada 1 and the wildlife fence from the park’s East Gate to the Bow Valley Parkway, and offers scenic views of the monolith mountains as you jog or roller-blade along the trail. During the warmer months, popular activities include hiking, backpacking, rafting, canoeing, fishing and rock climbing, while in the winter, skiing, ice walks and even dog sledding are part of the Banff experience.

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Image via skicanada.org

If it wasn’t clear already, what makes Banff special is that it easily accessible and in close proximity to the vast and unspoiled wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. Even though the park offers plenty of outdoor activities to do year-round, the best time for viewing seasonal color is fall, when the larch trees, the only coniferous trees to lose their needles in winter, turn yellow. Likewise, a plenitude of mammal and bird species can be spotted in the park, such as wolves, elk, wildcats, black and grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and bald eagles, and it is not uncommon to catch sight of a few of them during your visit, so keep your eyes peeled, as they say!

 

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