A Year-Round Destination in the Canadian Rockies Banff, Canada's first national park, also is one of its most spectacular. Blessed with an abundance of incredibly turquoise lakes, mountaintops draped in snow and glaciers that glisten and sparkle in the sunlight, Banff is a wonder to explore in all seasons.
The park, in fact, owes its existence to a chance 1883 discovery. When the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Alberta's Bow Valley on its way to the west coast, three railroad employees looking for gold on a day off from work came across a cave containing thermal springs. The CPR and the Canadian government immediately recognized the tourist potential of the hot springs and their scenic mountain setting. A scant 2 years later Canada's national park system was born, followed in 1888 by the Banff Springs Hotel, a luxurious retreat built by the railroad to promote travel to this western outpost.
Over a century later the main street in the charming village of Banff is lined with welcoming hotels, restaurants, boutiques and gift shops. The cave and springs are now the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, and the hotel, rebuilt in an even more lavish style following a 1926 fire, is The Fairmont Banff Springs, the “castle in the Rockies” that has been captured in countless vacation photos.
After highways made the Canadian Rockies more accessible, Banff soon became a year-round travel destination. And it's easy to understand why. There simply aren't enough superlatives to describe this park. Breathtaking, pristine and majestic are perfectly good adjectives but seem inadequate when you first see the incandescent green-gray color of the glacier-fed Bow River and pale when viewing mirror images of mountain peaks reflected in iridescent blue lakes.
Visitors come to Banff to hike through mountain meadows in summer, ski through the wintry wilderness or just be awestruck by the grandeur before them.
Banff National Park, AB
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.