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Banff National Park

Area: 8206 sq km.Location: Banff National Park is about 100 km west of Calgary. Its western boundary is the continental divide. Banff National Park is mostly drained by the Bow River which runs east through Calgary, Alberta. Two other major rivers have their headwaters within the park: the North Saskatchewan and the Red Deer. To the north of Banff National Park is Jasper National Park.

Fees: There are fees for entering the park on the highway, which they charge at the park gates. For overnight camping you need a backcountry permit, which in 2013 costs 9.80/day/person. You are supposed to get these permits at park headquarters in Banff. See <a href=ExpPg.asp?ExpId=3435>National Parks Fees and Permits</a>. For updates, search google for "Banff National Park Fees".

Terrain: Because it is east of the continental divide it has much more extensive meadows and alpine areas than any area west of the divide. These meadows are the home to elk, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bear, and caribou. The terrain between the mountain peaks is fairly easy hiking or backcountry skiing. Because Banff is east of the continental divide, the snowfall is considerably less than areas west of the continental divide, often less than 1 meter deep. In the fall, the first deep snows often fall in late September, covering the alpine meadows. By November 1, shortly after Canadian Thanksgiving, there is sufficient snow cover to make skis the only mode of travel in the backcountry. By January, with temperatures often plunging to -30 C for a week at a time, the snow sometimes deteriorates due to internal evaporation. This depth hoar sometimes makes for "bottomless" trail breaking. The Bow River remains open all winter, sending off spectacular steaming clouds on cold days, but most of the tributaries freeze over, making excellent ski routes. By April, temperatures begin to creep above freezing during the day, and by May or early June, most snow in the valleys is gone. Climbing on rock usually starts after July 1, as do summer hiking trips through the high meadows.

One of the distinctive characteristics of Banff National Park when compared with Jasper National Park is the existence of the beautiful Larch trees which exist only at tree line (about 2000 m). In September each year the needles on these trees turn a distinctive yellow color, before falling off. These trees are not found further north, in Jasper National Park.

History: Banff National Park was Canada's first and perhaps best known national park. In 1857 the Royal Geographical Society sent the Palliser Expedition west to look for a possible railroad route. About the same time James Hector explored up the Bow Valley, over Bow Pass, and to the Lyell Icefield. There were several other significant explorations of this type. The real change in accessability of the Rockies occurred when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was completed in 1885. The park itself was founded in 1885, at the time the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was built to link British Columbia to eastern Canada. Before the railway was built, the main fur trade route to the Pacific Ocean went further north, through Jasper and the Athabasca River. In Banff, the CPR goes over Kicking Horse Pass in Banff park, which is 500 meters higher and steeper than the Yellowhead Pass eventually used by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in Jasper Park. Although Kicking Horse and Rogers Pass are not as good a railway route, the CPR was built as far south as possible so as not to be cut off by a future railway further south. Once the railway was built, the area was accessible to mountaineers, and from about 1900 to 1918 a steady stream of expeditions climbed all the major peaks in Banff Park, and pushed north toward Jasper. Just before the end of the first world war, the Grand Trunk Pacific railway was completed through Jasper, and in the 1930's the Banff-Jasper highway was built. Since that time, there have been no new road developments, although in the 1980's, the Trans-Canada was considerably widened, and the CPR double tracked. Today, Banff National Park is part of the UNESCO Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

Top Trips
Whitegoat Wilderness Traverse - Owen Creek to Beauty Creek Robin Tivy
Success on Mount Columbia Eric Coulthard
Lyell-Forbes Ski Traverse Robin Tivy
Mount Ball's Sunny Ice Tongue Tom Wolfe
Laughing Bears Creek - A tour Rick Collier
A First Ascent of Mount Peters and a Climb of Condor Peak Rick Collier
Ski Patrol: Drummond Glacier, Bonnet Peak, Pulsatilla Pass Robin Tivy
Mount Forbes West Ridge via Glacier Lake Andrew McLeod
A Memorable Alpine Start on Mt. Assiniboine Orvel Miskiw
Trekking and Climbing in the Remote Roaring Creek Valley Rick Collier
More Trips

Top Photos
Shadow Lake and Mount Ball David Wasserman
Howse Peak Northeast Aspect Reid Holmes
Mount Girouard from the West Kevin Altheim
Mount Rundle From Highway 1 Justin Brown
Mount Temple south slopes route - Yellow Bands Kevin Altheim
The Three Summits of Willingdon From Clearwater Pass Sandra McGuinness
Athabasca Sunset Glow Stephen Skog
Cascade from the South Kevin Altheim
Lyell North Face John Scurlock
Mount Hector - Hector (North) Glacier Reid Holmes
More Photos

Alpine Journal Articles
1907 Three Attempts on Pinnacle P. D. McTavish
1918 Around Lake Louise In 1918 Val. A. Fynn

Paper Maps of Park
Banff - Egypt Lake Scale 1:50000 Gem Trek
Banff & Mount Assiniboine Scale 1:100000 Gem Trek
Banff National Park Scale 1:250000 Gem Trek
Banff Up-Close Scale 1:35000 Gem Trek
Best of Lake Louise Scale 1:35000 Gem Trek
Bow Lake & Saskatchewan Crossing Scale 1:70000 Gem Trek
Lake Louise & Yoho Scale 1:50000 Gem Trek
Lake O'Hara Scale 1:20000 Gem Trek
Paper Maps
Best of Lake Louise Gem Trek 1:35000 25m
Banff Up-Close Gem Trek 1:35000 25m
Banff - Egypt Lake Gem Trek 1:50000 25m
Kananaskis Lakes Gem Trek 1:50000 25m
Bow Lake & Saskatchewan Crossing Gem Trek 1:70000 50m
Banff & Mount Assiniboine Gem Trek 1:100000 50m
Banff National Park Gem Trek 1:250000 200m