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Banff National Park, the oldest and most famous in the Canadian Rockies and Canada’s number one tourist attraction, receives some 4.7 million visitors per year. This is partly due to its 6641 sq km of jaw-dropping scenery, including 25 peaks over 3000 m and 1500 km of trails, many of which are accessed from the highway and gentle enough for almost anyone.
Of equal significance is its location on the country’s main highway, a mere 128 km from Calgary. Banff Townsite is the park’s main hub, a pleasant but absurdly busy place in a stunning location with services catering to every budget. Those craving creature comforts will find them here in abundance, and there is also an excellent information centre.Read more
North of Banff Townsite, magnificent Lake Louise is the single most famous icon in the Rockies. Like many other lakes in the range, its water has an opaque, milky quality due to the presence of mineral deposits that glaciers have scraped from the mountain rock. These particles absorb all colours of the light spectrum except green and blue, resulting in water that is the most exquisite aquamarine colour and changes dramatically according to the time of year and angle of the sun. Add to this the lake’s sheer size and dramatic location at the foot of an incredibly powerful, towering rock rampart, and it is not difficult to understand why Lake Louise is the range’s definitive picture-postcard image, and the single most popular sight in the Rockies.
From Lake Louise, the incredible Icefields Parkway runs north to Jasper, lined with the most awe-inspiring scenery of all. In fact, the endless parade of lofty snow-capped peaks and vast glaciers is likely to push you towards sensory overload. Highlights include the stunning Bow and Peyto lakes and Bow Summit (2069 m), the highest highway crossing in Canada. The scenery reaches its climax around the extraordinary Columbia Icefields, the single largest and most accessible area of ice and snow in the Rockies.