The Town of Banff was the first municipality to incorporate within a Canadian national park.
Banff was first settled in the 1880s, after the transcontinental railway was built through the Bow Valley. In 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon a series of natural hot springs on the side of Sulphur Mountain. In 1885, Canada established a federal reserve of 26 km2 (10 sq mi) around the Cave and Basin hot springs, and began promoting the area as an international resort and spa as a way to support the new railway. In 1887, the reserve area was increased to 673 km2 (260 sq mi) and named “Rocky Mountain Park”. This was the beginning of Canada’s National Park system.
The area was named Banff in 1884 by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace in Banff, Scotland. The Canadian Pacific built a series of grand hotels along the rail line and advertised the Banff Springs Hotel as an international tourist resort.
The Banff town site was developed near the railway station as a service centre for tourists visiting the park. It was administered by the Government of Canada’s national parks
World Heritage Site. Banff remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada.
built the King Edward Hotel and the Lux Theatre, and founded the Sign of the Goat
Curio Shop, which led to the development of the Luxton Museum of Plains Indians, now the Buffalo Nations Museum. He and his family helped organize the Banff Indian Days and the Banff Winter Carnival.
In 1976, the International Astronomical Union‘s Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (IAU/WGPSN) officially adopted the name Banff for a crater on Mars, after the town in Alberta. The crater is at latitude 17.7° north and longitude 30.8° west. Its diameter is 5 km (3.1 mi). Banff experiences a subarctic climate (Köppen climate classification Dfc) that borders on a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb).
Winter temperatures range from an average low of −13.3 °C (8.1 °F) to an average high of −0.2 °C (31.6 °F). Summer temperatures in the warmest month are pleasant with an average high of 21.6°C (70.9 °F) and an average low of 7.3 °C (45.1 °F). Snow has been recorded in all months of the year. The annual snowfall averages 191.0 cm (75.2 in).
There are a number of popular mountains located immediately adjacent to the townsite which include Mount Rundle (2,949 m or 9,675 ft); Cascade Mountain (2,998 m or 9,836 ft); and Mount Norquay (2,134 m or 7,001 ft). Mount Norquay has a ski slope as well as mountain biking trails on the Stoney Squaw portion. A popular tourist attraction, the Banff Gondola, is available to ascend Sulphur Mountain (2,281 m or 7,484 ft) where a boardwalk (Banff Skywalk) beginning from the upper terminal takes visitors to Sanson Peak. Sulphur Mountain is also the location of one of Banff’s most popular attractions, the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Lake Minnewanka located six minutes north of the townsite is a very popular day use area with a variety of activities. Mountain biking, hiking and fishing are all activities allowed in this part of the park. A very popular Lake Cruise, motor boat rentals and a small food concession are available at the marina.
Tunnel Mountain (formerly known as Sleeping Buffalo Mountain) (1,690 m or 5,545 ft) is situated within the townsite and is very popular for quick hikes; one can reach the summit in less than half an hour. It was named Tunnel Mountain because surveyors initially wanted to make a tunnel for the Canadian Pacific Railway right through the mountain, instead of following the Bow River Valley.
Banff is home to the well-known Banff World Television Festival, Banff Mountain Film Festival, Rocky Mountain Music Festival and Bike Fest. The city is also the starting point of the 4,417 km (2,745 mi) Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which terminates at Antelope Wells, New Mexico in the United States.