BanffSituated 130 km west of Calgary, the town of Banff lies in the south-eastern portion of the national park which bears its name. The town is a Mecca to people who are visiting the Rocky Mountains, and especially those who are enjoying one of the many ski resorts in the area. The town has taken care to minimize its impact on those who wish to enjoy the mountain views, with no building in town being more than two storys high. The towns main street has a more or less uniform feel to it, with buildings faced in wood and brick, with numerous stores selling souvenirs, native articles, and refreshments.
Banff is set within a valley formed by the junction of several mountains. It is all but impossible not to see at least one of them anywhere in Banff. The Bow River runs through the town, and the Bow Falls is a perennial favorite for both locals and visitors, being a short walk from downtown. It is not unusual for the visitor to Banff to be greeted by Elk wandering the areas near the Bow River. These large creatures are usually quite passive, but are still wild creatures and should not be approached at any time (and especially not during their mating season, when they get quite territorial). It is important for the visitor to Banff to keep in mind that it is illegal to feed any of the wildlife encountered in the park.
While in Banff most visitors take in the Upper Hot Springs. Located 4 km south of Banff, the walk may be a bit much for some (uphill all the way), but it is a very short drive. The springs feed a bathing pool with temperatures ranging from 34 to 42 degrees C (the lower end during spring run-off, when the water is only lukewarm). Also available at the Hot Springs is a professional massage.
While up at the Upper Hot Springs many visitors will walk the short distance to take the gondola to the top of Sulpher Mountain. The gondola ride rises 700 meters in 8 minutes. The top of the mountain provides spectacular views of Banff and the surrounding mountains from the open air observation deck. Food and draft beer is also available at the peak from a small snack shop. At one time you could hike to the top and ride the gondola down free but no longer.
There are also a number of small museums in Banff, dedicated to the history and wildlife of the park. Behind the park administration office is the Cascade Rock Gardens, which features small pools, plants and shrubs, and numerous flowers.