Banff National Park is located to the west of Calgary in the Canadian province of Alberta. Established in 1885, it is Canada's oldest national park, and also the most renowned one. Lying in the Rocky Mountains, it spans 4,127 square miles (6,641 square kilometers) of diverse terrain, including mountains, valleys, glaciers, forests, meadows, and rivers. Located in a province that is known for its harsh winter weather, during the winter months from late October to late April temperatures in Banff generally range from -4°F to 23°F (-20°C to -5°C). In the summer months temperatures are mild and pleasant, ranging from 45°F to 72°F (7°C to 22 °C).
Banff National Park attracts tourists from all around the world, it has long been among the most visited of Alberta's tourist destinations, and it is one of the most celebrated landmarks in Canada. In the winter months, it is a popular destination for winter sports and activities, such as skiing, horse riding, and hot springs. In the summer months, it is an ideal destination for backcountry activities such as camping, hiking, and climbing. The best way to get to Banff is by driving, which is made convenient by the Trans-Canada Highway. It takes roughly four hours of driving to reach Banff from the Alberta Canaga-Montana US border, and is therefore fairly accessible to the average American citizen from the Midwest to get to.
Banff National Park is best known for its breathtaking mountainous scenery, diverse rock formations, and shinning glaciers and ice fields. Even so, it is still so much more than a mere sightseeing hot spot. A paradise for wildlife, it hosts more than 56 wildlife species and many wild plants, many of which can be spotted most of the year throughout the park. Aside from its amazing natural landscape and biodiversity, it also has natural hot springs, mountain trails, a golf course, and ski resorts, each catering to different needs and interests. In 1984, Banff was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Banff National Park hosts a plethora of natural wildlife. Its diverse geological formation provides a natural habitat for 56 species. While mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, and pika are spread throughout the alpine regions, you can find grizzly and black bears in the forested regions, moose in the wetland areas and near streams, and elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer in the valleys of the park. Predators such as cougars, lynxes, wolverines, coyotes, and wolves are also widespread throughout. The park is also home to the "Endangered" species of mollusk known as the "Banff Springs snail", as well as the woodland caribou, itself classified as a "Threatened Species".
The harsh Rocky Mountain weather can be challenging for people who have never experienced it. Tourists are also advised not to go into areas that threatening wildlife, such as bears and wolves, are known to inhabit. However, humans and human activities posit more threats to the environment and ecosystem than they do to humans. Over the years, the rocks have suffered from erosion and the glaciers have shrunk by 25 percent in mass over the course of the 20th Century. The latter has been largely attributed to global warming, and the melting trend continues. Moreover, although strict conservation measures have been issued since the 1980s, the Trans-Canada Highway, which passes through Banff, has created severe hazards for wildlife by interrupting their migration patterns.