Banff National Park is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885 in the Rocky Mountains. The park, located 110–180 km (68–112 mi) west of Calgary in the province of Alberta, encompasses 6,641 km2 (2,564 sq mi) of mountainous terrain, with numerous glaciers and ice fields, dense coniferous forest, and alpine landscapes. The Icefields Parkway extends from Lake Louise, connecting to Jasper National Park in the north. Provincial forests and Yoho National Park are neighbours to the west, while Kootenay National Park is located to the south and Kananaskis Country to the southeast. The main commercial centre of the park is the town of Banff, in the Bow River valley.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was instrumental in Banff's early years, building the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise, and attracting tourists through extensive advertising. In the early 20th century, roads were built in Banff, at times by war internees, and through Great Depression-era public works projects. Since the 1960s, park accommodations have been open all year, with annual tourism visits to Banff increasing to over 5 million in the 1990s. Millions more pass through the park on the Trans-Canada Highway. As Banff is one of the world's most visited national parks, the health of its ecosystem has been threatened. In the mid-1990s, Parks Canada responded by initiating a two-year study, which resulted in management recommendations, and new policies that aim to preserve ecological integrity.
Banff National Park is located in the Rocky Mountains on Alberta's western border with British Columbia in the Alberta Mountain forests ecoregion. Banff is about an hour and half driving distance from Calgary, and four hours from Edmonton. Jasper National Park is located to the north, while Yoho National Park is to the west, and Kootenay National Park is to the south. Kananaskis Country, which includes Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, Spray Valley Provincial Park, and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, is located to the south and east of Banff.
The Trans-Canada Highway passes through Banff National Park, from eastern boundary near Canmore, through the towns of Banff and Lake Louise, and into Yoho National Park in British Columbia. The Banff townsite is the main commercial centre in the national park. The village of Lake Louise is located at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and the Icefields Parkway, which extends north to the Jasper townsite.