Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and the world's third, encompasses massive glaciers, raging rivers, turquoise lakes, lush forests and a plethora of wildlife. Situated in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, it's a nature lover's paradise. Spanning 2,564 square miles, the park offers ample opportunities for exploration and adventure.
For U.S. visitors, the park is surprisingly easy to reach. Tampa Bay area residents can hop a flight from Tampa International Airport to Calgary International Airport with a connection in Houston. Once in Calgary, rent a car from any of the major chains and it's just a 90-minute drive to reach the park. The Trans-Canada Highway continues northwest through some of the most breathtaking scenery imaginable.
The more adventurous can make reservations for a backcountry camping permit in Banff and explore the most remote parts of the park. Permits are available through Parks Canada. Be advised that during the busy summer season, prime campsite reservations go quickly, so make arrangements well in advance of your trip.
While abundant wildlife is one of the area's attractions, these critters can be dangerous. Be sure to pack bear spray for hikes and make plenty of noise while on the trail to alert any grizzlies in the area of your presence.
Banff National Park is home to some of North America's most stunning wilderness. Your only regret after visiting likely will be not having stayed longer.