As I'm sure you've heard, Parks Canada is offering free admission passes to all Canadian National Parks in 2017. What's exciting is that the pass also covers admission to all historic sites and marine conservation areas run by Parks Canada. You can get yours here at Parks Canada's website.
Our first National Park was Banff. Dating back to 1885, not only is it Canada's oldest, but it is the most visited. The third oldest National Park in the world, it is an UNESCO World Heritage site. It is 6,641 square km and located about 100 km west of Calgary. Jasper National Park lies on it's northern border.
In 1883, some railroad employees came across a hot springs in the area of what is now Banff. After two years of dispute over rights to the hot springs the Canadian government was given ownership and Banff was born.
Banff is also linked to a darker part of our country's history. At the beginning of the 20th century cars were originally not allowed in the park. But to increase tourism, they began to clear land and build roads. During WWI, funding for parks was reduced. So J. B. Harkin (the Parks Commissioner) obtained permission to use enemy aliens in interment camps to clear land and build roads. Enemy alien internment camps were constructed to house those recent immigrants from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey and Belarus. There was wide spread suspicion that they might be disloyal to their new country and the government passed special regulations to monitor and intern them. The camps were located across Canada, but there was a high concentration around southern Alberta and British Columbia. They were put to work in not only Banff but several other parks as well. After WWI, the work continued during the Depression era with relief workers. During WWII, conscientious objectors to the war were used.
Today along with the hot springs, there are hiking trails, two historic sites located within the park, and nine other National parks and historic sites nearby. In the winter there is also alpine and cross country skiing. And of course there is Lake Louise. As far as I'm concerned, it's one of the most beautiful places in the world.
A few years ago, we took the drive from Calgary to Banff and Lake Louise. The town of Banff itself is picturesque, and Lake Louise quite simply took my breath away.
At Lake Louise there is a hiking trail you can take that goes to the Lake Agnes Tea House. Built in 1901, it was build as a stop for hikers by the Canadian Pacific Railway. To this day it has no electricity or running water. Some supplies are flown in by helicopter, but fresh food is hiked up the trail by staff. It's open June-October.
You can find out more about Canad'a National Parks at the following:
Canada National Park Act
National Parks of Canada