Banff National Park is Canada's first national park, and gave birth to the National Park system. At 6,641 square kilometres it is also one of the largest in Canada, if not the world. The park sees visits well into the millions annually.
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.
Banff National Park is the most visited Alberta tourist destination and one of the most visited national parks in North America, with 3,927,557 visitors in 2004/2005. During summer, 42% of park visitors are from Canada (23% from Alberta), while 35% are from the United States, and 20% from Europe. Tourism in Banff contributes an estimated C$6 billion annually to the economy.
A park pass is required for stopping in the park and permit checks are common during the summer months, especially at Lake Louise and the start of the Icefields Parkway. A permit is not required if travelling straight through the park without stopping. Approximately 5 million people pass through Banff annually on the Trans-Canada Highway without stopping.
Attractions in Banff include Upper Hot Springs, and a 27-hole golf course at Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, and three ski resorts including Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Mountain Resort, and Mount Norquay ski resort. The Banff Lodging Co is a hospitality company in the park. Day hikes, such as the Cory Pass Loop, are popular with visitors. Other activities include alpine and Nordic skiing, and horseback riding.