Province/Territory: Alberta

Discover the birthplace of Canada's national parks

  • 01 legendary cave bubbling with thermal waters
  • 04 screen HD cross-Canada visual journey
  • 07 kilometres of scenic walking trails

Stand in the dramatic spot that started it all: Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the birthplace of Canada's world-famous system of parks, national historic sites, and national marine areas. On this dynamic guided tour, you'll touch Banff's natural heritage and share a discovery that changed the course of history
Watch plumes of billowing, sulphurous steam coming from the cave’s vent hole. Dip your hands in silky thermal waters that once attracted thousands of hot springs bathers. See colourful lights shimmering in an underground Cave. Marvel from raised boardwalks at breathtaking Bow Valley. Learn how the idea of protecting our heritage flowed like water from Cave and Basin NHS, spreading from sea to sea to sea. Afterward, tour Canada's protected places on a 4-screen immersive HD video journey in Story Hall.

Why you should visit

• Touch Banff's fascinating heritage at Cave and Basin NHS, the birthplace of Canada's National Parks.
• Discover how in 1883, three railway workers found liquid gold, in the form of hot thermal spring water.
• Stand on historic pool deck, where Banff's early bathing history led to world-famous Banff Hot Springs[].
• Dip your hands into the thermal water fountain–the only place on site where you can touch the protected water.
• Take photos on raised boardwalks overlooking pristine marshland and offering panoramic mountain views.
• Take an interactive tour with Parks Canada staff.
• Be amazed by the Story Hall's 4 screen HD visual journey, whisking you across Canada’s stunning network of protected places.
• Spot a Physella johnsoni (hint it’s the Banff Springs Snail) in the Basin's outdoor emerald-coloured mineral pool.
• Feel the power of a sacred space with 13 thousand years of Aboriginal history and connection.


• Summer (July to September) is peak season in Banff National Park. Expect warm, comfortable weather in July and August, but dress in layers in case of rainfall or cooler weather arrive.
• By Fall (October to December), the air is cold and crisp and colourful leaves start to fall.
• Winter weather (January to March) is cold and dry. Wear a heavy jacket and boots, and expect snowfall in town and on the peaks.
• Spring (April to June) is often an in-between season when summertime temperatures and even snow can linger on the ground. Pack lighter-weight clothing and a few sweaters.
• Discover local weather information.  Research local weather patterns at Environment Canada's Canadian Climate Website.

Visitor information

• Open year round.
• Hours and admission fees.
• Discovery Tour runs twice daily in July and August; once a day in the shoulder season. Reserve ahead during May, June, September and October.
• On-site gift shop and café.
• Check out seasonal special events, including after-hours lantern tour.
• Group tours and custom tours available by reservation.

When to go

• Cave & Basin is open year round.
• High season runs from May through September, with July and August ideal for exploring the outdoors and enjoying wildflowers, from the Western Lilies, Paintbrushes to Prickly Roses. Spring brings the sound of American Robins, Yellow rumped Warblers and others birds around the site.
• Autumn arrives with yellow and gold colours lighting up the trees and you can witness the migration of birds heading south.
• Winter turns the boardwalks into a winter wonderland when running warm thermal springs produce dramatic hoar frost.

Need to know

• The discovery tour is 45 minutes, but plan to spend 2 hours to fully enjoy the site's new Story Hall, along with Cave, outdoor basin and boardwalks.
• The Welcome Centre and site features a gift shop, café, washrooms and plenty of parking.
• Most of the site is wheelchair accessible, including underground cave.

Getting Here

• The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is located on Cave Avenue in Banff, Alberta.
Banff National Park is a 90 minute drive west from Calgary on the Trans Canada Highway.
• From the Calgary International Airport (YYC), drive north on Highway 2, west on Stoney Trail and west on the Trans-Canada 1 Highway.
Airport shuttles to Banff are available.
Car rentals are easily booked in Calgary, Edmonton and Banff.
• Bus and taxi service are also available in Banff.