Banff National Park is one of those places that draws people by the thousands. This summer in the park was absolutely insane for the number of visitors through the park gates. Yet despite such a high number of visitors, very people know the humble origins of the park.
Imagine hiking through untouched wilderness and smelling sulfur and seeing steam coming from a hole in the ground… and then thinking it was a good idea to climb down said hole… Well, in a nutshell, that is how Banff was born. Obviously I am skimming over a bunch of details, but to find out the full history, you should visit Cave and Basin Historical Site in Banff.
The museum is in the building that houses the entrance to original Banff Hotsprings (which are actually in a cave!), and later on, a pool for the mineral rich water. Nowadays, the springs are recognized as a sensitive ecological environment, home to a unique breed of snail, and they are protected. While you cannot go IN the springs anymore, you can visit the original cave and appreciate it for what it is: a stunningly beautiful cavern full of turquoise water and unique rock formations.
After you explore the cave and the attached hall with displays on the history of Canada’s National Parks, take a walk to explore the upper hot springs. Above the museum, there is a boardwalk with interpretive panels and gorgeous views of Vermillion Lakes below.