Cave and Basin National Historic Site
Purchase entry tickets at the gift shop adjacent to the parking lot and climb the gentle hill up to the interpretive center. In the central foyer are information about the historical site, mineral pools, and the tunnel that leads to the cave and the hot springs. Also here is a large museum hall with exhibits showcasing the history of Parks Canada and Banff National Park. Don’t miss a stroll outside to see more.
Many visitors come to the site as part of a tour from Calgary or Banff. Half-, full- or multi-day excursions may visit Lake Louise, Victoria Glacier, Moraine Lake, Bow Valley, Bow Falls, and/or other highlights of Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is a must for history buffs and first-time visitors to Banff National Park.
There is a fee to enter the site, though an annual Parks Canada pass grants you free admission.
Be prepared for a short tunnel that can feel quite closed in when it is crowded. The cave itself is small and there may be a wait to get in.
The facility is fully accessible. There is a drop-off point close to the interpretive center for those unable to walk from the parking lot.
How to Get There
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is located on the western edge of Banff, Alberta, and is easy to get to from downtown. Drive, bike, or hike the approximately 1.25 miles (2 kilometers), following Banff Avenue over the bridge to Cave Avenue. A public transit bus runs regularly to the site during summer, and on weekends and holidays from mid-May to mid-June.
When to Get There
The site is open year-round, and a visit in the spring, fall, or winter can be quiet and lovely. Peak season in Banff is summertime, from mid-June until the beginning of September. Summer weekends and holidays (Canada Day, Heritage Day, Labour Day) can be busy, with many visitors in from Calgary and beyond. To avoid some of the crowds, visit early in the day or in the evening.
How Thermal Waters Birthed Parks Canada
The First Nations have used the area’s mineral waters for healing for thousands of years, but when three Canadian Pacific Railway workers stumbled upon the cave entrance in the Canadian Rockies, they were quick to put up a fence and apply for land ownership. The Government of Canada denied their application, however, and soon took over the site as a protected area—ultimately giving rise to Banff National Park and the entire Parks Canada system.