Looking for your next winter vacation in Canada? Banff is Canada’s winter wonderland, perfect for skating, snow tubing, sightseeing and all of winter’s joys.
Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, is the oldest national park in the country. But that’s not the only reason it’s on the top of so many hikers’ and travellers’ bucket lists—it’s a beautiful place to visit year-round, from the peak of summer to the golden larch season in the fall to the magical winter wonderland when everything is covered in snow.
Winter in Canada may seem intimidating to some, but it’s one of the best times to visit Banff National Park. There are fewer crowds, and the landscape looks drastically different when covered under a blanket of white fluffy snow. Seeing the snow-capped mountains is just one of the many winter experiences to have in the park. While the road leading up to the famous Moraine Lake is inaccessible to vehicles during the winter months because it closes due to safety reasons in mid-October and reopens in the spring (although the road is track set for cross-country skiing), there are still lots of fun things to do in Banff during the winter season. In fact, it’s one of my favourite times to explore this prime spot of the Canadian Rockies.
Skate on Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the biggest attractions in Western Canada, but it’s usually popular for its vibrant shade of turquoise water. While winter in Banff means you won’t get to see the glacial waters, it’s the only time of the year for another unique experience—skating on it. If you have a pair of skates you can bring, be sure to pack them for a winter trip to Banff National Park. But it’s also possible to rent skates upon arrival from Chateau Ski and Snow.Unsplash
Ski at Lake Louise Ski Resort
The gondola at Lake Louise Ski Resort is a fun opportunity to see the mountains and view wildlife in summer, but during winter, it’s put to its intended use—skiing. You can rent gear at the resort, grab refreshments at the cafe onsite, buy some themed socks at the gift shop or just hit the slopes!Unsplash
While hiking in Banff National Park is one of the top reasons to visit, winter weather presents a special opportunity to try snowshoeing on some famous trails. Companies like Banff Adventures rent high-quality gear if you don’t have your own snowshoes for the trip. There are plenty of fun routes to trek during the winter, but a great option of moderate difficulty is the Ink Pots via Moose Meadows. This is a 5.6-kilometre one-way trail with 340 metres of elevation gain. The trailhead is at Johnston Creek at the Moose Meadows parking lot.Unsplash
Soak in a Hot Spring or Hot Tub with a View
Winter in Banff is magical, but it’s also typically very cold. So, a must-do while visiting is to escape the chilly weather and soak in the soothing mineral water of a hot spring. Banff Upper Hot Springs is located on Sulphur Mountain and offers a chance to bathe in geothermally heated water that bubbles from three kilometres into the earth’s crust. There are also plenty of hotels, like Basecamp Suites, with hot tubs offering stunning mountain views.Robynne Trueman
Play in the Snow
A winter visit to Banff National Park is the perfect time to reconnect with your inner child. Feel relaxed and free as you run through knee-deep snow, make snow angels, or pack a good old-fashioned snowball for a friendly snowball fight with friends. Just taking a moment to enjoy the beauty of the fresh white snowfall in such a beautiful place is going to create a memory you’ll cherish for a lifetime.Unsplash
Photograph Abraham Lake
For photographers, Banff in winter is a dream, and not just because the mountains are wonderfully glazed in white. Everything takes on a new perspective, including Abraham Lake. This normally blue glacial lake is a short distance away from Banff National Park and lovely in the summer, but its true appeal comes when it freezes over and the bubbles form beneath the surface. An interesting visual phenomenon occurs because of decaying plants at the bottom of the lake. They release methane gas and create stunning bubbles suspended in the ice that are worth seeing at least once while visiting.Unsplash
Go Snow Tubing at Mount Norquay
If skiing and snowboarding aren’t your speed, a less intimidating way to kick up some powder in Banff this winter is to try snow tubing. It’s fun, fast and freeing as you whip down the mountain and feel the wind and powder in your face. Gather your friends and head to Mount Norquay for this experience. This is also a great activity for kids!Unsplash
Go Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is an interesting winter activity that visitors will have to brave the snow to experience. In Banff, you can learn about sled dogs and embark on an adventure with them with Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours. A tip for future animal activities: always research the company before booking tourism activities that involve animals to ensure they are ethical and treat the animals with respect.Unsplash
Stay in a Cozy Log Cabin
Leave the cold and snow behind with a night in a cozy, romantic cabin. Banff National Park takes on a new whimsical vibe from the inside of a log cabin or wooden lodge. Sitting at the fireside with a glass of wine and looking out the window at the snow falling softly on the trees is as relaxing as it gets. Baker Creek by Basecamp Resorts has charming log cabins near Lake Louise complete with an in-room jacuzzi and wood-burning fireplace.Robynne Trueman
Grab a Pint at a Restaurant in Banff Town
The town of Banff itself is a worthy attraction in all seasons, including winter. Things look a little different as the snowflakes fall and the crowds thin out. Many of the restaurants lining the charming streets have fireplaces creating a cozy atmosphere, inviting you in off the street to warm up with a pint and some cuisine made from locally sourced ingredients. Fondue at the Grizzly House or pizza at Bear Street Tavern are two of the top places to dine in style in downtown Banff this winter.Robynne Trueman
Banff National Park is truly Canada’s greatest winter wonderland. Don’t miss out on a chance to experience the park during this magical (albeit cold) season. Fewer crowds, incredible landscapes and unique activities to summer make venturing it out here during the off-season worthwhile!