The most amazing thing to do in Banff in winter is to sit by a fireplace, with warm cocoa in hand and snow-covered mountain views. For this very reason, Banff will always have a piece of my heart forever. The Canadian Rockies come alive with jingle bells, snow festivals, hot chocolate, sleigh rides, skiing, snowshoeing, crackling fire-pits, colorful mittens and torques, and tons of other Banff Winter activities to keep you hooked.
It is literally the most wonderful time of the year here and a place where you will make memories for a lifetime. We visited Banff and surrounding areas multiple times and have put together these epic things to do in the winter list.
Whether you like the outdoors (like skiing, snowboarding, and winter hike) or love to hibernate indoors, we have something for you in our Banff Winter activities menu. Keep reading to choose your top pick!
45 Epic Things to Do in Banff: Banff Winter Activities
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Banff National Park is the oldest national park in Canada and one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Established in 1885 and covering 6,641 square kilometres of rugged Canadian Rockies scenery, it’s no wonder why this stunning park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.
The park has a long and fascinating history, with many stories of Indigenous peoples inhabiting the area before it was designated a national park. In addition to its natural beauty, the park is home to iconic landmarks such as Lake Louise and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
Throughout its history, Banff National Park has been dedicated to the conservation and preservation of its incredible landscapes.
Today, the park is managed by Parks Canada, which works to ensure the park’s conservation and preservation for future generations.
There are entry fees to enter the Banff National Park (and all the National Parks in Canada). You can choose to get a day or weekly pass at the gate. Or purchase an annual Discovery Pass.
- Per day pass: The entry fee for individual parks (car pass or family) is $19.60 CAD/day.
- Discovery Pass: The Discovery Pass provides unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada places that charge a daily entrance fee, valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. Prices start at $136.40 CAD.
Now, let’s go over the best things to do in Banff National Park in winter!
1. Banff Christmas – Santa Claus Parade of Lights
Christmas comes in early, in Banff. The beautiful Banff town comes alive with Christmas carols in November, with the Santa Claus Parade of Lights. The parade happens at Banff Avenue.
Roads are blocked off for traffic as the town gets into the festive season to mark the arrival of Santa to town.
Arrive at Banff Avenue in the evening, bring your picnic chairs, wear warm clothes, and get ready to rejoice. You will also see schoolchildren and local businesses participating in the Santa parade. So come out and join the entire Banff town in celebrations.
You can easily spend 1.5 to 2 hours here. There are lots of coffee shops on Banff Avenue, so grab a warm hot chocolate or coffee, while you enjoy the parade. It definitely helped me to watch the parade from start to finish!
Fee – Free. Join the parade in mid November 2023.
2. Banff Christmas Markets
Missing Europe in Canada? Visit the Banff Christmas markets for that traditional European-style Christmas market. The markets are set up at 100 Sundance Rd, at the end of November each year. Find more about this event here
Fee – $5 CAD weekday or $8 CAD weekend (includes a drink of your choice)
On Banff Avenue, you will also find many local stores selling Christmas items like sweets, gifts, ornaments, decorative crafts, etc. They also make for great souvenirs as well.
My favorite store – “Spirit of Christmas” and they are open all year round.
3. Banff Gondola Winter Activities
Want to see how the Banff town looks like, from above? Well, it looks dreamy, all covered in snow, with peekaboo trees, lights, and mighty mountains.
Take the Banff gondola ride to reach the Sulphur Mountain summit and soak in all the breathtaking views up there.
Banff Gondola is open during the winter season. Keep in mind, it is very cold and windy at a high altitude, so dress warm and be ready for some chill.
The walkway (1 km or .62 miles stroll to Sanson Peak) is still open for visitors in winter but is covered in snow, so sturdy shoes are a must.
Fee – Starts at $58 CAD online purchase/adult. It is not necessary to book tickets online, but you do receive a 10% discount if you do so.
4. Christmas on Mountain Top (Banff Gondola in Winters)
Every year in December, you can meet Santa Claus and get treats from him at the Banff Gondola. The gondola summit also has an interactive centre (Santa’s workshop) from the North Pole.
Great spot to get your pictures taken. This event occurs all weekend from mid-November to December.
Fee: Free with Gondola admission.
5. Stargazing at Banff Gondola in Winter
With modern technology and interpreters on-site, you can view the wonderful night sky in Banff, from over 7500 feet. It is available for free with your Banff Gondola ride ticket. This event occurs from late November to March, in the evenings.
Fee: Free with Gondola admission, and evening admission to soak in the starry skies. Check here for details
6. Johnston Canyon Icewalk
Johnston Canyon is one of the most popular attractions in Banff National Park. During the winter months, a unique experience awaits those who venture into this stunning canyon—ice walking!
Ice walking at Johnston Canyon gives you a chance to explore scenic landscapes, spectacular frozen waterfalls, and deep icicle-covered canyons. To join in on the fun, you can join one of the guided excursions by Discover Banff Tours.
The ice walk itself begins at the Johnston Canyon trailhead entrance and takes about two hours to complete. The guide will provide you with cleats or crampons, but ensure you ate bundled up for winter hiking.
The path is well-marked with signs guiding you through the canyon as you take in the magnificent sights of towering frozen waterfalls, icicle-covered cliffs, and snow-covered trees.
At the end of your ice walk, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the canyon below. Once you have explored Johnston Canyon in its winter wonderland glory, head back to town for some hot chocolate and a warm fire.
7. See the water bubbles in Abraham Lake
Although not in Banff National Park, with a 2-hour drive, you will arrive at Lake Abraham which is a man-made reservoir. Underneath the surface is methane bubbles which make the place very unique and fascinating!
This place is getting so much attention of late, but you got to be very careful when you walk the lake, as it is a reservoir and if the surface cracks it could be very dangerous more than a frozen lake.
See the water bubbles on a scenic helicopter ride – find out more here
8. Go Ice Skating in Banff
Being a mountainous-snow-clad terrain, Banff offers great options for skating (and also a very Canadian thing to do, eh). There are indoor and outdoor skating rinks and there are many that are free for use as well.
So if you love to be out in the lap of nature, then head to one of the following lakes (and for free). Keep in mind that these rinks are not maintained and a lot depends on weather conditions.
Average skating months are from November or early December and Parks Canada will provide signage and warnings if the lakes are ready for skating or if its thin ice.
Banff Outdoor Skating Rinks/Lakes
8.1. Vermillion Lake – Quick drive from Banff town, Vermillion Lake is stunning and very accessible if you are staying on Banff Avenue. There are 3 dock options to choose from, perfect to curve your “almost” private skating rink.
8.2. Minnewanka Lake – Located 30 minutes away from Banff, Lake Minnewanka is a skater’s paradise. The lake is about 21 kilometres (13 miles) long and presents itself with an amazing backdrop of a snowy winter wonderland.
Sometimes you will see water bubbles forming underneath the surface when you skate, so always check the ice thickness before skating.
8.4. Two Jack Lake – Located only a few minutes away from Lake Minnewanka is Two Jack Lake. This lake is actually more popular in winter than in the summertime, as it presents a stunning view of Mt Rundle, while you skate
8.5. Johnson Lake – Another spot to experience Mt Rundle in its full glory of the winter season is Johnson Lake. This lake is very popular among tourists and locals alike. This lake can be accessed from Lake Minnewanka
8.6. Lake Louise – The best of the best is Lake Louise. Located 50 minutes outside of Banff town, Lake Louise transforms into a skater’s paradise with snowy mountains, a castle, and an abandoned house (which is a rental office, by the way). This is probably one of the favorite places/lakes in Banff in winter.
8.7. Bow River Rink – There is a small skating oval created by the Bow River for skating. This rink is maintained for skating purposes and offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies as well.
Skating Banff in Hotel/Rec Centre
Some of the indoor skating rinks are operated and maintained by Banff Resorts. Some indoor & outdoor rinks have entry fees.
8.8. In Banff
- Banff Springs Hotel – Has a heated rink. No fee
- Banff Rec Centre – Fenlands Banff Rec Centre has a skating rink. The access fee is $6
8.9. In Lake Louise
- Chateau Lake Louise – Also has a heated ice rink. Free access
- Lake Louise Rec Centre – Outdoor skating rink. Access is free
Banff Skate Rentals & Safety
- At the Banff Rec Centre, you can also rent skates for use. For all the other rinks, especially the ones on the lake, you won’t find rental offices on the spot, so it is advisable that you grab some at Banff Avenue or Lake Louise before heading to the skating rinks.
- Banff skate rental options – Unlimited Skate & Snow, Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, Chateau Mountain Sports
- If you are in Lake Louise, here are a few options for skate rentals – Wilson Mountain Sports
- Safety measures are to be followed when skating on frozen lakes. Proper gear and helmets are key.
9. Banff Canada Ski Heaven – Banff Ski Resort, Cross Country Ski & Rentals
The Canadian Rockies boasts more than 8000 acres of pure white bliss for ski lovers. Whether it is skiing or cross country, Banff has got you covered.
In the Banff area, there are 2 gondolas and 26 chair lifts to take you to the mesmerizing winter wonderland. Great Ski options are also available in nearby areas of Lake Louise (50 minutes from Banff) and Canmore (20 minutes from Banff).
Banff Ski Resorts
There are three primary ski resorts in Banff. They are Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff Sunshine Village, and Mt Norquay
9. 1. Mount Norquay – Mount Norquay Ski Resort is located closest to Banff, only a 10-minute drive away. You can do nighttime skiing, and snow tubing as well.
9.2. Sunshine Village – Sunshine Village Resort is located about 20 minutes west of Banff. A stunning place during summers; and during winters the same resort turns into a winter wonderland.
Sunshine Village offers seasonal passes and if you love to ski for 10 days or so, then grab the Sunshine Supercard, offering 4 free days for $99 CAD
9.3. Lake Louise – The Lake Louise Ski Resort offers stunning ski terrain for all levels of skiers. Popular activities here include skiing and snow tubing.
You can purchase a combo pass with a gondola ride, skiing, and tubing for $58 CAD per adult. It is a great place for families and teams. This resort is located in Lake Louise, about an hour’s drive from Banff.
There are daily shuttle options for each ski resort in Banff and Lake Louise. Pick-up points are conveniently located across Banff town.
10. Go Cross Country Skiing Banff
In all of the above resorts in Banff and Lake Louise, both options for skiing and cross-country skiing options are available. (Free-heel skiing and ‘downhill’ or cross-country skiing where the heel is fixed).
If you venture a bit further away from Banff town, towards Canmore and Kananaskis, there is another world-class skiing at the Nordic Provincial centre.
The 1988 Winter Olympics were held at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park and there are trails for cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, and hikers.
The park also hosts national training camps for Canada’s cross-country ski teams in winter. The ski tracks are also illuminated for night skiing.
Banff Ski Rentals
Ski equipment- If you are flying to Banff Alberta, then consider renting ski equipment, rather than bringing your own.
The full Ski gear package starts at $84+ CAD, only boots start at $22+ CAD. It is recommended that equipment is reserved ahead of time. In doing so, you can also avail of discounts.
11. Go on a Snowshoeing Banff Tour or a day out
Snow-shoeing is a form of hiking. You walk over snow-covered surfaces where a special pair of shoes that makes this activity fun and breathtaking at the same time.
Enjoy the fun activity with an adrenaline rush (it also helps burn calories, especially after all the holiday gain!) There are short and/or half-day snowshoeing tours that start from Banff and in and around areas.
Most popular Banff snowshoeing trails include snow-covered areas in & around Banff Gondola, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Lake Agnes, and Yoho National Park.
You can also take a full day snowshoeing activity where you can cover mountains from top to bottom.
Here are our top picks for Banff snowshoe trails,
11.1. Meadowlark (Gondola) – This is one of the shortest duration snowshoe activities, and it is also located close to Banff town. To start the snow-shoeing activity, you will have to take the gondola and arrive at the mountaintop
11.2. Sunshine Village – You will have to access the hills and meadow, from the Sunshine Village Ski Resort (take a chairlift)
11.3. Lake Louise – There is a trail close to Lake Louise, where you can snowshoe. This trail is both for beginners and advanced snowshoers. The first part of the trail is easy, as you hike and climb through trees.
As you reach Lake Mirror and go beyond, some patches are more rugged and prone to avalanches. Because of the scenic beauty of Lake Louise, this trail and snowshoeing activity are very popular.
If you are a beginner, taking a guided tour, is well worth the investment.
11.4. Lake Agnes – A 4 km hike (one-way) to Lake Agnes, which is a popular summer sport in the Banff National Park. Its elevation point is 1300 feet, giving way to some amazing views.
If you have never snowshoed before and are unaware of the Canadian Rockies terrain, it is worthwhile to book a tour for 2 hours or so, with a certified guide, and take the time to relax and enjoy the view.
12. Go on the Best Banff Winter Hikes
Banff National Park is a hiker’s paradise. During summers, you can expect to see lush greenery, valleys, and turquoise blue waters.
Winter hikes on similar (summer) routes are possible, but keep in mind it has its own challenges.
Some portions of trails or roads could be completely blocked or inaccessible. Paths and trails could be slippery and icy, so proper gear is a must.
There are different levels of hiking trails in Banff, so choose one wisely. Stick to easy, short-duration hikes, if this is your first winter hike in Banff.
Or go in a group, with a guide and a tour. Natural disasters also pose an additional hazard – wildfires in the summer and avalanches in the winter are to be aware of. Always follow warning signs and refrain from using those paths.
Here are a few of the popular winter hikes trails –
Banff hiking trails for all levels
12.1. Stewart Canyon – This trail is only 3 km (1.8 miles round trip) and is located by the Lake Minnewanka Day use area. You will see the Cascade River, on this trail. This is one of the easy hiking trails, but be mindful of icy paths.
12.2. Marsh Loop – Located close to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. The hiking trail is about 5.5 km (3.4 miles round trip) and circles the Cave and Basin Marsh. Perfect spot if you wish to explore the sulphur caves at the historic site and then go for a quick hike.
12.3. Fenland Trail – About a 4 km (2.4 mile) peaceful trail, located near Mt Norquay. One of the easy trails near the Banff townsite.
12.4. Tunnel Mountain Summit – Located very close to the Banff town centre, the Tunnel Mountain hiking trail provides gorgeous scenic views of the Bow Valley. This trail is about 5 km (3.1-mile round trip).
The reason this trail is of moderate level and proper hiking gear is required. Paths are extremely icy and slippery, so having the experience of using the equipment (hiking gear) is essential.
12.5. Hoodoos Viewpoint – The best view of the Hoodoos viewpoint can be accessed by hiking through a forest – 10 km (6.2-mile round trip). This trail provides wonderful scenic viewpoints and wildlife too.
You can also hike further along to get to the Tunnel Mountain road, to head to Banff Town.
13. Explore Banff Downtown in Winter
Banff downtown is a must-visit during winter. You can take some time off the winter activities – relax, eat, shop, and unwind. There is a great lineup of cafes, restaurants with amazing mountain views, and shops.
During winter, the streets are decorated with Christmas lights. You will find winter menus and special cuisines being offered in most restaurants.
Stores with Christmas gifts, Banff souvenirs, local arts, crafts, and photography welcome you when it is snowy outside.
14. Explore cultural sites in Banff town
When it is cold outside, opt to visit one of the indoor attractions in Banff. Banff is home to a diverse selection of cultural sites that offer visitors an opportunity to explore the history and culture of the area.
One of the most popular sites in Banff is the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which was established in 1883 and is located near the hot springs. Here, visitors can learn about how this site was once used by Indigenous people and the formation of the hot springs.
Another great cultural site to explore in Banff is the Whyte Museum, which houses a wide range of art, photography, natural history artifacts, and an extensive library. The museum also hosts a variety of events throughout the year such as lectures and workshops.
There are several other museums located throughout Banff that offer visitors insight into the culture and history of the area, such as the Banff Park Museum and the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre.
For those interested in Indigenous culture, there are several sites to explore in Banff. The Indian Trading Post is a great place to visit for a unique shopping experience, while the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum offers visitors an opportunity to learn about First Nations history and culture.
Banff is also home to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which offers visitors a chance to explore various art forms such as theatre, music, dance, and visual arts in addition to many other cultural events.
15. Capture the beauty of snow-covered places in Banff: Photography
Banff is a photographer’s paradise in winter. With its stunning snow-covered mountain views, frozen lakes, and dense forests, Banff offers endless opportunities for photography enthusiasts.
A popular spot for photographers is downtown Banff (with the ever-popular fire hydrant). Here, you can capture the stunning beauty of Cascade Mountain and the vibrant center.
Another great spot for photographers is the Welcome Banff sign.
Lake Louise and the view of the iconic Fairmont Chateau surrounded by stunning winter wonderland make for a classic Instagram photo spot!
So if you’re looking to capture some truly magical winter photos, Banff is the place to be!
16. Enjoy a winter drive on the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is an alternate route that connects Banff to Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. During winter months, this scenic drive offers visitors an opportunity to take in spectacular snow-covered mountain views as they make their way through the park.
As you make your way along the Bow Valley Parkway, be sure to keep a lookout for wildlife such as moose, elk, and deer. You’ll also want to stop at various viewpoints and lookout points along the way to take in the stunning scenery.
The Bow Valley Parkway is the perfect winter drive for those looking to explore the beauty of Banff National Park.
17. Walk on the frozen Lake Minnewanka
Located near the town of Banff, the frozen Lake Minnewanka welcomes you to soak in the majestic view of Mount Aylmer while walking atop ice and snow.
The best way to enjoy this activity is by bundling up in your warmest winter gear and taking the Lake Minnewanka Day Use Trail. This marked path will take you out onto the lake, where you can admire the surrounding mountains and take in breathtaking views of snow-covered trees on either side.
As you explore the lake’s icy surface, be sure to look for warnings of thin ice as the lake doesn’t freeze until mid December or so.
18. Soak in the view of the Bow Falls
Bow Falls in Banff is a stunning sight to behold during the winter months. These magnificent falls are created by the Bow River and are sourced from the breathtaking Bow Glacier.
The falls flow through the picturesque Canadian Rockies, and there are multiple viewpoints from where you can take in the views.
One of the popular ways to enjoy Bow Falls is by walking along the riverside and bridges. The falls are also easily accessible from Banff Avenue on foot.
If you prefer to drive, we recommend heading to the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and accessing the falls from there. Here, you can soak in the beautiful scenery and observe the frozen waterfalls with ease.
There is no strenuous hike needed to see the falls, and you will also find a parking lot located near it.
19. Enjoy a Helicopter Tour of the snowy landscape
For a truly unforgettable experience, take a helicopter tour of the Canadian Rockies during winter. These awe-inspiring tours provide an aerial view of some of the most stunning and untouched landscapes in Canada.
You’ll be able to take in sweeping views of snowcapped peaks, icy glaciers, and glimmering lakes as you soar over the mountains.
Helicopter tours can be booked for the entire family, couples, or just for yourself! You can choose a 20, 30, or 50-minute tour, and also add on extra activities such as snowshoeing.
You’ll be able to fly over iconic sights such as Lake Louise, Abraham Lake, Johnston Canyon, and more.
20. Relax and enjoy the snowy mountains and lakes (no hike needed)
Banff is a stunning winter destination for those looking to enjoy the beauty of Canada’s Rocky Mountains without having to ski or snowboard.
You can take in the breathtaking views of the snow-covered mountains and frozen lakes, simply by walking or driving. Another great way to experience Banff during winter months is by booking a lovely stay at a luxurious suite with large windows.
We love to stroll Banff Avenue and along the lakeside for wonderful mountain views.
21. Food & Restaurants – Banff Winter Joys
Relaxing in cafes in Banff, in wintertime, is my all-time favorite activity. Grab your favorite book and blanket, settle in with a warm tea or latte; and you are in heaven! Banff is foodie heaven.
Here is a list of our favorite cafes and restaurants.
- WhiteBark Café – One of the best and most popular cafes in Banff town for coffee (including Australian white flats) and hot chocolate. Their cocoa powder is sourced in Canada – and so their hot chocolate is the best in town. Perfect Christmas and winter companion.
- Evelyn’s Coffee World – Another popular café in Banff for coffee, tea, sandwiches, and wraps. The ambiance here is so inviting and welcoming.
- JK Bakery Café – One of our favorites. We have tried them in Banff and Canmore and I love their organic teas. Their lattes are great too. Brownies, sandwiches, samosas, etc. are available here too.
- Rocky Mountain Bagel Co – Perfect café with bagels and mocha lattes in Canmore. They have a wide selection of bagels for breakfast and/or otherwise.
Fondue & Fancy Dinners
Fairmont Banff Springs offers great dining and ambiance for Banff in winter. Check out their winter dining options here
- Park Distillery Restaurant – Hip interiors with a great array of wine and spirits
- Waldhaus Bavarian Restaurant – Yes! A German/Bavarian restaurant in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. This restaurant is located inside Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, so you can expect luxurious interiors and delicious schnitzels and cheese fondue!
- Block Kitchen & Bar – Another warm and cozy place. Their cocktails are amazing.
- Alpine Social at Chateau Lake Louise – A comfort food haven in Lake Louise luxury hotel, Chateau Lake Louise
- Juniper Hotel & Bistro – Get reservations done in advance for this restaurant. It is one of the popular places in Banff, due to the amazing views from their seating areas. In winter, you can see the sun shining amongst the snow-covered mountains while enjoying breakfast in your chairs, inside the restaurant. All glass- windows offer uninterrupted views
- Magpie & Stump – Mexican cuisine and cottage & cabin-style restaurant. Their roasted chicken is bliss
Some of the restaurants especially the ones with hotels offer scenic views of the Canadian Rockies. (Waldhaus Bavarian Restaurant – Fairmont Banff, Juniper Hotel & Bistro, and Alpine Social at Chateau Lake Louise).
It is worth considering a restaurant visit if you don’t plan to stay there, that way you can still capture Banff’s beauty from their doorsteps, minus the hefty price tag.
22. Go on Scenic Winter Drives in the Canadian Rockies
Banff National Park’s drive is stunning during winter. Whether you are driving into the national park or driving from one town to another in Banff, you will be mesmerized by the mountain slopes covered in snow, with the sun shining in between those peaks.
During these drives, you might also encounter wildlife on your way. Pay attention to road signs and drive carefully.
Driving in winter in the Canadian Rockies calls for some experience in driving in snowy conditions.
Roads might be icy and slippery, with low visibility. Drive slow, use lights, take insurance, and ensure you have winter tires on.
Some of the scenic drives in the Banff National Park are
- Icefields Parkway – This stunning drive takes you from Banff to Jasper National Park. Glacier Skywalk and ice fields are just located 2 hours from Banff town. This is my all-time favorite drive in the Canadian Rockies.
- Lake Louise – As highlighted above, the drive from Banff to Lake Louise (via Bow Valley Parkway) is a real treat to the eye. Look out for wildlife and amazing mountain views. But drive slow and stay alert
- Lake Minnewanka – Another beautiful route, where you can sight wildlife as well. Watch for road and weather warnings, as some portions of the route could be closed during severe snowfall
- Lake Vermillion – Great drive option to view those sunrises and sunsets with the Mount Rundle backdrop
- Sulphur Mountain Drive – Breathtaking mountain views with different elevation points. Look out for scenic stops, along the drive
- Tunnel Mountain Drive – Perfect to soak in the views of Spray Valley and Bow Falls, with lookout and stop options on the way to capture the beauty of the Canadian Rockies
23. Soak in Banff Hot Springs & Pools in winter
One of the unique things to do in Banff is to enjoy a relaxing time at one of its natural hot springs!
There are 3 natural hot springs located in Banff and surrounding areas. They are – Upper Banff Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs, and Miette Hot Springs.
Upper Banff Hot Springs is located about a 5-minute drive from Banff town and offers a great relaxation oasis in the lap of nature, cradled and surrounded by amazing mountain views.
The water here maintains a warm temperature of 40 degrees Celsius all year round, including winters.
Imagine there is light snow and it’s foggy, but you are soaked, in warm water – like a fuzzy blanket cuddling you up. This is a great way to relax your sore muscles or wipe your winter woes away. The water here is composed of minerals with healing properties.
The entry fee to the natural hot springs is as low as $8.50 CAD for an adult one-time pass. Rental options for swimwear, are also available on-site for a fee. If you would rather soak up in a hot pool, in your hotel or resort, then here are some options for you.
- Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – Luxury stay and even luxurious mountain views, while enjoying a hot tub. Book your stay here
- Sunshine Village -Ski here and enjoy all the winter activities, and then relax and unwind in one of the outdoor pools at Sunshine Village. Book your stay here
- Deer Lodge – Cabin style, rustic stay – but the outdoor pool is a bonus at an affordable nightly rate. Find more about the Deer Lodge and book your stay here
- Falcon Crest, Canmore – One of our favorite hotels in Banff and the surrounding area. Situated in Canmore (20 minutes from Banff), this hotel has a hot tub, with scenic mountain views (three Sisters range). Book your stay here
All the pools mentioned above are outdoor pools, with access to gorgeous mountain views. Find more hotels in and around Banff National Park here
24. Admire Banff Wildlife in Winters
Winter or summer – you will find wildlife roaming about in many parts of Banff National Park.
The possibility of sighting wildlife is slightly higher in off-season months like in winter or spring. Less touristy areas and late afternoon or early morning hours are also great for capturing Banff wildlife.
Banff is home to a wide variety of wild animals and birds. The most common animals include coyotes, grizzly bears, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, moose, etc.
There is a list of areas where wildlife in Banff National Park is commonly found –
- Banff Town – In and around parks and river beds, you might find elks and mule deer
- Vermillion Lakes – Elk and deer are found here in spring and wintertime
- Lake Minnewanka or Minnewanka loop trail – Find Bighorn sheep, elks, and wolves (sometimes) here
- Sulphur Mountain Area (hike or gondola) – Bighorn sheep are commonly spotted by the gondola parking area, route to Gondola, or hiking trails
- Johnston Canyon – Elks are commonly spotted here
- Banff to Canmore Road – You can find bighorn sheep, elk, coyotes, bears, wolves, horses
- Banff to Lake Louise Road – Grizzly bears are common in Lake Louise and surrounding areas. Cubs, falcons, squirrels, etc are common as well. Bow Valley Parkway (drive to Lake Louise) is aptly named Moose Meadows as it is a safe haven for mammals and wolves
- Drives in and around Banff – As you arrive in Banff, you will notice animal corridors of this kind. This is meant to allow wildlife to roam about freely in their natural habitat while keeping them safe from incoming traffic. By Bow Valley Parkway and Icefields Parkway, you will see a wide range of animals like grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, wolves, coyotes, etc
Jasper National Park, also part of the Canadian Rockies Park system is a popular place to view wildlife. On our trips to Jasper from Banff, we have seen elks roaming about freely. Sunsets are a great time to witness elks and bears here too.
If you are taking a stroll in the evening, you might find some elks staring at you!
Tips & Safety around Banff Wildlife
- Do not try to feed or go too close to wildlife. Leave them in their natural habitat
- Winter and Springtime are optimum seasons to capture and see wildlife in action
- Venture out in the evenings or early mornings to increase chances of wildlife sightseeing
- On your drives, make sure you pay attention to wildlife crossing the road. Very often you will find wolves and coyotes dead on the road, as drivers don’t follow signs (wildlife crossing signs)
- To increase the chances of wildlife sightings, as part of your Banff Winter itinerary, add a wildlife tour. These tours are organized and they last 3-5 hours, led by a trained guide. Also includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, so a perfect addition to your winter break. Book your Wildlife Tour here
25. Northern Lights Banff National Park
Banff National Park and the areas in and around it are perfect to view northern lights and stargaze. Lake Minnewanka and Lake Vermilion are great places to witness the green dancing lights in the sky.
For Lake Vermillion, make sure you drive away from the city lights, as darkness is key to experiencing these lights. Of course, on snowy days, the likelihood of seeing northern lights are rare. Northern lights have been sighted in the early hours or hours after 12:00 midnight (02:00- 04:00 am)
Check out the optimum time for viewing northern lights in Banff here – Aurora Watch
26. Visit Lake Louise and enjoy an afternoon tea
Lots of things to do and see in and around Lake Louise in winter. But first, enjoy a wonderful afternoon tea at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and take in the breathtaking beauty of this stunning lake.
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offers a traditional Tea Afternoon which includes a three-tier stand with sandwiches, scones, finger desserts, and an assortment of teas.
The traditional afternoon tea is served in the gorgeous Lakeview Lounge with views of the majestic Victoria Glacier.
During winter months, you can enjoy your tea with amazing festive treats and watch as snow falls softly outside.
27. Lake Louise Winter Activities – Ski, Ice Tubing, Dog Sledging
Lake Louise is wonderful in winter. When we visited Lake Louise last winter, it was like a postcard image of the little cabin, with a snowy backdrop.
We have visited Lake Louise and Banff at different stages of winter – November, December & March. Early winter months, Lake Louise slowly starts freezing and loses its turquoise blue waters. The ice is still thin.
Lake Louise in December is gorgeous, perfect for most of the winter activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and skating (late December).
In early January, Ice festivals take place at Lake Louise. We have also seen a partially frozen Lake Louise in May.
The air in Lake Louise tends to be cold and dry, but it is warmer than other mountainous areas in Alberta due to the Chinook winds. So even though it might seem very COLD, it is still bearable for a snow fight! Are you in?
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is located by the lake itself and is definitely a great option for a luxurious and romantic staycation.
There is a skating rink as well as a hot pool available on site. And hospitality like no other.
There are many cabins and other accommodation options available close to the hamlet of Lake Louise as well. Lake Louise’s tourism office is located close to the lakeside as well.
Banff Lake Louise is one of the most picturesque paradises for winter activities. One of the best for cross skiing, skating, and snow-shoeing during winters, of course, imagine the lovely snow-covered mountains and trails.
Skating here is like performing on a world-class stage, snowshoeing and hassling through a vanilla iced cupcake, minus the elevation.
You might ask, Vanilla Cupcake? The frozen lake, with constant snow, reminds me of a snow globe, but in an edible way – yea a cupcake!
If you are planning a romantic time out, Lake Louise is perfect for taking a stroll hand in hand in the snow. You can also book horse carriage rides or dog sledding tours (or dog sledding tours).
Lake Louise Ski Resort is an option for snowboarding and skiing. This resort is more spacious and less crowded than other ski resorts in Banff National Park.
The Alpine Ski World Cup occurs in Lake Louise in late November and is one of a kind in the whole of Canada, so don’t miss it if you are here.
28. Ice Tubing in Lake Louise Resort
Ice Tubing is another fun activity to enjoy in Lake Louise. Just like any regular tubing activity, you use the inflatable tubes on the snow to enjoy the highs and lows of the winter landscape.
Tubing was originally used by the Indigenous peoples of Canada, and now it is a fun-filled activity. It is also a great alternative to skiing.
You can sit back, relax inside the tube – the tracks are groomed for safety and smooth slide, and enjoy the scenic views. Even children over the age of 4 years can participate.
Other than the Lake Louise Ski Resort, you can experience ice tubing at Mt Norquay.
29. Go on Wagon and Sleigh Rides in Banff in Winter
Sleigh or wagon rides in Banff are a great way to experience the winter. Open top, warm blanket, and miles, and miles of snow-covered landscape, with the beautiful Rockies mountain, is a scene to capture and remember forever.
There are many options for horse-drawn sleigh rides in Banff. The start of sleigh rides happens in a stable close to Downtown Banff.
You can opt for a 2 person (private ride) or join a gang of 12-14 people as you dash through the snow, enjoying marshmallows and hot chocolate.
As always dress warmly for the occasion. You can always book rides online, to secure your spot.
A sleigh ride is an outdoor activity, so if the weather is not favorable, tours or rides may be canceled. Refunds are issued by the tour agency, in the event, tours are canceled.
30. Banff Winter Festivals | Banff Lake Louise Tourism
Wintertime in Banff also calls for fun winter festivities. Winter festivals are a great way to explore Banff and nearby areas.
Fests start as early as November and they carry on until the early days of February.
- Winterstart Festival – This festival augments the start of the winter season in Banff, with the Santa Parade, Christmas markets, and Banff Beer Festival. Winterstart Festival happens in November only.
- Snow Days Event – Snow Days is a 10-day winter festival that occurs in Banff and Lake Louise in January. There are different activities like ice climbing, ice carvings, skating, etc that are scheduled for everybody to enjoy.
- Ice Magic Festival – This is one of the magical sights in Lake Louise. Every year in January, ice sculptures are created on the frozen Lake Louise by artists from across the globe. Free shuttles are also available to take you to the Ice Magic Festival site. This event is scheduled for early January every year.
31. Attend the Banff Craft Beer Festival
The Banff Craft Beer Festival is one of the must-do experiences in the national park. Held annually in November at the Cave & Basin National Historic Site, this popular event brings together some of the best craft brewers from all over Canada for a weekend of celebration and tasting.
At the festival, you can sample beers from dozens of different breweries while learning about beer styles from knowledgeable brewers and industry experts.
32. Get pampered – Best Hotels in Banff for Winter Getaway
Banff is an amazing option for a romantic weekend getaway or for gathering friends and family to spend the holidays with. There are lots of great accommodation options in Banff in winter.
Prices for Banff hotels are a bit pricier during Christmas. Plan to visit Banff after Christmas, going into New Year, or in the 2nd or third week of January, when hotel rates are cheaper.
If you are visiting for Christmas or New Year, plan ahead and book in advance.
Read our exclusive Banff hotels guide here
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotels
- A stunning castle-like luxurious hotel, nested in the beautiful Canadian Rockies
- Surrounded by scenic mountain views from hotel rooms, restaurants, an outdoor pool, and more
- Great for a romantic stay and in-house dinners and fondue
- Book your stay here
Rimrock Resort Hotel
- Located in the heart of Banff town
- Great rooms, perfect winter staycation
- Has a spa and restaurant & bar
- Book your stay here
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort
- Great location, close yet far from the Banff town hustle-bustle
- Fun staycation with indoor swimming pool, gym, and kitchen facilities
- Perfect home away from home
- Book your stay here
Hidden Ridge Resort
- Condo style resort, great for groups and families
- Ideal for the long term – a home away from home – hotel
- Comes with kitchen, laundry, pool
- Book your stay here
Buffalo Mountain Lodge
- Tucked far away, into the cradle of Tunnel Mountain
- Rustic looking cabins with all the modern facilities
- Good access to winter activities like skiing and Banff town
- Book your stay here
33. Visit the town of Canmore near Banff National Park (+ nearby areas)
Canmore is an ideal winter destination for those looking to enjoy outdoor activities without having to travel too far from the city.
During the winter months, Canmore offers visitors a range of activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and even dog sledding.
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park is located here, and it offers Olympic-level amenities for skiing.
There are other places such as the Spray Valley Provincial Park, and Bow Vally Provincial Park where you can enjoy ice fishing, winter hikes, and more.
For those interested in taking a break from the cold weather, Canmore is home to several incredible restaurants, cafes, and shops. From German-style dishes to cozy Mexican restaurants, there’s something for everyone in Canmore.
The town also boasts an array of art galleries, and museums to keep you entertained.
Come wintertime, Canmore is the perfect place for outdoor exploration or simply enjoying a cozy evening indoors. With its stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and lively downtown area, it’s no wonder why Canmore has become such a popular winter destination.
34. Spend a few days in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is the perfect winter destination for those looking to explore Canada’s beautiful nature. You can get to Jasper via Icefields Parkway and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice walking, and more.
For a unique experience, take a guided tour through Jasper National Park on skis or snowshoes. These tours offer a chance to explore the park’s stunning terrain and learn about its history and ecology from knowledgeable guides.
Maligne Canyon ice walks are very popular in Jasper, and so is skiing at the Marmot Ski Basin.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience, there are plenty of cozy cafés, restaurants, and breweries in Jasper National Park that provide a much-needed break from the cold winter weather.
The town’s railway also operates 2 train routes that are open all year round – one to Dunster Station and another one to McBridge Station (in British Columbia).
They are operated by VIA Rail and are affordable as compared to Rocky Mountaineer, and are well worth it to soak in the amazing snowy landscape from the comfort of your seats!
35. Add a day trip to Yoho National Park
Located just a short drive from Lake Louise is another Canadian Rockies gem – Yoho National Park. The most attraction here is Emerald Lake. The lakeside is accessible in the winter, and you can also book a stay at the famous lodge of the same name.
In addition to the lake, you can visit the Natural Bridge Loop, and go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice fishing from late December to late March.
36. Extend your trip by adding a few days in Calgary
You will touchdown at Calgary International Airport in order to visit Banff. So why not spend 2 days in Calgary in the winter to explore?
In the colder months, the city comes alive with a range of activities such as ice skating at the city centre, snowshoeing, and skiing. For ice skating visit the Olympic Plaza, Bowness Park, and Thomas Family Park.
For a host of winter activities including tubing, hit Winsport (Calgary Olympic Park), located a short drive away from downtown.
For those looking to stay indoors on cold days, Calgary also offers a variety of indoor attractions such as art galleries, movie theatres, shopping malls, and sports centres.
Visit the Glenbow Museum, Calgary Central Library, Telus Spark, and the iconic Calgary Tower.
Tips for Visiting Banff in Winter
Banff is beautiful at any time of the year. June to September is considered peak tourist months as the weather is warm and provides a great opportunity for summer activities like kayaking, hiking, picnics, camping, etc.
But winter months are stunning in their own way. And they are sort of off-season months too, so you can expect some great hotel deals. And you also get to experience so many activities and festivals.
Winter kicks in Banff, in November and stays until the first few weeks in April. Read our travel guide on visiting Banff in the month of November
Here are some safety and general tips to keep in mind while visiting the Canadian Rocky Mountains – Banff in winters
Getting to Banff:
The best way to explore Banff in winter is by car. You can rent cars at Calgary Airport or Banff. If you are flying into Banff, consider renting gear/equipment, to save on baggage fees. Reserve them ahead of time.
Driving in the Canadian Rockies:
Driving in Banff or the Canadian Rockies in winter can be tricky. If you are not used to driving in snow or icy conditions, we recommend taking additional precautions or booking a tour.
Make sure your vehicle is equipped with winter tires, extra windshield washer fluid, a snow brush, and an ice scraper. It is also essential to check the road conditions before leaving, as weather can change quickly in Banff during the winter season.
As always, slow down when you see wildlife, or when the visibility is poor. And never run low on gas. Keep gloves and warm clothes handy in your car. Accidents and avalanches may keep you stranded sometimes.
Keep a snow shovel in your vehicle too. Pay attention to site or road warnings. Some portions of the trail or road might be closed due to poor conditions or damage.
A weather forecast app is handy like Weather Network and Local News App like CBC.
When renting a car, take roadside assistance and insurance.
Book tours in advance to secure your spot, if you plan to use guided excursions.
Winter packing tips:
Carry warm clothes and other accessories.
- Thermal wear, warm socks, gloves, torques or warm hats, sturdy shoes, water & windproof jackets
- Carry moisturizer, sunscreen, and sunglasses in winter too
- Carry bear spray and don’t attempt to feed animals or go too close to them
For capturing the best of Banff in winter, try photographing during the day and when it is not snowing. While it is snowing, although it might seem wonderful, photos might turn out dark or grainy.
Lighting is key and do focus on capturing shots in the daytime hours.
Pro tip: Wear bright-colored jackets to beat the grays in your photos and add some brightness.
Is Banff Worth Visiting in Winter?
Banff is an incredible destination any time of year, but winter is when this stunning mountain town really shines. With its breathtaking snow-covered landscapes and world-class skiing, Banff truly is a winter wonderland that’s worth visiting.
During the winter months, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in Banff. From skiing and snowboarding at Lake Louise and Mt Norquay to ice walking in Johnston Canyon, there’s something for everyone when it comes to winter activities.
The town is also home to several cozy restaurants, shops, and cafes where you can escape the cold and enjoy some delicious food or a hot beverage.
We personally enjoy exploring Banff in the fall as well as winter months – the park is not busy during this time, yet it still offers tons of things to do and see.
We often bring our friends and family to Banff in the winter, and even though they don’t ski or snowshoe, they still loved visiting the park for the snow-covered mountains and the excitement of walking on the frozen lake was unparalleled!
If you love winter adventure sports, Banff is your playground and with the plethora of attractions available, you won’t be disappointed with a skiing trip to the mountains.
All in all, Banff is well worth visiting in winter. Not only does it offer plenty of activities and sights to enjoy, but it is also a great place to reconnect with nature and take in the stunning beauty of winter.
Banff Winter Activities: FAQ
Banff is open year-round and welcomes visitors in all seasons!
During the winter months, Banff offers a variety of activities that can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors. Some outdoor activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and even dog sledding.
For those looking to stay indoors, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, museums, and movie theatres to keep visitors entertained.
Many of the hiking trails in Banff may be closed temporarily for the winter season. However, you can still enjoy snowshoeing and cross country trails (with or without a guide).
The coldest month in Banff is January, with average temperatures ranging from -14°C (7 F) to -4°C (25 F) throughout the month. During this time, snowfall is common and visitors to Banff can expect to see an average of 35 cm of snow during this chilly month.
Officially, the winter season in Banff is from December to February.
But the early spring months of March and April are still cold in the mountain town, so we recommend packing warm clothing and winter boots. If you are planning snow-related activities, do check the resort calendar for spring prior to your visit.
The Canadian Rockies are a stunning destination all year round, so when it comes to deciding the best time of year to visit, it really depends on what type of experience you’re looking for.
Summer months (July-August) offer warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine, making this an ideal time for anyone wanting to explore the area’s many outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and camping. It is peak season in Banff and also very popular with international travelers.
Winter and early spring months (November-April) provide a truly magical experience with pristine snow-covered landscapes and plenty of opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.
If you’re looking to avoid crowds but still enjoy the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, then late spring (May-June) and fall (September-October) are the perfect times to visit. During these shoulder seasons, you’ll likely find fewer crowds and cheaper prices for accommodation.
Here you go – these are some of the best winter activities in Banff. Pick one favorite spot, make it your home – enjoy your time relaxing in a hot tub, snowshoeing, chasing northern lights, and slipping some warm cocoa.
Do winters in style, in one of the most beautiful places in North America, also a UNESCO heritage site.
- Get the BEST time to visit Banff National Park
- Read a Banff itinerary for all seasons
- Get a Guide to the sister town of Canmore
- Additional Banff Tips
- Extend your stay to include Jasper National Park Itinerary
- If you are traveling to Banff, you will most likely arrive in Calgary – get the Calgary essential guide
- Get the guide to Calgary Downtown tourist spots
- Find the best places to stay in Calgary here
- Visiting another Alberta Canada city in winter, get all the scoop on winter activities in Edmonton – Alberta’s Capital City