Banff National Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Alberta, Canada. In winter the snowcapped mountains and frozen lakes make it a really appealing place to go, especially for those who love skiing and snowboarding  as there are 3 ski resorts in the area. 

As well as snowsports, Banff National Park has so much more to offer for visitors and in this guide we are going to share some of our favourite things to do in Banff in winter. 

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Table of Contents

Go skiing or snowboarding

Banff is renowned for its incredible ski resorts which run from early November through until the end of May. If you are visiting Banff in the winter and enjoy snow sports we can highly recommend you check out Ski Big3 which will allow you to buy a lift ticket for Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt Norquay. This allowed us to experience all three resorts on our trip and as beginners and suckers for an excellent view at the top of a mountain, this was a brilliant way to improve our skiing and see the best views in Banff.

You can read more about skiing and snowboarding in Banff here.

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Go Tubing at Mt Norquay

Mt Norquay has the best snow tubing in Banff and is a must do in Banff in winter. The tubing slopes are steep and one of them has twists and turns making it even more exhilarating. If you have a lift pass, you don’t need an additional ticket for the tubing. The sessions run in 3 hour periods – 9-12 and 1-4.

We did this for the second half of the afternoon slot which was still pretty busy. So we would recommend booking in advance so you aren’t disappointed. 

Hike Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain is an easily accessible hike from the town centre of downtown Banff. Sitting at a height of 262m the average time to climb the 4km trail path up Tunnel Mountain is 1 hour 45 minutes making it a great family friendly hike to do in Banff. The trail starts off with quite a steep incline from the car park but it does even ut as it zig zags up the hill to the top.

In the winter, you may find the trail is muddy or icy and you may need to wear cleats or snowshoes. This is a popular hike all year round so the path is well trodden and backtracks up the mountain at a gentle incline.

When you reach the top you will see some great views of Banff and the surrounding areas. You may also encounter wildlife on this trail so it is advised that you carru bear spray and keep dogs on a lead. 

Lake Minewanka

Lake Minnewanka is a stunning glacial lake that sits only 5km and a 10 minute drive from the town of Banff. With a depth of 142 metres and 21km long, Lake Minnewanka actually supports Banff with hydroelectric power. In the winter, this lake will most likely be frozen over but it is still a lovely place to visit and if you are feeling brave enough, many people ice skate here.

If you are travelling by car from Banff to Lake Minnewanka, there are plenty of parking spaces during the winter and it is a lovely place for a walk.

Wander around downtown Banff

Banff is a very cute little town, some may say over commercialised but in our opinion all of the buildings are very fitting to the environment. There are loads of cute bars and restaurants as well as local shops and cafes. We throughly enjoyed the food and apres ski scene in downtown Banff. The food and drink options are incredible and if you check out Mikes Taxis, you will be able to access a lot of deals that are on throughout the winter months. Some of our favourites were the $12 Calzone and $6 Margs at Bear St Tavern on Tuesdays, Greek Dancer night with plate smashing on Thursday- Sunday at The Balkan Greek Restaurant.

Visit Lake Louise

Lake Louise is one of the most popular places to visit in Banff National Park. In the summer the lake glimmers a stunning shade of turquoise, nestled in amongst the mountains. In the winter, Lake Louise is frozen over and there is an area where you will find many people going ice skating on the lake.

In the village of Lake Louise, you will find a tourist information office which we found helpful in planning our hikes in winter in the area. There is a huge avalanche risk in certain areas during the winter months and many of the walking trails will be closed off because of this. At the information centre they were able to mark out on the map for us where these areas are which is great if you are not familiar with the area.

If you’re not feeling up to a hike in the snow, a wander around Lake Louise in amongst the mountains is a special thing to do in Banff in winter.

The Bow Valley Parkway is the more scenic drive off the highway between Banff and Lake Louise and depending on when in winter you visit, you may see some wildlife along the road.

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Hike to Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is a short yet beautiful hike through the forest beside Lake Louise. A 3.2km out and back trail takes you 250m above Lake Louise with epic views of the Beehive Mountain.

We hiked up to Mirror Lake, following a stready trail around the right hand side of Lake Louise and up the mountain. The walk through the trees opens up to reveal a stunning lake that during the summer months will reflect the Beehive Mountain in front of it and during the winter months is frozen over.

The trail extends up to Lake Agnes which is only a 15-20 minute walk away if you wish to do that as well adding another 700m onto the hike.

We wore cleats as it was quite snowy/icy underfoot and this massively helped.

Go for a Hot Chocolate at the Fairmont Hotel

The Fairmont Banff Springs is a stunning castle like hotel overlooking Cascade Mountain, a short walk from Downtown Banff. This incredible hotel is open to the public to visit for food and drinks so we took the opportunity to cosy up with a hot chocolate and enjoy the view. If you are visiting Lake Louise, you may also want to do this at the Fairmont Chatueau. I can imagine in the summer months this would be even more stunning as Lake Louise will be melted and glistening a gorgeous shade of blue.

Take a trip to Jasper National Park

If you find yourself with some extra time on your trip to Banff, Jasper National Park is a 4 hour drive away and the largest National Park in North America. Driving the Icefield Parkway road is a highlight in itself and if you are lucky enough to drive it on a clear day you will be absolutely blown away by the scenery. We decided to stay overnight in Jasper allowing us plenty of time to explore the area and see the sights. There is also a Fairmont accommodation in Jasper called Jasper Park Lodge which is another beautiful place to visit on a cosy winters day.

Wolfdog Sanctuary

They Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is one of the best things we did on our trip to Banff. Located an hours drive towards Calgary from Banff National Park, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a safe haven for wolf dogs who would otherwise not be here if it weren’t for the kindness of the sanctuary and those who support it.

This non-profit organisation was set up when the owner was facing challenges with her wolf dog puppy. Georgina recognised the difference in communication style between dogs and wolf and her high content wolf dog was proving hard work until she developed a relationship that worked for them both. Georgina then set up the wolf dog sanctuary to rescue other wolf dogs from a life of abandonment or neglect and provide them with a safe space.

There are 3 different tour options that you can do here, we did the interactive tour and cannot recommend it enough. We had the opportunity to learn from a guide about these beautiful animals and share an enclosure with them as we did so. One of the wolf dogs who was brought in from a life of neglect has come on leaps and bounds from being involved in this, allowing him to massively improve his confidence.

If you are visiting in winter, make sure to wear warm clothes as you are sitting outside for 45 minutes.

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Banff Gondola

On a clear day, The Banff Gondola is a great way to see some of the spectacular views across Banff National Park. Leading up Sulphur mountain, you can choose to head up in the gondola, enjoy the views and check out the cafe at the top or alternatively you can hike up the mountain and take the gondola back down for free.

Before You Leave for Banff

Before you set off on your way to Banff, there are a number of things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. These include what to pack, where to stay and what is the best insurance for your trip. All of this is discussed in detail below.

How to Get to Banff

Getting to Banff is so easy, with several transportation options available to suit different preferences. If you’re flying in, the closest major airport is Calgary International Airport, located approximately 90 minutes from Banff. From there, you have the option of renting a car to drive to Banff or taking a shuttle bus service. Another popular choice is taking the scenic route with a train journey from Vancouver to Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer, offering breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies. If you prefer a more adventurous approach, you can also consider a road trip to Banff, enjoying the picturesque landscapes along the way. With various options at your disposal, getting to Banff is the first step towards an incredible mountain getaway.

Where to Stay in Banff

There is a wide range of accommodations available in Banff ….




What to Pack for Your Trip to Canada

When packing for your trip to Canada, it’s important to be prepared for the diverse weather conditions you may encounter. With both hot summers and freezing winters, packing versatile layers is essential. Be sure to include a warm coat, waterproof shoes, and thermal clothing, especially if you’re visiting during the winter months. Don’t forget to pack a good pair of boots for hiking or exploring nature trails, as well as a hat, gloves, and a scarf to protect you from the cold. In summer, pack lighter clothing, sunscreen, and insect repellent for outdoor activities. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have a universal adapter for your electronic devices. And finally, don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes and memorable moments during your trip to Canada.

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around here, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.

You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.

What is the Best Travel Insurance for Canada

I know travel insurance is the least enjoyable thing to purchase and look at when you’re planning a trip, however, you wouldn’t want to be without it in the event that something happened. Accidents can happen anywhere and the extortionate medical bills will ruin your trip if you are not covered.

To ensure you have a stress-free trip with no worries about potential medical bills, make sure you cover yourself when you travel. We can recommend using SafetyWing, a backpacker-friendly and cheap insurance company that provides good coverage and support. It is also nomad-friendly, unlike most other insurance companies, meaning you do not need to worry about being out of your home country for too long.

Get a quote for your travel insurance right here and get covered!

So there you have it, your guide to the best things to do in Banff in winter. If you are visiting this incredible city and have any other questions on what to expect, leave us a comment down below. We love to chat about this stuff! If you have already been, let us know how it was! Did you get visit the castle? Did you manage the trip without getting caught in the rain? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, remember to share this with your friends and family that you are going to share this amazing experience with. Sharing is caring and we want to ensure that everyone is fully prepared to maximise their experience completing this stunning walk.

If you are planning a Canada trip soon then check out our other Canada content right here. Come and find us on social media to see where we are currently exploring. Tag us in your photos from your stay and we will share them with the rest of our community of explorers and backpackers.

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