The mountain region of Banff and Lake Louise is well-known for being stunning in the summer, when warm weather and clear skies offer the perfect hiking conditions. But did you know that the iconic scenery is just as good in the winter? When temperatures drop, the snow rises and Banff National Park becomes a giant playground for the outdoorsy and the adventurous. It’s not just about skiing, either. The area offers a host of winter activities just waiting to be discovered! For a truly wild and active holiday, here are 5 top winter treats to enjoy in Banff National Park:
1. Banff National Park SnowDays
This month-long festival of events and activities lasts from 15th January to 7th February this year and is the perfect reason to visit Banff National Park in the winter. An annual across Banff and Lake Louise, SnowDays has thought of all ages of travellers when devising fun things to keep you entertained. Their experiences and tasters will help you get the most out of your jaw-dropping surroundings.
Mid-week activities include curling lessons, films from the National Film Board of Canada and Banff’s Big Taste culinary event. The action-packed weekends cover snowshoeing, ice-skating and cave tours to mention a few. Many of the activities are free and offer history and culture as well as outdoor adventure, letting you discover something new and experience something unique.
2. Snowshoeing and ice-walking
Less exotic than the ever-popular pursuit of skiing, it’s easy to overlook a good walk on a list of winter activities in Banff. Don’t, because if you do, you’ll miss out on one of the most incredible ways to experience the National Park. Unlike skiing, everyone can join in a snowshoe walk and enjoy it, no matter their previous skill or experience. It’s perfect for all ages and for those who might find huge slopes and lifts daunting. Travelling softly in this way gives you the best chance of spotting wildlife like snowshoe hare, moose and wolf tracks. It also means you’ll have time to savour your stunning surroundings.
If you want to make your winter hike more adventurous, swap the snowshoes for ice-cleats and try ice-walking. This way, you can venture right inside narrow canyons like Johnston Canyon and Grotto Canyon by walking along the frozen creek-bed itself. This is the best way to get up close to frozen waterfalls and spectacular icicles.
A dogsled ride is the highlight of many visitors’ trip to Canada in wintertime. Just try it for yourself and you’ll immediately see why. There is nothing quite like the thrill of pounding through the snow on a husky-drawn sled, crisp air whistling past and incredible scenery towering before you. Many of the tours offer the chance to really get to know the adorable, lively huskies, with the opportunity to mush the team yourself on the way home!
Dogsledding is a great way to get off the beaten track and out into the wilderness. You’ll hear Canada’s stories and legends from your guides and enjoy some traditional food around a campfire. Choose a brisk 1.5 hour whirlwind tour or a full 7 hour day of thrills. There are plenty of tours on offer, from mushing the team yourself to cosying up under a warm blanket on the sled.
4. Sightseeing and touring
If you thought all the roads would be closed in the snow, think again. While a few routes may not be accessible in deepest, darkest winter, most are open and there is still so much to see and discover. In fact, during the colder months is one of the best times to visit Banff and Lake Louise! The National Park’s most beautiful lakes are even more haunting under a layer of ice; the craggy alpine peaks are more impressive covered with snow.
Try a guided tour to Lake Louise, where you can skate on the lake’s frozen surface or enjoy a cosy afternoon tea with a view from Chateau Lake Louise. For the best mountain views, join a sightseeing tour along the Icefields Parkway, rated as one of the most scenic highways in the world. Marvel at the snowy landscape and get close-up encounters of the glaciers that are still carving out this corner of Canada.
5. Hot springs
After all those energetic activities, take the chance to unwind. There’s no more surreal and sublime feeling than sinking into a 37°C natural hot pool for a relaxing soak while snow falls in the mountains around you. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are open all year, which means you get to experience this rare treat amidst the beauty of Banff’s white peaks and alpine scenery. The spa and bathhouse themselves are impressively historic – having been open to travellers for over a century – yet have all the modern facilities you could need.
There are plenty of other spa experiences on offer too, from hot basalt lava stones to luxury soaks. All the treatments utilise the most revitalising natural minerals which occur locally. Whether you’re having a pamper day or are relaxing and recovering after a day of winter sports, the other-worldly views from these hot mineral springs will soothe your soul.
However you choose to spend your time, Banff and Lake Louise have so much on offer all year round. Perfect for families, for friends, or for solo adventurers, you’ll never run out of activities here. Give our friendly team a call if you want to plan your Banff and Lake Louise adventure.