Magical winter wonderlands don’t come much better than the holiday hideaways of Banff and Lake Louise nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada
CREATE YOUR OWN BANFF AND LAKE LOUISE WINTER MOMENTS
But while the soaring peaks of Canada’s first national park are a playground for skiing and snowboarding, there is so much more to do on a winter escape in this pristine wilderness. With its majestic mountain scenery and glacier-fed lakes all around it’s an frozen paradise where wildlife, ice walks, snowshoeing, dogsledding and ice skating are all at your gloved fingertips.
Here are our picks of the seven best things to do in Banff and Lake Louise in winter.
1. Johnston Canyon in Banff
Take the catwalks needling through ancient limestone canyons to see the frozen turquoise rivers, lakes and waterfalls suspended amidst the forest trees when you hike through Johnston Canyon in the winter. These specially built walkways allow you to uncover both the lower and upper falls, a rugged part of Canada which would otherwise only be in the hands of climbers.
The feeling of adventure is palpable as you cross snow-covered bridges and rocky tunnels to find yourself standing on the edge of platforms just metres from the dizzying drops above the falls, but like an Indiana Jones film it’s a fun adventure the whole family can enjoy while holidaying in Banff in winter.
2. Ice Skating in Lake Louise
It’s the sort of place dreams are made of, where the tiny bodies gliding along the frozen surface in front of the giant snow-covered Rocky Mountains make you feel like you’re staring into a Christmas diorama. But ice skating on Lake Louise is very much a reality and is considered by many to be the world’s best ice skating rink, and we can’t argue with that. And nor will you after you take in this enchanting fairytale locale complete with its own ice castle if the natural surroundings weren’t dazzling enough already.
Venture Far Recommendation – Winter in the Canadian Rockies: Ice skating under lights and the stars at nighttime is another magical part of the Lake Louise experience, so take your partner’s hand and glide the evening away on this very romantic part of your winter holiday in Banff National Park.
3. Dog Sledding
With their tongues out and fluffy coats waving in the cool air, the sound of the huskies collars jingling and feet pitter-pattering through the snow can be all that cuts the silence while dog sledding through Banff National Park. The snowy forest trails you are pulled along intertwine through the towering Rocky Mountains for an experience equal parts peaceful and exciting.
Your guide will verse you in the history of dog-powered travel, from a method of winter travel to a modern-day transformative activity loved by tourists from the world over. Your musher and team of dogs can take you along for the ride as you’re cozied up, or you can even join in and help your guide mush your new four-legged friends through the snow.
Venture Far Recommendation – Winter Adventures in Banff: Get the pulse racing with adrenalin as you race beneath the shadows of towering ferns on a dogsled. Husky tours through the powder soft snow invite you to be one of the pack.
4. Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise
The level of detail the ice-carving teams from around the world achieve on the frozen shores of Lake Louise to create their mind-blowing dragon, husky and human figures among whatever else their imaginations conjure is so intricate that you’ll wonder ‘is it magic?’
Venture Far Recommendation – Winter Ice Magic Festival: Taking place in mid-January, it is your chance to see who will be crowned the International Ice Carving Competition champion and place your fan-favourite vote.
5. Hot Springs in Banff
Freezing on the outside, toasty warm on the inside, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are a winter treat where you can float like a marshmallow in a mug of hot chocolate. The thermal, mineral-rich waters are slowly piped up from three kilometres deep beneath the surface of the Rockies after making their way down from the clouds hundreds of years before. Hovering around 37 degrees celcius in the winter, for over a century the waters from Sulphur Mountain have been cherished for their rejuvenating qualities. The Banff Upper Hot Springs are the last remaining springs open for the public so it’s best to get in early before the crowds or late in the day before closing.
Venture Far Recommendation – Winter in the Canadian Rockies: Taking to the waters at sunrise or sunset with snow falling and mist rising around you can cure any niggles and stresses your body or mind might have ahead of or after a day’s adventuring.
6. Bubbles Heli Tour
When methane gas bubbles released by plants underneath the water of Lake Abraham freeze on their way to the surface you’re left with a natural artwork which is worth taking a helicopter ride to see. The Bubbles Heli Tour takes you 20 minutes through the air high above the glaciers of the Canadian Rockies before you touchdown into a blanket of snow for a one-hour snowshoe hike to this photographic heaven. In the depths of winter there is no other way besides helicopter to get here so you’ll truly be in the wilderness. With a cup of hot chocolate from your guide in hand this is a truly uniquely Canadian adventure to enjoy on a winter holiday in Banff.
Venture Far Recommendation – A Canadian Winter + Northern Lights Escape: A uniquely Canadian destination experience. As an optional activity on this experience take off on the Bubbles Heli tour – it is a photo safari like no other.
7. Snowshoeing in Marble Canyon
Romping through the powder trailblazing your very own way through the forest as you snowshoe to Marble Canyon will ignite that sense of adventure so often missing while traveling the well-worn paths of everyday life. Hiking along pathways and bridges through the tree line of the frosty wilderness you will be able to peer down at the rock formations and the Tokumn Creek inside the canyon’s dramatic gorges stretching 40m deep.
Venture Far Recommendation – A Canadian Winter + Northern Lights Escape: The snowshoeing in Marble Canyon is a special experience that is a must-do activity included in our trip to Canadian Rockies + Northwest Territories.