Planning a trip to Canada’s winter wonderland, Banff?
Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a MUST visit spot for anyone who loves adventure and outdoor activities.
Even though the Canadian Rockies are a year-round destination, it’s no secret that they become a magical wonderland of snow when the temperatures begin to drop. If you’re plotting a winter escape to Canada’s winter gem, we’ve put together some of the coolest (no pun intended) things to do on a winter trip to Banff!
The Best Things To Do In Banff in Winter:
Take the Gondola To Sulphur Mountains
If you want to get the best view of the Canadian Rockies, taking a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain is your best bet (unless you’re up for climbing all the way there!). Once you get to the top, you can get unbeatable views of the city center, Mount Rundle, the nearby river, and all the surrounding mountains in the valley.
The Banff Gondola also boasts some of the best restaurants in the area and a learning center, so make sure you plan a lunch or breakfast here (seriously, you can’t beat those views!).
Go Ice Skating at Lake Louise
One of the first things that pop to mind when picturing a winter wonderland is ice skating in a beautiful setting, and nothing beats the eye-candy of Lake Louise. I mean, it’s actually ranked the most scenic ice rink in the world thanks to the mountain backdrop it offers.
During the winter months, Lake Louise, along with many of the lakes in the area, completely freezes over, making it a perfect spot for ice skating or hockey pucks.
Tip: If you find Lake Louise to crowded when you visit, you can also try your luck at Lake Minnewanka or Two Jack Lake.
Take a Dog Sledding Tour
A must on any Banff trip is hopping on a sled and getting pulled by dogs through beautiful wintery landscapes. You can book a tour at most hotels in Banff.
Relax At Banff Upper Hot Springs
After a long day of ice skating or skiing, there’s nothing more relaxing than having a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Originally, the hot springs were built as a sacred place for the indigenous tribes of Banff, but today, it’s the perfect way to unwind after an action-packed day of winter activities.
Hike Through Johnston Canyon
Looking for an easy but totally epic hike in Banff? Johnston Canyon is your best bet!
During the five-kilometer hike, you’ll get to see six frozen waterfalls and an array of cool geological features. The hike is easy and flat with just a few minor elevations. You can do the hike on your own, but you can also opt to book a guided tour to get to know more about the history of the canyon and the nature that surrounds it.
Snowshoeing is one of the coolest winter activities in Banff, especially for those who don’t live in places that see much snow. You can book a guided tour or gear at most hotels in Banff or head over to the center of town to find a myriad of rental shops. Be warned, though, snowshoeing is harder than it looks!
Explore Downtown Banff
I’m sure you chose Banff for all the outdoor activities, but downtown Banff is also worth exploring for an hour or two. The town is home to quirky antique shops, an array of locally owned cafés to take a break from the cold and a total of eight museums that are worth checking out to learn more about Banff and its story, including the Banff Park Museum (the oldest museum in western Canada!)
Ice Magic Festival
If you happen to be in town in January, you might be able to make it to Banff’s Ice Magic Festival, the town’s winter event where carved ice sculptures are displayed at the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Banff without a proper ski sesh, so of course, we had to include it on the list! Banff is home to some of the most stunning mountain resorts in the world, so you’re bound to go skiing with amazing views of the valley.
There are three valleys in Banff to go skiing, and they’re all so close to each other than you can actually check out all three in a day (make sure to buy a bundle ticket if you want to do this!).
The three main resorts in Banff are:
Banff Sunshine: Offering 130+ trails and perfect for intermediate skiers.
Lake Louise: Ideal for families with kids and all levels of skiers. If you don’t know how to ski, this is your best bet as they offer lessons to get you started.
Mount Norquay: Perfect for advanced level skiers and snowboarders.
Mount Norquay Tubing Hill
If you’re not to keen on skiing but still don’t want to miss out on all the fun, you’ll love racing down one of the eight lanes at Mount Norquay Tubing Hill.
The hill welcomes families and people of all ages and is open daily during December.
Grotto Canyon Ice Walk
Another super fun thing to do in Banff is joining an ice walk through Grotto Canyon. Featuring frozen waterfalls, amazing rock formations, and ancient wall paintings, the canyon is an incredible place to visit for all ages when it freezes during the winter months.
Enjoy A Spa Treatment
Not feeling like heading out to the cold? You can book yourself a luxury spa day at the Banff Springs Hotel. Heated mineral pools with waterfalls and private lounge areas with unbeatable views of the Rockies are just two of the aspects that make this spa so special.
And that’s our list of the best things to do in the heart of the Canadian Rockies during the winter. Have you ever been to Banff? What are some other cool things to do?