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42+ Amazing Things to Do in Banff in Winter: Complete Travel Guide

There’s definitely no shortage of fun things to do in Banff in winter. As well as three world class ski resorts, Banff is host to an incredible number of winter activities, both exciting and relaxing.

In this post, we’ll share our absolute top picks for things to do in Banff in winter as well as 20+ more ideas. I’ve also included winter travel tips, accommodation suggestions and restaurant recommendations to help make your winter trip to Banff the best it can be.

Gemma and JR walk towards the camera in knee deep powder, Gemma kicking up snow towards the camera
Snowshoeing in Banff National Park. Taken by our White Mountain Adventures guide, Kristi

Here’s what to expect:

Mt Norquay viewpoint looking down on the town of Banff in winter, next to the Bow River and surrounded by a number of snow capped mountains
Banff in winter

Please note

The town of Banff is part of Treaty 7 territory, the traditional lands of the Stoney Nakoda Nations of Chiniki, Bearspaw and Wesley as well as the Tsuut’ina First Nations and Blackfoot Confederacy Nations of Pikani, Kainai and Siksika.

Treaty 7 territory is also shared with the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III. Before the signing of Treaty 7, the Ktunaxa and the Maskwacis people lived and travelled in this area.

We visited Banff in March 2022 and were hosted by Banff and Lake Louise Tourism. All opinions remain our own.

There are some affiliate links in this post – if you click one and make a purchase, we may receive a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Looking through the trees to the Banff Springs Hotel, a castle-like hotel surrounded by forest
The famous Banff Springs Hotel from Tunnel Mountain

Visiting Banff in winter

Before getting into our recommendations for things to do in Banff in winter, let me share some quick travel advice about visiting the Canadian Rockies during the colder months.

Alternatively, you can skip straight to the best winter activities in Banff!

What to expect

Banff is a small town (pop. 8000) situated in Banff National Park, in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Located at 1,383m elevation and surrounded by mountains, winters are cold with regular snow.

Officially, winter runs from December to March. Winter conditions, however, are present in November and April as well.

Due to the elevation and mountainous terrain, snow is actually possible all year round in Banff National Park!

Is it worth going to Banff in winter?

Absolutely! Many of Banff’s most popular attractions are open all year round and look even more beautiful with a dusting of snow.

Looking to snowboard or ski? You’re assured a great day at one of Banff’s three resorts.

Not into skiing? Don’t worry, there’s so many other things to do in winter in Banff.

Visiting Banff in winter can be just as rewarding as summer, but it does require a little extra care and attention.

  • Paths and roads can be slippery with ice and snow – if you’re renting a vehicle to drive to Banff, double check it has winter tires
  • Temperatures can be very cold, so it’s important to dress well (see below)
  • Weather conditions can occasionally cause difficult driving conditions and temporary closures – be sure to have some have some flexibility with your plans

Keep in mind also that the famed turquoise coloured lakes of Banff National Park are all frozen during winter. Some have restricted access due to avalanche danger (Moraine Lake, for example).

Looking down street in Banff, with stores on right and across the road to the left, and snowy Cascade Mountain in background
This is Banff at the end of winter

Winter weather in Banff

Temperatures can vary quite a lot, from -30°c (yes, really!) all the way up to +8°c.

The average, however, is somewhere between -4°c to -10°c during the daytime in winter. Although, with the mountain air being so dry, it doesn’t necessarily feel as cold as the thermometer reads.

January is traditionally the coldest month in Banff, though cold snaps (with those aforementioned freezing temperatures) can happen at any time during the winter. They usually last a week or so.

Keep in mind that temperatures will be colder at higher elevations, at places like Lake Louise and Sunshine Village. Expect more snow here too.

Chinook winds occasionally blow in and bring warm, moist air from the Pacific. These temporarily raise the temperature significantly.

Lower falls at Johnston Canyon with huge waterfall tumbling from top of canyon
Johnston Canyon

When to go

We recently visited Banff in mid-March (i.e. the very end of the official winter season) and were surprised how warm and sunny it was.

While we were still wearing jackets, hats and gloves to walk around town, it never felt freezing.

The relatively warm winter temperatures (around 2°c to 8°c) were actually perfect for outdoor activities, as we quickly warmed up but never overheated.

Many locals told us that March was their favourite month of winter, thanks to the rising temperatures and longer days. If you have the chance to visit Banff in March, I’d recommend it.

JR is standing and pointing down at a wooden signpost in snowy landscape. The top of a tree is visible
How much snow?! JR is standing on amount three metres of snow here

What to wear in Banff in winter

Dressing for winter in Banff is all about layers. A good layering system means that you’ll never be too hot or too cold – you can simply remove or add a layer when needed.

In addition, trapped air between clothing layers act as an insulator, keeping you warmer overall.

Layering clothing

Start with a base layer, otherwise known as thermals or underlayers. These fit close to the skin but should not be skintight.

My favourite base layers are made from merino wool (like this), which is incredible warm and far less itchy than regular wool.

Now add some warm layers on top, followed by a jacket. In dry conditions, that would be a down or insulated jacket. In snowy or windy weather, a waterproof jacket is better.

Looking across a partially frozen river  (which is lined by trees) to a snowy mountain in Banff National Park
Checking out the views along the Bow River

Accessories

On your feet, wear warm socks (again, I prefer the merino wool kind) and winter boots. For outdoor activities, waterproof hiking boots are ideal.

In this post, you’ll see me mentioning microspikes a lot. That’s for a good reason! These slip over your shoes and feature small spikes to provide traction on snow packed trails as well as icy paths.

If you’re interested in winter hiking around Banff, you’ll have a lot more fun with microspikes. Looking for a durable pair to use for multiple winter seasons? Pay the extra for the best on the market – Kahtoola microspikes.

JR and Gemma standing on bridge above partially frozen Spray River, with now capped mountain in background
I’d definitely recommend bringing waterproof jackets when visiting Banff in winter. Photo taken by Clare, our Bikescape guide

Winter clothing basics

Here are some other quick clothing tips:

  • Keep dry. Wet clothes are cold clothes so it’s important to stay as dry as possible, both from rain/snow and perspiration (sweat)
  • Avoid cotton. If you’re doing anything active on your winter trip to Banff, wear synthetic materials (nylon, polyester etc.), wool or silk over cotton. When cotton gets wet, it stays wet
  • Cover up. Prepare to wear a warm hat, gloves and scarf (or Buff) while visiting Banff in winter, to help protect exposed skin from the cold
  • Block the wind. Never underestimate the power of wind chill! Wind can really cut through clothing and make everything feel a lot colder. Wear a wind-resistant outer layer to block the wind
  • Protect your skin. It’s possible to get sunburned in winter too. Use sunscreen before going outdoors, wear lip balm with SPF and put on a pair of polarized sunglasses

For layering advice and clothing recommendations, read our complete guide to dressing for winter in Canada.

Looking through a brick archway towards the castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, with statue of Van Horne in front
Fairmont Banff Springs hotel

The best things to do in Banff in winter

Now onto the fun stuff! Read on to discover the best things to do in Banff in winter, as tried and tested by us.

When exploring Banff National Park, please remember to Leave No Trace. Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back.

When venturing away from urban areas and popular viewpoints, bring the 10 Essentials with you. Stay safe and don’t overestimate your abilities.

Screenshot of Google Map showing 40+ things to do in Banff in winter
Click here or above to view Google Map featuring 40+ things to do in Banff in winter

Explore downtown Banff

No visit to Banff is complete without a walk down Banff Avenue with Cascade Mountain towering above. This classic view is even better in winter, with a dusting of fresh snow.

Stroll the charming streets lined with independent boutiques, art galleries, luxury brands and more than 100 restaurants.

If you haven’t been to Banff for a while, be sure to take a walk on Bear Street, where major redevelopment and beautification work has recently been completed.

Street view looking up at Cascade Mountain behind the shops and stores of downtown Banff
That classic Banff view – expect a little more snow in the depths of winter!

Take in the views

Banff looks even more beautiful when surrounded by snowy peaks – check out one of these local viewpoints for the best elevated panoramas.

Mt. Norquay Viewpoint: Incredibly easy to access, this is one of my favourite places to visit at any time of year. Simply drive up the Mt. Norquay road to the pull-out on the very last switchback (5km one way from Highway 1).

Surprise Corner Viewpoint: Located on the corner of Buffalo Street and Tunnel Mountain Road, this spot offers one of the best vantages of the castle-like Banff Springs Hotel. The ‘surprise’ in question is the sudden appearance of the incredible view!

Hoodoos Viewpoint: Tunnel Mountain Road hosts a few different viewpoints looking out towards Mount Rundle and the Bow River. The Hoodoos Viewpoint has a trail leading to three different platforms. Bring a pair of microspikes if it hasn’t snowed recently. There’s a great pull-out just west of here with another viewpoint as well.

Back view of Gemma looking out to Mt Norquay view, with snowy peaks in the background and Banff Townsite in foreground
Checking out the view from the Mt Norquay viewpoint

Hike Tunnel Mountain / Sleeping Buffalo Mountain

If you only have time for one winter hike in Banff, choose to summit Tunnel Mountain. Start at the trailhead on St Julien Road.

The 2km trail gains 300m of elevation as it quickly ascends the slopes of this prominent landmark to reveal a number of spectacular viewpoints over the Banff Townsite as well as Mount Rundle and the Bow Valley.

This hike is also a great workout! Anticipate 45 minutes to get to the summit and another 30 minutes to get back down. Microspikes are essential, with the well used path getting quite slick in places.

It was quite misty on the day we ascended Tunnel Mountain but we still had some fabulous views of the Banff Springs Hotel and Mount Rundle.

Sleeping Buffalo Mountain is a sacred place for local Indigenous People. The other name originates from a surveying mistake by the Canadian Pacific Railway, who believed that a tunnel would be needed to complete the route to Banff.

Viewpoint view at Tunnel Mountain, looking towards the slopes of Mount Rundle, which has a golf courseand river at its base
We had misty weather on our Tunnel Mountain hike but the views towards Mount Rundle were still awesome

Soak in the hot springs

A relaxing soak in Banff Hot Springs is a wonderful way to wind down after a day of playing in the snow. As well as leaving skin incredibly soft, the hot, mineral-rich water also helps with circulation.

Banff Hot Springs features a small outdoor hot pool (37-40°c) overlooking Mount Rundle. The view is even more gorgeous in winter, with the surrounding trees covered in snow.

Banff National Park owes its protection to these natural hot springs, which were discovered and utilised by Indigenous People. Canadian Pacific Railway workers located the hot springs in 1883.

As a side note, if you’re visiting Banff from British Columbia, I’d suggest working Radium Hot Springs into your itinerary as well. It features a huge hot pool surrounded by a rugged canyon.

Looking over a metal railing to a hot spring pool which is filled with people and backdropped by a snowy mountain
Banff Hot Springs was closed for maintenance during our March 2022 visit, but here’s an photo from a previous trip!

Observe wildlife

Banff National Park is home to an incredible array of animals and it’s still possible to see some of the local residents in winter as well.

Elk and deer are commonly seen around Banff townsite during the colder months, as well as bighorn sheep. Coyote, wolves, lynx and moose are a possibility as well but a lot more rare.

Spotting one of Banff National Park’s 65 resident grizzly bears in winter is unlikely as they sleep through the colder months. The first bear sighting usually happens mid to late March, another reason why late winter is an awesome time to visit Banff!

If you do see some wildlife while visiting Banff in winter (or at any time of year), be sure to keep your distance. Always leave the animal an escape route and only observe for a short time before moving on.

Go downhill skiing/snowboarding

Alpine skiing or snowboarding is definitely one of the best things to do in Banff in winter. Choose between three world class ski resorts, each with fantastic skiing and snowboarding opportunities.

To maximise your time on the slopes, I’d highly recommend organising your rentals and ticket purchases through the Ski Big 3 Adventure Hub on Banff Ave. There’s even an option to deliver and pick up your gear at local hotels for free!

Banff Sunshine Village

Located right on the Continental Divide, Banff Sunshine Village is an epic place to go skiing or snowboarding. Three mountains offer more than 3000 acres of sprawling terrain, covered with beautifully light, dry snow.

Our favourite part? The lifts are fast, which means more runs and better value for money. I also really liked how much terrain was above the tree line.

Expert skiers and boarders will love Sunshine’s freeride areas, which feature extremely steep ‘off-piste’ terrain. Riding with a buddy is required, as is a beacon, shovel and probe.

Back view of JR snowboarding in orange jacket on snowy slope at Sunshine Village, with views of snow covered hills and runs ahead
Snowboarding at Sunshine Village in March

Mt. Norquay

Mt. Norquay is a great destination if you don’t have enough time for a full ski day, as it is only 10 minutes drive from downtown Banff. Despite the relative closeness, it’s also surprisingly quiet.

This approachable resort is an ideal choice for first timers, with affordable learning packages and plenty of beginner and intermediate runs to practice on.

Lake Louise

A favourite with Banff locals, Lake Louise Ski Resort is the biggest of the three Banff ski resorts, offering challenging terrain and super long runs. Of course, it has one of the most famous (and beautiful) backdrops in the world.

Looking up at snow covered slopes of Mt Norquay, with two snowboards at bottom of hill and fenced off learning areas
At the base of Mt. Norquay Ski Resort

Try cross country skiing

Step into a pair of cross country skis and glide your way around the spectacular landscapes of Banff National Park. Parks Canada maintains a network of groomed trails in and around Banff and also at Lake Louise.

Nearby Canmore has a world class Nordic Centre with more than 65km of groomed, machine-made and natural trails.

If you’ve never tried cross country skiing, Banff is a great place to start! Take a lesson with Bikescape, who will get you gliding on the trails in minutes. They take care of the equipment rentals as well, so you can concentrate on having fun!

Our lesson was led by the energetic Clare, who remained ever patient and enthusiastic throughout (I’m not the fastest learner to say the least!)

We explored the Spray River West Trail, which is close to town but feels a world away. A pit stop by the river offered gorgeous views of the Banff Springs Hotel, backdropped by snowy mountains.

Already have some cross country ski experience? Bikescape offer ski tours too – let a local show you the best places to go cross country skiing in Banff!

Back view of JR and Clare, cross country guide cross country skiing down track set path, lined by forest
Spray River Trail
Looking up partially frozen Spray River to snow capped mountain and Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Spray River pit stop

Attend winter festivals

Exciting events and festivals happen all year round in Banff – consider timing your winter visit with the following festivities:

SnowDays is Banff’s biggest celebration of winter, with impressive displays of giant snow and ice sculptures as well as a snow climbing wall, ice slides, fat bike track, skijoring races and themed cocktails. This 12 day event usually takes places at the end of January.

Lake Louise showcases artistry and engineering at the Ice Magic Ice Carving Competition, held over 12 days in January. Watch skilled sculptors create beautiful works of art outside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Raise a glass to Banff Craft Beer Week in December, which features beer pairing dinners, beer yoga and trivia nights. In 2021, the Banff Craft Beer Festival bookended Beer Week with two weekends of sampling.

Side view of Gemma in yellow jacket looking out to frozen Lake Louise, where people are ice skating. Mountains surround the lake
Checking out Lake Louise in winter

Experience the rush of dog sledding

Gliding along a snowy trail behind a team of sled dogs is an iconic Canadian image. When visiting Banff in winter, you can try it this one of a kind experience for yourself!

Snowy Owl Tours is based in Canmore, a quick 20 minute drive from Banff, though the tours take place in the nearby Kananaskis Valley (the scenic shuttle ride is included).

As we prepared the sleds, the dogs made it clear that they were as excited as us – these dogs absolutely cannot wait to get running. As soon as we instructed them to go, they were flying down the trail.

The second half of our run was the most scenic, crossing a wide open landscape lined with snow capped peaks. We both had the opportunity to drive and instruct the dogs (so cool!) while the other relaxed in the cosy sled.

Plenty of time was given before and after the mushing experience to give the dogs plenty of love. Snowy Owl uses a bandana system to indicate dogs that may be shy and prefer to have some space.

The tour finished with hot chocolate and cake in front of a fire – the perfect way to reflect on such an exciting experience!

Please note – Before joining this tour, we thoroughly researched Snowy Owl and the company’s welfare record. JR has previously worked with sled dogs and found the interactions between the guides and dogs to be respectful.

Sled view of dog mushing team in Kananaskis Valley, with mountains on either side of open snowy landscape
Dog sledding with Snowy Owl Tours

Go snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is an ideal low impact way to explore Banff National Park. There’s nothing quite like walking through a tranquil snow covered forest or across a frozen lake hearing only the sound of the snowshoes beneath you.

To go beyond the beaten path, however, you must be knowledgeable regarding winter hazards. This includes avalanches, thin ice, hypothermia and frostbite. You really don’t want to be snowshoeing in the wrong place in the Rockies.

White Mountain Adventures offers the chance to snowshoe remote backcountry areas in safety, with the assistance of a professional guide.

Guide holding up photo of same area in summer, in front of snowy landscape
Transformation from winter to summer

We had the chance to explore Sunshine Meadows with veteran guide Kristi, making our own tracks with no trails or other snowshoers in sight. On the horizon, just endless powder and a backdrop of huge mountains.

The snow was as deep as I’ve ever seen it, coming above my knees at times. And that’s with the extra long snowshoes that White Mountain Adventures provide!

Gemma lying on the ground haven fallen on soft powder while snowshoeing. She is smiling however
SO MUCH POWDER

While we learned a lot (who knew pine martens are so prevalent in the Rockies?), we also laughed a lot. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you’re falling into soft snow constantly!

Read more about this must do experience in this dedicated Banff snowshoeing post.

Back view of JR snowshoeing in Sunshine Meadows looking out to views of mountains
Snowshoeing surrounded by miles of fresh powder

Explore Lake Louise

Backdropped by the imposing Victoria Glacier, Lake Louise is one of the most iconic places to visit in Banff National Park. The lake may be entirely frozen over in winter but there still is a myriad of fun activities to enjoy.

Cleared and maintained by the Fairmont Cheateau Lake Louise, the lake skating rink has been cited to be one of the most beautiful in the world (rentals available).

The Lake Louise area has an extensive trail system, with many routes still open in winter for hiking, snowshoeing, fatbiking or cross country skiing.

Be sure to read the trail details carefully to avoid venturing into dangerous avalanche terrain.

For the best views of historic Chateau Lake Louise, hike up the short and steep 1km trail to the Fairview Lookout.

No vehicle? Take a guided tour, which includes transportation from Banff and an additional excursion to the Icefields Parkway.

Looking across a large frozen lake (Lake Louise) to people standing on the ice and surrounding mountains
Frozen Lake Louise

Visit National Historic Sites and museums

Uncover the fascinating history and culture of Banff National Park at one of the following museums. Opening hours and days are usually reduced in the winter months so be sure to check before visiting.

Banff Park Museum: Step back in time at Canada’s oldest surviving National Park federal building (built in 1903!) The rustic log cabin houses a traditional natural history museum featuring local wildlife.

Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Discover the surprising origins of Banff National Park at this informative museum at the edge of town. A tunnel leads to one of nine hot springs caverns located on the flank of Sulphur Mountain.

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies: Charming yet educational, this museum highlights the history, culture and people of Banff and the Rockies with artwork and displays. Rotating exhibitions provide the chance to see something new on every visit.

Looking across a road to three story historical wooden building with a British flag flying outside. A dark coloured truck is drving past. There is the snowy slope of a mountain behind the building
Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, the oldest natural history museum in western Canada

Experience the Johnston Canyon Icewalk

A walk in Johnson Canyon is impressive at any time of year, but winter is particularly special. Steel catwalks (walkways) built into the sides of the canyon lead to a series of frozen waterfalls, which sparkle in the light.

The hike to the upper falls is 5.4km with 135m of total elevation gain. The trail features quite a few ups and downs, with a couple of longer climbs. As a popular trail, the surface gets packed down and can become quite icy. I’d say that microspikes are absolutely essential for this winter hike.

Although you can visit Johnston Canyon independently, a guided tour offers an elevated (pun intended) experience. Not only will you learn much more about how Johnston Canyon was created, the tour company will provide the transportation and microspikes!

We hiked the Johnston Canyon Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours, which specialises in small group expeditions (up to 12 people per guide). Despite visiting the Banff area a number of times before, we came away with extra appreciation of the Rockies as well as plenty of local insider tips.

If you can, choose the morning tour. Most people arrive between 11am and 2pm. The early tour offers the chance to enjoy the beauty of the canyon in solitude.

Huge frozen waterfall with many icicles on edge of canyon, with water visible at bottom, Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

Drive the Icefields Parkway

Often cited as one of the best road trips in the world, the Icefields Parkway is a 230km long highway stretching along the Continental Divide. The road is lined with towering mountains and immense glaciers, providing jaw dropping views no matter where you look.

The Icefields Parkway starts 60km west of Banff, near Lake Louise. It travels all the way to Jasper, a journey that takes around 3.5 to 4 hours in winter.

Subject to weather conditions, the Icefields Parkway is open all year round. After a big storm or dump of snow, some sections may be temporarily closed due to avalanche risk (and for snow removal). Check 511 Alberta for road conditions before heading out.

If driving the Parkway as a day trip from Banff, I would suggest turning around before or at the Athabasca Glacier (200km one way). Plan to start and end your trip in daylight and bring extra supplies in case of delay.

Not all parking lots and pull-outs on the Icefields Parkway are cleared of snow in winter. I’ve suggested Peyto Lake and Bow Lake as essential stops (see details below for more information) as these are consistently plowed.

Don’t have your own vehicle? Book a full day tour!

Vehicle view of Icefields Parkway road lined with high banks of snow, with large mountains in background
Driving the Icefields Parkway in winter

Admire Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is a beautiful turquoise blue glacier-fed lake located on the Icefields Parkway. A short uphill trail (10 minutes/600m) leads up from the parking lot to an elevated platform with panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountain peaks.

In winter, Peyto Lake is completely covered with ice and snow. While you may not be able to see the vibrant colour of the water at this time, the view is still impressive and well worth the stop while driving the Icefields Parkway.

The path to the platform is well used and usually features packed down snow. Microspikes can be handy on the way back to the parking lot.

Looking down from elevated viewpoint to frozen Peyto Lake, which is surrounded by snow capped mountains, part of the Canadian Rockies
Peyto Lake Viewpoint

Visit Bow Lake

Bow Lake is another spectacular lake located along the Icefields Parkway. It is the source of the Bow River which flows through Banff, Canmore and also Calgary.

Situated at 1920m in elevation, Bow Lake is frozen over for the entirety of winter. Like Peyto Lake, it’s still absolutely worth visiting for the incredible views of surrounding mountainous scenery.

With no avalanche risk on the flat surface of the lake, snowshoeing is popular here. Bow Lake is also a starting point for backcountry ski touring (avalanche safety course and equipment required).

Looking across the frozen expanse of Bow Lake, with snow capped mountains lining the edge
Bow Lake

Drive the Bow Valley Parkway

The Bow Valley Parkway (also known as Highway 1A) is a 50km long secondary route that runs parallel to Highway 1 on the opposite side of the Bow River. It passes Johnston Canyon, beautiful Castle Mountain and numerous other impressive peaks.

This scenic road is a joy to drive as it has a strict 60km/h speed limit and far less traffic than the main highway. It passes Johnston Canyon, beautiful Castle Mountain and numerous other impressive peaks.

One of Banff National Park’s most popular photo spots is just located on the Bow Valley Parkway, just before Lake Louise.

Morant’s Curve features a dramatic bend in the Bow River, bordered by a railway track. The view is backdropped by spectacular mountain peaks. Patience is required to get the perfect shot!

Please note that travel is not permitted from 8pm to 8am on the Bow Valley Parkway between 1st March and 25th June. This is to provide a wildlife corridor for animals during spring.

Rugged Castle Mountain set behind Bow River (lined by forest) on Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park
Castle Mountain

Explore Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon may not be in Banff National Park – it’s in neighbouring Kootenay National Park – but I still think it’s a very worthy addition to this list.

Created by the meeting of two glaciers thousands of years ago, Marble Canyon is a spectacularly deep gorge with bright blue water rushing through. Hikers can look down inside the canyon the help of numerous small bridges.

Marble Canyon is open all year round and is an easy 35 minute (50km) drive from Banff.

I’d recommend wearing microspikes as the trail can become slippery in spots. After heavy snow, snowshoes would be a better option. Plan to spend 45 minutes to one hour here.

No wheels? Book a guided snowshoeing tour, which includes return transportation from Banff.

Looking down into deep snow covered canyon from bridge, water is visible at the bottom. There is a large snow covered mountain in the background, set behind a forest
Marble Canyon

Relax!

Visiting Banff in winter can be as exciting or relaxing as you want it to be. If you’re just looking to chill out and enjoy the cosy winter vibes, Banff has everything you need!

I’d recommend booking a hotel with an outdoor hot tub, so you can chill out under the stars, surrounded by snow. Pick a suite or room with a balcony, grab a blanket and enjoy a hot chocolate with a view (alternatively, there’s a Hot Chocolate Trail in town as well!)

Banff Hot Springs, as mentioned above, is a must visit for anyone looking to switch off for an hour or two. For the ultimate experience, consider a trip to the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs.

Snowshoe tracks leading to distant mountain, Sunshine Meadows
Snowshoeing at Sunshine Meadows

20+ more amazing things to do in Banff in winter

Still looking for more fun winter activities in Banff? Here are some more ideas!

  • Go snow tubing at Lake Louise Ski Resort or Mt Norquay Ski Resort (home of Alberta’s longest tube runs!)
  • Hit the trails on a fat bike, rentals available from Snowtips Bactrax and lessons with Bikescape
  • Enjoy mountains views on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through snow covered meadows
  • Hike up Sulphur Mountain (microspikes essential) to be amazed by beautiful 360 degree views of Banff and surrounding mountains
  • Take the Banff Sightseeing Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain (the easier version of the above suggestion!)
  • Savour an elevated dining experience at one of the two restaurants located on Sulphur Mountain’s summit
Back view of JR walking over pedestrian bridge, looking out to Mount Rundle, a sloped summit in the background. Bow River can be seen below, partially frozen
Walking across the Bow River on Banff’s pedestrian bridge
  • Take in the scenic views at Two Jack Lake, just 15 minutes drive from downtown Banff
  • Grab a sled and go tobogganing at Banff Cascade Ponds (on Minnewanka Lake Road) or Spring Meadows Hill (near the Fairmont)
  • Experience the thrill and challenge of ice climbing with a half or full day lesson from Banff Adventures
  • Admire Bow Falls, a wide frozen waterfall not far from downtown Banff
  • Take advantage of the short winter days and watch a sunrise or sunset (recommendations – Two Jack Lake, Tunnel Mountain, Vermilion Lakes)
  • Take a stroll across the pedestrian bridge above the Bow River to great views of Mount Rundle
  • Visit the castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, one of Banff’s most iconic made made sights
  • Go on a day trip to Abraham Lake to see the famous ice bubbles, which are created by trapped methane gas
Intersection of downtown Banff in March, with bare streets and roads, and a snowy mountain in background
Banff in March
  • Go ice skating at Lake Louise, Two Jack Lake or Vermilion Lakes. There are outdoor rinks right in Banff as well (Train Station and Fenlands Meadow)
  • Keep your fingers crossed for a clear night and the opportunity to see the northern lights (aurora borealis)! Check the aurora forecast here. Consider a guided tour to reach the best vantage point
  • Fly over the snow capped mountains and glaciers on a helicopter sightseeing flight
  • Sample locally made craft beers at Banff Ave Brewing Co. and/or Three Bears Brewery
  • Cruise, walk or cycle the Vermilion Lakes Scenic Drive, a 4km route alongside a series of pretty lakes backdropped by Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle
  • Explore the strollable downtown of Canmore (25 minutes drive), which features many independent boutiques, galleries and breweries
Two white mushing dogs are set in harnesses on open snow covered area with mountains in background
Dog sledding with Snowy Owl Tours
  • Walk on the frozen creek bed of Canmore’s Grotto Canyon, a 4km return hike (microspikes required – more details on HikeBikeTravel)
  • Sip locally made craft spirits and cocktails at Park Distillery, complimented by some campfire-inspired cuisine
  • Celebrate the most festive season with a visit to the Christmas Market or Santa’s Workshop on Sulphur Mountain
  • Go on a food tour of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
  • Browse the stores, galleries and independent boutiques lining the lively streets of downtown Banff
  • Stroll the streets on a guided ghost tour and learn some of Banff’s more spooky secrets
  • Take a walk on the quiet Bow River Trail, just steps from downtown
  • Go stargazing at Lake Minnewanka, one of the darkest places within easy driving distance of Banff
The wooden Canmore hotel in downtown area, in front of snowy mountains
Downtown Canmore

Where to stay in Banff

Banff has a plethora of different accommodation options available. The below recommendations are close to the action, but there are numerous properties surrounding the town as well.

One example is the Banff Juniper Hotel, which enjoys spectacular views sits at the base of Mount Norquay Road and offers spectacular views from the well appointed rooms.

Buffalo Mountain Lodge

The Buffalo Mountain Lodge is located on the slopes of Tunnel Mountain, surrounded by 9 acres of fir, pine and spruce forest. It provides a peaceful retreat from downtown Banff while still being only 20 minutes walk away.

Each of the upscale rooms and suites boast a stone wood-burning fireplace, perfect for cosy winter evenings. Our lodge room also had a spacious deck.

Guests have access to a large outdoor hot tub, ideal for winding down after a long day of exploring. All rooms are within easy walking distance to excellent on-site restaurant the Prow (see below for more info).

Looking from behind cream coloured couch towards stone wood-burning fireplace (which is operating). There are two mountain artworks above the fireplace and three windows to the left
Rooms at the Buffalo Mountain Lodge have stone wood-burning fireplaces
Looking along private deck at Buffalo Mountain Lodge with two wooden chairs (with red cushions) looking out to forest beyond
Enjoy winter views from your private deck at Buffalo Mountain Lodge

Moose Hotel & Suites

Moose Hotel & Suites is a great alternative if you want to stay in downtown Banff. It is situated right on Banff Avenue, just a few minutes walk from a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and stores.

The deluxe rooms feature spacious surroundings and luxurious rain showers. Most have balconies, providing plenty of light.

While we have only stayed at this hotel in summer, I believe that the views from the roof top hot pool would be even better in winter!

Moose artwork above cream coloured couch at Moose Hotel and Suites in Banff
Moose Hotel & Suites

Where to eat in Banff

Restaurant standards in Banff are exceptionally high. Here are some of our favourite spots:

Una Pizza & Wine – This restaurant should be your go to for elevated comfort food, served alongside a carefully handpicked drinks menu. The made-from-scratch pizzas feature crispy yet chewy crusts, topped with locally sourced veggies and house-made meats.

The Prow – New contemporary eatery serving local favourites, with a spotlight on game meat (bison, elk, boar). The quality is definitely worth the drive up Tunnel Mountain! The extended happy hour offers an excellent opportunity to try the extensive cocktail menu.

Interior view of Prow Restaurant at Buffalo Mountain Inn, with high wooden ceilings and modern furnishings and decoration.
The recently renovated dining room at the Prow is gorgeous
Close up of four cheese pizza at Una in Banff, with a hand holding a piece of pizza above the rest, with stretched melted cheese
Enjoying guilty pleasures at Una Pizza & Wine

Farm & Fire – Upscale restaurant wielding fire based techniques to bring out the best natural flavours of the locally sourced ingredients. Relaxed ambience with beautiful surroundings. A particularly good option for visitors with dietary requirements.

Hello Sunshine – Buzzy place specialising in traditional Japanese dishes with a modern fusion twist. The small plates are designed to be shared and are delivered as soon as they’re ready, a service style ideal for après-ski. If you can, sit at one of the fire tables.

Close up of Farm & Fire dishes with salad very close to camera, next to orange coloured cocktail. THere is a pizza in the background
Dinner at Farm & Fire in Banff
Close up of pressed sushi at Hello Sunshine, crab california roll ont he right and salmon and tuna on the left, with sake glasses in background and a black plated dish
Pressed sushi at Hello Sunshine

More of our favourite places to eat in Banff

  • For a more casual dining experience, check out the Bear Street Tavern. They have a huge list of beers from both Alberta and British Columbia
  • In desperate need of a fast food fix after a long day adventuring? Banff Poutine has your back with authentic Quebec dishes
  • If you need a quick but hearty breakfast, head to El Toro for classic Canadian dishes at great prices
  • For something lighter (or just to top up on caffeine) consider Whitebark Café or Wild Flour Bakery
  • Heading out of town? Be sure to pick up some tasty pastries at the Uprising Bake Shop for later (the cinnamon buns are to die for) or a sandwich at Little Wild
Interior of Little Wild coffee shop, with wooden counter in front of chalkboard and low lighting. A map is visible in the background
Little Wild – Coffee By Wild Flour

Read these related posts next:

The Best Snowshoeing in Banff: Sunshine Meadows on the Continental Divide

Climbing Mt Norquay’s Via Ferrata, Banff, Alberta

Exploring Rat’s Nest Cave with Canmore Cave Tours

Complete Hiking Guide to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park

15+ Fun Things to Do in Calgary For Adults

Hiking the Kananaskis Valley from Mount Engadine Lodge, Alberta

The Best Vancouver to Calgary Road Trip Routes: Highway 1 & Alternatives

There's definitely no shortage of fun things to do in Banff, Canada, in winter. As well as three world class ski resorts, Banff is host to an incredible number of winter activities, both exciting and relaxing. Click here to discover our top, tried and tested picks as well as 20+ more ideas! offtracktravel.ca
No matter if you're looking for an exciting or relaxing winter break, Banff has you covered! Check out this post with more than 40 ideas for things to do in Banff in winter, with our tried and tested favourites. offtracktravel.ca
There's definitely no shortage of fun things to do in Banff in winter. In this post, we'll share our absolute top picks for things to do in Banff in winter as well as 20+ more ideas, to help you make your trip the best it can be!

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Hussain

Saturday 2nd of April 2022

Thanks for sharing your journey and all this amazing information Gemma. Fabulous post!

Kristi Beetch

Friday 1st of April 2022

Hi Gemma and JR! Great write up of Banff and surrounding area!! You two were busy adventurers while here. Looking forward to reading your next blog on snowshoeing at Sunshine with me! Happy trails, Kristi Beetch

Gemma

Saturday 2nd of April 2022

Hi Kristi,

Thank you so much! It was definitely a busy trip. You can find the brand new snowshoeing post here! Thanks for making our experience so awesome!