How to experience Banff National Park in the winter

Established in 1885, Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest and most treasured national park. Home to soaring, rugged peaks, crystal-clear mountain lakes, pristine forests and a populous array of wildlife, Banff National Park is a top destination for the ski vacationer craving a scenic, outdoor-oriented getaway. Conveniently, the town of Banff and hamlet of Lake Louise, Alberta are situated within the park, so all the top attractions, especially wildlife, are just stone’s throw away. Sometimes closer. It’s extremely common to see deer, elk and even moose strolling near or in downtown Banff.

Banff National Park is particularly well-traveled by sightseers during the warmer months, but winter holds its own set of wonders—and fewer crowds.

To help you experience the best of the best on your ski vacation, we comprised a list of top winter activities in Banff National Park.

Banff National Park winter sightseeing tours

Sign up for a guided, sightseeing tour with Discover Banff Tours and enjoy the comfort of a small, heated bus while you tour around the park. You’ll see scenic viewpoints, historic sites, frozen waterfalls and lakes set to a backdrop of stunning Canadian Rocky peaks. The morning tours tend to enjoy more wildlife appearances, but 95% of all tours see wildlife!

Each bus comes equipped with binoculars to get a closer look at wildlife.

Discover Banff Tours sample sightseeing itinerary:

  • Bow Falls: See water crash over ancient limestone, creating a spectacle of sound and sight.
  • Banff Springs Hotel: Discover how the Castle of the Rockies is the railway’s contribution to the building of Canada.
  • Surprise Corner: Experience a higher view of Bow Falls and the majestic Banff Springs Hotel.
  • Hoodoos Lookout: Learn about what a hoodoo is and understand the lay of the land.
  • Lake Minnewanka: Enjoy an underwater village, native history and a pleasant refreshment break.

Remember to bring:

  • Warm clothes—dress for the weather
  • Remember your camera!

Snowshoeing in Banff

If you’re looking to explore the wide, open spaces and snow-blanketed forests of the Banff area, you’ll want to add a snowshoeing tour to your ski-trip activities list. Modern snowshoes are incredibly light and feature adjustable bindings and crampons so even beginners can experience snowshoeing. Discover Banff Tour’s Marble Canyon is a great option for the uninitiated. Marble Canyon is in fact located in Kootenay National Park, which is just 30 minutes from Banff and over the border in British Columbia.

Johnston Canyon IceWalk ® with Discover Banff Tours

This award-winning tour, according to the Canadian Tourism Commission, starts along the Bow Valley Parkway—the scenic, wildlife-endowed byway that runs from just outside of Banff to Lake Louise. During the bus ride to the canyon, take in the beautiful views of Castle Mountain and keep your eyes peeled for wolves, moose, elk and coyotes.

DiscoverBanffTOurs
Photo: Discover Banff Tours

Upon arrival at the canyon, guests will be outfitted in ice-cleats, and then it’s time to start exploring. Guided tours of the ice- and snow- bedecked canyon depart in the morning and afternoon. Special, lighted night tours are available, too. Guests can expect to see stunning ice falls, ancient fossils, caves, spectacular canyon views and more wildlife as they traverse a series of steel catwalks. In addition, guides will explain the geologic history of this spectacular canyon. Warm outerwear, including boots, hats and gloves are a must.

Banff Sleigh Rides

Johnston Canyon Icewalk
Photo: Discover Banff Tours

Take in the Bow River Valley views and cozy up to your loved ones while a Western-style, horse-drawn sleigh pulls you through snowy fields. Top views include Sulfur Mountain and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Be sure to wear warm clothes, including hats, gloves and warm boots.

Banff Dog Sledding

The Discover Banff Tour’s Great Divide dogsledding tour is the area’s most popular as it takes guests beneath the stunning peaks that surround Lake Louise all the way to the Continental Divide, the high point which separates the eastern and western river flows. The tour is about 10 miles in total, and the guests have the opportunity to get to know the dogs and their guides and learn the basics of driving a dogsled team.


Ready to experience the wintry wonders and many activities of Banff National Park with Discover Banff Tours? Our 65+ Mountain Travel Experts are standing by at 800-610-8911 for your call. They can take care of reserving any and all Banff winter activities, including flights, lodging, lift tickets and much more! You can also get started by filling out a form for your free, custom quote.

About Author: Leah Boucher
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.

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