Calling all adventurers, this post is for you. It’s time to experience Banff National Park as you’ve never experienced it before – Banff and Lake Louise after dark. Not many people know this, but some of the most memorable outdoor Banff experiences only happen after the moon rises over the mountains. Lucky for you, we’re giving away Banff National Park’s best-kept secrets – so listen up!
If you’ve still got energy after the lifts stop spinning, and you’re looking for outdoor activities in Banff and Lake Louise after dark here is our list of notably nocturnal things of what to do at night in Banff and Lake Louise.
Top outdoors activities in Banff and Lake Louise after dark
1. Watch a breathtaking light show at the top of the Banff Gondola
New this year, Nightrise is a whole new way to experience the summit of Sulphur Mountain. It’s an immersive, interactive evening experience with dynamic lights, projections, and original soundscapes. Nightrise was created thanks to the help of the Stoney Nakoda Nation, the Indigenous peoples who have called the Canadian Rockies home since time immemorial. Listen to their stories, music, and get lost in the magic when the sun sets and the night rises.
Fun things you’ll find at Nightrise:
- Immersive projections under your feet
- “Sonic binoculars” that let you listen to the view
- Quiet spaces for self-reflection
- Spoken word in the traditional Stoney Nakoda language
Read more: What to know about Nightrise
Book tickets: Experience Nightrise
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2. Wear a head torch and explore frozen waterfalls
Grab a head torch and heighten your senses as you walk through Banff National Park’s famous Johnston Canyon – at night! With only your light to guide you, weave your way through narrow ice-coated canyon walls and immerse yourself in the serene stillness of winter. This is an experience you won’t find anywhere but in the Canadian Rockies and it’s one of our favourite night activities in Banff. It’s a must-do Banff and Lake Lousie after dark outdoor adventure.
Local tips for visiting Johnston Canyon:
- Early morning tours and evening ice walks are the quietest time to visit this popular hike
- Ice cleats are strongly recommended for this icy walk (we sell them at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub)
- Wear lots of warm layers, especially base layers on the top and bottom, to keep warm
- Keep an eye out for ice-climbers – a favourite sport of Bow Valley residents!
Learn more about the Johnston Canyon Evening Ice Walk
3. Sip glacially cold cocktails at a bar made of ice
Is there anything more Canadian than sipping an ice-cold cocktail at a bar made from blocks of ice? Nope, we didn’t think so. Find the most dazzling Ice Bar you-ever-did-see outdoors at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. There aren’t many bars where your drinks get colder the longer you drink them. The Ice Bar at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise can be found outside, near the shore of the iconic Lake Louise. It’s made from 20 blocks of ice, each weighing 300lbs!
Fun facts about the Ice Bar:
- “Ice benches” are carved into the walls
- It takes weeks to build the walls alone
- The Fairmont logo is embedded into to ice with coloured sand
- Mulled Wine is the signature “must-try” drink of the Ice Bar
4. Film your friends in Banff National Park’s only full-lit terrain park
Known for its laid-back local vibes, Mt. Norquay is no different at night. Meet up with friends (or make new ones) at its social and sendy terrain park. From January through March, the Mt. Norquay terrain park stays fully illuminated until 9:00pm on Friday and Saturday nights, meaning you can practice your board slides and boxes even after other lifts stop spinning.
Local tips for visiting Mt. Norquay at night:
- Night skiing runs from 5:00pm-9:00pm, meaning you’ve got 1 hour to warm up or grab a bite after the regular lifts stop at 4:00pm
- Bring your SkiBig3 ticket – night skiing is included!
- Try ski-themed local beers like Banff Ave Brewing Co. – ‘Ride and Dry’ and ‘Norquay 94’ – in Lone Pine Pub
5. Play shinny under the stars
Ever heard of “shinny”? It’s basically our Canadian way of saying playing some hockey with friends on a piece of wild ice. Need to be a pro-skater? Absolutely not! Shinny is all about playing just for the fun of it and getting outdoors with good friends.
We think the best place to play shinny in Banff National Park at night is on the Lake Louise. At night, the lake is fully lit and even after heavy snowfalls rinks are shovelled out to make it easy to “pick up” a game of shinny anytime.
Insider tip: Where to find wild ice in Banff National Park
6. Stay warm around a roaring campfire
Did you know Bear Street in downtown Banff has a gorgeous gas-lit fireplace? It’s fantastic – you’ve got to check it out. Located across from the Bear Street Tavern (known for their excellent pizza) this fire roars from 6:45am-8:00pm every day.
With bright blue Muskoka chairs circling its warm flames, it’s the perfect place to relax with your morning coffee or keep the night kicking on after dinner.
Our favourite cafes, shops and restaurants on Bear Street:
- Wild Flour Bakery: Locally roasted coffee and homemade sandwiches (vegan-friendly)
- Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant: Craft beers brewed in-house, gourmet pizza, and lots of forest creatures
- Jolene’s Tea House: Organic teas made in Banff, hyper-local souveniers, hand-poured candles
- The Last Temptation: A quirky vintage shop tucked away in the basement of the Wolf & Bear building
- Hello Sunshine: Banff’s hottest new sushi and karaoke joint, incredible food and retro decor
7. Take a romantic stroll across the most beautiful bridge in Banff
One of Banff’s best-kept secrets is its beautiful pedestrian bridge, illuminated with dazzling bright lights all winter long. Located at the end of Muskrat Street, you won’t be able to miss its warm glow. This is one of few bridges in town that can take you up and over the Bow River, giving you uninterrupted views of Rundle Mountain. With darkness all around you, you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora peaking out from behind the clouds.
Hot photography tips:
- Walk along the Bow River Trail to get a wide shot of the bridge lit up at night
- Bring your tripod – this bridge is a fun place to practice night photography
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8. Tire out the little one’s tubing
How can they still have energy? Every parent asks. Well, if you’re like most families and you need just one more activity to tucker out the little ones we suggest taking them tubing at Mt. Norquay’s fully lit (and lightning-quick) tubing lanes.
From January through March, night tubing at Norquay runs on Friday and Saturday nights from 5:00pm-7:30pm. It’s a blast for the whole family – Mom and Dad will love it too!
- Stay for dinner at Mt. Norquay after a night of tubing. The Lone Pine’s menu, designed by Chef Morne, is thoughtfully created with home-style dishes, seasonal ingredients and lots of healthy choices for active families
9. Soak in a natural hot spring
There is literally no better way to soothe achy muscles after a long ski day than soaking in a hot tub. But we’ve got a better idea. What about soaking in a natural hot spring? That’s right, Banff has been known for the ice blue, therapeutic waters of the Banff Upper Hot Springs since they were discovered in 1883. Since then, travellers (and skiers) from around the world have flocked to Banff and Lake Louise to relax in these warm steamy pools.
Thanks to the geothermic effects of Sulphur Mountain, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are 100% natural. Plus, an adult pass is under $10! This is a great idea of what to do at night in Banff and Lake Louise.
- If you’re on a budget, the Upper Banff Hot Springs is the most affordable place to spa and soak after skiing
- Arrive early, last entry to the polls is 5:00pm and entry is first come first served
- Don’t forget flip-slops! The pool deck can be frosty on your little toes in winter
10. Go “Aurora chasing”
With a wild, untouched landscape (thanks to Banff National Park’s protected boundary), the Canadian Rockies is an exceptional place to watch the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. While there is no set “month” that the lights come out better than others, winter is generally a great time of the year to spot the lights as the skies are clear and the snow adds a dramatic contrast.
Depending on what kind of solar activity or “solar storm” has happened recently, there may be a high KP-index meaning the lights will be bright! Generally speaking, any solar activity 5 or higher on the KP-index scale means you’re bound to see a show.
If you’re an extra keen Aurora chaser – our local tip is to join the Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook group for daily updates on the KP-index of this area. You’re bound to spot some activity if you follow this page.
Our favourite places to watch the Northern Lights in Banff and Lake Louise:
- Lake Minnewanka
- Cascade Ponds
- Lake Louise
- Tunnel Mountain
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Come experience Banff and Lake Louise after dark
Banff and Lake Louise after dark come alive! There are so many night activities in Banff and Lake Louise to do, even after the lifts stop spinning. If you’re looking for a getaway full of 24/7 adventure – this could be it.
Should you need a bit more flexibility with your travel plans this winter our no-questions-asked cancellation policy for both lift tickets and packages allows for free changes and full-refund cancellations until 14-days before arrival. To book your winter ski vacation or secure your multi-day lift tickets, call 1-844-754-2443 to speak with a reservation specialist or go online to access some exceptional Ski & Stay Package deals.