An “off” season adventure is a great way to sidestep the influx of visitors often associated with National Park travel during the summer. Canada’s Banff National Park is no exception. The country’s first National Park, and the third-oldest park in the world, Banff National Park is pristine, rugged, and utterly awe-inspiring, which makes it the best National Park to visit in winter.
Experience towering peaks, glacier-fed lakes, and the driest, lightest snow imaginable. This magical place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and winter exploration is suited to every age, ability, and interest. It’s also one of few National Parks worldwide that offers skiing and snowboarding.
Endless outdoor winter activities
Winter adventuring in a National Park can be otherworldly; ice crystals coating pine needles, mounds of snow blanketing tall peaks, mirror-glass lakes and icy rivers cutting through heavy drifts, waterfalls frozen into glittering icicle formations, winter critters leaving prints in the snow. Exploring Banff National Park during the winter months is a unique alternative to adventuring in the summertime and getting outdoors is the best way to really experience the peaceful beauty. So, bundle up and choose your adventure in the best National Park to visit in winter.
Things to do in Banff in winter
- Grab ice cleats and walking poles and take a walk up Tunnel Mountain; get a head start by jumping on the ROAM public transit Route 7 bus.
- Rent a fat bike and pedal to Cave and Basin National Historic Site, riding along the river or the Marsh Loops trail.
- Glide on a pair of cross-country skis. We recommend the Spray River West trail or Cascade fire road, off the Lake Minnewanka Road.
Things to do in Lake Louise in winter
- Head to Lake Louise via ROAM public transit route 8 for a deeper dive into the Canadian Rockies. While at the lake, walk, ice skate, cross-country ski the vast trail system, or just sit back and take in the spectacular view of Victoria Glacier.
- Enjoy track-set cross-country trails on the Fairview Loop or the Moraine Lake Road trail. The Moraine Lake Road trail is wide enough for skate skiing as is the Old 1A or Great Divide trail.
- Choose the viewpoint at Peyto Lake as a great snowshoe destination.
Skiing inside protected National Park boundaries
Three ski resorts – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay, and two quaint mountain communities – Banff and Lake Louise, are nestled among 1.6 million acres of unspoiled wilderness that is Banff National Park.
Skiers and riders are treated to views and vistas stretching as far as the eye can see, untouched by mass development. Imagine peak after peak of pristine snow, jagged-edged crags, and an unfathomable number of trees. Imagine using the ski area boundary as your backcountry gateway where you can sample mounds of untracked powder.
Unlike traditional U.S. ski areas operating on either private acreage or government-leased public lands, the resorts of SkiBig3 are located within the National Park. This means ski area operators are guided by strict regulations designed to minimize environmental impact and this translates to the natural beauty that is difficult to describe because there is nothing quite like it in the U.S.
More outdoor winter activity ideas
- Backcountry Skiing
- Ice Walking (Day or Evening)
- Dog Sledding
- Winter Hiking
- Cross-Country Skiing
- Ice Skating
- Pond Hockey or “Shinny”
- Ice Climbing
- Hot Springs
- Sleigh Rides
- Cave & Basin National Historic Site
- Winter Fat Biking
Cozy indoor winter experiences
Banff National Park covers over 2,500 square miles, including the Town of Banff and the Hamlet of Lake Louise, promising acres of adventure. Outdoor exploration is a given in any National Park, but there are also many great indoor options in Canada’s First National Park – making it the best National Park to visit in winter.
A thriving arts & culture scene
- Take a tour of the arts and culture scene with visits to galleries featuring talented local artists. Explore extensive collections at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and the Willock & Sax Gallery.
- Visit the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, home to an outstanding collection of First Nations artwork.
Luxurious spas and wellness services
Relax and restore at one of many area spas and wellness centers, including:
- Banff’s only holistic lounge, Cedar & Sage Co.
- The Moose Hotel’s Meadow Spa & Pools (which offers hot pools and mountaintop views after a treatment)
- The highest elevation operational hot springs in Canada at the Banff Upper Hot Springs
- The Fairmont Spa Banff Springs
- The Grotto Spa in the Banff Royal Canadian Lodge
- Red Earth Spa at Banff Caribou Lodge
- Rimrock Spa & Fitness in the Rimrock Resort Hotel
Indoor activities and fitness centres
- Visit the indoor climbing gym at the Banff Centre.
- Try the Canadian five-pin style of bowling in the Fairmont Banff Springs bowling centre or classic ten-pin bowling at High Rollers in downtown Banff
- Check out the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre. It has a spin studio, climbing gym, aquatics center, and fully equipped weight and cardio gyms with regularly scheduled fitness classes available for drop-in.
- Pick up a game of curling or hockey indoors at the ice rinks at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre.
More things to do indoors in Banff National Park
- Spas + Wellness
- Art Galleries
- Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies
- Willock & Sax Gallery
- Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum
- Banff Centre For Arts and Creativity
- Indoor Rock Climbing
- Ice Skating
- Distillery tours at PARK Distillery
- Banff Gondola & Interpretation Centre at Sulphur Mountain
Plan a trip to Banff National Park this winter
Plan ahead and save big on a Canadian winter vacation. Book a Ski & Stay package and save on lodging and lift tickets. Right now, SkiBig3 offers a No Questions Asked cancellation policy allowing for free itinerary changes and full cancellation refund on ski & stay packages up to 14 days from travel.
If you’re thinking about a visit to Banff National Park this winter, our reservations team will be happy to help you book anytime. Give them a call at 1-844-754-2443 or go online to access some exceptional Ski & Stay Package deals.