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How to Spend a Weekend in Banff During Winter

How to Spend a Weekend in Banff During Winter

Winter in Banff National Park is absolutely magical, and there are plenty of fun things to see and do.

From the flurries of snow cascading down the sky, to the unbelievably teal blue pools of water, visiting the Canadian Rockies during the winter is something that needs to be on your bucket list.

Adam and I did a quick little Banff road trip during November 2018, and it was the most romantic anniversary trip.

It was a little difficult to plan our trip because so many hikes and places were closed for the winter, but overall we managed to see a bunch of beautiful spots in Banff.

Now that I’ve seen Banff during the summer and winter, seeing it during the fall is on my bucket list – I’d love to see it surrounded with coloured leaves someday.

Here are some of the best things to do in Banff during the winter!

Snowy winter in Lake Louise, Alberta
Hat: American Apparel | Sweater: Everlane | Jacket: Alpha Industries | Denim: Citizens of Humanity | Boots: Ugg | Socks: Roots

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Plan your Banff trip

If you’re planning a trip to Alberta, here are some other posts to help you plan your perfect trip:


Tips for your road trip in Banff National Park during winter


Icefields Parkway during winter in Banff, Alberta
Hat: American Apparel | Sweater: Everlane | Denim: Citizens of Humanity | Boots: Ugg | Socks: Roots

Plan your Banff winter road trip ahead of time

Some sights and attractions close during the winter months, so you’ll want to plan your Banff road trip ahead of time.

Here are a few fun tours and activities that are available in Banff during the winter months:

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Calgary

I’ve also got a blog post all about how to plan a travel itinerary if you’re interested!

If you’re traveling from afar, I’ve got a post on how to survive long-haul flights.

Rent a car for your Banff winter road trip

While there are buses that take you from Calgary to Banff, you’re definitely better off renting a car.

By having your own vehicle, you can stop along any stops you come across, and spend as much time as you want in each attraction.

It’s also cold and snowy during the winter, so you’ll be much more comfortable hopping in and out of the car rental versus on a bus.

Expedia is my go-to website for booking car rentals because you can collect points towards discounts and free rewards!

When driving through Banff during the winter, you’ll need snow tires, which your car rental will likely already have.

If you’re not used to winter driving, be very careful and take extra precaution – it’s very easy to skid, especially on black ice!

I’ve got a blog post all about road trip tips if you’re interested, as well as comfy road trip outfits you can wear.

If you decide to visit Banff without a car, you can get a hop-on and hop-off bus ticket that takes you to a bunch of hotspots in Banff.

Download music or podcasts

Because of all the mountains, most of the Icefields Parkway has absolutely no service.

So, you’ll want to download music or podcasts to listen to on the drive!

If you’re looking for new podcasts to listen to, check out my fave road trip podcasts.

Emerald Lake in Field, British Columbia

Pack warm clothing

Alberta is hecka cold during the winter months, and you’ll want proper winter clothing and gear.

It usually snows as early as October, and you’ll want a proper winter jacket, winter boots, and cold weather accessories like a beanie and mittens.

Winter clothes tend to be a bit bulkier, and I’ve got a blog post all about how to plan your travel outfits to make your life easier!

I’ve also got blog posts on the ultimate carry-on packing list and how to pack for a weekend in a personal item.

Brush up on avalanche safety

Avalanches are a risk in the Canadian Rockies during the snowy winter months, and you’ll want to learn or brush up on avalanche safety.

RELATED POST:
Plain of the Six Glaciers Hike in Lake Louise, Alberta

I found this wikiHow guide super helpful, but you’ll probably want to read multiple sources to be safe.


Best things to do in Banff National Park during winter


Day 1: Icefields Parkway & Bow Lake

We arrived in Calgary around lunchtime, so we grabbed some quick drive-thru burgers at Wendy’s before heading off to Bow Lake, our only stop of the day.

Icefields Parkway

We made a few stops on our way from Calgary to Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway, which is one of the most scenic drives in the world.

The views are absolutely incredible, even during the winter!

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One of the perks of visiting Banff during the winter is less crowds, and we managed to get a few shots in the middle of the road with this gorgeous mountain view!

If you choose to do this as well, please do so at your own risk and be safe, my friend.

If you’re lookin’ to take great photos for the ‘Gram, check out my blog post on how to take perfect travel photos.


Bow Lake

It took us about two and a half hours to drive from Calgary to Bow Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in Banff.

We couldn’t see much because of all the snow, but it was still pleasant to walk around the area – we even managed to get some beautiful shots here!

LOCATION: Banff National Park, AB

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Hat: American Apparel | Crewneck: Everlane | Denim: Zara (similar from Everlane) | Boots: Ugg | Socks: Roots
Top things to do in Jasper and Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta in the winter | Banff, Alberta travel guide | what to do in Jasper & Banff, Canada | best Banff travel itinerary | best places to visit in Canada during the winter | where to go in Canada during the holidays | how to spend 3 days in Banff National Park | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Toronto lifestyle blog
Hat: American Apparel | Crewneck: Everlane | Denim: Zara (similar from Everlane)
Winter at Bow Lake in Banff, Alberta

Stay overnight in Banff, Canmore, Field, or Jasper

Since we planned on visiting Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park the next day, we stayed overnight in Jasper.

Jasper is just under a 3 hour drive from Banff, so it’s quite a drive, but it’s definitely worth making the stop if you’re able to.

You can also stay in Canmore, which is less than a half hour drive from Banff, or Field, which is about an hour from Banff.

Hotels in Jasper
  • Pyramid Lake Resort is an adorable 3-star chalet-style hotel located right on Pyramid Lake, with beautiful and modern rooms.
  • Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a posh 4-star lodge that was built in the early 1900s, and you can stay in one of the cozy log cabins.
Hotels in Banff

Hotels are a bit pricier in Banff and Lake Louise and can set you back $200-$400 CAD a night, but the ease of getting around without having to drive too far is worth it if it’s within your budget.

  • The Moose Hotel and Suites is a beautiful 3-star hotel right in the heart of Banff that serves up all of the cottage feels.
  • Fairmont Banff Springs is a historic and luxury 4-star hotel located right in Banff, and it’s perfect for honeymoons.
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Hotels in Canmore

Hotels in Canmore are slightly cheaper, and it’s less than a 30 minute drive to Banff.

  • Basecamp Resorts Canmore is an amazing and modern 3-star condo building right in the heart of Canmore. It’s got a rooftop spa tub and laundry facilities, and there’s even free parking.
  • Basecamp Lodge Canmore is another nice property by Basecamp Resorts that serves up all the lodge feels.

We stayed in an Airbnb, which was quite affordable during the winter, and I’ve got a blog post all about how to find the best Airbnbs if you’re interested!

Town of Jasper

Since we stayed in Jasper, we had dinner at the Fiddle River Restaurant downtown.

The food was amazing, and so was this beer from The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, which is a local craft brewery based out of Canmore!

Fiddle River Restaurant in Jasper, Alberta

Day 2: Sunwapta Falls, Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, & Town of Banff

Sunwapta Falls

We came early to Sunwapta Falls hoping to catch the sunrise, but we unfortunately didn’t get any sun.

We made the best of it and just enjoyed the view.

The upper falls is easily accessible from the parking lot, but you’ll probably need snowshoes to access the lower falls during the snowy winter months.

Top things to do in Jasper and Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta in the winter | Banff, Alberta travel guide | what to do in Jasper & Banff, Canada | best Banff travel itinerary | best places to visit in Canada during the winter | where to go in Canada during the holidays | how to spend 3 days in Banff National Park | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Toronto lifestyle blog

If you look closely, you can see Adam right by the waterfall.

I didn’t dare to even climb down the trees – I was happy standing safely by the bridge!

It ain’t always worth it for the ‘Gram.

Since Jasper and Sunwapta Falls are a bit of a farther drive, you can skip them entirely to cut down on the driving.

Sunwapta Falls seemed like a really cool spot (and was a cool spot), so we wanted to take the extra time to pay it a visit!

LOCATION: Jasper National Park, AB


Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park, BC, which is less than a 20 minute drive from Field (where we stayed overnight).

The sun also didn’t show up for us here, but it was still an amazing stop and we loved having it all to ourselves early in the morning.

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12 Best Stops for a Banff to Jasper Road Trip

I loved the moody vibe of all our shots!

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Top things to do in Jasper and Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta in the winter | Banff, Alberta travel guide | what to do in Jasper & Banff, Canada | best Banff travel itinerary | best places to visit in Canada during the winter | where to go in Canada during the holidays | how to spend 3 days in Banff National Park | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Toronto lifestyle blog

It would be so nice to stay in one of the rustic cabins here at Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake in Field, British Columbia
Emerald Lake in Field, British Columbia

The hike around the entire lake is about an hour, but we just stayed around the section of the lake near the parking lot.

LOCATION: 1 Emerald Lake Rd, Field, BC


Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake is an absolutely incredible gem in Banff National Park, and it’s just over an hour and a half drive from Sunwapta Falls.

The walk up to the top was a little tiring, but I blame it on the elevation and the cold air going up my nose.

The upper parking lot and washrooms will reopen in the summer of 2022, but the lower parking lot and washrooms will be open this winter.

You can hike, snowshoe, or ski from the lower parking lot up to the viewing platform, which offers up stunning views.

Please be aware of avalanche safety before doing any winter hikes in Banff!

LOCATION: Banff National Park, AB

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Lake Louise

Lake Louise is one of my favourite places in the entire world, and it’s absolutely magical during the winter months.

It’s beautiful no matter what time of the year you go, and this was my first time seeing it during the winter.

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This cabin offers canoe rentals during the summer months.

If you come later during the winter season, Lake Louise freezes over, and you can actually skate over the ice!

They even have a super cool ice sculpture exhibition that happens here every January.

If you visit from spring through fall, I’d highly recommend doing the epic Plain of the Six Glaciers hike, which starts at Lake Louise.

LOCATION: Lake Louise, AB

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Hat: American Apparel | Sweater: Everlane | Denim: Citizens of Humanity | Boots: Ugg | Socks: Roots
Snowy winter in Lake Louise, Alberta

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Lake Louise, the Fairmont Château Lake Louise has an incredible restaurant with great food and cocktails, though their menu is a bit pricier.

If you’re traveling on a budget, Trailhead Cafe is an amazing and affordable café with fantastic sandwiches and drinks!

Hotel Restaurant in Fairmont Lake Louise, Alberta
The Fairmont Château Lake Louise has amazing food and cocktails.
Sandwich at Trailhead Cafe in Banff, Alberta
Trailhead Cafe offers up amazing and affordable sandwiches in Lake Louise.

Town of Banff

After wandering around Lake Louise, we wandered off into the Town of Banff and did a little bit of exploring and souvenir shopping.

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The adorable town of Banff.

I adore the souvenirs at the Big Bear Trading Company, which are more stylish and modern and don’t look like your typical touristy screen-printed t-shirts.

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There’s even a massive shop called The Spirit Of Christmas that sells Christmas ornaments and goodies, and it’s Canada’s largest year-round Christmas store!

LOCATION: Banff National Park, AB

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Dinner at Block Kitchen + Bar

Block Kitchen + Bar is an awesome Asian fusion restaurant with a cool urban rustic interior.

We ordered a bunch of small tapas to share, all of which were so delicious!

If you’re looking for more places to eat in the area, I’ve got a post all about the best restaurants in Banff.

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Dinner at Block Kitchen + Bar, a delicious fusion restaurant in Banff.

Stay overnight in Banff or Field

Since Banff is a little pricier to stay in (even during the winter), we decided to stay overnight in Field, BC.

Field is a tiny little town that’s super picturesque, and it’s just an hour out of Banff.

We also stayed in an Airbnb here, and I’ve got a blog post all about how to find the best Airbnbs.


Day 3: Drive back to Calgary

We headed back to Calgary the next morning, which was about a two and a half hour drive.

We then had a delish brunch at one of Calgary’s best brunch spots, a local chain called OEB Breakfast Co., before doing a little stop at the Peace Bridge.

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OEB Breakfast Co. is one of the best brunch spots in Calgary.
Top things to do in Jasper and Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta in the winter | Banff, Alberta travel guide | what to do in Jasper & Banff, Canada | best Banff travel itinerary | best places to visit in Canada during the winter | where to go in Canada during the holidays | how to spend 3 days in Banff National Park | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Toronto lifestyle blog
The Peace Bridge is a pedestrian bridge in downtown Calgary.

Best things to do in Banff during winter:

  1. Bow Lake
  2. Town of Jasper
  3. Sunwapta Falls
  4. Emerald Lake
  5. Peyto Lake
  6. Lake Louise
  7. Town of Banff

These were some of the best and most fun things to do in Banff National Park during the winter months!

Banff is always a fun place to visit, whether you’re visiting during the summer or the winter.

It’s one of those trips that just never gets old – like Niagara Falls!

Have you been to Banff National Park during the winter before? What were your favourite sights and attractions? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram!

Plan your Banff trip

If you’re planning a trip to Alberta, here are some other posts to help you plan your perfect trip:

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Jessica Lam | Toronto lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and travel blogger | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Canadian lifestyle blog

Top things to do in Jasper and Banff National Park in Banff, Alberta in the winter | Banff, Alberta travel guide | what to do in Jasper & Banff, Canada | best Banff travel itinerary | best places to visit in Canada during the winter | where to go in Canada during the holidays | how to spend 3 days in Banff National Park | Diary of a Toronto Girl, a Toronto lifestyle blog
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