There is something that draws me to icy landscapes and Banff, Canada is the perfect destination for ice and snow. When the mountains are covered with blankets of snow, it amplifies the beauty of a scene by creating stark shadows and jagged lines. Colors pop through the winter haze creating beautiful patterns of intense hues.
To me, there is nowhere more arresting in winter than in Banff, Canada. Winter in Alberta can be harsh as the temperatures plunge to well below zero, but if you are brave enough to face the Canadian cold, a trip to Banff in winter will leave you with lasting memories that you will cherish for years to come.
Discover the Beauty of Banff Canada
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From backcountry lodges to high mountain scenic hikes, Banff, Alberta is beautiful. If you really want to take in the scale and scope of the Rocky Mountains, take a scenic flight over Banff National Park, you will discover a beauty that you’ve never seen before. If you are visiting Alberta, make sure to add Banff to your list
Sunrises are incredible in the Rockies and there are a few places that are popular for sunrise. The Vermilion Lakes is one of the top spots for sunrise in Banff. This spot is located just outside Banff and a short drive from Lake Louise in Canada.
Get there early as there will be a lot of photographers lining the banks of the Vermilion lakes. Enjoying our photo journey of Banff Canada? Check out more at The Best Hotels in Banff
Lake Louise is the most popular attraction in all of Banff. It attracts visitors from around the world. In the summer it is a bucket list item to canoe on Lake Louise.
Each time we visit Banff, we make a stop at the Vermilion Lakes. It is different every time! There is a reason it is the most photographed lake in all of Banff, Canada, it is stunning. The Vermilion Lakes attract photographers from around the world each morning and night to capture magnificent sunrises like this!
Pond Hockey on Lake Louise
Ice skating is in every Canadian’s blood. Dave and I both spent many winters in a hockey rink skating around the arena practicing our skills. For a truly Canadian experience, take the game outdoors and play some pond hockey on Lake Louise.
Get all your winter gear and rent your pond hockey skates and gear at Wilson Mountain Sports
Lake Minnewanka is one of the more famous lakes near Banff Canada and it is the perfect spot to go stargazing and photographing the dark skies.
Winter is the perfect time for dark sky photography because the sun goes down at 4:30 and you can be home from a night photography session by 9 pm. Read more: Where to Stay in Banff
We took a photography tour with Rocky Mountain Adventures and it was an excellent way to discover hidden gems.
Their professional guides know Banff Canada inside out and can take you to many a photography haunt frequented by local photographers. By hiring a local guide, you can capture unique angles from a different perspective. Check out 12 Best Hikes in Banff National Park
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
People think it is cool to own a dog that is half-wolf, half-dog, but they are a lot of work and a very special animal that remains partly wild. If you decide to adopt a wolf dog, do your research and know what you are getting into beforehand.
The Johnston Canyon walk is a sight for sore eyes in winter. This winding path takes you through deep canyons covered in icy waterfalls. Each view just keeps getting better and better until you reach the end where massive waterfalls plunge into a whirlpool of icy water. See our Ice climbing Adventure in Canmore, Alberta.
Sleigh Ride at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
There is nothing more romantic than taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride on a Lake Louise trail. Clydesdale horse pulls your sleigh along the lake’s path to view the glacier as you sip hot chocolate while wrapped up in a warm blanket.
A backcountry lodge is a magical experience. Banff Canada has some of the best Astrophotography in the world with clear crisp skies and zero light pollution. Especially when you get away from it all at a backcountry lodge.
The only way to access a place like this, Sundance Lodge, is to hike, cross country ski, or snowshoe in. Once you arrive you have the place all to yourself. In the summer you can ride horses into this lodge.
Bow Lake in Winter
Winter offers views like this with every turn you take in Banff, Canada. We drove up the Icefields Parkway to view Bow Lake in winter. The path is closed during the winter months, but it is worth hiking out for a photograph.
Bow Lake in Summer
We have seen it in the summer too and it is even more stunning. A drive up the icefields parkway is a must any time of the year. With more than 100 glaciers lining the route, there are several viewpoints to stop and take in the extraordinary views.
Helicopter Tour of the Rocky Mountains
The best way to see Banff National Park is to fly over it. A helicopter tour is a spectacular way to really understand just how massive the Rocky Mountains are. We have never witnessed such a beautiful helicopter ride as we did in winter in Banff. Each turn took our breath away.
Helicopter Tours can be booked at Rockies Heli
Snowshoe to a Mountain Peak
During our helicopter ride, we were treated to a snowshoe excursion in the mountains. It’s one thing to snowshoe in the Canadian Rockies, it’s quite another to snowshoe above the Rockie Mountains. Our helicopter landed on a remote mountain top and we hopped out for a hike to take in the views of spectacular Banff, Canada.
Skiing in Banff
Banff is a unique national park because it houses three ski hills. Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, and Sunshine Village.
Lake Louise is host to world cup downhill events and the hill is just outside the park is Nakiska Ski Resort, home of the ’88 Winter Olympics alpine events. See our video and check out our snowboarding adventure at Lake Louise
Cave n’ Basin
Banff is Canada’s first national park founded in 1885. It was at the National Historic Site known as Cave and Basin. This was the original Banff Hot Springs. Today there is no swimming in Cave n Basin, you have to go up to the upper hot springs, it is a fascinating place to visit.
You can tour the old pool where people bathed at the turn of the 20th century and learn about Canada’s National Park System.
Views from the Banff Gondola
One of the most popular views in Banff is from the top of the Banff Gondola. If you don’t ski, this is a great way to view Banff from above. There is a museum and a restaurant up there as well as several different lookouts.
The Great Divide, Banff Alberta
The only place to go dogsledding in Banff National Park is just outside the town of Lake Louise at the Great Divide Trailhead. Read all about our experience Dogsledding in Banff
This trip takes you through The Great Divide Trail where you journey across the border from Banff Canada, into British Columbia. The Alaskan Huskies of KingMik Dogsled Tours love to run.
Cross Country Skiing in Banff
When winter comes, Banff residents don’t hide indoors. They celebrate the snow getting active outside. There are many cross-country ski trails that are groomed daily for snow lovers.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Probably the most famous sight in Banff Canada is the Banff Springs Hotel. This is known as the castle in the Rocky Mountains.
We’ve never stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel, but whenever we are in Banff, we stop in for a peak and a tour. The hotel was built in 1888 as accommodation for people traveling along the CP Rail lines. It has undergone many renovations and is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Banff.
When visiting Banff Canada make sure you go into the backcountry. We snowshoed into a backcountry lodge and what made it so special was all the incredible views of ice and snow like this!
Just outside of Banff near Canmore Alberta is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. This sanctuary rescues wolfdogs that have been abandoned or abused. The dogs are beautiful, but they are wild and timid of humans.
Banff, Canada is beautiful to visit any time of year. It is located in The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site that consists of not only Banff but also Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho as well as parks in British Columbia.
You must have a Parks Canada pass to visit Banff as it is a National Park. You can pick it up as you drive into Banff along Highway 1.
Lake Louise is 57km (35 miles) from Banff. It is an easy drive along Highway 1 or The Bow Valley Parkway which snakes along the Bow River, offering excellent scenic stops.
Banff is 130 km (80 miles) west of Calgary or an hour and a half drive. It is 145 km (90 miles) from the Calgary Airport.
Summer is the busiest and most popular time of the year to visit Banff, but if you give winter a chance, you will discover that Banff is magical when it’s covered in snow.
When to visit Banff?
Banff can be visited year-round but the weather is extreme. It is most beautiful in the winter. Summers are very crowded but shoulder season can still have pleasant weather with fewer crowds.
Where is Banff?
The town of Banff is located in Banff National Park in Alberta Canada. It is 120 km (75 miles) from the Calgary airport where most people will fly in to.
Where can you see the Northern Lights in Banff?
The northern lights can be seen from Banff National Park. We had amazing night skies at Lake Minnewanka. Get away from the town of Banff’s light pollution and go out to one of the many surrounding lakes.
Read More About Banff and Visiting Alberta