We know that travel can be difficult to plan, so we thought we’d put together an itinerary of the best places to visit in Alberta in winter that you can do too! Traveling to Alberta in winter is a wonderful experience. The air is crisp and clear, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining.
Sure, temperatures dip below freezing, but that gives you an excuse to cuddle up by the fire with your sweetie and enjoy a romantic night in after a great winter adventure. For a little inspiration, we’ve put together the perfect Alberta winter vacation itinerary for you to explore and experience the best of the Rocky Mountains, enjoy!
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Best Places to Visit in Alberta in Winter
From Banff to Canmore, Lake Louise to Sunshine Village, we’ve got you covered for everything winter in Alberta. We have experienced nearly everything in an Alberta winter and have put together the perfect blend of taking part in epic adventures, enjoying relaxing days, and of course, fitting in some romance too.
Banff is one of the best places to visit in Canada any time of the year. We had the chance to do some amazing winter activities in Alberta and we want to share them with you.
1. Banff National Park
Banff National Park is filled with incredible winter adventures. From trekking to the backcountry, cross-country skiing, enjoying the downtown vibe of Banff Village, or doing so many of the activities listed below. It’s your one-stop winter vacation destination. Banff National Park even has three ski resorts, tube parks, skating rinks, and horse-drawn sleigh rides. If you want to experience Alberta in winter, go to Banff for an unforgettable experience.
See our full list at the Unforgettable Things to Do in Banff but let’s also take a look at the best things to do in Banff to get you started.
2. Banff Upper Hot Springs
Rent yourself an old-fashioned turn of the century swimsuit and hop into the uber-hot Banff Hot Springs. When you are finished head over to Cave and Basin just a little lower. Read more: 12 Best Hikes in Banff National Park
3. Cave and Basin
Home to the original hot springs in Banff, it’s Canada’s Oldest National Park and the third oldest National park in the entire world! There is a very cool cave to walk through to look at the original entrance that was discovered in 1885. Read more about Canada’s parks: Best Canada National Parks – That We’ve Seen
4. Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
For beautiful winter scenery and an enjoyable day outdoors, visit the Johnston Canyon Ice Walk. The Johnston Canyon Ice Walk takes you on a journey through a deep limestone canyon on a steel catwalk anchored to the walls.
This two-and-a-half-mile walk takes you through six different frozen waterfalls and a deep pool of swirling water that is reached by walking through a stone arch. The upper canyon waterfall is a must so make sure you go to the end of the line to see it all.
5. Visit the Wolf Dogs
Imagine sitting outside with a pack of Wolfdogs. The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a rescue center for abandoned or neglected Wolfdogs near Canmore, Alberta, and it is working hard to promote responsible wolfdog ownership and preserve wild wolves in their natural environment. Also read: Wolf Cabins Experience in Parc Omega
It was an incredible experience and was probably one of the most magical moments we had during all our time in Alberta. This is an activity not to be missed. Book your visit to see the Wolfdogs The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
6. Go Skijoring
Skijoring is a fun winter sport invented in Norway where cross country skiers are pulled along by a horse, tractor or even snowmobile. Over time it’s been modified to where skiers can be pulled along by just about anything and during our time in Alberta, we were pulled by sled dogs. For Skijoring check out Mad Dog and Englishmen Sleddogging
About a half-hour outside of Canmore, we met with Mad Dog and Englishmen at a very frozen Spray Lake for a rip-roaring time being pulled through the snow by very energetic dogs. Read more at Have you ever heard of Ski Joring
7. Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides
The Fairmont Lake Louise offers daily sleigh rides leaving from the front of the chateau and it takes you up the trail to the mouth of the glacier. As you ride along the trail with a blanket on your legs cozied up to the one you love, you feel as if you are in a movie as you take in the extraordinary view.
Your journey takes you through snow-covered meadows, with the iconic peaks of the Rockies framing your view as you sip hot chocolage. As the horses exhale, their breath crystallizes in the chilly air, adding to the magical ambiance. Along the way, guides share tales of Banff’s rich history and point out wildlife that might make an appearance — from elk grazing in the distance to playful squirrels darting between trees.
8. Snowshoeing in Canmore
Canmore is an active outdoorsy town where locals spend 365 days a year having an adventure. Snowshoeing in Canmore in the winter keeps you away from the crowds and offers outstanding views of the Rocky Mountains. Read more: The Best Things to do in Canmore, Alberta
9. Ice Climbing
Don’t miss trying out ice climbing in Alberta if you visit in the winter. Who wouldn’t want to scale a frozen waterfall? It’s the coolest winter activity you can ever do. For Ice Climbing check out Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
Ice Climbing is one of those things that gives you bragging rights the minute you try it. It doesn’t matter how good you are, just having the guts to get out there and give it a go is all you need! Read more at Ice Climbing
Where to Stay in Banff
We have an entire article dedicated to where to stay in Banff, but here are our three favorite palces. Read more: Where to Stay in Banff, Alberta – 2023 Best Banff Hotels and Areas
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Banff Springs and Deer Lodge. These three hotels are excellent spots to base yourself during your Alberta winter adventure. There’s fine dining, a rooftop hot tubs, an outdoor ice bar and ice sculptures, and plenty of space in these central, elegant yet rustic locations.
10. Ski Lake Louise Ski Resort
With 4200 skiable areas in one of the largest ski destinations in North America, this is not to be missed. There are trails for all levels of Skiing and Snowboarding.
Experts can explore everything from endless chutes and remote bowls to chutes and gulleys in some of the Rockies’ most challenging terrain but beginners can feel confident that there is a green run down from every chair lift. Lake Louise is on the World Cup Circuit with a Terrain Park and a Snowcross Course. It’s Epic. Find out more info on skiing at Ski Louise
11. Go Ice Skating on Lake Louise
There is nothing more Canadian than strapping on a pair of skates and hitting the ice. The Fairmont rents skates for everyone, and anyone can skate on the frozen lake. They even clean it off every day with a Zamboni and there’s an ice castle too!
Lake Louise is world-famous for its beautiful emerald waters in the summer. But when the temperatures dip, the lake freezes and you can skate on Lake Louise beneath Victoria Glacier. You can rent skates from Wilson Mountain Sports located in Sampson Mall on Village Road in Lake Louise and join a game of pick up. The Banff Lake Louise Fairmont rents skates as well.
12. Ride the Banff Gondola
Banff Gondola is one of Alberta’s premier winter attractions. As you soar over 2,280 meters above sea level, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the pristine snow-covered Rocky Mountains, the charming town of Banff, and the winding Bow River. The eight-minute ride offers a unique perspective on Banff National Park’s beauty and takes you to Sulphur Mountain’s summit.
Once at the summit, explore the state-of-the-art facilities. The observation decks present a 360-degree panorama that’s nothing short of breathtaking. While you’re there, enjoy a meal at Sky Bistro, where the vista is as delightful as the cuisine. A boardwalk leads you to the Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station, where you can delve into the region’s history.
13. Ski Sunshine Village Ski Resort
We loved our time at Sunshine. It’s the only place in Alberta with a proper ski-in ski-out resort. Staying on the hill, made for a wonderful romantic getaway where we could enjoy the huge outdoor hot tub, the fireplace, and world-class skiing.
14. Dogsled Over the Continental Divide
Taking a dogsled tour to the great divide is one of the coolest experiences ever. This track goes through the Rocky Mountains and we cross into the neighboring province of Alberta! Book your tour with KingMik Dogsledding and let your guide take you to the pinnacle of the Rocky Mountain Range where the East meets West.
15. Heli Hike and Snowshoe
One of the most beautiful helicopter tours we ever took in our lives was over the Rocky Mountains in Winter. This helicopter tour takes you into Banff National Park to see all of its iconic peaks before landing high on a mountain where you go snowshoeing to overlook the Rockies. The scenery is breathtaking.
Book your tours with Rockies Heli Canada for one of their Banff Helicopter Tours on a crisp and clear winter’s morning.
19. Eat a Fondue
Nothing says winter more than cozying up by a fire and eating melted cheese and chocolate as you sip rich red wine. When you are in Banff in Winter, be sure to order a fondue for two!
21. Go Snow Tubing
If you aren’t up for snowboarding or skiing, head out to Norquay Ski Resort for some snow tubing. It’s the ultimate couch potato thrill ride!
22. Stay at a Backcountry Lodge
Cross-country skiing is one of the top things to do in Winter in Alberta but why not take it a step further and book a tour to a backcountry ski lodge. The only way to get into a lot of them in the Rocky Mountains is to snowshoe or ski in. Now that is the ultimate off-the-grid getaway.
23. Visit Jasper
Jasper National Park is one of Canada’s most beautiful parks. Jasper Village is a winter wonderland and there are plenty of things to do in Winter in Jasper from cross-country skiing to snowshoeing and downhill skiing at Marmot Basin.
Jasper, a gem in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, offers winter enthusiasts a playground of opportunities. With the rugged beauty of its landscapes, this mountain town is less commercialized than its counterpart, Banff, offering a more intimate winter experience.
Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating on the frozen lakes are popular activities. Marmot Basin, a short drive from the town, is a sought-after destination for downhill skiing and snowboarding, boasting varied terrain suitable for all skill levels.
Jasper’s dark sky preserve, the second largest in the world, provides the perfect backdrop for stargazing. During winter nights, one might even catch the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. After an adventurous day, relax in the Miette Hot Springs, where you can soak amidst snow-covered landscapes.
Read all the things to do in Jasper:
- 14 Best Hikes in Jasper National Park – Alberta Canada
- Amazing Things to do in Jasper, Alberta
- Driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper Alberta
24. Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
The Maligne Canyon Ice Walk is a testament to nature’s power and artistry. Located in Jasper National Park, this canyon – the deepest in the park – transforms into a winter wonderland where waterfalls freeze and the canyon floor becomes a corridor of intricate ice formations.
Guided tours take visitors along the frozen riverbed, weaving through a maze of towering limestone walls. As you journey through, marvel at the frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and unique ice formations. The sounds of the canyon during winter, particularly the echoing crack of shifting ice, add to the surreal atmosphere.
Safety is paramount, and wearing ice cleats is advisable. While the walk is mostly gentle, some parts can be slippery. But with the right equipment and guided expertise, it’s an accessible adventure for most visitors.
25. Elk Island National Park
A haven for wildlife enthusiasts, Elk Island National Park is a mosaic of woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands. Located just east of Edmonton, it’s an idyllic escape during winter.
The park is home to herds of free-roaming bison, making it one of the best places in Canada to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Winter’s snow-covered backdrop offers a unique setting for bison spotting, as well as observing other wildlife like elk, moose, and over 250 bird species.
Winter activities abound, from snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to ice skating on Astotin Lake. As night falls, the park, designated as a dark sky preserve, becomes a canvas for the twinkling stars, making it a great spot for nighttime photography and stargazing.
26. Abraham Lake Ice Bubbles
Abraham Lake, an artificial lake in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, has garnered worldwide attention for a unique winter phenomenon: ice bubbles. These frozen bubbles trapped beneath the lake’s surface are methane emissions from organic material at the lakebed.
When temperatures drop, these bubbles create captivating patterns in the ice, making the lake resemble an otherworldly piece of art. Photographers flock to capture this mesmerizing display, which changes daily as the methane bubbles rise and freeze.
Though beautiful, visitors should exercise caution when walking on the lake. It’s recommended to check ice thickness and visit with someone familiar with the area. Given its increasing popularity, visiting on weekdays or early mornings may offer a more serene experience.
27. Kananaskis Nordic Spa
For a rejuvenating winter escape, Kananaskis Nordic Spa awaits. Nestled in the heart of the Rockies, this alpine sanctuary offers a blend of traditional Scandinavian wellness practices with the rugged beauty of Kananaskis Country.
The spa experience revolves around the hydrotherapy cycle: warming up, cooling down, and relaxation. Transition between hot pools, steam cabins, and saunas, then take a refreshing plunge in the cold pools. To truly immerse yourself in the alpine setting, rest in the outdoor heated hammocks, with snowflakes gently falling around.
Whether you’re recovering from a day on the slopes or seeking a tranquil retreat, the spa’s holistic approach ensures a revitalizing experience.
28. Red Deer
Nestled between Calgary and Edmonton, Red Deer offers a winter getaway that’s a blend of urban sophistication and outdoor adventure. As Alberta’s third-largest city, Red Deer boasts a dynamic arts scene, diverse culinary offerings, and a rich history waiting to be explored.
However, winter is when the city truly comes alive. The Waskasoo Park system, with over 100 km of trails, becomes a haven for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter walking. Bower Ponds, a scenic spot during the warmer months, transforms into a bustling ice-skating rink where families and friends gather for winter fun.
An essential winter experience is the annual “Lights the Night” event at the Red Deer City Hall Park. The entire park gets adorned with dazzling lights, creating a winter wonderland. The synchronized music and light show is a spectacle that draws locals and visitors alike.
29. Drive the Icefields Parkway
Often hailed as one of the world’s most scenic drives, the Icefields Parkway stretches over 230 km, connecting Lake Louise and Jasper. While the route is popular during the summer months, winter presents a raw, untamed beauty that’s truly unparalleled.
As you drive, the landscape unfolds like a living gallery of glaciers, rugged peaks, and frozen waterfalls. The road, bordered by snow-laden trees, meanders through two national parks, offering a series of breathtaking vistas. Highlights include the Bow Lake, and the Athabasca Glacier, one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, and the dramatic Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls, which roar even in winter’s grip.
Safety is crucial during winter months, as weather conditions can change rapidly. It’s essential to check road conditions, carry emergency supplies, and be prepared for limited services along the way. However, with adequate preparation, the journey becomes an adventure, a chance to witness the majesty of the Canadian Rockies under a blanket of snow.
30. Winter Festivals
Alberta is known for embracing its cold winters with vibrant festivals. Of these, the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise stands out. Every January, artists from around the world gather to transform blocks of ice into intricate sculptures. Set against the backdrop of Victoria Glacier, these ephemeral masterpieces sparkle in the winter sun, drawing crowds from near and far.
The festival also features ice carving competitions, where the precision and creativity of the carvers are on full display. As night falls, illuminated sculptures create a magical ambiance, making it a photographer’s delight.
Beyond Ice Magic, Alberta hosts various winter celebrations like the Silver Skate Festival in Edmonton and the Jasper in January festival. Located in the Nose Creek Park in Airdrie, this festival has grown immensely since its inception. It’s one of Western Canada’s largest Christmas light displays, with miniature trains offering rides amidst the luminous backdrop.
31. See the Christmas Lights
Alberta transforms into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season, and one of the most enchanting aspects of this transformation is the myriad of Christmas light displays. One of Calgary’s most beloved holiday traditions, ZooLights showcases over 2 million twinkling lights. The experience includes fire pits, hot chocolate stations, and a variety of interactive displays.
Luminaria at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden is a unique event in Devon is an ode to peace and reflection. Visitors walk along candle-lit paths with thousands of lanterns lighting the serene Kurimoto Japanese Garden, creating an enchanting atmosphere.
In Edmonton, Castledowns is known for its residents going all out with Christmas decorations. Drive through the community and revel in the illuminated houses and yards. And Candy Cane Lane is an annual favorite. Residents of this street have been decorating their homes for over 50 years, turning it into a winter wonderland. While you can drive through, a leisurely walk allows you to soak in all the intricate details.
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