There’s no more Canadian an experience than exploring Banff National Park. This is Canada’s playground, high in the Rocky Mountains, treasured as a natural wonder and a global magnet for alpine adventurers. A UNESCO World Heritage site with a rich heritage as one of the world’s most awe-inspiring mountain destinations, Banff National Park boasts pristine wilderness, endless outdoor adventures and top-class amenities.
Winter is when Banff truly shines as ice crystals and snowflakes reflect picture-perfect mountain and glacial lake surroundings. Whether you’re content relaxing beside a fire watching snowflakes fall over majestic mountain ranges or you prefer venturing into the elements for guided ice walks in frozen canyons, whether you’re a snowshoer or a dogsledder, an ice skater or a hot-springs soaker, the options are endless.
Banff National Park is a wild place – it’s a protected natural environment that has a unique history of humans and wildlife living side-by-side. Discover Banff Tours guides will not only explain how this level of sustainability has been reached, they’ll show you landmarks, historical sites, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some local wildlife. It’s a great introduction to all there is to explore in the area.
The Cave & Basin National Historic Site is where Banff and the Canadian National Park system was founded. It offers an interpretive experience where guests can enjoy old-fashioned cars, pioneer-era exhibits, and best of all, a cave with natural flowing hot spring water.
The moment you break through the trees and walk out into a mountain clearing, you’ll understand why snowshoeing has been the winter travel method of choice in Canada for thousands of years. Snowshoeing is the best way to see the mountains after snowfall makes traditional hiking trails too deep to access, in Banff National Park typically from December to April. Independent adventurers can rent snowshoes from several local outfits or join guided excursions from local tour operators.
Lacing up your ice skates on a frozen lake is likely the most iconic Canadian thing you’ll ever do. Friendly locals may be able to point you to a frozen backcountry lake, but there are several maintained places to skate, including several rinks in the Banff townsite and the iconic ice at Lake Louise, where you can hire skates, pucks and a hockey stick.
The dramatic frozen waterfalls of Johnston Canyon are a winter must-see – join a guided interpretive tour to it via suspended catwalks. Keep your eyes peeled and you might spot some ice climbers taking things to the next level! Try it with Discover Banff Tours, White Mountain Adventures or Banff Adventures.
Horse-drawn sleigh rides in both Banff and Lake Louise are the perfect cozy, gentle family activity. Banff Trail Riders at Warner Stables in Banff and Brewster Stables at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise give guests an experience in an iconic settings with warm blankets and an interpretive guide/cowboy. Journey through the areas around Warner Stables in Banff where the experience is complemented with hot chocolate and marshmallow roasting, or ride the sleigh on famous frozen Lake Louise.
Another activity for all ages is the newly renovated Banff Gondola, featuring a multi-level interpretive experience with 3D animals, historical education, a camping experience, and the “Above Banff” theatre.
After days filled with wintry outdoor adventure you’re likely to need some rest and refuelling, and Banff has plenty of options. One of the town’s best value activities is the Banff Upper Hot Springs, open year-round and until 10pm weekdays and 11pm on weekends.
For cuisine, the local chefs in Banff and Lake Louise are some of the best in the country, sourcing their ingredients from small Alberta farmers, co-operatives and ranchers seeking inspiration from the National Park’s stunning landscape. The local restaurateurs, microbrewers, spirit distillers, hoteliers, lounge and club owners are as varied as the scenery, with warm welcomes to thaw you out at the end of long day of icy exploration.
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