Best Winter Destinations in The Canadian Rockies

Snow covered mountain in the Canadian Rockies with jagged, misty peak. Tall and thin coniferous trees sit in front of the mountain, providing contrast.

There is no doubt that The Canadian Rockies are a magical place at any time of year.

The best time to visit, though, is in the Winter. In the Summer there are blue glacial lakes, more hiking opportunities than you can count and chances to see wildlife everywhere. There are also countless tour buses filled with people. In the past eight years, the number of annual visitors in Banff alone has jumped by almost a million people. The Winter brings solace and the Winter brings snow. Winter is the season in which The Canadian Rockies truly shine.

Winter Mountains in The Canadian Rockies

Alpenglow at Rocky Mountain Resort

Due to the change in weather, there are differences between The Canadian Rockies in the Winter vs. other seasons. Because of snow, many roads and trails are closed. Tour buses don’t run, and you have to rely on your own transportation to get you places. But there are frozen lakes, iced over waterfalls, and three different ski resorts waiting for you in the colder months. The best Winter destinations can be found throughout the three main parks: Jasper, Banff and Yoho.

Looking for a great Summer destination in Canada? The Yukon is an amazing location even further North!

Jasper National Park: Maligne Lake Scenic Drive

Starting from the North, this 46 kilometre road is all about both the journey and the destination. You enter onto the road by crossing a bridge, and get a sneak peek view of the mountains surrounding you. Throughout the drive they tower over you, looking almost unreal as a backdrop.

Driving Maligne Scenic Drive in The Canadian Rockies

Medicine Lake on Maligne Lake Scenic Drive

Sights to see on this road include Maligne Canyon Hiking Trail (cleats recommended), Medicine Lake (or what is left of it at this time of year), and the end goal of Maligne Lake.

Maligne Lake Drive The Canadian Rockies

One of the moose we saw on our drive!

Truthful Travel Winter Tip:

Moose are seen often on this road, usually licking salt from cars. On our drive there and back we saw a momma moose and her calves. They are beautiful to see, but remember if you are going to stop to stay in your vehicle and keep your distance. Moose are not only wild creatures, they are huge. Even the female was bigger than our car!

Want to see more pictures of Jasper? Check out my post on Beautiful Canadian Landscapes!

Jasper National Park: Icefields Parkway

Arguably the most beautiful drive in the world, The Icefields Parkway connects Jasper National Park in the North with Banff National Park in the South. There is an endless list of things to do on this road that climbs up to its highest point at around 6700 feet (2060 meters!)

 

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There are many highlights, and many things you can still see during the Winter on the Icefields Parkway. Frozen waterfalls top the list, but you can also spot the Athabasca Glacier, watch ice climbers scale Tangle Falls, or even snowshoe/ski to the beautiful Valley of The Five Lakes.

The Canadian Rockies Athabasca River

The Athabasca River

Truthful Travel Winter Tip:

Weather during the Winter in the Rockies can be unpredictable. Driving this road in the Winter requires snow tires, and blizzards can come on dramatically as you change elevation throughout the drive. On our first time driving the road, we got stuck in a snowbank. With no cell service along the road, we were lucky to have someone come along and push us out. Ask at the entrance what the conditions are like, and do not drive the road if the conditions seem unsafe!

Banff National Park: Town of Banff & Surrounding Area

When you think of The Canadian Rockies, you are probably thinking of Banff. It is a ski resort town, filled with a beautiful main street and beautiful hotels. The view of the mountains as you walk down the main street is unparalleled, dwarfing the town itself.

Town of Banff The Canadian Rockies

View from Banff’s Main St

Outside of the town, there are many close attractions that you can visit in the Winter. Lake Minnewanka is down a 24 kilometre road, and although there is nothing to do in Winter except revel in the lake’s beauty, it is completely worth it. On a clear day the lake glistens against the towering mountains.

Cold Day at Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park The Canadian Rockies

Lake Minnewanka

Truthful Travel Winter Tip:

When in Banff, you don’t have to venture too far for beautiful views, and you might not want to if it is really cold! I stayed at Banff Rocky Mountain Resort  which was just outside of the town, and just walking the dogs around in the mornings gave me the most beautiful mountain views.

Banff National Park: Big 3 Ski Resorts: Sunshine Village, Lake Louise, Norquay

There is no place to ski like Banff. It is larger than life. Two years ago, I decided that my early twenties was the perfect time to take up a new hobby: snowboarding. I had skied once as a teenager, and that hadn’t gone so great. But I was determined, and purchased a three day pass that included two full days of lessons. It was the most exciting place to learn!

Ski Big 3 The Canadian Rockies

Early morning at Banff’s Sunshine Village

Even if you are not there to snowboard and ski, the gondola up to Sunshine Village is a 20 minute ride of wonder and excitement. Although this was the only one of the slopes I snowboarded at, I have heard amazing things about all three locations.

Truthful Travel Winter Tip:

You don’t have to be a snowboarder or skier to enjoy the slopes! At both Lake Louise and Norquay there are tubing parks, and you can spend some quality time at the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, located all the way at up the gondola.

Banff National Park: Lake Louise

Lake Louise is a must-see while visiting Banff. Located North West of the town of Banff by about 45 minutes, it is a winter wonderland paradise. The iconic blue glacial lake is frozen over in the Winter and there are an endless array of activities.

Lake Louise Winter Wonderland The Canadian Rockies

Overlooking Lake Louise

You can rent skates and skate on the lake itself, you can snowshoe high above the lake to the Fairview Lookout, you can take a horse drawn sleigh ride around the lake, and if you happen to go in January you can attend the Ice Magic Festival. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a luxury hotel and a UNESCO world heritage site, and it is located on the banks of the lake.

Lake Louise in The Canadian Rockies

The mountains of Lake Louise provide the perfect photo backdrop!

Truthful Travel Winter Tip:

Johnston Canyon in the area offers guided tours of frozen waterfalls. You can take your own tour for free, by walking or snowshoeing across Lake Louise to a 300 m waterfall!

Yoho National Park: Natural Bridge & Emerald Lake

The quietest of the three parks in The Canadian Rockies has some of the most unique views! While much of Yoho is spread out, and many roads are closed in the Winter, there are still some pretty spectacular things to see.

The Canadian Rockies' Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge in Winter (before it freezes)

A turn off the Trans Canada Highway onto Emerald Lake Road will start with The Natural Bridge. It is exactly what it sounds like, a bridge of stone created by the powerful Kicking Horse River. It is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful parts of The Canadian Rockies. If you continue on the road you end up at Emerald Lake. One of my favorite memories of my time here was when it started to snow thick snowflakes upon the unfrozen lake, which was true to its color.

Yoho National Park Emerald Lake in The Canadian Rockies

Snowstorm at Emerald Lake

 

Truthful Travel Winter Tip:

One of the coolest things you can do while in The Canadian Rockies is to walk underneath The Natural Bridge when it freezes over in the Winter. Stay cautious about your surroundings,

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park The Canadian Rockies

Frozen Emerald Lake

No matter the season, there are always so many things to do and see in The Canadian Rockies. For a more detailed recap of a trip that took place in late Fall/ early Winter (and some more beautiful pictures!) check out my Winter Wonderland post!

Until next time,

Samantha,

A Truthful Traveler

Winter In The Canadian Rockies

Best Winter Destinations Banff Jasper Yoho The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies Winter Destinations