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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
A Truthful Traveler
81 Comments on “Best Winter Destinations in The Canadian Rockies”
Canada must be so impressive, especially in winter! Love the moose! 🙂
Thanks! It is a totally different place in the Winter- more peaceful & even more beautiful!
Canada never stops amazing me! All your pictures are so beautiful I really need to get to Banff and Lake Louise, they’ve been on my list for way too long
The Canadian Rockies look spectacular in the winter! You’ve definitely convinced me that winter is better than summer. I can’t wait to visit.
Oh my goodness, that first shot just took my breath away. This looks like the place for me for sure! Cannot wait to visit Canada some day.
What breathtaking views! Had always heard about them but glad to see a list I can actually do. Thanks for sharing.
I am glad you like the views! There is so much to do, this is a super short list!
I love all of your pictures!! Banff, in particular, has been on my bucket list for a long time and I really want to visit
it during Winter. Do you prefer Jasper or Banff?
I really want to visit Banff! And I’m so jealous of the moose you saw!
Banff is so beautiful! It was amazing, they are so huge. I cannot imagine what a male looks like in terms of size, the female was essentially the size of our Subaru!!!
Wow, these destinations are all so stunning!
Thank you! It is hard to find mediocre destinations when you’re in a place like The Canadian Rockies!
Those are some gorgeous pictures!
Thanks so much! These are really special places!
My son wants to visit Canada badly – it is so beautiful and has a lot of nature.
Canada is huge, but there is a lot of beauty to see!
WOW! What breathtaking views! I can’t decide which one is my favorite! I’m currently living in Ontario, Canada while my fiancé is here working & I would really love to go & explore the providence a bit before we head back to the states!
If you have a chance, go to Tobermory! I am from Ontario and that is my favorite place in the province!!!
WOW gorgeous pics! I’m sad to say that although I’m Canadian I haven’t made it to the Rockies yet – but I’ll definitely keep these destinations on file for when I finally do get out there 😉
I didn’t make it there until I was 23! Now I cannot help but go back every year, because there is so much beauty to see!
So Darcee is from Wyoming and several years ago, we went up to Alberta during the summer to explore Banff among other parts of the Province. We LOVED backpacking and hiking around this amazing national park so much that we considered extending our trip to head over to Jasper National Park. But we had friends up in Edmonton to meet up with so we swore we would return to because I really want to see Medicine Lake & even head up to Willmore. I love the white colors of the park though it may be a wee bit cold for this Cuban boy to explore it during the winter!
You have to return to see Jasper! Banff is beautiful, but Jasper takes the cake!! It is beautiful in Winter and Summer, so if you get a chance to go in the Summer instead you should take it!
All these places look so magical!
Thank you, they are quite magical when they’re covered in a fresh layer of snow!!!
Awesome read! I’ve only ever heard of Banff so it was interesting to learn about the others.
Thanks so much! The others are less well known but equally as beautiful!!
Thanks for this great list! I’d love to visit the Canadian Rockies during winter sometime. That moose! It would be such an amazing sight to see a moose like that, but I’d definitely be a little freaked out and stay as far away as I could! 🙂
Thanks for reading! It was a little scary that the moose was taller than our SUV but it was such a cool experience!!!
I’ve never seen snow so it would be a dream to go. Looks so pretty!
Where do you live? I find it so crazy that some people have never seen snow!
Definitely going to save this post! My husband and I are thinking about making a trip to Canada over the winter.
That sounds like an amazing plan, I hope it’s helpful if you visit!!!
Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful, it actually makes me miss living in Alaska! I’ve seen so many pictures of the lake and it always looks the most gorgeous color!
You’re so lucky that you lived in such a beautiful place as Alaska! It is the most beautiful blue in the Summer but the snow is also pretty!
I live an hour from Canmore and we visit the Rocky Mountains every month as it’s in our backyard so to speak! Great photos and awesome choices 🙂
I wish I lived closer, that must be so amazing!! Glad to hear I made good choices in the eyes of a local!!!
Looks so amazing! Wish to visit Canada someday ???
Thank you, I hope you get to visit this area when you visit Canada!!!
Never been to Canada and I have read various blogs on Canada but reading your blog on Canada shows different side of Canada which is beautiful too.
The Canadian Rockies look beautiful! I’ve never been to Canada but would love to see those waterfalls!
The waterfalls are so beautiful! You should pay the West Coast of Canada a visit, there is so much beauty!!!
The Canadian Rockies look like a beautiful place to visit. And I totally want to see a moose – but I surely won’t get very close!
They are a little too big and scary to want to get close! It is such a beautiful area of the country!
Wow these places sound amazing ! I would love to visit any of these 🙂
All of them are equally beautiful but my favorite is the areas in Yoho!
Wow! Looks great! Have to take note of these!
Thanks, I hope you get a chance to visit these areas!!
Wow awesome photos. The place is breathtaking. You seemed to have a great time. I would love to experience this beauty too.
Thank you, it’s hard to take bad pictures when there is so much natural beauty!
Banff and Jasper are on my bucket list. Cant wait!
They are really great bucket list destinations, I hope you get to visit them soon!
Lake Louise is a dream destination, as is Jasper and Banff! A friend also recommended Golden as a less touristy option in a similar setting. Thanks for sharing!
I have heard Golden is beautiful, and any photos I have seen have been amazing! Banff is definitely more touristy, but Jasper is still relatively quiet (even in the warmer months!)
Oh my goodness your photos are gorgeous! It makes me want to book a trip now! I would love to visit the Canadian Rockies!
Thank you! It’s hard to take bad pictures in a beautiful place like these parks!
What a beautiful place!
Thank you, they truly are one of Canada’s best gems!
One of my girlfriends is spending Christmas in the Rockies and I’m stalking her insta right now desperately wanting to go myself! This post just makes that longing all the more intense!
I’m jealous, I spent the holiday season in the Rockies two years ago and it was one of my favorite holiday seasons!
The thought of visiting The Canadian Rockies makes me shiver (in a good way!). You’re absolutely right by saying that winter is when The Canadian Rockies truly shines. I’ve never seen a frozen lake nor a moose! Lake Louise looks stunning with majestic mountains looming in the background. It must be quite something to experience a snowstorm too!
Frozen lakes are definitely a sight to see! The whole experience of being in the parks in the Winter and seeing the quiet stillness and the snow is so magical!
This is helpful… been wanting to visit Banff but not sure about winter season… BUT might do that then?
You definitely should! I was also a bit concerned the first time I did it, whether or not there would be much to do. As long as you dress for the weather there are so many different activities!
Wow!! Amazing photography and informative writeup! Banff and Jasper are like heaven on earth. Even after 20years, I yearn to go there one of these days. I would have never have imagined going there in winter! But I can see why I should go… it’s likely a whole different experience without tourist and with moose 🙂
Thank you so much! It is a totally different experience in the Winter, although I would still love to see the blue glacial lakes when they’re melted in the Summer!
It is so beautiful! How cold may become in winter? And how deep the snow can be?
Thanks! Very, very cold! The year I went to go snowboarding it was -30 C some days, and the snow can be super deep. There have been places there where the snow was past my knees, and there are some places in the mountains where I’m sure the snow could cover the length of a whole person!
I loved Banff it really is so magical, We love travelling off season as well.
Traveling to places in off season is such a good way to avoid the crowds! Some of my favorite travel memories have been when I have traveled during the quieter season!
Your images are stunning, I have a major case of wanderlust after reading this post Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much! Wanderlust is a great thing to have!!!
We are in Michigan so not far from Canada- we need to get up there to explore more! I didn’t realize how beautiful Canada was until I started travel blogging!
Canada is wild! There are so many things to see spread across a huge space, I think that there are much better roads to link beautiful things in the USA but Canada definitely has some pretty insane and relatively undiscovered views!
You’re right that both summer and winter in the Canadian Rockies have great/different activities, but the peacefulness of winter sounds amazing. I can’t wait to check out The Natural Bridge too, I’ve never seen a frozen bridge before!
The Natural Bridge is so cool, if you look up pictures of it regularly it is hard to believe that usually where there is water rushing in the Summer you can walk on in the Winter!
It’s so true that visiting in the Winter is made that much better by the lack of crowds… it’s remarkable how in such vast wilderness, it can still feel crowded in the Summer! You have me missing the rockies and west coast skiing – and moose spottings!!! That one you captured is a real beauty. Really lovely photos and a wicked winter adventure!
West coast skiing is the best! We were so lucky that the moose were so calm and cooperated with us taking photos, while they licked salt off the road! Thanks so much, it’s nice to know that places can still be wild despite the increase in tourism!
I love traveling off season. This post is awesome as it highlights such beautiful spots in the Canadian rockies while avoiding heavy tourist season. Your pictures are great.
Thanks! Traveling off season is definitely a way to have a quieter time!
great post, I will be visiting this area next MAY Yehhh we’re super exited and hopefully will be able to visit some of your mentioned points.
Lucky you! In May some of the lakes are just starting to melt, so you will probably get some awesome colors! I hope you have an amazing time!!!