Things to Do in Banff – 13 Winter Activities for an Unforgettable Trip!

Are you looking to discover the best things to do and activities that Banff has to offer in the winter? Whether you’re planning a Christmas getaway to Banff or are just looking to take advantage of the winter activities, you’ll quickly fall in love with all Banff has to offer in the winter.

There’s a reason that Banff National Park is such a popular mountain getaway destination and bucket list favorite! Canada’s first national Park is surrounded by the towering Canadian Rocky Mountains, offering a wealth of recreational activities, sightseeing opportunities and things to do in all four seasons.

Winter is no exception. Snowfall and chilly temperatures transform the already-beautiful landscape into a winter wonderland, unveiling a number of exciting outdoor activities to be enjoyed.

Discover the top 13 things to do in Banff during the winter season:

Best Things to do in Banff - Ski or Snowboard Big 3

1). Ski or Snowboard the Big 3

Banff and area offer 3 ski resorts to choose from: Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt Norquay, and they have got you covered for any situation! From family-friendly options to more adventurous runs, you won’t find yourself short of options (or spectacular views!) when choosing to ski in Banff. You can even ski across the continental divide!

2). Take in truly epic views over Banff from the Banff Gondola

Experience views you will never forget from the comfort of your warm gondola! Your gondola ride will take you to the top of Sulphur Mountain (7,486 ft). From there, walk the skywalk for an amazing 360 degree view over the Town of Banff and the Rocky Mountains that seem to go on forever. There is also a SkyBistro where you can soak in the views as you enjoy a delicious meal. Children 5 and under ride free! Visit the Pursuit website for prices, schedules, and more.

3). Hunt for Banff’s 13 red chairs

Ready for a bit of an adventure? Challenge your family to a game of “who can find the most red chairs”!

Parks Canada has strategically placed pairs of red chairs throughout Canada’s national parks, and when you find them, you’re sure to be seated at a stunning lookout spot. Parks Canada placed these chairs with unforgettable views of mountains, alpine lakes, rivers, and more – the best of the best. Some are easy to find – and some are more of an adventure. But you’re up for that, right?

Hashtag your photos on social media with #ShareTheChair. Learn more about Banff’s Red Chair Experience here.

4). Go ice skating on nature’s best skating rinks

Banff has a handful of seriously stunning natural skating rinks, with mountain backdrops so beautiful you won’t feel the cold at all. Read more on my blog post: Where to Go Ice Skating Outdoors in Banff

Banff Ice Skating

5). Enjoy an amazing meal

Banff is bursting at the seams with incredible culinary options!

Enjoy a fondue dinner and retro décor at the Grizzly House (and call other tables using the tableside telephones – ask your server about the history of these!)

Fancy a good brunch? Melissa’s Missteak has been a Banff landmark for more than 35 years, serving up hearty breakfasts until 4 pm and delicious dinner options.

The Bison specializes in chic Canadian cuisine made with only organic, local ingredients.

Banff’s high-end Three Ravens Restaurant and Wine Bar constantly ranks as one of Banff’s top restaurants, providing floor to ceiling windows so you can overlook the Bow Valley as you enjoy fine dining.

For a more casual experience, Banff Ave Brewing Company serves up great pub fare and great beer offerings brewed on-site (take home a six pack!)

6). Photograph a beautiful sunrise or sunset

You’ll never run short of amazing places to take in a sunset or sunrise during your time in Banff. A couple of favorite spots to take in a sunrise or sunset are Vermillion Lakes or Two Jack Lake, but there are many, many more. Check out this blog post I wrote for Eagle Creek about Must-See Views in Banff National Park for more ideas.

Banff Winter Sunset and Two Jack Lake

7). Enjoy one of Banff’s many scenic drives

If you’re just not into the cold, you can appreciate Banff’s beauty from the warmth of your car this winter!

Icefields Parkway – this classic and iconic drive is a must-do. Check road conditions before you venture off though, as this drive can sometimes be closed due to avalanche activity. However, if conditions are favourable, this is a drive you will never forget.

Bow Valley Parkway – this drive connects Banff and Lake Louise. It is especially stunning after fresh snowfall when the narrow road enclosed with evergreen trees sparkles. You’ll be utilizing the pull-offs to take many photographs!

Lake Minnewanka Loop – this is a must-do drive, especially if you’re looking to stop at several lakes for gorgeous views. Along the way, stop at Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Minnewanka Lake and take a wander around the (likely frozen) lakes. Or, go for an ice skate at one of these Banff lakes!

8). Go for a winter hike, snowshoe, fat bike, or cross-country ski

Of course you’re still interested in getting out and about and playing in the mountains during the wintertime, too!

Here are some popular and favorite winter trails via Parks Canada:

Winter Walking, Hiking and Snowshoeing Trails

Banff Cross-country Ski Trails

Winter Fatbiking Trails

Note: Make sure to read this information by Parks Canada on Winter Safety anytime you are venturing out into the mountains in the winter

Winter Walks in Banff

9). Strap on some ice cleats and hike the Johnson Canyon Ice Walk

One of the most popular winter hikes in Banff is Johnston Canyon, and for good reason. The frozen waterfalls surrounding you are something straight out of Narnia! Take a hike to Lower Falls and then continue on the path to reach Upper Falls for a 5km round trip adventure that is truly beautiful. You’ll want some ice cleats as it’s very slippery, so visit Banff Adventures at 211 Bear Street for ice cleat rentals ($15/day). You’ll thank me as you witness tourists slipping and sliding all over the place in their regular winter boots during your hike!

Johnston Canyon Banff

Read more about seeing the frozen waterfalls of Johnston’s Canyon in the winter

10). Soak in the Banff Natural Hot Springs

No trip to Banff is complete without a soak in the beautiful Banff Hot Springs. It’s touristy and busy, yes, but it is worth it every time. The naturally heated mineral water is the perfect remedy to soak tired muscles and pump up your body’s immunity from the winter cold. Towels can be rented here (as can classic-style bathing suits – good for a laugh!) Sit back, relax, ignore the splashing children around you and take in the gorgeous views. ($8.30/adult, open from 10am – 10 pm and until 11 pm on Fri + Sat)

11). Take in the Northern Lights

Viewing the Northern Lights is a permanent fixture on many bucket lists. When the Northern Lights come out to play in Banff National Park, it’s impossible to pull yourself away. Venture away from artificial light sources (ie. the town of Banff) for the best chance at viewing this phenomenon. Lake Minnewanka is a fantastic viewing location that is close to the town of Banff, with wide open skies over the lake. Check out the Aurora Watch website to stay up to date with current Aurora Borealis forecast for Banff.

12). Stay in a cute ‘n cozy mountain cabin

Talk about a truly Canadian Rocky Mountain experience – there are so adorable mountain cabins for rent around Banff National Park and area!

Check out my entire blog post on these Banff cabin rentals here: THE CUTEST CABIN RENTALS IN BANFF AND LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA

Cabin Rentals in Banff and Lake Louise

13). Hunt for frozen ice bubbles at Abraham Lake

This is one of our absolute favourite things to do in Banff and Lake Louise area in the winter! These bubbles are made from frozen methane gas that freezes in layers in the lake. The spectacle is absolutely amazing! Learn more about the Abraham Lake Ice Bubbles here.

Abraham Lake Ice Bubbles


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Products to Stay Warm:

You want to enjoy your trip to Banff in the winter, so here are a few products I recommend. A good pair of ice cleats, warm jacket, base layers and boots are so important so you can enjoy the outdoors comfortably.

Here are some products I highly recommend:

Korkers Apex Ice Cleat: $39.99 /

Don’t let winter conditions stop you from getting on the trail when you have the Korkers Apex Ice Cleat securely on your boot. The slip-over design makes them easy to throw on when you’re at the trailhead, while the pliable upper material stretches securely over most shoes and boots so you don’t have to worry about them coming off. Multi-direction saw-tooth cleats offer solid grip on firm snow and ice so you can efficiently power up steep trails and come back down without feeling like a human sled.

Arcteryx Cerium Womens

Women’s Cerium LT Hoody:

Efficient and versatile, and providing exceptional warmth for its weight, the Cerium LT down hoody functions as a mid layer or standalone piece in cool, dry conditions. Premium 850 fill-power down is resilient and warm, the Arato™ 10 shell provides lightweight durability, and Down Composite Mapping™ strategically places Coreloft™ synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas. Articulated construction moves with the body, and the insulated StormHood™ provides coverage without compromising range of vision.


Cerium LT Men’s Jacket:

Worn as a mid layer or standalone piece in cool, dry conditions, the Cerium LT Jacket delivers exceptional warmth for little weight. Premium 850 fill down is resilient, lofty and warm. The Arato™ 10 shell provides lightweight durability, and Down Composite Mapping™ strategically places Coreloft™ synthetic insulation in moisture-prone areas. Articulated construction moves with the body, and sewn-through construction is used to further reduce weight and increase packability.

Smartwool Women’s Merino 250 Baselayer Crew Top:

SmartWool’s best-selling and warmest base layer just got a little more refined with an improved fit, chafe-free seam construction and panels that offer more comfort with a pack.

Smartwool Men’s Merino 250 Baselayer Crew Top:

SmartWool’s best-selling and warmest base layer just got a little more refined with an improved fit, chafe-free seam construction and panels that offer more comfort with a pack.

Disclaimer: There’s a chance that this blog post includes affiliate product links. At absolutely no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission for any purchase made through these links. Any commissions received are very much appreciated, as they help me to be able to continue posting travel blog content free of charge to my lovely readers. Of course, all recommendations are unbiased, and I will always only recommend products and services that I truly believe in. Thank you for your support!


What to do in Banff in Winter


Have questions for me about Banff National Park, Lake Louise or other locations in Alberta? Have feedback on this blog post? Please feel free to shoot me a comment below; I would love to hear from you!

Things to Do in Banff – 13 Winter Activities for an Unforgettable Trip!

I’m Jenn, a photographer, travel writer, and content creator based out of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. I’m glad you’re here – now let’s explore!

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