Banff National Park is a winter paradise renowned for its pristine ski slopes and powdery snow. But what if you’re someone who doesn’t ski or snowboard? There’s no need to avoid visiting Banff in the winter. There are an incredible number of Banff winter activities for non-skiers.
While our family enjoys skiing in the winter, we also enjoy so many other activities in Banff in winter. We’ve spent years coming up with our favorite snowshoe trails, winter hikes and other incredible ways to enjoy this winter wonderland.
Whether you’re looking to explore the silent, snow-laden forests on snowshoes, glide through frosty air in a horse-drawn sleigh, or capture the serene beauty of the park through your camera lens, Banff has something for everyone.
Local Tip: Many Banff winter activities don’t start until mid-December, when there’s enough snow, but they can run until late March or early April (weather dependent).
This post contains compensated links.
Best Things to do in Banff for Non-Skiers
While many might think that Banff in the winter is really only for people who ski or snowboard, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you are looking for winter activities around Banff National Park, here’s a list of the best things to do in Banff National Park for non-skiers:
1. Dog Sledding
Dog sledding involves riding a sled pulled by a team of huskies. You’ll zip along the trails, led by the excited barks of the dogs, and feel the rush of the cold air. It’s also a cool way to learn about how people used to travel in the snowy mountains long ago, and you get to meet some amazing furry pups!
Depending on where you are staying, there are multiple dog sledding companies to choose from:
In Lake Louise, contact Kingmik Dog Sled Tours. Their most popular tour is 1.5 hours long and operates on the Great Divide Trail just outside the hamlet of Lake Louise.
In nearby Canmore, there are three other companies that operate dog sledding tours. Howling Dog Tours offers both a 2 hour tour and a half-day tour. They also do pickups in Banff and Canmore. Mad Dogs & Englishmen offer several different options for tours that range from 1.5 hour tours to multi-day tours. Similarly, Snowy Owl Dog Tours offers tours of 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours and overnight.
2. Snow Tubing
Snow tubing is super fun and is a great activity for everyone. You zip down the trails in a big rubber tube, spinning (if you want) for some added thrill. Groups can link their tube together or you can race your friends down. When skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, we’d always save a little time at the end of the day for some tubing.
3. Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride
Horse-drawn sleigh rides can be done from the town of Banff at Warner Stables or at Lake Louise with Brewster Adventures. With Banff Trail Riders (in the town of Banff) you have the option to do a private sleigh ride or enjoy it with other visitors on a public sleigh ride.
At Lake Louise, you’ll enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride along the shores of the lake surrounded by mountain peaks.
Sleigh rides typically last from 40 to 60 minutes and wool blankets are provided for warmth, though you should always make sure you are dressed appropriately for the winter conditions
4. Fat Biking
If you want to try a different winter activity, then fat biking should be on your list. Being able to ride a bike is the only necessary skill and you’ll really have a blast!
There are a few different options to consider for fat biking, like doing it on your own with a fat bike rental, joining a fat bike tour or signing up for an e-fat bike tour. You can see all the sights around the town of Banff on an e-bike. This is a really fun way to get a tour of the town on two wheels!
If you are a mountain biker, you’ll enjoy renting a fat bike and taking to the groomed trails in Banff or Canmore.
5. Cross-Country Skiing
While you might not enjoy alpine skiing, don’t rule out all skiing. Cross-country skiing (or Nordic skiing) is great for anyone who wants to be active and still enjoy the beautiful winter landscapes. There are plenty of easy cross country ski trails around Banff and the surrounding area.
New to cross-country skiing? Sign up for a cross-country ski lesson that will set you up to enjoy the trails all on your own!
6. Ice Skating
The best part about ice skating in Banff is getting to enjoy the incredible mountain scenery as you glide across the ice. Skating on frozen mountain lakes is an incredible experience, but you need to make sure that the conditions are safe for skating.
Once a lot of snow has fallen, many of the lakes will not be conducive to skating as they will be covered in snow. However, skating at Lake Louise is the safest option and accessible throughout the winter as it’s cleared of snow by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Don’t forget to take some pictures around the ice castle. If you are visiting Lake Louise in late January, you may get to also enjoy the ice sculptures from the Ice Magic Festival.
If skating on a frozen lake in Banff is beyond your risk tolerance and you don’t know how to check the ice to ensure it’s thick enough for skating, there are plenty of other places to skate. The town of Banff and Canmore both have several outdoor ice surfaces ready for you to ice skate on once it gets cold enough.
7. Ice Walk
Go on an ice walk through a canyon. Popular ice walks can be done on your own or as a guided tour. With proper microspikes (we love the Kahtoola microspikes and these ones for children), you’ll be amazed at the ease of walking over the solid ice without slipping. Not only will you be able to walk along the ice, but this is a great way to see frozen waterfalls as well.
Popular ice walk tours happen at Johnston Canyon, Marble Canyon and Grotto Canyon. Read about the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk here.
8. Banff Gondola
From the town of Banff, take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for some incredible views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The mountains stretch out in every direction, and you feel like you’re on top of the world. At the top of the Banff Gondola, you’ll have the opportunity to go for a walk on the boardwalks to truly be able to appreciate the views in all directions. Don’t forget to dress extra warm since it will be even colder at the top!
There is also an interpretive centre and restaurants at the top. The Sky Bistro has some of the best views of any restaurant in Banff!
If you are up for it, you can hike up Sulphur Mountain and still enjoy everything at the top.
If you truly want to feel like a kid again, pick up a cheap sled at Canadian Tire in Canmore and go for a tour of the sledding hills in both Canmore and Banff. There are a few hills popular with the locals in Canmore, including one at the Canmore Nordic Centre. In Banff, Cascade Ponds has a hill that’s easy to access and fun for everyone.
10. Capture the Mountain Landscapes with your Lens
Banff National Park is a photographers dream! It’s like every view is a postcard. The shorter days make it easier to capture one of the incredible sunrises or sunsets. There are opportunities everywhere to capture some impressive shots of the mountain peaks.
You don’t have to go far from the town of Banff to find some great spots. Vermilion Lakes Road gives stunning views of Mount Rundle and is an easy walk from downtown Banff. On Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive you can visit Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka.
While Banff National Park isn’t designated as a Dark-Sky Preserve like Jasper National Park, there are still plenty of places to see the stars! With any luck, you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights in Banff while you are out in the evening as well! Popular places for star gazing (or to see the Northern Lights) close to the town of Banff include the Vermilion Lakes, Cascade Ponds or Lake Minnewanka.
12. Snowshoeing in Banff
Snowshoeing is one of the best winter activities in Banff National Park for anyone that wants to get out and truly enjoy the snow. On a snowy day it can truly feel like being in a real life snow globe. There are a variety of snowshoeing trails in Banff for everyone to enjoy from easy to more difficult. There are also plenty of easy snowshoeing trails in Kananaskis.
If you don’t want to venture out on your own, join a guided snowshoeing tour like the one at Sunshine Meadows.
13. Banff Upper Hot Springs
The Banff Upper Hot Springs is the perfect place to relax and soak your tired muscles after a day out exploring. While the Banff hot springs aren’t a natural pool (it’s more like a giant hot tub), you’ll still appreciate the feeling of being in the warm water while being able to appreciate the mountain views.
14. Lake Louise Gondola
If you have other family members skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort, you can easily fill a day of fun in the Lake Louise area. Start by taking a ride up the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola from some incredible views. You can pair this up with a tubing ticket to have some fun on your own. Then head over to Lake Louise for skating, hot chocolate and even a short winter hike up to Fairview Lookout.
15. Afternoon Tea
Not all days are meant to be spent outside! For those extra cold days where you want an indoor activity, go for afternoon tea! You can find an afternoon tea at both the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (have it by a window so you can take in the views) or at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
Alternatively, a food tour is an excellent way to enjoy some time at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and eat some amazing food. The “Eat the Castle” food experience is an excellent way to combine a food tour with learning about this historical hotel.
16. Banff Museums
Visiting one of the Banff Museums is an excellent way to warm up from the chilly winter weather.
The Banff Park Museum is the largest natural history museum in Western Canada where you can learn more about Banff National Park and the animals that call it home. At the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, you’ll get to learn more about the cultural history of the area. The Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum shares the history and traditions of the First Nations People, giving a visitors a glimpse into what life what like before European Settlers came to the Canadian Rockies.
17. Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site is the birthplace of Banff National Park and is always worth a visit. You can visit the cave to see a natural hot spring. From there, explore the Story Hall, filled a wide variety of exhibits, artifacts and information about our nation’s national parks. You can also take a walk on the the Discovery Boardwalk which leads visitors to the site where the Cave and Basin steam vent was originally found.
Beyond the hot springs cave vent, follow the wooden boardwalk along the natural hot spring to its origin. Here you can watch the hot spring waters bubble up from the surface of the mountain and see if you can spot the tiny, endangered Banff springs snail.
18. Visit Banff Viewpoints
Visiting the many incredible viewpoints around Banff National Park is an ideal winter activity. There are several viewpoints around Banff that are easy to get to and offer some stunning views. The top ones being the Vermilion Lakes, Hoodoos Viewpoint, Surprise Corner or Morant’s Curve. You can find our full list of the best Banff viewpoints in this article.
19. Picnic at Banff Red Chairs
Take some time to slow down and enjoy the spectacular mountain scenery! I recommend taking some snacks and hot chocolate to Cascade Ponds. You can enjoy looking up at Cascade while enjoying your warm drink and just soak in the scenery. There are a set of Banff Red Chairs perfectly situated for doing just this.
Alternatively, hike up Tunnel Mountain and enjoy the views across the valley and the surrounding mountains on a set of red chairs.
20. Lunch with a View & Shopping
Make sure to leave some time to just enjoy being in Banff. You can enjoy a walk on Banff Avenue and capture that iconic picture with Cascade Mountain in the background. Find a lunch spot with an incredible view and even do some shopping in the numerous shops and galleries along Banff Ave.
Still looking for the perfect Banff Souvenir? Visit our page where we share local artists who create some incredible art featuring the stunning mountain landscapes of Banff National Park.
21. Winter Walk
The town of Banff has plenty of opportunities to take a nice long winter walk. You can walk from downtown Banff to Bow Falls along the Bow River. If you want to keep going, you can continue on towards the Cave and Basin. The pathways also go from downtown Banff towards the Banff sign then on to Vermilion Lakes Road.
The town of Canmore has an extensive pathway system that’s perfect for a winter walk. There are also several other walking trails in Canmore that make for a nice meander!
22. Find Frozen Waterfalls
I have always loved seeing a frozen waterfall. When the ice is so pristine and blue hanging on the mountain side, it’s an spectacular sight. The best places to see a frozen waterfall in Banff National Park are at Johnston Canyon or at the end of Lake Louise.
At Johnston Canyon, hike all the way up to the Upper Falls to catch a glimpse of the ice climbers. You’ll also get to see ice climbers on the Louise Falls, found at the end of Lake Louise.
23. Walk through the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
The Castle in the Rockies is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the the inside. For an indoor activity, walk through the hotel and explore the different corners of this historic Banff hotel.
24. Ice Climbing
For the more adventurous visitors to Banff, try something completely new. Through locals companies like Alpine Air Adventures, you can learn to ice climb! They have programs that are suitable for beginners that can be a full or half day.
25. Caving in Canmore
Exploring the Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore is a year round activity. If you don’t have an issue going into small spaces, Canmore Cave Tours will take you through the cave exploring the many different areas. This activity can be 4 to 6 hours long as is suitable for children 10+ years old.
26. Helicopter tour
For a truly amazing winter adventure, helicopter tours over the Canadian Rockies offer views that just can’t be beat. This is an activity for all ages and you can choose between a 25, 35 or 45 minute tour. The shortest tour will take you through the Three Sisters Peaks and over the Spray Valley. You can extend this tour to see Mt. Assiniboine. The longest tour is an extension of the previous two that takes you even further to view even more mountain ranges.
27. Visit the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
The Wolfdog Sanctuary is located near Cochrane and is a place to not only learn about the wolfdogs but also to help contribute to the conservation of wolves. If you are a dog lover, this is an experience you will love. Tours run all year in all weather conditions.
28. Visit Frozen Lakes
While you might not get to see the turquoise blue water, its still worthwhile to visit the mountain lakes around Banff National Park. You can take a scenic drive on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive and visit three lakes (Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka).
While you are visiting Lake Louise, go past into British Columbia to visit Emerald Lake.
If you spend any time in Kananaskis, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to visit several lakes. Barrier Lake is the first one you’ll encounter along Highway 40, which has a nice easy walk along the shores.
29. Snowmobiling in Banff
While there’s no snowmobiling in Banff National Park, there are plenty of opportunities to go snowmobiling near Banff with a 1.5 to 2 hour drive. Snowmobile tours take place in Panorama, BC (2 hour drive), Golden, BC (1.5-2hr drive) or at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden. Of the tours available, some do offer transportation and others require you to drive yourself.
As the tours take place in British Columbia, it’s important to know that you require snow tires for driving in British Columbia starting on October 1st. Your tires require either the M+S (mud + snow) or snowflake symbol.
30. Scenic Drive
For those extra cold days, enjoy a scenic drive in Banff National Park. Many of the scenic drives can be paired with an outdoor activity.
The best scenic drives around Banff are: Bow Valley Parkway, Icefields Parkway, Tunnel Mountain Road, Vermilion Lakes Road, Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, Highway 40 (Kananaskis) and the Smith Dorrien Highway (Kananaskis).
Local tip: It’s important to know that you require snow tires for driving the Icefields Parkway starting November 1 until Your tires require either the M+S (mud + snow) or snowflake symbol.
31. Spot Wildlife
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for wildlife any time you are out driving. While you won’t see bears in the winter, there’s still plenty of opportunities to see deer, elk, bighorn sheep and even a moose in some areas.
32. Enjoy a Spa Day
A spa day is the perfect way to relax amongst this stunning scenery. The Kananaskis Nordic Spa stands out for its unique approach to relaxation and wellness, heavily inspired by the traditional Nordic hydrotherapy practice. It features a series of hot, warm, and cold plunge pools, along with steam rooms, saunas, and relaxation areas, all set against the backdrop of the stunning natural beauty of the Kananaskis region.
Best Place to Stay in Banff for Non-Skiers
When choosing where to stay in Banff National Park, I recommend choosing hotels that are also part of the experience. Here are a few suggestions of places to stay in Banff that would be ideal for visiting Banff National Park in the winter.
Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa
This lodge offers a charming and rustic mountain experience in the heart of Banff. With its log cabin-style architecture and cozy interiors, it provides a warm and inviting atmosphere. The Banff Caribou Lodge & Spa features an excellent on-site spa, the Red Earth Spa, which is perfect for relaxation after a day of exploring.
The lodge’s location on Banff Avenue makes it convenient for you to explore the town’s shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The Chateau Lake Louise is a perfect winter escape for non-skiers seeking luxury amidst the Canadian Rockies. During winter, guests can enjoy activities like guided snowshoe tours, scenic ice skating on the iconic Lake Louise, and sleigh rides through the enchanting landscape. The hotel offers cozy, elegant accommodations with spectacular views of the snow-covered mountains and lake.
Additionally, the Chateau features a variety of dining experiences and a world-class spa, ideal for relaxation after a day of winter exploration. This grand hotel is an ideal choice for those looking to experience the winter wonderland of Lake Louise without skiing.
Baker Creek Mountain Resort
Found along the Bow Valley Parkway, near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Baker Creek offers cozy chalets and lodge suites in a serene, forested setting. Ideal for nature lovers, it provides easy access to outdoor activities like winter hiking and snowshoeing. This resort is perfect for those seeking a tranquil retreat, with stunning natural surroundings and a peaceful environment away from the crowded tourist areas.
Just be aware that there is currently no restaurant at Baker Creek since their fire in 2021.
Found this post useful? Save it or share it with your friends!
Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.