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Banff in January

Ahhh… with the Christmas madness finally over, visitors to Banff in January enjoy many benefits. The crowds are smaller, the Town of Banff and Lake Louise put on amazing winter festivals and all the natural beauty of Banff in winter remains.

By January, Banff and Kananaskis has enough snow to enjoy the full-range of winter activities in Banff such as downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and more.

With excellent winter scenery, festivals and outdoor activities, some may argue that January is the best time of year to visit Banff!

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Weather in Banff in January

It’s hard to know what to expect for weather in Banff in January, so its best to plan your winter wardrobe with flexibility in mind.

The beautiful blanket of snow covering Banff in January is what makes a visit so special. In January, Banff receives an average monthly snowfall of 38cm of snow. This makes January the second snowiest month of the year following December (44cm). It doesn’t snow often though, with a daily chance of getting snowfall between 7-11%.

Fat Biking in Banff in January

An average January temperature in Banff National Park isn’t as bad as you might expect for wintertime in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The average daily high temperature in Banff in January is -5C (23F), while the average daily low is -15C (5F). These are mild winter temperatures that visitors can easily dress for (using layers).

Keep in mind these are historical monthly average temperatures for Banff in January and the actual daily temperatures you will experience can be quite different. On any given day in Banff in January, the daily high can be well above zero if a chinook wind is blowing, or the daily high can be bone-chillingly cold in the -20s or even -30s.

What to wear for Banff weather in January

The ambient temperature is only a small part of the Banff winter weather story as shade or wind can have a big impact on how you feel. A temperature of -5C feels quite warm if you are standing in the direct sunlight with no wind. That same temperature will feel much colder if you are in the shade and/or there is a wind.

The effect of wind on sub-zero temperatures can be extreme. With the wind-chill effect, -5C will feel like -9C with a light wind of 10km/h, while a 40km/h gust of wind can make it feel nearly 3x colder at -14C.

Things to do in Banff in January

Johnson Lake snow covered - easy winter hikes banff

Banff and Lake Louise SnowDays celebration

Every January, Banff and Lake Louise celebrate the beauty of winter in the mountains with the annual SnowDays celebration.

The snow sculptures around the Town of Banff are one of the highlights of Banff's SnowDays festival

2021 will look a little different than past years, but in a normal year visitors to the Banff SnowDays festival will enjoy the best winter has to offer:

  • Watch artists carve beautiful, huge snow sculptures all around downtown Banff.

  • Be a kid again at the SnowDays Play Zone! Try out a fat bike, an obstacle course, human curling and more!

  • Savour delicious local food and enjoy special SnowDays cocktails at participating Banff and Lake Louise restaurants.

  • Bust out your best moves at the Banff Avenue skate party, complete with live DJs and firepits to stay warm.

Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition

The best part of the Banff and Lake Louise SnowDays celebration is the Ice Magic Ice Carving Competition at Lake Louise. This hugely popular event attracts world-class ice sculptors from all-corners of the world to the Chateau Lake Louise.

Here, in one of the most scenic locations in the world, the artists create simply incredible ice sculptures. Their beauty goes beyond my ability to describe them – they simply must be seen to be believed.

Watch artists create amazing ice sculptures at the Lake Louise Ice Magic competition every January

Lake Louise in January

Close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful winter scene you can imagine. Chances are that your winter wonderland closely matches the winter scenery at Lake Louise.

A visit to Lake Louise in January will have something for everyone, from simple sightseeing to adventurous winter sports. A must for all visitors is the walk along the Lake Louise Lakeshore, one of our favorite easy walks in Banff – it’s especially beautiful in winter. Many people choose to snowshoe this trail, but it is often hard packed and ok to walk on if you have good winter boots on.

Looking for an unforgettable, truly Canadian experience? Bring or rent some skates and enjoy ice skating on Lake Louise in January. A large public skating surface is cleared on the lake in front of the Chateau Lake Louise. If you like pick-up hockey, there is a separate ice surface for you, complete with mini-hockey nets.

banff winter activities - Ice Skating on Lake Louise

Many of the beautiful hiking trails around Lake Louise are closed in the winter due to avalanche risk, but a beautiful Lake Louise snowshoe trail is the Fairview Lookout. This 2km snowshoe trail ends at a lookout where you can look back over the frozen surface of Lake Louise at towards the Chateau. It’s so beautiful!

View from Fairview Lookout - winter hike banff Lake Louise
View from the Fairview Lookout Snowshoe Trail

If you’d like to try snowshoeing at Lake Louise, but don’t have gear, this winter tour to Lake Louise from Banff provides snowshoes.

Yet another magical activity you can enjoy in January at Lake Louise is a horse-drawn sleigh ride. You’ll feel like you are in a fairy-tale as you glide silently across the snow, soaking in the scenery of this real-life snow globe. If you can’t make it to Lake Louise, you can enjoy a sleigh ride from the Town of Banff.

sleigh ride at Lake Louise in January

If you enjoy sitting back and enjoying the winter scenery, but are craving more action, try dog-sledding at Lake Louise. Dog sledding is an exhilarating winter experience at Lake Louise you’ll remember forever.

dog sledding at Lake Louise - things to do in Banff in January

The Lake Louise ski resort isn’t just for downhill skiers. There are several fun things to do at the Lake Louise ski hill in January, including tubing and a sightseeing gondola.

The famous Chateau Lake Louise hotel offers many wonderful winter activities in January. More on this below…

Winter Sports

Alpine Skiing

You can enjoy a wide variety of downhill skiing in Banff in January. All of the “Big 3” Banff ski resorts should have tons of snow for alpine skiers to enjoy.

Downhill skiing is one of the best things to do in Banff in January

Banff National Park has three downhill ski resorts, collectively known as the “Big 3”:

  • Banff Norquay: A favorite with local families, Banff Norquay is the closest ski resort to the town of Banff. Norquay has some great terrain for beginners, but 44% of their runs are black diamond. In addition to daytime downhill skiing, Norquay offers the only night skiing in Banff National Park.

  • Sunshine Village Ski Resort: Perched up high on the Continental Divide, Sunshine Village gets a tremendous amount of natural snow and offers the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada. Sunshine offers skiing for all skill levels, from ski runs for beginners to absolutely insane double-black diamond, but the majority of their runs are blue intermediate.

  • Lake Louise Ski Resort: With 4,200 acres of skiable terrain over four mountain faces, Lake Louise is one North America’s largest downhill ski resorts. The Lake Louise ski resort offers a balanced selection of beginner, intermediate and expert ski runs. Be sure to bring your camera as the Rocky Mountain scenery is spectacular.

downhill skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort - Banff

In addition to Banff’s Big 3 ski resorts, there’s a variety of downhill ski resorts near Banff National Park.

  • Nakiska: Tucked away in Kananaskis Country, Nakiska is the closest mountain ski hill to Calgary. Nakiska hosted the alpine skiing events for the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

  • Kicking Horse Mountain Resort: 150km west of Banff in Golden, BC, Kicking Horse offers the 5th most vertical in North America. Get there the easy way with a shuttle and lift ticket package from Banff.

  • Panorama Mountain Resort: 170km west of Banff in Invermere, BC, Panorama is one of the largest ski resorts in North America. You’ll enjoy an easy visit as the slopes are never far away from the intimate ski village at Panorama Mountain. Kick back and relax with a shuttle and lift ticket package from Banff.

Did you know you can get ski equipment rentals delivered right to your Banff hotel room? In-room fitting is included!

Learning to downhill ski at Sunshine Village - Rock Isle Run - Strawberry Express Chairlift
Sunshine Village

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing (also known as Nordic skiing) is a very popular winter activity around Banff. By January, there should be enough snow on the ground at the most popular cross-country ski areas. The best places to try cross-country skiing in Banff National Park are Lake Louise and around the Town of Banff.

A family enjoys cross county skiing on the Braille trail near Elkwood, Kananaskis Country

There is also excellent cross-country skiing in Kananaskis Country, where you will find hundreds of kilometers of trails for all experience levels and styles of skiing.

Learn to cross-country ski in a beautiful location with cross-country ski lessons at Lake Louise.

If you’d like some inspiration and advice on cross-country skiing, we recommend these Easy Banff and Kananaskis Cross Country Ski Trails.

Winter Hiking

Just because there is snow on the ground, it doesn’t mean you can’t go for a hike in Banff in January. Many of the popular hiking trails in Banff are still widely used in the wintertime, but some close due to avalanche risk – check yours before you go.

best winter hikes in banff

Winter hiking trails can be very slippery in spots, as I painfully reminded myself with a spill while winter hiking Upper Stoney Lookout. Learn from my mistake and wear microspikes while winter hiking in Banff (which, ironically, I had in my bag at the time of my fall).

If you’d like some inspiration and advice on winter hiking, we recommend these Easy Banff Hikes in Winter.

Hiking Johnston Canyon - visiting Banff in January
Hiking Johnston Canyon in Winter

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing has long been one of our favorite things to do around Banff in winter. There are many great snowshoe trails near Banff and Lake Louise, but our favorite area to go snowshoeing is Kananaskis Country.

A snowshoeing sign in Kananaskis Country

In January, you’ll almost always enjoy deep snow in the southern-regions of the Smith-Dorrien Highway. Chester LakePenstock Loop and Sawmill are our favorite Kananaskis snowshoe trails in this area – you’ll almost certainly find good snow.

Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rocky Mountains doesn’t need to be a difficult, epic journey. There’s plenty of Easy Snowshoe Trails in Kananaskis.

Banff snowshoeing in January

Wild Ice Skating

Wild ice skating is the latest must-do activity around Banff. Early each winter, visitors to Banff have an opportunity to ice skate on a crystal clear lake before it is covered with snow for the duration of winter. Often, the opportunity to go wild ice skating only lasts a few days or weeks, so you need to act quick when the window is open.

Wild ice skating on Johnson Lake in Banff National Park
Ice Skating at Johnson Lake in Banff

Popular destinations for wild ice skating around Banff and Canmore are Gap LakeLac Des ArcsJohnson Lake, the Vermillion Lakes and Lake Minnewanka.

Please be safe when enjoying wild ice skating around Banff National Park. According to Parks Canada, the lake ice needs to be 15 cm (6″) thick for walking or ice skating alone and 20 cm (8″) for ice skating parties or games.

Make your own safety decisions while wild ice skating near Banff – you’ll often see people taking risks by skating on Banff lakes when the ice simply isn’t ready. Don’t assume it’s safe just because others are skating. The Canadian Red Cross has some excellent safety advice for outdoor skating in Canada.

Enjoy wild ice skating in Kananaskis and Banff in early winter

Given how fun wild ice skating is, and the very limited window of opportunity, it’s no surprise that wild ice skating parking lots fill beyond capacity and people tend to park illegally on the road nearby, causing safety issues. Be aware that the RCMP regularly patrol these areas and ticket & tow cars parked illegally. Your best bet is to go wild ice skating as early in the day as possible.

Fat Biking

Fat biking is a relatively new winter activity, but there are already plenty of opportunities to go fat biking around Banff in January. Many trails are multi-use in Banff, so you may be sharing your fat bike trail with winter hikers or people snowshoeing. Please take extra care not to ride your fat bike over any cross-country ski tracks.

Fat biking around Banff

At present, there are six fat biking trails in Banff National Park, ranging in difficulty from beginner to intermediate. There are significantly more approved fat bike trails in Kananaskis Country.

Learn about fat bike rentals and check out some of our favorite trails in our post, Fat Biking in Banff, Canmore and Kananaskis.

Ice Walks

Ice walking is a ton of fun! There is so much to love about this unique Banff winter activity – the feeling of walking uphill on a frozen riverbed is so unusual and exciting, we never get tired of it. Our personal favorite is the Grotto Canyon ice walk near Exshaw, but the Johnston Canyon ice walk is also a super popular thing to do in Banff in January.

Grotto Canyon ice walk - winter hiking kananaskis
Grotto Canyon Ice Walk

You can go ice walking yourself with your own pair of quality microspikes, but you can also join a popular ice walking tour to Grotto Canyon or Johnston Canyon.

Grotto Canyon icewalk tour - banff things to do in December

Banff Wildlife Spotting

Just because the bears are hibernating, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy seeing amazing wildlife in Banff in January. Learn how to spot Banff wildlife with advice from a local wildlife photographer or you can join a Banff wildlife tour with an expert guide.

Things to do in Banff in January - Wildlife Spotting - Two Bull Elk

Be sure to read 30+ Amazing Things to do in Banff in Winter for even more ideas for your visit!

Where to Stay in Banff in January

There’s no better feeling than walking into a warm hotel lobby after a day of playing in the snow in Banff National Park. The rustic alpine décor along with a warm fire will make you feel so cozy.

There are many exceptional hotels to choose from in Banff. Here are a few highly recommended Banff hotels in January:

Banff Springs Hotel

I’ve stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel in winter several times and it is a magical experience. This iconic, luxury Banff hotel is incredible any time of year, but when it is covered in a soft blanket of snow, it’s a place you won’t soon forget.

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel gets into the spirit of the Banff festivals with a SnowDays offer, with discounted room rates and a discount card on food & services around the hotel.

The Banff Springs Hotel is one of the best places to stay in Banff in January

Chateau Lake Louise

I love visiting Lake Louise in January. Between the Lake Louise ski hill, the cross-country ski trails, the cleared skating rink on Lake Louise, snowshoeing, dog sled tours etc., there are simply too many excellent winter activities to choose from.

The best place to base your visit to Lake Louise in January is the iconic Chateau Lake Louise. Without exaggeration, this luxury Banff hotel has one of the best views in the world. The Chateau Lake Louise has many specials in January, including Yoga & Wellness Retreats, a Winter Mountain Adventure and the romantic ‘More Than Love’ package.

The Chateau Lake Louise is one of the best places to stay in Banff in January
Chateau Lake Louise

Moose Hotel and Suites

You can’t get a better location in central Banff than the Moose Hotel & Suites. You’ll love the beautiful mountain views as you soak in one of the two rooftop hot tubs or warming by the outdoor firepit. You’ll also enjoy the full-service spa and the indoor swimming pool.

The Moose Hotel & Suites in Banff National Park, Canada

The Malcolm Hotel in Canmore

Canmore is a charming resort town just minutes outside the gates of Banff National Park. The Malcolm Hotel hugs the shores of Policeman’s Creek – one of my favorite spots for a scenic winter walk in Canmore. Guests of the Malcolm Hotel in January will love the heated rooftop pool and hot tub with views of the magnificent Three Sisters mountain.

The outdoor heated pool makes the Malcolm Hotel one of the best hotels in Canmore in January

Of course, you are not limited to these hotels for your visit to Banff in January. Check out our recommendations for the best affordable hotels in Banff, the best family friendly hotels in Banff and the best pet friendly hotels in Banff.

When we travel, we often stay at vacation rentals so we can enjoy many of the comforts of home. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, there are a wide variety of VRBO rentals in Banff and Canmore to choose from.

What to Pack for Banff in January

With such a wide variety of winter activities and widely variable January weather in Banff, it’s hard to know what to bring for your visit. I’m fortunate enough to live near Banff, but we travel widely and have expertise on packing efficiently. Here is what we recommend you pack for a trip to Banff in January:

Clothing

It’s such a cliché, but wearing layers is key to being comfortable in Banff in winter. Read this article on staying warm with clothing layers to better prepare yourself for the variable January weather in Banff.

What to wear in Banff in January

In addition to your layers of clothing, you’ll need winter bootswarm sockswinter gloves, a good toque and sunglasses.

Gear

Once you’ve got your layers all sorted, don’t forget to bring along a large hiking daybag to store the layers you don’t need at the moment.

Enjoying the view of Tunnel Mountain while winter walking in Banff

I like to pack light, which for me often means renting equipment instead of bringing my own. There are tons of gear rental shops in Calgary, Canmore and Banff to meet all your equipment needs.

A few small, but useful items I’d recommend you bring to Banff are a thermosmicrospikes and hand warmers.

Find Good Snow around Banff in January

When people think of Banff in January, they often think of deep, dark winter. But, in fact, January is still early in the Banff winter season and it can sometimes be hard to find good snow for the many fun winter activities in Banff.

When the ground is lacking snow around the Town of Banff and Canmore, we have a few go-to places to find good snow for some winter fun. In Banff National Park, you’ll often find great snow conditions around Lake Louise.

While in Kananaskis Country, you’ll typically find superior snow pack around the Kananaskis Lakes and the southern reaches of the Smith-Dorrien Highway, especially around the Chester Lake area.

You will find good snow at Chester Lake in January
Chester Lake

Our Top 20 Things to do in Banff in January

We lived near Banff for decades (either Calgary or Canmore) and have been frequent visitors to Banff in January. It’s a special time to visit Banff and Kananaskis, as January is much quieter after the Christmas rush, but it’s every bit as beautiful.

To provide some inspiration for your visit to Kananaskis or Banff in January, here are some of the things to do in Banff and Kananaskis that we’ve enjoyed over the years:

1. Sunshine Village Ski Resort

Downhill skiing in Banff National Park

Of the “Big 3” Banff ski resorts, Sunshine Village is my favorite. I love the wide open spaces and the incredible views of the Banff mountain peaks all around. Sunshine Village often opens for the season in November and by January all the chairlifts at Sunshine Village will be operational.

Skiing in Banff at Christmas

2. Lake Minnewanka

Wild Ice Skating in Banff

Lake Minnewanka is one of the biggest and deepest lakes in Banff National Park and is one of the last to freeze over. You can expect to wait until late December or early January for ice skating on Lake Minnewanka.

Banff lake minnewanka ice skating in January
Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka is big and windy. Make sure you don’t venture out too far from shore, as you might have difficulty skating back. Don’t get too far away from your group.

You’ll find benches near the dock for changing and leaving your boots while you ice skate on Lake Minnewanka. If you need to go out further to find ice clear of snow, bring a winter blanket or folding chairs to sit and put your skates on.

lake minnewanka ice skating in banff in january

3. Canmore Nordic Centre

Cross-Country Skiing in Canmore

A visit to the Canmore Nordic Centre is a must-do for all cross-country skiers in Alberta. A host facility for the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics, the Canmore Nordic Centre continues to serve as the training ground for Canada’s top cross-country ski athletes.

Don’t worry about getting in their way though – beginners to cross-country skiing stay on the set tracks, while the world-class cross-country ski athletes zoom past on the skate ski tracks on their way to the much harder XC ski trails within the Canmore Nordic Centre. This unique opportunity to ski side-by-side with the best cross-country skiers in Canada simply can’t be missed.

cross country skiing Canmore Nordic Centre in January with the Three Sisters in the background
Future Olympian?

We’re new to XC skiing, so we prefer the easy Banff Loop XC ski trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre. This easy Canmore cross-country ski trail has 4 sets of tracks on the groomed trail – two sets of tracks for travel in each direction on the loop. It’s like a divided highway for cross-country skiing!

Ice Skating in Canmore

One of the best places to go ice skating in Canmore is at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. The skating rink is in a wide open space, allowing for incredible views of the mountains around Canmore.

Canmore Nordic Centre ice skating rink offers views of Ha Ling Peak, Miners Peak, Mt. Lawrence Grassi, Ships Prow and the Three Sisters

The Canmore Nordic Centre skating rink is a large skating surface which is regularly cleared with a Zamboni. It’s located near the main parking lot at the south end of the Nordic Centre’s cross-country stadium. Use of the Nordic Centre skating rink is free as the winter trail fees do not apply to ice skating.

4. Banff Hoodoos Trail

Winter Hiking in Banff

A visit to the Banff hoodoos in winter is always fun. Not only do you get to see the Banff hoodoos, but it’s also one of the locations where you’ll find a pair of iconic Parks Canada red chairs.

The Banff hoodoos look especially nice covered in snow, while the surrounding mountain scenery is simply amazing. This is one of the best vantage points to see why the Stoney people called Tunnel Mountain “Sleeping Buffalo”.

Views of Mount Rundle, Tunnel Mountain (Sleeping Buffalo) and Mt. Norquay from the Banff Hoodoos viewpoint
Can you see the “Sleeping Buffalo”?

The great thing about the Hoodoo Trail in Banff is that you can tailor the distance to your needs. The shortest possible distance for this Banff winter hike is from the Hoodoos parking lot to the Banff hoodoos viewing platforms. It’s only a few hundred meters from here and is relatively flat and easy.

The Banff hoodoos is an easy Banff hike in January

If you have the time and capability, we recommend the longer option from Surprise Corner. The Banff hoodoo trail follows the Bow River along the southern base of Tunnel Mountain. In winter, the winter scenery along this 5km (one-way) trail is quite amazing.

5. Troll Falls Trail

Kananaskis Winter Hiking

Troll Falls trail is an extremely popular easy Kananaskis hiking trail all year round. In fact, January is an especially beautiful time to visit Troll Falls.

The Troll Falls winter hike is a kid-friendly Kananaskis hike through a beautiful wintery forest to the base of a beautiful frozen waterfall. The Troll Falls trail is nice and wide with very little elevation gain for most of the way, making it ideal for a winter hike or snowshoe outing with family or friends.

Hiking Troll Falls in winter to a beautiful frozen waterfall
Troll Falls in Winter

Occasionally there will be little Troll Dolls hidden along the trail for kids to find. They will be tied to trees or hidden under large rocks, etc. Unfortunately they tend to go missing, but they are a huge reason why this is such a kid-friendly Kananaskis hike.

In winter, many people consider Troll Falls to be a snowshoe trail, but in fact, this easy Kananaskis hiking trail is so popular that unless you are there shortly after a snowfall, you might find Microspikes to be a better option than wearing snowshoes.

Troll Falls in winter is a popular kid-friendly Kananaskis hike

Jura Creek Trail

Kananaskis Winter Hiking

The Jura Creek Trail is a really fun, kid-friendly winter hike near Canmore. The Jura Creek hike features two short, beautiful slot canyons with a scenic mountain canyon hike in-between.

Kid-friendly Kananaskis activities in January - Jura Creek slot canyons

The Jura Creek winter hike is a great opportunity to visit one of the rare slot canyons in Alberta. Watching our kids run excitedly through the first Jura Creek slot canyon reminded me of one of our favorite kid-friendly hikes near Palm Springs. Even if you only visit the Jura Creek Trail just for the first slot canyon, it’s worth the trip (although we recommend the whole winter hike).

6. Highline Trail

Winter Hikes in Canmore

The Highline Trail is one of our favorite winter hikes in Canmore. It’s a reasonably long hiking trail stretching from the Three Sisters Mountain Village all the way to the Powerline Trail near the Rundle Forebay.

We especially enjoy the kid-friendly section of the Highline Trail which begins at Three Sisters Mountain Village. From here, the Highline Trail winds slowly uphill through a beautiful forest to a picnic table next to Three Sisters Creek. The views of the Three Sisters Mountain from the bridge over a snowy Three Sisters Creek are magnificent.

The Highline Trail winter hike in Canmore has some excellent views of the Three Sisters mountain
Three Sisters in Winter

Our kids love hiking the Highline Trail to have a winter picnic by the creek. They also always look forward to balancing on an old wooden pipeline, which we believe is a relic from Canmore’s coal mining days.

Our favorite winter picnic spot in Canmore is on the kid-friendly Highline Trail

The Highline Trail is a popular winter hiking trail, but it’s also a popular fat biking trail in Canmore, so be aware of your surroundings and move to the side if you hear a fat biker coming.

There is limited street parking near the trailhead on Hubman Landing. Please be respectful of the people who live there -if the street parking is full, go back down the hill and park at the Canmore frisbee golf parking lot.

7. Hector Trail

Lake Louise Cross-Country Skiing

Banff’s Hector Trail is an easy cross-county ski trail in the Pipestone day use area just minutes from Lake Louise. The beautiful Hector cross-country ski trail passes an old wooden settlement before entering a snowy evergreen forest which is wide enough to offer some nice mountain vistas.

Find excellent Banff cross country skiing in January at the Pipestone Cross-Country Ski Trails near Lake Louise
Hector XC Ski Trail

It’s a short, slightly uphill 3km XC ski on the Hector Trail to Pipestone Pond. Once you arrive at the Pipestone Pond, you are nicely rewarded with views of Whitehorn Mountain and Hector Point sitting proudly across the lake.

The return trip on this easy Banff cross-country skiing trail is great fun with minimal effort required as you slowly glide down the gentle downhill track to the beginning.

Cross-country skiing in January in Banff on the Hector Trail in the Pipestone day use area.
Pipestone Pond

8. Johnson Lake Snowshoe Trail

Snowshoeing in Banff

The Johnson Lake trail is one of our favorite easy Banff snowshoe trails. Almost all visitors to Johnson Lake in January will be capable to winter walk or snowshoe the 3km long trail which circumnavigates the shores of this scenic Banff lake. Along the way, you’ll alternate between snowshoeing in a beautiful evergreen forest and along the shoreline of Johnson Lake.

Johnson Lake is home to a pair of the iconic red chairs which Parks Canada has placed in scenic locations across the many great national parks in Canada. The location of the Johnson Lake red chairs are up on a hill on the northern shore. Parks Canada chose the location well – the views of Mount Rundle all the way to the Three Sisters are amazing.

When visiting Banff in January, try to find the locations of the red chairs in Banff National Park. These red chairs are at Johnson Lake

At the south-east corner of the Johnson Lake snowshoe trail, take a moment to look back across Johnson Lake for some of the best views of Cascade Mountain in all of Banff.

Cascade Mountain in January as seen from Johnson Lake, Banff National Park, Canada
Cascade Mountain

9. Mirror Lake Trail

Banff Snowshoeing

The hike to the Lake Agnes teahouse is one of the most popular hikes in Lake Louise in summer. Unfortunately, most of us are unable to snowshoe to Lake Agnes in the winter due to Class 2 avalanche terrain, which requires appropriate training and equipment.

It’s not all bad news though as you can snowshoe the Lake Agnes trail all the way to Mirror Lake. This excellent Lake Louise snowshoe trail is a moderate 5.4km return trip from the Chateau Lake Louise, with 295m of elevation gain.

The Mirror Lake snowshoe trail at Lake Louise in January

Along the Mirror Lake snowshoe trail you’ll enjoy nice views of Fairview Mountain across Lake Louise. When you arrive at Mirror Lake, take the time to enjoy the beauty of a snow-covered Big Beehive.

You can't snowshoe to Lake Agnes due to avalanche risk, but the scenery at Mirror Lake in January is amazing

Note: sections of the Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake still pass through avalanche terrain. Be aware of this risk and take a good look at your surroundings before you decide to stop. Please check the Banff avalanche report and the Mirror Lake trail conditions before attempting this Lake Louise snowshoe trail.

10. Cascade Amphitheatre

Snowshoeing in Banff

We had previously enjoyed the first half of Cascade Amphitheatre winter hike in Banff while our kids were at ski lessons at Norquay. We enjoyed it so much, we went back to do the full 12km while the kids were in school.

A snow-covered bridge over 40 Mile Creek - snowshoe trails in Banff in January
40 Mile Creek

The Cascade Amphitheatre trail is a difficult Banff snowshoe trail which begins beneath the Mystic chairlift at the Norquay Ski Resort. This challenging snowshoe trail winds up the western slopes of Cascade Mountain, one of the most recognizable mountains in Banff National Park.

While the Cascade Amphitheatre trail may be one of the more difficult snowshoe trails in Banff, your efforts will be amply rewarded along the way.

January in Banff - snowshoeing on Cascade Amphitheatre snowshoe trail
Cascade Amphitheatre

11. Chester Lake Snowshoe Trail

Kananaskis Snowshoeing

The Chester Lake snowshoe trail is one of the best snowshoe trails in Kananaskis. The first 2km is a hard work through a dense, snow-covered evergreen forest, but you are amply rewarded for your effort.

The Chester Lake snowshoe is one of our favorite things to do near Banff in winter

The next 2km of the Chester Lake snowshoe trail is an easy winter walk or snowshoe through open meadows with large mounds of fluffy snow all around. As you near Chester Lake, you will be surrounded by jagged, snow-covered mountains on all sides. On a sunny January Kananaskis day, this is some of the most beautiful winter scenery you can find in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

The consistently deep snow in January makes Chester Lake one of the best snowshoe trails in Kananaskis

See our full blog post on the Chester Lake Snowshoe Trail.

Chester Lake Snowshoe Trail Report

12. Hogarth Lakes Trail

Snowshoeing in Kananaskis

The Hogarth Lakes Trail is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a short, easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail in January. Hogarth Lakes is a flat 3.9km snowshoe trail through a magical wintery forest, which passes by and/or over a series of frozen lakes.

Snowshoeing at Hogarth Lakes in Kananaskis Country

Rummel Lake Snowshoe

The Rummel Lake Snowshoe Trail is one of our favorite year-round Kananaskis trails. Rummel Lake is gorgeous in the spring & summer, while in fall it’s a beautiful larch tree hike. In January, you’ll love the incredible vistas of snow-covered mountain peaks hugging the frozen Spray Lakes Reservoir, which you’ll earn after only 2km of snowshoeing.

This moderate Kananaskis snowshoe trail continues through a beautiful wintery forest leading you to the the shores of Rummel Lake. Surrounding the lake are the huge snow-capped peaks of The Tower and Mount Galatea, making this a magical winter setting in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Don’t venture too far beyond the trees due to increased avalanche risk.

The views of the Spray Lakes from the Rummel Lake snowshoe trail in Kananaskis in January

Rummel Lake Snowshoe Trail Map

Rummel Lake Snowshoe Trail Report

13. Sawmill Loop Trail

Kananaskis Snowshoeing

Sawmill is a 5km fun Kananaskis snowshoe loop which explores a valley at the base of Kent Ridge North Mountain. You can almost always count on good snow cover in this part of Kananaskis Country in January.

The Sawmill snowshoe trail follows a mountain stream (often still unfrozen in January) to a clearing with excellent mountain views. The first half of the Sawmill snowshoe trail is a good workout, but you’ll love the easy downhill snowshoe back to the parking lot.

snowshoeing in Kananaskis - Sawmill Snowshoe Loop

14. South Goat Creek

Kananaskis Snowshoeing

South Goat Creek is one of our favorite easy snowshoe trails near Canmore. We just made up the name for this place as I don’t think it has an official name. This kid-friendly snowshoe trail begins with a walk down a short hill towards an open meadow with a small lake.

The scenery in this snowy winter meadow is epic, with Goat Creek running through and vistas of snow capped mountains in all directions. There are tons of areas to explore here, or you could opt to take a walk along the High Rockies Trail which runs through the meadow.

Snowshoeing South Goat Creek is one of our favorite January things to do near Canmore

15. Rawson Lake Trail

Snowshoeing in Kananaskis

Do you love a beautiful frozen waterfall? How about a snow covered lake surrounded by towering mountain peaks? If so, snowshoeing Rawson Lake in January is for you!

The Rawson Lake snowshoe trail begins on the same trail as the Upper Kananaskis Lakes snowshoe trail. For the first 1.2km the snowshoe trail is flat and easy, hugging the shoreline of the lake offering beautiful mountain vistas through the trees. Near the end of this leg you’ll cross a bridge with a beautiful frozen waterfall.

When snowshoeing in Banff and Kananaskis dogs are allowed on-leash

Once you leave the Upper Kananaskis Lakes trail for the Rawson Lake snowshoe trail it gets steeper, with several switchbacks through a dense, evergreen forest. For 2km you’ll get a workout until you reach the beautiful frozen shores of Rawson Lake. With the summit of Mount Sarrail towering over 1km above you, it’s an amazing, yet humbling sight.

If you want to enjoy the outdoors while visiting Banff in January, try some amazing Kananaskis snowshoe trails such as Rawson Lake Trail

If you snowshoe to Rawson Lake in January, don’t venture too far beyond the end of the trail. The incredible beauty of being surrounded by enormous mountain peaks also comes with avalanche danger.

Rawson Lake Snowshoe Trail Map

Rawson Lake Snowshoe Trail Report

16. Elkwood Loop Trail

Snowshoeing in Kananaskis

If your new year’s resolution is to get in shape, why not try out this fun & easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail for beginners? The Elkwood Loop snowshoe trail leads you through a snowy forest and the Elkwood Campground on your way to Marl Lake. Take some time at the lake to enjoy the amazing Kananaskis mountain views and play in the deep snow.

Snowshoeing is one of the most fun things to do in Banff in January

This easy Kananaskis snowshoeing trail leaves from the Elkwood Campground parking lot. This trail can be done from the William Watson Lodge, which will add an additional 0.7 km to the 3.4 km loop.

Enjoy excellent views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains while snowshoeing in Kananaskis in January

Please take care not to step on any of the cross-country ski trails in Elkwood.

Elkwood Loop Snowshoe Trail Map

Elkwood Snowshoe Trail Report

17. Penstock Loop Trail

Snowshoeing in Kananaskis

The Penstock Loop is one of our favorite easy Kananaskis snowshoe trails. You’ll enjoy the views of Lower Kananaskis Lake surrounded by mountains while snowshoeing along a hydroelectric dam. Other highlights of snowshoeing Penstock Loop in January include a frozen waterfall and an interesting wooden aqueduct to follow along.

The Penstock Loop is a kid-friendly snowshoe trail in Kananaskis which is fun to do in January

18. Shark Lake Trail

Kananaskis Snowshoeing

The Shark Lake snowshoe trail is a very enjoyable easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail near the very popular Mt. Shark cross-country ski area. This easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail manages to stay reasonably flat by wrapping around the lower northern slopes of Tent Ridge (2,545m).

The views of Mt. Shark from the Shark Lake snowshoe trail in Kananaskis in January

While snowshoeing to Shark Lake (also known as Marushka Lake) you’ll enjoy amazing views of the Spray Lakes and the beautiful mountains along its shores. The payoff of the Shark Lake snowshoe trail is a beautiful frozen lake with the towering snow-capped Mt. Shark looming over 900m overhead. It’s a very serene, beautiful winter mountain scene.

20. Torpor Loop Trail

(Can you tell we love snowshoeing in Kananaskis in January?)

The Kananaskis Torpor snowshoe trail is a beautiful new trail in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The Torpor Loop Trail is an easy Kananaskis snowshoe trail which winds its way through four of the major Kananaskis Lakes day use areas.

Kananaskis winter scenery - Torpor snowshoe trail near the Kananaskis Lakes

Being a new Kananaskis snowshoe trail, not many people know about the Torpor snowshoe trail – in fact, we didn’t see a single person on the trail on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in January. The Torpor Loop snowshoe trail is a great alternative to some of the more popular Kananaskis snowshoe trails if you are seeking a little solitude.

The Torpor Loop Snowshoe trail is a kid-friendly snowshoe trail in Kananaskis Country

Your Questions About Banff in January

Can You Go to Banff in January?

January is an excellent time to visit Banff National Park. The Christmas crowds are gone, but the beautiful scenery remains. In January, you can enjoy the Banff and Lake Louise SnowDays festival as well as the Ice Magic Ice Carving competition at Lake Louise.

What is a Chinook?

Albertan’s love Chinook winds in the winter! A Chinook wind is the result of warm, moist winds traveling inland from the Pacific Ocean. The moisture drops as rain and snow as it travels over the province of British Columbia. These warm winds are no longer moist as they swoop into Alberta, causing dramatic temperature increases. A Chinook wind can often raise temperatures by as much as 20 – 30C over the course of a day.

Is Banff Worth Visiting in Winter?

ice skating canmore

Banff is incredibly beautiful in winter. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains are most stunning in winter. There are so many amazing things to do in Banff in winter including festivals, shopping, dining, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking, tubing etc.

What is there to do in Banff in January?

Some of our favorite things to do in Banff in January include:
* Downhill skiing
* Wild ice skating
* Fat biking
* Cross-country skiing
* Snowshoeing
* Banff’s SnowDays festival
* The Lake Louise ice sculptures

Is Lake Louise Frozen in January?

ice skating at lake louise

Every year is different, but there is an excellent chance that Lake Louise will be frozen in January. In fact, there is typically an incredibly beautiful carved ice castle out on the Lake Louise skating area.

Monthly Banff Planning Guides

Plan Your Banff Trip

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