Visiting Banff in November: Everything You Need to Know

Author: Celine Brewer

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Banff in November is a wonderful time to experience the transition from fall to winter. Snow will start to accumulate on the mountain peaks and even on the valley floor as the month progresses. Later in the month visitors to Banff in November can enjoy more winter activities and even begin to get in the Christmas Spirit with some Banff Christmas Activities.

Is November a good time to visit Banff? November is definitely shoulder season in Banff, but with some planning it can be an incredible time to visit. Especially those looking to visit Banff on a Budget.

Most things remain open though there are some seasonal closures. It’s also important to remember that winter is one the high seasons in Banff, so while some things start to shut down other activities are preparing to open for ski season in Banff.

Dan Brewer of Travel Banff Canada skating on Lake Louise in November (Banff National Park).

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Important Things to Know About Visiting Banff in November

If you visit Banff in November, you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and lower accommodation costs. More importantly, you’ll enjoy incredible winter scenery but with the mountain lakes not yet frozen. As the month progresses, some of the lakes may become frozen enough for skating. The days are shorter, so it’s much easier to enjoy sunrise and sunset though you’ll want to dress warm!

Dan Brewer owner of Travel Banff Canada skating on frozen Peyto Lake in Banff in November.

Important things to know about visiting Banff in November are that some of the activities may not have started yet and there are places that can no longer be visited (Moraine Lake being one of them). Once Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone, there are a number of changes to activities in Banff National Park:

Because the days are shorter, you need to ensure your outdoor adventures are planned well within the daylight hours, since the temperature can drop significantly once the sun goes down.

Finally, be aware that road conditions can change rapidly due to snow and ice. Some roads, especially higher mountain passes, may close temporarily due to adverse conditions. It’s essential to check road conditions and be prepared for winter driving if you plan to rent a car for visiting Banff in November.

View from Tunnel Mountain in Banff in November

Banff Weather in November

What can you expect for the weather in Banff in November? Be prepared for some colder temperatures and unpredictable weather.

The average daytime highs in Banff in November range from -5°C to 5°C (23°F to 41°F). Overnight lows can be much colder ranging from -10°C to -20°C (14°F to -4°F). You can expect snow when visiting Banff in November, though how much snow will very. The snow will start accumulating throughout the month, getting the ski resorts ready for ski season.

Snow covered boat house at Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, being at a higher elevation, tends to be colder with average daytime highs ranging from -10°C to 0°C (14°F to 32°F) and average daytime lows from -15°C to -25°C (5°F to -13°F).

Best Things to do in Banff in November

It’s important to know which activities can be done in November. There are some activities that don’t start until December, for example dog sledding, horse drawn carriage ride and ice walks won’t start in November.

That being said, there are still plenty of places to explore between Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Canmore and Kananaskis. Here are the best things to do in Banff in November:

Explore the Banff Townsite

Walk down Banff Avenue. Enjoy the main shopping street in Banff with less people. There’s plenty of shopping, coffee shops and restaurants to choose from on Banff Avenue. For a longer outing, take a stroll along the Bow River to Bow Falls.

Visit Lake Louise

Lake Louise is worth a visit any time of year. In early November, enjoy seeing the snow capped mountains surrounding the unfrozen lake. We’ve been fortunate to skate on Lake Louise as early as mid-November, but typically it’s around mid-December when the lake is ready for skating.

Dan Brewer owner of Travel Banff Canada skating on Lake Louise in November.
Guide Along App

Recommended App

This GPS activated Canadian Rockies Audio Driving Tour is the perfect companion to your Banff vacation. It’s both entertaining and educational and will greatly enhance any drive in Banff National Park.

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Skiing in Banff

If the snow conditions allow for it, skiing in Banff is possible as early as November. There are three ski resorts in Banff National Park. Banff Sunshine Village has a tentative opening day of November 9th. Lake Louise Ski Resort has a tentative opening day of November 10th.

If you are a beginner skier you can read about the best green runs at Sunshine Village and the top runs at Lake Louise for beginners.

Celine Brewer owner of Travel Banff Canada Skiing at Banff Sunshine Village.

Hit the Banff Snowshoeing Trails

As the month progresses and enough snow falls, some of the trails will require snowshoes! Snowshoeing in Banff National Park is a fun outdoor activity. If the trails are popular enough, snow shoes may not be required. Banff snowshoe trails can include the Ink Pots, Upper Stoney or Cascade Amphitheatre. Lake Louise snowshoe trails include Fairview Lookout, Mirror Lake or even nearby Taylor Lake. You can also find a bunch of easy Kananaskis snowshoe trails that are fun to explore (assuming enough snow has fallen to require snowshoes).

Kids snowshoeing in Banff in November

Winter Hikes in Banff

Often times, the snow isn’t deep enough or has been packed down enough (especially in November in Banff National Park) that snowshoes aren’t required. You can still enjoy winter hiking in Banff. There are several easy winter hikes in Banff National Park that don’t cross into avalanche terrain like Tunnel Mountain, Johnson Lake and Surprise Corner to the Hoodoos.

Celine Brewer owner of Travel Banff Canada snowshoeing in Kananaskis at Chester Lake.

Take a Ride up the Banff Gondola

Don’t miss seeing this winter wonderland from the incredible vantage point the Banff Gondola gives! Even on a chilly November day, you can still enjoy walking the boardwalks. To spend longer up at the Banff Gondola enjoy a meal at the Sky Bistro with one of the best views around!

Dan Brewer owner of Travel Banff Canada at Sulphur Mountain and Banff Gondola.

If you’d prefer a little more activity, you can hike Sulphur Mountain and still enjoy the indoor activities at the Banff Gondola.

Kids at Banff Gondola in Banff National Park.

Scenic Drive in Banff

While you’re likely to drive these roads getting to different places throughout Banff National Park. If not, make sure to include a scenic drive and stop at a few places along the way.

Bow Valley Parkway

There are several stops along the Bow Valley Parkway. The most well-known stop on the Bow Valley Parkway, besides Johnston Canyon, is at Morant’s Curve. Morant’s Curve is the place of the iconic photo of the train surrounded by mountain peaks.

Morant's Curve along Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park

Highway 40 in Kananaskis

Highway 40 in Kananaskis has some of the most incredible mountain scenery and is well worth a drive. There’s no shortage of places to stop along the way including Barrier Lake, Wedge Pond and even Kananaskis Village.

Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is the road between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper. Even if your plans don’t include going all the way to Jasper National Park, you can drive a short distance up the Icefields Parkway and stop at places like Peyto Lake and Bow Lake.

Peyto Lake in November in Banff National Park.

If you plan to drive the Icefields Parkway, winter tires are required starting November 1st.

Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive

Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive takes you past Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. As the snow falls, part of this 24 km loop (known to locals as the Minnewanka Loop), won’t be cleared of snow so you’ll need to drive it as an out and back.

Two Jack Lake in Banff in November

Frozen Waterfalls

If the temperature drop enough, you may have a chance to see frozen waterfalls in Banff. The best place to see frozen waterfalls are hiking Johnston Canyon.

frozen waterfall along winter hike in Banff National Park

Northern Lights in Banff

With the sunsetting so early and the dark sky, there’s a chance to see the Northern Lights in Banff in November. The best way to know if there’s a chance to see the Northern Lights is to check Aurora Watch.

Cross Country Skiing

There’s not always enough snow for cross country skiing in Banff in November, but you might find enough in Lake Louise. The Lake Louise Great Divide Trail (also known as “Old 1A”) is mostly flat, making it a great cross country ski trail in Banff for beginners or families. It’s fun to note that the 10km long (one-way) Great Divide Trail crosses the Alberta/BC border into Yoho National Park.

Kananaskis cross country ski trails may also have enough snow by mid- to lake November.

Kids Cross Country Skiing on Great Divide Trail in Banff in November.

Fat Biking in Banff

Looking for another winter activity? Fat biking in Banff is one of the most fun winter activities. A fat bike tour around Banff townsite is an excellent way to take in the views around town.

Tips to Visit Banff on a Budget

Banff Hot Springs

Once you’ve spent the day taking in all the winter scenery, you can warm up at the Banff Hot Springs.

Banff Upper Hot Springs
Photo Credit: Noel Hendrickson

Christmas Activities

If you’re ready to get in the Christmas Spirit, many of the Banff Christmas activities will start in November.

Christmas Lights on Banff Avenue

In Search of Christmas Spirit

In Search of Christmas Spirit is a unique evening experience in Banff. It’s held at the Cascade of Time Garden. As you follow along the lit trail, you’ll pass many sculptures and enjoy reading the story of the wildlife in Banff. The lights and sound effects make it an incredible experience.

This is a free event but requires reservations and runs on select dates from November 17 to December 31.

In Search of Christmas Spirit event in Banff at Time of Cascade Garden.

Banff Christmas Market

The Banff Christmas Market is held at Warner Stables. It’s the perfect place to grab some Banff Souvenirs, enjoy some live music and even have a visit with Santa. Pre-purchased tickets are required for the Christmas market in Banff. Dates: November 17 to 19, November 24 to 26 and December 1 to 3

Kids at Banff Christmas Market.

Canmore Artisan Market

The nearby town of Canmore holds the Canmore Artisan Market at the Canmore Recreation Centre on November 18 & 19th.

Hot Chocolate Trail

Stop for a festive hot chocolate at one of the 20+ places offering fun takes on hot chocolate! The Hot Chocolate Trail in Banff runs from November 17 until December 31st.

child drinking Hot Chocolate at Sky Bistro at Banff Gondola in November.

Canmore Cave Tours

For the more adventurous, try the Canmore Cave Tours. This tour takes place at the Rat’s Nest Cave outside of Canmore is a year-round activity.

Wildlife Viewing in Banff in November

While the bears are working their way into their dens, the winter time is an excellent time to see deer, elk and bighorn sheep around Banff National Park.

Bighorn Sheep in Banff National Park.

Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival celebrates mountain culture through the sharing of mountain experiences and ideas. You’ll get to learn about the mountain adventures from authors, filmmakers and adventures as they share their incredible stories.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival runs from October 28 to November 5.

Indoor Activities in Banff in November

While there’s a saying that “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing”, not every day needs to be spent outside.

Cave and Basin

The discovery of these natural Banff hot springs at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site ultimately led to the creation of the Canadian national park system, which to this day is considered one of the best park systems in the world. During the winter, the Cave and Basin has more restricted hours, being open Wednesday to Sunday (and holiday Mondays) from 11 am to 5 pm.

The Cave and Basin pool first discovered by the McConnell brothers in 1885

Park Distillery Tour

The Park Distillery in Banff offers a free daily tour at 3:15 pm. Through the Park Distillery tour you can learn about the working distillery then enjoy a guided spirit tasting flight.

Afternoon Tea

After a morning adventure, spend the afternoon enjoying an afternoon tea. Both the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel offer an afternoon tea.

When you are done at the Banff Springs Hotel, you can also spend some time walking around this iconic Banff hotel.

Banff Wild Ice Skating

There are some winter seasons in Banff where the temperatures are cold enough that the lakes freeze before the snow falls. This allows for some wild ice skating on the lakes in Banff National Park. Typically, this early in the season Johnson Lake is the only lake for skating though through the years we have seen other lakes freeze enough for skating.

Celine Brewer owner of Travel Banff Canada laying on frozen Johnson Lake in Banff in November.

The Canadian Red Cross recommends 15 cm (6 inches) for skating alone and 20 cm (8 inches) for skating parties. They also are a good resource for understanding what can affect ice thickness, one of which is changing air temperatures. With chinook winds, the area can have several days or even weeks of higher temperatures which can quickly affect the ice thickness.

We strongly recommend you fully read the ice safety information provided by Red Cross on what to do if you get in trouble on the ice and rescuing another person.

Also know that Parks Canada does NOT monitor these natural skating surfaces and skating on them is at your own risk. Parks Canada does recommend checking the thickness of the ice by drilling a hole or checking the cracks to ensure it’s a minimum of 15 cm thick. Though it’s better if you go in a group, if you do go out alone, always let someone know your plan.

Head to Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is in nearby Yoho National Park and is another stunning lake to visit near Lake Louise. It’s important to know that starting October 1, winter tires are required .

What to Pack for Banff in November

Packing for Banff in November requires preparation for changing weather conditions as winter begins, temperatures start to drop, and snow starts to accumulate. Here’s a list of essential items to pack for November in Banff National Park:

Aurora Heat Hand Warmers
  • Layered Clothing: Weather in Banff during November can be unpredictable, so packing layers is essential. Bring a mix of short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts, along with fleeces and a warm winter jacket. Warm snow pants are also worthwhile packing for long days outside.
  • Warm Hat & Gloves: You will get a lot of use out of out a warm hat and gloves! Maybe even a scarf! These are essential to have with you in Banff in November.
  • Hiking Boots: Comfortable, waterproof hiking boots with ankle support are essential if you plan to explore the best Banff hiking trails. Make sure they’re well broken in to avoid blisters.
  • Winter Boots: As it gets colder, winter boots will replace hiking boots. Or get a pair of winter hiking boots to cover all bases.
  • Micro-Spikes: If snow is falling the trails can get icy and slipper. You’ll be glad you have micro-spikes to avoid any falls!
  • Hand and Foot Warmers: We are big fans of the hand and foot warmers by Aurora Heat (save 10% using TRAVELBANFFCANADA at checkout), which are eco-friendly, sustainable and so much better than the single-use hand warmers.
  • Sunglasses: You’ll be glad to have sunglasses on those blue sky days, especially when the sun is reflecting off the snow!
  • Backpack: A daypack is handy for carrying essentials while exploring the parks, including water, snacks, a map, and extra clothing layers.
  • Camera Gear: Banff is a photographer’s dream, so don’t forget your camera equipment, including a tripod for those stunning landscape shots.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is crucial, especially at higher elevations. A reusable water bottle helps you reduce waste and stay eco-friendly.
  • Sunscreen: Even in the fall, you can still get sunburned, so pack sunscreen with a high SPF. This is especially important when there’s snow on the ground as the snow reflects those harsh UV rays.
  • Chargers and Power Banks: Since you’ll be taking A LOT of pictures, a power bank is worth having to make sure you can keep your phone charged!
  • First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit with essentials like bandages, pain relievers, and blister treatment can be a lifesaver on the trails.
  • Maps and Guides: While digital maps are helpful, it’s wise to carry physical maps and guidebooks as backup, as cell phone reception can be unreliable in some areas.
  • Bear Spray: If you plan to hike in bear country, it’s a good idea to carry bear spray and know how to use it safely. Bears are still around in November.
Snow surrounding Lake Louise in November.

Where to Stay in Banff in November

Banff offers a range of accommodation options, from cozy lodges to luxury hotels, making it possible to find the perfect place to stay in November. Here are some of the best areas and places to consider for your stay in Banff:

Where to Stay in Town of Banff

Staying in the town of Banff itself provides convenient access to shops, restaurants, and amenities while being close to the stunning natural surroundings. You can find a variety of accommodations here, from budget-friendly hostels to upscale resorts.

As the temperatures cool, you may also want to look for a hotel in Banff with a private hot tub or better yet, cozy up next to a fire in one of these best Banff Cabins.

Fairmont Banff Springs

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is world-renowned as the luxury Castle in the Rockies. This iconic hotel offers a historic and opulent experience, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

The famous Banff castle hotel - the 5 star Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

The Rimrock Resort Hotel

Perched on the side of Sulphur Mountain, this upscale hotel boasts incredible mountain views and luxurious amenities.

The Rimrock Hotel is one of the best kid-friendly hotels in Banff

Find even more Luxury Hotels in Banff here.

HI-Banff Alpine Centre

A great budget-friendly option, this hostel provides dormitory-style and private rooms, perfect for travelers on a budget.

The Hi-Banff Alpine Centre is one of Banff's best hostels

Find even more Budget Friendly Hotels in Banff here.

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

Staying in the village of Lake Louise or at the shores of Lake Louise will save you some time on driving, especially if you plan to visit Moraine Lake, the Icefields Parkway and even into Yoho National Park. You could even split your time between two hotels.

Lake Louise in November.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

For a serene stay surrounded by the pristine beauty of Lake Louise, consider accommodations in this area. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a renowned luxury option right on the lake’s shores.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Find even more Best Lake Louise Hotels here.

Where to Stay in Canmore

Located just outside Banff National Park, Canmore offers a quieter and more budget-friendly alternative to Banff town. You’ll find a range of hotels, lodges, and vacation rentals in Canmore.

Malcolm Hotel

Widely known as one of the best Canmore hotels, you are sure to enjoy fine luxury and splendid views of the mountains and the creek in any of its 120 rooms and suites.

best canmore canada hotels - Malcolm Hotel

Pocaterra Inn & Waterslide

Look only as far as Pocaterra Inn & Waterslide if you seek a Canmore budget accommodation that’s comfortable as it is affordable. This charming Canmore hotel extends a warm welcome to all its guests with freshly baked goodies and superior hospitality services. Plus, if you are staying in Canmore with kids, they’ll love having the waterslide at the end of the day!

top hotels in canmore with waterslide - Pocaterra Inn is family-friendly

Find all the best places to stay in Canmore.

Driving in Banff in November

You will likely encounter winter driving conditions in Banff in November since the weather is so unpredictable.

For visiting the Icefields Parkway in December, make sure you have tires either with M+S (mud & snow) or the snowflake symbol. These are required as of Nov 1. Read more about winter driving section here and more about driving the Icefields Parkway in the winter here before you head out on the Icefields Parkway in the winter. It’s crucial you check the conditions before heading out in case the road is closed due to avalanches and always leave yourself plenty of time in the winter.

For driving into British Columbia (if you are visiting Emerald Lake in Yoho NP or Marble Canyon in Kootenay National Park), make sure you have tires either with M+S (mud & snow) or the snowflake symbol. These are required as of Oct 1.

Don’t Forget Your Banff Park Pass & Kananaskis Conservation Pass

A Banff Park Pass, also known as the Parks Canada Discovery Pass, is required for exploring Banff National Park. You can pick it up as you enter at the Banff Park Gates.

For any of the areas around Canmore and Kananaskis you require a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. This includes the parking lots closest to Canmore like the Canmore Nordic Centre and Grassi Lakes.

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Experience the captivating charm of Banff National Park in November with a world of possibilities. From tranquil unfrozen mountain lakes to snow-covered peaks, November in Banff offers a unique adventure. Discover the best things to do in November and make the most of your visit to this breathtaking destination.
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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.