How to Plan the Best Banff 3 Day Winter Itinerary

How to Plan the Best Banff 3 Day Winter Itinerary
Ice skate on Lake Louise on the winter Discover Lake Louise Tour with Discover Banff Tours

It’s no secret that Banff and Lake Louise are home to some of the best skiing in the Rockies – but there’s loads more to do in winter!

See winter views over Banff at the gondola summit
Photo Credit: Banff Jasper Collection by Pursuit

Banff National Park is also home to a ton of activities ranging from icewalks, snowshoeing, skiing, sightseeing and more – it’s enough to keep a anyone busy for days!

Here we have a comprehensive itinerary for visitors to mix and match with. Whichever adventures you choose, there is sure to be activities for everyone.

Day 1: Arrive in Banff, sightseeing, ride the Banff Gondola and soak in the hot springs

You’ve arrived in Banff, and there’s no time to waste! What better way to begin your three day visit to Banff than sightseeing? There’s lots of iconic photo spots in Banff that you shouldn’t miss, including icy lakes, frozen waterfalls and the famous viewpoint of the Banff Springs Hotel, Canada’s ‘Castle in the Rockies’. Jump on a morning tour of Banff with a friendly local guide and hit them all in a few hours. It’s also the best winter tour for spotting wildlife such as elk, deer and bighorn sheep!

See wildlife on a Banff winter tour with Discover Banff Tours

From here, get your bearings at the Banff Gondola – Banff’s number one attraction with a sky-high view of the Rockies and Banff. Newly renovated with an observation deck, interpretation floor, ‘Above Banff’ theatre, Sky Bistro licensed restaurant and more, this is an experience that deserves more than a couple of hours. If you go around sunset, make a dinner reservation at Sky Bistro and dine while watching the sun set from the top of a mountain. Otherwise if you want to head straight to the gondola after your morning tour we can drop you off here (you’ll just need to get a taxi or local bus to return to your hotel afterwards).

Winter Banff Gondola in Banff National Park
Photo Credit: Chris Amat / Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection

Located just a short walk from the Banff Gondola, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are a must visit in Banff. With entry at less than $10 per person and towel and swimsuit rentals available for just a few dollars, it’s the perfect place to soak and enjoy the views of Mt Rundle. Going in the evenings or mornings is best to avoid crowds, so stopping here after the Banff Gondola is highly recommended. Check out our tours and hot springs packages!

Enjoy a winter dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
Travel Alberta / Roth & Ramberg

Still looking for more ideas on your first day in Banff? Get the latest information and suggestions from friendly local guides at the Discover Banff Tours’ downtown store on Banff Ave. Their friendly local experts will help you with things to do and see in Banff with your time.  Pick up maps, brochures and other useful information.

Visit our Reservations Team at the Store on Banff Ave

Day 2: Spend the day skiing or hiking

If you came to Banff to ski, today’s the day! One of the most popular winter activities for Banff National Park is skiing. Our Banff Canadian Rockies ski resorts (Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Banff Mt Norquay) are well known for their light champagne snow powder and mountains that offer terrain for all level of skiers and snowboarders. There’s also day ski trips to the thrilling Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, BC, and family-friendly Panorama Mountain Resort in Panorama, BC. for less than the price of a walk up full day lift ticket!

Skiing at Lake Louise
Photo Credit: Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3

For a scenic, active day exploring the natural beauty Banff National Park and the surrounding area, combine a morning icewalk with an afternoon snowshoeing tour. Every morning there are guided icewalk hikes to Johnston Canyon and Grotto Canyon.

See frozen waterfalls on the Johnston Canyon Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta / Stevin Tuchiwsky

On the Grotto Canyon Icewalk, walk on a frozen creek bed through a canyon past unusual rock formations, ancient Native rock art and icefalls. Or, hike on steel walkways bolted to the walls on the Johnson Canyon Icewalk that give spectacular views of the canyon below and finally to the spectacular frozen Upper Falls.

See frozen waterfalls on the Grotto Canyon Icewalk with Discover Banff Tours

Then, with a 45 minute break in Banff (just enough time for a quick bite or to grab a takeaway meal), it’s time to head off on a snowshoeing adventure to neighbouring Kootenay National Park. Located on the other side of the Continental Divide where it’s snowier, it’s one of our favourite locations to play in deep powder with snowshoes.

Banff Snowshoeing Race with Discover Banff ToursAlthough you will hear stories of past explorers using the traditional wooden snowshoes with rawhide lacings on the Snowshoeing to the Paint Pots Tour, with the new lightweight technology snowshoes, you will find it as simple as walking, and a fun activity for all ages.  Considered a sacred site by First Nations today, you can see the orange and red ochre beds, play in the snow fields, try a crazy carpet slide down the hill and enjoy a uniquely Canadian treat – hot maple taffy made on the snow by your guide.

Maple Taffy Treat on a Banff Snowshoe Tour with Discover Banff Tours

Plus, this tour includes the option to try flying down a snowy hill on a crazy carpet slide. This fun version of tobogganing is a favourite for kids and adults alike!

Take a crazy carpet slide on the Snowshoeing Tour to the Paint Pots with Discover Banff Tours to the Canadian Rockies

Day 3: Visit frozen Lake Louise

Simply a must do for everyone traveling to the Canadian Rockies, whether it is summer or winter is to visit Lake Louise. The full-day Discover Lake Louise Tour combines the highlights of the scenic Bow Valley Parkway (where we might spot some wildlife!) as well four hours of free time at Lake Louise.

Ice skate at Lake Louise on a full-day tour with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

You’ll have plenty of free time to try snowshoeing, ice skating on the lake, take a sleigh ride along the lake or enjoy a hot beverage inside the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel with some time for shopping.

Take a winter sleigh ride at Lake Louise on the Discover Lake Louise winter tour with Discover Banff Tours
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta / Célestine Aerden

Private Tours

Any of the above days and more can be packaged into a privately guided tour – each tailored experience is unique to the visitor and allows you to explore on your own schedule with one of our interpretive guides and pickup/drop-off at your hotel.

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