Autumn in the mountains isn’t so much a season but a few-week window, and it just happens to fall in October.
The warm summer months come to a halt and make way for crisp, cool days that may be graced with a dusting of snow or even a snowstorm. This makes it an ideal month for last-minute adventures before winter settles in and stakes its claim for the remainder of the year.
The hiking and biking trails are often quieter, the temperatures are milder, and the rewards are just as big!
Here’s what you can expect to see, do, and experience in Banff and Lake Louise in October.
Wrap your hands around a piping hot latte and cover your ears with a knit toque before heading out to 8 to 10 degrees Celcius weather. The overnight temperatures average around -2 to -5 degrees Celcius, so you’re less likely to see wildflowers along the roadsides and more likely to smell fresh pine as the morning frost melts off the needles.
Banff Daytime 10°C (50°F)
Banff Overnight -2°C (28°F)
Lake Louise Daytime 8°C (46°F)
Lake Louise Overnight -5°C (23°F)
Depending on September’s weather, you may even be lucky enough to catch the tail end of the larches as they turn yellow.
What to Pack
It wouldn’t be Canada without the chance of encountering all four seasons in a day. October continues to be shoulder season and is when the weather can be the most delightfully unpredictable.
Pack layers and be prepared for warm sunshine, chilled rain, and even snow. As the joke goes, “if you don’t like the weather in Banff, wait five minutes.”
Many locals wear long underwear or lined pants, pants, a shirt, a sweater, and a light jacket. Hats and mitts start to make an appearance and are often carried just in case.
You may see the odd “crazy Canuck” in shorts and flip-flops, but we don’t recommend that you follow suit.
Pack extra layers if you’re heading up the mountains, including a warm winter coat and neck warmer. Bring something to cover your ears since the wind can be quite biting.
What to See and Do
Get your last glimpse of the turquoise blue waters of Lake Louise before it ices over for the winter. It is also your last chance to see Moraine Lake before the access road is closed to vehicular traffic, usually around Canadian Thanksgiving.
As the open water recedes and gives way to snow and ice, so do some of Banff’s biggest animals. The bears begin to hunker down and look for a cozy spot to hibernate. While they may be making their way farther into the mountains, they can still be seen bulking up for winter, so know your bear safety in case of an encounter.
If you want to make like a bear and find a cozy place to hibernate, go underground with Canmore Cave Tours. After a short, uphill hike to the cave opening, you’ll spelunk your way inside a mountain. If it sounds like it may be chilly, the inside of the cave holds steady at 5°C (41°F) every day of the year.
The vistas in Banff and Lake Louise get a little less colourful as winter approaches, but the town centres do not! Pride parades through town and leaves a wake of vibrant rainbows and expressions of love and welcoming on Banff Ave windows.
Parties and drag shows fill the evenings into the early hours of the morning, presenting you with countless options to celebrate. And then again at brunch the following morning.
Speaking of all hours of the night, Hallowe’en caps off the end of the month. Dress up, trick or treat, and take the Banff Ghost Walk tour. Just make sure you leave the hotel light on—this walkabout promises to be spooky!
Depending on the year, ski season has started as early as October 24. Since the ski resorts are at a higher altitude, they often get snow first and make what snow doesn’t fall from the sky.
If you want to be the first to ski this year, head to Banff and Lake Louise early to catch the first day. Bonus: we’re usually the first in Canada to open, too.