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Your Guide To Winter Hiking in Banff National Park

Published Date
Jan 21, 2021
Winter Hiking Two Jack Lake Noel Hendrickson

Crisp air filters through your lungs as you climb, one step at a time, through the peace and quiet of the forest. Snow crunching underfoot, you make your way higher, then take a moment to look up. The view has opened up, revealing a sea of peaks blanketed in snow, shining brilliantly under a blue-bird sky.

It’s on winter days like this that sometimes the best way to experience Banff National Park is on your two feet. So, when the snow starts to fly, keep your hiking boots handy! With a few extra pieces of gear, you can comfortably venture to some of the same destinations as you can in the summertime.

Here’s the lowdown:

Stay Safe (And Keep Your Socks Dry!)

For winter hiking, we recommend three pieces of equipment that will make the experience safe and enjoyable. Can’t bring it with you? Great news is, you can rent this gear from local stores, such as Snowtips-Bactrax and Banff Adventures in Banff and Wilson Mountain Sports in Lake Louise!

Micro-spikes: You’ll be surprised just how grippy these are on hard-packed snow and ice.

Gaiters: Keep snow out of your boots and your feet will stay warm and dry.

Hiking Poles: Don’t make your legs do all the work! Get your upper body involved and you’ll save a ton of energy.

For more tips, check out our Gear Packing List for Winter Hiking.

Want to try it for yourself?

Here are a few easy hikes to get you started.

Johnston Canyon

Distance: 1.2 km one way to the Lower Falls

Distance: 2.5 km one way to the Upper Falls

Start at: Johnston Canyon parking lot on the Bow Valley Parkway.

A bubbling canyon with surging waterfalls in summer, Johnston Canyon turns into an icy paradise when the temperatures plummet. Choose from two short hikes to some of Banff’s most accessible (frozen) waterfalls.

In the meantime, strap on a pair of cleats and join us on a 360 degree walk-through tour of Johnston Canyon Lower Falls. Use your mouse or (swipe around on your mobile) to explore the area. Click on waypoints to move throughout the canyon.

Tunnel Mountain

Distance: 2.4 km one way

Start at: Tunnel Mountain trailhead parking lot on St. Julien Road

This trail switchbacks its way up the side of Banff’s “Sleeping Buffalo”, starting slightly more steeply, then easing off. From the top, you’ve got a great view of the Banff townsite, as well as the surrounding peaks.

Hoodoos Viewpoint

Distance: 2.3 km one way on Douglas Fir trail to Hoodoos viewpoint

Distance: 4.8 km one way from Surprise Corner to Hoodoos viewpoint

Start at: Either the intersection of Tunnel Mountain Road and Tunnel Mountain Drive or the Surprise Corner parking lot on Tunnel Mountain Drive 

You’ve got two ways to get to the Hoodoos, Banff’s famous geological wonders. Both trails to these spires of eroded rock are scenic, but offer different views of the area just surrounding the town of Banff.

More Information

Before you go: check local trail conditions by popping into the Banff Visitor Centre!

See Parks Canada’s Winter Trail Guide for more details on these hikes and other hiking options. Remember to check the trail reports before you head out!

Venturing into deeper snow? Get your feet into some snowshoes and check out our snowshoeing information to get you started.

Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.