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Lake Louise has always been a favorite Canadian mountain destination for me. I’ve visited many times, and although I’ve pretty much done everything there is to do there, I just love the beautiful and relaxing atmosphere – especially in winter!
Winter is a quieter time at Lake Louise and with the gorgeous scenery, many amazing things to do, and attractive winter prices, it’s the perfect time to visit. In fact, my last few visits to Lake Louise have been in winter.
To be honest, summer brings so many people to the lake that everything from accommodation to parking becomes a headache. If you’ve decided to visit Lake Louise in winter then I have to say that you’ve made a great choice.
In this blog, I’ll share with you the 24 best things to do in Lake Louise in winter. It includes everything from road trips, tours, and even a ton of free activities (let’s face it, we all love those!)
Things to do in Lake Louise in Winter
1. Wander Lake Louise Lakefront
One of the best ways to enjoy the magnificent views of Lake Louise is to walk the Lake Louise shoreline. Although in the winter the lake freezes, you can still use the paved boardwalk and well-defined trails to enjoy the views and see the lake from every angle.
The paved area of the boardwalk sits at the front of the lake and extends around to the boat shed (on the left) and to the trailhead of the Lake Louise Lakefront Trail. Along this section, you get great views of the surrounding mountain peaks as well as all the ice skaters on the lake. It’s the perfect spot for photos.
After, keep walking to your right and take a trip down the Lake Louise Lakefront Trail. This 4.5 kilometer (total) out and back trail leads you from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to the far side of the lake where you can enjoy Lake Lousie from a whole new perspective. Of course, you can also choose to walk on the lake as opposed to the trail. This will depend on conditions as to which is the easier way to go (especially if you don’t have snowshoes.)
Regardless, this is one of the best free winter activities and a must for first-time visitors!
2. Ice Skate on the lake
During winter, Lake Lousie becomes one of the most beautiful places to ice skate in the world. In fact, a huge section of the lake is cleared of snow by the Fairmont Château Lake Louise so visitors and hotel guests can enjoy this classic winter activity.
The best part is that if you have your own skates this activity is completely free. I’d say this is easily the best free thing to do in Lake Lousie in winter!
If you don’t have your own skates, you can rent them at Alpine Social Rentals in Lake Louise village. Skate rental starts at $13 CAD for 4 hours and they also rent hockey sticks as well as hockey skates. The ice skating rink at Lake Louise usually opens in mid-December until mid-April (weather dependent of course.)
3. Hike to Fairview Lookout
In winter, many of the best hikes in Lake Louise are either too dangerous to hike or not suited to most visitors. With that said, there is one trail that even in winter is accessible to most and that’s Fairview Lookout.
This short 2.5 kilometer out and back, or loop trail, leads to a stunning viewpoint over Lake Louise and the Fairmont Hotel. The trail begins at the Lake Louise foreshore, heading left past the boathouse before climbing to the viewpoint.
There are two ways to the top, one heading along the shoreline before ascending steeply to the top and the other a more gradual climb (at the fork turn left). You can take one up and the other down to create a nice loop. In winter though, the gradual climb is much safer and I recommend going up and back down this way especially if you don’t have ice cleats. Although possible without them, they help a lot!
4. Go skiing or snowboarding
One of the biggest reasons people travel to Lake Louise in winter is to go skiing and snowboarding! I myself ski and my partner snowboard’s and together we just love hitting the slopes in Banff National Park.
Near Lake Louise, there are a few different ski resorts to enjoy, and below I’ll mention them all!
Lake Louise Ski Resort
Lake Louise is the closest ski resort to the village and only 7 minutes away. The resort is also one of the largest in Canada with a 935-meter verticle descent, 7 ski lifts, and 142 kilometers of ski runs. It’s perfect for beginners, intermediates, and pros. I love the tree runs around Lake Louise and with so much resort to explore it will keep you busy all day. Oh, and on the colder days, the gondola is a lifesaver!
Adult lift tickets start at $129 with a half-day option at $99. Youths cost $99, children $49, and seniors $99. If you want to stay close to the resort you’ll need to book a hotel in the Lake Louise Village.
Without a doubt, Lake Louise is my favorite ski resort in Banff National Park. For those staying close by it’s an obvious choice.
Related read: Check out all the best restaurants in Lake Louise too!
Sunshine Village is located in the heart of Banff National Park around 40 minutes from Lake Louise. The ski resort is really good for advanced skiers and snowboards with lots of black and double black runs. Although there are lots of green runs, most have flat spots which are not good if you’re still not comfortable going really fast.
A lift ticket costs $127 CAD for adults, $99 for youths, $49 for children, and $99 for seniors. You can also stay at the ski resort and ski in and ski out every day. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a luxurious hotel only meters from the chairlifts – it’s easily one of the best places to stay in Banff for a ski holiday.
Sunshine Village is my second favorite due to its larger size, magnificent views, and cool terrain.
Mt Norquay is the furthest ski resort to Lake Louise and a 45-minute drive away. The ski hill offers some of the best views over Banff and is also open for night skiing. Mt Norquay isn’t a very large ski resort and the runs to me aren’t the best. I find it suited to beginners or those not looking to ski an entire day.
Although not my favorite hill, the price for a full-day lift ticket is $74 CAD for adults, $56 for youths, $29 for children, and $56 for seniors. That’s cheap for Banff National Park. The closest hotel to the resort is The Juniper Hotel & Bistro.
Another ski resort nearby is Nakiska, however, this resort is considered one of the best winter activities in Calgary because of its location in the Kananaskis.
Regardless of where you go, skiing in Lake Louise is a must-do in winter!
Ready for an epic skiing road trip? From Lake Louise, drive to nearby Golden and then onto Revelstoke. Both towns have an awesome ski resport, plus, there are lots of fun things to do in Revelstoke in the winter AND Golden in winter – so check them out!
5. Visit Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is easily one of the most spectacular lakes in the Rocky Mountains. Located on the Icefields Parkway, Peyto Lake is most commonly visited by driving to the viewpoint above the lake which is just off the Icefields Parkway.
From here, you can stare down at Peyto Lake and the surrounding mountains. You’re basically visiting an epic viewpoint above the valley without actually needing to hike… cool right!
There is also a short hike to the bottom of the lake, however, it is unmarked, and to be honest, the views from above are the highlight.
From Lake Louise, Petyo Lake is only 30 minutes away making it super convenient to visit. If you are planning on driving to Jasper after Lake Louise, then you can also visit Peyto Lake when you drive the Icefields Parkway.
6. Drink at the Lake Louise Ice bar
One of the more unique winter activities in Lake Louise is to enjoy a drink at the Lake Louise Ice Bar. Located on the like Louise foreshore the bar opens on the 20th December until the end of the holiday period.
The bar serves lots of hot and cold drinks including coffee, hot chocolate, liqueurs, ice wines, and even Jagermeister! They also have gas fire heaters to warm up and roast marsh mellows on. It’s a cool experience in what can only be described as an ideal location to enjoy a drink.
Related read: Check out the best breweries in Banff!
7. Go tubing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
Not a skier or snowboarder but still want to hit the slopes? Well, I’ve got just the winter activity for you… tubing!
At the Sunny Tube Park at Lake Louise Ski Resort, you can fly down the mountain on an inflatable tube. This is the perfect activity for kids and adults like myself who love a bit of downhill fun.
The best part is tubing at Lake Louise only costs $31 CAD for adults, $26 for youths, and $20 for children. For that, you can tube from 11 am until 5 pm!
8. Enjoy the Ice Castles
With the ice bar’s limited window to visit there’s a good chance, most people will miss it. However, the ice castles at Lake Louise are around all winter. The large ice castles sit on the shoreline of the lake and are completely free for visitors to enjoy.
Grab your camera and get some photos with this cool display. Kids love them and they make for the perfect family picture!
9. Cross country ski in Lake Louise
Cross country skiing is hugely popular at Lake Louise. In fact, there are over 10 trails in the area suited to all fitness levels.
One of the most popular and easily accessible is the Lake Louise Loop. This 4.1-kilometer loop begins at the foreshore and travels along the frozen lake. This trail has duel tracks and is groomed.
The more advanced cross country skiers should tackle Moraine Lake Road. The 15.6-kilometer return duel track leads to the Consolation Lakes viewpoint along the highway. With a slight elevation gain, the trail is a great workout. Please note, past the viewpoint is dangerous avalanche terrain so going further is not recommended.
There are plenty of other trails around Lake Louise, however, these two are the most popular!
You can use the trails for free if you have your own gear, however, rentals at Lake Louise are only $30 CAD for 4 hours (boots and skis) or $50 for 8 hours.
Related read: Headed to the Okanagan? Check out all the best things to do in Kelowna in winter!
10. Drive the Icefields Parkway
Don’t let winter stop you from going on a road trip! The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in Canada (and possibly the world) so you shouldn’t miss this chance.
The 232km stretch of highway travels from Lake Louise all the way to Jasper. It takes around 3 hours to drive the whole thing without stopping in winter, however, I’d allow an entire day if you plan on stopping along the way.
Some of the best places to stop on the Icefields Parkway include Crow Foot Glacier Lookout, Bow Lake Viewpoint, Peyto Lake, Weeping Wall, Big Bend, Athabasca Glacier, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls.
For those not heading to Jasper, a great section to drive is until you reach Peyto Lake. This is only 30 minutes from Lake Louise and after visiting, you can turn around and head back, visiting Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier on the way. Although only 3 stops, you’ll also get those breathtaking views!
With that said, if you have time then I recommend driving the entire Icefields Parkway all the way to Jasper. Then, plan to spend a few nights in Jasper – there are plenty of fun things to do in Jasper in winter too!
Winter tires are a must on the icefields Parkway and you need to be careful and alert while driving this highway in winter. Parks Canada will close the highway over the pass (after Big Bend) during bad weather so check ahead of time for road closures.
Related read: One of the best things to do in Vancouver in winter is to drive the Sea to Sky Highway – another one of Canada’s most scenic drives!
11. Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is arguably the most luxurious hotel in the Rocky Mountains. Situated on the shores of Lake Louise, the views from the rooms are nothing short of spectacular. On the inside, the hotel appears like something out of a movie with tall ceilings, stunning architecture, and fine details.
A night at this luxury hotel will cost around $500 CAD per night. However, for that you’ll be so close to the lake you can almost touch it. Better yet, you can easily enjoy all the best activities on this list without even getting in your car. Simply walk out the back entrance and enjoy!
12. Go snowshoeing
Snowshoeing in the Lake Louise area will help you explore more trails than otherwise possible.
One of my personal favorites is up to Mirror Lakes via the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail. At only 5.4 kilometers return it’s a rather moderate introduction to snowshoeing. The trail starts at the lakefront and there is an elevation gain of around 300 meters, so be prepared for a workout. Past Mirror Lakes (heading towards Lake Agnes) you’ll enter avalanche terrain so those without the right equipment and experience, you should turn around.
For an easier trail, simply hike around Lake Louise. You can follow beside the cross-country ski route and enjoy the 4-kilometer walk. Some days, you may not need snowshoes for this trail so check before renting them.
Don’t stop there though, there are plenty more snowshoeing trails including Moraine Lake Road, Louise Creek, and The Highline Trail to Paradise Creek. Rentals are $23 CAD for 4 hours and $40 for 8 hours from Lake Louise village.
13. Visit the Lake Louise frozen waterall
Few people know that Lake Louise is home to a giant frozen waterfall that’s a popular ice climbing route. The waterfall is located at the end of Lake Louise and you can reach it by simply walking along the right-hand side (follow the cross country ski route or Lake Louise Lakefront Trail) of the lake until you reach it.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see ice climbers on the face of the waterfall. Just be sure to keep your distance and don’t climb up to the waterfall unless you have the necessary experience.
14. Go Ice climbing
If simply seeing a frozen waterfall is not exciting enough, then try climbing one! This is definitely an adventure and a really unique wintertime activity in Lake Louise. Ice climbing can be challenging and dangerous if not approached carefully, so joining a tour is the only way to do it safely for beginners.
This tour is a full-day adventure that helps people of all experience levels try out ice climbing. An expert guide will walk you through all the basics of the gear and how to climb, and then you’ll climb a frozen waterfall yourself. The tour costs $186 CAD and leaves from Banff town. You’ll set off at 8 am and the tour lasts around 8 hours. There’s also a two-day experience for the more serious climbers.
15. Go dog sledding
If you are looking for a truly unique winter experience in Canada, dog sledding should be high on your list. It’s fast-paced, fun, and the best way to experience the winter wonderland of Banff National Park.
The only way to go on this one of a kind of adventure is on a tour. Kingmik Dog Sled Tours offers some amazing sledding tours from Lake Louise. They offer a shorter 30-minute tour as well as a longer 4-hour tour.
I actually did my dog sledding tour in Canmore, but most tours are similar. The important part is choosing a great company that cares for their dogs (the most important part of the experience!)
On the trip, we took a 10-kilometer trail through Spray Lakes Provincial Park stopping halfway along the way to meet the dogs and play with them. Then after a quick hot chocolate, we made our way back. I was really sad to say goodbye to our crew.
Pricing for a dog sled tour in Lake Louise starts at $250 CAD for the 30-minute tour with Kingmik.
Related Read: Dog sledding is one of the best things to do in Canmore in winter too (it’s also cheaper than Lake Louise) – read all about it in my blog!
16. Relax on a sleigh ride
What could be a more relaxing winter activity in Lake Louise than riding in a horse-drawn sleigh? You’ll explore Lake Louise enjoying those magnificent views and if you plan ahead, you can do it with a drink in hand.
This unique activity is perfect for couples and even young families. The best part is it doesn’t have to be overly expensive.
At Lake Louise, you can book a sleigh right from the lakefront or online in advance. The tours cost $45 CAD for adults and $35 for children and last for 45 to 60 minutes. There are also private sleigh ride options too.
17. Get excited at the Lake Louise Ski World Cup
One of the most exciting times in Lake Louise is at the start of winter when the Lake Louise Ski World Cup is on. The first events begin on November 27 with the last event on December 5.
The Ski World Cup is completely free to watch and you’ll get to see some of the fastest downhill skiers in the world. In fact, the event is the beginning of the World Speed Circut and this is the first and only event of its kind in Canada!
18. Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
Another way to take in the spectacular wintertime scenery near Lake Louise is to do the Johnston Canyon Icewalk. This famous attraction is open all year round but without a doubt, winter is the best time to go.
The Johnston Canyon Icewalk starts around 30 minutes from Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway. From the parking lot, you’ll walk a 2.5-kilometer trail/boardwalk to the upper falls (ice cleats are recommended.) You can also stop at the lower falls and turn around for a shorter, 1.3-kilometer walk. Along the way, you’ll spot frozen waterfalls and huge icicles. Afterward, simply turn around and head back the way you came.
For those who want to learn more or don’t have their own gear, you can book a Johnston Canyon Icewalk tour. This specific tour is 4 hours long and includes transport to and from the canyon (from Banff) as well as an expert guide, ice cleats, and hiking poles. You’ll enjoy the views of frozen waterfalls and icicles while walking along the steel walkway. The tour is $88 CAD and includes a hot chocolate and a maple cookie snack at the end!
19. Visit Emerald Lake
Visiting Lake Louise puts you in the perfect location to enjoy two other national parks in the Canadian Rockies. One of those is Yoho National Park and its crown jewel, Emerald Lake.
Emerald Lake is located around 35 minutes from Lake Louise is largely considered one of the top attractions in Canada. In winter, you can visit the lake and see the famous Emerald Lake Lodge which appears to sit on an island in the lake. Although the small patch of land is actually connected to the mainland the hotel still has 360-degree views of the lake and the President Range.
If you can, visit at sunrise or sunset for the best views (spending a night at the lodge will make this easy.) This place is so beautiful and very popular among photographers!
20. Head to Marble Canyon
The next national park you sit on the doorstep of is Kootenay National Park. From Lake Louise, you can easily explore the park and one of its top attractions, Marble Canyon. In fact, the canyon is only a 30-minute drive away.
Marble Canyon is gorgeous and thousands of years of erosion have created a deep cut in the earth with smooth walls. In winter, parts of the canyon freeze, and the surrounding area becomes covered in snow. Visitors can walk to a 1-kilometer trail along the canyon staring down into a winter wonderland. At the end of the trail, there is a huge frozen waterfall.
For an even cooler experience, join this Marble Canyon snowshoeing tour from Banff. The 4-hour tour includes transport from Banff as well as all your snowshoeing gear. Then, it’s off to explore the canyon with an expert guide.
21. Explore Banff Town
Banff sits only 40 minutes southeast of Lake Louise and is the perfect place to visit for the day. And it’s no wonder why – it’s absolutely beautiful in the winter and there are tons of things to do in Banff in winter.
The downtown area of Banff is very quaint and there are many awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. Spend some time wandering around town before heading up to the Banff Upper Hot Springs. This magical hot spring is run by Parks Canada and costs less than $9 CAD to visit.
Afterward, take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain. The views from the top are out of this world and have to be seen to be believed (although the photo above should be enough proof to book your gondola ticket!)
Of course, Banff is a destination all on its own so I highly recommended spending a few nights in a gorgeous hotel there. However, those short on time should at least visit for the day from Lake Louise!
22. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway is a highway that stretches between Banff and Lake Louise and is one of the most spectacular in Canada. Driving it is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in winter. The 50-kilometer-long highway takes around 1 hour to drive without stopping but allowing half a day is recommended.
Above I talked about Johnston Canyon but below are other amazing stops on the Bow Valley Parkway in winter!
Castle Mountain Viewpoint – Castle Mountain is one of those mountains you simply can’t miss. At the roadside viewpoint, you get amazing views, however, those who want a closer look can hike 6.5 km (4 miles) out and back to the viewpoint.
Morant’s Curve – In winter, this is my favorite place to photograph. Morant’s Curve is a famous viewpoint (pictured above) in the Bow Valley where the train passes through the valley. It’s stunning and a must-visit!
Moose Meadows – Moose Meadows isn’t home to many moose these days but with spectacular views, it’s a nice place to stop.
Baker Creek Mountain Resort – Looking for a beautiful cabin getaway? The Baker Creek Mountain Resort is the perfect place to stay on the Bow Valley Parkway. Choose a romantic Jacuzzi Suite for couples or a one-bedroom loft for families!
In winter you should drive the Bow Valley Parkway with caution and winter tires are required.
23. Dine at the Lakeview Lounge
While in Lake Louise be sure to take a break from the cold and head to the Lakeview Lounge for a delicious meal, coffee, or glass of wine. The restaurant is located right on the waterfront with stunning views of the lake.
Although a 5-star experience, the menu is surprisingly affordable with the average main around $35. I myself love the Ora King Salmon Nicoise. Paired with a glass of white wine it really doesn’t get much better.
The restaurant does take walk-ins, however, during busy periods it is best to book in advance before you go. Oh, and if the menu seems a little too expensive just pop in for a coffee and dessert.
24. Banff Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition
Last on this epic list of winter activities in Lake Louise is truly unique. The Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition is held every year from mid-January (check updated dates here) until the end of the month. During the event, you can visit Lake Louise and watch artists carve amazing ice sculptures right in front of you.
Kids love the event and from Monday to Friday you can visit for free. On weekends, it’s also free to visit before 10:00 am and after 5:30 pm, however, during peak times there is an admission fee. Although the event ends at the end of January, the ice sculptures are on display throughout February.
So, come on down to Lake Louise and experience the magic of winter!
Where to Stay in Lake Louise in Winter
Below Lake Louise, you’ll find the small Lake Louise Village. In this tiny mountain village, you’ll find a few hotels as well as coffee shops, a grocery store, and even a sports bar. Don’t expect a mountain town like Banff though, Lake Louise is tiny!
Within Lake Louise Village, there are some great places to stay. I am often on a budget and stay at the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center. This basic hostel comes with everything you need and the location is within walking distance to the shops and restaurants. The private rooms are cozy, clean, and comfortable. Better yet, the onsite cafe called Bill Peyto’s Cafe is a local favorite.
Another medium-budget option is the Lake Louise Inn. Once again the location is really good and most of the rooms are freshly renovated and modern. There is also an onsite pool and restaurant.
For those with a vehicle who want a really unique place to stay, the Baker Creek Mountain Resort is a good choice. The hotel is located on the Bow Valley Parkway around 11 kilometers from town. Stay in a rustic but luxurious cabin in the woods and surround yourself with nature.
Of course, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which I mentioned above, is also a top choice for luxury travelers.
Canada Winter Travel Essentials
If you’re planning to visit Canada in winter then there are a few things you should pack – things we never travel without. Some you may already have, but others you may want to pick up before you leave. This is especially true if you want to enjoy some of the best outdoor activities!
Here are some of our must-have winter essentials:
Crampons/ Ice Cleats: This is the one item I have that I use so much. If you love the outdoors and enjoy short walks and hikes, crampons are a must! The best part is, the pair that I own is only $29 CAD. They aren’t the best pair out there but they’re perfect for the everyday explorer/traveler.
Insulated water bottle: In the summer you want to keep your water cold but in winter, you want to keep it from freezing. That’s why I always carry an insulated water bottle. This Iron Flask Water Bottle is perfect because it doubles as a thermos so it’s great for carrying hot water for those winter hot chocolates! I have the 32-ounce bottle in pink but I wish I had one of the multi-colored bottles!
Merino wool socks: Cold feet can ruin your time exploring the great outdoors during winter. Please do yourself a favor and get a good quality pair of socks. Even just one pair with come in handy but I myself carry three of these COZIA Wool Socks. They’re 80% Merino wool and really warm. The best part is they are only $15 each! When I’m skiing I can even double them up if it’s -30 °C.
Thermal layers: Staying warm begins from your first layer. Life outside during the Candian winter is much more comfortable with thermal layers. There are a lot of great products in this space but look out for Merino wool products – they’re the best in my opinion!
Ski Gloves: Did you know ski resorts in Canada don’t rent gloves? That means you’re going to need to bring your own. I get really cold hands so I love these new heated rechargeable gloves. They keep your hands warm in the coldest temperatures. Although expensive, you’ll never wear another pair of gloves again.
Polarized sunglasses/ ski goggles: People often forget that on a sunny day in the mountains, the sun can really hurt your eyes when it reflects off the snow. For around town, check out these polarized sunglasses and for in the mountains these ski goggles.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. During the winter though, it’s perfect for keeping my nose and cheeks covered from the cold especially when skiing or hiking. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to the best attractions within them requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada and using crown land and campsites you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for Reading!
Lake Louise really is a beautiful place to visit in winter. From the magnificent views to the awesome free activities, even those on the tightest budget can enjoy this magical place. As a Canadian, that makes me proud!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. I hope your upcoming trip to Lake Louise is one to remember and this guide has helped you make it that way. If so, be sure to stay awhile and check out more of my blogs such as: