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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, 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 30 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. Explore the Lake Louise Lakefront
- 2. Ice skate on the lake
- 3. Go skiing or snowboarding
- 4. Dine at the Lakeview Lounge
- 5. Visit Peyto Lake
- 6. Drink at the Lake Louise Ice bar
- 7. Ride the sightseeing gondola
- 8. Hike to Fairview Lookout
- 9. Go snow tubing
- 10. Enjoy the ice castle sculpture
- 11. Cross-country skiing
- 12. Soak in Hot Springs
- 13. Drive the Icefields Parkway
- 14. Stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
- 15. Go snowshoeing
- 16. Visit the Lake Louise frozen waterfall
- 17. Go Ice climbing
- 18. Spoil yourself at the Fairmont's High Tea
- 19. Go dog sledding
- 20. Relax on a sleigh ride
- 21. Get professional photos taken
- 22. Johnston Canyon Icewalk
- 23. Visit Emerald Lake
- 24. Head to Marble Canyon
- 25. Explore Banff Town
- 26. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
- 27. Treat yourself to Fondue
- 28. Banff Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition
- 29. Take some time to relax in a day spa
- 30. Enjoy Lake Louise Village
- Where to Stay in Lake Louise in Winter
- Thanks for Reading!
- Renting a Car in Alberta
Things to do in Lake Louise in Winter
1. Explore the 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 (2.8 miles) 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 since it will be frozen. 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. They maintain the ice throughout the day too, so it’s actually smooth to skate on!
Around the lake are ice castles, too! So skate your way around the lake and castles – it’s honestly so magical.
They even have an area for people who want to play hockey, so if that’s your thing, be sure to bring your stick!
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 right at the lake. Skate rental starts at $23 CAD for 2 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.)
Hot Tip: If you want the skating rink to yourself, visit in the evening! Skating under the stars and moon is incredible, too.
3. Go skiing or snowboarding
One of the biggest reasons people travel to Lake Louise in winter is to go skiing and snowboarding! I ski and Daniel snowboards, and together, we just love hitting the slopes in Banff National Park.
Truthfully, out of all of the places to downhill ski in the area, Lake Louise Ski Resort is our absolute favorite, which is great because it’s only 5 minutes away from Lake Louise Village!
With that said, 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 Ski Resort 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 (3068-foot) verticle descent, 7 ski lifts, and 142 kilometers (88 miles) of ski runs. It’s perfect for beginners, intermediates, and pros.
I love the tree runs here, 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 $125 CAD with a half-day option at $99 CAD. Youths cost $95, children $45, 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.
Hot Tip: If you know you are visiting Lake Louise Ski Resort this winter, book your lift tickets before the season starts if possible. They often have sales of up to 50% off.
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 (especially while riding on the Banff Sunshine Gondola!), and fantastic 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 better 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.
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!
4. 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 CAD. 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. Hotel guests do get priority, so it is probably best to plan to attend mid, or earlier in the evenings before it gets busy for the dinner rush (around 5 pm.)
Oh, and if the menu seems a little too expensive, just pop in for a coffee and dessert.
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 (the view from the photo above.) You’re basically visiting an epic viewpoint above the valley without actually needing to hike for hours… cool right?
From the parking lot, it is a short 5 to 10-minute walk to the viewpoint. It’s honestly one of the most spectacular places in Canada.
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 plan on driving to Jasper after Lake Louise, you can also visit Peyto Lake when you drive that route since that is where it is located.
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 Lake Louise lakefront, the bar opens annually from mid-December to mid-March typically.
The bar serves lots of hot and cold drinks including coffee, hot chocolate, liqueurs, ice wines, and even mulled wine (my favorite!) Many of the cocktails are made with liquor from Parks Distillery, which is a distillery in Banff that makes a chilli vodka that I just love.
They also have gas fire heaters to warm up and roast marshmallows on.
It’s an incredible experience in what can only be described as an ideal location to enjoy a drink (or three – who’s judging!)
They do not take reservations at the ice bar and it is first come first served. With that said, it is run by Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, so priority is given to hotel guests. To ensure you can visit, I recommend avoiding the weekends.
Related read: Check out the best breweries in Banff!
7. Ride the sightseeing gondola
Just because you don’t ski or snowboard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the views from the top of the Lake Louise Ski Resort. That’s right, you can ride the Winter Sightseeing Gondola!
Most sightseeing gondolas are closed in the winter, but not the one in Lake Louise. The Winter Sightseeing Gondola offers people the chance to get up high into the mountains to enjoy the view without the need for a ski/snowboard lift ticket.
All you have to do is make your way to Lake Louise Ski Resort and then jump in one of their enclosed gondolas. You should plan to dress warm as there are no facilities at the top, so you’ll be outside in the snow.
The view from up there is spectacular, though, so you really can’t go wrong.
Tickets for the gondola cost $60 CAD for adults with discounts available for children and seniors.
Another sightseeing gondola nearby that is open in the winter and well worth doing is the Banff Gondola. This gondola offers a completely different view and has a ton of facilities at the top. You can shop, enjoy a glass of wine with a view, or even have a meal!
At the top of the Banff Gondola, there is also a boardwalk that they regularly clear where you can go for a walk. There are even firepits to warm up! As I said, it’s an entirely different experience than the Lake Louise Gondola and one I highly recommend that you make time for.
Tickets for the Banff Gondola cost $59 CAD. You can book your tickets to the Banff Gondola online here.
8. 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 (1.6 mile) out and back leads to a stunning viewpoint over Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise 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!
9. Go snow tubing
Not a skier or snowboarder, but still want to hit the slopes? Well, I’ve got just the winter activity for you… snow tubing! This is just like sledding but in an air tube down specially designed tube runs.
At 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 $38.50 CAD for adults, $33 CAD for youths (ages 13-17), $22 for children (ages 6-12), and those aged 3-5 ride free! The best part is that the ticket isn’t just for one ride, you can go as much as you want during their opening hours from 10 am to 4 pm.
The Lake Louise tube park isn’t the only one in Banff National Park. There is also one at Mt Norquay near Banff town, although this park is slightly more expensive and allows less time at the park (you have to choose between a morning, afternoon, and night session.) So my choice would be Lake Louise!
10. Enjoy the ice castle sculpture
You simply need to see the castle made of ice at Lake Louise lakefront – it is so cool! The truth is that if you plan on visiting the lake at all, you will see the castle, it’s practically impossible to miss!
You can skate around the sculpture or even walk. It is so big there are even doorways you can walk under! If you already plan on going skating on the lake, you can plan to check out the ice sculpture at the same time.
Grab your camera and get some photos with this incredible display. Kids love them and they make for the perfect family picture!
The best part is that they are entirely free to visit. Park at Lake Louise lakefront and walk towards the lake; like I said, you can’t miss it!
11. Cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiing is hugely popular at Lake Louise. In fact, there are over ten trails in the area suited to a variety of fitness levels.
One of the most popular and easily accessible is the Lake Louise Loop. This 4.1-kilometer (2.5-mile) loop begins at the foreshore and travels along the frozen lake. This trail has duel tracks and is groomed, which makes it much easier for anybody just starting out.
The more advanced cross-country skiers should tackle Moraine Lake Road. The 15.6-kilometer (9.7-mile) 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 that past the viewpoint is dangerous avalanche terrain, so going further is not recommended.
There are plenty of other trails around Lake Louise; however, the two I mentioned above are the most popular!
You can use the trails for free if you have your own gear. You can also take advantage of rentals at Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau that are only $30 CAD for 4 hours (boots, poles, and skis) or $55 for 8 hours.
If you’re new to cross-country skiing, don’t worry, you can do a lesson at Lake Louise! This particular lesson includes an expert guide who will teach you all of the basics including the essential things like how to fall down and get back up with ease. By the end of the lesson, you’ll be gliding along the snow like a pro!
This lesson includes all gear, a guide, and it lasts for about 5 hours. It costs $150 CAD per person and can be booked easily online here.
Related read: Headed to the Okanagan? Check out all the best things to do in Kelowna in winter!
12. Soak in Hot Springs
After all that skating, skiing, tubing, and hiking it might be time to warm up and soothe your sore muscles, so why not head to some therapeutic hot springs? There are two great hot springs not too far from Lake Louise that are open in the winter, they are:
Banff Upper Hot Springs
We think that Banff Upper Hot Springs are some of the best hot springs in the whole province. They’re located 61 kilometers (38 miles) from Lake Louise, which is a 45-minute drive. They’re also just 10 minutes from the center of Banff, so you could also spend some time checking out the town if you like.
The water here varies between 37-40°C (99-105°F), which is perfect for a nice, soothing soak. Plus, you can enjoy gorgeous views of Mt. Rundle in the distance while you bathe, and there’s also a picnic area and a cafe here.
The springs are open from 10 am until 10 pm. They’re generally quieter during the evening but during the day is the best time to appreciate those amazing mountain views!
Entry costs $16.50 CAD per adult, $14.25 CAD for seniors and under 18s. Family passes for 2 adults and 2 children are also available for $53 CAD, and you can rent both towels and swimsuits for $2 CAD per item.
Radium Hot Springs
You can easily spend half of a day visiting Banff Upper Hot Springs, but if you’re looking to take a full-day trip, head to Radium Hot Springs. These hot springs are located 131 kilometers (81.4 miles) from Lake Louise, so it takes between 1.5 and 2 hours to drive there.
It might sound a little far, but the drive from Lake Louise is really nice. The journey takes you through the middle of Kootenay National Park, so you can stop at Marble Canyon to break up the journey. You can walk the 1.4 kilometer (0.9 mile) loop from the parking lot, which takes you across some footbridges to give you beautiful views of the canyon. It only takes about 25 minutes and is a really nice way to stretch your legs (you might need snowshoes though, so if you have then, bring ’em!)
Since Radium Hot Springs are further out from Banff, they’re generally quieter, and they’re actually tucked into the side of a mountain face. You can come here year-round, so during the winter you can enjoy a soak in the hot pool while you look out at the snowy mountainside.
The entry prices here are the same as for Banff Upper Hot Springs, since both sites are owned by Parks Canada. This means $16.50 for adults and $14.25 for seniors and youths.
13. 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 232-kilometer (144-mile) 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; but personally, 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 (already mentioned above), 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 there are only three stops, you’ll also get those breathtaking views as you drive.
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! There are even winter tours offered in Jasper like stargazing and exploring frozen waterfalls.
Winter tires are a requirement 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.
You also must have a Canada Parks Pass to drive the Icefields Parkway. Even if you don’t plan on stopping, the pass is required to enter the highway.
14. 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 $400 CAD per night, which is actually about half of the price if you were to visit in peak summer.
If you stay here, 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.
For those who have more than one day to enjoy Lake Louise, why not book a night and stay at this amazing hotel?! You can check rates, availability, and book online on Booking.com here, Expedia here, and Hotels.com here.
15. Go snowshoeing
Snowshoeing in the Lake Louise area will help you explore more trails than otherwise possible. With snowshoes, you can get off the beaten trails (quite literally) and explore areas with deeper snow.
Snowshoeing is also super easy, so even if you’ve never done it before you can probably catch on fairly quickly.
One of my personal favorite snowshoe routes is up to Mirror Lakes via the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail. At only 5.4 kilometers (3.4 miles) 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 next to the cross-country ski route and enjoy the 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) 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.
Rental snowshoes are available at the shop right at the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel and are $23 CAD for 2 hours and $40 for 4 hours.
16. Visit the Lake Louise frozen waterfall
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 the lake 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.
17. Go Ice climbing
If just seeing a frozen waterfall is not exciting enough for you, then why not 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 $215 CAD and leaves from Banff town. You’ll set off at 8 am and the tour lasts around 8 hours.
18. Spoil yourself at the Fairmont’s High Tea
As we mentioned earlier in this blog, staying at the fairytale-esque Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise is a pretty pricey experience, and unfortunately, a lot of the restaurants are for guests only! However, one way that you can enjoy this majestic lakeside castle is by booking in for their afternoon tea.
Between noon and 2:30 pm each day, non-guests are allowed into the Fairview Restaurant for a very fancy high tea experience. As the name indicates, the restaurant offers gorgeous views of Lake Louise itself and the snow-capped mountains behind, while the afternoon tea will make you feel like royalty.
With freshly baked scones, smoked salmon sandwiches, and macarons on the menu, I’m getting a little hungry just thinking about it!
Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Lake Louise costs $85 CAD per person and includes as much tea as you can drink. However, you can also add a glass of prosecco for $16 CAD or champagne for $20-$25 CAD per glass, depending on which brand you choose.
You definitely need to book this experience in advance because it’s super popular. You can reserve your spot online, give the hotel a call, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
19. 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 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 our trip, we went along a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) 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 $325 CAD for the 30-minute tour with Kingmik in Lake Louise.
Related Read: Plan a road trip from Lake Louise to Canmore as 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!
20. 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 on a honeymoon in Lake Louise, 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 $52 CAD for adults and $45 for children and last for 45 to 60 minutes. There are also private sleigh ride options too, but they are significantly more expensive.
21. Get professional photos taken
Lake Louise is absolutely stunning, so we really can’t think of many better places to have professional photos taken. It doesn’t have to take hours, either – this professional photography session lasts for 60 minutes and ensures that you will have amazing pictures to remember your time in Lake Louise by. Plus, if you’re having a family photoshoot, it means you don’t need to worry too much about kids getting bored!
A professional photographer will snap photos of you and your loved ones in up to 8 different spots around the lake. Since you’re in such a stunning location, the photos are sure to turn out amazing, and you’ll get 80 edited images delivered to you online a few days later.
You can have up to 10 people (or pets!) in your group, but unsurprisingly this photography package is a very popular choice for couples. It’s ideal for engagement, honeymoon, or anniversary shoots! I mean, can you image a more romantic place?! Daniel actually popped the question when we were visiting Moraine Lake a few years back.
This photography session costs $700 CAD and is available year-round, with a range of timeslots to choose from. You can check availability and book online here.
22. Johnston Canyon Icewalk
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 (the drive between Lake Louise and Banff.) From the parking lot, you’ll walk a 2.5-kilometer (1.6-mile) trail/boardwalk to the Upper Falls (ice cleats are strongly recommended.)
You can also stop at the lower falls and turn around for a shorter, 1.3-kilometer (0.8-mile) 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 (or just arrange to meet them there) as well as an expert guide, ice cleats, and hiking poles.
You’ll enjoy the views of frozen waterfalls and icicles while listening to the commentary from your guide.
The tour is $95 CAD and includes a hot chocolate and a maple cookie snack at the end! You can read all the reviews and book it easily online here.
23. Visit Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is located around 35 minutes from Lake Louise and 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!
24. 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 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. Snowshoes may be required to hike the trail depending on the conditions.
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.
25. Explore Banff Town
Banff town 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 Alberta hot springs is run by Parks Canada and costs $16.50 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 recommend spending a few nights in a gorgeous hotel there. However, those short on time should at least visit for the day from Lake Louise!
Related Read: Banff is even better during Christmas! Read our blog about visiting Banff in December for more info on festive events and activities during this time of year.
26. 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.
27. Treat yourself to Fondue
There’s nothing better than enjoying Fondue on a snowy day in the Rockies, and the best way to do it in Lake Louise is to head to Fondue Stubli at the historic Post Hotel. The hotel is really rustic and cozy, and Stubli actually means “cozy room” in German – the perfect place to warm up on a winter day!
At Fondue Stubli, they’ve got a prix-fixe menu, so you get an appetizer, fondue for two to share, and then dessert. You can choose from either traditional, Chinese-style, or Bourguignon fondue – who knew there were so many different types?
It costs $115 CAD per person (before tax and tips) to dine at Fondue Stubli, and you can add charcuterie for $19 CAD per person if you like.
You should also make sure that you head to the Post Hotel’s Normal Lounge for a drink before or after your meal as well so that you can cozy up by the fire!
28. 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.
From Monday to Friday, you can visit for free. On weekends, it’s also free to visit before 10 am and after 5:30 pm; however, during peak times, there is an admission fee.
If you want to watch the actually carving in action, you’ll need to visit during the first three days of the event. After that, you can just look at the sculptures and enjoy the work!
So, come on down to Lake Louise and experience the magic of winter!
29. Take some time to relax in a day spa
As we’re sure you can tell by this point in the article, there’s a LOT to do in Lake Louise, so it’s definitely worth taking some time to relax in between activities. There are two excellent spas to choose from at the top hotels in the village, so take advantage.
At the Fairmont Spa, they’ve got a range of relaxing wellness experiences on offer. You can also go for a sports massage if you’ve been doing lots of hiking in Banff National Park, and they’ve even got a special Hiker’s Foot Therapy massage!
When you visit the Fairmont Spa as a day guest, you also get to use the hotel swimming pool, steamroom, and jacuzzi, which are usually reserved for overnight guests only.
Treatment prices here range between $89 – $289 CAD, so this isn’t a cheap thing to do but it’s a great way to treat yourself.
Meanwhile, as well as being our favorite fondue spot, the Post Hotel is also home to the fantastic Temple Mountain Spa. They’ve got some cutting edge facials here and lots of anti-aging treatments to make sure you emerge looking your best, and there are also plenty of massages aimed at helping you recover from skiing and hiking.
Prices at Temple Mountain Spa start at $90 CAD and go up to $410 CAD for one of their special indulgence package deals.
30. Enjoy Lake Louise Village
Lake Louise Village is tiny – in fact, it’s technically a hamlet – but there are still a few cool places to check out.
You can head to the Visitor Center to learn more about the local area. They can help you plan your trip and find out which festivals and events are happening during your stay, so it’s worth a visit.
Meanwhile, the Candy Store is a must. It’s a treasure trove of old-timey candy and you’ll find old favorites here that you’ve probably forgotten all about! It’s pretty impressive how they’re able to source all of these rare sweets, and they also have tons of maple products, high-quality chocolates, and homemade fudge. Yum!
And if that’s still not enough sugar for you, go to the Trailhead Cafe for one of their delicious hot chocolates. You can even take it to go and then walk along the river, or enjoy it in-house alongside one of their amazing sandwiches.
We also love the Lake Louise Village Grill & Bar for Apres Ski drinks. It stays open until 2 am and you can enjoy some great views from here, but it’s also pretty family-orientated, so don’t worry about it getting too rowdy if you’re coming here with kids.
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
- Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise in Winter
Not far from the lake itself, 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 small grocery store, and even a sports bar. Don’t expect a mountain town like Banff though, Lake Louise Village is tiny!
Within Lake Louise Village, there are some great places to stay. Some of our favorites are:
HI Lake Louise Alpine Center – $
We typically like staying at affordable, yet comfortable places, and that is exactly what we get whenever we stay at the HI Lake Louise Alpine Center. This basic hostel and hotel 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. We’ve stayed here often and it’s our go-to whenever we visit Lake Louise (we’d rather save our money for tours and experiences than a fancy stay.) Plus, the private rooms are honestly really nice.
Lake Louise Inn – $$
For a slightly nicer stay, but not quite in the luxury category you can’t go wrong with the Lake Louise Inn. Once again the location is really good and most of the rooms are freshly renovated and modern. There is also an onsite pool, hot tub, two restaurants, and a lounge.
One of the things I like most about the Lake Louise Inn is the variety of room types on offer. You can choose between standard rooms with double beds or king beds, or if you like having your own kitchen, opt for a studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom apartment.
Rooms here go for as little as $120 CAD per night during the low season, but can be much price during peak times.
You can check prices an book here on Booking.com.
Baker Creek Mountain Resort – $$$
For those with a vehicle who want a really unique place to stay, Baker Creek Mountain Resort is an ideal choice for that quintessential Canadian log cabin stay. The hotel is located on the Bow Valley Parkway around 11 kilometers (about a ten minute drive) from Lake Louise Village.
Stay in a rustic but luxurious cabin in the woods and surround yourself with nature. Every cabin also has a fireplace, so you can cozy up by the fire to escape the snowy winter weather. The resort also has a sauna and steam room, as well as fire pits that guests can use.
Rooms vary in price, but starts at around $275 CAD per night. You can check availability and book easily online here on Booking.com.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – $$$
Of course, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, which I mentioned above, is also a top choice for luxury travelers. Honestly, if you like a luxury stay and want to spoil yourself a little, this is the place you should book.
You can check availability, rates, and book on Booking.com here.
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 some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.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 in 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: