A Guide to Visiting Banff National Park in Winter

If you are looking for the ultimate outdoor adventure, the quintessential winter wonderland and the most memorable snow-topped landscapes around, then you need to visit the Banff National Park in winter.

Not only is this time of year the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies but there are so many sparkling, snow-dusted adventures to be had.

So, get comfortable and bookmark this blog as we offer you the ultimate guide to visiting Banff National Park in Winter.

Taking a deeper look at Banff National Park

For those unfamiliar with this picturesque location, the Banff National part is actually Canada’s first national park. It is made up of emerald lakes and rivers, snow white glaciers and pristine wilderness that surrounds the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, Canada.

This incredible getaway is not adored for its winter themed experiences but the mere fact that this little escape is known for only having 4% of its natural terrains accessible by road. This means that wherever you are able to drive, you know that you will be surrounded by untouched, unspoiled nature in all of its wintery glory!

Banff National Park in winter
Scenic winter mountain landscape in Canadian Rockies – depositphotos.com

When is it winter in Banff National Park?

The region’s winters fall between the months of January and March with the air being noticeably cold and dry. That being said, it is significantly warmer than similar mountainous areas in Alberta with the area only receiving a moderate amount of snow – unless you are on high ski hills. Despite the cold, there’s plenty of sunshine and not a lot of wind.

It is important to keep in mind that January is by far the coldest month in Banff National Park, with an average low of about -15°C (5°F). While January may be the coldest time of the year it is the best time to visit this location. Not only will you experience the full snow-draped experience, but it is also less busy at the end of January as many people are returning home from their trips.

How to get to Banff National Park

If you are preparing for your Banff winter trip you will most likely be flying into Calgary International Airport. Once you’ve landed you will then embark on an incredibly scenic 1.5 hour drive down the TransCanada Highway that will take you through the heart of the park. You will then continue west until you reach the mountains of Banff.

How to travel around Banff National Park in Winter

When it comes to any vacation, it is natural to want to rent a car. If you are looking to have a little more freedom to go and do whatever you want at a time of your choosing, renting a car is a great idea. Keep in mind that there are heavy snowfalls, so you will want to have some experience driving during or right after a snowstorm.

There are also a number of car rental providers in the town including Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise – all of which have offices in the area. You can search across all car rental providers here.

Alternatively, you could skip the renting of a car all together and opt for local transportation options. Even during the winter, they are fully operational and incredibly affordable too. There are a number of shuttle options available that can take you from the airport to your accommodation and take you around the entire area. There are also notable eco-friendly bus options that can easily take you to your next activity.

What to wear when visiting the Banff National Park in Winter

Naturally, you will be packing all of your regular essentials from your toiletries to your electronics and chargers, passports and all. However, given the fact that you will be experiencing some pretty cold bouts of weather it is essential that the following items are in your suitcase.

  1. Layers. You will without a doubt be layering for most of your trip as a way to insulate yourself. Try to get as many long-sleeved cotton shirts and leggings as possible. Read more about why Merino Wool clothes are perfect for layering!
  2. Winter boots. Nevermind aesthetics, you will need functional, warm boots that can handle the snow, water and mud. If they have some grip, even better!
  3. Woollen socks. It is common for tourists to get frostbite in their toes due to a lack of proper, adequate socks. Keep those toes warm and as dry as possible with THICK Merino Wool socks.
  4. A hat. This may seem strange given that it is winter but keep in mind that the sun is very much still present and oh so harsh, so make sure to bring a hat that not only protects you from the sun but can keep your head nice and warm.
  5. Ice cleats. On the topic of being able to trudge your way through the snow, purchasing/ renting high quality ice cleats is an absolute must.
  6. Mitten. Here comes the frostbite again. It is so easy to lose feeling in your fingers given the cold. Keep your hands protected with the help of insulating mittens that can keep you warm even in the harshest of winter weather. Don’t forget your scarves and beanies too!

If you’re going hiking in Banff National Park (in winter or summer) – check out these hiking sunglasses.

Winter in Banff National Park
Magnificent Winter View of Bow River Valley in Banff National Park on a Snowy Day.

Where to stay when visiting the Banff National Park in Winter

Fairmont Banff Springs

If you are looking to experience a world class winter escape then look no further than the Fairmont Banff Springs. This gorgeous resort has a 32 m lap pool and a 20 m heated outdoor pool. Better yet, after a long day taking in all of the activities on offer, you can make use of the resort’s Willow Stream Spa that has 27 treatment areas and offers a variety of relaxing massages and beauty treatments. Other on-site activities for guests include bowling, tennis, horseback riding, and golfing.

Rimrock Resort Hotel

If you are looking to live in a lap of luxury then the Rimrock Resort Hotel is your ideal accommodation spot. Not only does it offer all guests access to the exclusive indoor pool and a hot tub, but Rimrock Resort Hotel is located 6-minute drive from Banff centre and near the Upper Hot Springs. There is also a renowned on-site restaurant that has a number of decadent dishes and local cuisines on offer.

Moose Hotel and Suites

If you are looking for a warm ambient experience that delicately balances outstanding architecture with spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes, then the Moose Hotel Suites are perfect for you. The design of the Moose is a combination of modern elegance with warm, rich, natural materials that replicate its surroundings. It is also located a 1-minute walk from the heart of downtown Banff, meaning you are nearby all of the hustle and bustle!

What to keep in mind when visiting Banff National Park in winter

Since Banff National Park is a popular place for tourists to visit, you will notice that the most common language spoken in this town is English. That said many locals do speak French, so expect to encounter a lot of strong, heavy French accents along the way. You will also notice that many of the signs around the area are written in both English and French.

If you are visiting Banff in the middle of winter you’re very fortunate that unlike many other mountainous areas, you have a significant amount of daytime. In fact, you can expect sunshine and daylight for about 10 hours of the day which is quite a win in comparison.

Remember to also exchange your current money for Canadian Dollars as that is the currency used throughout the town. Very rarely will any of the locals except any other currency, so make sure to exchange your money prior to jetting off on your vacation.

Winter activities in Banff National Park

Upper Hot Springs

Take a dip in the gorgeously geothermally heated and bubbling mineral water of the Upper Hot Springs. This incredibly rejuvenating water flows from the Earth’s crust through the Sulphur Mountain Thrust Fault. Whilst you enjoy its warmth you can take in all of the panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains as the blue waters soothe your body. Once you are done, you can grab a quick bite to eat at the café at Upper Hot Springs.

Winter Wilderness & Wildlife Hiking

Get some dirt under those shoes and explore the incredible terrains of the Banff National park by joining in on their Winter Wilderness & Wildlife Hiking experience. When it comes to figuring out what to do Banff in the winter, you cannot begin your adventure without adding a hike onto your list – especially at this location. A number of professional guides will take you through the various seasonal trains where you will have a number of memorable wildlife sightings.

Go snowshoeing in Tunnel Mountain

Pump some adrenaline and get your heart racing at Tunnel Mountain. This is a particularly great snowshoeing spot as it’s right in the heart of Banff. It is also beloved by locals given its accessibility and proximity to other activities in the area. It is also really great for all skill levels too and offers amazing views too.

See also Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint on a Winter Sports Trip

Try the Fairview Loop Banff Cross Country skiing trail

Are you ready to glide your way through the spectacular landscapes of Banff National Park in winter? Then you need to make sure that you take part in some good old Banff cross country skiing at the Fairview Loop. Not only is this a much-loved sport in the country, but it is a great way to explore the surrounding areas. Just keep in mind that the general cross country season runs between mid-November and March.

Go Skating at Lake Louise

Canada is known for its scenic and charming lakes, but one that continues to reign supreme is the one and only Lake Louise. It is easily one of the most popular destinations for great skating in Banff moment. It has so much winter charm and there are a number of fun ice sculptures, horse-drawn carriages and a little ‘ice bar’ that serves a number of decadent drinks too!

You can also do a day trip to Lake Louise.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada
Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada – depositphotos.com

Take the Gondola Up Sulphur Mountain

Yes, indeed Canada has gondolas, and they are fantastic, especially when taking it up Sulphur Mountain. Gondolas in Banff are common and offer you the most goosebump-inducing experiences as you nestle your way through the forestry. Once you get to the very top, they serve an incredible lunch buffet for you to indulge in.

Just keep in mind that it is best if you book your tickets in advance. Not only is it cheaper than purchasing it at the ticket stand but it will also mean that you get to skip the line and head on straight to the gondola from the moment it arrives.

General tips for when you visit Banff National Park in winter

Definitely get a park pass.

It is crucial that you understand that the only way to get into Banff National Park is via a paid permit system, which supports the preservation of the park. You can opt for a day pass of the Discovery Pass which allows you to go to any park in Canada. Passes are available at the park gates, online and at visitor centres.

Leave open spaces in your schedule

It is easy to get overly excited about your trip and figuring out things to do in Banff that you overwhelm yourself. Give yourself time to wander through this vibrant town and see what’s on offer. You don’t have to plan everything until the last second.

Practice your French

Whether you are French speaking or a beginner, Banff is the perfect place to begin learning a new language. Not only are the locals friendly but they appreciate the efforts too. It is a sweet gesture that goes a long way, so try to download language learning apps or make use of free YouTube videos online.

The reality is that visiting Banff National Park in winter is an experience that you will never forget. Embarking on this winter wonderland escape will definitely be a story you share for years to come!


Australia Entry Restrictions: How to Avoid Getting Denied Entry

There are numerous Australia entry restrictions that travelers need to be aware of before getting on their flight to Australia.

There are a number of laws that can cause entry restrictions when it comes to entering Australia. Once a person is denied entry to the country, they are less likely to be able to enter under any circumstances, ever again.

Thus, it’s important to understand why a traveler might be denied entry into Australia. That way, they can avoid the most common pitfalls and give themselves the best possible chance of easily getting a visa to Australia and entering the country without any problems.

Sydney Opera House, Australia
Walking past the Sydney Opera House.

What are the current Australia entry restrictions?

It’s important to understand the common Australia entry restrictions, here’s how to avoid getting denied entry into the country.

Tell the truth on formal paperwork

Visitors applying for a visa to Australia need to tell the truth at all times. Even if this means disclosing details they would rather not share, it is better for them to do so than for the government to find out that they lied on official paperwork.

It’s important that travelers make sure they don’t inadvertently give wrong information, too. For instance, all of the pieces of data on their visa application need to perfectly match the information on their passport. A data discrepancy can cause delays or even a denied visa.

Obtain the best visa

Travelers need to apply for and enter Australia on the best visa for their needs. This can be confusing, because Australia offers a lot of different visas for a lot of different purposes. However, there are services that can help match visitors with the best visa for their needs.

Find more info and help to get the online Australia ETA visa.

Travelers also need to fully fill out their visa application, leaving nothing incomplete. This includes submitting all required documents for their visa, and additional documentation if it is requested and required by the Australian government.

Different visas require different documentation, and it’s up to each traveler to make sure they submit the correct paperwork. Travelers who are unclear on what is required should contact the government before they apply for their visa.

Check out our guide on the different Australian visa types.

Australia Entry Restrictions
Make sure to get the right visa before entering Australia.

Don’t bring (or declare!) restricted substances and items

Australia does not allow items that are dangerous to enter the country. Similarly, they do not permit certain agricultural items that may transmit disease or carry pests, to enter the country.

Travelers should not attempt to bring these items into Australia. If they do, they should declare them and not attempt to hide them. This allows Australian customs officers to confiscate anything that might be dangerous or not permitted.

Travelers who do not declare these kinds of items may be denied entry to Australia at the border, even if they have a visa.

Some items that are not permitted are:

  • Firearms
  • Other weapons
  • Steroids
  • Drugs
  • Some types of food
  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Protected wildlife
  • Indigenous or historical items

Expect baggage searches

While many travelers will enter and leave Australia without having their baggage formally checked, others will need to submit to luggage searches before they can enter the country. These may be performed randomly, or officials may be looking for some item in particular.

No matter the reason or the baggage search, it’s important to submit to it with good grace. Travelers may not like having their baggage searched, but it is the right of the Australian government to do so.

Travelers who protest baggage searches may lose their right to enter the country. Being chosen for a baggage screening does not reflect on an individual’s character, grooming, or other personal characteristics. A little bit of patience usually sees the search completed and the traveler moving on.

Stay calm with government officials

Visitors should remain calm whenever they are dealing with Australian government officials. They may find questions, searches, and more to be inconvenient and annoying, but these are essential for keeping travel to Australia safe and both travelers and citizens alike secure.

A traveler who loses their temper with a government official may find it more difficult to enter Australia, if they are permitted entry at all. An outburst or an act of violence can get a visitor banned from Australia or make it much harder for them to get into the country.

An outburst at a consulate or an embassy visit, such as those required to obtain some visas to Australia, can have similar results. Overall, travelers should keep their emotions under control at all times.

Have tickets for destinations outside of Australia

Australia is unlikely to grant visas for visitors who they believe will not abide by the terms of that visa. Similarly, officials at the airport are less likely to allow someone to enter Australia if they believe that the person will not leave when their visa is up.

One of the best ways to prove that a traveler has the intention of honoring the terms of their visa is for them to have a ticket for a destination outside of Australia. The ticket needs to depart Australia within the time period allowed on their particular visa.

A ticket like this shows a person’s intent to travel away from Australia before their visa expires. It is an act of good faith, showing that the visitor knows the terms of their visa and means to abide by them.

Travelers who have previously overstayed a visa in Australia will need to be able to explain this overstay. There are a few circumstances where these transgressions are considered legitimate and can be overlooked. Other overstays may result in denial of entry in the future.

Things to do in Adelaide, Australia
Adelaide, Australia

Follow COVID-19 rules and procedures

The Australian borders are currently closed due to COVID-19. Travelers who do not have specific permission to Australia will not be permitted to enter the country. This permission must be granted before the traveler departs for Australia.

Upon entry to Australia, most travelers will need to quarantine for 14 days in a government-approved quarantine facility. These are hotels where they will be shown to a room. Food will be brought several times a day, but they will not be permitted to leave the room until their quarantine is complete.

See also Travelling in a Pandemic: Crucial Safe Travel Tips and Review: LCP Medical Face Masks for Traveling

Visit Australia soon

Travelers who are permitted entry to Australia can enjoy it now. Once they know they can enter the country, they should visit as soon as possible because Australia has a lot to offer!

Check out the below posts for some Australian travel inspiration: