Snowshoe Trails in Banff National Park
Ah, the Canadian Rockies in winter! With crisp air, blue skies, sparkling mountains and trees thick with heavy boughs of snow, Banff National Park is arguably at its most picturesque in winter. There’s no better way to experience this beautiful, magical landscape than by heading out into the backcountry on snowshoes, where you can enjoy the quiet beauty of a winter hike. Snowshoeing in Banff National Park is an otherworldly experience that you’ll never forget.
Snowshoeing is one of our favorite winter activities, and Banff National Park is one of the best places in the Canadian Rockies to try it out. This fun activity is inexpensive, offers a great workout, is easy to learn and is suitable for hikers of all ages, allowing you to experience the beauty and stillness of the mountains in winter. As the thick snow casts a magical aura over the forests and peaks, this is your opportunity to see a different side to Banff.
Banff National Park offers a fantastic range of snowshoeing trails, with something to suit all hikers. Traverse sparkling frozen lakes and snow-covered meadows, pass through atmospheric forests, and climb to mountain passes with remarkable views over the park. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a trail for you, and if you’ve never tried your hand at snowshoeing before, then Banff National Park is the perfect place to give it a go!
To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together a list of the best snowshoe trails in Banff National Park. It’s time to pull on those snowshoes and hit the trail!
Top 12 Snowshoe Trails In Banff National Park
The sheer diversity of snowshoe trails on offer in Banff is simply incredible, including wooded routes, high passes, and crystalline frozen lakes. This is a great place to come if you’re a snowshoe beginner, as there are many tour guides and companies operating in the national park that can help you get started. Take the chairlifts to avoid any steep ascents, or simply head out onto a frozen lake for a wonderful introduction to the delights of snowshoeing. Banff has something to suit everyone, and there are trails here for all levels of experience and fitness. If you’re hoping to head out for the day, you’ll find plenty of challenging routes that take you deep into the backcountry, where you can admire the beauty of Banff National Park in complete seclusion under a dense carpet of fresh snow.
- Healy Pass Snowshoe Trail: Looking for a fun trail where you can escape the busy ski slopes of Banff National Park? Try the snowshoe route that takes you to Healy Pass – this wonderful hike is popular for a reason! The trail follows the same route as the summer hiking trail, passing by Healy Meadows, with beautiful scenery along the way and spectacular views over Sunshine Meadows from the top. This is a tough route, but makes an excellent winter day out for fit adventurers.
- Crystal Ridge Snowshoe Trail: This snowshoe trail to Crystal Ridge on the Icefields Parkway more than lives up to its name – you’ll pass by enormous boulders, staggering crystals, and breathtaking views of the Wapta Icefield. The route begins at the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint, passing through the forest before ascending a rocky slope. This incredibly scenic route is one of the best in the region, but it’s a fairly remote and challenging trek and you should make sure you have avalanche training before you go.
- Peyto Lake Snowshoe Trail: This wonderful, easy snowshoe trail is a winter classic in Banff National Park. It’s a short route, and can often be very busy in winter, so we’d recommend going early in the day to enjoy the views by yourself. You’ll enjoy a remarkable snowy vista, taking in Peyto Lake and the Icefields Parkway. Aim to complete this trail on a clear day so you can enjoy the magnificent scenery to the maximum.
- Wilcox Pass Snowshoe Trail: Wilcox Pass is situated right on the edge of the Athabasca Icefield, and is surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Alberta. This stunning location is a wonderful place for an adventure on snowshoes, and will take you into a world of glistening snow and ice. The views from the top of Wilcox Pass are simply mind-blowing, with snow-covered peaks and immense glaciers. This is a remote trail, so make sure to check the weather and avalanche forecast before you set out.
- Boom Lake Snowshoe Trail: Boom Lake is one of the best moderate snowshoe trails in Banff National Park. The route begins in the trees but opens up with spectacular views once you arrive at Boom Lake. You’ll take in the tall peaks of Boom Mountain and Chickadee Peak, as well as Chimney Peak at the far end of the lake. You can go out on the frozen lake, but take care not to go too far as some areas close to the outflow have much thinner ice. For a magical winter experience, stay at the Storm Mountain Lodge for some rustic charm and hearty meals after a day out in the snow.
- Taylor Lake and Panorama Meadows Snowshoe Trail: Taylor Lake is beautiful in all seasons, but in winter it’s a particularly glorious sight. Perched at the base of Mount Bell, this picturesque lake is the destination on this delightful snowshoe trip, with views over the open meadows just below Panorama Ridge. The elevation gain is slow and steady, so it’s not too challenging, and the scenery is simply stunning.
- Deception Pass Snowshoe Trail: The name Deception Pass may sound somewhat ominous, but this wonderful snowshoe trail is a pure delight! This is one of the best challenging snowshoe trails in Banff National Park, and requires a full day on snowshoes (although it’s possible, and quicker, to complete it on skis). The trail offers a wonderful opportunity to discover the Skoki region, allowing you to traverse Boulder Pass, Ptarmigan Lake and Deception Pass all in one amazing day out! Start early as this route is a long day trip.
- Bow Lake Snowshoe Trail: Aim to complete the Bow Lake Snowshoe trail in mid-week, when you’ll be able to enjoy this stunning spectacle all by yourself. This deservedly popular trail is an excellent option for kids or those who are new to snowshoeing, as the route is flat and there are some incredible views across the lake. Bow Lake is a classic, and one of the best family snowshoe trails in Banff National Park.
- Paradise Valley Snowshoe Trail: Looking for your own slice of winter paradise in Banff National Park? This secluded, magical trail near Lake Louise is one of the best snowshoe trails in Banff, passing through some truly incredible scenery. The route follows the summer hiking trail, dropping down to Paradise Creek with beautiful views over Paradise Valley. This remote hike is best completed early in the season, and it’s usually very quiet, so a good option if you’re looking to escape the crowds.
- Johnston Canyon Snowshoe Trail: Visiting the Johnston Canyon in summer is spectacular, but in winter you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported into another world. The frozen waterfalls create magical ice sculptures, and the fresh snow creates an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere. The trail passes both the Lower and Upper Canyon Falls, and you may catch a glimpse of ice climbers as they attempt to scale the frozen cascade. This can be done on snowshoes, but you may also wish to bring microspikes to help with traction on the downhill sections.
- Lake Louise Snowshoe Trail: One of our favorite things to do in Banff National Park in winter is to head out onto the frozen Lake Louise. This snowshoe trail begins at the ice castle on Lake Louise and skirts the right-hand side of the lake, steering clear of Mount Fairview on the left, in case there is any avalanche activity. The incredible views of the Victoria Glacier from the lake will take your breath away, and you can choose to return by any route you choose. One back at the ice castle, grab a drink at the ice bar in front of the Chateau!
- Sunshine Meadows Snowshoe Trail: Looking for a truly amazing snowshoe route in Banff National Park? This trail through Sunshine Meadows is one of our favorites, offering spectacular views of the picturesque Rock Isle Lake in winter. You’ll begin at the top of the Standish Lift, and descend gradually back into the Sunshine Meadows ski area. According to locals, completing this trail is like ‘snowshoeing on top of the world’. We couldn’t agree more! This is one of the best easy snowshoe trails in Banff National Park.
When Is The Best Time To Go Snowshoeing In Banff National Park?
The best time to go snowshoeing in Banff National Park is between late December and early April. At this time, you can be sure of a thick carpet of fresh snow, and optimal conditions for snowshoeing. January and February can be very cold in Banff, but by March the days start to lengthen and the weather is perfect for snowshoeing. Towards the end of the season, some of the trails may become icy, so you may want to bring hiking poles. It’s best to bear in mind that avalanche season in the mountains runs from November to June, so it’s important to check the weather forecast before you go and to be aware of areas that are prone to avalanches. Try to avoid school holidays, and the period over Christmas and New Year, as the resorts and trails can become very crowded.
Other Outdoor Activities In Banff National Park
Banff is one of the most popular winter sports destinations in the whole of the Canadian Rockies, but whenever you visit, visitors can expect to enjoy a whole host of outdoor activities in Banff National Park. Banff is a great place to get out on the slopes, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity to try your hand at cross-country skiing, snowboarding, downhill skiing, ice skating, sledding, and ice climbing. Once the snows have melted, the lush meadows and imposing peaks of this beautiful national park reveal themselves, beckoning outdoor adventurers with a wide range of fun activities. Go hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, road biking, rock climbing or scrambling – there are so many ways to enjoy this wonderful outdoor paradise!
How To Plan A Trip To Banff National Park
If you’re tempted to make Banff your next winter break destination, we’ve got all the information you’ll need to make your trip a success. Check out our guide to planning a trip to Banff National Park for tips and recommendations on where to stay, where to eat, and all the best sights in the park! We’ve also got specific information on how to plan the perfect winter weekend in Banff National Park, complete with our insider hints on how to make the most of your trip. We’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to – simply sit back and enjoy the sparkling majesty of the Canadian Rockies in winter!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Banff National Park
Do you need poles for snowshoeing in Banff?
Poles aren’t required for snowshoeing, but they are recommended, especially if you are new to the sport, or worried about your stability. We find that some of the trails in Banff can become icy later in the season, and it’s a good idea to bring poles to help navigate any slippery sections.
Where can I snowshoe in Banff?
It’s possible to go snowshoeing in many parts of Banff National Park, with lots of easy, short trails close to the town, and epic backcountry routes that will take you deep into the wilderness. Whatever you choose, make sure to consult the list of suggested trails on the Parks Canada website, and always check the weather and avalanche forecast before you set out.
Is snowshoeing in Banff dangerous?
Snowshoeing is a fun activity suitable for hikers of all levels. However, heading out into the backcountry in winter carries extra risks and dangers, so it’s best to be aware and take precautions before you head out. The weather in the mountains can change very quickly, so make sure that you check the forecast, and bring emergency supplies in case you get stuck out in freezing temperatures or blizzards. Stick to the marked trails, and be aware in case you are heading into avalanche territory. We recommend that anyone heading out on a snowshoeing trail in Banff National Park have basic avalanche training. If you’re a beginner, start with short, easy trails to build up your strength.
Best Snowshoe Trails in Banff National Park
Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots
The snowshoe trail from Johnston Canyon to the Ink Pots takes adventurers through the incredible icy landscape of Johnston Canyon before leading into the quiet forest. The trail emerges into a subalpine meadow, where you will find the frozen ink pots.
Moraine Lake Road
The multi-use Moraine Lake Road snowshoe sees cross-country skiers, ski tourers, snowshoers, and sometimes even fat bikers! This is an excellent way to experience the majestic Moraine Lake in the Valley of The Ten Peaks without the summer crowds. This is easily the most popular summer destination; however, it sees very few visitors in the winter. Spend a full day on this route, enjoying the grandeur of the lake before you turn back.
Sulphur Mountain Snowshoe
Snowshoeing the Sulphur Mountain Trail via Cosmic Ray Road will take you from valley bottom to the summit of Sulphur on a rarely visited route. Avoid the crowded front side of Sulphur Mountain and find solitude on Cosmic Ray Road. You’ll begin at Cave and Basin National Historic Site before gaining elevation and views of the Sundance Range. After gaining the summit, you’ll descend via the main trail towards the Town of Banff.
Shadow Lake Snowshoe
The Shadow Lake Snowshoe Trail is rated as difficult due to its distance. It is a well-graded trail that leads you up roughly 1,000 m over 17.0 km before returning the way you came. This is commonly used by those who will be staying the night at Shadow Lake Lodge and not often frequented by day users. If you are comfortable with the longer distance, this is an excellent way to spend a full day in the winter and experience Shadow Lake amid snowy scenery.
Stoney Lookout Snowshoe
Snowshoeing to Stoney Lookout is a great way to explore a favourite summer trail in winter. You’ll feel like you have been transported to a winter wonderland while travelling through this quiet trail. Admire the forest as you make your way to the final lookout where you can look over the Town of Banff.
Snowshoeing to Healy Pass is a great day out in winter, and a fantastic break from the busy ski hills. The trail to Healy Pass is popular and often packed down thanks to its popularity. The expansive views of the vast meadows of Healy Pass and Sunshine Meadows make this a fantastic snowshoe trip.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
Lying on the edge of the Athabasca Icefield and surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in Alberta, a snowshoe trip into Wilcox Pass offers the casual snowshoer a glimpse into the world of snow and ice typically reserved for the serious mountaineer.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
If you can’t get out to Skoki Lodge for a few nights, consider this wonderful snowshoe trip up to Deception Pass. This is a great, though long, daytrip from Lake Louise Ski Hill. While faster to do on skis (especially the descent), you can also do this trip snowshoes.
A snowshoe trip at Sunshine Village should be on everybody’s checklist and exploring Rock Isle Lake in winter is spectacular. Locals refer to this as ‘Snowshoeing on Top of the World’, and on a sunny day it’s easy to see why. The views are stunning on this easy snowshoe.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
A snowshoe trip to Crystal Ridge, along the Icefields Parkway, takes you through fascinating boulders, giant crystals, and awe-inspiring views of the Wapta Icefield and its enormous peaks. We love this trip, however you should have avalanche training to go on this snowshoe.
- Technical Difficulty
- Physical Difficulty
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