Alberta is so incredible to explore, there are literally so many beautiful things to do across the province. Best of all, it has a little something for everyone, especially in and around Banff National Park. This is exactly why I wanted to share our Banff itinerary in winter that’ll hopefully help you explore the national park and the areas surrounding it.
Now, any trip to Banff will likely include a good few stops that aren’t technically within the National Park itself. You see, it’s not just the national park that has some gems to see, there’s also a shed load of Provincial Parks and Calgary to visit, too.
Hopefully, our Banff itinerary in winter will help you navigate some of the best places to explore and the coolest experiences to see. After all, there is so much diversity across the province.
This is why I wanted to share some of our tips for a Banff itinerary in winter that I really hope will help plan your trip. After all, it can be bamboozling when trying to narrow down just a few key spots to see in and around Banff.
One Or Two Week Alberta Itinerary In Winter?
For this itinerary that we did, we mainly focused on the areas around Banff, Calgary, Canmore and Abraham Lake. That being said, if you want a longer winter itinerary, then take a look at some of our other Alberta posts, too.
For instance, deriving beyond our Banff itinerary in winter, you can also focus on areas like Edmonton (with its Ice Castle) and Jasper, too. Just make sure to plan ahead and map out both itineraries for a longer trip.
For this, we’ve created another specific itinerary that focuses on this area for a week-long stay. Take a look at our 1-week itinerary for that area of Alberta, too. This way, you can either drive just on your Banff itinerary in winter or a longer trip of Alberta itself.
Whatever the case, I’m almost certain you’ll have an incredible time in Alberta. Especially in winter. With that in mind, take a look at our Banff itinerary in winter, below. Have the best trip.
1400 – Arrive into Calgary Airport: Pick up your car and head straight to your hotel. After all, it’s likely that any Banff itinerary in winter will require a little travel to get there.
Plus, Calgary is one of the largest airports that’s close by and likely the spot you’ll fly into.
1500 – Check into the hotel: We stayed at the Le Germain Hotel Calgary and it was amazing! Perched right in the city centre, it’s right at the foot of the Calgary Tower.
1900 – Grab food and coattails at Native Tongues: Head across to Native Tongues (about a 10-minute walk from the hotel), who serve up the best Mexican food in all of Calgary.
Once here, make sure to try their fish tacos, amazing mescal cocktails and glazed doughnuts. You’ll have to roll yourself back to the hotel.
2200 – Sleep: Catch an early night for a day exploring Calgary tomorrow.
0800 – Have Breakfast in the hotel: Grab breakfast in Le Germain Hotel Calgary. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a great breakfast spot, take a stroll over to OEB Breakfast Company. They make the best breakfast (and brunch) in the city.
1000 – Explore Studio Bell: Inside Studio Bell is a treasure trove of exhibitions about music in Canada. Inside you’ll find everything from the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame Collection, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Alongside this, there’s the King Eddy Hotel next door and a few sound labs, too.
That being said, if you’re not into music, you might wanna give this spot a miss and head across to the Glenbow Museum or explore more of the up and coming East Village of Calgary itself.
After all, it’s your holiday and you want to lean into what you love most.
1200- Stop by the Calgary Central Library: As you walk back towards the Calgary Tower, make sure to stop off at the Calgary Central Library.
Firstly, the building is incredible but they also have the cutest ‘story machines’ that print mini-stories for anyone to take.
Pop inside, head towards the cafe and you’ll see a little machine. Either choose a 1, 3 or 5 minutes story and take away your mystery piece of literature. It’s such a cool little thing and it’s perfect if you’ve got some time spare.
1300 – Visit Simmons Mattress Building (East Village) for lunch: Within walking distance from the Calgary Central Library, head across to Char Bar, which is based on a historic mattress factory.
Once you’re here, make sure to tuck into an amazing steak or a juicy burger.
1500 – Visit the Glenwood Museum: If you’ve got some time, head across the Glenwood Museum that has a heap of permanent exhibitions and temporary pieces that change every few months.
If you’re interested in history (both Canadian and international), this is the place to go.
1800 – Watch the sunset from the Calgary Tower: Okay, this might be one of my favourite spots to watch the sunset whilst in Calgary. Once you’ve finished at the museum, pop across the road to the Calgary Tower and head to the top for some pretty epic views.
Watch the city transform from day to night and take turns walking over the glass-bottom!
2030: – Head for dinner at Gorilla Whale: Gorilla Whale is a loud, fun, rock ‘n roll-loving, ‘Japanese-ish’ restaurant and lounge featuring yakitori, ramen, burgers, cocktails, sake and hyper-local craft beer.
It’s such a tasty place to spend an evening. Just make sure to book a table in advance, seats fill up really fast.
2300 – Sleep: Get some rest for tomorrow’s activities.
Read more: Exploring Calgary and Studio Bell
0800 – Breakfast at hotel: Eat up for a day on the road.
0900 – check out of the hotel: Hop in your car to leave the city.
10:30 – Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary: After leaving Calgary, pop into the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary that’s run to care for wolf-dogs that have been left abandoned or are now unable to live in the wild.
Once you’re here, make sure to head inside and learn more about wolf dogs, walk around the gated park and see these incredible creatures up close and personal.
We used Google Maps to get us here (which worked fine) but consider that some GPS inbuilt within cars does not find the location. If you struggle, head for Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, Range Road 53 on 1A Highway, 60 minutes east of Banff and 40 minutes west of Calgary (the GPS location is: 51.2359650, -114.6283980).
It’s well worth including on your Banff itinerary in winter that’s around 60-minutes from the borderline of Banff National Park itself.
1300 – Grotto Canyon hike and lunch with a guide: Head out with Yamnuska Adventures who are based in Canmore. Once here, meet your guide at their office (50 Lincoln Park, Canmore, AB, CA, T1W 3E9) and head out to hike Grotto Canyon (which is totally stunning).
Make sure to wear crampons, take some water and head out through the canyon to see this beautiful spot.
Also, look out for the historic pictographs that were drawn between 500-1000 years ago by native Indians from modern-day Arizona. They’re even mentioned in the book of Hopi.
1700 – Check into the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge: After a day of hiking, head over to the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge for a little rest and relaxation.
1800 – Chillout in the Kananaskis Nordic Spa: If your muscles need a little relax, pop into the spa that’s next door to the hotel and enjoy the piping hot pools, bubbles and steam rooms that’ll have you back in shape to enjoy dinner.
2100 – Gorge at the hotel: After a long day exploring, make things easy for yourself and grab a bite to eat in the hotel restaurant (which is yummy).
2300 – Sleep: Head to bed
Read more: Exploring Grotto Canyon and seeing Wolfdogs in Alberta
0900 – Breakfast at the hotel: Make sure to eat good and hearty breakfast for a longer day on the road.
1100 – Check into the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge: After a relaxing morning, get all prepped for your drive of about 90-minutes to your next adventure.
1300 – Ride a helicopter over the Canadian Rockies: Driver over to Alpine Helicopters and head out on one of their tours over this stunning region of Alberta. Now, there’s a heap of tours to try (which obviously have different prices) so make sure you choose the one that’s right for you.
We opted for the Royal Canadian Tour and if took around 20-30 minutes. The Canadian Rockies are so beautiful and it really is one of the most beautiful regions in Canada to see… especially from the air!
1400 – Drive to Mount Engadine Lodge: Perched in the pristine wilderness of Alberta, Mount Engadine Lodge is a great little stopping point if you want to spend a day (or a few) away from it all.
It’s the kind of place that has no cellular service or internet, which is kind of great. There’s no being, ‘glued to your iPhone’ or needing to respond to emails here. Just chill out, head onto some of the trails that surround the lodge and just enjoy this beautiful area.
Also, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for moose, this is the first place we’ve ever seen one (around 0730 in the morning). It’s the perfect little stop before heading into Banff National Park.
1700 – Head out onto the trails: Take a short walk or ramble around the area and explore the region. Ask at reception for the best routes, the team know their stuff (which is really important, especially in winter). As always be safe, prepared and only follow expert advice on what routes are safe.
2000 – Dinner at Mount Engadine Lodge: The best thing about this place is that everyone that’s here is here for the same reasons. To chill out, enjoy nature and savour the place itself. Dinner is a communal dining situation which is totally lovely as you end up chatting and meeting people from all over the world. We loved it!
2300 – Head to bed: Catch a good night sleep and prepare for the next days trip.
Now, if you don’t fancy rushing this part of the itinerary, I’d recommend staying one more day here and give yourself time to just switch off. That being said, if you’re short on time, this might not be possible.
Read more: Taking a helicopter over the Canadian Rockies
0700 – Breakfast at Mount Engadine Lodge: Have an early breakfast and get ready for a drive further up towards Banff itself (this is when we spotted a moose!).
0830 – Depart Mount Engadine Lodge: Hop in your car, turn the heat up and head for a drive for some skiing at Sunshine Village. Just make sure to buy your Banff National Park pass (on the road checkpoint). You will get a ticket if you’re spotted without one.
1200 – Ski the slopes: After renting your equipment (and buying your passes), head up the slopes of Sunshine Village for a day of skiing. It’s probably one of the most popular spots to ski, so expect lots of slopes and plenty of places to eat (and drink) at the top.
Now, just make sure to pack that sunscreen. After all, that winter sun can be very strong. If you need some more tips on this, check out of sun safety guide that includes tips on Winter travel.
It’s a great spot to include on your Banff itinerary in winter, especially if you love winter sports.
1900 – Check into Mount Royal Hotel: After a long day of skiing, drive around 20-minutes to Banff itself and check into the Mount Royal Hotel in the heart of the action.
It’s a great place to base yourself whilst in Banff, especially if you want to make the most of the town itself and forget about the car. After all, a Banff itinerary in winter doesn’t just include natural spots to see.
2030 – Dinner at Chuck’s Steakhouse: Look, there’s no beating around the bush here, you’ll be pretty tired and starving after a full day of skiing and Chuck’s Steakhouse is a few minutes walk from your hotel itself.
Once here, take a look at their different cuts and steaks they offer and make sure to check out their seasonal special too. It’s totally delicious.
2300 – Sleepytime: You will literally fall into bed (at least I did) after all your skiing!
Read more: Skiing In Sunshine Village, Alberta
0900 – Breakfast to go: Before following today’s Banff itinerary in winter plans, grab yourself a breakfast to go before driving over to Lake Louise.
1030 – Explore the region on a guided tour: Now, after driving quite a bit over the last few days, give yourself a little break and organise an expert guide to show you some of the most beautiful spots around Banff and the surrounding region.
We booked ours with Pursuit Adventure Guides and it was amazing! We decided on a tour that included a section of Ice fields Parkway and Abraham Lake… aka, the bubble lake, just outside Banff National Park.
Now, the best thing about going with Pursuit Adventures was that they had all the equipment we needed to see the ice bubbles within the lake itself.
Crampons, lots of hot chocolate and plenty of expert advice and we were on the lake itself. It’s a pretty special spot, especially as you get to stop for lunch overlooking the frozen lake.
One word of caution, in the winter months, plans can change quite quickly due to the weather. Try not to get too disappointed if things change at the last minute and always think about something else you might want to do if this happens.
Avalanche risks are very real in Alberta and you will always need to listen to advice if roads and highways are closed.
1530 – Check into The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: Now, this has to be one of the most famous hotels in Canada and is certainly a treat.
Yes, it’s a little more pricey than some other hotels but it’s well worth for a night’s stay. Especially with views over Lake Louise. It really was a highlight of our Banff itinerary in winter and a totally beautiful spot.
1630 – Ice skate on Lake Louise: After checking in and warming up with a hot cuppa, head out for a little ice skating or late afternoon stroll across the frozen lake.
Now, we rented some ice skates from Lake Louise itself (from a store in town). Though, I’m pretty sure the hotel can also help you arrange this, so make sure to ask the concierge when you check-in.
1900 – Dinner at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: Now, there are a number of restaurants in The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to choose from. Some are more a la carte options, whilst others are a more laid-back affair.
After a long day of exploring, we went for the more laid-back option and gorged at Alpine Social. It’s the kind of place that serves up a great wine selection, ice-cold beers and some proper comfort food that is the best when it’s pretty chilly outside.
Tuck in and enjoy!
2200 – Catch some sleep: Get a good kip before following tomorrow’s excursions as part of our Banff itinerary in winter.
Read more: Exploring Lake Louise in Banff
0800 – Breakfast at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: Head for a slightly earlier breakfast to make the most of your last day in Alberta.
0930 – Explore Johnston Canyon: We headed out to Johnston Canyon with our guide from The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, who showed us around this beautiful part of Banff National Park.
Now, you can book this tour when staying at the hotel, though, book in advance if you want to ensure a spot. Places to fill up and you don’t want to miss out.
Wander the canyon, learn more about its history and see the stunning frozen waterfalls that look totally beautiful. It really is a special place (and a relatively easy small hike).
1300 – Depart Banff: After checking out of The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, drive back to your starting point of Calgary for your flight home. If you have time, grab a bite to eat in the city before heading to the airport or just chill out after following our Banff itinerary in winter guide.
As with all our itineraries, you don’t have to follow each day’s activities on our Banff itinerary in winter. Pick and choose what you like and speed it up or slow it down as you see fit. After all, it’s your holiday and it should be exactly at the pace you like.
Have the best trip… Canada is such a beautiful country.
Read more: Best places in Alberta to visit
17 Very Best Things To Do In Alberta, Canada