Visiting Lake Louise in winter means stepping into a snow-filled winter wonderland. Don’t believe us? Here is an ultimate guide to help plan your trip, plus pictures of Lake Louise to inspire you!
Visiting Lake Louise in Winter: Essential Tips
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Every year when we travel from Edmonton to Lake Louise via Banff, our drive is filled with jaw-dropping views. I call it, my frosted vanilla cupcake time – because it truly looks like one, especially as you drive from Banff to Lake Louise.
As Lake Louise is located at an elevation of 1600 metres, winter arrives early in the hamlet. Winter months are from November to early May. Most of the photos pictured here are from November through January. We have also experienced fully frozen lakes from February to March.
With the arrival of spring/longer hours, like from April, you can see the lake is melting. April and May are not our favorite time to visit Lake Louise as the lake is half frozen and the pristine turquoise waters are still absent.
So if you LOVE winters, and want to throw snow-balls, enjoy ice sculptures and drool at the vanilla-cupcake like scenery, then visit Lake Louise in winter.
- November Average Temp. High/Low: -1 C (30.2 F)/ – 13 C (8.6 F)
- December Average Temp. High/Low: – 6 C (21.2 F)/ – 19 C (-2.2 F)
- January Average Temp. High/Low: – 6 C (21.2 F)/ – 20 C (-4 F)
- February Average Temp. High/Low: -1 C (30.2 F)/ – 17 C (1.4 F)
- March Average Temp. High/Low: 3 C (37.4 F)/ – 13 C (8.6 F)
Essential items to pack
There are some winter essentials we always rely on. Number 1 is a winter parka, and of course, accessories go with it from colorful beanie/warm cap, gloves, scarves, and warm boots. So this is my/our winter packing list.
- Winter Parka: Invest in a nice warm parka jacket to enjoy the winters outside. Here is my favorite jacket from The North Face. It has a good length and is super warm. Click to view this winter jacket.
- Base Layers: Super important to wear long-johns or base layers (top and bottom), to stay warm and toasty. Click to view my favorite pair bottom here, and top here
- Winter Boots: Wear warm boots that come with a good grip. They are super handy as you walk in the snow, or on icy pavements. Buy my favorite pair here
- Warm Beanie: I was not a fan of wearing caps, but it is essential for winters in Canada. Wear something in bright colors for a contrasting look to the white background. Find inspiration here
- Also pack: Warm socks, warm gloves, pretty scarf
Things to do in Lake Louise in Winter: Activities
There are tons of amazing things to do in Lake Louise from winter sports, romantic sleigh rides to ice festivals. If you are headed to Banff National Park, add a trip to Lake Louise, you won’t be disappointed.
Getting to Lake Louise from Banff in winter
Lake Louise is located inside Banff National Park. Banff town to Lake Louise is only 40 minutes away. You can opt for an overnight stay at the lake, or return back to your Banff hotel in the evening.
There are no entry fees to the lake, and parking is free. At the lake area are washrooms, and of course tons of winter activities.
Enjoy a snow fight or play on the frozen lake
Canada was the first place, where we have experienced snow. And what is better than a (play) ground filled with snow, you can run and soak in or get showered in SNOW!
This picture is from one of our first trips to Lake Louise/Banff National Park, and it was amazing. So don’t worry if you don’t ski or skate, you can still enjoy a great time at the frozen lake. Just remember to dress well!
Skate in the natural ice-rink at the frozen Lake Louise
In winter Lake Louise turns into a grand ice-rink. And ice-skating is one of the popular winter activities at Lake Louise, and it feels amazing against the stunning mountain backdrop.
Ice skating season is from mid-December to mid-April, depending on weather conditions.
It is completely free to access the ice-rink. If you do not have skates, you can rent some from the nearby Fairmont Lake Chateau Hotel/ Chateau Ski and Snow, located in the main lobby.
Hikes in and around Lake Louise
Although most hiking trails turn into a snowshoeing heaven, you can still enjoy a short walk/hike in and around the Village of Lake Louise. There are walking trails surrounding the frozen lake, and leading up to the Chateau hotel nearby.
Always pay heed to snow/weather alerts posted near the lake.
Snowshoeing in and around Lake Louise Banff National Park
Snowshoeing is so much fun in Lake Louise. As mentioned the hiking trails are essentially converted to snowshoeing areas. Care has to be taken to not cross beyond a particular portion, as you might be embarking onto the avalanche terrain.
As always, dress for the weather.
- Mirror Lake via Lake Agnes hiking trail: This trail starts at the Chateau Lake Louise, from there, follow the main Lake Agnes trail through the forest. (5.4 km return with 295 m elevation gain)
- Lake Louise Lakeshore: One of the popular and easy trails, starting in front of the Chateau Lake Louise to the lake’s end. Embarking on this means being welcomed to a 100 metres tall frozen waterfall. (4 km return, without elevation gain)
- Louise Creek Trail: Another easy option. Start from the village mall – Samson Mall, walk along Lake Louise Drive to the Bow River bridge. The hiking trail is located on the south end of the bridge (5.6 km return)
Tubing and tobogganing at Lake Louise winter activities
You can enjoy tubing and tobogganing at Lake Louise. In tobogganing, you essentially enjoy winter views while using a tube – a completely natural system, without any mechanical work. From a tube, you just ride down from a hill slope – thanks to the snow slips and gravity.
There is a snow-covered hill around town that can be used for tobogganing. Toboggans and sleds can be rented or purchased in Banff town, or Fairmont hotel.
Tubing is done at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and is another winter activity to enjoy here.
Cross country skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort
From the village of Lake Louise, the renowned Ski resort is just minutes away. You can catch a free shuttle from the Samson Mall (or Lake Louise hotels) to reach the resort.
It is one of the largest ski resorts in North America, boasting over 4000 skiable acres. Each chair lift has something for everybody from easy to advanced or difficult ski levels. You can also enjoy a Sightseeing Gondola ride to get on top of the mountains.
If you have never skied before, you can opt for guided snowshoeing tours offered here. Either way, just for the gorgeous views of the lake and Mount Victoria, a trip here is worth it!
Lake Louise Ski Resort is open from mid-November to early May depending on conditions for winter activities.
Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise (January every year)
Imagine walking through an ice castle, peeking through the window and looking at the mountains or the chateau. Yes, Lake Louise Ice Magic festival makes it happen. It’s an international ice carving competition held at the shore of Lake Louise.
This festival occurs every year in January (starts mid of the month), and is partly free to view.
Tickets are required on weekends during peak visit times. Entry is also restricted to 1.50 hours, as you watch the ice cravers at play.
Romantic staycation at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Staying at the Fairmont Chateau is a perfect way to admire the snowy world outside from the comfort of your bed. A 4+ star hotel, this property features breathtaking views of Lake Louise and the surrounding Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Originally built in the year 1890 (Canadian Pacific Railway), it was envisioned as a ‘hotel for the outdoor adventurer and alpinist’. Today it welcomes guests from all over the world. All of your accommodation, dining, plus couples spa packages and ski rentals can be found here!
Enjoy a fun sleigh ride near the lake
Another romantic thing to do in Lake Louise in winters is to enjoy a traditional horse-drawn sleigh ride along the lakeside trail. This service is open from early December to mid-April depending on conditions. It is also an enjoyable activity for families to have fun together.
Photograph the winter wonderland and pretty skies
One of our favorite things to do in winter in Lake Louise or Banff for that matter is to photograph the magical wonderland – all whitewashed in snow. Evening skies also look a lot prettier in the mountains.
Day trips from Lake Louise
From Lake Louise, you can embark on a ton of quick day trips to make the most of your Canadian Rockies itinerary.
Banff National Park
Of course, if you are staying in Lake Louise, do take time to explore Banff as well. From ice skating to gondola rides on the mountain top, Santa Parade, and festive celebrations, you just can’t miss this!
Here are some of our top picks for the winter in Banff
- Enjoy a gondola ride to Sulphur mountains, and take photos with Santa himself. Check Banff Lake Louise tourism to find out seasonal events to partake in the national park.
- Tons of guided winter hikes to choose from.
- Embark on a snowshoeing tour to Kootenay National Park from Banff. Click to view this tour
- Horse sleigh rides: You can also enjoy horse sleigh rides in Banff. Book yours here
- Head to Banff Springs Hotel for a delicious castle food tour. Click to view more about this tour
- Soak in stunning snow-covered mountain views from a hot spring – Upper Banff Hot Springs
- There are ice walk tour options available from Banff as well, with return transportation – Click to view this ice walk tour
- Wildlife sightseeing is delightful in the winters in Banff. Here is a guided tour for that well
Enjoying the drive – Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy-1A) runs parallel to the Trans-Canada highway connecting Banff and Lake Louise. It is one of the scenic drives in the Canadian Rockies.
You might also encounter wildlife on the way. Take it slow, and soak in those views!
Johnston Canyon Ice Walk
Johnston Canyon is located 30 minutes outside of Lake Louise. During summers, it is a hiker’s heaven, and in the winter you can embark on the ice-walk tour. They are led by an experienced guide, who will take you around and to the iconic upper falls. The upper falls showcase a glittering tower of ice that rises 30 meters.
You can also embark on this hike on your own, just ensure you have ice cleats and climbing equipment on you.
From the Johnston Canyon trailhead, you can start the moderate 2.7-kilometer hike with a 135-meter elevation to the Upper Falls. As you walk along the steel catwalks built into the canyon walls, you will be able to see stunning views of the ice canyon and river below.
Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park
Located only a short drive away from Lake Louise is the beautiful Yoho National Park. Although many of the sightseeing attractions like the Takakkaw Falls are closed for the season, there are still some amazing things that you can do here
- Start for Field, BC, and then stop by the Burgess Shale Fossil Beds, for a guided hiking tour. This area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to 508 million years old fossil beds (containing soft-part imprints)
- Emerald Lake is a delight in the winters too. It might remind you of Lake Lousie, but it is still different.
Located an hour and a half away, is the man-made frozen lake – Abraham Lake. Accessing this lake in the winter is a challenge, so ensure you gas up and carry snacks for your road trip.
To capture the frozen methane bubbles underneath, opt for a visit in late December to February, when the possibility of sighting bubbles are very high.
Jasper National Park
If you have additional time on your hands, why not visit Jasper National Park. Jasper is located 3 hours from Lake Louise. Ensure you check the weather for this day trip so that you can return safely in the evening, like 3 hours one way is a long (slow) drive in the winter.
We do recommend staying for the night, and then embarking on the Columbia Icefields the next day from Jasper National Park.
Note you can also embark on the Icefields tour from Banff (which includes Athabasca Glacier Ice Walk as well). Click to view this tour from Banff
Anyhow, on a clear day, you can drive the Icefields Parkway (#93N) to enjoy some gorgeous views of the Rockies. Even if you drive for about 30 to 40 minutes, the drive is worth it. This route doesn’t close for the winter, although many activities in Jasper, including Jasper SkyTram, are not open in the winters.
Lake Louise Winter Events Calendar
During winter, there are a lot of seasonal events and activities conducted by the Banff and Lake Louise tourism. Some of the winter festivals to make note of are
- Ice Magic Festival: This is one of the MOST popular festivals in Lake Louise. As mentioned above, it is held in January for a fortnight.
- SnowDays Play Zone: This is a fun snow-filled activity for all ages. Held in the month of January, SnowDays Play zone welcomes you to showcase your snowboarding or skating skills, while swaying to the DJ, under the winter sun!
- Brewski Festival: Held at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, the Brewski Festival welcomes foodie lovers to try out ciders, local craft beers, and spirits. This event is conducted in March.
So from the Lake Louise area, Banff to Jasper National Parks, the Rocky Mountains have so much to offer for an amazing winter vacation!
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