Banff National Park is a dream to visit in winter! In case you didn't know, Kyle is from Canada (read about our story here), and we absolutely love exploring Canada. Read about our other Canada adventures for more travel inspiration. However, we have not visited the Canadian Rockies in winter until now. The snow-covered mountains and trees make for the perfect fairy tale getaway. There is no better way to start off your romantic trip and explore Banff in Winter than with the Banff Winter Wonder Tour. The tour takes you to some of the main highlights of Banff National Park in winter and provides you with a quintessential Canadian experience along the way!
In this post we will share everything you can expect to see on the Winter Wonder Tour in Banff, what you should bring for the tour given that it will be winter and cold, and all the logistical details about booking the tour.
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Banff Winter Wonder Tour
All of the below locations and activities were included within the Banff Winter Wonder Tour, which we enjoyed on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Banff National Park in January. You are driven between all locations by coach bus while on the tour. This will allow you to heat up after each outdoor activity and also leave any belongings in a safe space when they are not needed. Take a seat as we take you through all of the activities of the Banff Winter Wonder Tour!
Disclaimer: Our Banff Winter Wonder Tour tickets were provided by Brewster Sightseeing and we loved it. As always, all of our opinions on our experience, how to explore Banff, and how many Canadian treats you should eat are completely our own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us!
Views of Two Jack Lake
The first stop of the tour is a viewpoint of Two Jack Lake. The lake is named after two local Jack’s who used to work in the area and frequent the lake. Two Jack Lake is relatively unknown compared to some of the most famous nearby lakes in Banff National Park; however, it is no less beautiful! When visiting Banff National Park in January, you can expect the lake to be completely frozen and covered in ice and snow.
The sun reflecting off the frozen lake is magical! It's also not uncommon to see others out skating on top of Two Jack lake in winter.
Snowshoeing at Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is a large glacial lake in Banff National Park, and is one of the best stops on the Banff Winter Wonder tour! Not only is it very popular in the summer, for hiking, biking, and all sorts of water sports, but it is equally popular and beautiful in the winter.
Here you will embark on a short snowshoeing walk through the forest and along the lake. If it snows the night before, you can expect to find fresh powder everywhere and will have a lot of fun bounding through the deep snow in your snowshoes. The snowshoes are provided as part of the Banff Winter Wonder tour, so there is no need to bring your own. However, we would recommend wearing hiking boots that go up to the ankles to keep your shoes from filling with snow!
There are a number of snowshoe paths that begin from the Lake Minnewanka parking lot, which are of varying lengths and accommodating of all skill levels. Lake Minnewanka is much larger than Two Jack Lake, but also freezes over in winter. If your tour of Banff is in January or February, you can definitely expect the lake to be completely frozen, and you'll be able to walk out onto the lake.
Bettina tried using some old-style snowshoes made with a wooden frame and dried caribou hide webbing. This is the style of snowshoe that would have been used in Banff National Park in winter 100 years ago, or more. However, as they didn’t have the metal ice picks on the bottom like modern snowshoes do, it was slippery! These snowshoes definitely work best in deep fresh snow, rather than icy compact snow.
Cave & Basin National Historic Site
After spending some time outside at Lake Minnewanka, you will be ready for the next indoor activity to warm up. A short drive away, the Cave and Basin National Historic Site is an interactive place to learn about the birthplace of Canada’s national parks, as well as explore Banff history and culture over the years.
The site includes access to an underground natural hot spring, which is protected to preserve the habitat of the Banff Springs snail. This minuscule snail has adapted to live in the harsh environment of the natural thermal springs. The snail lives in just five of the nine Banff hot springs, and is considered ‘at risk’ or endangered. Additionally, there is only one hot springs open to the public (the Upper Hot Springs) to preserve these little Banff Spring snails and their unique habitat.
Not only will you have time to visit the natural thermal hot spring, but there will also be time to take in some of the other activities and exhibitions at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. There are many interactive exhibits, allowing you to "go fishing", play ice hockey outdoors, and to take in a short high definition film.
These waterfalls on the Bow River are located very close to Banff town center. The viewpoint here allows you to see the beautiful ice-covered falls in the winter, as well as the nearby merger of the Bow and Spray rivers.
At this stop of the tour you can enjoy a cup of warm hot chocolate and a traditional Canadian sweet, Nanaimo Bars, while taking in the beautiful Bow Falls! If you're not familiar with Nanaimo Bars, they are one of the most well-known Canadian sweets, and are a dessert bar with a wafer, nut, and coconut base, followed by a custard filling, and topped off with a layer of chocolate ganache.
Banff Gondola on the Winter of Wonder Tour
The last stop on the Banff Winter Wonder Tour is at the Banff Gondola. The gondola climbs 2,292 feet (698 meters) to the top of Sulphur Mountain. On your way to the top you will have glimpses of the town of Banff and the stunning mountain views that await.
The eight-minute journey to the top is totally worth it when you arrive to magnificent views like these!
At the top of Sulphur Mountain, the Banff Winter Wonder Tour includes a delicious sampling of another traditional Canadian snack. Here you can sample bannock with maple butter and a piping hot cup of apple cider. Both the bannock and apple cider are freshly made upon your arrival. A delicious end to exploring Banff as part of the Winter Wonder Tour.
After the snack there is an hour of free time to do what you would like while at the top of Sulphur Mountain. You could take photos, walk the boardwalk to nearby Sanson’s Peak, or explore the gondola summit.
After your time at the summit comes to an end, you will take the gondola back down to the mountain base to the awaiting coach bus. The same bus that drove you around exploring Banff in winter, will also take you back to the town of Banff where you will say goodbye to your excellent tour hosts.
The Banff Winter Wonder Tour is a wonderful way to spend your afternoon exploring Banff National Park in winter and is complete with outdoor winter activities, historical facts, classic Canadian treats, and most importantly all those iconic Canadian Rockies views.
What to Bring on the Banff Winter Wonder Tour
As the Banff Winter Wonder Tour obviously takes places in winter in the Canadian Rockies, it is going to be cold! You should wear a warm winter jacket, with gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat, or toque, as the Canadians like to call it. It is also recommended to wear sturdy ankle-high hiking boots for the snowshoe activity to not get too much snow in your shoes.
It is probably best to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated. The tour starts just after lunch, and includes snacks so you should be fine unless you skipped lunch or get hungry quickly. Finally, don't forget to bring your camera to snap some photos of exploring Banff in winter.
Banff Winter Wonder Tour Key Information
Dates: Tours begin in December and run through January, February, and mid-March, most days of the week. Check Brewster Sightseeing for the most up to date schedule.
Time: The tour begins at 1:00 PM from the town of Banff and lasts approximately 5 hours
Cost: Tickets are $129 CAD ($98 USD) for an adult, and $79 CAD ($60 USD) for a child, purchased from Brewster Sightseeing.
What's Included: A Banff Winter Wonder Tour ticket includes:
- Pick-up by coach bus from select Banff hotels
- Coach bus travel between all locations/activities
- Snowshoes for the Lake Minnewanka activity
- Cave and Basin National Historical Site admission
- Banff Gondola admission
- Tasty Canadian treats
The Alpenglow Festival is not included in the Winter Wonder Tour, but we wanted to highlight it as it is a must see if you’re in Banff on a winter weekend. During the festival you can enjoy an evening of more amazing views and live music at the top of Sulphur Mountain. It happens every Friday and Saturday night between the end of January and April.
The festival is included within a Banff Gondola ticket, and provides a warm and cozy atmosphere at the top of Sulphur Mountain. Inside the gondola summit there is the Glow Bar Lounge, with live music, signature drinks, and tasty treats.
If you feel like venturing out onto the rooftop, don't worry about the cold! You will be rewarded with a heated igloo, where you can eat a delicious s’more after roasting it yourself on the firepits! This is an excellent way to relax and enjoy the beauty of Banff in winter and we can highly recommend it as an evening out on top of the town of Banff!
Alpenglow Festival Key Information
Dates: Every Friday and Saturday night in mid-January, February, and March. Check the Banff Gondola for the most up to date schedule.
Time: The Alpenglow Festival begins at 4:00 PM and lasts until 8:00 PM until mid-March. For the remainder of the season, the Alpenglow Festival begins at 5:00 PM and lasts until 9:00 PM
Cost: Tickets for the Banff Gondola start at $43 CAD ($33 USD) for an adult, and $21.50 CAD ($16 USD) for a child, purchased from Banff Gondola. You can save money purchasing tickets online, in advance.
What's Included: A Banff Gondola ticket for the Alpenglow Festival includes:
- Banff Gondola admission
- Stargazing film in the Above Banff Theatre
- Access to rooftop firepits
- Access to rooftop igloos
- Ingredients for S'mores to create over the fire
There are beverages and additional snacks available for purchase in the Glow Bar Lounge.
What Did You Enjoy from the Banff Winter Wonder Tour?
We had a great time on the Banff Winter Wonder Tour and at the Alpenglow Festival at Banff Gondola. Banff is a great destination to visit in winter to take in all the sights and enjoy these tours and activities. What did you enjoy about the Banff Winter Wonder Tour? We would love to hear about your experience!
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