Alberta winters offer snowy adventures like skiing, canyon ice walks, and dogsledding; plus the opportunity to see ice bubbles and frozen waterfalls. Here are some of the best winter road trips in the Canadian Rockies from Jasper to Crowsnest Pass. Happy exploring!
Discover the best winter road trips in Alberta’s mountain parks from Jasper to Waterton! ‘Tis the season for chasing ice bubbles and ice falls, skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and keeping cozy warm by the fire (or in the hot tub). Whether you’re looking for a luxurious all-inclusive mountain getaway (Mount Engadine Lodge), day trip, or want to try winter camping, we have a road trip for you!
When you arrive in the gorgeous town of Banff, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the world’s top travel destinations. Hike to frozen falls in Johnston Canyon; ski (or tube!) at Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, or Lake Louise Ski Resort; experience Nightrise at the Banff Gondola; warm up at Banff Upper Hot Springs; celebrate winter at Banff Snow Days (January 18 – 29, 2023); shop and dine in the town of Banff; and more!
See our stories for trip inspiration:
- 10 Fun things to do in Banff this winter
- A Fun Winter Weekend in Banff
- Dinner at Brazen + Nightrise: A Night to Remember
- Visit an abandoned hermit cabin at Johnson Lake
Canmore is a beautiful mountain town in the Bow Valley located 15 minutes east of Banff. Whether you hike up a frozen creek to pictographs and ice falls; cross country ski at Canmore Nordic Centre, where Olympians train; go underground with Canmore Cave Tours; or go dogsledding, you’re bound to make some amazing memories.
For more ideas, see our blog post: 14 Fun things to do in Canmore this winter.
Kananaskis is an awesome winter playground with skiing at Nakiska, cross country skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing. Need gear? Rent from Kananaskis Outfitters or sign up for a guided tour. They have evening tours too! Stay at Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge (home to the incredible 18+ Kananaskis Nordic Spa), Ribbon Creek Hostel, or Mount Kidd RV Park; OR drive up Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Road to Mount Engadine Lodge and stay in a lodge suite, cabin, glamping tent, or yurt. Gourmet meals are included with your stay and the backcountry location is stunning and secluded.
Read more on the blog:
- Winter Fun in Kananaskis Valley
- Hiking beyond Troll Falls to Marmot Creek Falls and Upper Falls
- Warm up and chill out at Kananaskis Nordic Spa
- Glamping at Mount Engadine Lodge
- Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel
- Where to snowshoe near Calgary
4. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a winter wonderland with tons of puffy snow to play in and an amazing skating rink. Snowshoe to Fairview Lookout or Mirror Lake, cross country ski the great network of trails (you can ski down to the village or across the lake to Louise Falls), skate on the lake, enjoy Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, or ski at Lake Louise Ski Resort, one of the best (and largest) ski resorts in North America.
For more information, see our stories:
- 9 Fun Things to Do in Lake Louise this Winter
- Cross country ski, skate, snowshoe, or walk on Lake Louise
- The Best Beginner Cross Country Ski Trails in Lake Louise
- Cross Country Skiing at Pipestone
- Snowshoe (or hike) from Lake Louise to Mirror Lake
With gorgeous scenery and tons of wildlife, Jasper is an awesome Rocky Mountain getaway. Getting there is half the fun – the drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is one of the most scenic in the world! For a fun trip, take an ice hike through Maligne Canyon, ski at Marmot Basin, skate on Pyramid Lake, go on a foodie tour (one of my favorite things in Jasper!), stargaze (Jasper is a Dark Sky preserve), and watch wildlife. Save time to make some stops on the Icefields Parkway as well; Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Tangle Falls and the Columbia Icefield are spectacular must sees! Jasper in January is a multi-week winter festival with lots of free and ticketed events from concerts and sleigh rides to wine & spirits and food festivals.
Discover more fun things to do in our stories:
- 12 Fun Things to Do in Jasper this Winter
- Hike and Dine at Maligne Canyon
- The Best Stops on the Icefields Parkway
For a peaceful mountain vacay, head to Waterton in southwest Alberta. With most of the town closed in winter, wildlife often outnumbers people! Hike the Bear’s Hump (2.8 km round trip) for a bird’s eye view of town, then walk to the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel (closed in winter) and look for bighorn sheep who often take shelter from the wind behind the hotel. On your way back in to town, ice skate at Linnet Lake, conditions permitting. Other popular winter destinations include Cameron Falls (roadside stop), Cameron Lake (5 km round trip from Little Prairie Day Use), and the Townsite Loop (3.2 km round trip).
For more info, please see our story Experience Winter in Waterton.
7. David Thompson Country
Winter is the season to hunt for ice bubbles and ice falls in David Thompson Country. While January is typically the best time of year to see ice bubbles on Abraham Lake, December’s cold weather has extended the season this year! This beautiful area has minimal services and spotty cell phone coverage, so you must be self sufficient and well prepared. We recommend downloading driving directions to the ice bubbles so you don’t miss them (the parking area isn’t marked).
See our story Where to see ice bubbles at Abraham Lake for more information on where to go, where to stay, and where to hike. Conditions change from day to day and throughout the day, so always check the ice thickness before venturing too far from shore. Ice should be at least 4″ thick to walk on, 6″ if there are lots of people.
8. Crowsnest Pass
Crowsnest Pass has many friendly communities to visit, a great little ski hill, and unique history. Hit the slopes at Pass Powderkeg; visit Lundbreck Falls, mining ruins at Leitch Collieries, and the Burmis Tree; and learn about Canada’s deadliest landslide at Frank Slide Interpretive Centre. Nearby Castle Mountain has some of the longest continuous fall lines in North America (and a super chill vibe) and is definitely worth a visit too.
Read more about the area in these stories:
- 5 Ways Pass Powderkeg Ski Area Will Surprise You
- Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area
- Discover the Past at Frank Slide Interpretive Centre
- The Best Hikes of Crowsnest Pass (note not all of these are winter hikes!)
- Why You Should Ski Castle Mountain This Winter!
Know Before You Go
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes National Park.
- A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx.
- Mountain roads can be snow covered and icy, and very dark at night. Winter tires are strongly recommended. You should also carry chains, a shovel, and flares in case you get stuck; plus a battery booster (ours paid for itself when the kids left a light on in the car all night in -30) and windshield wiper fluid.
- There is no cell phone service on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) and many parts of the national parks and David Thompson Country. Bring extra warm clothes and a down blanket in case your vehicle breaks down and you have to wait for help for a long time.
- After periods of heavy snowfall, sections of the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) are closed for avalanche control. Check 511 Alberta for updates before you leave.
- Check your fuel level before you leave town and fill up if need be.
What to Bring
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For cold weather, base layers, insulated winter boots, a down jacket and windproof/waterproof shell (or insulated ski jacket/parka), gloves or mittens, and a toque are must haves. See our fall/winter hiking gear guide for product recommendations.
For snowy/icy trails, we recommend traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon and MEC), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Amazon and Sport Chek) and trekking poles with snow baskets. For deep snow, you’ll need snowshoes; see our Snowshoeing Gear List for a detailed pack list.
You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS / satellite communicator / compass, and map of the area, sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), bug spray (this deet-free one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster or Scat Belt.
Related Posts: BC Road Trips
- Winter Family Fun in Fernie, BC
- 10 Fun Things to Do in Golden this Winter
- Why you should visit Fairmont Hot Springs this winter
- Winter Fun in Cranbrook