It is negative six degrees outside. Thankfully, I have a remote starter in the car. I always wondered if I would use this thing. Living in San Francisco, I never had to but now I realize its importance, especially when one wants to experience all the winter activities in the Canadian Rockies.
The forecast did not predict snow in the upcoming week and albeit cold temperatures, the weather outlook was good. We decided it was safe to head north, into Alberta and up the Icefields Parkway. Driving up the famous Icefields Parkway, it’s not clear whether it earned the name because you are driving through stretches of glaciers, or because you literally are driving on ice. For nearly 200 miles.
The beautiful mountains layered in limestone and shale bring a perfect palate of color along with the white snowy caps. The views around us are breathtaking. Ice and snow-covered lakes surround us as the road carves through the great Rocky Mountains. Shortly after a sign for the Colombia Icefield Discovery Center, there is a parking lot on the left-hand side of the Icefields Parkway. We stop for a hike to North America’s most-visited glacier, the Athabasca Glacier.
It is now negative 20 degrees F (-28 Celsius). We bundle up and start out for a hike. The glacier looks close, but it is actually two miles away. Approaching the glacier, the size gets drastically more impressive. Underneath a fresh blanket of snow is a beautiful blue wall of ice nearly 65 feet tall and alongside the front, an ice cave. The shapes and colors are breathtaking, especially from inside the cave.
Thirty minutes inside has made our limbs feel numb. We hike back to the car, excited to explore our next destination in the Canadian Rockies.
The Canadian Rockies are an amazing place to visit year-round. The summer is a popular time to come for hiking as the lakes glisten in the sun with pristine green and turquoise colors. Most think of Alberta as only a summer haven.
For those that can bear the cold temperatures, winter is an excellent time to explore. For the bold who do enjoy the outdoors and nature, even in winter, Alberta is a perfect choice. You can connect with the land, often with solitude, while enjoying hiking, snowshoeing, dog sledding, skiing, or one of the many other winter activities in Alberta, Canada.
Read on to learn all about our favorite winter activities in the Canadian Rockies!
Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Winter Activities in the Canadian Rockies
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Top 15 Things To Do in the Canadian Rockies in the Winter
1. Snowshoe on Mount Revelstoke
Snowshoeing is an excellent and one of our favorite winter activities in the Canadian Rockies. Bundle up and cover terrain that is only accessible in winter by snowshoe. Mount Revelstoke has several trails, including the summit trail.
Park in the Nels Nelson parking lot and start up the Nels Nelson trail. It connects to the summit trail for excellent views and exploring in the mountain woods.
2. Backcountry ski in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park in Canada is world-renowned for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. Canada’s second oldest National Park is known for steep mountains that often see avalanches in this region.
It is always safe to be prepared with some basic avalanche safety precautions. The backdrop of Rogers Pass and the drive on the Trans-Canada Highway is one of the best in North America.
3. Snowshoe Wapta Falls, Yoho National Park
Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River. It is impressive in size at 100 feet high, and 500 feet wide (30m by 150m). Visiting here in the winter is a different experience. The river freezes over, allowing you to get up close and personal to the waterfall, or what of it is still flowing.
4. Snowshoe Hoodoo Creek, Yoho National Park
Hoodoo Creek is a wonderful hike in Yoho National Park. The trail can be difficult to follow during the winter as there is limited traffic. The end of the trail has unique rock formations with several hoodoos.
5. Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park
Just next to the small town of Field, Canada, take the turnoff for Emerald Lake Road. This lake glistens in the summertime. In the winter, it is packed with activities from ice skating, playing ice hockey, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.
6. Go Dog Sledding
Dog Sledding is one of the wonderful winter activities in the Canadian Rockies, whether by yourself or with the entire family.
Golden Dog Sled Adventures is an excellent family-run business that truly cares about its dogs, all of which are Huskies from Siberia or Alaska. They instruct you on the role of each dog, allow you to help in putting on their harnesses, and even give everyone an opportunity to drive the sled.
7. Drive the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park
The Icefields Parkway is one of those roads that leaves a lasting impression. The views are stunning. On a 200-mile stretch of road, you cover terrain that includes lakes, waterfalls, hiking, mountain passes, glaciers, and gorges. And the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountain peaks surround the Icefields Parkway making for a very scenic drive.
8. Peyto Lake overlook at Bow Summit, Banff National Park
Peyto Lake is near the Icefields Parkway and is one of the most popular lakes visited in Canada. The mesmerizing green waters freeze over, yet the views from the bow summit overlook are still stunning in the wintertime.
9. Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park
Possibly the highlight of all winter activities in Alberta, the Athabasca Glacier is unique in that it is easily accessible from a major roadway. This glacier is receding at a rate of 16 feet (5m) per year, so each year there are differences in this glacier when it comes to winter exploring.
In the winter of 2015, there was an ice cave formed from the previous summer, bringing a new element to exploring this beautiful glacier.
10. Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park
This smaller waterfall is known for the force of the water driving through this gorge, with potholes and nice shapes formed from this constant flow of water.
It is easily accessible from the road and there are several walking platforms with good viewpoints.
11. Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park
Drive the scenic 30 miles (one hour) past Medicine Lake out to the famous Maligne Lake. This stunning lake, the three glaciers, and Spirit Island are worth the visit, even in the winter.
12. Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park
Maligne Canyon, located just outside of the town of Jasper, is a great stop on the way to or from Maligne Lake. Popular for ice climbing, this canyon has several large stunning frozen waterfalls, including The Queen and Superman’s Lair.
Be sure to check out Pyramid Lake nearby when you’re finished here.
13. Explore Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Lake Louise is a popular tourist destination in Alberta as many come to venture to nearby National Parks. Activities in the area include ice skating on Lake Louise, ice climbing, skiing at Banff, watching a train pass at Morant’s Curve, or just enjoying the beautiful nature and scenery right on Lake Louise.
14. Ice climb at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park
One can come to enjoy Johnston Canyon from the trails and walkways that can lead you down into the Canyon. However, the real winter activity here is ice climbing on one of the many frozen waterfalls. Yamnuska has excellent ice climbing guides to take you there for the day.
15. Snowshoe the Ha Ling Peak, Canmore, Albert
Ha Ling Peak is a wonderful hike and one of the most scenic peaks near Canmore, Alberta. This is an excellent trail that has exposed scrambling as well as steep sections. Snowshoes will help in several sections of the hike.
That’s it – we hope you plan fun Winter Activities in the Canadian Rockies!
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