Avalanche season in the mountains extends from November to June. Designated winter trails follow portions of summer hiking trails but not all sign-posted destinations are safe for winter travel. Use the information below to choose a safe and fun destination. Lace up your boots and enjoy one of many winter walking trails.

Winter Safety

Safety is your responsibility. There are always hazards associated with outdoor recreation. Even short trips from the town of Banff can have serious consequences.

  • Ask for advice at a Parks Canada Visitor Centre for help with trip planning.
  • Check current trail conditions, warnings and closures.
  • When trails are icy, hiking poles and ice cleats can make winter hiking much more enjoyable.
  • Study descriptions and maps before heading out. Always choose a trail suitable for the least experienced member in your group.
  • Tell somebody where you are going, when you will be back and who to call if you do not return.
  • Expect that trail conditions and winter hazards may change throughout the day. Consult weather forecasts and be prepared for changing weather and emergencies.
  • Winter hazards include avalanches, disorientation, thin ice, hypothermia and frostbite.
  • From November to March, make sure your car is winterized. Snow tires, proper clothing, and an emergency kit are recommended. Visit 511.alberta.ca for road reports
  • In case of EMERGENCY, call 911 or satellite phone: 403-762-4506. Cell phone coverage is not reliable throughout the national park.

Recommended Packing List 

  • Trail guide and map: guidebooks and topographic maps are available at the Banff and Lake Louise visitor centres, and retail outlets in Banff and Lake Louise.
  • Full water bottle or thermos
  • High energy food
  • Bear spray
  • Hiking poles and ice cleats
  • First aid kit and repair kit
  • Lightweight emergency blanket, candle and lighter or waterproof matches
  • Headlamp or flashlight with spare batteries
  • Toque or winter hat and gloves
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Extra warm clothing in case of an emergency
  • Cell phone or satellite communication device

Visit parksmountainsafety.ca  for additional information on winter packing.

Ice Cleats

Trails can be icy in the winter. Hiking poles and ice cleats are recommended when exploring the trails. Cleats are designed to fit over shoes or boots and can be purchased at the Banff Visitor Centre, 224 Banff Avenue, and most outdoor stores in the Town of Banff.

Wildlife

Although bears are denning during the winter, they can awaken at any time for short periods. Cougars, wolves and other wildlife remain active throughout the year. If you see wildlife, do not approach; give them lots of space and observe from a distance with binoculars or a telephoto lens. If tracks are observed, do not follow them towards the animal.

Be alert, make noise and carry bear spray. Learn more about keeping yourself safe.

Avalanche Risk
 

Avalanche season in the mountains extends from November to June, and even a short walk can take you into avalanche terrain. Trails in this guide with a known hazard are identified with an avalanche symbol. When travelling beyond marked trails, or past an avalanche danger sign, assume you are in avalanche country – your group should be prepared with the appropriate knowledge, skills and equipment.

Check the current avalanche forecast at a Parks Canada Visitor Centre or avalanche.ca. Visit parksmountainsafety.ca for more information on backcountry travel and how to stay safe in the mountains.

Trail Etiquette

Trails are shared in the national park, which means you could see people fat biking while you are winter hiking, or people skiing while you are snowshoeing.

  • The track set portion of the trail is for classic skiing only. The flat, groomed lane is for other users.
  • Walk only on hard-packed trails to prevent ruts. If your feet sink deeper than 2.5 cm (1 inch) conditions are too soft.
  • When climbing, please yield the right of way to descending skiers and fat bikers.
  • If you fall, move off the track as quickly as possible.
  • When taking a break, step to the side, leaving room for others to pass.
  • Leave no trace. Pack out everything you pack in.
  • Read the trail descriptions as dogs are not permitted on certain trails. Keep dogs on leash and under control at all times.
Roam Public Transit
 

Trails identified with a bus symbol indicate that the trailhead is accessible by public transit. Pick up a Roam public transit brochure at the Banff visitor centres or visit roamtransit.com for public transit fares, maps and schedules.

Trail Ratings
 

Easy

  • Suitable for those with little or no trail experience.
  • Flat to gently rolling.
  • Little or no elevation gain or loss.
 

Moderate

  • Suitable for those with basic trail experience.
  • Gently rolling with short, steep sections.
  • Moderate elevation gain or loss.
For all trails, be prepared as conditions can change quickly; easy and moderate trails can become difficult due to weather change, icy conditions or poor visibility.

Recommended winter walking trails in the Banff area

Trail Distance Activity recommended
 Fenland Trail 2.1 km one way  
 Marsh Loop 2.8 km loop    
 Spray Connector 2 km one way    
 Stewart Canyon 1.5 one way    
 Johnston Canyon

1.2 km on way to the lower falls. 

2.5 km one way to the upper falls

 Tunnel Mountain Summit 2.4 km one way  
 Sulphur Mountain 5.5 km one way  
 Sundance Canyon 3.7 km one way + 2.1 km loop

 Easy trails

 Fenland Trail

2.1 km loop
No elevation gain
Trailhead: Fenland Trail parking lot, west of Mt. Norquay Road. Trailhead is a 20 minute/1.5 km walk from downtown Banff.

This interpretive trail under old growth spruce trees is great for families with young children. For a longer walk from the Banff townsite, start at Central Park and follow the Bow River to the Fenland trailhead. Walk east, just over the railway tracks on Mt. Norquay Road (0.9 km one way).

 Marsh Loop

2.8 km loop
Minimal elevation gain
Trailhead: Cave and Basin National Historic Site parking lot

 

This trail is located in the wide expanse of the Bow Valley and circles around a marsh. It comes alive with birds in the winter and is a great place to see animal tracks.

 Spray Connector

2 km one way
Minimal elevation gain
Starting point: Park at the Bow Falls Day-use Area, walk past the gate and across the bridge. Follow the Golf Course Road 350 m to the Spray River East trailhead kiosk. Go past the kiosk, head west and take the trail closest to the Spray River.

     

This short outing close to town links the Spray River East Trail to Spray River West Trail via a small scenic bridge. If conditions are icy, ice cleats are strongly recommended.

 Stewart Canyon

1.5 km one way
Minimal elevation gain
Trailhead: Lake Minnewanka Day-use Area, kiosk at the far end of picnic area

 

Explore the Cascade River which feeds Banff National Park’s largest lake. This trail can be very icy, especially during the spring.

 Johnston Canyon

1.2 km one way to the Lower Falls
Elevation gain 50 m
2.5 km one way to the Upper Falls
Elevation gain 120 m
Trailhead: Johnston Canyon Day-use Area

 

Travel in the depths of the canyon on wide trails and narrow bridges with railings that lead to the Lower Falls or to the spectacular 30 m high frozen Upper Falls. The trail is usually very icy – ice cleats are strongly recommended. Travel an additional 3.2 km beyond the Upper Falls to reach the Ink Pots.

 Moderate trails

 Tunnel Mountain Summit

2.4 km one way
Elevation gain 260 m
Trailhead: Lower parking lot on St. Julien Road. Trailhead is a 15 minute/1 km walk from downtown Banff.

  Roam Route 7

Reach the summit of a mountain in the heart of the Banff townsite. Take in breathtaking views of the town and Bow Valley. This steep trail can be extremely icy. Hiking poles and ice cleats are strongly recommended.

 Sulphur Mountain

5.5 km to top of gondola, plus 0.5 km to Sanson Peak
Elevation gain 655 m
Trailhead: Banff Upper Hot Springs parking lot

    Roam Route 1

Switchbacks on the slopes of Sulphur Mountain provide a steady uphill hike to a summit renowned for its stunning mountain views. Take a 0.5 km side trip on the boardwalk along the ridge ending at Sanson Peak. You will find more great views, the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Site and the 1903 weather observatory. If conditions are icy, ice cleats are strongly recommended.

Avalanche hazard: There is hazardous avalanche terrain adjacent to this trail. Stay on the trail at all times.

 Sundance Canyon

3,7 km one way plus 2.1 km loop
Elevation gain 155 m, elevation loss 60 m
Trailhead: Cave and Basin National Historic Site, start at Sundance Trail west of building

Follow the Sundance Trail to this moderately difficult canyon loop. Bikes are not permitted past the bike racks. This trail can be icy – ice cleats are strongly recommended.