Note: Not all sign-posted summer destinations are safe for winter travel. If you plan to travel beyond the designated winter destinations described below, your group should be prepared with the appropriate knowledge, skills and equipment.

Winter safety

Safety is your responsibility. There are always hazards associated with outdoor recreation. Even short trips 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.
  • 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
  • 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.

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 safety at Lake Louise

Avalanche season in the mountains extends from November to June, and even a short walk can take you into avalanche terrain. Trails 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 – never enter avalanche terrain without a beacon, probe, shovel and avalanche training.

Check the current avalanche forecast at a Parks Canada Visitor Centre or avalanche.ca

Avalanche warning sign

Stop here

If you see this sign, you are about to enter avalanche terrain.

Avalanches are possible from November until June and you could be buried or injured.

Do not proceed unless you have avalanche training and a transceiver, probe and shovel.

There are often tracks beyond these signs left by equipped parties – this does not indicate that the trail is safe. You don’t know how informed previous travellers were or what the conditions may have been at the time.

Your safety is your responsibility.

 

Avalanche zones at Lake Louise

Mount Fairview
Avalanche zones on Mt. Fairview at Lake Louise

Left side of Lake Louise
November to June annually

Watch for this avalanche zone on Mt. Fairview on the left side of Lake Louise past the boat house. It may also be accessed beyond the Fairview Lookout.

This is an impressive natural feature but please enjoy it from afar.

For your safety and the safety of others, do not stand under this slide path or walk across it. Keep in mind that tracks left by others do not mean that the area is safe.

Teahouse trails
Avalanche zones on the
Avalanche hazards on the "Teahouse" Trails at Lake Louise

Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes including Mirror Lake
November to June annually

These very popular summer hikes are not safe for travel in the winter unless you have avalanche training and equipment.

The avalanche zones on both trails are clearly marked. Keep in mind that tracks left by others do not mean that the trail is safe.

Note: The teahouses are closed in winter. When trails begin to clear in May check the trail report for current conditions. Your safety is your responsibility.

Saddleback Pass

Trail to Saddleback Pass
November to June annually

This trail climbs the southeast flank of Mount Fairview and crosses a prominent avalanche slide path along the way. The avalanche zone is clearly marked. Do not enter it without avalanche training and equipment.

Keep in mind that tracks left by others do not mean that the trail is safe. You don’t know how informed previous travellers were or what the conditions may have been at the time. Your safety is your responsibility.

Louise Falls
Ice climbers on Louise Falls at the back of Lake Louise
A frozen Louise Falls at the back of Lake Louise

Visible from the Lake Louise Lakeshore trail at the back of the lake.

The waterfall freezes in the winter and is a popular ice climbing destination.

Enjoy the view but please avoid standing directly under Louise Falls, especially in the spring. Falling ice can be a hazard at this location.

Learn how to travel safely in avalanche country

Many excellent programs exist to help you learn to travel safely in avalanche country. Visit Avalanche Canada for a list of programs and an online introductory primer.

Visit parksmountainsafety.ca for more information on backcountry travel and how to stay safe in the mountains.

Get outside, have fun and be safe!

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.
  • 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 physical control at all times.
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.
 

Difficult

  • Suitable for experienced visitors with above average level of fitness.
  • Major elevation gain or loss with long steep sections.
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.
Trail Distance Activity recommended
 Moraine Lake Road 15.6 km return  
  Fairview 4.6 km one way
 Tramline 4.8 km one way  
  Lake Louise Loop 4.1 km loop  
   Upper Telemark 1.4 km one way  
 Great Divide or "Old 1A" 20 km return  
  Peyto 2.2 km one way
 Lower Telemark 4 km one way
 Bow River Loop 6.6 km or shorter versions of the loop          
 Campground Loop 2.2 km outer loop       
 Townsite 0.7 km one way       
 Pipestone Loop 13.3 km loop       
 Hector 3 km one way       
 Drummond: 2.7 km one way       
 Merlin 2.3 km one way
 Baker Creek to Protection Mountain Campground 3.5 km one way
 Protection Mountain Campground to Castle Mountain Lookout 3.5 km one way
 Castle Junction 8.7 km of trails

Winter Trails in the Lake Louise Area (2.9 MB)
See the full network of winter trails in the Lake Louise area.
Lake Louise area in winter (980 KB)
Explore easy and popular winter trails in the area.
Trail conditions
Check current trail conditions online before heading out on the trail.

Lake Louise area ski trails

 Moraine Lake Road

15.6 km return
250 m elevation gain
Double trackset with skating lane

     

Climbing steadily, this trail includes both gently rolling and hilly stretches. Tracksetting ends at a viewpoint of Consolation Valley and the Ten Peaks.

 Avalanche hazard: Beyond the viewpoint, the road crosses large avalanche paths. Travel beyond this point requires avalanche training and equipment.

  Fairview

4.6 km one way
60 m elevation gain
Single trackset

   

A beautiful trail, the Fairview runs through sections of open clearings and snow-draped woods. It’s also possible to make a 7.5 km loop (160 m total elevation gain) using the Fairview trail, the Moraine Lake Road and the Tramline trail: the recommended direction is counter-clockwise.

 Tramline

4.8 km one way
195 m elevation gain
Double trackset

   

This trail runs from valley bottom to Lake Louise at a steady 3% rise, following the old grade of the tramline that once connected the train station and the Chateau Lake Louise.

  Lake Louise Loop

4.1 km loop
15 m elevation gain
Double trackset

 

This loops features a wide open ski across frozen Lake Louise, followed by a fun “up & down” trip back through the woods – just 100 metres uphill from the lakeshore walking path. Use the Fairview – Lake Louise Connector trail to ski directly from the parking lot onto the lake.

 Avalanche hazard: Beyond the back of the lake, the trail crosses large avalanche paths. Winter travel to the Plain of Six Glaciers requires avalanche training and equipment.

   Upper Telemark

1.4 km one way
65 m elevation loss
Double trackset

   

This trail has several steep and technically demanding hills. If you find them too imposing, they can be avoided by taking the “Hillside” bypass. Start in front of the Chateau Lake Louise as if going to Lake Agnes, then turn right onto trail #5. Once up and behind the Chateau, ski steeply down to the Great Divide and Lower Telemark trails. 

 Great Divide or "Old 1A"

20 km return
60 m elevation loss
Double trackset with skating lane

    

Mostly flat, but trending gently downhill, this trail takes you to the “Great Divide” – the BC / Alberta border. From here, you can continue into Yoho another 3.5 km (grooming irregular) to the Lake O'Hara parking lot.

  Peyto

2.2 km one way
45 m elevation loss
Double trackset

   

This trail has a tricky starting point, off the small access road to the Brewster Stables behind Deer Lodge, but it offers a more gentle downhill to the Great Divide and Lower Telemark trails than trail #5.

 Lower Telemark

4.0 km one way
110 m elevation loss
Double trackset

   

Park at Great Divide trailhead, ski 700 metres, and turn right at the #8 trail sign. After 4.0 km of twists and turns, exit back onto the Great Divide trail, and turn left to return to your vehicle.

 Bow River Loop

6.6 km or shorter versions of the loop
No elevation gain.
 
Single trackset
   

Mostly flat, following the river. To start, park near the Station Restaurant or just past the campground kiosk, or use the connecting trail from the Post Hotel or the Samson Mall.

 Campground Loop

2.2 km outer loop
15 m elevation gain
Double trackset with skating lane

 

This trail loops around and through the campground on gentle terrain. For access, park just past the campground kiosk.

 Townsite

0.7 km one way
No elevation gain
Double trackset

 

This short trail provides access to the northwest end of Village Road, near all the village hotels.


Pipestone ski trails

 Pipestone Loop

13.3 km loop
190 m elevation gain
Single trackset

 

Watch for the occasional tight corner and be cautious on the hills. The recommended direction for the outer loop is counterclockwise.

 Hector

3.0 km one way
95 m elevation gain
Single trackset

 

This trail features good views at both a major fire protection clearing and tranquil Pipestone Pond.

 Drummond

2.7 km one way
24 m elevation loss
Single trackset

 

If you need a breather, this is the only flat trail in the Pipestone trail system.

 Merlin

2.3 km one way
55 m elevation gain
Single trackset

 

Watch for the old pioneer log cabins along this leg of the Pipestone.


Bow Valley Parkway #1A ski trails

 Baker Creek to Protection Mountain Campground

3.5 km one way
No elevation gain
Single trackset

 

This trail (labelled “#2" on-site) runs parallel to the parkway, and starts across the road from the Baker Creek Chalets.

 Protection Mountain Campground to Castle Mountain Lookout

6.4 km on way
15 m elevation gain
Single trackset

 

This trail links the other two cross country ski trails on the Bow Valley Parkway. Travel this unique path to discover a new perspective on the original auto-route through Banff National Park.

  Castle Junction

8.7 km of trails
20 m elevation gain
Single trackset

 

You can park for these trails (labelled #1, #2 & #3 on-site) either near the hostel, or at the Rockbound Lake or Castle Lookout trailheads.