Designated winter trails follow portions of summer trails but not all sign-posted destinations are safe for winter travel. Use the information below to choose a safe and fun destination. Hop on a fat bike and enjoy one of many winter fat biking 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.
  • 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
  • Helmet

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 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.
  • Fat bike only on hard-packed trails to prevent ruts. If your tires 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 

Fat Bike Tips

The wide tires of a fat bike add extra surface area for a smooth ride over firm snow, but deep fresh snow or warm conditions are no fun and leave ruts in the trail. If your tires sink deeper than 2.5 cm (1 inch) then conditions are too soft - come back when it is colder. If trails are icy, studded tires are recommended to add grip to your ride.

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 fat biking trails in the Banff area

Trail Distance Activity recommended
 Tunnel Mountain Winter Trails 3.4 km of trail + 2.5 km loop   
 Spray River East Trail 5.7 km one way   
 Sundance Trail 3.7 km one way    
 Banff Avenue Trail 3.3 km one way
 Tunnel Bench Loop 9.7 km loop
 Lake Minnewanka 7.8 km one way   

 Easy trails

 Tunnel Mountain Winter Trails

3.4 km of trails
No elevation gain
2.5 km loop
Minimal elevation gain

Trailhead: Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court Campground entrance
   Roam Route 7

Looking for a place to get a feel for fat biking on wide, groomed trails?  Want to enjoy a quiet stroll in nature with your dog or try out snowshoeing after a big snowfall? The flat terrain of Trailer Court has something for everyone, and the trails are lit at night. For a slightly more difficult terrain, try the 2.5 km fat bike loop that meanders through coniferous forest.

 Spray River East Trail

5.7 km one way from Spray River East trailhead to Spray River bridge
Elevation gain 135 m, elevation loss 80 m
Trailhead:
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 east-most trail.
   

This trail offers rolling terrain in a picturesque river valley. As the snow falls throughout the year, snowshoers flatten the trail and fat bikers compact the snow, creating a hard-packed trail for both.

 Sundance Trail

3.7 km one way
Elevation gain 75 m, elevation loss 60 m
Trailhead
: Cave and Basin National Historic Site, trail starts west of building
   

This trail offers views of the Bow Valley while winding through forested areas to the Sundance Canyon picnic area. Sections of the trail are single and double track set. Bikes are not permitted past the bike racks.

 Moderate trails

 Banff Avenue Trail

3.3 km one way
Elevation gain 65 m, elevation loss 50 m 
Starting point
: East end of Banff Avenue at the junction with Banff Legacy Trail
 Roam Route 1

Access this trail from the start of the Legacy Trail located at the east end of Banff Avenue. Ride 100 m until you see a steep path going up through thick forest. Beware of icy conditions. The trail levels-off gradually until it reaches an open meadow; head left on nice rolling singletrack. This north-facing slope retains snow well and is a reliable fat biking experience. The trail ends at Tunnel Mountain Road. Return the same way or connect with the Tunnel Bench Loop (Coastline) to return to town.

 Tunnel Bench Loop

9.7 km loop
Elevation gain 60 m
Starting point
: Hoodoos Viewpoint parking area

Typically ridden clockwise, this popular loop connects The Spine, Coastline, Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Don’s Bypass to make a winding and varied entry-level singletrack with minimal elevation gain. Take in the spectacular views of iconic Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain as well as the Fairholme Range. Some sections have significant vertical exposure.

For an alternative route, after you enter onto Teddy’s Bear’s Picnic from the service road, watch for the trail junction to Stinky D. This forested trail opens up to wide-open views of the valley, then loops around to Wolf Scat Alley bringing you back to Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

 Lake Minnewanka

7.8 km one way to Aylmer Pass junction
Elevation gain 45 m, elevation loss 35 m
Trailhead:
Lake Minnewanka Day-use Area, kiosk at far end of picnic area
  

Don’t let the gentle opening of this iconic ride fool you; the physical demands and the remoteness of this trail require excellent fitness, bike handling skills and preparation. The challenging and at times exposed sidehill trail climbs steeply out of Stewart Canyon and heads east on a rollicking single  track. Some sections may be very icy – be alert.