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Everything to know about visiting Lake Louise in winter

Lake Louise is one of the best-known places in Canada and on pretty much everyone’s list of things to see in Canada.

Just across the Alberta-BC border, Lake Louise lies in Banff National Park and is home not only to the lake but there are also too many stunning hikes in Lake Louise and other things to do.

In winter, the landscape becomes arguably even more beautiful when covered in snow. You can go skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and more during your visit to Lake Louise in winter. Though you can’t canoe on Lake Louise in winter, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do there!

Whether you’re planning to spend Christmas at Lake Louise, or looking for a true Canada winter experience, visiting Lake Louise in winter will blow you away!

lake louise in winter

When is the best time to visit Lake Louise in winter?

Visiting Lake Louise in the winter is a great idea!

First, it’s often a lot quieter than Lake Louise in the summer which is heaving. And secondly, the snowfall and cold temperatures may make it a little bit harder to get around, but it does make the area even prettier in my view.

While I’d still recommend everyone visit Lake Luise in summer if possible, since that’s when you’ll be able to see the beautiful colours of the lakes and do more exploring, you can still see the blue lakes in winter if you time it right.

There are usually a few weeks of cold temperatures in October/November when the lakes around Lake Louise freeze over but the snow hasn’t fallen yet on them. Mid-November onwards is often perfect for exploring the lakes on skates since you can see right down into the water and sometimes witness the magical methane bubbles!

During this time there is usually more snow on the mountain peaks so you’ll get those snow-capped mountain photos you’ve likely seen.

January too is a great time to visit Lake Louise as there’s the SnowDays festival in Banff which takes place in the latter half of the month.

During the festival you’ll enjoy watching ice sculpture carving at the Ice Magic International Ice Carving Festival, going skating and perhaps a sleigh ride as well as other events that are worth checking out. *Postponed for 2023, returning 2024.

In 2023, the SnowDays festival at Lake Louise is from January 18-2.

Lake Louise in February is pretty quiet and it’s also often the coldest month of the year. Temperatures can be as low as -35°C (-31°F)! In March, things warm up again and it’s still snowy enough to enjoy all the Lake Louise winter activities.

While Lake Louise in April might be spring and cherry blossom season in Vancouver, it’s still winter in Lake Louise. It’s not the best time to visit since the snow isn’t very reliable for skiing and the lakes aren’t usually frozen enough for skating.

When does Lake Louise freeze?

lake louise in winter

A very common question is “is Lake Louise frozen right now?”

The ice on Lake Louise is usually thick enough for skating and walking on by mid-December, and many years earlier than this.

There’s usually a period of cold weather before the snowfall where you’ll be able to skate on the clear ice which is super cool!

What is Lake Louise weather like in winter?

visit lake louise in winter

Lake Louise gets very cold, not only in Alberta which gets colder than the west coast of Canada. The lake sits at 1,600 metres above sea level and is often in the shade with the low sun blocked by the surrounding.

Typically, the temperatures in Lake Louise are around 5-10ºC colder than you’ll find in Banff and Canmore. Be sure to pack plenty of layers, a hat, gloves and good winter boots.

Read more: Banff vs Canmore? Should you stay in Banff or Canmore?

Is Lake Louise open all year?

Lake Louise is open 365 days a year. On very rare occasions it’ll be closed for a day, but that’s unlikely.

In the winter you won’t see the beautiful blue colour of the lake since it’ll be covered in a lot of ice and snow. However, it’s still an absolutely beautiful place to visit.

Best things to do in Lake Louise in winter

There are so many fun things to do in Lake Louise in the winter. From skating to skiing and checking out the ice sculptures, you definitely won’t be short of things to do!

1. Go ice skating on Lake Louise

ice skating lake louise in winter

You simply can’t go to Lake Louise in winter without skating on the lake itself. It’s such a bucket list thing to do during a trip to Canada in winter and it can’t be missed!

Easily one of the best places in the world to go ice skating, Lake Louise is a beautiful outdoor ice skating rink that’s maintained by Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau.

The lake is regularly cleared of fresh snow and then resurfaced to get rid of all the bumps that can make outdoor, natural rink skating tricky.

Sometimes, Lake Louise will freeze before a big snowfall and so you can skate while being able to see down into the It’s super cool and happened most recently in 2022. You can’t rely on this happening, but if you’re there when it’s like this, consider yourself lucky!

If you have your own ice skates then skating on Lake Louise is free. If you don’t have your own skates, then you can rent them from Alpine Social Rentals in Lake Louise town.

The best part is that if you have your own skates this activity is completely free. I’d say this is easily the best free thing to do in Lake Lousie in winter!

If you don’t have your own skates, you can rent them at Chateau Lake Louise Fairmont Rentals right by the lake. Skate rental starts at $23 CAD for 4 hours for adults.

Lake Louise in December usually sees the opening of the ice skating rink and it stays open until late March, weather dependent. Make sure you check out this as it’s one of the best things to do in Lake Louise winter season!

2. Enjoy a Fairmont Lake Louise afternoon tea

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise does a great afternoon tea that’s the perfect way to refuel after a morning exploring the winter scenery of Lake Louise.

Enjoy delicious pastries, tea sandwiches and desserts during afternoon tea at Chateau Lake Louise.

Afternoon tea, or the Lake Louise Fairmont high tea, is served from 12 pm – 2:30 pm and you should book in advance. You don’t need to be an overnight guest of the hotel to enjoy afternoon tea from their dining room which looks right onto the lake.

3. Hike to the Fairview Lookout hike at Lake Louise

One of the best hikes in Lake Louise in winter is the short walk up to the Fairview Lookout at Lake Louise.

It’s a short walk of about 2.4 km with 165 m elevation gain. It’s a relatively short walk and there’s not much of a view on the way up since you’ll be in the forest but there is a platform at the top with great views of the lake, mountains and the hotel.

The trail begins at the Lake Louise foreshore, taking a left past the boathouse before going up to the viewpoint.

4. Enjoy the beautiful winter scenery of Lake Louise in winter

lake louise in winter

When it comes to what what to do in Lake Louise in winter, one of my top recommendations is to just enjoy the beautiful nature of the surrounding area.

Winter in Lake Louise sees the mountains, trails, and trees covered in a layer of white snow. It gives everything an extra peaceful feeling and is just so magical.

Grab a cup of hot chocolate from the stall by the lake and enjoy it by the fire as you soak in the scenery.

5. Walk the Lake Louise Lakeshore

lake louise in winter

Another way to fully embrace winter in Lake Louise is to go on a walk around the Lake Louise lakeshore trail. This is one of the best free winter activities in Lake Louise and a must for first-time visitors!

It’s an easy walk and if you’re at Lake Louise on a busy day, then walking the lakeshore will get you away from the crowds since most people don’t go much further than the chateau.

The paved boardwalk around the lake is well-maintained and trafficked enough that you shouldn’t need snowshoes. You can also walk over the lake in the parts that haven’t been made into an ice rink.

6. Go skiing at Ski Lake Louise Ski Area

If you like skiing or think you might, then be sure to check out Lake Louise Ski Resort. It’s been said that the Lake Louise Ski Resort has one of the best views of any ski resort in the world! However, it’s not the only ski resort near Lake Louise, there are others too.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

Lake Louise Ski Resort has something for everyone whether you’re a beginner or looking for some more challenging trails. There are bowls, steep chutes and amazing views the entire time.

Lake Louise is just 7 minutes away from the town and has 142 km of ski runs and 7 ski lifts.

It’s one of the best ski resorts in Banff National Park and you should ski here at least once if you’re visiting Lake Louise in winter.

Sunshine Village

Sunshine Village is around 40 minutes from Lake Louise and is great for advanced skiers.

There is accommodation right at Sunshine Village where you can find ski-in and ski-out lodging which is great for a ski vacation.

Mt Norquay

Still under an hour away is Mt Norquay near Banff. This ski resort has some of the best views over Banff and is worth heading up to just for those views, even if you’re not skiing.

This is one of the few resorts in the area that’s open for night skiing and though it’s not the largest, it’s fun for a day.

It’s also the cheapest ski hill near Lake Louise so a great choice if you just want to try skiing at Lake Louise.

7. Go tubing at Lake Louise ski hill

If you’re travelling to Lake Louise in winter with young kids, or aren’t into skiing, then tubing might be more your style.

Lake Louise Ski Resort has some great tubing runs where you can tube solo, in a group or race with your friends.

At the Sunny Tube Park at Lake Louise Ski Resort, you can tube from 10 am to 4 pm for $35 for adults, $20 for children and 3-5-year-olds are free.

8. Go snowshoeing on Lake Louise

lake louise in winter

There are some great places to go snowshoeing near Lake Louise. You can rent snowshoes from Wilson Sports in the village as well as from Chateau Ski and Snow Rentals near the parkade entrance of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. 

Once the lake is fully frozen and covered in snow, you can walk on the lake itself which is one of the most popular places to snowshoe.

Alternatively, here are some other great options for snowshoeing near Lake Louise.

  • Easy Lake Louise snowshoe routes: Lakeshore Trail, 4 km; Louise Creek, 5.5 km; Fairview Lookout (details above), 2 km.
  • Moderate Lake Louise snowshoe trails: Mirror Lake via Lake Agnes trail, 5.4 km; Highline Trail, 9 km
  • Hard snowshoeing trails near Lake Louise: Taylor Lake, 12.5 km

You can also take a snowshoe tour up at Lake Louise Ski Resort. Here you’ll get even better views across the valley!

You’ll ride up on the gondola and then join your guide for a fantastic snowy tour.

You can also go to Banff for a guided snowshoeing tour at Sunshine Meadows. Book this tour here.

9. Try dog sledding at Lake Louise

dog sledding lake louise in winter

One of the best things to do if you’re visiting Canada in winter is to try dog sledding.

I’ve been lucky enough to go dog sledding twice, once at Revelstoke and another time at Sun Peaks. It’s always so much fun to whiz down some trails and meet the dogs afterwards.

Kingmik Dog Sled Tours are the dog sledding company at Lake Louise. You can book a short, half hour dog sled trip, or go for a longer one of 4 hours.

Pricing for a dog sled tour in Lake Louise starts at $310 CAD for the 30-minute, Narnia tour with Kingmik.

10. Check out the Lake Louise ice bar

lake louise in winter 3

A unique thing to do in Lake Louise during winter is to visit the ice bar on the lake.

The Lake Louise ice bar is made from around 20 blocks of ice which weigh around 136 kg each! There are even spaces in the walls of the ice bar that have been carved out to create seats.

The bar open from around the 20th of December to mid-April. You can warm up by the lake with a mulled wine from the Lake Louise ice bar which is open daily from 12 pm – 6 pm.

Drinks include mulled wine, hot chocolate and even spiced hot chocolates. There are usually gas fire heaters to warm up and roast marsh mellows on, it’s such a cool place to grab a drink.

11. Ride a horse-drawn sleigh

horse drawn sleigh lake louise in winter

For another awesome Lake Louise winter activity, check out the horse-drawn sleigh rides that run from mid-December until mid-April.

The ride is 45-60 minutes long and goes alongside Lake Louise before turning back towards the chateau.

You can book this winter experience through Brewster Adventures, with tours starting at $48 for adults.

12. Attend the SnowDays in Banff and Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise

lake louise in winter ice sculptures

For 12 days (January 18–29, 2023) the SnowDays fesitval comes to Banff and Lake Louise. This sees the streets of downtown Banff transform into a winter gallery with giant snow sculptures throughout. You can also watch skijoring too.

One of the main events as part of this festival happens in Lake Louise: the Ice Magic Event. Here, you can watch artists from all around the world carve different sculttures out of ice. Similar to the winter festivals in Ottawa, this event is magical to watch!

The ice carving competition is postponed in 2023, though you will still be able to see sculptures around. The festival is retuning in 2024.

13. Try ice climbing near Lake Louise

johnston canyon canmore in winter

If you’re an adventure seeker then you have to try ice climbing near Lake Louise.

The cold temperatures in Lake Louise in winter mean that the watefalls freeze and make some amazing ice climbing routes.

Louise Falls is one of the best routes in the area and is popular at weekends. Even if you don’t want to try it, it can be fun to watch others attempt the climb.

Book a guided ice climibing guided tour near Banff to learn how to ice climb safely. The tour also includes all the equipment as well as a guide and 88-hours of tuition. Book this tour here.

14. Road trip the Icefields Parkway

where to stop on the icefields parkway

If you’ve rented a car for your trip to Lake Luise, or have one anyway, go on a road trip of the Icefields Parkway.

This is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and it’s stunning no matter how much of it you drive.

The main places to stop on the Icefields Parkway in winter include the Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake, and Bow Lake. Of course, you could drive all the way up to Jasper National Park too.

If you have time, I recommend staying in Jasper for a couple of days as it’s beautiful there, and one of my favourite places in the Rockies.

Be sure to check for road closures ahead of time, as well as the weather forecast to avoid any big snow storms!

15. Go cross-country skiing at Lake Louise

There are several areas near Lake Louise where you can go cross-country skiing.

One of the most popular trails is the Moraine Lake road trail (15.6 km) up to the Consolation Lakes viewpoint. This is a harder trail with elevation gain and going past the viewpoint is not recommended since you’ll be in avalanche terrain.

Easier loops include the Tramline or the Lake Louise loop. If you’re new to cross-country skiing, I recommend this tour which will teach you the basics and provide you with the skis!

Book here.

You can either use the trails for free if you have your own cross-country equipment, or rent skis at Lake Louise or in Banff.

16. Visit Emerald Lake in winter

emerald lake in winter

Take a trip across the provincial border to British Columbia to Yoho National Park and visit Emerald Lake in winter.

There is a great easy trail around Emerald Lake which is perfect for a family hike, or you can go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing too.

While you won’t see the emerald lake colour since the lake will be covered in snow, it’s still a beautiful place to visit in winter.

17. Bring a bit of the Alps to the Rockies with a fondue dinner

If you’re looking to make the snowy scenes of Canada feel a bit like a ski resort in the Alps, head to Walliser Stube at Chateau Lake Louise.

This restaurant opens every evening from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm and booking is strongly recommended. Their menu includes classic European dishes like fondue, schnitzel and tarte tatin.

It’s a bit pricey so one best saved for a special occasion.

18. Explore Johnston Canyon in winter

Home to some of Alberta’s best waterfalls, Johnston Canyon is a must visit in winter.

During winter, Johnston Canyon is much quieter than the summer and arguably even prettier once it’s all frozen and snowy.

Make sure you’ve got your microspikes for the walk to the lower falls and enjoy the icles hanging off the walls of the canyon.

You can also book a Johnston Canyon icewalk tour that includes transport to and from Banff, a guide, and some winter equipment. You’ll also get a snack and hot drink on the tour too. Book the tour here.

19. Check out the view at Peyto Lake

peyto lake in winter

Peyto Lake is one of the most popular lakes in Banff Lake Louise and it’s a short drive from Lake Louise to Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake is easy to get to from the parking lot just off the Icefields Parkway and is in the shape of a dog or a wolf. When not covered in snow, it’s an amazing vivid blue colour!

If you visit when there’s snow around but the lake hasn’t frozen over, you’re in for a treat!

20. Find the frozen waterfall at Lake Louise

There’s a little known waterfall near Lake Louise that is popular with ice climbers but not so many tourists.

To get there, walk along the right-hand side of the lake, following the cross-coutnry ski rail of the Lake Louise Lakefront path.

It’s a pretty cool sight to see if the falls are completley frozen and climbers are working their way up them!

21. Road trip the Bow Valley Parkway

Another fantastic winter road trip from Lake Louise is the Bow Valley Parkway. It’s a short drive from lake Louise and home to some spectacular sights including Johnston Canyon, Moose Meadows and Castle Mountain Viewpoint.

The drive will take around half a day once you’ve allowed for stops.

22. Explore Banff in winter

tunnel mountain banff

Just 40 minutes away from Lake Louise is the town of Banff which is ideal for a day trip from Lake Louise.

The downtown area of Banff is cute with plenty of shops and restaurants. You can also visit Banff Upper Hot Springs to warm up, or take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain for some incedible views of Banff and the surrounding area.

You should book tickets for the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain in advance.

23. Take a trip to Kootenay National Park

One of the most underrated National Parks in the Rockies, Kootenay National Park is right next door to Alberta and Banff Lake Louise.

The main attraction, jsut 30 minutes or so away is Marble Canyon which is even more mesmerising in the winter.

Thousands of years of erosion have created this deep canyon which freezes and becomes covered in snow. There’s a 1 km trail along the canyon which culminates in a huge frozen waterfall.

You can join a snowshoeing tour of Marble Canyon with transport from Banff and snowshoeing gear where a guide will tell you all about the area. Book here.

moraine lake in winter

Can you visit Moraine Lake in winter?

You should not visit Moraine Lake without strong knowledge of what to do in case of avalanches and how to spot the risks.

The Moraine Lake Road is closed to vehicles year round as of 2023.

While in summer you can take a shuttle bus to Moraine Lake, in winter the only way there is via snowshoes or cross-country or backcountry skis.

However, the road is 14 km each way and there is avalanche risk so this should only be attempted if you have avalanche training and the necessary safety gear.

What to pack for Lake Louise in winter

lake louise in winter

When visiting Lake Louise in winter, it’s important to pack well. It’s going to be cold outside but chances are you’ll still want to be outside exploring so make sure you pack effectively.

For travelling to Lake Louise in winter you should pack:

  • Good thermal base layers: I like my Kari Traa ones, but you can get good base layers from most shops these days. Uniqlo has pretty reasonably priced ones, and these on Amazon would work too
  • Fleece layer: I love my Patagonia fleeces. I have a Synchilla Snap fleece, the R1 fleece and the Better Sweater is always super popular.
  • Insulated jacket: Next, throw on an insulated jacket. Again, I’m a Patagonia fan and love my down sweater hoody jacket, but as long as you’ve got something similar, you should be good.
  • Waterproof/Windproof layer: Make sure you’ve got a good windproof layer that’ll help keep the cold winds from getting to your core.
  • Wolly hat or toque
  • Gloves: I typically wear thin thermal gloves and then my skiing mittens over the top on really cold days. Plus, that way you can get your phone or camera out and still have a warmish layer on your hands.
  • Wollen socks: Get some nice wool socks that’ll help keep your feet toasty
  • Winter boots: For winter boots I generally just wear my hiking boots since they’re waterproof and won’t get wet in the snow. However, you can get some boots that have fleece or wool inside them that’ll keep you extra toasty.
  • Microspikes: It can get slippy on the trails and around town and microspikes are perfect for giving you a bit of extra traction without taking up much weight or space in your bag.
  • Fleece-lined leggings: You can wear leggings on their own or under some looser clothing such as ski pants or hiking trousers.
  • Hand warmers: I love to put hand warmers inside my mittens to keep my hands nice and toasty while out adventuring.

How to get to Lake Louise

Most visitors to Lake Louise arrive by car since it’s the easiest way to get around, especially in winter.

If you’re an international visitor, then you’ll most likely fly into Calgary International Airport which is a few hours drive away from Lake Louise.

You can rent cars from Calgary airport, but make sure they come with winter tyres, snow chains and/or studs to give you extra grip on the icy roads.

I use comparison sites like DiscoverCars and RentalCars to book my car rentals as it’s easy to check prices and compare the best deals!

Since the town of Lake Louise is quite small, many people opt to stay in nearby Banff or Field and Golden in BC. However, there are places to stay in Lake Louise if you’re not keen on driving back and forth all the time.

During winter in Lake Louise, there is usually a lot of parking which is a completely different story from visiting Lake Louise in summer! However do expect it to be busy on holidays such as Christmas, New Year, and Family Day in February.

If you decide not to rent a car, you can take a shuttle bus to Lake Louise from Calgary to Banff and then use the Banff Lake Louise shuttle / Roam Transit 8x bus which costs around $20 for an adult return journey.

fairmont chateau hotel lake louise in winter

Where to stay in Lake Louise Canada winter

Though Lake Louise is a fairly small area, it’s very geared up for tourism with plenty of restaurants and places to stay.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is one of the most well-known hotels in Lake Louise and the most luxurious experience you can have while visiting the Rocky Mountains.

This castle-like hotel is on the shore of Lake Louise with the most expensive rooms offering views of the lake itself. Imagine peeling back your curtains to a view of the lake?! Inside, the hotel is like something from a movie set with super tall ceilings and ornate detail.

Staying at the Fairmont Lake Louise hotel doesn’t come cheap, with rooms around $500 a night. It’s definitely one for a special occasion but if you’re in the mood to treat yourself you won’t find a better hotel in Lake Louise than this.

For something a bit kinder to your wallet, check out the Lake Louise Inn which has a heated indoor pool and hot tubs, 2 on-site restaurants a free shuttle service to the Lake Louise Ski resort.

There’s also the HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre which is a good option for budget hotels near Lake Louise. It’s very close to the town centre and has private rooms as well as dorms. I’ve eaten at the Bill Peyto Cafe on-site several times and it does great, well-priced meals.

A popular choice is the Baker Creek by Basecamp; a trendy chain of hotels springing up around the Rockies. It’s a little bit further out of Lake Louise but has log cabin-styled rooms which will add that extra special touch to your Canadian winter getaway trip!

Last Updated on January 3, 2024 by Hannah

    Please note: While I make every effort to ensure posts remain up-to-date, I encourage you to check the opening hours and details of the attractions and places mentioned. This post may include affiliate links. These give me a small source of income and come at no additional cost to you.