The Christmas season comes early to the Canadian Rockies with the arrival of Santa Claus in Banff mid-November. By this point the mountains are already blanketed in snow, ski resorts are starting to open, and high elevation trails are prime for winter hiking.
Greet the Christmas Season this November in Banff
Are you feeling the Christmas spirit early this year? Banff has a plethora of Christmas activities and scenery for you to explore this November.
1. Banff Santa Claus Parade of Lights
Kick start the Christmas season with the Banff Santa Claus Parade of Lights, held this year (2019) on November 16th. The parade starts at 6 pm on Banff Avenue and you’ll want to arrive early to get a good spot to watch the parade along the route.
2. Banff Gondola’s Mountain Top Christmas
During the day, I recommend getting into the Christmas spirit with a hike up Sulphur Mountain in the Town of Banff. At the top, you can participate in the Banff Gondola’s Mountain Top Christmas festivities. It takes most people less than two hours to climb the 2300 feet (701 m) to the upper station. Plus, if you hike up, it’s free to ride the gondola down.
Mountaintop Christmas activities include visits with Santa, cookie decorating for the kids, and a fun holiday movie in the interpretive center’s theatre.
3. Take A Scenic Hike For Holiday Photos In The Canadian Rockies
Spend the weekend in Banff and you can drive out to Lake Minnewanka for a scenic hike along the lakeshore. Alternately, enjoy a beautiful hike through Johnston Canyon. The views are great for photos. We’ve taken Christmas card photos in previous years in front of frozen waterfalls.
4. Spread The Holiday Spirit
Fun and play bring that holiday cheer to others. Search for frozen lakes for a game of pond hockey. Several lakes near Banff freeze early before they become snow-covered. Popular choices include the Vermilion Lakes, Johnson Lake, and Two Jack Lake.
5. Apres Up
Warm up after your adventures at Banff Hot Springs. These hot pools stay open late, making this an ideal way to end the day after the Santa Claus Parade.
6. Shop At The Banff Christmas Market
Wrap up your weekend with some shopping for mountain-themed Christmas presents for friends and family members back home. Spend some time at the Banff Christmas Market, which is held on the weekends of November 15th – 17th and November 22nd – 24th for 2019.
7. Enjoy Early Season Snow At Sunshine Village Ski Resort In The Canadian Rockies
Sunshine Village always opens early November for either skiing or snowshoeing. Wrap up your day with cheese fondue at the Chimney Corner in the Sunshine Mountain Lodge. Alternatively, spend the night at the lodge to enjoy their slopeside hot tub.
8. Take a day trip to Lake Louise (Sleigh Ride, Anyone?)
Enjoy ice skating on Lake Louise, one of the most beautiful outdoor skating rinks in the world. You can hike across the lake to see frozen waterfalls, enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the lake, or sign up for a dog sledding tour. If you’re still not completely in the Christmas spirit, drop into the Chateau Lake Louise for afternoon tea. Then, walk around to marvel in the beautiful decorations around the resort.
Celebrate an Authentic Rocky Mountain Christmas in Kananaskis Country
Located only 20 minutes away from Banff, The Town of Canmore is the gateway to Kananaskis Country. Here you can celebrate an authentic Rocky Mountain Christmas and escape for a wilderness getaway.
1. View Inspiring Christmas Decorations At Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge
Christmas is my favourite time to visit Kananaskis Village and the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. I finish many of my December hikes or ski outings in front of the cozy fireplace inside the lodge with a hot cup of coffee and some freshly baked cookies.
The lodge has some of the best Christmas decorations in the Canadian Rockies. You’ll definitely want to take photos in front of their Christmas tree! In previous years they’ve also had giant gingerbread houses which is always a hit with the children.
2. Apres At The Kananaskis Nordic Spa In The Canadian Rockies
The Kananaskis Nordic Spa is an apres paradise. This incredible spa features a relaxation lodge, five outdoor pools, five steam and sauna cabins, and an exfoliation room. In addition, there are winterized hammocks, fireside lounges, eight treatment rooms, massage therapists, and a bistro (which you can visit in your bathrobe without leaving the spa.) Note that the spa is for adults 18+ and that you don’t have to be staying at the resort to use the spa. Expect possible wait times to enter if you visit on a weekend.
3. Visit The Troll With A Hike To Frozen Troll Falls
Troll Falls trail is a popular outing for local families from Calgary. It’s a short 2-mile return hike if you start from the Stoney Trailhead below Kananaskis Village. You can also hike to the falls from the Village if you want a longer outing.
4. Spend Time With Family And Friends In Kananaskis Village
Explore the snowshoe trails around Kananaskis Village or enjoy ice skating on the pond. You can rent snowshoes and ice skates from Kananaskis Outfitters, conveniently located beside the pond.
5. Take A Day Trip For Some Excellent Snowshoeing, Winter Hiking, and Relaxing
First, take a day trip to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. To reach the park, drive south on Highway 40 for approx 50 km (30 mi) until you come to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Here, you’ll find several options for snowshoe hikes including my favorite, Rawson Lake.
As an alternative or in addition to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, take a day trip to the Spray Lakes Valley in Kananaskis. From Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, turn on to the Spray Lakes Road, Highway 742, and drive north towards Canmore.
In this valley, you’ll find some of the best winter hikes in Kananaskis including the trails to Chester Lake and Rummel Lake, two of my favorites.
If you make it to Rummel Lake, make sure you stop in at Mount Engadine Lodge. Apres after your hike with an afternoon tea which consists of a decadent charcuterie platter and desserts. The lodge is always nicely decorated for Christmas and I guarantee you won’t want to leave once you settle in beside the fireplace.
You may also decide that you’d like to spend a night or two at Mount Engadine Lodge. If so, you can read more about this incredible place (including their new glamping tents) in Choosing Your own Adventure in the Canadian Rockies.
Visit The Canadian Rockies This Christmas
Overall, Banff and Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies are the perfect holiday getaways. Visit Santa, shop for family and friends, and then explore the gorgeous surrounding area for photos, while sharing holiday cheer with friends and family.