Why you should visit Lake Louise in winter

I bet you’ve seen pictures of an amazing, turquoise looking lake surrounded by mountains in Alberta. If it’s not Moraine Lake in the photos, it’s most likely Lake Louise – they’re both beautiful and only 20 minutes away from each other. However, if you visit Lake Louise in winter, the mountains will of course still be there, but the lake will be frozen. That means no amazing views and photos of the colourful water.

On top of that, Moraine Lake, which is usually something you’ll want to include when you’re visiting Lake Louise, is pretty much impossible to reach at this time of the year. The road closes for the winter and there’s really no way to get there other than walking – which has its risks, such as crossing avalanche paths.

But don’t let these facts keep you away from a visit to Lake Louise in winter – it has so much more to offer!

Visit Lake Louise In Winter
This is why you should visit Lake Louise in winter – it’s a snowy wonderland!

We didn’t let the facts above stop us, and we’re so happy that we went! Even if it’s winter, Lake Louise is as good as a must-do if you’re in the area – you’ll have a whole other experience than during summer, but a really spectacular one. Check out all the amazing winter activities Lake Louise has to offer:

Visit Lake Louise in winter – what to know before your visit

– Try to get to Lake Louise as early as you can, since it can be quite hard finding a parking spot. We were lucky and found one directly, but we saw others that had to queue to get one – that’s not how you want to spend the day!

– Put on warm clothes – even if it doesn’t look that cold, it can be quite windy. You don’t want to freeze during this scenic visit, so bundle up!

– Have winter tires on your car. The roads can be quite bad, depending on which road you take. Our general experience is that the Trans Canada Highway is rather well maintained, while some other roads in the area are not. Of course, it will also depend on the weather of the day. However, don’t take any risks – have winter tires on! Another risk factor is driving at dusk or dawn. We did it twice, and both times we had to stop for animals. Last time, we had a cougar crossing the road right in front of our car!

Ice Sculpture Lake Louise
The ice sculptures in Lake Louise are absolutely amazing!

The Ice Magic Festival

This amazing event takes place every year and is one great reason to visit Lake Louise in winter! There’s an ice sculpture competition with some real masterpieces, and when the artists are done the sculptures stay at Lake Louise to be admired of all the visitors. The Ice Magic Festival typically takes place during a couple of weeks in January each year, but the rumour says the sculptures stay there until they melt – which means that you can probably arrive later to see them as well!

If you’re visiting Lake Louise during the Ice Magic Festival, try to go there on a weekday. Not only will it be easier to find parking and less busy, but you can also inspect the sculptures for free – during peak hours on weekends, you’ll need to buy a ticket.

25 years Lake Louise
This year, 2019, the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise celebrated 25 years.

Ice skating on Lake Louise

Can you imagine skating on the lake, with the mountains surrounding you and with a campfire where you can get warm after you’re done skating? There’s even an ice castle on the lake! This is such an unique opportunity and an amazing experience! You don’t need to bring anything, since you can rent both skates and hockey sticks (if you want to have a real Canadian experience) at the Fairmont Hotel right next to the lake. Check out the rates here.

You can even come here to skate under the stars at night!

Ice Castle Lake Louise
Look at this ice castle, such an amazing piece of art!

Drink hot chocolate

This happens to be my area of expertise. When it’s cold outside, what better than snuggling up inside with a large cup of hot chocolate with some marshmallow and whipped cream? You can get this sugar bomb at the Fairmont Hotel, which has an amazing view over the lake. If hot chocolate isn’t your thing for some peculiar reason, they’re also well-known for their afternoon tea. Or, if you have a better budget than we do as backpackers, why not have lunch or dinner?

How to get here

It’s not too tricky to get to Lake Louise – it’s on the Trans Canada Highway. If you’re coming from Banff, you just have to follow the highway for another 45 minutes before getting on the Lake Louise Drive. If you’re coming from the west, Golden, the same applies. However, if you’re coming from the North, Jasper, Highway 93 which is known as the beautiful scenic Icefields Parkway, is the road you’ll have to take.

 
Are you going to Lake Louise in a non-winter month and want to escape the crowds? Consider doing the Plain of Six Glaciers Hike!

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This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. Sarah

    ooh this sounds like a perfect winter wonderland! Maybe I should practice my ice skating before I go though, because my skills struggle on an ice skating rink with walls I can hold onto LOL.

    1. Amanda

      Hahah I feel you there! I’m starting to learn though, so if I can – you can too for sure 😉

  2. josypheen

    Gorgeous! We came in September, so there was snow on the mountains, but it didn’t look half as amazing as this! Wowza it looks amazing. I guess it wouldn’t be safe to do many of the trails in snowshoes, with the avalanche risk!?

    1. Amanda

      Oh did you have turquoise water in the lake in September? I’ll be there again in May/June, hopefully the ice will be gone by then haha! Yeah I think one should be careful and really check to be sure before going on the trails in winter. But I’m sure some at a lower level still are doable!

      1. josypheen

        Yes, we saw it all on one of the first days of snow. Lake Moraine was half frozen, but Lake Louise was not yet icy at all. 🙂

        We hiked up to the glacier view point and even saw a Grizzly bear mum and her cubs!! 😀

        1. Amanda

          Wow, that’s amazing! I don’t know how I would react if I saw a bear haha. We’ve only seen elks and a cougar so far, from the car!

          1. josypheen

            It was all okay (as there were pretty far away.) It meant we could be excited without being terrified! Give me a shout if you’d like me to drop the link for you, so you can see them 😀

          2. Amanda

            Oh good haha! Yes, please drop the link, I’d love to see them!

          3. Amanda

            Wow! That’s amazing Josy!

  3. Denise

    Ok I’m literally dying to go here, your photos are incredible! Thank you this was so helpful!

    1. Amanda

      Oh I’m glad you liked it! Yes, it’s soo beautiful there! Can’t wait to go back in summer too, to see it in another way!

  4. Anya

    Those ice sculptures look amazing! I have been to Lake Louise once but in summer and it impressed me so much! There is so much beauty and majesty in one place that I can’t wait to return, and would happily do it in winter.

    1. Amanda

      Yes, it was truly beautiful and the sculptures are so fantastic! I can’t wait to go back in summer though, it must be a whole other amazing experience!

  5. catherinemryan

    I laughed at your comment of “even if it doesn’t look cold…” – because this definitely looks cold! That said, my kids would go nuts over all the ice sculptures. The ice castle alone would blow their minds!

    1. Amanda

      Haha it does, doesn’t it? And I can ensure you that it was, but it’ still such a beautiful place so I didn’t think too much about it! Oh I can imagine, I found it truly amazing myself!

  6. Christina

    I must admit, I always dream of visiting Lake Louise in the summer, but these beautiful photos have definetely peaked my interest. Not to mention the ice sculptures and hot chocolate! Once you said hot chocolate I was sold 🙂

    1. Amanda

      Yes, I was the same until I actually came here and discovered the beauty of the mountains in the snow! And yes, it’s a good reason for some hot chocolate 😉

    1. Amanda

      You definitely should, it’s amazing!

  7. Natasha L

    I’ve seen so many pictures of Lake Louise in the summer, because let’s be honest it’s stunning then too, but I’ve never seen it in the winter. It’s really so beautiful all year I guess. I would totally time it with the Ice Magic Festival too.

    1. Amanda

      Yes, same here! I haven’t seen any picture of winter in Lake Louise either but we figured we we’re so close, so why not pay it a visit – and we’re so happy we did!

  8. Alice Ford

    I have only been here in the summer, but I sure would love to visit in winter. Lake Louise is certainly picteresque no matter the time of year.

    1. Amanda

      Yes, we plan to go back during summer, but we’re so glad we came here during winter too!

  9. Olivia

    The Rockies hold a special place in my heart as I used to live in Alberta. I’ve seen lake Lousie in all seasons except winter and it’s been on my bucket list to go back. The ice sculpture festival looks incredible. There are some seriously talented people out there.

    1. Amanda

      Oh I can imagine! Alberta is amazing, we’re so lucky to spend a year here. We’re definitely going back to Lake Louise during summer, but it was really cool to visit it during winter as well!

  10. Federica Provolenti

    The ice castle is unbelievably beautiful! Another reason to explore this amazing lake soon

    1. Amanda

      Yeah, it’s amazing! So talented people. I hope you go, it’s such a beautiful place!

  11. Dylan

    I’d never thought of visiting Alberta in the winter, but this looks like such a gorgeous drive– even without photos of that cougar 😉

    1. Amanda

      It is indeed! Haha we were so shocked by the cougar and have to hit the brakes to not hit it, so no, sadly no photos but I’ll forever remember the look of it for sure 😉

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