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5 Easy Winter Adventures in the Canadian Rockies

With light fading rapidly and lives that are all too busy and plugged in, most of us need a boost to make us feel alive, especially at this time of year. One of the most effective ways to beat the winter blahs is to get outside. And one of the prettiest places in the world to do this is in the Canadian Rockies.

Here are 5 easy winter adventures in the Canadian Rockies that will chase those blues away.

If you can walk, then you can snowshoe and what better place to do it than in Banff National Park. My favourite trail to date is the one to the Inkpots. The trailhead is a few kilometres east of Castle Junction, close to the Johnston Canyon Trailhead. Its 12 kilometres return with 220 metres of elevation gain. The higher you go, the prettier it gets with the pièce de résistance the Inkpots themselves. They are brilliant coloured mineral hotsprings located on the way to Mystic Pass, a hike you might want to consider for summer.

The Inkpots in winter in Banff National Park

The Inkpots in winter in Banff National Park

The Johnston Canyon Ice Walk is a popular, family friendly winter outing, accessed via a 30 minute drive from Banff. Slip-slide your way, preferably with something like Yactrax attached to your shoes or boots, 2.7 kilometres to the frozen waterfall. Some days the trail is like a skating rink and you have to hold on to the railings for dear life; other days the trail is merely snow packed and not icy in the least. Make sure you go to the end so you can see the ice-climbers playing on the frozen waterfalls.

Ice climbers in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

Ice climbers in Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

If you’re in Jasper National Park, include the Maligne Canyon Icewalk in your plans. It’s a longer and I would say better version of the Johnston Canyon Icewalk, primarily because you have a chance to slip in behind a frozen waterfall for an otherworldly view, wriggle into a cave and look out at the icy goodness and the full length of the canyon is very beautiful. On this trail, Yactrax or icers are a must. If you go with a guide, you’ll get a lot more out of the experience. Maligne Adventures even offers evening tours, which would be great fun on a full moon kind of night.

Following the ice-climbers down Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Following the ice-climbers up Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Love downhill skiing? You have your choice of four downhill ski resorts between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Choose from Mt. Norquay (free skiing on Christmas and several twoonie ski days in the winter), Sunshine Village (don’t miss their snowshoe and fondue tour), Lake Louise Ski Resort (try the torchlight dinner followed by a ski party) and Marmot Basin.

There are many places for easy cross-country skiing in the Rockies and one of the most scenic areas has to be Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. It’s a flat 5.3 kilometres around Emerald Lake but there’s more skiing if that’s what you’re after. In fact you could stay in the town of Field, ski the Connector Trail that starts at the Trans-Canada Highway and almost double the mileage.

Skiing at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Skiing at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park – Photo credit: Jerry Bowley on Flickr

What would you most like to do in the Canadian Rockies?

5 easy winter adventures in the Canadian Rockies

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
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