Banff in November isn’t the most exciting for most visitors and not exactly the best time to visit Banff. November in Banff is about as off-season as it gets in the Canadian Rockies.
One that many visitors may want to avoid as it’s cold, dreary, and not as scenic as almost any other month. That being said, it’s snowing by November in Banff, and the ski resorts open so skiers and snowboarders can finally shred it up without the crowds.
By the end of the month, Christmas cheer is in the air, and it’s full-on hot chocolate season. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Banff in November.
Things to Know Before Visiting Banff in November
What’s the Weather Like in Banff in November
November is a changeable month with a mix of sunshine and snow, but generally, the temperatures are much cooler than they have been. These plummet to an average of 1-2°C. Fall most definitely becomes winter in November. There should be snow everywhere by mid to late November, which makes the mountain peaks that much more beautiful.
Sometimes the average temperatures can drop to -9°C, so bundle up and don’t forget a jacket or boots. The most exciting part about November in Banff for me is that it marks the start of the ski season in Banff. You’ll find SkiBig3 resorts open, but the runs will likely be visited by locals mainly. Few tourists are here in November, meaning no crowds and low prices.
If you planned on seeing the beautiful blue lakes of Emerald Lake, Moraine Lake, and Lake Louise in their splendor, you’ll be disappointed. They are pretty much completely frozen by mid to late November. Though the lakes closer to Downtown Banff (Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake) and in Canmore generally take longer to freeze.
It truly all depends on the year though! In 2020 we were ice skating by November 1st, while in 2021 it’s been warmer than usual and the lakes may not start to freeze until December.
If lady luck is on your side and time your visit right, you’ll be able to ice skate on the freshly frozen Canadian Rockies lakes. The key to skating on these lakes is to hit them right after the freeze, but before the first snowfall comes and covers the lake. For us, that date came on November 1st at Johnson Lake last year, but every year is different!
What to Pack for Banff in November
In October, I mentioned to put away the sandals and shorts. Now that it’s November in Banff, I need to say to put away the sneakers and bundle up. It’s pretty cold in Banff, and you’ll want a good jacket, boots, hats, thermals, and mittens to stay warm outside. Bring your best sweaters for that time warming up in a Banff restaurant.
Don’t forget your snow pants and ski jacket if you’re planning to do some early-season skiing or snowboarding. Some basic items that you’ll want to pack are:
- Down Jacket
- Casual Pants
- Long sleeve shirts
- 2-3 x Wool Ski Socks
- Warm Hat
- Waterproof Boots
Can You Visit Lake Louise in November?
November at Lake Louise means that it’s winter again, and you can expect to find Lake Louise frozen by mid to late November.
If you’re lucky, and I mean really lucky, you might be able to ice skate on Lake Louise before the snow falls onto the frozen lake; it happens every few years. Meaning you’ll be skating on frozen blue Kool-Aid.
Lake Louise Ski Resort opens up in November, and there is plenty of early-season skiing fun to be had. The other good news? It’s the locals season in Banff National Park. The summer tourists are gone, and the holiday tourists have yet to arrive, so it’s a tranquil time to visit Lake Louise and go skiing at the resort.
Don’t forget to check out the Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup, which happens the last weekend of November and the first weekend of December!
Can You Visit Lake Moraine in November?
Moraine Lake road closes in mid-October, so if you want to visit Moraine Lake in November, you’ll either have to bike yourself up the 14 km road if there is no snow on the road (or use a fat bike) or snowshoe or ski in. This is really only best reserved for those who are comfortable and confident in the Canadian Rockies, as it can be dangerous.
If you decide to make the trek, you need to take precautions as the road crosses a few avalanche chutes that can become dangerous in the winter. Having an avalanche course under your belt, knowing how to assess avalanches, and being geared up with the right equipment (beacon, probe, shovel) is important for going back into the Lake Moraine area during November.
Things to do in Banff in November
Climb Sulphur Mountain
One of the best things to do in Banff in November is hike Sulphur Mountain. Sulphur Mountain is easily one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park. It’s a beautiful hike up that provides visitors with astonishing views over the Bow Valley.
Due to its proximity to Banff town and the fact that you can take the Banff Gondola up to the peak instead of sweating it out on the trail means that Sulphur mountain becomes very busy in the summer! However, in November, you’ll have it pretty much empty. A pair of crampons and some hiking poles will help you tackle the trail up in no time in November.
Head to Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake in Yoho is just over an hour’s drive away from the Town of Banff and is a magical place to head in November. The lake is quiet, probably one of the most peaceful times of the year. Seeing Wapta Mountain covered in snow is lovely, and November is a fantastic time to take a walk around the lake.
Catch the Northern Lights
Visitors have the best chance to spot the beautiful Northern Lights during the winter months from October to May. November is an excellent time as the sky is dark for an extended period of time, and the nighttime temperatures won’t make you feel like you’re at the North Pole (yet). See our best tips for spotting the Northern Lights in Banff.
Stroll Around Cascade Ponds
Cascade Ponds are an excellent place to head for a stroll that are just a 5-minute drive from downtown Banff. There are some great pathways and a beautiful pedestrian bridge to take in the views.
Ice Skate on a Wild Frozen Lake
November is one of the best times to wild skate in the Canadian Rockies. Wild skating refers to skating on natural bodies of water (not maintained ice rinks). Ice skating on these lakes can happen during any time in the winter, but the best season is typically in November and December. This is when the lakes have frozen over enough for the weight, but the snow has yet to cover them. The result is something like ice skating on the smoothest ice cube ever!
Keep in mind there is risk involved with wild ice skating, and you should always check the thickness of the ice before skating (ice should be more than 15 cm thick). You can do this with an ice screw. You can see our Banff ice skating safety tips and destinations here.
Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway (or the 1A) is a road that every visitor to Banff National Park should drive on at least once. It’s a great alternative to the Trans-Canada when connecting Banff to Lake Louise.
It’s excellent to drive year-round, but I love it after a fresh snowfall in the winter. There are plenty of stops to make, and it’s one of the best places in Banff to spot some wildlife. Make sure to stop off at Morant’s Curve! If you get lucky, or have enough patience to wait, a train may pass by creating the perfect Banff photo!
Marvel at Bow Lake
Drive a little bit of the Icefields Parkway and stop at Bow Lake. Bow Lake is a beautiful glacial-fed lake that radiates blue in the summer. In the winter, it’s covered in snow, and you stand a pretty good chance at getting a glorious winter sunset from here. Keep in mind you need winter tires to drive the Icefields Parkway in November.
Warm Up in a Brewery
The Canadian Rockies boast some amazing mountain breweries. In Canmore, there is Grizzly Paw and Sheepdog Brewing which are both fantastic.
Our favorite is the Three Bears Brewery on Bear Street in Downtown Banff, although Banff Ave Brewing is the OG and located right off Banff Avenue. If you’re in Jasper, you have to visit Jasper Brewing.
All have cozy atmospheres perfect for warming up with friends and family.
Keep Your Eye Out for Wildlife
November is a great time to spot some wildlife. The crowds have departed, and the wildlife are back without all the human disturbances. We see elk daily, as well as frequent spotting of sheep. If you are lucky you can spot coyotes, mountain goats, and perhaps even a lynx (super rare!)
Ski/Snowboard Big Mountain Terrain
The ski culture in North America has its roots in the Canadian Rockies, with Skoki Lodge – the first ski hut in North America located here. Now there are three ski resorts in the Banff National Park and one in the neighboring Provincial Park, Kananaskis, along with a bunch of other great mountains within a couple hours drive. The region has it all in terms of ski whether that’s groomer, big mountain resorts, backcountry, and even heli-skiing.
The resorts within the park comprise a group called the SkiBig3. You have Lake Louise, Banff Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay, all fantastic and unique ski resorts. Skiing or snowboarding here is one of the best things to do in Banff in the winter, and they are open up by mid-November!
Hike Tunnel Mountain
Tunnel Mountain is right in the heart of Banff. It’s beloved by locals for its accessibility, and you can hike it year-round. It may be one of the smallest mountains in Banff National Park, but it still offers tremendous views of the surrounding valleys and Mount Rundle.
The hike moves slowly up the mountain through several switchbacks and offers various viewpoints out into the Bow and Spray Valleys. It’s great for sunrise or sunset, and it rarely disappoints. The best part is it’s only a 4.5 km round trip hike and shouldn’t take more than one hour up. It’s one of the most accessible winter hikes you can do with only 266 meters of elevation gain, perfect for November!
A great thing to do for families visiting Banff in the winter is snowshoe! Just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean you can’t leave the well-trodden path. You might not be able to walk through the snow on foot, but a quality pair of snowshoes allow you to float across the snow.
They’re super easy to get the hang of, and you’ll be moving along in no time. Two popular snowshoe hikes are to the Paint Pots or Marble Canyon, but you’re free to explore the wilderness on your own if you rent a pair.
Banff Christmas Market
If you are visiting Banff in November and sad you’ll miss out on the Banff Christmas fun, don’t worry! The Banff Christmas Market is a super fun event held the last two weeks of November before the holiday craze really starts. It’s located at Warner Stables, the headquarters for Banff Trail Riders.
Yes, you read that right. The Banff Christmas Market takes place in late November instead of in December, as the town of Banff and the beautiful horses get too busy to hold it in the peak holiday season. Because of the timing, the event has a much more “local” feel. So if you are in town, make sure to stop by!
Expect Santa, his reindeer, plenty of horses to take photos with, food vendors, drink vendors, and boutique artisan pop-up shops.
Entry is $7.50 a person, with events taking place on November 19-21st 2021 and November 26-28th, 2021, at 100 Sundance Rd.
Check Out More Things to do in Banff in the Winter Here!
Banff Travel Tips
Consider Renting a Car
Being in North America, your options for transport are limited. Most visitors to Banff will rent a car in Calgary, which is the easiest way to get around. Renting a car in Canada ensures that you can get to where you want to go on your own schedule.
Depending on the season of your travel, car rentals in Calgary can be pretty affordable. We’ve rented with Enterprise for less than 20 CAD a day in the winter, and November will yield super low prices.
In the winter, you need a car with winter tires, so make sure to check with your car rental agency. If you do decide to drive from Alberta into BC these winter tires are mandatory! You can see road conditions here, which are super helpful between November and late April.
Other Transport Options
You may not feel comfortable driving in Canada, and that’s okay! There are other options to get to and from Banff and around the town. However, they are limited, so keep that in mind.
To get from YYC to Banff, the Banff Airporter is a good option and costs $146 (CAD) round trip.
Once in Banff, there is the Roam bus system to get around town, and in the summer, it runs to Lake Louise while in the winter it will easily get you to Lake Louise Ski Resort and Banff Sunshine Ski Resort.
Dress for the Mountains
If I had a dollar for every time I saw a visitor wearing skimpy mountain clothes, I would have, like, $500. No, but seriously guys come to Banff in November dressed for mountain weather. That means packable down jackets, boots, and hats especially in Banff in November. It gets colder than you think it will!
The weather here can change at a moment’s notice and you don’t want to be underdressed. It’s essential to pack layers, thermals, good boots.
Where to Stay in Banff in November
For a small mountain town, Banff has a plethora of accommodation options. Some of our favorites are:
Stay in Canmore!
You can always stay in the nearby town of Canmore! One of our favorite hotels in Canmore is the Lady Macdonald Country Inn.
Hopefully, this helped you determine what to do in Banff in November!
If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.
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Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out Safetywing or World Nomads offers competitive rates for all travelers.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around or embarking on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy.