Banff National Park is home to a variety of outdoor activities ideal for adventure lovers. In the winter, one of our favourite ways to spend the day is ice skating. These frozen lakes offer the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with your crew, get a little exercise, and enjoy the great outdoors.
There is no question that Banff is famous for its turquoise lakes. During the summer months, people flock internationally to witness the breathtaking scenery at places like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. What many people don’t know is that these lakes in Banff are an excellent place for ice skating during the winter!
Skating on a frozen lake in the Rockies is just as magical as it sounds. Picture this: fresh snow covering the trees, pristine mountain views, a bluebird day, your favourite people and a thermos of hot chocolate. It’s heaven.
The only downside to lake skating in Banff is that it will ruin indoor rinks for you, for good.
Before embarking on your ice skating adventure, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Check the ice thickness, be aware of any warnings or advisories, wear appropriate gear, and never skate alone. Additionally, consider the weather conditions and time of day for the best skating experience.
Important: Ice should be at least 20cm thick for a group of people to skate on it.
Outdoor Rink Packing List
Skates: Most of these places do not have rental shops. Make sure to bring your own or rent some in Canmore or Banff before venturing out.
Hot cocoa in a thermos: This is one of our all time favourite skating snacks. You can even bring Baileys and whipped cream if you want to jazz things up al little.
A shovel: Depending on the time of year, the recent snowfall, and how many people have already skated on these lakes, you may need to shovel off some snow.
A blanket: We like to bring a thick blanket to lay down so that we have a place to put on our skates and drink our hot chocolate. Alternatively, you could also bering lawn chairs.
WARM clothes: This should go without saying, but a toque, mitts, warm socks (I use heated socks!) and warm layers are all necessary for being out on the ice.
Garmin inReach: Some of these lakes do not have cell coverage. We always like to bring our Garmin just incase we need to call for help.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of all of the best lakes that turn into natural skating rinks in Banff National Park.
Possibly one of the most iconic spots in Banff National Park, Lake Louise becomes a winter wonderland when the temperatures drop. The clear, turquoise ice offers a perfect canvas for skating enthusiasts to twirl and glide in front of the grandiose Victoria Glacier.
This is the only place on the list where you can rent skates. If you need to, you can do so in the lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. If you are looking to extend your visit, try hiking or snowshoeing around Lake Louise.
For those seeking a quieter, more secluded skating experience, Bow Lake is a fantastic option. While it may not be as popular as Lake Louise, the unspoiled beauty and tranquility make it an ideal spot for a more intimate skating adventure.
The towering Bow Mountain and views of Bow Glacier create a stunning setting for a wonderful skating experience. If you have snowshoes with you, we would highly recommend hiking to see the frozen Bow Glacier Falls!
Two Jack Lake
Offering stunning views of Mount Rundle and a high chance of spotting wildlife, Two Jack Lake is a wonderful choice for ice skating in Banff. Only a few minutes from the townsite, this is a popular option among locals and visitors. Because of this, there is often a shovelled area and an assortment of people tailgating in the parking lot on a nice day.
Located just outside of the town of Banff, Vermilion Lakes offer ample space for beginners and seasoned skaters. With Mount Rundle in the background, this stunning area is easy to access and typically has an area cleared off for skaters.
Vermilion Lakes is famous for being an incredible sunset spot. If you get the chance, bring some hot chocolate and watch the sky light up after your time on the ice.
Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, transforms into an ice skaters paradise during the winter months. Located just a few kilometres from Two Jack Lake, this is a great option for all types of adventurers.
We absolutely love skating here because there is so much space to spread out and enjoy. If you are looking for more activity once you’re finished, the Cascade Fire Road is a popular cross country ski route that departs from the same parking lot.
Waterfowl Lakes is one of our favourite lakes on the Icefields Parkway. It is even more quiet that Bow Lake and is only recommended if you are confident about the ice thickness and have a shovel to clear an area. The benefit of making the trip to Waterfowl Lakes is that you might just get this picture perfect spot all to yourself!
The last 4 lakes are just outside of Banff National Park but I couldn’t leave them off this list!
Just a few minutes past the border of Banff National Park in Clearwater County, this frozen gem offers a one-of-a-kind skating adventure. Abraham Lake is known for the methane bubbles that get trapped in the ice. On top of that, the snow covered peaks surrounding the lake make it incredibly beautiful.
Skating on this unique frozen masterpiece is a one of a kind experience that you don’t want to miss! If you have a campervan, you are allowed to wild camp in many pull offs in this county. As always, please make sure to leave no trace so that we can all continue to enjoy it for years to come.
Spray Lakes is a massive man-made reservoir located in Kananaskis Country. Because the valley gets a decent amount of wind, the ice here is often snow free! This is a great place to spend the day and the views from the ice are phenomenal. The road in is not yet paved and frequently snow covered, so be sure to check road conditions before you depart.
Nestled in between Bow Valley Trail and Highway 1 just before Canmore, Gap Lake is as a winter wonderland. Surrounded by snow-draped evergreens and beautiful mountain peaks, it transforms into a picturesque ice rink during the colder months. Gap Lake is popular and easily accessible making it an ideal spot for families and first timers.
Last but certainly not least are Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. These are some of our favourite lakes in the Canadian Rockies at any time of year. The scenery is jaw-dropping, there is ample parking and they are a bit more remote meaning the crowds are typically smaller.