A Winter Wonderland at Emerald Lake

Banff National Park Winter Travel Guide
Emerald Lake, British Columbia

Emerald Lake was our first stop in Banff National Park, which is ironic, because it is not actually in Banff at all. In fact, we had to drive across the Alberta/British Columbia border into Yoho National Park to get there. Never mind the geography of this place, though, the point is that Emerald Lake is stunning and can’t be missed.

Outfit Details: Old Navy Camel Coat, Old Navy Red Plaid Blanket Scarf (similar here), J. Crew Beret (similar here), J. Crew Corduroy Pants, J. Crew Sweater (similar here), Sperry Duck Boots, Abercrombie Mittens, Under Armour Cold Gear Leggings, Under Armour Cold Gear Top

Banff National Park Travel Guide
Green corduroy pants, camel coat, red plaid blanket scarf, and a red beret
Emerald Lake, Canada
Banff National Park Travel Tips

In the summer, the water is of course a brilliant emerald green, but when we arrived in mid-November the lake was mostly frozen over and the grounds covered in pristine snow. The views start right from the parking lot where a bridge connects you to an iconic log cabin. The path continues through the Emerald Lake Lodge cabins, naturally adorned with icicles, and leads you onto a would be lakeshore hiking trail.

When we reached the last cabin, there was no sign of a trail only snow at least two feet high. I asked one of the lodge employees if the trail was closed and he laughed and said that actually the trail was wide open, and to just follow the tree line around the lake. Ha, I love Canada! So we did just as he said and forged a path through the snow, getting plenty of it in our boots.

Winter in Banff National Park
Winter Travel in Banff National Park
Emerald Lake Lodge
Emerald Lake Canada Guide
Hiking around Emerald Lake in winter
Winter style to stay warm in Canada
Red beret

It was pretty thrilling making our own way, especially since there was literally no one else on the trail. Every once in a while a snow pile would drop from the branch of a frosted pine tree disturbing the peaceful setting. The views around the lake were just insane, with mountains and tree lines reflecting in the water from every turn. I know I’m sounding poetic, I’m just trying to prove that you have to see this!

The trail around the lake is only 5.2km (3mi), but we definitely took our time (at least two hours) hiking around and enjoying the views. My little sister is a Christmas fanatic and serenaded me with Christmas carols the whole way.

Frozen Lake in Canada
Emerald Lake Travel Guide
Things to do in Banff National Park
Winter activities in Canada
Red beret
Banff National Park Photography Guide

Practical tips:

  • The park is open year round, but some visitor services close between mid-October and mid-May.

  • There were bathrooms next to the parking lot.

  • A park pass provides entry to both Banff and Yoho National Parks with different packages available for daily or annual use.

  • There is no public transportation, but I did see some tour buses.

  • Make sure your car has snow tires (with a snowflake on the tire) if you visit between mid-Oct and mid-May. Rental car companies may try to tell you that mud and snow tires (M+S) are sufficient but the law states “snow tires” as seen here and here. The snow tires will cost you an extra $15 a day, but I was personally so grateful. The roads (big and small) were constantly covered in snow during our visit.

  • Emerald Lake Lodge looked beautiful with a stunning Mountain View hot tub, sauna, fire pit and the cutest cabins. We saw a wedding there when we arrived!

  • Emerald Lake is just over an hour drive from Banff and only thirty minutes from Lake Louise so we stayed at the Juniper Lodge in Banff the first night and then the Fairmont Lake Louise (see here) the second night after visiting Emerald Lake.

  • The trail has no major elevation, but the snow does make it trickier. Be sure to wear warm clothes and adequate water proof hiking boots.

Dashing through the snow
Winter in Banff National Park
Best winter hikes
Emerald Lake Yoho National Park British Columbia
Winter wonderland in Banff National Park
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