Pros And Cons Of Visiting In November
November is a month that is considered “off season” in the Rocky Mountains. It’s an in between time when the warm weather activities have ended, some attractions have shut down and there’s not enough snow for most of the winter activities such as snowshoeing, cross country skiing, dog sledding and sleigh rides and too early for ice skating on outdoor rinks. However it can still be a suitable time to visit depending on what you are looking to get out of your holiday. If you are just looking for a relaxing holiday with some short walks around the townsites and a bit of sightseeing it might be a suitable time for your visit.
Though there’s not enough snow for winter activities in the valley bottoms hiking is limited because the higher elevation trails have become snowbound and/or have avalanche risks.
If you’re looking to book a guided tour there are little to no options because of low demand.
Attractions such as the Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields have closed and the boat tours have stopped operating on Lake Minnewanka in Banff and Maligne Lake in Jasper. The Miette Hot Springs in Jasper are closed for the winter and so is the Jasper Tramway. The Tea Houses are shut down in Lake Louise after the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend in October.
There are seasonal road closures. The access road to Moraine Lake closes around the third week of October, the road to Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park is closed and to Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper.
There can be unpredictable weather. It can be very cold, especially in the latter part of the month.
Driving conditions can vary. The Trans-Canada Highway is well maintained and the driving conditions are generally good. There can be the odd snowstorm causing poor visibility or bad road conditions. In this case it can take a few hours for the plowing crews to catch up. The secondary roads may already have winter conditions such as the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) between Lake Louise and Jasper. It can have sections that are anything from bare, dry pavement to full winter conditions.
If the valley bottom has not got a coating of snow the landscape can tend to have a bit of dull look. If you’ve never seen big mountains before they are still a sight to see, but the scenery is not at its best, there’s no leaves on the deciduous trees and grasses and landscape take on a brown hue.
There’s a lot of different festivals and entertainment occurring in November.
It’s one of the quietest months of the year if you want to avoid crowds.
It’s the cheapest time of year for accommodation. Treat yourself to a hotel with an outdoor hot tub that you can enjoy. Book a room with a cozy fireplace.
November can be a great time for accommodation package deals that include meals, spa treatments or other activities. The Brewster Company offers a hotel and Banff Gondola package and the Banff Lodging Company has an accommodation, Banff Hot Springs and Gondola deal. You can check out these offers at Brewster Package Deal and Best of Banff Packages. If you do searches you’re likely to find other attractively priced options.
Airfare either domestically or internationally may be cheaper.
You won’t have to wait to get a table at a restaurant and service should be quite attentive everywhere because of the lack of crowds.
Weather And Temperatures
November can be a very unpredictable month. It can be quite cold. If you plan to be outdoors walking or doing any sightseeing you will need to bundle up to keep warm. Usually there has been a snowfall in the lower valleys by early November, but it may not stay if the temperatures have warmed up. The weather can be a mix of snow, sleet and rain.
The average temperatures around the Banff town site are a high of 3C. and a low of -8C., but like the averages during anytime of the year in the Rocky Mountains they can be meaningless. The early part of the month can see anything from warmer almost summer like temperatures to winter weather. As the month progresses the temperature continues to drop. It’s not uncommon for cold snaps with temperatures dipping below -20C. An example of the extremes can be shown between two consecutive years on the same date of the month. On November 5, 2016 it was an unseasonably warm day with a high of 16C. in Banff. On November 5, 2015 the high temperature for the day was 1.C.
For the colder temperatures you’ll need a warm jacket, a scarf, a warm hat/toque or ear muffs and gloves. If you plan to be out and about doing any sightseeing or walking you’ll want a pair of warm winter boots. A waterproof jacket is also a good idea. There can be days with rainfall in the lower elevation areas of Banff, Jasper or Yoho National Park. In higher elevations such as Lake Louise it’s more likely to be snow that’s falling.
November can be a bit of a gloomy month with more clouds and less sunshine. Keep in mind the hours of daylight have started to significantly decrease by this time of the year. The sun rises around 8 to 8:30 am and starts to set behind the mountains by around 4:30pm. For more information on weather see: What To Expect For Weather And Temperatures In The Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Festivals And Events
If you decide to travel to Banff in November, particularly in the last half of the month there are a number of festivals and events to keep you entertained. The town of Banff is usually decorated by mid-November setting the mood of the holiday spirit.
A Taste For Adventure – Held during the last week of October and first week of November. It’s a culinary celebration where chefs in Lake Louise and Banff create inspiring foods. At over 30 participating restaurants there are lunch and dinner menus offered at fixed prices. It’s a great time to dine whether you’re a visitor to the area or a local wanting to try out a new place. Banff/Lake Louise Taste For Adventure.
Banff Mountain Film And Book Festival – A nine day festival that occurs at the very end of October and first week of November. It features some of the world’s best mountain films and books, and a list of world class speakers that include photographers, authors and filmmakers. The event travels to many other locations telling the stories of adventure climbing and mountain expeditions, remote cultures and some of the world’s last unspoiled places. Banff Mountain Film And Book Festival
The Winterstart Festival runs from mid-November to mid-December. The month long event features World Cup ski racing, the Banff Santa Claus parade and many other activities and entertainment. For a full schedule see: Banff/Lake Louise Events
Banff Santa Claus Parade Of Lights – Check the schedule for the date as it varies each year, it’s usually in the later part of November or early December. During the day of the parade children can have their photos taken with Santa at the Banff train station for a $10 donation to Santa’s Anonymous. The parade usually starts at 6pm. Visitors and locals line Banff Avenue to welcome the arrival of Santa and see the lit up floats.
Photos with Santa At Cascade Mall – check the current schedule. If you missed photos with Santa before the parade there is usually another opportunity at the Cascade Mall the day after.
Banff Christmas Market – In the last week of November you can pick up a few unique gifts for family and friends in the market that’s held in the Warner Horse Stables. The venue is transformed into a festive setting with food and drinks and you can shop for hand crafted items, clothing, jewelry, books, art, woodworking and mountain inspired goods and culinary items. There’s also various times to get photos with Santa as well as wagon rides and Christmas carolers. Banff Christmas Market
Banff Craft Beer Festival – In the last week of November there is a weekend of amazing craft beer sampling held at the historic Cave and Basin. This is where Canada’s first national park started. There are food samples from some of Banff’s pubs and restaurants and offerings from Alberta’s breweries. Your purchased ticket to the beer festival allows you to take the shuttle leaving downtown Banff to the Cave and Basin approximately every 15 minutes. Alberta Beer Festivals/Banff
Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup – Each year in the last week of November and first week of December the Lake Louise Ski Resort hosts the world’s best ski racers as they compete for the world cup. There is a free fan zone and kid’s area, so no lift tickets are required to watch the event. Men’s World Cup race is at the end of November and the Women’s race is in the beginning of December. It doesn’t take over the hill, but some runs on the front of the mountain are not accessible. Lake Louise Alpine Ski World Cup
Activities And Things To Do In Banff, Lake Louise And Canmore
Lake Louise Gondola – when the Lake Louise Ski Resort opens (dates vary each year) in November you can purchase a sightseeing lift only ticket for the Grizzly Gondola. If it’s a clear day you can ride the gondola up and get spectacular views looking over to Lake Louise and the Bow Valley Mountain ranges. Lake Louise Gondola.
Banff Sulphur Mountain Gondola – Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain for spectacular views overlooking the town of Banff and the Bow Valley. Walk along the boardwalk to take in all the views. Enjoy a drink or meal in the restaurant before you head back down. Check their website for specific dates in November when they offer stargazing events. Banff Gondola
Norquay Gondola – From the North American Chair on Mount Norquay you can take in spectacular views of the Banff townsite and Mount Rundle. After the ride up have a hot drink or a bite to eat in the Cliffhouse Bistro. Banff Norquay Winter Sightseeing
Mount Norquay Lookout – For a free alternative to paying for the gondolas in Banff you can drive up to the viewpoint on Mount Norquay and get a spectacular view for free! For more information: Free Alternative To the Banff Sulphur Mountain Gondola.
Johnston Canyon – Johnston Canyon can be accessed year round, but check on the conditions. In November it may already be getting icy and slippery. You may need ice crampons for your footwear. For more information see our post on: Johnston Canyon Hiking In Winter.
Hiking and Walking – Hiking in November can be quite limited, usually to the valley bottoms around the Banff or Jasper townsites, it will vary depending on the weather and snow conditions. Walking trails around the Banff townsite that can be done like the Fenland Trail or along the Bow River, Cascade Ponds or through the Cascade Gardens or the lake shore trail in Lake Louise. Check with the Parks Canada office in Banff or Lake Louise for current trail and avalanche conditions. They will give you options for where you can safely walk or do lower elevation hiking. Canmore may be a good option for walks in November. There’s an intricate system of flat trails around the town and along the Bow River. Or if the road conditions are okay you can head west to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. For Canmore options see: Easy Scenic Walks And Hikes In Canmore
Scenic Drives – Driving on secondary roads will be subject to conditions. Options near Banff are the portion of the Lake Minnewanka Loop that remains open during the winter. The Bow Valley Parkway and Vermillion Lakes Road. In Jasper there is Maligne Lake Road. You may spot wildlife such as elk and bighorn sheep, but most of the bears have gone into winter hibernation by early November. Many of the drives in our post: Scenic Drives In Banff can be done in November, but you’ll want to check on the road conditions first.
Museums – Check out some of the Banff museums such as the Whyte Museum.
Do some shopping along Banff Avenue and other downtown streets in Banff.
Wander around the Banff Springs Hotel. The first two levels are open to the public. If your visit coincides with the Christmas trees and decorations being up they are amazing.
Check out the Historic Cave and Basin where Canada’s first national park got its start.
Book afternoon tea at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise or Banff Springs Hotel.
Have a relaxing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs.
Sit in front of a roaring fire at one of the many lodge lounges while sipping a cup of hot chocolate.
Treat yourself for to a spa day. If your budget allows the Willowstream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs is heavenly. With the booking of some treatments you get access to their indoor mineral pools and waterfalls and their relaxing spa lounge that offers mountain views.
Head to a restaurant to a restaurant for lunch that offers views Or have for an evening meal try one of the many restaurants that offer a charcuterie board of meats and cheeses or have a romantic fondue. The Waldhaus Restaurant is famous for its fondue as is the Banff Grizzly House. It’s a great time to try out restaurants. With it being slower there’s attentive service, the atmosphere is much more relaxing compared to the busy summer and Christmas holiday season.
Canmore Cave Tours – Tours are offered year round to the Rat’s Nest Cave near Canmore. Since the climate and temperature of the caves remains the same year round this is a great winter time activity.
The opening of the ski hills can vary each year. On average it’s sometime in the second week of November but it can be earlier or later depending on the snow conditions which can be anything from full winter conditions to exposed rocks. There’s no way to predict what the early season snowpack will be for any coming year. There are usually only a few runs operating when the hills first open. Most people who are coming for a specific ski vacation wait until further into the month of December or in the New Year.
Kids Learn To Ski For Free – once the Lake Louise ski resort opens in November they offer several dates where kids can learn to ski for free. Check the Lake Louise Ski Resort schedule for dates.
Take note the Lake Louise World Alpine Cup is held in the last week of November and first week of December. The front runs on the hill are not accessible for skiing at this time.
You can check in the SkiBig3 site for the latest resort conditions or have a peek at their webcams to see how your favourite mountains are shaping up.
There may be enough snow to start some cross country skiing towards the last part of the month. There are a myriad of groomed trails in the Lake Louise and Banff area.
Things To Do In Jasper In November
If your vehicle is equipped with winter tires and depending on the road conditions there are some drives and attractions that can be accessed in November and throughout the winter such as the Athabasca Falls and Maligne Canyon. You can also drive to Maligne Lake, stopping at the Medicine Lake viewpoint along the way. Note there are no services open at Maligne Lake during the winter.
Check out the Jasper Park Lodge it is usually decorated quite early for Christmas. Have a lunch, dinner or a drink, there’s a few different restaurants to choose from. You can see if they are serving Afternoon Tea.
Jasper’s Marmot Basin Ski Hill opens around mid-November but will be limited to just a few runs and will most likely be early skiing type conditions until further into the month of December.
Take a swim at the Aquatic Center or check for public skating times on the indoor rink.
Check out the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum. It has exhibits of the fur trade and the early days of the railway and exploration in the area. Jasper Musuem
Winter Wildlife Tour – The Jasper Tour company offers a winter wildlife tour that is available in the month of November. However, their Maligne Canyon Ice Tour does not start until December 1st.
Wander around the downtown Jasper checking out the unique shops.
Have lunch or an evening meal at one of the many cafes or restaurants in Jasper. For a baked treat and a warm drink head to the Bear’s Paw Bakery, a favourite spot among locals and tourists.