Cover photo by Dan Schykulski .
It probably comes as no surprise that as the second largest country in the world, Canada knows how to deliver when it comes to diverse and dramatic landscapes. From the remote and far reaches north to the Yukon and Northern Territories to the busy and bustling mountain towns, Canada has something to keep every winter photographer busy, whether you stay a month or a week.
There are unlimited photo opportunities in Canada so choosing our favorites is no easy task. Nevertheless, we’ve narrowed down our top destinations to three things you absolutely can’t miss on your Canadian photography trip:
Banff National Park: While it’s true you certainly won’t be alone when you visit this popular National Park, it still sits high on our places to visit and photography. Why? Turquoise blue glacial lakes, mirror reflections of the towering mountains, and snow and ice everywhere you look. There are endless composition opportunities so while it’s a popular spot for photographers, there’s still room to capture your own unique viewpoint for this captivating lake.
Lake Louise. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Jasper National Park: Jasper National Park is another Rocky Mountain gem that stunning year round but of course we love to see this area covered in snow and ice! In January, this park hosts the Winterstruck Festival on Pyramid Lake but it has amazing corners to explore all through winter. Check out the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, Sunwapta Falls and Old Ford Point. There are truly stunning vistas everywhere you turn in Japser.
Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Yoho National Park: Yoho is one of our favorite national parks and home to the popular Emerald Lake, which is practically embodiment of wintertime coziness. Emerald blue-green waters, perfect reflections, a cozy cabin surrounded by pine trees. But this popular site isn’t all the national park has to offer. Takakkaw Falls, Lake O’Hara and Wapta Falls are just a few of the other highlights of this park. Trust us, a day trip through Yoho will quickly fill up your SD card.
Emerald Lake. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Yukon and the Northern Territories: Located in the northwest corner of Canada, the Yukon is home to some of Canada’s most wild and rugged terrain. For those looking to photograph landscape and wildlife, you can’t do much better than the pristine Yukon.
Lake Laberge. Photo by Denis Palanque.
Fly into Whitehorse before renting a car and visiting some of the Yukon’s most pristine locations such as Kluane National Park, Dawson City, and Tombstone Territorial Park. Mountains, glaciers, wildlife and Northern Lights will be plentiful.
Take a flight over Kluane National Park or a snowmobile expedition across the foothills and ice caves.
Kulane National Park. Photo by Mathieu Andrews.
If you want to push further north, head to Dawson City and spend the night in a teepee where you can see the Northern Lights first hand. Dawson City was a booming town during the Klondike Gold Rush in the 19th century.
Dawson City. Photo by Denis Palanque.
Urban winters: For culture and urban photography, head to the city centers near the Great Lakes such as Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. A little further north ill put you in Quebec City to complete your city tour. If you want to have it all — urban photography with a bit of remote landscape as well — head to Îles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) to see the newborn whitecoat seals. You can either fly to the islands or if you have time to spare, take a cruise.
Quebec City at Night. Photo by Denis Palanque.
Montreal at Night. Photo by Denis Palanque.
East Coast: If you’re looking to avoid the notorious crowds on the West Coast, head to the less popular East Coast. A visit to the Gros Morne National Park will feel like you’ve stepped into the set of Lord of the Rings with sky-high fjords and sheer cliffs. While many of the hikes are close this time of year, there are plenty of opportunities to cross country ski or snowshoe to get to some amazing photography locations.
Kootenay National Park: While you may be thinking that the Rockies in Alberta have the best national parks, the West Coast will prove that it can certainly hold it’s own when it comes to winter beauty. A prime example? Kootenay National Park. Grab your cross country skis or snowshoes and you’ll have unlimited mountain terrain to explore. From canyons to hot springs to frozen falls, you’ll be wishing you had budgeting more time in this beauty of a park!
Rocky Mountains: As you head further west, you’ll soon be in the presence of the towering Rocky Mountains, an impressive mountain chain that spans from New Mexico to Canada. As Autumn fades, the province of Alberta turns into a wintery adventure land so snow sport lovers are in luck. Ice caves, frozen lakes, sled dogs, snowshoeing, ice climbing and skiing are all common activities for winter residents in Alberta so no matter what you like to photograph, there are ready and willing subjects around every corner.
Lake Minnewanka. Photo Dan Schykulski.
If landscapes are your thing, you’re in the right spot. Alberta, Canada practically embodies the spirit of a winter wonderland so you’ll find no shortage of wintry scenes. Some of our favorites are Bow Lake, Lake Louise, Pyramid Lake, Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, Emerald Lake, Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk, Maligne Lake, Vermillion Lakes, Sunwapta Falls, Mount Robson, Lake Edith, Lake Anette, and lake Beauvert.
Pyramid Lake. Photo Dan Schykulski.
Moraine Lake, Lake O'Hara and Takakkaw Falls are popular photography spots, however, they are difficult to get to in the winter. The access roads are closes so unless you want to cross country ski the 14km each way, reaching these areas will be difficult in winter. If you're determined to see these locations in the snow, you can plan to visit them in the autumn when the road is still open and the area is just beginning to get its first few dustings of snow.
Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Pacific Coast: Head even further and you’ll land at the Pacific Ocean where the climate promises to be milder without sacrificing those wintry views. British Columbia is an anomaly when it comes to Canadian winters with milder temperatures due to its proximity to the ocean but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’ll be without snow. While Vancouver often sees rain in the winter, BC is home to some of the best skiing in the country with temperatures regularly sitting between -5° - 5°C.
For those interested in snow sports photography, head to Whistler where you’ll find some of the best snow (and athletes!) in the area. For wintry waterfalls, check out Helmcken Falls, Brandywine Falls, Cascade Falls, Kinuseo Falls, Nairn Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Bergeron Falls. If you like a bit of adventure with alpine lakes as your reward, hike to Garibaldi Lake or Rainbow Lake.
For mountain vistas, check out Mount Assiniboine Provencial Park, Yoho National Park, Kootenay National Park, Glacier National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, and Mt Robson. If it’s ocean views you want, drive to Torino to get a glimpse of the winter surfers.
Photo by Todd Easterbrook.
Canada is truly a beautiful country to see year round. Our preference is to visit in winter when the mountains are cloaked in snow and the Northern Lights are plentiful. Truly every part of Canada is beautiful in winter from the coasts to the Rocky Mountains.
Old Ford Point, Jasper National Park. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
As you probably know, Canada is huge with multiple points of entry. Depending on where you want to go, there are dozens of international airports allowing you to fly directly to the west, east or anywhere in between. Flying is certainly the easiest and quickest way but you can also arrive by car or boat. If you’re planning on going to the Yukon and Northern Territories, you can book a domestic flight from other major airports in Canada.
Stanley Falls. Jasper National Park. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Canada’s temperatures vary depending on where exactly you plan to visit but needless to say, you should prepare for the cold. Winter is a long season in Canada often stretching from November to March. In the Yukon and the far north, temperatures regularly drop to -40°C with highs near -13°C in the day.
The temperatures are less extreme the further south you go. Temperatures on the normal tourist road (such as the Rocky Mountains, East Coast, andGreat Lakes regions) range from -15°C to 5°C in the winter with the Pacific Coast being the only real anomaly. Because of its maritime climate, the temperatures are relatively mild and rain is often present during a Vancouver winter. Temperatures on the West Coast hover around 1° to 7°C.
Mountain roads are often closed due to snow so be sure to check the road conditions of the areas you'd like to visit.
Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
It’s entirely up to you and your budget on how to get around Canada. Flights are the easiest and quickest way to jump between location to location but for those who have a bit more time, renting a car might be the best option, especially if you’re trying to get to hard to reach, remote photo locations. Canada also has intercontinental buses and trains with most large cities offering some form of transportation.
Athabasca Falls, Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Yukon: If you’re looking for a place to stay that also doubles as a place to watch the Northern Lights, you’ll want to book a room at a hotel that is well out of the city center. Most holidays in the Yukon start in Whitehorse and while you can see the lights from there, they will be much stronger the further away you get. We recommend the Southern Lakes region, about an hour from Whitehorse, where there are plenty of remote accommodation options that will let you see the lights without having to drive to a viewing spot.
Teepee accommodation in Kluane National Park. Photo by Denis Palanque.
Alberta: Alberta is a popular place in the winter with many visitors immediately heading straight to Banff. Banff is a great place to base yourself but if you’re looking for a slightly quieter option away from the bustling town, check out Banff’s little brother, Canmore. Banff can feel a bit touristy with franchised business flooding every street while Canmore feels little more charming and quaint. While it’s more spread out than Banff, the shops tend to be locally owned giving it a less commercialized feel. For truly picture perfect accommodation, check out the Emerald Lake Lodge. While certainly not the cheapest option in the area, you’ll have no regrets is staying in this historic log cabin perched at the edge of one of Canada’s most popular lakes.
Emerald Lake Lodge. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Montreal: If you’re headed to the Montreal, check out the Rosemont / Petite Patrie neighborhood. These youthful and vibrant neighborhoods feature local markets, chic shops and a hint of Latin flair. For the history buffs, check out Old Montreal, the city’s oldest district founded in 1605. In recent years, the vacant old historic buildings that made up the neighborhood have been renovated into modern businesses and entertainment spaces.
Bow Lake, Photo by Dan Schykulski.
Because Canada is such a large country, your travel costs will greatly vary depending on how cheap you plan to travel. You can easily find Airbnb rooms for 50 Euro a night whether you’re in Alberta or BC. Car rentals are not overly expensive either with rentals costing 45-50 Euro per day. Fuel costs are about 1.3 CAD (.86 Euro) per liter and eating costs will vary greatly depending on how much you opt to cook for yourself. One thing to note is that tipping in Canada is customary so it’s expected to leave a 15%-18% tip at restaurants and bars as well as for drivers, bellhops, and hairdressers.
Castle Junction, Banff. Photo by Dan Schykulski.
As the second largest country in the world, it can be overwhelming narrowing down your trip and focusing on only a few locations. You may only get to the Rockies which means you might miss out on the Northern Lights in the Yukon or the buzzy mountain vibes on the West Coast. Trying to connect your top locations can be difficult since you’ll have to budget in days of driving or pricey domestic flights.
Canada is truly a mecca for winter lovers. From the far north to each coast, there’s a winter wonderland to be discovered no matter where you choose to plan your trip. Because of its vast resources, you can really plan your trip according to your budget. Want a cheap trip? Cook your own meals and plan your own activities. Looking to splurge? Book that picturesque mountain cabin for a few days and treat yourself to some delightful Canadian cuisine. There is truly something for everyone in this country and despite its popularity, the national parks still remain as some of the most pristine places in the world.
Special thanks to Dan Schykulski and Denis Palanque for their photo and location recommendations. You can keep up with their work by clicking the links below.
Dan Schykulski: Photographer living in Alberta, Canada. Follow him on Instagram for daily photos of the inspiring Canadian Rockies.
Denis Palanque: Denis is a French photographer who offers workshops throughout Yukon, Yellowstone and Quebec.
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