Although the winter months can be dark and filled with snow and frozen temperatures, refuge can be found — if only you look in the right places. One of those destinations that openly embraces the winter chill is Canada. If you’re also feeling up for the challenge, here are a few places that should be high on your list when visiting the Canadian tundra.
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
For peace and quiet during the winter months, look no further than Canada’s oldest provincial park: Algonquin. Located three hours east of Ottawa, the park covers 2,955 square miles (7,653 kilometres) and is a perfect escape from the frigid concrete jungles of Ontario. The area is known for its endless lakes (Lake Opeongo, North Tea Lake and Rock Lake), abundance of wildlife (moose, deer, and beaver), scenic trails (Old Railway Trail, Bern Lake Trail, and Mizzy Lake Trail), and the Algonquin Logging Museum (because leaning’s always good, too!).
Banff National Park, Alberta
Just an hour west of Calgary, Banff National Park is the gateway to a jaw-dropping winter haven. Open since 1855, Canada’s oldest national park has given visitors a chance to experience a Canadian winter in all of its snowy glory. From skiing through the Rockies to relaxing in natural hot springs — If you can dream it, you can do it in Banff.
Located on the western coast of Newfoundland, Cornerbrook — a town of roughly 20,000 — is a stunning place comprised of both mountainous and coastal landscapes. Best known as a home to Marble Mountain Ski Resort, Cornerbrook is also just an hour’s drive from Gros Morne National Park, which is one of the country’s most pristine wilderness areas, and a captivating setting in which to embrace winter.
Fernie, British Columbia
The once sleepy mining town of Fernie isn’t so sleepy anymore. Fernie — which is quite literally surrounded by mountains — now sparkles underneath the tall peaks of the Rocky Mountains and is the ideal place to hit the slopes with skis or snowshoes. If outdoor activities in the snow aren’t your thing, sit back in a rustic wooden cabin and read your favorite book while watching the nearby snowdrifts grow taller.
Lake Louise, Alberta
Although Lake Louise lies within Banff National Park, its picture-perfect landscapes are world renowned and deserve a spot of their own on this list. Some of the prettiest pictures of Canada come from Lake Louise, a quaint resort town nestled in the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta. With 4,200 acres of skiable mountainsides, the resort boasts at least 145 different runs, plenty to keep you busy all winter long.
Quebec City, Quebec
Between the months of November and April, Quebec City is something out of a frosty fairytale, epitomizing winter in Canada. Charming in all the right ways, the city stands out because of its carefully preserved French culture. Winding through the the city are snow-covered, cobbled lanes, most notably in Old Quebec — the neighborhood that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The area, which overlooks the Saint-Lawrence River, is filled with European-style architecture and is home to the city’s famed Winter Carnival.
Vancouver, British Columbia
The pinnacle of western Canada’s beauty, Vancouver boasts mild winters — as far as Canada goes. Despite the relative lack of snow, white mountaintops can be seen surrounding the city limits. During the coldest months, the city offers plenty of activities to enjoy, including the Vancouver Christmas Market, the Festival of Lights, the chance to ice-skate in Robson Square, and the always-pretty Stanley Park.
Sometimes unforgiving weather-wise, but always worth it, the capital of Yukon is a springboard into surrounding winter fun. While up north, check out Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre for world renowned cross country skiing and snowmobiling trails, hike into the wilderness for spectacular views of the Yukon River and the Grey Mountains, or experience classic dog-mushing tours. And don’t forget about the possibility of an unrivaled view of the Northern Lights. But be prepared, the annual Frostbite Music Festival’s name isn’t a coincidence.
Whistler, British Columbia
Home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler is one of Canada’s brightest winter stars. Surrounded by provincial parks and only two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler is a must-see destination year round, but even more so during the winter months. As one of the biggest ski resorts on the continent, the area draws avid skiers from all over the world to its charming village and white, powdery mountains.
Header image by Maya Tani.