Watching the snow start to melt and nature come to life makes spring in the Rockies a memorable experience. In April and May you can experience two seasons in a single day, with decent ski conditions at the resorts and t-shirt weather down in town. Be extra alert for wildlife close to trails and the townsite at this time of year. Larger bears can come out of hibernation by early April. While snow still lingers at higher elevations, thawing food sources on the valley floor may draw animals closer to human use areas. Elk calving season begins in mid-May, so make sure to give elk plenty of space, especially if you spot any calves hidden in the undergrowth. Keep children close and pets on a short leash.
Weather and Packing Tips:
Spring is beautiful, but snow or rain showers are common. A good waterproof jacket is a must-have: options that pack down small are perfect for changeable spring days.
This spring, you could…
Grab those late season laps
If you feel like ski season is always over too soon, you have come to the right place. Skiing at Sunshine Village runs until the last week of May, and Lake Louise usually closes only a couple of weeks earlier. Spring conditions might mean more slush shredding than the champagne powder of the colder months, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had.
Try hitting the slopes late morning, when the sun has had a few hours to soften up any crustiness and consider some warm weather wax on your skis or board to keep you moving smoothly. The snow will get heavier and slushier as the day goes on, so you could try riding through regular lunch hours and leaving time for an afternoon beer and bites on the patio before catching the bus back to town. On weekends, there might even be some live music to enjoy in the open air.
Choppy patches and the occasional rock are part of the spring experience, so do not board the lift without your helmet. And slap on sunscreen like it’s going out of fashion…nobody wants a goggle burn!
Start Hiking Season Early
At this time of year, you can experience different seasons depending on your elevation. While there’s still skiing up high, the valley floor is starting to thaw out enough for hiking. Trail conditions will depend on recent weather, so make sure to check conditions online or stop into the Visitor Centre before you set off.
You’ll want to stick to low elevation trails near town: Tunnel Mountain and the Fenlands Loop are fun and fairly relaxed options. Tunnel’s switchbacks require a little effort, but the view from the top is so worth it! From the midpoint of the Fenlands, you can cross a small bridge to head towards Vermilion Lakes – enjoy the views, but avoid going out on the ice in spring!
The route to Sundance Canyon starts on a paved trail behind the Cave & Basin National Historic Site – allow around 3 hours for the hike and make time for a visit to the cave hot springs before or after.
Silverton Falls, on the Bow Valley Parkway, is a short hike with a great waterfall payoff. You start at the Rockbound Lake Trailhead but branch off 300m in, so you can be out and back in under an hour.
Boom Lake, on the 93S, takes longer (3-4 hours return) but offers a gentle incline that’s good for easing your legs back into the season.
Wherever you’re heading, be prepared for lingering snow and ice with good footwear and warm layers. You should also carry bear spray and make noise on the trail – the biggest bears often wake up first, so it’s wise to be prepared even in spring!
Spot Some Wildlife on the Wing
Whether or not the bears are awake, there’s plenty of wildlife to see year-round in Banff. April and May in particular can be a great time of year for bird watching, as many species make a stop in the Bow Valley on their annual migration route.
Head over the river in the early morning for your best chance of seeing bird life. Local birders love the trail that starts near the intersection of Cave Avenue and Sundance Road – groups meet at 8.15 am on Mondays and Saturdays until June 12th, and anyone is welcome to join! The nearby Marsh Loop trail is also worth exploring. Keep your ears open for distinctive calls and look out for nests and beaver dams in the marsh itself.
Bear in mind that you may be sharing the trail with horses in certain sections and it can get muddy – wear waterproof boots that you don’t mind getting dirty. Binoculars and a bird book will help you get a closer look and identify some of the species you discover. Binoculars and bear spray are available to borrow from our Front Desk.
Ready to plan your spring adventure?