Top 5 Winter Photo Spots Near Banff, Canada.
Shooting during winter can be a challenge in the Canadian Rockies. Temperatures often hit below -30ºC freezing fingers, toes and camera equipment! Even though mountains and trees often look beautiful covered in snow shooting landscapes that are just one white blanket is never that inspiring. In this list I discuss my top spots that still allow for epic reflections, inspiring compositions and points of interest even in the coldest of winter months.
1) Vermilion Lakes
Where: Just on the outskirts of Banff Townsite. A short walk or a 5 minute drive.
The photographers social club! This has to be one of the most famous spots in Banff to shoot at during winter, on any given morning you will find multiple photographers poised to capture the ever changing delights of this lake. Due to thermal springs entering the lake certain parts never fully freeze and the patterns are ever changing. This means as snow falls and temperatures change the open areas of water offer incredibly crisp reflections and creative leading lines with endless compositions. You could shoot at Vermilion Lakes every day of the year and get a unique foreground every single time.
2) The Three Sisters From Policemens Creek
Where: On the east side of Canmore about a 25 minute drive from Banff, drive along the Three Sisters Parkway until you see parking on your left hand side. Follow the trail under the railway bridge and through the woods to the creek.
Only on the coldest of days will there be no open water here! I’ve visited this spot multiple times and found this part of the creek fully frozen over only once on a -35ºC morning, the faster flowing parts of the river were still open but with no reflection. However when you get the right conditions this place is an incredible sunrise spot.
3) Emerald Lake
Where: Just over an hour west of Banff along the Trans Canada Highway you’ll find a turn off just past the small hamlet of Field.
Again due to warmer waters entering the lake you’ll often find open water to the right hand side of the bridge offering perfect reflections of the Cilantro Lodge on the island. Due to how photogenic the lodge and surrounds are I find you’ll always walk away with a good shot even on the dreariest of mornings.
4) Natural Bridge
Where: Just down the road from Emerald Lodge!
This is one location that endlessly benefits from the cold! Once fully frozen you can step inside between the rocks and get up close to the frozen waterfalls and ice covered rock walls. This is a spot only to be visited on the coldest of days and with great caution, underneath the ice is a fast flowing river. I really only recommend entering under the natural bridge if you have properly risk assessed and have experience venturing on snow and ice.
5) Castle Mountain
Where: 20 minutes west of Banff, follow the Trans Canada Highway until reach Castle Junction, there’s a gate with a chain on it giving you access to the river side. Be sure to close it up after yourselves!
Situated next to the Bow River the change in water level and speed of flow creates fantastic ice patterns, long exposure opportunities and small sections of open water allowing for photographers to get creative. This paired with the way Castle Mountain catches the golden hour light makes for some epic imagery!