Whether you’re a nature lover or a cosmopolitan connoisseur, the world’s second-biggest country is a traveler’s paradise. The vastness that makes this country so appealing, though, makes trip planning especially important. With weather varying significantly over the year and across the country, it’s especially important to consider the climate as you plan your Canadian adventure.
Weather in Canada
To put it simply, Canada is massive. Unless you have a couple of months to spare, we recommend you choose a single region or a couple of top destinations. Remember, each part of Canada has different weather patterns, so take that into account when choosing those prized destinations. (Temperatures quoted here are in Fahrenheit.)
British Columbia Coast
With the country’s mildest weather, the Pacific coast rarely reaches the freezing winter temperatures for which the rest of the country is well known. Outside of alpine areas, expect similar weather to the Pacific Northwest of the United States: mild, sunny summers from June to September and rainier, cooler conditions throughout the rest of the year.
Central and Southeast Canada
In the Maritime provinces, Quebec, Ontario and the central prairie region, expect weather similar to the Midwest or northeastern United States. The mercury rises into the eighties here between June and September, with fairly high humidity. Beginning in September, temperatures drop into the forties, bringing spectacular fall foliage across this region. From November to April, expect subzero chill and heavy snowfall.
In mountainous areas like the Pacific Ranges and Canadian Rockies, December to March is peak ski season. Expect consistent snowfall, cold temperatures and heavier crowds in ski resorts, such as Whistler and Banff. While the highest mountains remain permanently snowcapped, skies clear and temperatures rise from June to September, making Canada’s mountains perfect for summer hiking.
The northern territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are vast and relatively unexplored, making exciting destinations for any traveler looking for something well off the beaten path. Even in summer, temperatures rarely go past the mid-60s, but you’ll have 18 hours of daylight (or more) to work with. Between October and April, you’ll endure frigid temperatures and minimal daylight, but you’re almost guaranteed to see the Northern Lights!
That’s right; leaf-peeping isn’t just for New England! Beginning as early as mid-September, the seemingly endless forests of Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia explode into dazzling autumn hues. Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of our favorite fall destinations, but an hour’s drive in practically any direction from Toronto or Montreal will yield similarly spectacular foliage.
Photos simply cannot capture the jaw-dropping splendor of an enormous river of ice slowly sliding down a mountainside. The Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies is one of the most accessible; throughout the year, on a tour that departs from Banff National Park, you can drive, walk on and drink from this gigantic field of ice.
Did you know Canada is home to one of the world’s largest migrations of land mammals? From April to September, massive herds of caribou trek hundreds of miles across the tundra in the Canadian Arctic. While the migration’s timing is regular, the route is not. To witness this natural wonder, you’ll need to book a tour with a professional guide.
Caused by electrically charged particles of light jetting into the Earth’s atmosphere, aurora borealis is one of nature’s most spectacular wonders. While this atmospheric phenomenon is strongest above the Arctic Circle, Canada is northerly enough that you might not have to travel as far as you’d think. Jasper National Park in Alberta is one of the more easily accessible northern lights destinations. For a nearly guaranteed sighting, though, fly to the Arctic town of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories.
Canada’s diverse festivals and celebrations are can’t-miss events unto themselves. As you plan your Canadian vacation, we encourage you to check out the events calendar for the area you plan to visit.
True Canadians don’t let the weather get in their way; they know how to throw a party at any time of the year. Look no further than Quebec City’s Winter Carnival, a two-week bash every February that features winter sports, snow sculptures and a massive ice palace.
Montreal’s Annual Jazz Festival
The August event has featured acts like Chick Corea, Peter Frampton and Norah Jones.
Don’t think Canada is cowboy country? Think again! Every year, the Calgary Stampede and Edmonton’s Canadian Finals Rodeo compete for the title of Canada’s best rodeo. Each event features bucking broncos, artery-clogging festival food and family-friendly activities that rival Texas’s finest. Calgary’s event is held every July, and Edmonton’s takes place in November.
While more than 20 million people visit Canada each year, it’s rare to encounter crowds in most of the country, as tourists are spread out over a pretty big area! While peak tourist attractions such as Whistler, Banff and Quebec City do receive a lot of visitors, you’ll quickly leave the crowds behind once you hit the trail or head off down a back road on a bicycle. Like anywhere else, few visitors make the extra effort to travel actively – bike, hike, rafting, etc., and therefore leave ample opportunity for solitude to those willing to lace up some adventure shoes and head out early.
If you’ve been on Instagram in the past year, you’ve probably seen the impossibly turquoise waters of Banff National Park’s Lake Louise at least once or twice. There’s a reason it’s gotten so popular lately; it’s a hiker’s paradise. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway to tack on to your urban adventure, Quebec’s Parc National du Bic and British Columbia’s Pacific Rim National Park Reserve are easy drives from Montreal and Vancouver. If you’re looking for something truly untouched (and are OK with a bit of cold), Canada’s three northern territories offer thousands of miles of unspoiled wilderness.
Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels can find an alpine heaven in Canada. British Columbia’s Whistler offers world-renowned runs ranging from bunny hills to black diamonds, while Quebec’s Mt. Tremblant offers (in our opinion) the country’s most charming ski village.
Backroads Pro Tip
Looking for a more adventurous winter sport? Hop on a regional flight to the Yukon territory, where you can book a dogsled tour with any number of local guides. If you’re a bit hesitant, head to the province’s official tourism website. With photos of adorable huskies and the slogan “Happy trails and so mush fun,” you’ll be booking your tour in seconds.
Cover Canada’s “Maritime Provinces” (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) in one of the world’s classic sailing trips. Set sail at a breezy clip,and enjoy eastern Canada’s craggy Atlantic coastline. Just make sure to hop ashore to check out Cape Breton Island, Halifax and the scenic coast along the Bay of Fundy.
Whether you brave the open ocean, cast a line on a calm lake or just sit on the dock with a rod in one hand and a book in the other, Canada is the perfect fishing destination. Saskatchewan’s Lake Diefenbaker is home to the world’s largest rainbow trout and is relatively free of crowds. For an ocean adventure, the country’s best deep-sea fishing can be found off the coast of Prince Edward Island.
Immerse yourself in Haida culture on the islands of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of northern British Columbia. Among these islands, where totem poles are nearly as common as pine trees, you can kayak and hike through terrain as beautiful as it is sacred.
The scenic coastal mountain backdrop of Vancouver. The multicultural melting pot of Toronto. French heritage and vibrant nightlife in Montreal. No matter which of Canada’s cities you choose as the home base for your trip, you’ll find unparalleled urban sophistication.
Travel to Canada with Backroads
Backroads offers numerous ways to experience the very best of Canada on our award-winning active travel adventures. Explore this country in the best and most genuine way possible—away from the crowds, buses and tourist hot spots. We hope you'll join us! Check out our full list of Canada adventures here.