Best time to visit Canada

Canada embraces extremes. The hottest temperature ever recorded was 45°C in Saskatchewan.The coldest was in the Yukon: -63°C
With six time zones, two coasts, Arctic tundra and Rockies thrown into the mix, Canadian weather reports must go on for hours. It has a lot of it. So for working out when to go to Canada, rest assured that it varies greatly per region. Yes, it snows a lot in winter, but depends where. The Arctic borders have winter until July and, even then, the average temperature is only 12°C. But the Pacific Coast can be freeze free in winter. Head to the Rockies, however, for six months of skiing a year.

When to go to Canada, Month by month guide

It's a myth that you should avoid Canada in winter. This is when the party begins. And Canadians know how to party. Go dog sledding in the Yukon in December or January, for example, for festive and fun times in the wilderness. February, March and April are top times for seeing the Northern Lights up in the Yukon. For brown and black bears, late April, May and June are great times, as the snows are melting and the grasslands are coming to life with berries and other natural beauties for them to feed upon. Conveniently, these are also lovely wide open spaces for us to see them in. Just remember that the Pacific Coast is rainforest territory, and it sometimes feels like a whole year's worth of rain falls in early spring. July and August is great for wildlife watching in Churchill and the north, with beluga whales coming out to play and wildflowers also in full array. This is also "cottage season" for Eastern Canada: as temperatures creep up to 35°C in Toronto, city folk escape to the lakes. Meanwhile, orcas fish the ocean around Vancouver Island from mid-summer to early autumn. A lot of Canada's tourism is season driven. At Responsible Travel we often promote traveling in the shoulder seasons, such as mid-September (just when the sugar maples turn red out east). However, Canada hasn't quite woken up to off peak potential yet, and a lot of local businesses shut down at the end of August. If you book with a company that offers tailor made trips, or small group tours, they can ensure that everything you need will be catered for, even if it is just a couple of weeks after school is back. If you want to see polar bears in Churchill with expert naturalists, book well in advance. October and November is key time, but if you want to see the babies emerge with mothers from their dens in March, you need to book a couple of years in advance. Worth the wait, though. If you don't like the cold, you might not like polar bear watching at all. Temperatures can dip to -30°C in Churchill in November. The road connecting Jasper and Banff National Parks, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), is open all year round. It is one of the most scenic drives in the world. However, in winter you can expect temporary closures depending on snowfalls and avalanche risks, so always check conditions before you go.

Vancouver Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)

Responsible Travel recommends

Peter Grubb the founder of our supplier ROW Adventures, tells us when to go to Canada if sea kayaking and seeing whales is your thing. And we think it is a very good thing:
“For sea kayaking on the north end of Vancouver Island, the best time is when the whales are there. They don’t really start showing up until early July, so even though the weather is lovely in May and June, the whales are truly a highlight from mid-July until the third week in September. Mid-July to mid-August is peak season here but, to be honest, it is not like it’s a crowded place. It isn’t like some European places which are miserable in peak season. Or even like some of the national parks. On the north end of Vancouver Island, we are really far enough away from everything to avoid any crowds. Bearing in mind it is a six hour drive from Victoria, it is a bit of a slog to get there, which means a lot of people don’t make it that far. So we never get really crowded.“
Toby Baxter is the Canada guru at our supplier Grand American Adventures is a great person to ask when to go to Canada: "The start or end of the summer season is brilliant. May is one time of the year when you can genuinely board or ski in the morning, then come down from the mountains and canoe in a t-shirt and shorts in the afternoon! Early September, as the season draws to a close, things tend not to be as busy. You still have beautiful summer days and may be able to catch the start of the fall when the changing tree colours are magnificent. If you're heading towards the mountains, then you should be prepared for all weather conditions all year round! However, if you don't like the cold, at an average of -20°C in many parts, don't go in winter. Also the Rockies in June can also mean mosquitos, mudslides, avalanches and flooding."
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Canada or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Canada festivals & events

Did you know about...?
Yukon Quest
The Yukon Quest is an extraordinary event, where hundreds of ‘mushers’ or husky sled handlers take on a 1,600km race through some of the North’s wildest places. It lasts between 10-16 days, plus they are doing it in the heart of winter, usually February, with than less six hours of daylight, and temperatures between -10 and -50°C. Catch them en route. If you can. These guys are fast.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: chris salt] [Intro: Alec Favale] [Peter Grubb Quote: Natalie Lucier] [Yukon Quest: U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK)]