If you are planning a trip to Canmore, winter is one of the best times to do it.
While Canmore has year-round fun and exploration to enjoy, winter is a particularly spectacular and breathtaking season. From skiing and hiking to ice climbing and sleigh riding, Canmore has a whole lot to offer for winter visitors.
In this article, we are talking about all there is to do in Canmore in the winter. Keep reading to learn about 12 great winter activities to partake in, as well as specific trails, outfitters, rental companies, and more!
Where is Canmore?
Canmore is a mountain town located in the province of Alberta.
Located just over an hour west of Calgary, Canmore is a popular tourist destination thanks to its close proximity to Banff National Park.
Some of the most iconic scenery in Canmore includes the summits of Ha Ling Peak and The Three Sisters (a trio of connected peaks called Big Sister, Middle Sister, and Little Sister). These mountains are all a part of Kananaskis Country, a public use conservation area comprised of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies.
12 Awesome Winter Activities in Canmore
While there are many excellent adventures to be had in Canmore in the warm months, winter is a truly magical time in this mountain town.
From ski resorts and famous slopes to unforgettable experiences like walking or climbing on ice, Canmore is a winter wonderland that delights tourists and locals alike.
Here are 12 winter activities in Canmore that you need to try for yourself:
1. Canmore Winter Hiking
Hiking is a popular activity all year-round in Canmore.
In the winter, Canmore’s lush green trails transform into picturesque snowy landscapes. Frozen lakes and towering pines surrounded by snow-covered land make a winter fantasy fit for eager explorers.
Here are 5 epic trails to check out in the winter in Canmore:
- Grotto Canyon: Grotto Canyon Trail is a 7 km roundtrip out-and-back style trail located in Bow Valley Provincial Park. Here you can find some of the best ice falls Canmore has to offer. It is considered an easy hike and is dog-friendly, making it perfect for families or groups. Make sure you set aside enough time for this hike, as it can take around 2.5 hours to complete.
- Bow River Loop: For a shorter winter hike, check out the Bow River Loop. This trail is just over 2 km in length and is a loop-style trail. You will walk along the Bow River and catch stunning panoramic views of the nearby mountains. As an easy and short route that takes only 30 to 40 minutes to complete, this is a great quick hike found in Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.
- Chester Lake: The Chester Lake Trail is one of the best options for intermediate hikers, totalling roughly 9.3 km in total length and requiring around 3 to 3.5 hours to complete. This out-and-back style trail follows a gradual incline leading to Chester Lake. In very snowy conditions, this trail can sometimes require winter boots or even snowshoes to trek up, so plan accordingly.
- Three Sisters Pathway: For a longer hike along an easy route, check out the Three Sisters Pathway to West Canmore Park. This trail is 13.5 km in total length and takes an average of 3.5 hours to complete. As an out-and-back style trail, if you take a shuttle to the Three Sisters Village and begin there, you can cut this hike in half and end your hike in Canmore.
- Grassi Lakes: No trip to Canmore is complete without a hike that includes sightseeing of the turquoise lakes. Grassi Lakes Trail is a short 4 km trail where you can find lake views, beautiful waterfalls, and spectacular sightseeing of Canmore and the Bow Valley. Like the Bow River Loop, this is a short hike that only takes around 1 hour to complete.
To access the majority of trails found in Canmore, you are required to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. Fees from these passes go to maintaining the parks and conservation efforts.
2. Snowshoeing in Canmore
Snowshoeing is a well-loved winter activity in Canmore that involves walking over densely snow-covered areas and trails with the assistance of snowshoes.
To go snowshoeing in Canmore, you have two main options: going independently or going through a guided tour service.
Snowshoeing independently requires you to pick out a trail and acquire snowshoes. If you do not already own a pair of snowshoes, you can rent some from one of the many winter rental companies in and around Canmore. Some of the top rental companies include Gear Up Mountain Sports Rentals & Service and Kananaskis Outfitters Equipment Rentals.
As far as selecting a trail for snowshoeing independently, a few of the top-rated trails include:
If you would prefer a more professionally organized snowshoeing experience, many tour companies offer guided snowshoe tours in the winter. Some of the top-rated tour companies for snowshoeing include Banff Adventures and Canadian Rockies Experience.
3. Sleigh Rides in Canmore
What’s a trip to winter wonderland without a magical sleigh ride?
In Canmore, the options for horse-drawn sleigh rides are abundant. This family-friendly activity is an excellent choice for those who want a romantic tour of the snowy countryside or simply want a less strenuous outdoor adventure.
Here are 3 great options for winter sleigh rides in Canmore:
- Banff Adventures: The popular and top-rated company Banff Adventures offers many memorable winter experiences, including sleigh rides! These sleigh ride tours come in 3 main packages — Banff Sleigh Rides, Private Sleigh Rides for Couples, and Private Sleigh Rides for Families. The prices for each of these rides range from $42 to $269 and are priced per sled.
- Discover Banff Tours: Discover Banff Tours is another great option for sleigh rides in Canmore, offering similar tour options as Banff adventures. The prices range from $45 to $110, making these tours a more affordable but still unforgettable experience. Discover Banff Tours also offers a variety of package deals and winter tour discounts.
- Canmore Ranch: Canmore Ranch is owned and operated by Canmore locals who have lived in the area since the early 1900s. This company offers a wide variety of horse experiences, including wagon, sleigh, and carriage rides. You can also book Canmore Ranch for ceremonies and facility rentals if you plan on having an event in Canmore, such as a wedding or family reunion.
Along with sleigh rides, another awesome winter experience with animals are sled dog tours. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc. is one of the best options for this type of experience and offers a variety of four different types of tours.
4. Canmore Nordic Centre Tobogganing
Canmore Nordic Centre is the place to be for many different winter activities in Canmore, including tobogganing! Tobogganing can be a great and fun activity for adults and kids alike, Canmore Nordic Centre offers a free-to-use tobogganing area that includes a gentle slope and is located in a scenic bowl next to the Wax Room Building.
As far as where you can get a toboggan, many rental companies offer affordable toboggan rentals for you to take and use for the day. One such company is Chateau Mountain Sports, which offers $10 daily rentals for sleds and toboggans of varying sizes. The standard size can fit up to 3 people but smaller variants are also available for rental.
5. Skiing in Canmore
Neighboring Banff — one of the top skiing destinations in all of Canada — Canmore has many thrilling skiing and snowboarding adventures to choose from.
Here are 4 wonderful skiing locations to choose from, all within an hour’s drive of Canmore:
- Sunshine Village: As one of the most well-known and well-loved ski resorts in the Banff area, Sunshine Village is just a short 20-minute drive from Canmore. The village is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet and features three main skiing areas — Goat’s Eye Mountain, Lookout Mountain, and Mount Standish.
- Banff Norquay: One of the closest skiing options to Canmore is Banff Norquay, located just 15 minutes away from Canmore. The base elevation of Banff Norquay is 5,500 feet, while the top elevation is 8,040 feet. There are 60 runs available over 190 acres of land, and multiple different lifts for skiers to choose from.
- Lake Louise Ski Resort: Lake Louise Ski Resort is roughly an hour away from Canmore and overlooks the Bow Valley. This skiing location is one of Canada’s largest snowmaking networks and features more than 4,000 acres of terrain. The resort also features special terrain parks for the more advanced skiers and snowboarders who visit this location.
- Nakiska Ski Resort: Located in Kananaskis Country, Nakiska Ski Resort is around 40 minutes away from Canmore. This location is great for diving into the history of skiing in Canmore — after all, it hosted the downhill skiing events in the 1988 Olympics! This resort offers 79 trails and sits at a top elevation of 7,415 feet (base elevation of 5,003 feet).
Can decide on a resort? Why not check out our recent blog post: Lake Lousie Vs Sunshine: Which Is A Better Ski Resort?
6. Cross Country Skiing in Canmore
For a more wild skiing experience, try out one of the many cross-country skiing trails found in Canmore.
One of the most popular destinations for cross-country skiing in Canmore is the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. Here you can find more than 65 km of machine-made and natural snow trails around the base of Mount Rundle. The park features four main loops:
- A 6.5 km illuminated loop rated Easy
- An 11 km return loop rated Easy
- A 13 km loop rated More Difficult
- A 12 km loop rated Very Difficult
7. Ice Walking in Canmore
Ice walking is hiking with a twist — rather than walking on melted trails, ice walking takes you on treks up frozen canyons covered in ice! To go ice walking, you will need shoes with cleats, crampons, or other equipment designed for walking on frozen and slippery ground.
As far as where to go ice walking in Canmore, the best destination for this activity is the Grotto Canyon. The Grotto Canyon ice walk trail is well-marked, making it easy to navigate; though, you can also use All Trails to ensure you don’t get lost along the way.
This trail is explorable independently. However, if you prefer, you can also take a guided ice walk tour of this magnificent area. Both Banff Adventures and Discover Banff Tours offer guided ice walk tours of the Grotto Canyon.
8. Ice Climbing in Canmore
In the winter months of Canmore, many of the breathtaking waterfalls freeze over completely, creating the perfect landscape for ice climbing.
For the thrill-seeking adventurers who visit Canmore, ice climbing is an incredible adventure that will give you a workout to remember. Unless you are an experienced ice climber, it is not recommended to do this activity without the help and supervision of a trained professional.
There are several options for ice climbing tours and experiences in Canmore, including:
- Yamnuska Mountain Adventures: Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is a highly-rated climbing tour and instruction company that offers beginner, intermediate, and advanced programs. This company also offers semester-long mountain skills and outdoor leadership training programs for anyone interested in mountaineering.
- Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides: Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides (CRAG) is comprised of experienced guides who are certified by the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. This tour company offers a wide variety of ice climbing courses, including introductory courses, intermediate climbing weekends, and skill clinics.
- On Top Mountaineering: On Top Mountaineering offers Canmore-based ice climbing intro courses, as well as multi-pitch intermediate to advanced trips. This is a small guide service that offers personalized tours and trips, as well as helps experienced climbers to plan the logistics for an independent ice climbing adventure.
9. Canmore Winter Carnival
Winter sports are all well and good, but they are far from the only activity to partake in during winter in Canmore.
Each year, the Town of Canmore hosts the Winter Carnival, where visitors can enjoy a weekend full of indoor and outdoor events. These events include activities such as ice carving competitions, pooch parades, and Snowy Owl Kid N’ Mutt races.
The Winter Carnival is a great activity for kicking back and enjoying fun events with the whole family. Plus, this can be a wonderful opportunity to get to know the locals of Canmore!
10. Bow Valley Parkway Scenic Drive
The Bow Valley Parkway is a scenic driving route that stretches between Banff and Lake Louise.
Totaling 48 km of paved roadways, the Bow Valley Parkway is one of the most scenic drives you can experience while staying in Canmore. There are multiple stops along the parkway where visitors can pull over to take photos, sightsee, and more.
Along with being a driveable roadway, the parkway is also cyclist friendly — though it may be a bit chilly in the wintertime. Interpretive displays are located periodically along the parkway which provides visitors with more information about the local wildlife, landscape, and history of Banff.
Spotting wildlife is also highly likely while visiting the parkway, as it sits at a lower elevation and has many nearby bodies of water. Wildlife to keep your eye out for include elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and wolves. Though it is rarer to spot bears, you may get lucky and catch a glimpse of a black bear or grizzly bear while exploring the parkway.
Remember, when encountering wildlife, keep your distance and be respectful of the natural habitat. You should never attempt to approach or feed the wildlife you find.
Aside from sightseeing and wildlife encounters, there is also a range of snack bars, cafes, and bistro-style dining options along the way.
11. Fat Biking in Canmore
Fat biking is one of the most unique winter activities to participate in when visiting Canmore.
Equipped with thick tires designed for exploring rugged and snowy terrains, fat bikes have a variety of features that make them perfect for winter adventures — including hand warmers!
Whether you have fat biked in the snow before or if you are brand new to the sport, many trails range from introductory to advanced for you to choose from. Rebound Cycle is an excellent company to rent fat bikes from and offers a list of the best recommended trails according to experience level.
These trails include:
For introductory fat biking:
- Bow River Loop
- Quarry Lake Recreation Area
- Canmore Nordic Centre
For intermediate fat biking:
- Cougar Creek / Horseshoe Loop
- Highline Trail
For advanced fat biking:
- Goat Creek Trail
12. Canmore Museum
For a warm day indoors — perhaps while resting between your winter sports activities — make sure to stop by and check out the Canmore Museum.
The Canmore Museum has many exhibits centered around the rich history of Canmore, including information on the indigenous people who first lived on the land. Part of the Canmore Museum is the NWMP Barracks, where you can learn about Canmore’s mining history and visit a historic landmark.
Tickets and information on current exhibits can be found on the museum’s website.
Canmore is a breathtaking location, packed with every winter adventure you can dream of.
Whether you are booking your next ski trip, planning a romantic getaway, or simply wanting to explore the rich winter lifestyle of the Rockies, Canmore is the place to be.