The Canadian Rockies offer endless options for outdoor activities year-round. No matter the weather, we always have fun outside and look for new challenges and new activities to try (the last one being fat biking).
While the neighbouring Banff has many fun activities, Canmore is closer – only 45 minutes drive from Calgary. It’s outside of Banff National Park’s boundaries, so you’re not required to purchase a park pass.
And I’ll tell you a little secret of locals – provincial parks surrounding Canmore are an adventurer’s heaven (while tourists flock to Banff).
You’ll find here beautiful lakes, scenic mountain top hikes in summer, and plenty of great winter activities in Canmore.
Read next: 20 fun outdoor things to do in Canmore
Fun winter activities in Canmore
1. Cross country ski in Canmore Nordic Centre
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park hosted cross country events during the 1988 Olympics. And now it serves sports enthusiasts for leisure and professional enjoyment.
You can find here more than 65 km of groomed trails for cross country skiing. You need to buy a ski pass at the Day Lodge to access the trails, either for the day or the whole season.
Then, download this map and choose any trail based on your skill level. Just make sure you make it to the meadow for the panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains.
Warm up in the hut and when you get back to Day Lodge, enjoy your own lunch or buy a hot soup in the café while watching other skiers through the window.
A day well spent in the mountains, am I right?
Read next: Cross country skiing in Banff National Park
2. Visit ice falls in Grotto Canyon
One of the nicest things about winter is the white scenery and frozen wonderland. You can visit amazing icefalls just a 10-minute drive outside of town.
An easy 2 km walk on the frozen creek bed leads to a set of icefalls. It’s suitable for all levels, even small kids. If you’re up for it, there’s a cave in the hoodoos if you continue past the falls.
Grab your microspikes and water bottle with a filter so you can enjoy a refreshing drink right from the icefalls!
Read the full blog post: Grotto Canyon Ice Walk
3. Skate on a pond
There’s a wooden gazebo with benches and heating as a changing area. Close by is an outhouse; otherwise, the nearest washrooms are on 7 Ave & 9 St.
You can skate until 10 pm under the lights on a very well maintained rink.
While this pond is the biggest ice rink, other ice skating options in Canmore include Larch Outdoor Rink at 1200 17 St, Three Sisters Sports Complex or Canmore Nordic Centre.
4. Hike to Grassi Lakes
Grassi Lakes is a go-to hike for all visitors and all levels. The trail starts just a 10-minute drive from downtown Canmore.
You can choose an easy trail, a wide path through the forest or a difficult trail that includes some rocky stairs and an icefall (this one is often closed in winter due to hazardous conditions).
After 2 km, you arrive at the Lower Grassi Lake with gorgeous emerald colour. A little up the trail is the Upper Grassi Lake showing a stunning turquoise colour even in winter.
Check trail conditions before you go, and don’t forget to wear microspikes.
Read the full blog post: Grassi Lakes Hike
5. Go fat biking (the best winter activity in Canmore?)
Fat biking is the newest winter activity we’ve tried, and let me tell you; we’re hooked!
We’ve rented bikes in the Trail Sports rental at Canmore Nordic Centre and tried a few loops. Even though we’re seasoned mountain bikers, fat biking feels a bit different.
You usually bike through deep snow and with slightly deflated tires for better traction. Going downhill is slower and falling off feels like a playful jump into the snow, as I remember from childhood.
Hands down one of the best (and most fun) winter activities in Canmore.
Read the full blog post: Mountain biking & fat biking in Canmore
6. Explore Canmore’s caves
Canmore Cave Tours offers year-round caving under the Grotto Mountain. It’s not a regular visit to the cave on a nice path looking at stalactites from behind a rope.
This is an undeveloped cave where you can actually feel like an explorer. Just a taste of what you can experience: listening to a concert, challenging your claustrophobic feels in a “squeeze challenge,” or rappelling deep into the cave.
7. Walk along the Bow River
Since our little Martin was born, this is my favourite activity in Canmore, just walking around with the stroller and enjoying the views.
We usually park by Riverside Park and walk upstream towards the bridge and back, making the Bow Loop. If you head downstream on the Three Sisters Pathway, you will enjoy mountain views as well and most likely meet a lot of runners and families.
Another excellent and short walk through called the Policeman’s Creek is starting downtown at the sculpture.
Read the full blog post: 8 Awesome winter hikes in Canmore
8. Climb a frozen waterfall
If gaining elevation is your thing and you can’t wait for summer, try ice climbing. It’s a thrilling experience, and the feeling at the end is very similar to climbing to the mountain top. However, ice climbing is definitely more challenging.
We tried climbing an ice wall during the winter festival and found it quite hard. It would help if you kicked hard enough with axes on your boots to stay on the wall while working with your pick in hand.
I can’t imagine how satisfying it must feel to climb an icefall and see the beautiful frozen scene all around you.
Beginners to advanced courses are available at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures, which uses Grotto Falls near Canmore or Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park for learning.
9. Photograph iconic Three Sisters
Canmore’s scenery is unbelievably picturesque, and you don’t even have to go far. Just walk the path along Bow River.
However, there’s a particular spot in Canmore where you can photograph iconic mountains Three Sisters (and in summer with their reflection on water).
Save this spot to your GPS and either walk or drive. I recommend driving as there’s no path for pedestrians. You can park right there or across the road on the gravel. Head towards the bridge and once you walk under it, follow the creek bed. The trail is usually well-trodden, so you should be able to find the photography spot easily.
10. Try dog sledding
If you’re not up to climbing a frozen waterfall, dog sledding is another exhilarating experience. Several huskies will pull the sled with you comfortably sitting under a warm blanket while the musher guides them.
A company every customer is raving about is Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours from Canmore. They have more than three decades of experience and, most importantly, care deeply about the welfare of their dogs. You will get an amazing sled experience on frozen Spray Lakes with panoramic mountain views.
11. Hit up the brewery
Canmore might be a small town, but they three breweries. We’ve visited Sheepdog Brewery with a fantastic group of local trail runners and enjoyed a couple of craft beers.
You can visit after hiking the Grotto Canyon when you’re returning to Canmore on Bow Valley Trail. Or as an alternate, visit the photo location described above in #9 and then head to Sheepdog Brewery, it’s close to each other.
12. Go wild skating
If you visit Canmore or the Canadian Rockies in general in winter, wild skating is the #1 activity I would recommend.
Just imagine skating on a frozen lake (often with see-through ice), surrounded by snowy mountains breathing the fresh air and enjoying the quietness, hearing only the grinding sound of your blades in the ice.
You can head to Wedge Pond (picture below) or Spray Lakes.
The closest wild skating lake to Canmore is Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park. Check out the below link to see more options and see photos & a video of different locations.
Read next: Ice skating in Banff National Park
13. Enjoy Canmore Winter Carnival
Canmore is hosting a winter carnival every February. You can enjoy the winter festivities indoors or outdoors; either way, you’ll surely have fun.
Get ready for ice carving, log sawing, skating parties, street hockey, dog sledding race and plenty of delicious hot food.
14. See Canmore from the sky
If you’ve seen the Canadian Rockies from the ground and were astounded, wait till you see them from the air. Simply breathtaking!
Alpine Helicopters offer several tours year-round. For a taste of the beauty from the air, check out the below link for photos and a video taken in autumn.
Read next: Canadian Rockies from above
15. Drive through a winter wonderland
Sometimes the winter temperatures in the Rockies are bone-chilling. You might not feel like doing any sport outside but still crave a change of scenery.
I recommend checking out the road conditions first and then head on to the Smith Dorrien Trail (past the Canmore Nordic Centre). You can drive back via Kananaskis Trail, making a loop. The stunning scenery will take your breath away.