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.

best things to do in Canmore in winter

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.

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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.

Cross country skiing in Canmore Nordic Centre

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

Cross country skiing in Canmore Nordic Centre

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.

Grotto Canyon Ice Walk in Canmore

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

Grotto Canyon Ice Walk in Canmore

3. Skate on a pond

Canmore Skating Pond is a nice place for a leisure skate near downtown (7 Ave & 11 St). You can rent skates at Gearup Sports and walk to the 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.

best things to do in Canmore in winter

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).

Grassi Lakes Hike in winter

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

Grassi Lakes Hike in winter

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.

Fat biking in Canmore Nordic Centre

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.

You can download a fat biking map for Canmore Nordic Centre or rent a bike elsewhere and hit the trails in Kananaskis Country.

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.

best things to do in Canmore in winter

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

Policeman's Creek, 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.

Read next: Johnston Canyon ice walk in Banff National Park

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).

Three Sisters in Canmore in winter

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.

best things to do in Canmore in winter

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.

Wild skating at Wedge Pond

Remember that you’re skating on frozen lakes at your own risk. Therefore it doesn’t hurt to read about ice safety and learn how to self-rescue.

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.

best things to do in Canmore in winter

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.

best things to do in Canmore in winter

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.

 

About Maya Steiningerova

Heyo, I’m Maya! An adventure athlete currently living near the Canadian Rockies with my partner in crime Michal. I love running in the mountains, jumping in the ice cold lakes, mountain biking and trying not so common activities, such as mountaineering. By showing that an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life, my hope is to inspire you to live an adventurous life and provide you with tips and tools for your own adventure.