Grotto Canyon ice walk near Canmore is a mesmerizing winter wonderland leading to stunning ice falls.
In winter, we are usually cross country skiing or ice skating. But when I was pregnant and getting extremely tired from anything during the 1st trimester, I had to find some very easy activities.
Grotto Canyon is an incredibly easy hike year-round!
We’ve visited in March when the creek bed was frozen. And because we walked through a canyon, it didn’t matter that it was snowing and cloudy; it was a beautiful walk.
For more activities, read our post 20 fun outdoor things to do in Canmore.
Canmore winter activities:
- Mountain biking & fat biking in Canmore
- 8 awesome winter hikes in Canmore
- 15 best winter activities in Canmore
Where is Grotto Canyon & how to get there
From Calgary, take the Trans-Canada highway heading west. Once you pass Stoney Nakoda Casino, take the next exit to 1X and then left (south) on 1A (Bow Valley Trail). When you pass Exshaw, you will shortly see a sign on your right for the Grotto Canyon Trail parking lot.
If you’re coming from Canmore (or Banff), take the exit right after Canmore onto 1A (Bow Valley Trail) heading east. After 10 km (about 10 min), you’ll see a sign for the Grotto Canyon Trail parking lot.
However, I don’t recommend starting from the marked parking lot. It ads unnecessary and quite boring 500m (one-way) of walk through trees.
Instead, start on the closer parking lot near the Baymag plant, as you see on the map below. There’s also a marker of the Grotto Canyon, so you really can’t get lost.
Grotto Canyon ice walk near Canmore
- Distance: 4 km roundtrip
- Elevation gain: 100 m
- Difficulty: easy
- Best time to go: year-round but November to March for ice walk and ice falls
The walk starts through some trees, but the nice part starts at the bench with a nice lookout once you’re out. At this point, I would highly recommend putting on the microspikes.
You’ll walk across boulders and down to the creek bed, and it might get ice from here on. The trail leads straight into the canyon, and because this is a popular ice walk in winter, there will probably be footsteps you can follow.
Even if the trail is covered by snow, assume there’s ice underneath and walk carefully. You’re walking on the frozen creek after all.
The ice walk is around 800 m long. At the end of the limestone rock formations, there are lovely ice falls. (There are some aboriginal pictographs right before you reach the ice falls, but somehow we couldn’t find them).
You can even continue past the ice falls to the left. The trail leads to a cave, but we didn’t continue due to the deep snow.
Grab your spikes and enjoy the Grotto Canyon ice walk!
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Recommended gear for Grotto Canyon ice walk
- water bottle with filter – we refilled our bottles right from the icefall
- warm jacket, hat, gloves – you know, the usual winter clothes
- sturdy trail runners or boots
- microspikes – the most crucial part for an enjoyable day
- bear spray – we carry it year-round as there are common bear sightings in the Rockies throughout winter, and in the canyon, there really is nowhere to hide
Our favourite winter hikes in the Canadian Rockies
- Hike or cross country ski to Boom Lake in Banff National Park
- Grassi Lakes in Canmore
- Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park
- Johnston Canyon Icewalk in Banff National Park