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Canmore is one of my favorite mountain towns in Alberta, and it’s SO worth a visit during your time in Canada. Sure, it may not receive the same hype as Banff or Lake Louise, but it’s equally as stunning as its famed neighbors and much quieter – my kind of place!
And thanks to the stunning scenery to be seen along the way, many tourists choose to get to this gorgeous town via a road trip from Edmonton. As the second biggest city in the province and with a large international airport, Edmonton is a popular entry point to Canada for overseas and Canadian visitors. And so, it makes sense that you’d want to start your road trip to Canmore from this bustling city!
The drive will take you just under 4 hours (391 km/243 miles), but because there’s so much to see between Edmonton and Canmore, I advise allowing at the very least one full day to complete this road trip. I mean, you’ll be passing by some of the top attractions in Alberta, such as Calgary, the biggest city in the province, the gorgeous Grotto Canyon, and Gap Lake, as well as some hidden gems like Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary and Ghost Lake.
Because I grew up in Alberta, I’ve been lucky enough to drive this route numerous times, so I’m well-equipped to tell you about the best sights to see along the way because I’ve experienced all of them!
Below, you’ll read about 16 of the best stops between Edmonton and Canmore. I’m super excited for you to read all about my driving tips and scenic stops!
- About the Drive from Edmonton to Canmore
- The BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Canmore
- Where to Stay in Canmore
- Thanks for reading!
- Renting a Car in Alberta
About the Drive from Edmonton to Canmore
The drive from Edmonton to Canmore is a very straightforward route, this 391-kilometer (243-mile) stretch of road will take you just under 4 hours to complete (3 hours and 50 minutes to be exact), but that’s without stopping! You’ll be following the main Highway 2 for most of the way, and after Calgary, you’ll jump onto another main highway – the Trans-Canada Hwy #1. All in all, a very easy road trip.
Even though driving direct from Edmonton to Canmore is easily doable in half a day, we highly advise turning it into a bucket-list-worthy road trip and allowing at least two full days and one night to complete this adventure!
For a relatively short drive (yep, 4 hours is short by Albertan standards), there’s a surprising amount of sights to see along the way, so many, in fact, that I struggled to narrow down my list to just 16 awesome stops. I’ve laid out the below itinerary so that you’re stopping about every 20 minutes, but if you’re in a rush to reach Canmore, you can just skip a couple of the sights and just stop at your favorites. I will add that Innisfail, Calgary, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, and Grotto Canyon are what I believe to be the best stops on the drive from Edmonton to Canmore and shouldn’t be missed.
If you plan to drive this route in the winter, ensure your vehicle or rental car has winter tires or all-season tires. Thankfully, both Highway 2 and the Trans-Canada Highway are two of the busiest highway in the province, and when the snow falls, the snow plows are out, clearing these roads regularly. Plus, because there are so many towns and the city of Calgary included on this list, if the weather does change, you have plenty of options to stop off and spend the night if needed.
The most popular time to drive from Edmonton to Canmore is during the summer, which means more traffic and less parking at some of the more popular stops like Grotto Canyon and Gap Lake. So, my best advice is to leave early each morning to avoid the crowds.
I also have to add that there is another much longer route you can take to get from Edmonton to Canmore. It goes via the Icefields Parkway and Jasper and is arguably much more scenic. But at 676 kilometers (420 miles) long, it will take around 7 hours. It’s also rated as a more difficult drive because it follows the Yellowhead Hwy (aka Highway 16) as far as Jasper, this road is notorious for road closures due to snow and ice in the winter months.
The BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Canmore
Your starting point – Edmonton is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The second largest city in Alberta is a great place to start a road trip to Canmore because you can spend a few days enjoying a city break before exploring the province’s quieter and lesser-known gems.
Edmonton is perhaps most famous for being the home of the HUGE West Edmonton Mall! The second-largest mall in North America has over 800 stores, heaps of restaurants, two hotels, a water park, roller coasters, an indoor skating rink, and more. In fact, West Ed (as it’s also known) is best described as a small indoor city!
Another of the best things to do in Edmonton is to explore the beautiful River Valley – at an impressive 22 times the size of Central Park in NYC, you could easily spend a full day here! There are over 150 kilometers (93 miles) of trails here, most of which can be enjoyed in any season. But if you’re visiting Edmonton in winter, make a note that some of these trails are used for cross-country skiing. Also worth checking out in the River Valley is the Muttart Conservatory, which houses one of the biggest indoor botanical collections in the country.
If guided tours are your thing, a great way to see the River Valley is on this 90-minute segway adventure. On the tour, stop at Walterdale Bridge for a spectacular view of the city skyline. In the summer, you can join a speedboat tour here with Black Gold River Tours – they also do a more relaxing cruise if the speedboat sounds a bit too scary!
There are also plenty of delicious restaurants in Edmonton. Edmonton is a major foodie destination, and Jasper Ave and Whyte Ave are particularly worth checking out if you love trendy restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Where to stay in Edmonton:
There are tons of different hotels to choose from spread across Edmonton.
Many hotels are located on the west-side of the city near West Edmonton Mall. Stay in one of Fantasyland Hotel’s gorgeous theme rooms for something really special.
Staying downtown is perfect for anybody who wants a central stay with easy access to most of the activities and attractions in this blog. To be right near Rogers Place and Jasper Ave, stay at the luxurious JW Marriott. This is one of the nicest hotels in Edmonton and it’s simply stunning. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub.
As you make your way from Edmonton and on the road toward Canmore, your first stop should be the small community of Leduc.
On a bright and sunny day, walk the 8.3 km (5 mile) trail at the Telford Lake area. This is a fantastic trail to see birds. The lake itself is a popular boating spot, and in the summer, it plays host to fun dragon boat competitions.
The town of Leduc is also home to the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator Site. This wooden grain elevator is the last one built in the province, and a treasured local landmark.
If you have more time, you can check out the Canadian Energy Museum in Leduc to learn about the importance of the oil industry to the local area. Tours here will take you through pipeline safety and renewable energy trends and provide you with information about the oil sands. The museum offers tours from Tuesday-Saturday for $6 CAD per person.
3. Red Deer
Not long after Leduc, you’ll come to Red Deer – a popular stop on the road trip from Edmonton to Canmore to grab some food. But if you have more time, there are many great things to do in Red Deer!
If you’re doing this drive during the summer (it’s open between June and the September long weekend), be sure to pop into the Discovery Canyon Water Park for a few hours. This free outdoor waterpark is built around a river-fed water pool, and you can rent tubes here and ride them down the small river or visit the beach, wading pool, and boardwalk.
If you’re a sports fan, head over to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame – which is filled with archives on the greatest athletes in Alberta. There are also interactive games and a gallery completely dedicated to hockey.
End your time in Red Deer at Troubled Monk, a fantastic craft beer brewery! If you didn’t already know – finding new delicious craft beers is one of my favorite past-times!
4. Gasoline Alley
At this stage of the road trip, you’re likely starting to feel hungry. And my next stop will do just the trick (satisfy your tastebuds) as the home of the famed Peters’ Drive-In, which serves up delicious burgers and thick milkshakes. There’s no better road trip treat than this! When you taste their incredible burgers, you’ll understand why there was a 3-hour queue for their burgers when they first opened back in 2005.
Afterward, be sure to pop into The Donut Mill for a sweet treat for the road. Easy to find, thanks to the giant windmill on the roof, their donuts are to die for! Choose from a selection of baked-fresh donuts like Orange Creamsicle, Chocolate Venetian, Maple Rolo, Vanilla Lemon, Apple Pie, or the flavor of the month.
Gasoline Alley, as the name suggests, also has several gas stations should you need to refuel, and given that it’s a short distance from your previous stop – Red Deer, and very easy to access from the highway, we highly recommend a stop here whether you need to refuel for food or gas!
Related Read: Gasoline Alley is also a good stop to fill up for the road trip from Edmonton to Kelowna!
An hour before Calgary, the small town of Innisfail (derived from the Celtic word for “Isle of Destiny”) has been a popular stop on the road from Edmonton to Canmore for hundreds of years.
Interestingly, many of the best activities in Innisfail involve animals – from a wildlife park that’s home to orphaned animals to a police dog training facility.
The Discovery Wildlife Park is one of my favorite places to visit in Innisfail. It houses orphaned wildlife as well as some zoo animals. Here you’ll get to see wolves, bears, cougars, lions, and more! Learn more about the residents here on one of the daily presentations, take a wolf for a walk, and even get a photo with a bear (from a safe distance!). The Discovery Wildlife Park is open from May 1 to Sept 30, and the entrance costs around $20 CAD.
Another cool stop in Innisfail is The DINOS Centre (Discovery Institute of Nature, Origins, and Science). At this family-friendly spot, you can play a round of indoor mini-golf or laser tag surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs!
If you’re in Innisfail on a Wednesday and you’re a dog-lover, be sure to check out the RCMP Dog Training Facility to see the amazing Mountie police dogs being trained. In fact, this is where all Mountie police dogs are trained! They hold a free demonstration every Wednesday at 2 pm from Victoria Day until Labour Day.
6. Nose Creek Regional Park
Just before you reach “Cowtown” aka Calgary, spend an hour or two getting amongst nature at the 20-acre Nose Creek Regional Park in Airdrie. Stop here for a picnic or to stretch your legs with a walk on one of the easy nature trails. Or, if you’re visiting in the summer and are a fishing fan, you can fish for trout at the Nose Creek pond.
If you’re doing this Edmonton to Canmore road trip in the winter, this is an even more worthwhile stop as the park hosts the magical Airdrie Festival of Lights – or the biggest free outdoor Christmas lights display in Western Canada!
You may not believe that the sunniest part of Canada is right here in Alberta, yep, Calgary, aka “Canada’s Sunshine City,” is your next stop, and it receives a whopping 333 days of sunshine annually! So, unlike other parts of Canada, the weather shouldn’t limit what you can do because it’s pretty much always bright and sunny here, albeit very cold in the winter months.
As you can imagine, in the largest city in Alberta, with a population of 1.4 million people, there are loads of fun things to do in Calgary, from the Calgary Tower to the Calgary Zoo, which is why we recommend breaking up your journey between Edmonton and Canmore and spending a night here.
The best view of Calgary can be seen from the Calgary Tower, the tallest 360-degree observation deck in the world. From this prime vantage point, you’ll be able to see as far as the Rocky Mountains (where you’ll be driving on this road trip!), and of course, it offers excellent views of downtown Calgary too. There’s even a glass-floor section where you can look down to the street below – this is not for the faint-hearted or those afraid of heights. Entrance to the Calgary Tower costs just $20 CAD, and their revolving restaurant – Sky 360, is a great lunch or dinner spot!
One of the most famous things to do in Calgary is to attend the Calgary Stampede, happening over 10 days in July. This Western-style event is a whole lot of fun and boasts one of the largest rodeo events in the world, chuckwagon racing, a parade and, lots of concerts and shows.
On the other hand, if you plan to visit Calgary in the winter, you can go ice skating at the Olympic Plaza skating rink right downtown, which is a lot of fun. The plaza was constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics!
Another top suggestion for Calgary, especially if you’re traveling with kids, is the Calgary Zoo. Home to almost 1,000 different animals and exhibits, including tigers, giraffes, lemurs, and more. My top tip is to try to get here at 10 am to catch the “penguin walk”. Every morning at that time, the penguins go for a 15-minute walk through the zoo, and it’s such a cute sight to see. Be sure to take plenty of photos (I just love penguins, don’t you?!). It’s a great way to spend a few hours before you continue on the drive from Calgary to Canmore.
If you’re tight on time in Calgary, why not consider this 2-hour guided city scooter tour which takes in the city’s top sights and costs just $55 CAD per person – a lot cheaper than many other Calgary tours!
Related Read: If the weather isn’t great while you’re visiting Calgary, then, check out our list on the best indoor activities in Calgary!
8. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Possibly one of my favorite stops on the drive from Edmonton to Canmore is the amazing Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, a not-for-profit that cares for rescued wolfdogs. It’s an hour from Calgary and is well worth a stop to learn all about these amazing creatures and for the chance to see them up close (they are such beautiful animals!).
So, if you’re a dog-lover or an animal-lover, this stop is for you!
It’s important to note that children under six years of age are not permitted in the sanctuary and as well as that the paths here are not suitable for strollers. Dogs are not allowed here either and may not even stay in your car while you visit. So keep that in mind. As well as the above, you may not wear faux fur clothing while visiting the wolfdogs.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is open from Thursday to Monday, and there are several different tours to choose from. Adult tickets cost $28 CAD, while youth tickets cost $16 CAD.
Cochrane has a unique, old-western feel and makes for an ideal stop on the drive from Edmonton to Canmore.
First, spend an hour or so at the Historic Cochrane Ranche – the former home of Alberta’s first large cattle ranch, dating back to the 1880s. Today, it’s a huge public park with walking trails, a quaint museum, and a reconstructed corral.
Then, finish off your time at this memorable stop with a stroll through downtown Cochrane. Stop into MacKay’s Ice Cream for a delicious treat. All of their ice creams are made locally, and they have over 50 flavors. And would you believe they have been serving customers for over 70 years?
Alternatively, if you’re a beer fan, check out the Half Hitch Brewing Company instead. Here, they serve locally-brewed craft beers (we suggest the Papa Bear Prairie Ale), and if you’re hungry, try one of their delicious appetizers or smoked meats.
Related Read: Check out these other breweries in Cochrane!
Where to stay in Cochrane
Cochrane is also a good place to stay outside Calgary as the hotels here are typically cheaper than Canmore or Banff.
The Days Inn and Suites Cochrane is a nice option that’s just off the highway, perfect for a road trip stay. The hotel has an indoor pool, free breakfast, and is close to some nice walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. It’s also pet-friendly which is a huge plus if you’re roadtripping with a dog. Rooms start around $130 CAD, but do go up in price for the busy summer season. You can check availability and book a room online here.
10. Ghost Lake
Just 18 minutes from Cochrane is the scenic Ghost Lake. Nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, this is one of the prettiest stops you’ll find en route to Canmore. This wide, deep lake (it has an average depth of 60-90 feet) is popular with water sports enthusiasts and fishing fans, who come here to catch freshwater fish like bull trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout.
As you can probably guess from the name, this lake has a bit of a spooky backstory. Indigenous stories tell of a ghost who haunts the nearby Ghost River.
If you’re on a tight schedule and don’t have time to rent a boat (from the marina), fish, or go for a swim (in the warmer months), then you can simply spend a few minutes on the lake beach, taking in the mountain views.
11. Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course
Even if you’re not the best golfer, this golf course is worth stopping at! Brewster’s Golf is an 18-hole course at the base of Yamnuska Mountain and along the north bank of the Bow River. While playing, enjoy the views of the mountains, wildflowers, and trees … just try not to get too distracted by the scenery and lose your golf ball in the water!
Tee times can be booked up to 30 days in advance, and you’ll find cheaper rates the further in advance you book. Playing all 18 holes will set you back $55 CAD on weekdays and $72 CAD on weekends and holidays. Renting a golf cart is extra. There’s also a sunset special for a discounted rate to play later in the day.
12. Bow Valley Campground
If you prefer to sleep under the stars as opposed to in a hotel room, then consider spending a night at the Bow Valley Campground on your way to Canmore. Beautifully situated within Bow Valley Provincial Park, pitch a tent here and enjoy the natural surroundings and mountain, valley, and river views.
If peace and quiet appeal to you, it’s best to stay here over the busier campgrounds closer to Canmore!
It’s worth noting that the walking trails here, such as the popular Many Springs loop walk, can get pretty crowded during the day (especially in summer), so if you’re spending the night at the campground you can opt to hike this 1.3 km (0.8 miles) at sunset and be back at your tent before dark – our favorite time of day here! Overall though, it’s a great trail to hike at any time of day as it features springs that collect in a wetland basin and a dock that boasts an unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains!
It’s worth noting that Bow Valley Campground is by reservation only, and reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. If you don’t plan to camp here, I still recommend spending a few hours here on your way to Canmore.
13. Jura Creek Trail
About 30 minutes from the Bow Valley Campground is the Jura Creek Trail, one of the best winter hikes in Alberta! You’ll find the parking lot opposite the Graymont gravel plant, and the trailhead begins in the northwest section of the parking lot.
As I mentioned, this hike is best completed in the winter! Less than a kilometer into the hike is the Jura Creek slot canyon entrance. This narrow canyon is especially fun to explore when the creek is frozen, and you can walk on the ice. There are some great photo opportunities here, so have a camera nearby. If you plan to attempt it in the summer, bring shoes you don’t mind getting wet in, as you must walk across the creek!
You can turn around, return through the canyon, or continue along the trail. There’s another slot canyon about 3.5 km (2.2 miles) in – so often hikers will visit both canyons and then head back. However, the trail does continue on for hikers who want to keep going.
14. Grotto Canyon
Another bucket-list-worthy stop along this stretch of road between Edmonton and Canmore is the famous Grotto Canyon. The hiking trail can be completed in any season, although I think it’s prettiest in the winter when the whole trail turns into a magical winter wonderland!
The Grotto Canyon Trail begins from the Grotto Mountain day-use parking lot, and it’s a kilometer into the creek bed. After the creek, the section of trail is particularly spectacular as the path slowly narrows as the rock walls around you get higher!
At the fork in the creek, take a right to get to Grotto Canyon Falls. And keep your eyes peeled just before you get to the stunning waterfall for pictographs that are estimated to be as old as 500-1,000 years old. They’re at eye level so you (hopefully) shouldn’t miss them!
As I said, winter is a magical and fun time here because you can walk on the ice. But keep in mind that the trail will be slippery during these colder months, so wearing crampons or mini-ice spikes is a must! Luckily, if you didn’t pack them in your luggage, you can rent them from one of the sports shops in nearby Canmore (the last stop on this list).
Or an even better option is to book a highly-rated guided tour that includes all the required gear. You’ll get to do an epic icewalk in the canyon with a guide to tell you about the area. Plus there’s hot chocolate and a maple cookie (very Canadian!) as a post-hike treat.
Related Read: If you’re after a longer road trip with amazing sights across two provinces, the drive from Edmonton to Vancouver is our pick!
15. Gap Lake
Your final stop before you reach Canmore is Gap Lake, a picturesque lake that is a popular skating spot in the winter. The ice gets so clear that it’s possible to see all the way to the bottom! The wind also keeps the lake mostly snow-free, so it’s clear for ice skating.
Just be aware that ice thickness can change because of underground streams that keep certain areas of ice thinner than others, so only walk or skate on the ice where you know it is safe and do so at your own risk.
In the summer, Gap Lake is a nice lakeside spot to relax at. It’s also really popular for fishing!
Your final stop is what I believe to be the best mountain town in Alberta. Yep, in a province that’s home to big-name mountain towns like Banff and Lake Louise, that’s quite a bold statement. But hear me out, Canmore is cheaper, easier to get to, and just as beautiful as Alberta’s other more famous mountain towns.
You’ll want to spend at least a night or two here, as there are plenty of fun and exciting things in Canmore to keep you busy! And as you can imagine, in a region as naturally beautiful as Canmore, most of the best activities here involve the great outdoors, such as caving, stargazing, and of course, hiking.
If you’re after a great, easy hike in Canmore – look no further than Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk – one of the most popular hikes in Canmore. This 3.9-kilometer (2.4 miles) boardwalk stretches through the middle of downtown and has numerous access points, meaning you can simply join it at the nearest access point to you and come off it when you need. Along the way, you’ll see mountain views, lots of ducks, and maybe even kayakers on the creek.
A tougher hike is the very famous Ha Ling Peak hike, which locals will tell you is the best hike in the region. But, it will take 3-5 hours to complete.
If you’re visiting Canmore in winter, you can try cross-country skiing at The Canmore Nordic Centre or go skiing or snowboarding (whichever you prefer) at the nearby Nakiska Ski Resort, which is 40 minutes from downtown!
And if you love photography (like Daniel and I), you’ll definitely want to check out the Three Sisters Viewpoint. Even though the Three Sisters Mountain Range is iconic in Canmore, this viewpoint is a bit of a hidden gem that few people know about. The exact location can be found here. To reach it, you must first park at the off-leash dog park, then cross the road and walk under the train tracks. Keep the creek to your left as you walk and you’ll soon come to a trail. The trail will take you straight to the viewpoint!
After you’ve ticked off all of the best sights in Canmore, it’s time to sit down and relax with a drink and reminisce on that awesome road trip from Edmonton to Canmore. Luckily, there are a few craft breweries in Canmore or cafes in Canmore depending on what kind of drink you’re after!
Related Read: Another awesome, but short, road trip in Alberta is the drive between Canmore and Lake Louise. Or if you’d prefer to head straight to that iconic lake, this is the route for the Edmonton to Lake Louise road trip!
Where to Stay in Canmore
The truth is that there are so many hotels in Canmore that it can hard to know which one to choose for your stay. Well luckily for you, Dan and I have stayed in a lot of different hotels in Canmore and have been able to narrow it down to our absolute favorites!
Here are the best places to stay in Canmore including our personal top choice, a budget option, and one for those looking for absolute luxury!
Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre – Our top choice
Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre is our absolute favorite place to stay in Canmore. It is affordable without sacrificing any of the comforts you’ll need for a relaxing and enjoyable stay – suitable for almost all travelers and budgets. They have an onsite pool, hot tub, and fitness center along with a delicious bar and restaurant.
It’s located right in the heart of downtown Canmore and close to a wide variety of restaurants, cafes, and takeout places. Oh, and did I mention the views from the hotel windows are breathtaking!
On top of all of that, they have a variety of rooms to choose from including ones that are pet-friendly (super handy when we are traveling with our yorkie friend, Rex).
You can book this hotel on Booking.com. Be sure to book as far in advance as possible because these guys are usually fully booked!
Canmore Downtown Hostel – Budget backpackers option
If you’re a budget backpacker and looking for a hostel then Canmore Downtown Hostel is your best choice! These guys offer clean and comfortable facilities, dorm beds as well as private rooms, and a social atmosphere perfect for meeting other backpackers.
Copperstone Resort – Luxury Escape
If money isn’t an issue, then Copperstone Resort may be the luxurious option you’re looking for. It is located a 10-minute drive outside of Canmore that makes for a peaceful escape from the town. There is an outdoor hot tub and many of the rooms are full suites with kitchens and multiple bedrooms. However, rooms here don’t come cheap and are often up to twice the price of most hotels in Canmore.
You can check the prices and book Copperstone Resort on Booking.com.
Renting a Car in Alberta
If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.
Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Now that I’m finished writing this, I’m itching to experience an Edmonton to Canmore road trip again. It truly is one of the most under-rated drives in Alberta, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about my list of stops. When you’ve done this drive can you please let me know about your experience in the comment section below?!
As always, if you have any other questions about the drive from Edmonton to Canmore, feel free to reach out and ask! Before you go, be sure to check out some of our other guides: