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Canmore is one of Alberta’s best mountainside tourist towns. With a range of fun and exciting things to do in Canmore, it’s a popular destination for both local and international tourists.
But unlike Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise, Canmore isn’t actually located within one of Canada’s National Parks – making it cheaper and more accessible for everyone. Sitting on the edge of Banff National Park, Canmore boasts some of Canada’s most impressive mountain peaks and is an outdoor playground for visitors.
For Dan and I, Canmore is one of our favorite towns in all of Canada. It feels less pretentious than Banff and offers the same (if not more) things to do all year round.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit Canmore on several occasions. In fact, we also recently lived in Canmore for a few months (I know, lucky us!) Thanks to the countless number of days we’ve spent in this gorgeous mountain town over the last few years, we’ve managed to come up with 33 absolute best activities and attractions in Canmore.
Some of the activities in this blog you may have heard of before, and some you likely haven’t – so read until the bottom and check it all out!
- The BEST Things to do in Canmore, Alberta
- 1. Hike to Grassi Lakes
- 2. Hit the trails at the Nordic Center
- 3. Drive the Smith Dorrien Trail
- 4. Skiing or snowboarding
- 5. Walk the Bow River Loop Trail and visit the Historic Engine Bridge
- 6. Visit a local brewery (or two!)
- 7. Hike Ha Ling Peak
- 8. Wander Mainstreet (8 Street)
- 9. Join a Canmore Cave Tour
- 10. Stargazing
- 11. SUP
- 12. Take in the view of the famous Three Sisters
- 13. Golf!
- 14. Dog Sledding
- 15. Visit local distilleries (and drink craft cocktails!)
- 16. Visit the Canmore Hoodoos
- 17. Eat some of the BEST food
- 18. Bicycling
- 19. Explore the Kananaskis
- 20. Go whitewater rafting
- 21. Hike Grotto Canyon
- 22. Go horseback riding at Boundary Ranch
- 23. Visit the Canmore Museum
- 24. Visit the Canmore Mountain Market
- 25. Day trip to Banff town
- 26. Cruise on Lake Minnewanka
- 27. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
- 28. Visit Lake Louise (and Moraine Lake!)
- 29. Go ice skating
- 30. Spot wildlife
- 31. Check out the local cafes
- 32. Ride in a helicopter
- 33. Drive the Icefields Parkway
- Where to Stay in Canmore
- Thanks for reading!
The BEST Things to do in Canmore, Alberta
1. Hike to Grassi Lakes
2023 Update: Grassi Lakes is currently closed for trail maintenance and rockfall hazard. It is scheduled to open for summer 2023. You can find more info here. In the meantime, check out our blog about the best hikes in Canmore to choose an alternative trail.
Grassi Lakes is probably the singular most popular hike in Canmore, and as such, it is one of Canmore’s main attractions. Only a short 5-minute drive from Canmore town will have you parked at the trailhead and ready to explore some of the brightest emerald-colored lakes you’ve ever seen! The exact parking lot location can be found on Google Maps, but it is also easy to find if you drive Smith Dorrien Spray Trail Road up past the Canmore Nordic Center and turn left onto Ken Richie Way.
When we lived in Canmore, we always took our friends and family who visited us to Grassi Lakes, and everybody loved it!
One of the best things about the hike to Grassi Lakes is how accessible it is. This 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) long trail only gains 125 meters (410 ft) in elevation and takes most people about 2 hours to complete there and back.
It is a very easy trail that is family-friendly and suitable for all fitness levels. Plus, it’s open all year round!
With that said, if you do want a bit of challenge, I recommend taking the “more difficult” trail to Grassi Lakes. When you start hiking Grassi Lakes Trail you’ll come to a sign that says the more difficult route is to the left. This trail is steeper and involves climbing some slippery stairs near a waterfall. To me, this is the most beautiful route and well worth taking if you’re up to it. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for small children or during the winter.
Once you reach Grassi Lakes after completing the trail, you’ll be met with some pretty spectacular views. On a hot summer day, be sure to pack your swimsuit because you’re going to want to jump in! In the winter, the lakes don’t freeze over entirely, so you’ll still be able to see the beautiful water.
Since Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular things to do in Canmore, be sure to get there early if you want a parking spot! Alberta Parks has recently started ticketing vehicles who park on the road outside of the allocated parking lot. The parking lot is often full by 10 am in the summer on weekends. Arriving in the evening is also a less busy time.
In the winter, Grassi Lakes Trail ie never very busy, but it is still beautiful. Honestly, the entire places looks like a winter wonderland – something out of a movie scene! Sometimes the trail can be icy, though, so please wear crampons or microspikes. Also, the “more difficult” trail is closed in the winter for safety reasons.
Trust us on this, if you’re only going to do one hike while in Canmore, then be sure to make it Grassi Lakes!
Note: You’ll also need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to visit Grassi Lakes. You can find out more info about this pass below.
Kananaskis Conservation Pass
It’s important to note that you will need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass if you want to visit the Kanananakis Region, which you can either purchase daily or for the year. You will need this for all vehicles parked in the park and public land sites in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley. The passes can be easily purchased online for $15 CAD per day (1 vehicle) or $90 CAD per year (up to 2 vehicles).
2. Hit the trails at the Nordic Center
The Canmore Nordic Centre offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking, or even cross-country skiing. The area was originally developed to host cross-country skiing events at the 1988 Olympic Games, but nowadays, it’s an active training center as well as a recreational area – that’s right, you can also train here alongside the pros!
When we recently visited the Nordic Centre, there were actually professional athletes practicing Biathalon – it was really interesting to watch!
In the winter, the Nordic Centre is famous for having some of the best cross-country ski trails in Canada. Cross-country skiing at the Nordic Centre is not only a fun winter activity, but if you have your own gear, it’s cheap too! The day-use pass for cross-country skiing only costs $15 CAD for an adult!
Fat biking is popular here as well as trail running, mountain biking, and roller skiing. They also have a disc golf course and you can rent discs there, too.
You can either bring your own bike or skis, or you can rent them from the center.
The Nordic Centre is located right in Canmore just along Three Sisters Parkway. You can find the location easily on Google maps and there is a large parking lot once you get there. It’s open daily in the winter and summer, but you do need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to park there.
No matter what you plan on doing, the Nordic Centre is the perfect place to take advantage of tons of trails and have your own outdoor adventure right in Canmore.
3. Drive the Smith Dorrien Trail
The Smith Dorrien Trail (also known as Highway 742) is one very scenic road that you really shouldn’t miss while in Canmore. This gravel road climbs its way past the Grassi Lakes parking lot up into the mountains.
While driving the Smith Dorrien Trail, you’ll get spectacular views of Canmore town from up above as well as lakes and even Bighorn sheep (who love to just hang out casually on the side of the road!)
Most people drive the Dorrien Trail to reach other hikes such as Ha Ling Peak (more info on this hike further in the blog) or East End of Rundle. But even if you’re not planning on hiking, I do recommend driving this road simply for the views. It’s one of the most scenic places around Canmore and well worth the short 20-minute drive.
At night, this is one of the best places for stargazing near Canmore since there is very little light pollution up there!
If you want to venture a little further down this road, you can reach the trailhead for one of my favorite easy hikes near Canmore, the Blackshale Creek Suspension Bridge. This is an engineering masterpiece and is only accessible by a short hike off the Smith Dorrien Trail.
The Blackshale Suspension Bridge hike is fairly easy and suitable for most fitness levels. It is a 6.1 km (3.8 mi) return trail with 333 meters of elevation gain. The hike starts about an hour’s drive from Canmore, so it is a bit of a journey, but the suspension bridge is pretty cool, and it’s free to walk on!
In winter, this road can be dangerous or slippery. Be sure to follow road signage and closures before driving it and also be sure to have winter tires. The Blackshale Suspension Bridge is also closed during the winter months.
Hot Tip: The Dorrien Trail is the road that you’ll take to reach the Grassi Lake car parking lot, however, the most beautiful part is further up the road. So, continue on the road up past Grassi Lakes until you reach the first large lake, at the very least.
4. Skiing or snowboarding
It’s no secret that one of the best winter activities in Canmore is hitting the slopes! With long and cold winters, there is tons of fresh powder for anybody wanting to ski or snowboard near Canmore.
There are a few ski resorts near Canmore including Nakiska, Lake Louise, Mt Norquay, and Sunshine. Dan and I have been to all four many times. Here is some info about all of them:
- Nakiska Ski Area – About a 40-minute drive from Canmore, Nakiska is located in Kananaskis country and is generally less busy than the other ski resorts (especially true during the week!) Nakiska is also one of the cheapest at about $95 CAD for a day lift ticket. However, it has fewer runs than the others, with 71 trails with 59% of those being marked as intermediate.
- Lake Louise Ski Resort – The furthest away from Canmore at about an hour’s drive. This ski resort is well worth the drive though, with over 160 named runs in addition to plenty of off-piste ones. The views from here are spectacular too! There is a large chalet with restaurants, shopping, and even hotel rooms at Lake Louise. You’ll also find various mountainside chalets to stop in for a beer or lunch. You’ll pay for this premium ski resort at about $130 CAD for a full-day lift ticket (the most expensive out of all of the ski resorts near Canmore.)
- Mt Norquay Ski Resort – Mt Norquay is very close to Banff town or about 30 minutes from Canmore. I love this ski resort for beginners since it is the cheapest and easiest to navigate. It is a smaller resort with limited runs, however, at only $75 CAD for a lift ticket, it is worth it if you are new and just getting your legs on skis or snowboards. There is also snow tubing here which is a super fun activity to try out after a day on the slopes.
- Sunshine Village – Last but certainly not least, is Sunshine Village. This ski resort is (as the name suggests) a village! You take a huge gondola from the parking lot up to the village where there are several restaurants and facilities. From here, the runs you can explore seem endless. There are lots of awesome runs for advanced skill levels. Seriously, Dan and I still get lost when we visit. Sunshine is about a 30-minute drive from Canmore, and you can expect to pay around $125 CAD for a lift ticket.
5. Walk the Bow River Loop Trail and visit the Historic Engine Bridge
Ready for some history with your nature? The Canmore Engine Bridge is an old bridge that supported a railway line back in Canmore’s coal mining days. The bridge was believed to have been built back in 1880, but rebuilt after a fire in 1919 to the structure it is today.
It’s an easy walk to do and you are rewarded with absolutely epic mountain views from all around. The quickest way to access the bridge is by starting at Main Street, which you will walk along until you reach the Bow River. Walk along the Bow River (keeping it on your left) until you reach the bridge. You can continue across the bridge and back along the other side of the river to complete the Bow River Loop.
If you are really into history, then consider joining this walking tour. It visits the Engine Bridge along with other beautiful sites nearby. Along the way, your guide will provide information about the history of Canmore. It’s a 1.5-hour- long walking tour that has all five-star reviews! The best part is it priced at only $46 CAD per person. You can book this historic walking tour of Canmore online here!
6. Visit a local brewery (or two!)
The craft beer scene is buzzing in Canmore, which is great because after a busy day outside, who doesn’t want to have a cold brewski or two? There are actually a few different breweries in Canmore you can visit, including the following:
The Grizzly Paw
The Grizzly Paw is one of the best places to visit in Canmore if you’re both thirsty and hungry. They have a large selection of craft beer on tap as well as a great food menu.
When I last visited, I had one of their burgers complete with a side of tasty ginger carrot soup and fries – it was delicious! The food is very affordable too, and you can expect to pay about $8 CAD for a pint of local beer and $20 CAD for a burger with a couple of sides.
The Grizzly Paw actually has two locations in Canmore, the Grizzly Paw Pub and the Grizzly Pay Taproom. The Grizzly Paw Pub is located on 8th Street and has a large outdoor patio area (complete with heaters for the winter). The Grizzly Paw taproom is located near the Canmore Shops. This is where they actually make the beer and you can see them working. Both locations are great to visit and offer slightly different food menus, but you honestly can’t go wrong by visiting either.
Blake Brewhouse and Distillery
This next place combines both a brewery and a distillery into one. Blake Brewhouse and Distillery brew their own beer and spirits onsite in their huge stylish venue. On top of that, they serve a full menu and have a large outdoor seating area – the place to be on a warm sunny day!
Blake reminds me more of a dine-in restaurant, rather than a pub or brewery, so it’s a great place to stop in for dinner. They also serve food outside of your typical pub meal, which is uncommon for breweries. My personal suggestion is the Tandoori Chicken Naan or the Lemon Grass Mussels.
Their cocktail menu is extensive, which is great if you have any non-beer lovers in your group.
Canmore Brewing Company
Canmore Brewing Company is one of the most popular breweries in Canmore. In fact, you can find their beer in liquor stores spread across the country. I absolutely love their Ten Peaks Pale Ale and every time I’m in Canmore I stop by the storefront and pick up a few six-packs to go.
If you aren’t sure which beer you’d like (they have several different flavors) that you can try some at their onsite bar. The bar is open from 1 pm to 7 pm every day except for Tuesdays when they are closed. Alternatively, you can find Canmore Brewing Company’s beer offered at most bars and restaurants around Canmore.
Canmore Brewing also offers tours on Saturday afternoons, so be sure to book in if that interests you.
Sheepdog Brewing reminds me of what craft breweries should be, a small garage operation run by a bunch of friends who all share a love for craft beer.
For such a small brewery though, they craft a lot of great beers for you to try. In fact, there are 15 tap beers available to try including some really unique brews such as a coconut porter, mixed berry sour, and an ages saison. Seriously, these guys are testing the waters and the brewery is suited to those who love to try something more unique – like me!
The brewery is located on the outskirts of Canmore in the industrial area, but trust me, this place is worth the drive!
Related Read: For more info on craft breweries in the area, check out our blog all about the best breweries in and around Banff!
7. Hike Ha Ling Peak
Along the Smith Dorrien Trail is the parking lot for another very popular attraction in Canmore – Ha Ling Peak! This peak is the backdrop for Canmore town and is also one of the best hiking trails in the area.
Thanks to the Dorrien Trail, you drive up a ton of the mountain’s elevation, making summiting this mountain a lot less strenuous than you might think. It still isn’t an easy climb by any means, gaining 800 meters (2600 ft) in elevation over 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles), but it’s doable to most people with some hiking experience and a moderate fitness level.
Ha Ling Peak trail is a very popular hike, and as such, is well-marked and easy to follow. The first half of the trail is switchbacks climbing through the forest, where the second half will have you climbing stairs to the saddle and then scrambling over rocks to the summit.
When we last climbed Ha Ling Peak (we’ve done it a handful of times), it was a very windy day which made the scramble from the saddle to the summit a little difficult and a little scary. Good hiking boots and hiking poles really came in handy for us. I would recommend only tackling Ha Ling Peak when it is clear weather with little wind, if possible.
It takes about 2-3 hours to reach the summit, and then you come back down the same trail you walked up. The way down will take less than half the time the way up did. In total, I would allow 4-5 hours for this hike (it took us just under 4 hours at a pretty fast pace with only one short snack break at the saddle.)
Alternative Hike Suggestion: For something a little more challenging and a little less busy than Ha Ling Peak you can try East End of Rundle. This hike starts from the same parking lot and offers similar views. However, it is more difficult with sections of scrambling instead of a proper hiking trail. With that said, it is much less crowded than Ha Ling Peak.
8. Wander Mainstreet (8 Street)
Canmore is the cutest town ever and 8 Street is at the center of it all. 8 Street is the place to go to explore small boutiques, locally-owned stores, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants. This is the street to just aimlessly wander around, buy some souvenirs and locally-made goods, and just enjoy a few hours.
8 Street is also a very scenic street with mountain views everywhere. In the summer, it’s common to see buskers on street corners, and in the winter, Christmas lights are everywhere you look!
One of my favorite stops on 8 Street is the Scoopin Moose! I’m not the only one who loves it – it’s so popular that in the summer you can often expect to see a line of people waiting down the street! The Scoopin Moose offers a range of delicious flavors and all ice cream cones are waffle cones that they actually make onsite. Expect to pay about $5 CAD for a single scoop…and expect it to be really good!
Fun Fact: Canadians don’t just eat ice cream in the summer. In fact, Scoopin Moose proudly advertises that Canadians actually consume more ice cream in the winter! So, if you want to be like us crazy Canadians, then you need to try this ice cream at minus 20 degrees too!
If ice cream didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, you’re in luck because there is actually a candy store nearby that you can visit too. Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe is located right on 8 Street and offer a range of chocolates, caramels, old-school gummy candies, saltwater taffy, jelly beans, and my personal favorite, fudge!
Even if you don’t feel like buying anything, wandering through this candy store reminiscing about some of your favorite treats as a child is fun! Although, I highly doubt you’ll be able to leave empty-handed and one of those sweet treats will rope you into a purchase!
You also can’t visit 8 Street without popping into one of the local art galleries. Canmore has several art galleries spread out around town displaying art from both world-famous artists and locals. If you ever wanted to buy some art, Canmore is the place to do it! Plus, it makes for a great local souvenir.
The Avens Gallery and Fallen Leaf Gallery are some of the most popular galleries in town. But by just wandering along 8 Street you’re guaranteed to see several others.
9. Join a Canmore Cave Tour
Just on the outskirts of Canmore are a couple of caves that are really incredible to explore if you’re up for an adventure!
Now I have to be honest, I haven’t actually done the Canmore Cave tour before, but I have been in these caves. When I was about 15 years old, my Dad took me to explore Rats Nest Cave on our own. This was well before tours ran here, and let me tell you, it was really cool!
With a guide on a tour, you don’t have to worry about getting lost or having all of the right safety equipment. And for those reasons, I recommend joining a guided tour these days. Plus, I think that access is actually blocked off to the public now.
Canmore Cave Tours offers a couple of different tours with different lengths of time and prices. This Canmore caving adventure tour is what I recommend that you book! It’s actually one of the most popular tours in Canmore.
All caving is was included, such as coveralls, helmets, and climbing gear, but be sure to wear good running shoes and dress for the cooler underground temperatures.
You will start your experience underground with a 59-foot (18-meter) rappel into the cave – how cool! You then spend an impressive 4.5 hours exploring underground. A true adventure, this tour requires a good amount of physical fitness as you can expect to squeeze through some narrow sections and crawl through others to reach the different chambers.
In the end, you will be rewarded with an area called The Grotto which has a stunning clear pool of water and a bunch of impressive stalactites and stalagmites.
The full 6-hour tour costs $179.49 CAD for adults and $148.72 CAD for youths aged 12 – 15 years old. You can choose between two departure times and have up to 3 days before the experience to cancel with a full refund if your plans change. You can book your caving adventure tour here!
If you’re looking for a slightly shorter tour, this Canmore Explorer Tour is another great option. Run by the same company, this 4.5-hour tour is slightly cheaper at $138.47 CAD for adults and $117.95 CAD for youths aged 10 – 15 years old. Less rugged but still very thrilling, this tour explores the same Rat’s Nest Cave but skips the rappel and some of the more advanced sections in the tour.
Dan and I love stargazing and doing astrophotography. So luckily for us, enjoying the amazing stars is one of the best things to do in Canmore!
For the best view of the stars, you’ll need to get away from town a little bit. We personally love the reflection spot of the Three Sisters (described below on #12 on this list), however, anywhere towards Banff National Park will work too. Driving up the Smith Dorrien Spray Trail to Whitemans Pond is another one of our favorite spots.
For the best stargazing be sure to choose a clear night with no clouds. You’ll also see more stars when the moon isn’t present or is very tiny (a full bright moon takes away your ability to see all of the stars as it lights up the whole sky.)
For an even better experience with an expert, sign up for this Nature by Nightfall Tour.This 2-hour tour starts just before the sun sets and, in my opinion, is must-do during your trip to Canmore. You’ll be taken to some of the best spots for sunset and stargazing around town!
You’ll be provided with hiking poles, headlamps, and ice cleats for your comfort. I’d consider it an easy tour in terms of physical demands. While you will be walking, there aren’t any steep hills or super rugged terrain to navigate.
The tour start time says 6 pm, but sunset hours can vary depending on the time of year, so you will be contacted by the company with a more accurate start time.
The tour is available to anyone 8 years of age and older and costs $68 CAD per person. Whether you’re an astrologist at heart, or simply love to admire the beauty of the night sky, you can browse dates and secure your spot here.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
In and around Canmore there are tons of calm rivers and lakes to kayak or SUP on. Rundle Forebay Reservoir is one of the most popular spots to go and get out on the water. This reservoir is a large body of calm water just up the hill from Canmore town. The calm water makes for an ideal spot and the towering mountains around you really set the scene.
If you have your own paddleboard just make your way to the parking lot on the road called Three Sisters Parkway just across from Olympic Way (entrance to the Nordic Centre.) You’ll need a Kananaskis Pass to park here, but otherwise visiting is free, and from the beach area you can easily set off. There is often a van here renting SUPs for around $50.
If you don’t have your own paddleboard, consider joining a guided paddleboarding tour instead! This 3-hour river paddleboarding tour takes you down the Bow River and the Kananaskis River (more exciting than the reservoir if you ask me, anyways.) You’ll take in many of the sights as you go, such as the beautiful mountain range and the lush alpine forests.
Paddleboarding down a river is a bit different than a lake as you will have a current that is moving you along, keeping the tour interesting even for experienced paddlers.
With incredible views of the Ha Ling Peak, the famous Three Sisters, and Rundle Mountains, you are sure to be impressed. This afternoon paddle starts at 1 pm and costs $159 CAD per person. You will meet at the boat launch parking lot in Canmore and be guided by a certified river guide.
You can check availability and book your SUP tour here.
12. Take in the view of the famous Three Sisters
The Three Sisters Mountain range is iconic in Canmore. Three towering mountain peaks all sit next to each other making that postcard-perfect image you’ve probably seen at least once before. Their names are actually Faith, Hope, and Chairty, or the Big Sister, Middle Sister, and Little Sister.
From downtown Canmore, you will see the Three Sisters with ease, but there are a few specific spots that offer the best views of these mountains.
First of all, you can drive to the area of Spring Creek. There is a campground here that really has amazing views of the Three Sisters. Alternatively, you can drive the Three Sisters Parkway just outside of Canmore, or walk Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk.
Policeman’s Creek Boarkwalk is a long wooden boardwalk located right in town. This is a short 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) long leisurely stroll that is suitable for anybody. It only takes about an hour, and along the way, you’ll have nice views of the creek and, of course, the Three Sisters.
There is also a famous photography location (pictured above) where the mountains reflect in a small creek. The location can be found here, but you need to park at the off-leash dog park. Once parked, you need to cross the road and then walk under the train tracks keeping the creek to your left until you reach a trail. The trail will take you straight to the viewpoint and although a little off the beaten path, it is still a pretty well-known spot (especially among photographers!)
Golfing is such a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a day, and Canmore has no shortage of great golf courses! There are a few amazing courses in Canmore, making it the hub for golf enthusiasts in the Rocky Mountains.
Now, we’re not going to lie. Golf is not our thing. But we do know a thing or two about golfing in Canmore since all of our best friends are obsessed with golf. They’ve assured me that golfing is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Canmore!
Silvertip Golf Course is their top choice of places to check out. Not only is it a great technical course, but there are stunning panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains from every corner of the course. It’s a quiet and peaceful environment, a golfing experience like no other.
Other golf courses near Canmore include Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club, Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course, Kananaskis Country Golf Course, and The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course.
14. Dog Sledding
Dog sledding is an iconic Canadian winter activity, and you can do it right from Canmore! Located in Spray Provincial Park, just on the outskirts of Canmore, you can choose between a range of dog sledding tours and experiences!
Howling Dogs Tours is who we went with and we loved the tour! When searching for a company, the most important factor for us was that they were ethical and the dogs were treated well. Howling Dogs Tours stands out when compared to others. In fact, the majority of their dogs are adopted – which I love! If you want to read about how they care for the dogs, you can check it out on their website.
Our tour was their cheapest and it involved a 2-hour (10-kilometer/6-mile) ride. It costs $259-268 CAD (depending on the time of year) for adults and discounted rates are available for youth and kids. Trust us, this is a fun winter activity that you should add to your Canmore to-do list!
15. Visit local distilleries (and drink craft cocktails!)
Everyone knows Canmore has it’s fair share of local breweries, but did you know that there are also two local distillers in town making everything from gin to vodka to whisky?! That’s right, you can buy locally made spirits right from the distiller here in Canmore.
Wild Life Distillery has become famous among locals for its premium spirits. You can often find their bottles in small liquor stores around the province, or if you’re in Canmore, you can stop by the distillery and buy directly from the storefront.
However, if you’re more like us and prefer to get cocktails made for you, then you’re in luck too! There is a small cocktail bar out the front of Wild Life Distillery where they have a menu of unique (and delicious!) cocktails to enjoy made from their own liquor.
When Dan and I visited, it seemed like the only other people in the bar were locals. Since the distillery is tucked away in an industrial area it is often missed by tourists. But let me tell you, this little gem is well worth the drive and if you love cocktails as much as we do – you can’t miss it!
Blake Brewhouse and Distillery, on the other hand, is a large venue located right in the heart of Canmore. This place is actually a restaurant and brewery AND distillery all in one. I love their huge outdoor seating area with stunning views. It lacks that ‘small-town distillery vibe’ that you get at Wild Life, but they do have a full food menu which is delicious.
If you don’t mind traveling a little further, I feel like I would be doing you a disservice by not mentioning our favorite distillery in Banff. Park Distillery makes seriously good cocktails and serves delicious food. We stop in nearly everytime we are in Banff and both order the Sawback, a spicy cocktail made with their own chilli vodka. The chicken sandwich is also worth a special mention.
16. Visit the Canmore Hoodoos
Did you know that Canmore has its own hoodoos? You can actually see them right from the highway (if you look closely), but for a better look, you should walk right up to them.
Drive up to Benchlands Terrace and park at the end of the residential street there. From here, you’ll see the trail and hoodoos. The view is awesome and very little hiking is required!
17. Eat some of the BEST food
Although a small town, there is no shortage of amazing places to eat in Canmore. Although tricky, we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites below:
Table Food +Drink
Tabe Food + Drink is a contemporary restaurant and bar located in the Canmore Coast Hotel. Now I know what you’re think, a hotel restaurant? Well, this restaurant is actually incredible and we’ve been there multiple times. They serve everything from charcuterie to steak to local specialties like pasta from Canmore Pasta Co!
This is a restaurant in Canmore that’s famous for its incredible weekly specials that are loved by tourists and locals alike. In fact, the restaurant prides itself on its loyal local customers who visit on a regular basis.
We were lucky enough to visit Table Food + Drink on a Tuesday one time which is their famous roast chicken night! For only $39 CAD we got a whole roast chicken served with tons of sides – more than enough for the both of us. On other nights of the week, they also have different specials that you can find on their website.
This place is honestly delicious and so affordable we couldn’t resist including it as one of our favorite things to do in Canmore, and believe us, once you go for yourself, you’ll see what I mean.
Our favorite pub in Canmore is The Drake! It is cheap, lively, and serves delicious food. They often have live music, and the vibrant atmosphere really makes it a fun place to eat a meal in a chilled-out environment.
But to me, the best time to visit The Drake is during happy hour (3 pm to 7 pm) when you can get a pint of local craft beer for only $4.50 CAD! The Drake also has daily food deals such as wing Wednesday, where 1 lb of wings will only set you back $5!
The Drake has a huge outdoor patio as well as a large indoor seating area. It is located right in downtown Canmore and is one place I highly recommend you check out.
Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.
The best bagels in Canada are served up fresh in Canmore (according to my “expert” opinion, anyways.) Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. is my go-to breakfast spot when I’m craving a breakfast bagel. In fact, it’s so popular that they have two locations in Canmore. The first is on 8 Street in the center of town and the other is on Railway Ave.
My favorite bagel is the greek breakfast bagel but they have a huge selection to choose from. You can also buy bagels by the half or full dozen to have later. Regardless, make at least one breakfast or lunch stop at Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.!
You didn’t think we’d write a section about the best food in Canmore without mentioning somewhere to go for dessert, did you? After a long day of hiking, you should definitely reward yourself with something sweet – and a Beaver Tail is just that! As odd as it may seem, in Canmore a “Beaver Tail” isn’t made from the animal at all and is actually more of a donut-style sweet treat.
The pastry is flat and shaped like, you guessed it, a beaver tail! Then, you can choose any spread and toppings you’d like including candy, chocolate, peanut butter, Nutella, ice cream, and pretty much anything you can think of!
You can find the Beaver Tail shop right downtown. Expect to pay about $7 CAD for one, and they are quite large so Dan and I usually just share one.
The only activity as popular as hiking in Canmore is bicycling. With a bike you can explore a system of seemingly endless trails in and around Canmore. There are a lot of great places to go, ranging from beginner-friendly to more technically challenging routes.
If you don’t know where to start, then I recommend heading to the Nordic Centre. They have plenty of mountain biking trails – over 100 kilometers (62 miles) of trails to be exact! Once you get there, you can purchase a detailed trail map for only $2 CAD.
If you don’t have your own bike, you can get one in town for approximately $40 CAD/day. There are plenty of gear rental shops all around Canmore that can help you out.
If mountain biking is a little too extreme for you, consider going on a leisurely bicycle ride on a paved path instead. The Banff Legacy Trail is a great option to do just that. This trail connects Canmore and Banff together, so you can go for an adventure and enjoy exploring both of these amazing communities.
The trail itself is 22.3 km/13.9 mi long (one way) and includes both paved pathways and park trails. There are plenty of picnic areas, rest stops, and amazing viewpoints along the way. There is only 30m of elevation, so it is relatively flat and easy to cycle.
Hot Tip: If you only want to cycle the trail one way, you can catch the public bus back from Banff to Canmore. These buses all have bike racks for exactly this reason!
For something a little different, consider booking this highly rate e-bike tour around Canmore.The tour lasts about 3 hours and takes you on a 15 km (9 mile) trip around the area. The entire bike ride is picturesque from start to finish, with some of the most beautiful nature views you can imagine.
While you do travel a long distance, the ride is mostly flat and the e-bikes help power your journey, making the bike ride more about enjoying the scenery than having your thighs burn. Along the way, you’ll see a truly stunning mountain backdrop and will spend time biking along the clear Bow River. You’ll then cross Engine Bridge which was originally built in 1891 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to serve the coal mine.
You will travel in small groups of 2-7 bikers. The cost for the tour is $122 CAD per person and includes a guide to take you, the e-bike, and helmet rental.
This tour does book up in the summer months, and you have up to 24 hours before the tour to cancel if you need to, so we recommend booking in advance online here!
19. Explore the Kananaskis
If you’re up for a bit of a road trip, head out and explore Kananaskis Country. This is a region of Alberta that encompasses a whole bunch of parks – more than 10, to be exact. There are provincial parks like the amazing Bow Valley Provincial Park, wildland parks, ecological reserves, and a ton of provincial recreation areas. It’s a beautiful region and worth exploring!
To get there, head to Highway 40 out of Canmore. Some attractions are closer than others, but there is plenty to explore. In fact, Grassi Lakes and Blackshale Suspension Bridge are both technically located in the Kananaskis.
Some of my favorites attractions in the Kananaskis (that I haven’t mentioned yet in this blog) include:
- Upper and Lower Lake – Located in the heart of Kananaskis and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park are these two stunning blue lakes. They are a popular spot as a lot of camping locations, trails and activities are close by. You can also hike around Upper Lake, which is a nice easy trail. But if you want just to see the lakes and surrounding mountains, you can simply just drive right up to them.
- Troll Falls – The Troll Falls hike is one of the easiest and most family-friendly hikes in the area, which means it is crazy popular and well-marked. The hike itself is only 1.7 km (1 mile) and towards the end, you will come across the highlight of the walk, Troll Falls Waterfall. The huge rock wall has an impressive waterfall flowing down it which often freezes in winter, which is a dramatic sight.
- Kananaskis Nordic Spa – If you’re not into hiking, consider visiting the Kananaskis Nordic Spa – a beautiful day spa set in one of the most idyllic locations. Here, you’ll find various different pools, saunas, and spa treatments with hydrotherapy sessions being the most popular. With a hydrotherapy session, you get to visit all of the different hot pools and enjoy the views of the mountains for hours on end! Prices start at $149 CAD per person for their basic hot pools (hydrotherapy) sessions. You can get in for slightly cheaper from Tuesday-Thursday.
Note: It is now required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to explore this region. The pass costs $15 CAD per vehicle for a day, or opt for the annual pass for $90 CAD that covers two vehicles. You must purchase the pass online beforehand or at the visitor center before you park at any attractions.
20. Go whitewater rafting
Like many of the mountain towns around Alberta, whitewater rafting is one of the best things to do in Canmore! It’s fun, exciting, and scenic – what more could you ask for?!
This whitewater rafting tour will have you splashing through rapids. It is suitable for the whole family, but do be warned that you will get wet and probably let out a couple of screams. We actually did this tour with some friends this past summer and had a blast!
The tour started in the afternoon and went for a total of 4 hours, with 2 hours spent on the water. We got a quick safety briefing before heading to the rapids.
Even though the rapids were less intense than normal (thanks to the water levels), our guide made it as extreme as possible, and we can personally recommend the tour. We ended the tour with a river swim!
The tour costs $130 CAD per person and departs from a meeting point about a 25-minute drive from Canmore. It is available in the summer from mid-May until mid-September. You can book the tour online in advance here to secure your spot (it is a popular tour and sometimes fully books in the summer!)
Related Read: There are also lots of great whitewater rafting tours in Jasper, Alberta!
21. Hike Grotto Canyon
Grotto Canyon Trail is another popular hike near Canmore. It is an 4.2-kilometer (2.6-mile) return trail that is fairly easy as it only gains about 200 meters (656 ft) in elevation. Along the hike, you’ll see a waterfall, the Grotto Canyon, as well as a cave (if you tackle the scramble up to it!)
In the winter, Grotto Canyon turns into a winter wonderland with frozen waterfalls and ice that covers the entire canyon floor in some places. Personally, I think that the best time to hike Grotto Canyon is actually in the winter. In the summer, there are other hikes around Canmore that I would recommend over Grotto. But in the winter, it really is something special as you navigate through the frozen canyon.
You can explore the canyon on your own, but there is also this Grotto Canyon ice walk tour you can do! I highly recommend this tour if you’re visiting in winter. First of all, the tour supplies crampon/ice cleats which are 100% needed. Second of all, there are some really neat pictographs along the trail that you will most definitely miss without the help of your guide.
For those who aren’t keen on hiking, at Grotto Canyon trailhead is at a large lake (Grotto Mountain Lake) that is popular for fishing (in the summer, of course!) Drop a line in here for a chance to catch some trout!
You can find the lake or the trailhead for the Grotto Canyon hike on Google maps and it is about a 15-minute drive from Canmore.
Note: Be sure to have the correct fishing license before you fish, or you’ll risk a fine!
22. Go horseback riding at Boundary Ranch
Boundary Ranch is one of the most popular places in Canada for horseback riding! Its beautiful landscape up the mountain ridge has views over the whole of Kananaskis Valley. And the best part is that this ranch is located only a 35-minute drive from Canmore!
Boundary Ranch is great for all abilities and they even have ponies for children to ride so you can enjoy the experience as a whole family. The Ridge Ride is the most popular route to take as you ride the mountain ridge above the Kananaskis. The views of the entire valley were breathtaking and I loved that I got a break from walking! This tour takes 2 hours and starts at $131 CAD and you can book it online here.
If you think the Ridge Ride seems a bit long for you, you can book either the Lodgepole Loop or the Buffalo Loop.
The Lodgepole Loop takes roughly 1.5 hours. The tour starts from $104 CAD and takes you through the aspen forest on horseback. Once you reach the top of the ridge you head down past the lodgepoles pines to the ranch’s herd of buffalo. You can book the Lodgepole Loop ride online here.
For a shorter trail, you can take this 1 hour horseback ride around the Buffalo Loop. This is the best option if you are planning on horseback riding with children as this trek is suitable for ponies as well! You’ll ride past the buffalo paddock and through the forest where you might spot marmots, deer, or elk. This short ride is also the cheapest at $72 CAD per person. You can book the Buffalo Loop online here.
23. Visit the Canmore Museum
Located right downtown is the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Center. I know what you’re thinking, you’ve come all the way to Canmore to enjoy the great outdoors and the last thing you want to do is visit a museum. Well, while this may be true, you might not always have ideal weather and this is a great activity to do if you’re stuck indoors on a rainy or very cold winter day!
The museum features over 10,000 artifacts representing Canmore’s history, including the railway, mining, and community development. Admission is only $5 CAD for an adult and children under 4 are free with family rates available too.
There are often rotating exhibits and events on too, so be sure to check their website for the current museum schedule including daily public opening hours.
24. Visit the Canmore Mountain Market
Who doesn’t love a good local market?! Luckily for us, the last time we were in Canmore we happened to be there on a Thursday when the weekly Canmore Mountain Market is on.
The Canmore Mountain Market is an outdoor pop-up market featuring locally sourced produce; handcrafted gifts such as clothing and crafts; locally made products including food, meat, sauces, soaps, and of course, lots of food trucks!
The Canmore Mountain Market is normally open each Spring on Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm and continues until October. Check their website for the latest details regarding opening times.
If you are visiting Canmore on a Wednesday and will miss the Thursday Canmore Moutain Market, you can head to Banff to visit the Banff Farmer’s Market instead. Every Wednesday from May to the beginning of October (10 am to 6 pm) there is a Farmers Market in Banff Central Park. Here you can buy fresh fruit and produce, but also many other unique crafts and handmade gifts.
25. Day trip to Banff town
With so many amazing things to do in Banff, it’s no wonder that a day trip to this cute town is a must-do while you’re visiting Canmore. From downtown Canmore, you can reach downtown Banff in about 20 minutes.
Hotels in Banff are generally more expensive than those in Canmore, and for that reason, it makes sense to stay in Canmore and just day trip to Banff as needed.
The downtown areaof Banff is very quaint and there are many awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. With the mountains as the backdrop to Banff Ave, it’s a beautiful place to base yourself in Banff National Park.
Many visitors base themselves here for a ski holiday due to the fact that you have great access to Sunshine and Norquay – both are within a 15-minute drive of town. Plus, when you’re done on the slopes, you can enjoy all that Banff has to offer including some Apres Ski drinks at a couple of the breweries in Banff.
Banff is more than just a ski town though, and regardless of the season you visit, Banff town is an amazing place with plenty to do. Some of the best things to do in Banff include:
- Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs – Just a short 5-minute drive up Sulphur Mountain you’ll find the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a public hot spring with incredible mountain views! The hot springs are easy to get to and very affordable. At only $9.25 CAD per adult and $29.00 for a family, even those on a tight budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions. (It’s even a great activity to do in Banff when it’s raining).
- Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain – The Banff Gondola is possibly the singular most popular thing to do in Banff – and for good reason! From the top of the Banff Gondola, the views of the mountains and Banff town are out of this world. The first time I rode the gondola was during my first Christmas in Banff and I loved it! At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe, a gift shop, lots of information on the area and wildlife, as well as my personal favorite, the boardwalk! Book your Banff Gondola tickets online here!
- Go on a canoe ride – Get out on the water and experience Banff from a whole new perspective in a large canoe. On this canoe tour you’ll paddle in the Bow River, tasking in stunning mountain vistas along the way. The ride is a nice short tour at 1.5 hours long and costs only $70 CAD per person. A guide and all safety equipment is included.
- Check out the Bow Falls Lookout – The Bow River is a stunning river that runs through the heart of Banff. Turquoise in color, it is nothing short of picture-perfect. A short 1.5km scenic walk from Banff town (or drive) you’ll come to the Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s edge. Here, not only will you see the river, but also the Bow River Waterfall!
- Cave and Basin National Historic Site – Another great place to visit in Banff is Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail. The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.
Important info: You’ll also need a Parks Canada pass to visit both Banff and Lake Louise. These passes can be bought from a booth on the road as you enter Banff National Park. Expect to pay about $10 CAD per person per day or $20 for a family pass that covers up to 7 people in one vehicle.
26. Cruise on Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is a beautiful lake located near Banff, about a 30-minute drive from Canmore. It is a popular lake to visit, and one of the top things to do is take a scenic cruise around the lake in the summer months. The cruise lasts about an hour, and on it, you’ll relax and take in the scenery while listening to your guide’s commentary.
You’ll learn all about the history of the area, and it is actually very interesting. The best part is the cruise is actually really affordable at only $66 CAD per person. It is one of the most popular summer activities in Banff, so it does fully book. You should book your spot on it online in advance here.
The cruise isn’t the only thing to do at Lake Minnewanka, though. There are great day-use areas with picnic tables and even firepits, too, in addition to hiking trails (Stewart Canyon is a fun short hike!).
The winter is a good time to visit, as well! The lake freezes, so naturally you can’t go on a cruise, but you can go skating right on the lake and enjoy the magical winter wonderland.
As popular as Lake Minnewanka is, many tourists often miss it. When we lived in Canmore and had visitors, we would often take them here. It’s a fun day out and there are plenty of things to do. Plus, the drive to Lake Minnewanka is super scenic too! Be sure to stop at Two Jack Lake, too.
27. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
Although not technically in Canmore, the start of the Bow Valley Parkway is only a short 20-minute drive away and is definitely a worthwhile short road trip.
The Bow Valley Parkway is one of the most scenic drives in Canada – if not the entire world! It is a 50-kilometer-long stretch of road between Banff and Lake Louise. You can drive the road just enjoying the amazing mountain and lake views right from your window or stop at one of the many different viewpoints or hikes.
One of my personal favorite places to go on the Bow Valley Parkway is Johnston Canyon. This walk takes you along the edge of a beautiful canyon with views of waterfalls. In the summer, expect flowing water and lush greenery, but in the winter, expect a winter paradise!
You have two options when it comes to hiking Johnston Canyon. You can either hike just to the Lower Falls and then turn around or continue to the Upper Falls. The hike to the Upper Falls adds an extra 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) to your hike. How far you go will depend on how much time you have to spare, as both trails are fairly flat and easy.
If you are visiting in the winter, we recommend booking this guided ice walk tour. The tour includes all safety gear, like crampons which are necessary. You’ll get to actually walk in the frozen canyon, exploring frozen waterfalls and ice caves – so amazing!
Morant’s Curve is another great quick stop along the drive! It is simply a viewpoint, but the view is stunning, and if you get lucky, you might even see a train drive by.
Morant’s Curve was made famous by Nicholas Morant, a photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was hired to photograph some of the first promotional material for the railway, and this became his iconic shot. Morant’s Curve has been a classic photo stop since the mid-20th century!
Morant’s curve is only 10 minutes from Lake Louise on your way toward Banff and Canmore. This is the perfect spot to take a break and enjoy the beauty of the area. You might even get lucky and spot some wildlife!
Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2023). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17km/11mi stretch of road from the TransCanada-Highway junction to Johnston Canyon, it will be restricted to cyclists’ use only. This is the eastern part of the road that is affected if you’re traveling to Johnston Canyon from Banff. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.
28. Visit Lake Louise (and Moraine Lake!)
Lake Louise is only a 50-minute drive from Canmore. Lake Louise is easily one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Canada and definitely a place you should make time to visit.
Along the drive to Lake Louise, you can actually take the Bow Valley Parkway (mentioned above) for one really scenic drive. My best advice is to plan this for a clear day when the clouds won’t obstruct your view of the mountains.
Once at Lake Louise, there are lots of different things you can do including hikes. My personal favorite is the hike to Lake Agnes Tea House; it’s absolutely stunning! If you aren’t a hiker, don’t worry, just head to the lake foreshore and grab a bite to eat or something to drink from one of the Fairmont’s lakeside restaurants – some of the best restaurants in Lake Louise! Enjoying a meal with a view like this is an especially memorable experience.
Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $12.25 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise lakefront (2022 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.
Located just a short 15-minute drive from Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is the perfect stop add-on to your day trip to Lake Louise. There are lots of things to do at Moraine Lake including a huge range of hikes (like the Larch Valley Trail or Consolation Lakes) as well as other activities like kayaking.
Few destinations in Canada are as famous as Moraine Lake – it is often referred to as the most photographed lake in all of Canada. And to be honest, after visiting for myself, I can see why. This lake is bright blue in color and behind it sits the towering Ten Peaks as the most beautiful background you could ever imagine.
One thing to know about visiting Moraine Lake is that it is only open during the summer months (generally May/June to October depending on the weather and snowfall.)
The only problem with visiting is that parking at Moraine Lake is impossible – literally! The Moraine Lake Road and parking lot are now only for shuttles, tour buses, and anyone with a disability parking permit. Parking here was a nightmare before, but you’ll definitely need to look into alternatives to parking at Moraine Lake including booking a tour from Banff or getting a spot on the Parks Canada shuttle.
Actually, up until just recently, there were only tours available from Banff to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. But now, you can book this specific transfer from Canmore. That’s right, no driving is required at all! For $125 CAD per person, your tour guise and driver, Josh, will take you to both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise before returning to Canmore. It’s the first tour of this kind and really convenient, seeing as how difficult (and impossible!) parking is to get these days.
Regardless of how you get there, you should try to make the day trip from Canmore to Lake Moraine. We might be biased since Moraine Lake will always hold a special place in our hearts – it’s where we got engaged! But seriously, this place is so romantic that it should be included in any Banff or Lake Louise honeymoon itinerary.
Want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise?
The only way to visit this year (since the road has closed to personal vehicles) is to go on this organized tour. The tour begins at 4 am in Banff, and because they are a licensed tour operator, they can access Moraine Lake for sunrise. The tour costs $220 CAD and includes not only a visit to Moraine Lake with hot chocolate and coffee to enjoy, but also an early morning visit to Lake Louise. That means you can visit two of the busiest lakes in Canada without the crowds or the stress of parking/ shuttles. You can book the tour here with free cancelation up to 24 hours before.
29. Go ice skating
Winter in Canmore provides a great opportunity to go ice skating. Around Canmore, there are a few places to go ice skating that include rinks set up by the town of Canmore. These include Rundle Crescent Ice Surface, Larch Outdoor Ice Rink, and the Pond Natural Ice Surface. These are maintained by the town, so the ice is really smooth.
However, for a more Canadian experience, why not head out to a frozen lake to skate! During my last visit to Canmore, we went ice skating on Gap Lake, Lake Louise, and Vermilion Lakes. Out of the three, the only one that is maintained is Lake Louise, and the others are “wild” ice skating lakes. This means they can be covered in snow and you need to make sure the ice is thick enough (usually by mid-December.)
The best part about ice skating is it’s completely free, providing you have your own skates. If you don’t, you can rent them in town at Gear Up and even some of the ice rinks.
Related Read: Ice skating is one of the best activities in Canmore in December – if you’re visiting during the holiday period read our blog for more info!
30. Spot wildlife
The Rocky Mountains are known as bear country, being home to both black bears and grizzlies. But that is just scratching the surface – the area is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including moose, bighorn sheep, foxes, cougars, elk, coyotes, lynx, mountain goats, wolves, and more.
Spotting wildlife can be tricky, though. If you don’t know where to look or what to look for, you’re almost guaranteed to miss out. Not to mention, the idea of seeing a bear in the wild can be quite daunting.
That’s why wildlife tours are great! Experts know where wildlife hang out, and they also know the proper safety precautions to take. This private half-day wildlife safari tour is a fantastic option in Canmore!
The tour leaves at 9 am from the Canmore Recreation Centre so be sure to arrive early. You will spend 2.5 hours on a safari drive through the Rocky Mountains where your guide will point out animals along the way.
You will also enjoy a 1.5-hour nature walk tracking some of the stunning wildlife in the area. The walk is fairly easy and suitable for families. It is more geared towards the scenery than heart-pumping exercise. You will be provided with hiking poles and, if needed, ice cleats to go over your shoes.
You have up to 24 hours ahead of time to cancel when booking and this tour is private, meaning only your group will participate and the price varies based on the size of your group. If there are two people in your group, prices are $325 CAD each. This price continues to drop the more people you bring; if you book for a group of 5-6 people, the price moves to $175 CAD each.
You can check availability and book your wildlife safari here.
Related Read: Can’t get enough of the wildlife? Plan to stay in nearby Banff National Park and take in a wildlife tour to catch a glimpse of the must-see animals who live around Banff!
31. Check out the local cafes
There are some really great coffee shops in Canmore. So many, in fact that it was hard for me to choose my favorite to mention in this blog.
Good Earth Coffeehouse is a local Canadian coffee shop that started in Calgary and now has over 40 locations across Western Canada – including one on Main Street in Canmore! They serve a variety of drinks and food made with fresh local ingredients.
With that said, I also love Comunitea! It’s a local business with some heart in Canmore! They are committed to providing delicious and nutritious food to the community and support TreeEra which plants trees to support environmental conservation, which is such a good cause!
You absolutely must check out Communitea for lunch, and I highly, highly recommend the Pad Thai – it is the best Pad Thai I’ve had outside of Thailand! If you’re looking for a refreshing drink, the green tea and mint iced tea is my favorite!
If you’re somebody who prefers baked goods with their coffee, then do yourself a favor and visit Le Fournil Bakery. This Canmore coffee shop has a small offering but with a fresh French style. They bring a wide variety of delectable goodies to the table. If you’re craving some nice bread or even a French-style sandwich, this is the cafe to visit!
Although I love the savory options that include authentic croissants, the sweet treats steal the show here. They almost look too good to eat and are rich in flavor, unlike anything else I have seen (or tasted) before. But get here early, they sell out of lots of their baked goods within a couple of hours of opening each morning.
32. Ride in a helicopter
Ready for an epic adventure in an epic location? A helicopter ride is simply the best way to experience the dramatic scenery of the mountains in and around Canmore. Alpine Helicopters in Canmore offers a variety of scenic helicopter tours in the area. Choose your destination and length of flight, and off you go!
This once-in-a-lifetime experience isn’t cheap and starts at around $200 CAD per person. However, this is one Canmore bucket-list activity! I truly believe everybody should ride in a helicopter at least once in their life, and Canmore is the perfect place to do it.
33. Drive the Icefields Parkway
Rated as one of the top 10 most scenic drives in the world by National Geographic, the Icefields Parkway is a 230-kilometer-long stretch of highway that connects Lake Louise with Jasper. Along this drive, you’ll be met with towering mountains, tons of waterfalls, and even the Columbia Icefield!
Although the drive really should only take around 3 hours, I would give yourself an entire day in order to stop as much as you’d like! Use our Icefields Parkway itinerary to plan your epic one-day adventure. Some of our very favorite attractions include:
- Peyto Lake – Only a short 10-minute walk will take you from the parking lot to a viewpoint over the bright-blue Peyto Lake. The panoramic views here are truly stunning.
- Athabasca Glacier – There are a couple of different ways to experience Athabasca Glacier but the only way to see it up close is on a guided tour so that you can actually walk on the glacier! This guided glacier tour departs from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center (a large building located just across the road from the glacier) and actually drives up and onto the glacier itself in a specially adapted ice-explorer vehicle (see the photo above.) You will be able to hop out and walk around on the Athabasca Glacier and take some photos. Afterward, they take you to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, which is a huge glass-floored viewing platform that hangs weightlessly in the valley. Honestly, the views from it are unbeatable! Book this tour of the Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk online here!
- Mistaya Canyon – Mistaya Canyon is located a little way further down the Icefields Parkway about 80 kilometers from Lake Louise. From the Mistaya parking lot, it is a 0.5 kilometer-long walk to the canyon. The walk is all downhill on the way there and it ends at a viewpoint overlooking the canyon. The canyon is beautiful and it really showcases the power of water as it rushes down the Mistaya River.
The drive starts about an hour from Canmore; it’s the perfect route to travel if you want to make your way from Banff to Jasper.
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 (Table Food + Drink.)
Coast Canmore Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Canmore walking distance from 8 Street (Main Street in Canmore), and just across the road from the Canmore Shops where you have a selection of restaurants, cafes, and takeaway 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, Rex.)
You can book this hotel directly on their website or 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.
You can book Canmore Downtown Hostel on Booking.com or Hostelworld.
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.
Check prices and availability for all hotels in Canmore here!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glaicer, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
- Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $9 CAD and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $25 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Thanks for reading!
I hope this blog on the best things to do in Canmore, Alberta has helped you plan your visit to the area! If you have any questions, please leave them below so we can get back to you.
Be sure to also check out the rest of our Canada-related blog articles and some of our most popular below:
Banff Honeymoon Planning Guide
30 EPIC Things to do in Jasper
Sunday 28th of August 2022
Saw the historic engine bridge today with my family It was breathtaking Thank you for the suggestion!!