25 Things to do in Canmore in Winter
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Canmore is one of Canada’s best winter destinations. Located on the edge of Banff National Park and Kananaskis country, there’s no shortage of fun and exciting things to do in Canmore in the winter months.
But besides the great outdoors, the bustling town’s streets are filled with cute cafes, gourmet restaurants, and of course, boutique shops which make escaping the cold possible too. After a day of winter hiking or hitting the slopes, hanging out fireside with a cold beer or delicious meal is perfect!
But not all of the best winter activities in Canmore are super obvious.
It took me a few different trips to Canmore and lots of researching to find some of the best things to do in Canmore in the winter that many people don’t even know about!
If you’re planning to visit Canmore this winter, then you’re in luck. In this blog, I’ve outlined 25 different things to do in Canmore in winter. Some of the items I’ve included are common activities and attractions, and some are a little more unique. But I’m sure that you’ll definitely be able to keep busy and have an enjoyable time!
Things to do in Canmore in the Winter
1. Hit the slopes
Canmore is the perfect place to base yourself for a ski holiday in the Canadian Rockies. With four different ski resorts all located under an hour’s drive away, you have lots of choices for where to go!
The four different places you can go downhill skiing and snowboarding easily from Canmore include Lake Louise Village, Mt Norquay, Sunshine, and my personal favorite, Nakiska!
Nakiska is my top choice for a few reasons with the first being that it isn’t located within Banff National Park. This means that you don’t need a Parks Canada Pass to visit (with the others you do) and it’s generally less busy. No traffic to get there, no struggle for parking, just a beautiful leisurely 35-minute drive from Canmore through the Kananaskis and right to Nakiska!
Besides all that, Nakiska offers some incredible mountain views from their chairlifts and mountain lodges. There are 79 different marked runs, four chair lifts, two magic carpets, and a tube park!
Ski and snowboard passes are reasonably priced starting as low as $89 CAD per day for adults with discounted child rates and multi-day passes available. You can also take lessons at Nakiska or rent gear if needed!
2. Grotto Canyon ice walk
Grotto Canyon is one of the best easy hikes in Canmore. But truth be told, I think it is a hike that is best hiked in the winter months! It’s one of those hikes that is just way more beautiful in the winter, and therefore, is worthy of its title as one of the best things to do in Canmore in winter!
Grotto Canyon is a 4 kilometer long (2.5 miles) out and back hiking trail that starts at Grotto Pond just 10-minutes outside of Canmore. It’s a fairly flat trail that only gains just over 200 meters in elevation.
The beginning of the trail is an ascent to a viewpoint over the canyon and valley before you descend into the canyon. From here on out, you walk within the canyon itself sliding on the frozen creek!
Eventually, you’ll come to a couple of frozen waterfalls. To me, this is the highlight of the trail in winter – it’s so pretty!
Hot tip: Walking Grotto Canyon in the winter can be very slippery. You should wear crampons or mini-ice spikes. You can rent these in Canmore from one of the sports shops. Alternatively, you can always just book a guided tour that comes with all your gear included!
3. Cross country skiing
Canmore is world-famous for its Nordic Centre where some of Canada’s best cross country ski trails are located.
The Nordic Centre in Canmore was actually where cross country ski events were held for the 1988 Olympic Games, and since then, they’ve maintained the facility for recreational and training uses. That’s right, you can go cross country skiing here and maybe even see some professionals practicing for the next Olympic games too!
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.
Cross Country skiing at the Canmore 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 $18 CAD for an adult! But don’t worry if you need to rent gear, you can at the Nordic Centre too.
4. Drive the Bow Valley Parkway
Scenic drives are one of my personal favorite winter activities. Sometimes, I get really tired of the cold and want to enjoy scenic views in the warmth and comfort of my car. The Bow Valley Parkway scenic drive is just that – beautiful views while staying warm and cozy in your car!
The Bow Valley Parkway is 48 kilometers long (30 miles) and starts about 35 minutes from Canmore. Along the way, there are tons of viewpoints including Morant’s Curve and Castle Mountain. The road goes all the way to Lake Louise which is worthwhile checking out too (more on Lake Louise further on in this blog.)
Johnston Canyon is also located on the Bow Valley Parkway and it’s definitely a place you’ll want to explore in the winter months…
5. Walk Johnston Canyon
While you’re driving the Bow Valley Parkway, you might as well head to Johnston Canyon! The canyon is explored via a short hiking trail that leads to lower and upper falls. It’s a short 1.2-kilometer-long walk to the first falls and another 1.3 kilometers to the upper falls. In the winter months, Johnston Canyon turns into a winter wonderland with frozen falls, icicles everywhere, and incredibly beautiful scenery.
Like Grotto Canyon, you’ll need crampons to safely complete Johnston Canyon in the winter. Guided tours are also available that include this gear.
From Canmore, it is a 45-minute drive to Johnston Canyon. Allow a couple of hours to complete the trail, and then consider continuing to drive along the Bow Valley Parkway all the way to Lake Louise before returning. This makes for a really fun and scenic day trip!
6. Day trip to Lake Louise
Lake Louise is located at the very end of the Bow Valley Parkway, or about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Canmore. In the winter months, a trip to Lake Louise from Canmore is a must because here you’ll find one of Canada’s most famous winter scenes – the frozen lake and the Chateau Fairmont Lake Louise (that really looks like a castle!)
There are lots of different things you can do at Lake Louise. Head into the Fairmont for a bite to eat or a coffee with a view. You can also walk one of the many trails including the Lake Agnes Tea House Hike, or for a bit of excitement, go ice skating on the iconic Lake Louise itself! Ice skating is free to do at Lake Louise but you will need to bring your own skates (or rent some there.)
From Canmore, it will take you about an hour to drive to Lake Louise. Although a little far, Lake Louise is amazing in the winter, and visiting from Canmore is something I highly suggest!
Hot tip: Keep in mind that parking can sometimes be a challenge at Lake Louise. To avoid not finding a parking spot, be sure to visit during the weekdays, or early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
7. Go shopping on main street
8th Street is considered “Main Street” in Canmore and it’s full of unique stores to shop! Here, you can find everything from art to clothing to candy. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours and buy some things for souvenirs or just to treat yourself.
Personally, I never miss stopping at one of the candy stores when I visit Canmore. I always pick up some fudge to bring home with me!
Plus, most of the stores on 8th Street are small locally owned businesses. You can feel good about shopping locally in Canmore!
8. Visit the Kananaskis Nordic Spa
Nestled in the heart of the Kananaskis, Kananaskis Nordic Spa is famous for luxury and relaxation. Here, you’ll find various different pools, saunas, and spa treatments with their 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!
This spa is very popular in the winter months and it’s important that you book well in advance to secure your spot. Also, this type of luxury doesn’t come cheap and prices start from $119 CAD per person for their basic hot pools (hydrotherapy) sessions.
Kananaskis Nordic Spa is located 35 minutes from Canmore. It is right in Kananaskis Village only a couple of minutes from Nakiska Ski Area. So if you plan it right, you could have a morning ski and then relax at the spa right after!
9. Drink local craft beer
One of my favorite things to do in Canmore is to drink the local craft beer. There are a couple of really outstanding breweries in Canmore that keep me coming back for more.
Grizzly Paw and Canmore Brewing Co are the two local breweries in town and they both serve incredible craft beer. Pop into their taprooms to relax with a pint or two, or grab a couple of packs to go. Tank310 is the restaurant operated by Grizzly Paw and it makes for a nice place to enjoy a meal and beer!
Alternatively, Canmore Brewing is located just off Railway Ave and serves pub-style snacks, and Grizzly Paw on the main street has delicious burgers (and an outdoor patio complete with heaters perfect for winter!)
10. Cozy up by a fire with mountain views
I highly recommend booking a nice place to stay when you’re visiting Canmore this winter. Somewhere with a fireplace and mountain views is a must in my books! This way, after a long day of exploring in the cold winter weather, you can come back to your accommodation and heat up next to a fire with a glass of wine and a snowy mountain view – it’s perfect!
Alternatively, there are lots of Airbnb’s available in Canmore, and most are beautiful apartments!
11. Relax at Banff Upper Hot Springs
While we’re on the topic of relaxing and cozying up, why not visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs?! Although located in Banff, the Banff Upper Hot Springs are only a short 20-minute drive from Canmore and easily one of the best places to visit in the winter months.
The Banff Upper Hot Springs offer incredible views from their outdoor hot pool. You can warm up and enjoy the view at the same time!
It’s not only beautiful but also cheap, costing only $8.30 CAD per adult with discounted child and family rated available too! The pools are open daily from 9 am to 10 pm in the winter months. They also can be very busy, so I recommend visiting one hour before they close in the evenings to have the most relaxing visit. At this time of day, I normally find it to be the quietest.
12. Try 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 and Mad Dogs Expedition are just two of the companies operating in this area and they both have a selection of experiences on offer. Most people choose a 2-hour ride that includes lots of photos and fun with the sled dogs. Expect to pay around $230 CAD for this tour though, but it’s totally worth the money for this once in a lifetime bucket list experience!
Dog sledding is one of those things that can only be done in the winter months in Canada typically from December to April. However, the season can start and end at different times depending on the snowfall each year.
13. Go snowshoeing
Snowshoeing is one way to turn ordinary hiking into a lot more fun! With snowshoes, you can explore trails that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to in Canmore during the winter months.
You can rent snowshoes and explore trails on your own in places like the Nordic Center. However, if you don’t have experience hiking in the winter with snowshoes, then it is best to go on a guided tour if you want to access any other remote trails. Hiking in deep snow can be dangerous especially for those who don’t know the area!
Snowshoe rentals start at $27 per hour at Gear Up Sport in Canmore (for both snowshoes and boots.) A guided half-day tour will run you about $115 CAD.
14. Lake (wild) ice skating
My absolute favorite thing to do in Canmore in the winter is wild ice skating (or skating on a frozen lake!) Going skating is just plain fun, but on one of Canmore’s frozen lakes, it’s even better! The thrill of being on a frozen lake mixed with incredible mountain views make this a must-do Canmore winter activity.
There are a few different lakes you can go skating on in and around Canmore. The first is the Canmore Pond which is located right in Canmore on 7th Avenue at Mallard Alley. The ice here is actually maintained daily by Alberta Parks and there are even floodlights installed for skating after dark.
For something a little more natural, head out to Gap Lake. Gap Lake is located about a 10-minute drive from Canmore near Grotto Canyon. This lake is not maintained for ice skating, but that’s not to say you can’t do it. The wind often blows all the snow off this frozen lake making it perfect for skating. Do be aware that it is a little rough to skate one since there is no Zamboni making rounds here.
Vermilion Lakes in Banff is another popular natural ice-skating spot. It’s really beautiful but a little bit further from Canmore than Gap Lake.
Of course, you can always make the drive to Lake Louise and skate there too!
Skating is free everywhere in and around Canmore as long as you have your own skates. Skating is best during the winter months from mid-December to March generally.
Safety note: Skate at your own risk at unmarked and unmonitored frozen lakes such as Vermillion or Gap Lake. I always skate on them but make sure I do it when it’s been cold enough and see other skaters already out on the lake.
15. Breakfast at Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.
Rocky Mountain Bagel Co is my favorite breakfast place in Canmore and a must-visit during any winter holiday. With their delicious warm coffee and bagels, it’s the perfect spot to start your day off right.
Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. is so popular in Canmore that they actually have two different locations. One on 8 Street and one on Railway Ave. Both cafes are warm and inviting, filled with plants and local artwork. It’s one of those places that you go for the food but stay for the ambiance.
The bagels served are delicious. They have a ton of breakfast sandwich-style bagels including my favorite, the Greek one complete with eggs, feta, onions, and spinach! Seriously, it’s so good that my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it!
16. Distillery tour
Does the winter make you want to drink whisky? What about delicious cocktails? Well, in winter in Canmore one of the best places to visit is the local distillery, Wildlife Distillery.
Wildlife Distillery makes a ton of different spirits for you to either buy and take home or try in one of their crafted cocktails at their onsite cocktail bar. Alternatively, you can also join one of their distillery tours and learn all about how they make everything from whisky to vodka!
Wildlife Distillery is located right in Canmore in the industrial area only a 5-minute drive from the main street. They are open daily from 1 pm to 9 pm, but you’ll need to book a distillery tour ahead of time on their website if that’s what you’re interested in!
17. Ice climbing
If you like rock climbing in the summer, then you’ll love ice climbing in the winter! I mean, what’s cooler than climbing up a frozen waterfall with crampons, ropes, and ice axes?!
Well, in Canmore one of the best winter activities is ice climbing! The cold temperatures and many frozen waterfalls make for the perfect combination for this extreme sport. You’ll often see locals out and about climbing on their own, but if you don’t have any experience, then a tour is the only way to go.
Most tours are half-day climbing experiences, but if you want, you can book a full-day or multi-day experience too that’ll really teach you the ropes – quite literally! No experience necessary for these tours and all of your gear is provided!
It’s really one of the more unique things to do in Canmore in winter that I highly recommend!
18. Hike Ha Ling Peak
Ha Ling Peak is my favorite hike in Canmore. Most people think that hiking Ha Ling Peak is a summer-only activity, but they are wrong. During the right conditions in the winter, you can also hike to the summit of Ha Ling Peak!
The trailhead of Ha Ling Peak is located about a 15-minute drive out of Canmore along Smith Dorrien Trail. From here, you start the 4-kilometer-long trail (one way) as you climb over 800 meters in elevation. It’s an out and back trail so you come back down the same way you went up.
The snow does add an extra element of challenge to this hike though. Staying on the trail is easy because it is well marked and so heavily trafficked that you can find it no problem. But it can be slippery and winter weather can make visibility a problem.
I’d say to only attempt hiking Ha Ling Peak if you have winter hiking experience. Be prepared with warm outdoor winter clothing, sturdy boots, crampons, and maybe even an ice ax. Also, plan your day to hike to the weather conditions. Check with the visitor center in Canmore before you go for mountain conditions and hiking tips.
During bad snowstorms, Smith Dorrien Trail road often closes. You’ll need this road access to be open in order to reach the trailhead.
19. Hike to Grassi Lakes
If Ha Ling Peak seems like a little much, consider hiking to Grassi Lakes instead. At only 4 kilometers long there and back, this trail is much shorter. Plus, it only climbs 125 meters in elevation so it’s not overly steep either!
In the winter months, Grassi Lakes becomes a winter paradise. The lakes freeze and it is a stunning winter hike. During the summer months, there are two different trails you can take to hike to Grassi Lakes, but in the winter, the more difficult trail closes for safety reasons.
Like Ha Ling Peak, the Grassi Lakes trailhead is located on Smith Dorrien Trail. This road sometimes closes during bad weather in the winter months, which will restrict your ability to hike to Grassi Lakes. Also, during certain conditions, Alberta Parks also closes Grassi Lakes hiking trail. This isn’t all winter long though so do watch out for signs and closures before starting the hike.
20. Visit the Canmore Museum
Located right in downtown Canmore, the Canmore Museum is the perfect place to escape the cold winter weather for a couple of hours.
In the museum, you’ll find over 10,000 different artifacts all from Canmore’s history. You can learn about building the railway, the mining days, and of course, about the development of Canmore itself. They also feature rotating exhibits too which are often interactive.
The museum is cheap to visit costing only $5 CAD for an adult, with discounted child and senior rates too. Their opening times vary, so check their website for updated hours.
21. Attend the Canmore Winter Carnival
Canmore hosts an annual event called the Canmore Winter Carnival. It’s a weekend-long festival with a variety of activities including ice carving, skating and street hockey, log sawing competitions, and so much more!
The Canmore Winter Carnival is typically held on the last weekend of February, however, the dates do change annually so check their website for more details.
This free event is one of the best things to do in Canmore in the winter.
22. Go fat biking
Fat biking is the newest winter adventure sport, and in Canmore, it’s never been more popular than it is now. With hundreds of bike trails in and around Canmore, it’s no surprise that summer cyclists have now found a way to ride in winter too!
Fat bikes have large tires that to put it simply, are fat. Sometimes up to 4 inches wide! These tires allow for riding on snowy trails where traditional bikes would sink or slip around.
There are several designated fat biking trails in Canmore, with some being easier than others. Head to Rebound Cycle in Canmore to rent your own fat bike and explore for the day. They only charge $75 CAD for a full-day rental.
Hot tip: When you rent the bike ask for advice on the best trails at the moment, the workers will definitely be able to help you out.
23. Winter camping
Did you really experience a Canadian winter if you didn’t go camping?! As a Canadian myself, I can say that camping in the harsh Canadian winter is a must-do!
Right in Canmore, you can camp at Wapiti Campground. This central campground offers powered and unpowered campsites for only $40 and $30 CAD per night. Sites are all first come first serve.
Not only is camping in Canmore in the winter fun, but it’s also a lot more budget-friendly than staying in a hotel!
24. Eat at Tapas Restaurant and Bar
Tapas Restaurant is one of Canmore’s best. Voted as one of the most romantic restaurants in Canmore and Banff, this charming little restaurant is beautiful and serves delicious food.
Their menu is full of tapas or sharing plates made with locally sourced ingredients. They also have an extensive wine menu, or you can bring your own bottle for a corkage fee.
On a cold winter night in Canmore, Tapas is a cozy escape for a delicious meal! Just be sure to reserve a table in advance to avoid missing out!
25. Go tobogganing
No list of the best things to do in winter is complete without tobogganing! So, gear up and grab a sled for some fun sliding down the hills around Canmore.
Most people head to the Nordic Centre to go tobogganing. They have designated tobogganing hills that are actually free to use! Otherwise, there are a few other places you can go tobogganing around Canmore.
Just swing by Canadian Tire and Canmore and pick up a couple of sleds. You can find some for pretty cheap here!
Before you go…
And there you have it, an epic list of 25 different things to do in Canmore in the winter! I hope this list keeps you busy and helps you have the best time possible in Canmore this winter!
Of course, if you have any questions then just comment below so we can get back to you.
Be sure to check out some of our other blogs about Canada including some related articles below:
Have a great time in Canmore!
December 22, 2020