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15 BEST Things to do in the Kananaskis in Winter

15 BEST Things to do in the Kananaskis in Winter

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So, you’re planning a winter vacation to Alberta? Lucky you! It’s one of my favorite parts of Canada, but that’s not just because I’ve lived here most of my life. It’s because its natural beauty in the winter is second to none – think dramatic snow-capped mountain ranges and frozen waterfalls and lakes!

Well, today, I’m here to tell you about a hidden gem winter destination in Alberta. You’ll find it nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies – allow me to introduce you to the Kananaskis, or “K-Country” as locals affectionately call it!

It’s regarded as Alberta’s Mountain Playground, with an abundance of outdoor activities year-round. But, in the winter, it truly shines! Unfortunately, due to its close proximity to big-hitting winter resorts like Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper – it often gets overlooked, which is a real shame, as we actually prefer the off-the-beaten-track, authentic vibe of this region over those more glitzy towns!

As you’ve probably seen in your planning so far, the winter activities in the Kananaskis are endless, so to help you narrow down what to do – we’ve come up with a list of 15 of the top things to do in the Kananaskis in winter!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our absolute favorite things to do in the Kananaskis in winter are:

  1. Go skiing at Nakiska Ski Resort (an Olympic venue!)
  2. Trek through the winter wonderland on a snowshoeing tour
  3. Take a magical Grotto Canyon Icewalk to see frozen waterfalls
  4. Go ice skating on a scenic lake (when the ice is thick enough!) – Spray Lakes Reservoir is our favorite
  5. Stay in the cozy (and remote!) Mount Engadine Lodge where all your meals are included and those mountain views are free!

About the Kananaskis in Winter

Woman at a viewpoint in Canmore in the winter
I hope you love the Kananaskis in winter as much as I do!

Ah, the stunning Kananaskis region – what a place to visit in the winter. You’ll find it just west of Calgary, and it borders both Canmore and Banff – so it’s a great place to base yourself in the winter if you’re keen to explore those tourist hotspots, too! 

If you’re a snow-lover, you’ve come to the right spot, as the Kananaskis region receives abundant snowfall during the winter months (from November to March). The first major snow of the season typically falls in mid-late November, so ski resorts tend to open at the end of November. The average annual snowfall around Nakiska sits is 246 cm (97 inches) of snow per season.

The average temperature in the Kananaskis during the winter is approximately -12°C (10°F). However, it can reach as low as -30°C (-22°F) during a cold spell! 

I will add that you will need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass for your vacation here – you can buy a daily pass, multi-day, or annual pass. This pass is required for all vehicles parked in the park and public 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). 

Alternatively, you can buy a pass in person from the Peter Lougheed Park Discovery and Information Centre, the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre, or many of the other visitor centers in the region.

The BEST Things to do in the Kananaskis in Winter

1. Skiing or snowboarding at Nakiska

Bailey skiing at Nakiska Ski Resort near Canmore, Alberta
Skiing at Nakiska on a bluebird day!
Bailey on the chairlift up to Nakiska near Canmore, Alberta
On the scenic chairlift at Nakiska!

First up on our list of the best things to do in the Kananaskis in the winter is, of course, skiing or snowboarding at Nakiska. This full-sized ski resort offers a 735-meter (2,412-foot) vertical descent, and its longest run is a HUGE 3.3 km (2 miles). Here, you’ll find 79 trails with 4 chairlifts and a fun tube park, too.

Often labeled the “most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies,” with 70% of its terrain rated as intermediate and plenty of green runs too, it’s no wonder that families and specifically beginners flock here in their thousands every winter.

A day lift pass for Nakiska will set you back around $100-$150 CAD (when purchased online ahead of time), which is pretty good value. And when you add in the fact that Nakiska is just 45 minutes from the bright lights of Calgary, its popularity is unsurprising to us! 

As I said, the majority of the ski runs at Nakiska are Beginner or Intermediate, and even the Black Runs here would probably be rated as a Blue Run in more challenging ski resort towns like Lake Louise and Whistler. If you’re a newbie to the sport, stick to the Bronze, Silver, and Olympic chairs as they access mostly Green Runs (aka beginner). However, if you’ve skied a couple of times before and are confident on a set of skis or snowboard, then the Gold chair is your best bet. 

Fascinatingly, Nakiska was built to host the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games, and so, as you can guess, all the groomed runs here are Olympic-sized. Plus, it was specifically built for tourism, so it’s well laid out, and there are several cafes and restaurants on “the hill” such as Nakiska Day Lodge Cafeteria, Finish Line Lounge, Mid-Mountain Lodge, and the more casual BBQ Pit and Slopeside Coffee and Deli. 

Our top tip for Nakiska is to visit mid-week if you can, as considering its close proximity to Calgary, it can get pretty hectic here on the weekend! 

Related Read: For more ski resorts that are among the best in the world, check out where to stay in Whistler for skiing or if you’re looking for a closer ski resort then our guide on where to stay in Banff for skiing will be helpful!

2. Snowshoeing

woman showshoeing through a pine forest
Snowshoeing is one of the best ways to get off the beaten path during the winter in the Kananaskis!

The Kananaskis receives abundant snowfall during the winter months, and so, as you can guess, donning your snowshoes and hiking through the snow-blanketed trails around town is one of the most popular winter activities here. And what’s great is this easy-going activity is suitable for the whole family! 

If you’re brand new to snowshoeing, we recommend joining a tour that arranges everything for you. This snowshoeing in Kananaskis tour is our pick because it includes a knowledgeable local guide who takes you on a 2-hour hike along one of the best snowshoeing trails in Kananaskis.

The trails are so peaceful and we found we could totally relax on the tour as we didn’t have to worry about directions or if we were on the right trail! The tour is $79.99 CAD which includes all the equipment you’ll need including snowshoes and poles and even some hot drinks and cookies to warm up after! You can easily book this snowshoeing experience online here.

If you want to go it alone, then you can rent snowshoes from Kananaskis Outfitters in Kananaskis Village for $20 CAD for the day and then hit the trails!

Along your hike, expect to see winter wonderland-esque scenery like snow-covered evergreens, frozen lakes, and snowy valleys. There are loads of snowshoeing trails in the area, but we’ll start off with one of the easiest – the Villiage Rim Trail, which winds its way through the terraces above Kananaskis Village.

The whole trail is about 6 km (3.7 miles) and mostly meanders through the forest with a few lookout points dotted along the way. As I said, it’s rated as easy, which means it’s perfect if you’ve never tried snowshoeing before (FYI, it’s a little tricky at first – as the combination of the snow and your snowshoes make your feet feel really heavy!).

If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, then look no further than Chester Lake – one of the most scenic and, thus, most popular trails in the area. It’s often touted as the prettiest snowshoeing trail in all of Alberta, and I have to agree! The views along the 7 km (4.3 miles) return trail of Mount Chester are just breathtaking!

I think the most magical time of day to go snowshoeing in the Kananaskis is after dark as that way you can enjoy the star-filled clear skies as you hike along. This guided moonlit hike takes you snowshoeing through the beautiful forests of the Kananaskis with a stop at an open meadow that sparkles with stars on a clear night! Your guide has a telescope along so you can get a closer look – some tours have even been lucky enough to spot shooting stars. The tours are offered starting at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and you can reserve a spot here.

3. Kananaskis Nordic Spa

Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Bailey in one of the hot pools!
Bailey at a sauna at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa 
Taking a break from the sauna!

Imagine yourself lazing in a hot pool on a cold winter day or night (it’s open until 9 pm), surrounded by frosted trees and, in the distance, majestic snow-dusted mountains. 

Well, at Kananaskis Nordic Spa in the heart of Kananaskis Village, you can do exactly that and more! With five pools, including a Salt Water Float Pool, a Hot Pool (where temperatures sit around 40°C/104°F), and a Cold Plunge Pool (averaging a very chilly 10°C/50°F), as well as saunas, and several relaxation spaces that boast hammocks and outdoor fire pits – I think it’s fair to say this one of the best relaxation experiences in the whole province!

Most people come here to try out their hydrotherapy circuit, the benefits of which seem endless and I’ve found are especially nice after a day or two of skiing! We actually visited on a chilly morning and that hot water felt AMAZING. Hydrotherapy means you start in a hot pool, move to the cold plunge pool, and then rest for a while in one of the relaxation areas before repeating the cycle numerous times. 

This is easily one of the most romantic things to do in the Kananaskis in the winter. And I think it’s best to allow at least 3 hours here. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the best hot springs in Alberta

As well as all of the above-listed awesome amenities, there’s also an on-site spa where you can treat yourself to a massage. The perfect way to unwind after all the winter activities you’ve been doing! 

This alpine sanctuary is super popular during the winter, and it’s essential that you book it well in advance. Prices start from $149 CAD per person for their basic hot pool (hydrotherapy) sessions. But they do offer cheaper rates on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You can join a same-day waitlist in case someone cancels, but if you want a guaranteed spot, you’ll want to book ahead.

4. Cross-country skiing

woman cross country skiing in Canmore, Alberta
Me, cross-country skiing at the Nordic Centre in Canmore

The Kananaskis is the perfect destination for cross-country skiing. There are SO many great cross-country ski trails, and there’s one for every skill level. Yet, it remains a bit of a hidden gem despite the epic Rocky Mountain terrain. But lucky for you, that means fewer crowds and a more peaceful experience. A win-win in my books!

One of the best places to try out cross-country skiing in the Kananaskis is at the Canmore Nordic Centre, which boasts over 60 km (37 mi) of world-class trails. The trails are good for all skill levels and well-maintained with regular track-setting.

Our favorite is the Green-rated Banff Trail to Meadow, which is 3 km (1.8 miles) long, or if we’re feeling like something a little trickier, we hop on the Blue-rated Bow Trail. A day pass to ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre costs $15 CAD. For more info on the different tracks here, for example, the Frozen Thunder track is free to use after 5 pm, check out their price list here.

Other awesome cross-country ski trails in Kananaskis include the lengthy Mount Shark route, which is 15 km (9.3 miles) each way and features mostly forested terrain. A more beginner-friendly option is West Bragg Creek which has around 60 km (37 miles) of trails to choose from.

You can do this sport alone and rent your equipment from Kananaskis Outfitters in the village and they also offer cross-country skiing lessons if you want a bit of an intro before going it alone.

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). 

5. Grotto Canyon Icewalk

Hiking through a the frozen Grotto Canyon in winter
The Grotto Canyon in winter is one of the most magical places in Canada!

Although you can hike into the Grotto Canyon at any time of the year, it’s in winter that this area really puts on a show! This modest-looking creek in spring and summer is suddenly turned into a bright blue ice sheet in the winter, and taking a Grotto Canyon Icewalk tour is a magical way to see frozen waterfalls.

The Grotto Canyon Icewalk is at its most beautiful when there’s less snow – here, you want more icy conditions. I think it looks like it belongs in the movie Frozen – I expected Olaf to pop out when I was last here! Seriously, exploring here is one of the best winter tours around Banff you can do.

The trail is 4.2 km (2.6 miles), but the first section is forgettable as it’s just off the highway, but stick with it! After about 15-20 minutes, you’ll get to the frozen creek inside Grotto Canyon to start the icewalk! This is a good time to put on those ice cleats or crampons as it can get pretty slick. If you’re lucky, the whole canyon will be filled with bright blue ice.

As you walk along, make sure to keep an eye out for Indigenous pictographs that are around 1,500 years old! They aren’t easy to find, but as you’re taking the last sharp left-hand turn before the frozen waterfalls, keep an eye on the left-hand side of the big rocks right around eye level.

At the end of the trail, your eyes may pop out of your head when you see the icy waterfall ahead. Honestly, its beauty must be seen to be believed! There are often HUGE icicles hanging from here, and when you get close, you can still hear the water behind the sheet of ice! This is one of the best hikes in the area and every time I’m here in the winter, this is on my to-do list.

If you haven’t been before and don’t have the proper gear to trek across the ice, a guided tour is a great option. This small group tour is hosted by a local guide who explains the history and geology of the canyon and points out all the stunning natural attractions along the way. It costs $99 CAD which includes ice cleats, a hiking pole, plus a light snack and hot chocolate at the end!

6. Hike to Troll Falls

the frozen Troll Falls in the Kananaskis in the winter near Canmore
Trolls Falls is so cool in the winter!

Another awesome winter hike in the Kananaskis is the Troll Falls hike, and what’s great is that it’s suitable for almost everyone as it’s short, easy, and well-marked.

This hike is just 1.7 km (1 mile) long, and it boasts highlights like tipis made from fallen trees in the aspen forest section, a scenic bridge, and several gorgeous lookout points. As you can guess, because of its wide appeal, it’s one of the most popular hikes around Canmore and can get pretty packed on weekends. 

The highlight of this short and sweet hike is, of course, the Troll Falls waterfall, which is essentially a large rock wall with water gushing down it. In winter, it freezes over, which makes for quite a dramatic sight (just check out my photo above!). 

They have recently constructed fences around Troll Falls, as rocks can sometimes break free, so it’s very important to stay behind the fence here.

If you’re keen on a slightly longer hike, keep walking (about 1 km/half a mile) to get to the similar-looking Marmot Falls. It’s a fairly easy trail, and you can actually walk behind this waterfall, provided it’s not too icy. How cool! 

7. Stargazing

Stargazing in Banff National Park, Canada
Stargazing in the Kananaskis is an astrology lover’s dream!

Thanks to not much light pollution in the Kananaskis, the night skies here are some of the darkest around! This means that you may be lucky enough to spy the Milky Way and even the northern lights on a clear evening. As you can guess, stargazing is a super popular activity in the winter in Kananaskis, as this is when the skies are typically at their clearest. 

You can go stargazing on your own, but keep in mind that because some of the best stargazing spots are hard to reach, you’ll likely need a rental car to get to them. So, your best bet is to join a dedicated stargazing tour or stay at Mount Engadine Lodge (more on that later), which is located in a remote area that’s basically a front-row seat to the stars at night!

As for tours, we loved this guided stargazing tour. On a cold winter’s night, we snowshoed through the forest, guided by the moon (and our headlamps) to an epic stargazing spot. We found our guide to be so friendly and knowledgeable about all things astronomy. When you reach the secluded spot, you can peek at the mesmerizing skies through a telescope! 

This tour costs just $85 CAD, and it even includes a hot chocolate and a cookie to warm you up after your hike! 

8. Wild ice skating

Wild ice skating in the Kananaskis
Wild ice skating in the Kananaskis is so much fun!
Bailey wild ice skating in the Kananaskis
But you need to be careful!

Between late November and March, many of the lakes in the Kananaskis freeze over, and you’ll find locals and tourists wild ice skating on them! However, you need to be very careful when choosing a lake to skate on, as if the ice isn’t thick enough, you may fall through – eep! So, we say ask around in town about the best lakes to skate on, and typically, if you see others skating on a frozen lake, it means it’s safe to don your ice skates and head out! 

As a general rule of thumb, ice should be at least 15 cm (6 inches) thick for skating on your own and 20 cm (7.8 inches) if you’re in a group. The best way to test whether it’s safe is by measuring the thickness, but you can also tell by its color. For example, blue ice is the strongest, white snow ice is less strong, and grey ice is not safe to walk or skate on at all. 

Locals typically pack a pair of ice skates in their backpacks when they go on hikes for when they come across a lake that’s safe to skate on. And we say, if you’re confident in your skating ability, you should do the same. Honestly, there’s no winter experience quite like skating on a wide-open lake with mountains in the background!  

The best place to go wild ice skating in the Kananaskis provided it’s safe to do so, is the Spray Lakes Reservoir (around an hour’s drive from Kananaskis Village).

I’ve also found that the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes have frozen over enough in the past to skate on – but again, best to check with the locals once you arrive! Lower Kananaskis Lake is a 40-minute drive from the center of town, and it’s connected to the Upper Lake via an easy-ish walking trail or you can drive a short distance to it from the Lower Lake.

You can rent ice skates from Kananaskis Outfitters for $10 CAD per hour or $20 CAD per day. 

9. Fat biking

Fat biking in Canada
Fat biking is the fastest way to ride the snowy trails around Kananaskis!

And now for a winter activity that you may not have heard of before – fat biking! It essentially involves you riding a bike with extra thick wheels to navigate the snowy paths around Kananaskis Village. It’s such a fun and fairly easy activity, provided the conditions are right. 

Yep, riding a fat bike through soft snow will not be fun and will end up being quite the workout. Instead, you want hard-packed snow! This is why some of the best fat biking trails in the region are also snowshoe trails, as the snow has already been packed down by snowshoers. But please keep in mind that you’ll be sharing the trails, so watch out for snowshoers and hikers while riding!

If you’ve never tried winter biking like this before, this guided fat biking tour takes you through a wintery wonderland of scenery including a frozen waterfall! The tour keeps up a good pace, but it’s still doable if you’re a beginner. The guides walk you through how the bikes work and lead the way, so you can just enjoy the scenery. There are stops for photos and the guides pack hot apple cider and cookies!

It’s super handy to book a tour as then your equipment rentals (helmet and bike) are included and it’s not really that much more to book the full tour than if you’re renting equipment on your own. This tour is only available on weekends in the winter, so book your spot online ahead of time for $95 CAD.

If you decide to rent your own, Kananaskis Outfitters offers fat bike rentals for $25 CAD per hour or $59 CAD for the day. 

The closest and best trails near the village include the Troll Falls trail, the Bill Milne trail, and the Ribbon Creek trail into Ribbon Lake. Further afield, you’ll find awesome fat biking trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – make a day of it here and ride popular and scenic trails like the Sawmill Loop snowshoe trail and the Lower Kananaskis Lake snowshoe trail.  

10. Visit Grassi Lakes

Hiking at Grassi Lakes in winter
Grassi Lakes is beautiful in the winter too!

You’ve probably heard of this next hike – the Grassi Lakes trail is THE most popular hiking trail in the Kananaskis. It’s the warmer summer months that attract the biggest crowds, but if you hike this trail in the winter, the scenery is, to put it simply, magical. Think snow-dusted trees lining the whole trail and dramatic snow-capped peaks in the gaps. 

The lakes will generally freeze near the end of fall, so if you still want to catch some of the beautiful reflections, you’ll need to go earlier in the winter season. That said, we’ve hiked here when it’s completely frozen over and the views are still lovely and it’s way quieter.

The hike to Grassi Lakes is pretty easy, and it’s short (just 4 km/2.5 miles) with only a 125-meter (410-foot) elevation gain, meaning it’s suitable for the whole family. However, it may be helpful to wear boots with crampons and have hiking poles for more stability in the icy sections. 

Access to the Grassi Lakes Trail starts from a large parking lot just outside Canmore. It’s best to arrive early to secure a parking spot at weekends, even in the quieter winter months. 

One thing to note is that in other seasons, you can take one of two hiking trails. However, the more difficult one is not accessible in the winter due to icy conditions. From the Grassi Lakes parking lot, you’ll follow the trail for a couple of minutes until you come to a fork in the trail with a sign. To the right is the easier trail (i.e., the one that’s open in the winter), and to the left is the “more difficult” trail, which is only open in the warmer months. 

11. Drive the Smith Dorrien Highway

Smith Dorrien Highway in the Kananaskis
The entire highway is surrounded by mountains and wildlife!

One of the best winter road trips you can take in this part of Alberta is to drive the picturesque Smith Dorrien Highway. This less-traveled route connects the Kananaskis Lakes to Canmore via the Spray Lakes Reservoir and is also known as Highway 742.

It’s famously not in the best shape, and in the summer, this dirt road kicks up a lot of dust. In the winter, snowy and icy conditions can make for a sketchy drive if you’re not careful. 

Even though the drive itself takes around 2 hours, we recommend turning it into a full-day affair and completing the full loop by turning onto Highway 40 and heading back towards Canmore. This way you can stop at Mount Lorette Ponds, South Lawson Peak, and Wedge Pond. There’s also a lengthy section of the route that offers incredible views of the Spray Lakes Reservoir, so you may want to pull off safely on this section to snap some photos.

You’ll also pass the lovely Mount Engadine Lodge, where you can drop in for afternoon tea and what they call the “best charcuterie in the Alberta Rockies” for only $35 CAD per person. It’s offered from 2-4 pm daily and isn’t just for hotel guests! They accept drop-ins, but you can guarantee a spot by making a reservation.

As I said, in winter, the driving conditions can be a little unnerving, with lots of snow and some icy sections, which is why winter tires are a must for this scenic drive but saying that it is well-plowed. Just don’t plan to go very fast! Despite the difficult drive, it’s definitely worth taking this route in winter, as the views of snow-covered, looming mountains and frozen lakes are seriously wow-worthy! 

You’ll also have to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on this drive, with coyotes, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats known to roam near to or sometimes even on the road itself! 

Related Read: Another awesome drive in this region is the drive from Calgary to Canmore! This route passes by stunning sights like Ghost Lake and Grotto Canyon!

12. Visit the Canmore Nordic Centre

Summer at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
What a spectacular location!
Bailey cross country skis at the Canmore Nordic Center in Canmore, Alberta
On one of the cross-country ski trails here!

We touched on it a little earlier as one of the best cross-country skiing spots in Alberta, but the Canmore Nordic Centre offers so much more than that. It’s a popular hiking and biking destination in the summer, and in the winter, you can try cross-country skiing or fat biking on over 65 km (40 miles) of groomed trails!

The Canmore Nordic Centre also hosted all the cross-country skiing events at the 1988 Olympic Games. Pretty neat! Plus, it’s one of only a few operational Olympic cross-country skiing venues left in the world.

Of course, the cross-country ski trails are the crown jewel in the winter, but there’s also a small ski field of sorts in the middle of the trails at a meadow that offers stunning views of the Rockies. You can also go ice skating and tobogganing here in the winter months. 

The Canmore Nordic Centre is a 45-minute drive from Kananaskis Village and you can either bring your own skis or fat bike or rent them from the center via Trail Sports. There’s also a day lodge here with a cafe. 

Remember, you will need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass for $15 CAD to access the Canmore Nordic Centre and if you want to cross-country ski, it’s an additional $15 CAD for a cross-country skiing day pass.

Related Read: While you’re in the Canmore area, why not tick off some of the best tours in Canmore?! My favorite was exploring the underground caves around here.

13. Dog sledding

Bailey with one of the dogs on our dog sledding tour in Canada
Meeting the dogs was the best part!
Bailey dog sledding in Canmore
Watch those doggies run!

Dog sledding in Kananaskis is an unforgettable experience – it allows you to disconnect and get acquainted with the snowy forest, but it’s also surprisingly fast-paced. It ticks all the boxes for us!

The only way to go dog sledding in the Kananaskis is on a guided tour. When we visited, we booked a tour with Howling Dog Tours, and honestly, I can’t recommend them enough. When choosing a tour operator, how they treat their animals was of the utmost importance to us, and these guys treat their dogs like kings.

Their tours depart from Canmore, which is a great place to stay to see Kananaskis Country. We actually moved to Canmore one winter just because of how easy it was to explore from here. And taking a dog sledding tour turned out to be one of our favorite things to do in Canmore in the winter!

Our tour took us on a 10-km (6.2-mile) ride through the winter wonderland-looking Spray Valley Provincial Park. The scenery was astounding, and watching the dogs work together as a team as they carried us in our cozy sled was something I’ll never forget. Halfway through, we stopped for a short time to play with the dogs and enjoy a hot chocolate! 

Pricing starts at $270 CAD per person for a 2-hour tour and increases for a half-day tour. This is one of the best things to do in Alberta, so savor every moment of it!

14. Stay at Mount Engadine Lodge

Mount Engadine Lodge room
Ahh a cozy cabin in the woods! Photo credit: Mount Engadine Lodge room

Escape the hustle and bustle with a winter getaway to Mount Engadine Lodge, nestled in the mountains in the heart of the Kananaskis. It’s a true hidden gem and, as I said earlier, one of the best places to go stargazing in Alberta due to the lack of light pollution! 

There’s a “room” to suit all tastes here – you can stay in a cozy room in the main lodge, a unique wood cabin, or if you’re after a true back-to-nature experience, stay in a yurt or glamping tent on their grounds. The wood cabin we stayed in stole my heart – it was so quaint and snug, and I just loved relaxing on the large balcony with a coffee (or beer in the evening) and taking in the astounding mountain views. I remember thinking to myself – imagine being lucky enough to have this view every day! 

No matter what room type you choose, all meals are provided during your stay, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea! A night’s stay here in a double room averages around $500 CAD

Mount Engadine Lodge is open year-round, and the fun fact is that it’s FAMOUS for its incredible Sunday brunch! Yup, every Sunday between 10 am and 1 pm, the lodge hosts a delicious brunch, and while the menu changes weekly, the food is always world-class!

15. Winter camping

Pitching a tent in the snow!
Keeping warm by the fire!

And now we’ve reached the last entry on our list of the best things to do in the Kananaskis in the winter and it’s not for the faint-hearted – camping in a tent in freezing temperatures!

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, sleeping in a tent in temperatures as low as -30°C (-22°F), but I must admit our experience of winter camping in the Kananaksis was nothing short of magical! It is completely different from the luxurious accommodations at Mount Engadine Lodge above but just as memorable, in my opinion. 

Camping in the Kananaskis in winter is a peaceful experience as most campsites will only have a couple of guests. Plus, the scenery at this time of year is extra-special with frozen rivers, snow-capped mountains, and bright white forests!

There are a couple of campsites in the Kananaskis region that are open during the winter months. One of the biggest and most popular is the McLean Creek Campground. It has 170 campsites (both powered and non-powered) that must be booked in advance on the Alberta Parks website. The campsites in the A and B Loops tend to have a bit more space and privacy because of the trees … however, winter camping is quieter in general! It’s worth noting that the water is shut off at this time of year, but firewood is available from a service truck that drives through the campground.

Other campsites open for winter camping include Fisher Creek and the Rummel Lake Winter Backcountry Campground which is a winter-only camping spot with 10 sites that must be accessed via a 5 km (3.1 mile) hike.

If you do plan to go winter camping during your time in the Kananaskis, our top piece of advice is to bring lots of layers of clothing. Also, try to nab a campsite that’s exposed to the sun so that you’re not shivering during the day, too! 

Where to Stay in the Kananaskis

Crosswaters Resort Kananaskis room
Photo credit: Crosswaters Resort Kananaskis room

Kananaskis Mountain Lodge – $$$

If you are looking for luxury accommodation options for your stay in Kananaskis, you’re going to want to check out Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. Not only is it conveniently located for exploring some of the best winter activities but it is an absolutely beautiful lodge! 

With five restaurants, a Nordic spa, a heated indoor pool, and a stunning resort area to stroll around, you will never want to leave. A King Room starts around $314 CAD in the winter and you can book at the Kananaskis Mountain Lodge here!

Crosswaters Resort – $$

The three-star Crosswaters Resort in Kananaskis is the perfect accommodation option for the whole family. There’s an indoor waterpark with a waterslide located inside and the Nakiska Ski Resort is only a 5-minute drive away! The resort is home to a fitness center, four different dining options, and a bar. Check availability at the Crosswaters Resort and book a stay now.

William Watson Lodge – $

If someone in your group has a disability or is elderly, William Watson Lodge provides the best accessible accommodation option in the Kananaskis. It’s located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on Lower Kananaskis Lake, and has endless outdoor activities suitable for a wide array of abilities. 

This lodge is open all year round with no barriers, so while it’s based in the wilderness, it is cleverly designed to be an accessible spot. William Watson allows a group to rent the lodges meaning if one member of the group can prove their eligibility, everyone can stay. 

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is memorizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!

And there you have it 15 of the BEST things to do in the Kananaskis in winter. I hope you’ll consider this off-the-beaten-track destination for your upcoming Canadian winter adventure. As I said, it’s so stunning here and has an endless amount of fun winter activities on offer!

If you’re in the midst of planning an Alberta getaway, I hope this list has helped you. Make sure to check out our other Canada blogs for additional ideas, tips, and inspiration for your trip. Or check out some of these popular blogs below:

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