The town of Canmore is growing in popularity, and it’s no surprise given its location amongst the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Even as the temperatures drop and the snow flies, there are so many things to do in Canmore in winter and we are here to make sure you are well prepared to get outside and enjoy them!
As locals to Canmore, we’ve spent several years coming up with our favorite Canmore things to do in winter. Unless you plan to spend all your time on one of the incredible ski hills in the area, Canmore is an ideal place to be in winter where you’ll be able to enjoy as many of these things to do around Canmore in winter as possible!
Don’t let those winter temperatures scare you, with the proper gear you don’t need to spend your time indoors (though you’ll find a few indoor activities for those especially cold days!). You’ll love your time in this winter wonderland with our list of the best Canmore winter activities.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Visiting Canmore in Winter
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Best Things to do in Canmore in Winter
The snow covered mountain peaks makes a winter vacation a magical time. You won’t need to worry about what to do in Canmore in winter with so many outdoor activities!
If the weather is exceptionally cold during your visit, plan to dress in extra layers and do activities closer to town so you can warm up as needed. We’ve included a list of fun indoor activities in Canmore as well, which are ideal on those especially cold days or just to warm up from that winter chill.
Here’s a list of the best Canmore attractions in winter. Many can be done right from the town of Canmore and other’s will require some driving. We haven’t included too many Banff winter activities, since we have an entire post dedicated to the best things to do in Banff in winter.
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required for any vehicles parking in Kananaskis, which includes places like Canmore Nordic Centre, Grotto Canyon, Goat Creek, etc. For any activities in Banff National Park, a Banff park pass is required.
Dog Sledding in Canmore
A dog sledding tour is a popular activity for visitors to Canmore in winter. You have three options for dogsledding in Canmore:
- Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc. has options for 2 hours tours all the way up to a 2 day overnight trip.
- Howling Dog Tours has both 2 hour and half-day tours.
- Mad Dogs & Englishmen Expeditions Inc. has dog sledding tours ranging from 1.5 hours to overnight tours.
A kennel tour is also a fun way to spend more time with the huskies!
Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary
If you can’t get enough of dogs, then a visit to the Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary should be on your list of Canmore winter activities. Providing both education and awareness on wolfdogs plus a sanctuary where the dogs can live, the Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary offers three tour options.
The Sanctuary Walk is a self-guided walk where you can see the wolf dogs at your own pace. Minimum age for the Sanctuary Walk is 6 years old. The Intro Tour allows you to get up close photos of the dogs and listen to an informative talk from a viewing platform. Minimum age for the Intro Tour is 10 years old. Requiring a reservation, the Interactive Tour is the only tour where you can interact with the wolfdogs but has a minimum age of 15 years old.
The Yamnuska Wolf Dog Sanctuary is located 45 minutes from Canmore (closer to Cochrane, AB).
Art Gallery Tour
If you are looking for places to visit in Canmore in winter that don’t involve active outdoor adventures, a walk down main street in Canmore is the perfect alternative! There are a multitude of art galleries that you can peruse.
If you want to continue on the art theme, see which exhibits are on display at ArtsPlace or create your own art at Crockadoodle.
Snowshoeing in Canmore
There are plenty of options for snowshoeing around Canmore. In the town itself, you won’t find many snowshoeing trails, as the walking trails will quickly get packed down.
For the best snowshoeing in Canmore we recommend trying the 3km loop snowshoe at the Canmore Nordic Centre or along the High Rockies Trail from the Goat Creek parking lot. Popular trails will get packed down quickly (like Grassi Lakes) and make for a better winter hike without the snowshoes.
Alternatively, nearby Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park offer plenty of opportunities for good snowshoeing.
One of the best areas for snowshoeing near Canmore is along the Smith-Dorrien Highway. You can reach the popular Chester Lake Snowshoe in just under an hour from Canmore. Some of the best easy Kananaskis snowshoe trails are found along this road.
Fat Biking in Canmore
Riding a fat bike is another fun winter activity you can do right in Canmore! There are plenty of fat bike rentals around town pathways to give fat biking a try for the first time.
If you want to get on single track with your fat bike, the Canmore Nordic Centre trails are a fun spot for fat biking in Canmore. The Quarry Lake Recreation Area is another ideal spot to try out a fat biking for the first time.
Both Banff and Kananaskis also offer even more opportunities for fat biking. Read our post on Fat Biking in Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis for even more trail ideas.
Grotto Canyon Ice Walk
Grotto Canyon offers a unique experience for visitors! Come winter time, you can walk along long sheets of slick canyon ice. Depending on the conditions, you may find it to be packed snow, but either way the walk in the canyon is worth it! Especially at the end where you’ll find a towering frozen waterfall.
The frozen creek bed makes for a fun and easy hike for the whole family! You can find all the details for the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk here. We recommend having micro-spikes for the whole family to make this experience the most fun!
If, like many people, you don’t have the proper winter hiking gear, transportation, etc. then check out this Grotto Canyon Ice Walk tour by Discover Banff Tours.
Canmore Winter Carnival
For anyone visiting Canmore in the second half of February, you’ll have the chance to be a part of the Canmore Winter Carnival. Typically this Canmore winter festival takes place the last weekend of February and has both indoor and outdoor events (like races, ice carving and more) for the entire family!
Whether you need an indoor activity to escape the cold or have a love of rock climbing, visitors to Canmore can enjoy indoor rock climbing at Elevation Place.
Alternatively, the Canmore Climbing Gym, the only bouldering facility in the Bow Valley, has day passes available.
Take your climbing outdoors by giving ice climbing a try! Alpine Air Adventures has a beginner ice climbing course, where no previous experience is required. Whether you are brand new or already love ice climbing, ice climbing classes will be worth it!
Alpine Air Adventures will know all the best ice climbing locations and ensure the best day for you adventurous ice climbers!
Ice Skating in Canmore
Ice skating is one of the best things to do in Canmore in winter! The Canmore Recreation Centre has public skating for those extra frigid days when you are looking for an indoor activity in Canmore in the winter.
Otherwise, you can find outdoor skating rinks around the town of Canmore. While you’ll find the Canmore pond on most lists of things to do in Canmore in winter, make sure to check the conditions before planning a day around it. The pond needs to be frozen enough that they can clear it with the Zamboni.
With any luck, you might get to enjoy some wild ice skating. One of the best winter activities, is skating on a frozen lake with incredible mountain views around you. Wild ice skating is very dependent on the winter conditions. The lakes need to freeze over without being covered in snow.
You can find all the best places for skating on frozen lakes around Banff and Canmore here.
If you don’t have your own skates, you can get rentals in Canmore at:
Warm up with a Coffee or Hot Chocolate
There is no shortage of great coffee shops in Canmore. Either grab a coffee for your winter walk by the river, or warm up in the coffee shop with a cup of jo before your next adventure!
Shopping Downtown Canmore
Along with plenty of art galleries, you’ll find some fun shopping on main street in downtown Canmore.
For those visiting Canmore with kids, be sure to stop at the Olde Tyme Candy Shop. If you are looking for the perfect souvenir, Alberta’s Own Marketplace showcases locally made goods.
Cross Country Skiing in Canmore
The Canmore Nordic Centre was constructed to host the Nordic skiing events as part of the 1988 Winter Olympics. While Kananaskis, Banff and Lake Louise also have a multitude of cross-country ski trails, the Canmore Nordic Centre is the perfect place to strap on skis for a full day of fun!
You’ll find trails for all levels plus a lit up night loop, if you just aren’t ready to pack it in for the day. With Trail Sports located at the Nordic Centre, you can get your rentals and lessons done all at the same place.
Once you need a break from the cross country ski trails, pop into the Canmore Nordic Centre Day Lodge for a bite to eat or a warm drink.
The wonderful thing about the Canmore Nordic Centre is that it’s not just cross country skiing! There’s plenty to do for the entire family, including sledding, snowshoeing, winter disc golf and fat biking – all which you’ll find in this list of things to do in Canmore in winter.
Downhill Skiing is one of the best things to do in Canmore in winter. You’ll need to drive to one of the nearby ski hills in Banff or choose a hill where you can hop on a ski bus in Canmore.
Sunshine and Norquay are the closest ski hills to Canmore.
You can catch the Sunshine Coach from Canmore Coast Hotel. This shuttle is free if you buy your lift ticket on the bus (cash only). Reservations are required.
Norquay has a free shuttle from the town of Banff with 4-5 stops on each route. The Roam Bus is the best way to get from Canmore to Banff without a car.
To get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from Canmore without a car, take the Lake Louise Ski Bus. You should make reservations. Payment for lift ticket and the bus can be made on board (cash only) or pay in advance.
Note: Your Parks Canada Pass for Banff National Park is not included in the lift or shuttle tickets.
The closest tube park to Canmore is at Mt. Norquay, which is a short 27 minute drive. Nakiska is approximately 37 minutes away and Lake Louise Ski Resort is a 54 minute drive.
Winter Hikes in Canmore
Hiking in Canmore in winter is another great choice for activities.
Grassi Lakes is one of the best Canmore hikes in winter. It’s falls in the category of easy Canmore winter hikes, but we recommend micro-spikes as the trail gets packed down quickly and slippery.
Ha Ling Peak is another of the best winter hikes in Canmore. Before hiking Ha Ling Peak in winter, always check for avalanche risk.
Canmore Winter Walks
Probably one of the most enjoyable Canmore winter activities is a walk on the many Canmore walking trails. The usual summer walking trails become magical Canmore winter trails with snow covered trees and spectacular views of snow capped mountains.
Two favorite Canmore walks in winter include the Bow River Loop, especially the wintery scene at the Engine Bridge, and Policeman’s Creek. These are both close enough to downtown Canmore, that you can head to main street to warm up with a hot chocolate.
Quarry Lake also has a small loop around it, which makes for a fun short Canmore walk in winter. Just be aware that Quarry Lake is fed by an underground spring and is not safe to walk or skate on.
Tobogganing is a fun Canmore winter activity for the whole family! There are a few favorite hills around Canmore for tobogganing. The two most popular are found at the Canmore Nordic Centre and Eagle Terrace Park. There’s also the Cemetery Hill sledding area.
Find Frozen Waterfalls
Frozen waterfalls with their spectacular blue-hued ice are definitely one of our favorite things to see in Canmore in winter! You can find a few frozen waterfalls around Canmore, but the best ones are a short drive away.
As we mentioned previously, Grotto Canyon has a towering waterfall at the end of the trail.
Troll Falls in Kananaskis is also worth visiting in the winter! It’s an easy Kananaskis hike (snowshoes aren’t typically needed since it’s so popular the trail will be well packed, unless you visit right after a big snowfall). It takes approximately 40 mins to drives from Canmore to Troll Falls.
If you are up for a longer winter hike, the Green Monster Hike in Kananaskis has some impressive waterfalls. Just note, part of the hike involves using chains and going along steep and narrow ridges.
Heading to Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park is the best way to see frozen waterfalls! With any luck you’ll get to see the ice climbers on the falls as well! Again, Johnston Canyon is popular enough that micro-spikes are recommended over snowshoes.
Winter Disc Golf
If you love play disc golf in the summer, you don’t need to stop when the snow flies! Canmore has two disc golf courses that are open all year round.
The disc golf course at the Nordic Centre is open throughout the year, except for holes #5 & #14. You can even rent discs at Trail Sports.
The second Canmore disc golf is located in the Three Sisters neighborhood right near the popular train park.
See the mountain peaks from another vantage point! If your budget allows, a sightseeing tour is a bucket list activity for the Canadian Rockies! Imagine getting to see the Three Sisters Mountain Range from up above!
Alpine Helicopters in Canmore offers helicopter tours either from Canmore or from the Stoney Nakoda Resort in Kananaskis.
Scenic Drive from Canmore
The mountain scenery around Canmore, Banff and Kananaskis is amongst some of the best in the world. A scenic drive is the perfect way to get out and enjoy the breathtaking views, especially on a cold winter day.
The Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park is well worth the drive. Another great option in Banff is a drive around the Minnewanka loop (only a section of the loop is open in the winter), that takes you past Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.
In Kananaskis, Highway 40 will offer different but equally impressive mountain views. The Smith-Dorrien Highway from Canmore, though not always in the best shape, is yet another option with stunning scenery.
Mt. Engadine Lodge Afternoon Tea
While out taking in the scenery on the Smith-Dorrien, plan a stop at Mt Engadine Lodge for their afternoon tea. With daily baked goods and hot freshly brewed coffee, it’s the perfect place to make a stop.
Kananaskis Nordic Spa
While not located in Canmore, a short drive to the Kananaskis Village to visit the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. What better way to spend a winter day in the mountains!
Complete the full hydrotherapy circuit three or four times, enjoy the food at the Two Trees Bistro then head back to the pools again. With outdoor pools, saunas, steam cabins plus outdoor fire pits and hammocks, there’s plenty of opportunity to relax and rejuvenate.
Canmore Cave Tours
For something unique, Canmore Cave Tours offers tours of the Rat’s Nest cave all year long. Two options for tours include the 4.5 hour Explorer Tour or the 6 hour Adventure Tour.
Minimum age for these cave tours in Canmore is 10 years old for the Explorer Tour and 12 years old for the Adventure Tour.
Learn about the history of the town of Canmore at the Canmore Museum. A virtual reality exhibit will give visitors an opportunity to relive the sights and sounds of the mines in the 1950’s. Other exhibits share stories of the Indigenous People and the history of mining in Canmore.
Where to Stay in Canmore in Winter
When visiting Canmore in the winter, we recommend staying in a hotel or airbnb with a hot tub. There’s nothing quite like have a place to relax and warm up after a day out in the snow.
Here are our top recommendations, but you can find plenty more options in our Best Canmore Hotels post:
One of the best hotels in Canmore is the Malcolm Hotel where you can choose between suites, double rooms, and quad rooms. Soak in views of the majestic Three Sisters Mountain from the outdoor hot tubs or the outdoor fire pit area.
If you are visiting Canmore with your best friend, the Malcolm Hotel is also one of the best pet-friendly hotels in Canmore.
The Blackstone Mountain Lodge is one of the best family-friendly Canmore hotels with either traditional hotel rooms or condo-style suites. Guests can enjoy the outdoor heated pool, or one of the two outdoor hot tubs.
The Pocaterra Inn has a great location as it’s close to both the Canmore city center and the Trans-Canada Highway towards the Banff National Park gates. There is an indoor swimming pool with a big waterslide plus a hot tub and sauna.
If you are bringing your dog, the Pocaterra Inn is one of best pet-friendly hotels in Canmore. It’s also one of the few hotels in Canmore which offers rooms with an in-room fireplace.
Canmore Winter Temperatures
When you plan a winter vacation in western Canada you need to be prepared for some frigid temperatures. In the winter months the cold temperatures can have you wanting to hibernate indoors, but aside from the worst days, if you’re well prepared you’ll be able to enjoy time outside!
The average temperatures in Canmore in winter are between -10 deg C and -1 deg C, but these are just averages. December and January are the coldest months, but at any time the temperatures can drop below -20 deg C (not accounting for wind chill). On the same token, temperatures can rise to above 0 deg C in a warm spell.
It can be hard to know how to prepare for this, but layers are your best choice.
What to Pack for Canmore in Winter
Dress in Layers
Packing layers is best for Canmore winter weather. We recommend having a base layer (merino wool is a good choice), a warm mid-layer then a top layer that’s water and wind resistant.
Mitts, Warm Hat & Warm Boots
A set of warm mitts or gloves is a must! As are warm winter boots. Chances are you’ll be walking through snow and slush so make sure your winter boots are waterproof. And you’ll want traction on ice. In addition to your layers of clothing, you’ll need warm socks and a good toque.
Don’t forget a good pair of sunglasses, as the sun reflecting off the snow can be blinding!
Our favourite microspikes are the Kahtoola microspikes. We’ve been using them for years and they make walking on snow and ice so much easier. The best ones we’ve found for kids are the High Stream Gear microspikes.
Hand and Foot Warmers
Winter activities are less fun if your hands and feet are freezing! I always pack hand and foot warmers for all our winter activities! I’m a big fan of the hand and foot warmers by Aurora Heat. Made from natural fur, Aurora Heat’s warmers work as natural insulators, helping retain body heat that is already being generate. I much prefer them to disposable hand and toe warmers and like that they are eco-friendly, sustainable. Plus I know I’ll have them to re-use year after year!
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Just know that there are plenty of places in Canmore where you can rent winter gear like micro-spikes, skates, skis, snowshoes and more.
Driving in Winter
You can expect that in the winter months you’ll be driving on icy or snow covered roads in and around Canmore. If you can request winter tires (not all season tires) from your rental car company, that’s a good first step.
Depending on where you’ll be visiting, it’s important to know that snow tires are required by law to drive on some highways. The Icefields Parkway is one example of this. Roads around Canmore do not require this but it’s still a good idea.
Here are some tips for driving in winter around Canmore:
- Slow down
Drive at a safe speed and slow down as required. This will give you more reaction time if you start to slide.
- Give plenty of space
Always give other drivers plenty of space. Avoid slamming on your brakes or other quick reactions.
- Be prepared
Have a full tank of gas. Throw extra warm clothes into your car. Have a snow brush and any other emergency items you might need.
- Know before you go
Check conditions before you leave. If you can change plans and avoid driving in particularly bad conditions, that’s always a good idea.
- Don’t use cruise control
Your car can accelerate when you don’t want it to using cruise control causing you to get out of control.
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.