Grassi Lakes Trail in Canmore in 2024

Author: Dan Brewer

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The Grassi Lakes Trail is one of the most beautiful easy hikes near Canmore, Alberta. It’s an easy stroll through an evergreen forest to a pair of stunning mountain lakes, passing an incredible waterfall along the way. When the sun is shining on the Grassi Lakes, you simply won’t believe the incredible colors in the water.

The Grassi Lakes hike is so enjoyable that we make time to do it almost every year. It’s a short and easy Canmore hiking trail with some spectacular scenery – a great combination. No wonder the Grassi Lakes Trail is one of the most popular easy walks in Canmore.

the incredible water colors of the Grassi Lakes, Canmore.
This photo of Lower Grassi Lake was not enhanced. This is the true color of the water.

This post contains compensated links.

Is Grassi Lakes Open in 2024?

After a lengthy closure in 2022 to upgrade the hiking trail and the parking lot, the Grassi Lakes Trail is now fully open! We were among the first to hike the Grassi Lakes Trail after it reopened in 2023 and we love the trail upgrades. Great work Alberta Parks!

a woman hikes on the newly upgraded trail to Grassi Lakes, Alberta.
We loved the newly upgraded Grassi Lakes trail!

Grassi Lakes Hike Highlights

We have included the Grassi Lakes hike in our list of the best easy Kananaskis hikes as it has two distinct highlights, all within one short hiking trail. On your way up, you’ll get up-close views of the stunning Lawrence Grassi Waterfall, which flows with water from the Grassi Lakes down to the Rundle Forebay reservoir below.

The towering Lawrence Grassi Waterfall as seen from the Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail in Canmore, Alberta.
The Grassi Lakes waterfall as seen from one of the newly added viewpoints on the Interpretive Trail.

Then, once at the top, you’ll see the real star of the show – the stunning Grassi Lakes! No matter how many times we hike to Grassi Lakes, we simply can’t believe the incredible colors of the lakes. If you visit on one of the many sunny days in Canmore, the color of the Grassi Lakes is an incredible deep greenish-blue. You really need to see the color of the water in the Grassi Lakes in person as the pictures don’t do it justice.

The greenish-blue water colors of the Grassi Lakes near Canmore, Alberta.

The color of the Grassi Lakes water in this post has not been digitally enhanced.

Being in a wildlife corridor, you have a decent chance of seeing some animals on this hike. Many Rocky Mountain Sheep call the rocky slopes behind the Grassi Lakes home – watch for them perched up high.

A Rocky Mountain Sheep on a rocky slope on the kid-friendly Grassi Lakes hike in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
A Rocky Mountain Sheep on the steep slopes behind Upper Grassi Lake.

There’s also a Great Horned Owl who nests in the cliffs behind the Grassi Lakes. Being a wild animal, you aren’t guaranteed of a sighting, but he’s there quite a bit. Owls are usually very quite rare to see in the wild and this is an excellent chance to see one. Please ensure the owl continues to feel safe returning here by not doing anything to disturb it.

Want to improve your chances of seeing wildlife in Banff? Local photographer Jayden Daniels shares his best wildlife spotting tips.

The Grassi Lakes Trail Loop

The Grassi Lakes Trail is actually set of two hiking trails:

  • The Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail.
  • The Grassi Lakes Upper Trail.

Both of these easy hiking trails lead hikers to the Grassi Lakes and can be combined to make a loop. We highly recommend that you hike up the Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail and then hike back down the Grassi Lakes Upper Trail.

This Grassi Lakes Trail Map is located near the trailhead.
The two Grassi Lakes hiking trails diverge not far from the parking lot and trailhead.

The Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail

Although both Grassi Lakes hiking trails have the exact same elevation gain, the Interpretive Trail is the harder one of the two. This is due to the fact there is a 0.5 km stretch which involves climbing stairs and some tight switchbacks. If you are physically able, the reward for the extra effort is more than worth it!

The Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail begins shortly after leaving the parking lot. It’s a 2-person wide hiking trail through a lush evergreen forest. The incline is gentle at the beginning, giving you time to admire the views of Ha Ling Peak through the trees on your left.

1.1 km after leaving the Grassi Lakes parking lot, the series of mountain streams crosses over the trail. It’s pretty easy to cross these streams without getting your hiking shoes wet. Take a moment to look to your left to enjoy epic views of the Rundle Forebay Reservoir (one of our favorite places to go stand-up paddleboarding near Canmore) and the Bow Valley mountains beyond.

Views of the Rundle Forebay Reservoir, Mount Lady MacDonald and Grotto Mountain from the Grassi Lakes hiking trail.
The Rundle Forebay Reservoir.

After 1.3 km of hiking, you’ll start to enjoy some of the trail upgrades by Alberta Parks. There’s a little lookout area just off the trail which gives the best view of the towering Lawrence Grassi Waterfall available. Ha Ling Peak towers over the waterfall, for an extra element of drama.

The Lawrence Grassi Waterfall in front of Ha Ling Peak on the Grassi Lakes hiking trail in Canmore.
The Grassi Lakes Waterfall in front of Ha Ling Peak.

Beyond the Lawrence Grassi Waterfall lookout, the ‘hard’ part of the hiking trail begins. The old hiking trail has been nicely replaced by a new trail which features a series of switchbacks and stone steps. Although it is the steepest part of the Grassi Lakes hike, you only gain 60 m of elevation over 500 m of hiking. The views more than make up for the extra effort!

a hiker climbs stone stairs on the Grassi Lakes trail near Canmore, Canada.
We love the upgraded hiking trails to Grassi Lakes!

Along the steeper section of the trail, you’ll enjoy different vantage points of the Lawrence Grassi Waterfall, as well as passing a weeping wall, with water trickling down a rock cliff next to the hiking trail. There are also several benches along the way, each offering its own unique, spectacular view of the Bow Valley mountain landscaping surrounding Canmore.

The Grassi Lakes Upper Trail

The Grassi Lakes Upper Trail is less spectacular than its counterpart. This hiking trail leads hikers along a dirt trail wide enough to be a road, through a dense evergreen forest along the lower slopes of Mount Rundle. Due to a relative lack of scenery, the Grassi Lakes Upper Trail is best taken on the way back down to the parking lot.

Ha Ling Peak towers above a family hiking with kids to Grassi Lakes, Canmore.
Hiking to Grassi Lakes with our kids. The massive cliff in the distance is Ha Ling Peak.

The uphill direction of the Grassi Lakes Upper Trail is best suited for hikers who wish to avoid the steep stairs on the Interpretive Trail, or for parents looking for a stroller-friendly hike in Canmore (we recommend a large-wheeled stroller).

If you do hike the Grassi Lakes Upper Trail to the lakes, you’ll still get to enjoy a beautiful forest walk with some nice Rocky Mountain scenery. Watch for breaks in the trees to enjoy views of Ha Ling Peak, Miners Peak and Ship’s Prow towering overhead on the left and Mt. Rundle straight ahead.

Grassi Lakes Trail Stats

How Long is the Grassi Lakes Hike?

Each of the two Grassi Lakes trail are 1.7 km one-way, making the round-trip distance from the parking lot to the Grassi Lakes 3.4 km (2.1 miles). There are some beautiful walking trails around the Lower Grassi Lake and Upper Grassi Lake, so your total distance hiked will likely be longer.

Spring pussy willows grow near the Grassi Lakes in Canmore, Alberta.
Pussy willows bloom in spring next to the Grassi Lakes, Canmore.

How Steep is the Grassi Lakes Trail?

The elevation gain you’ll encounter to the Grassi Lakes is approximately 170 m (560 feet). Over 1.7 km of uphill hiking on the Grassi Lakes hike, this equates to an average slope of 10%.

a flat section of the Grassi Lakes trail near Canmore, Canada.
Most of the Grassi Lakes trail looks is reasonably flat and looks like this.
a man climbs a steep set of stairs on the Grassi Lakes hike in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
But, a small stretch of the Interpretive Trail is steep.

How Difficult is the Grassi Lakes Hike?

There are two different routes to the Grassi Lakes – the Upper Grassi Lakes Trail (the “easy” one) and the Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail (the “more difficult” one).

The Upper Grassi Lakes trail has a steady, gentle incline the whole way up. Virtually everyone in reasonable shape will be able to walk to the Grassi Lakes along this trail with no difficulty.

a family hikes along the Grassi Lakes trail - a kid-friendly hike in Canmore, Alberta.
Our (almost) 3-year old daughter hiked to Grassi Lakes without help.

The Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail is slightly more difficult than the Grassi Lakes Upper Trail. It also has a steady, gentle incline most of the way. It is considered more difficult as there is a 0.5 km long section of stairs and switchbacks. Mobility-challenged hikers may find this short, but steep section difficult, but most hikers won’t break a sweat.

The Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail offers the best scenery of the two trails. You’ll pass the towering Grassi Lakes Waterfall and will also enjoy unobstructed views of Canmore and the surrounding Bow Valley.

Views of Canmore, Mount Lady Macdonald and the Bow Valley from the harder Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail.
The Rundle Forebay Reservoir as seen from the Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail.

We rate both routes of the Grassi Lakes hike as “easy Canmore hiking trails”.

How Long Does the Grassi Lakes Trail Take?

It should take a typical adult about 45 minutes to hike the full there-and-back distance of the Grassi Lakes hike.

We recently enjoyed the Grassi Lakes hike with our kids (aged 4 & 6), and were able to complete the full distance in 1 hour and 40 minutes. As we’ll discuss later in this post, Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular kid-friendly hikes in Canmore.

See the Lawrence Grassi waterfall from the harder Grassi Lakes Interpretive Trail.
The Lawrence Grassi Waterfall seen from the Grassi Lake Interpretive Trail.

Grassi Lakes Hike Location

The Grassi Lakes trail is found within the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, just minutes south-west of Canmore. It’s a 30-minute drive from the Banff townsite and a 12-minute drive from downtown Canmore. As the Canmore Nordic Centre is part of Kananaskis Country, visitors must purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.

the newly upgraded Grassi Lakes Parking lot in May 2023.
The newly upgraded Grassi Lakes parking lot in 2023.

If you are interested in Olympic history, the Canmore Nordic Centre was home to the alpine events in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games. You’ll pass it on your drive back to Canmore.

It’s possible to reach the Grassi Lakes trailhead by using the free Roam transit bus, but it’s not super-convenient. Take the Roam route #5T bus to the Prospect Heights West bus stop. From here, it’s a 3.8 km (2.3 miles) hike via the Powerline Trail to the Grassi Lakes trailhead. Taking the bus results in a 11.6 km (7.2 miles) round-trip – which is still doable in an afternoon for anyone in reasonable shape.

An interpretive welcome sign for the kid-friendly Grassi Lakes Trail in Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
The Grassi Lakes trailhead sign after an early snowfall.

There are also lots of bike racks in the Grassi Lakes parking lot if you wish to ride your bike to the trailhead.

Please note that the Grassi Lakes hike is one of the most popular Canmore hiking trails and the parking lot can fill up quickly on weekends and holidays. There is an overflow Grassi Lakes parking lot available if needed, but this too can fill beyond capacity. Get there early, especially if you plan on hiking Grassi Lakes on a nice day in summer.

Grassi Lakes Trailhead Location

Hiking Grassi Lakes with Kids

The Grassi Lakes hike is one of our top recommendations for things to do in Canmore with kids. One of the many reasons the Grassi Lakes hike is so popular is that it is one of the best kid-friendly hikes in Canmore. Kids love the fun Interpretive Trail with the ultra-impressive waterfall, while the hike down the Upper Trail is on a nice, wide trail allowing parents and kids to walk side-by-side up to the lakes. We’ve done a lot of hiking with our kids, and we always appreciate the ability to walk side-by-side with our kids.

Once at the top of this kid-friendly Canmore hike, children will enjoy exploring the paths around the Lower Grassi Lake and the Upper Grassi Lake. There are bridges to cross, rocks to climb on and plenty of other kids to play with.

See wildlife on this kid-friendly hike in Canmore. A father shows his toddler where the Great Horned Owl is nesting behind the Grassi Lakes Canmore, Alberta.
Showing my daughter where to find the Great Horned Owl at Grassi Lakes.

The Grassi Lakes trail is an easy Canmore hike and most kids who get a reasonable amount of activity should be able to make it to the top. The first time our daughter walked this kid-friendly hike herself, she was just under 3 years old.

If you are lucky, you’ll see the Great Horned Owl who lives in a little cave on a rocky cliff on the backside of the lower Grassi Lake. The Great Horned Owl likes to sit there and watch the action. It’s quite rare to spot an owl in the wild, so kids who love wildlife will really like the Grassi Lakes hike. Please, do not disturb this beautiful creature!

A Great Horned Owl lives on a rock climbing cliff near the Upper Grassi Lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
A Great Horned Owl at Upper Grassi Lake.

There are toilets at the Grassi Lakes trailhead. This is a very popular kid-friendly hike, so there will be few chances to have enough privacy to duck behind a tree.

If you are considering hiking Grassi Lakes with a baby, the Grassi Lakes Upper Trail is considered a stroller-friendly hike. Having done a significant amount of hiking in the Canadian Rockies with our babies, we generally don’t recommend hiking with a stroller, although it would be possible if your stroller has large wheels. In our experience, a hiking baby carrier is a much better option for hiking with a baby.

Grassi Lakes was our very first family hike with a baby. Having her in a baby carrier made it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

A family stands next to the Grassi Lakes - one of the best family activities in Canmore, Alberta.
Our daughter’s very first hike was to Grassi Lakes!

We have some great resources for hiking with kids on our Family Can Travel website. Check out our best tips for hiking with kids, the best hiking gear for kids and the 9 Best Hiking Songs for Your Family.

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

There are plenty of places to have a picnic lunch on the Grassi Lakes hike. There are picnic tables in the trees near the trailhead. There’s also several benches on the Interpretive Trail, most with outstanding views.

With such great scenery at the top, the best place for a picnic is around the Grassi Lakes. There’s lots of benches and large rocks to rest on while you enjoy the incredible colors of these mountain-fed lakes. Please help keep this area beautiful by staying on the designated trails.

The Grassi Lakes are the most beautiful lakes near Canmore, Alberta.
Ha Ling Peak is reflected in the mirror-like water of Lower Grassi Lake.

The Grassi Lakes hiking trail is so close to town that you could easily do the hike in the morning and then go into Canmore for ice cream or stop at one of Canmore’s best lunch restaurants. Alternately, you could also hike Grassi Lakes after lunch in the afternoon.

Grassi Lakes Hike Safety  

Grassi Lakes may not be in Banff National Park, but it is still in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains making this prime bear country.

We love bears and would hate for any harm to come to them or you, so please take the time to educate yourself by reading Safe Travel in Bear Country. Don’t be fooled into thinking this kid-friendly Canmore hike is too busy to see any bears; bears can appear anywhere at any time.

The Grassi Lakes hiking trail is located within an important wildlife corridor which gives mountain animals the chance to bypass the town of Canmore. Animals deserve the freedom to move, so please stay on the designated hiking trails. The upside of this is that your chances of seeing wildlife are pretty good on the Grassi Lakes hike.

The Lower Grassi Lake near Canmore, Alberta.
Lower Grassi Lake.

With many towering rock cliffs, be aware that areas around the Grassi Lakes hike are rockfall hazards. In order to enter the dangerous areas, you must pass through a gate which has many “Danger” signs posted on it. Please obey all “Area Closed” signs for your safety.

A gate next to Upper Grassi Lake warns hikers about the dangers of rock falls ahead in an area popular with rock climbers.
The gate next to Upper Grassi Lake leading to the Rockfall Zone – a popular climbing area.

The kid-friendly Grassi Lakes hike is so popular that it’s one of the rare hikes in the area where you will see most dogs on-leash. It’s such a popular Canmore hike that people feel social pressure to comply with the on-leash dog laws.

We recommend checking the Grassi Lakes Trail Report for trail conditions and potential trail closures before you head out.

Hiking Grassi Lakes in Spring

The Grassi Lakes hiking trail is a popular hike all-year round. The gentle slope of the hiking trail makes Grassi Lakes a great choice for an early-season hike near Canmore. The Grassi Lakes water color from the freshly melted mountain snow is especially beautiful in spring.

The newly thawed Lower Grassi Lake in spring is surrounded by snow covered forest.
The newly thawed Lower Grassi Lake after a beautiful spring snowfall.

If you hike Grassi Lakes in spring (April or May), it’s hard to predict the trail conditions you will encounter. Chances are that the hiking trail will be a combination of ice, snow, dirt and mud.

Before you hike Grassi Lakes in spring, take a moment to consider the weather from the previous week. Did it snow a lot? Was it really warm? The conditions will change frequently on the Grassi Lakes hike in spring.

In spring, the snow starts to melt during the day and then freezes overnight. This cycle leads to ice on the Grassi Lakes trail in spring, making it more treacherous than usual. If you have them, it’s never a bad idea to have a pair of microspikes in your daybag, just in case.

In the spring, the Grassi Lakes hike has some of my favorite alpine flowers including Bluebells and Indian Paintbrushes.

Hiking Grassi Lakes in Winter

If you visit Canmore or Banff in winter, you can still easily enjoy the Grassi Lakes Trail as an easy winter hike. With snow-covered trees lining the Grassi Lakes hiking trail and dramatic snow-capped mountains all-around, the winter scenery can be magical.

I’ve never seen the Grassi Lakes frozen completely due to the cold, but I understand it is possible in very cold conditions.

Snow covered trees surround the beautiful Grassi Lakes in winter.
Lower Grassi Lake in Winter.

The Interpretive Trail used to be closed in winter as the spray from the Lawrence Grassi Waterfall creates unsafe ice conditions. We’ll have to see if this is still the case after the new trail upgrades in 2023.

Many winter hikers will use microspikes and hiking poles for more stability on the trail. On our most recent winter hike at Grassi Lakes, we had our microspikes in our day bag, as we found we didn’t need them (and we never use poles – just a personal preference).

Given the snow cover on the Grass Lakes trail, the cleats would have probably made it a little easier, but we still made it up with little effort. Don’t be afraid to try hiking Grassi Lakes trail in the winter if you don’t have cleats.

If you are hiking Grassi Lakes with kids in the winter, try these microspikes for kids. Our kids each own of pair of these kids ice cleats and we love them – they work great!

If you don’t have microspikes, you can also use snowshoes for traction for the Grassi Lakes hike. Snowshoes are a bit over overkill as the snow over the hiking trail will be hard packed due to the amount of daily foot traffic. If given the choice, we’d use cleats over snowshoes on the Grassi Lakes trail in winter.

Canmore's Grassi Lakes are a winter wonderland.
Grassi Lakes is such a beautiful winter hike near Canmore.

Be aware that the sun is low in the sky in winter and will duck behind a mountain in the mid-afternoon, creating an artificially early dusk. When the sun goes away, the wind will pick up and the temperature will get noticeably colder immediately. If you go on an afternoon hike to Grassi Lakes in the winter, be sure to dress warmer than you think you’ll need to.

Another fun Canmore winter activity nearby is to go cross-country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre, which is only a few minutes away. This is a former Winter Olympic venue, so it’s a world-class XC skiing facility. There’s rentals available and trails to match all ability levels.

Want more winter activities? Check out these easy snowshoe trails in Kananaskis or one of these easy winter hikes in Banff and area.

Grassi Lakes Trail Logistics

  • There are washrooms in the Grassi Lakes parking lot. It’s a popular kid-friendly hike, so you won’t get much privacy in the bushes around the trail.

  • There are no drinking water facilities, so fill your hydration packs before you leave.

  • Dogs are allowed on the Grassi Lakes hike provided they are on-leash at all times.

  • Swimming is not allowed in the Grassi Lakes. Despite what you may see on some of the other Banff blogs, there are “No Swimming” signs posted at each entrance to the lakes.

  • This is one of the most popular hikes in Canmore, so to avoid the crowds and parking lot congestion, try to visit early in the day on a weekday if possible.

  • Bikes are not allowed on the Grassi Lakes trail.
a woman hiker pauses to enjoy the views from one of the new lookouts on the Grassi Lakes Trail.
Celine enjoys one of the new viewpoints on the Grassi Lakes Trail.

Grassi Lakes Trail Map

You don’t need a hiking map for the Canmore Grassi Lakes hike. With lots of people and well-defined trails, it’s virtually impossible to get lost on this hike – simply enter the trail from the parking lot and follow the crowds along the single trail.

If you’d like a digital map of the Grassi Lakes hike and the ability to track your stats (distance, elevation gain, etc.), we use and recommend the AllTrails app.

Enjoy map downloads and many more premium features with a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+!

a hiker walks a rocky section on the Grassi Lakes trail in Canmore, Canada.
A fun, rocky section on the Interpretive Trail.

If paper maps are more your style, I highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. They are the gold standard for Banff hiking maps and we own the entire set. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which I love looking at for hiking inspiration.

The Grassi Lakes Trail appears in the Gem Trek hiking map entitled, “Canmore & Kananaskis Village”. 

What to Bring Hiking in Kananaskis

You don’t need a lot of hiking gear to enjoy hiking in Kananaskis. Our list of essential hiking gear contains the hiking gear and clothing you’ll need for the variable Kananaskis weather and trail conditions.

a female hiker sits on a bench made from tree stumps on the Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore.
Celine sits on a fun bench made of logs.

Footwear Recommendation

The Grassi Lakes trail surface is hard-packed gravel with some larger rocks protruding, making a slightly uneven surface. Unless you are doing the Grassi Lakes hike in winter, you won’t need any special hiking shoes for this hike.

a hiker walks over some rocks and roots on the Grassy Lakes Trail near Canmore, AB.

If you plan to do lots of hiking during your visit to the Canadian Rockies, you’ll need a proper pair of hiking shoes.

Grassi Lakes Hiking Trail FAQ

Do you need a Kananaskis Pass for the Grassi Lakes hike?

The green-blue water of Grassi Lakes is incredible.

Yes. The Grassi Lakes Trail is inside the Canmore Nordic Center Provincial Park, which is part of Kananaskis Country. You are required to have a Kananaskis Pass to go hiking at Grassi Lakes.

Is Grassi Lakes Easy?

a woman hiking Grassi Lakes stops to admire the views of Canmore and the Bow Valley mountains.

Yes, the Grassi Lakes Trail is one of the most scenic easy hikes in Canmore. Hikers of all skill levels will be able to enjoy this easy hike to a pair of incredible mountain lakes.

Is Grassi Lakes open 2023?

the incredible color of Lower Grassi Lake is clearly visible through the trees.

Yes, after a lengthy closure in 2022 for trail and parking lot upgrades, the Grassi Lakes trail has once again opened in 2023. We hiked the newly upgraded trails in late May 2023 and they were awesome!

Can you swim in Grassi Lakes?

The No Swimming Sign posted at the trailhead of the Grassi Lakes hike in Canmore, Alberta.

No, swimming is not allowed in the Grassi Lakes. Watch for the “No Swimming” signs at the Grassi Lakes trailhead, and again at the entrances to the lakes.

What mountain is Grassi Lakes on?

view of Cascade Ponds Picnic Area and Mt Rundle

The Grassi Lakes Trail is found on the lower, eastern slopes of Mount Rundle – one of the most beautiful mountains in Banff National Park.

Kid-Friendly Kananaskis Hikes

Kid-Friendly Banff Hikes

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Just outside Banff National Park and the town of Canmore, is this incredible hike to Grassi Lakes. This easy hike near Canmore, Alberta will astound you when you see the color of the water.

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Dan Brewer, a life-long Alberta resident, calls Canmore home along with his wife and two kids. He is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada, where he gets to share his passion for the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Dan, along with his family, love being outdoors doing one of the many activities they enjoy in the mountains: hiking, mountain biking, paddleboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

When he's not in Canmore enjoying one of his favourite local hikes, you can find him hoping on a plane to explore a new country with his family or working on one of their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.