Quarry Lake is one of the most beloved recreation spots in all of Canmore, Alberta. The transformation of a former open-pit coal mine into a beautiful lake surrounded by forest and stunning mountains is an incredible reclamation success story. Today, Quarry Lake is one of the most popular things to do in Canmore.
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11 Fun Things to do at Quarry Lake Park
While it’s true that Quarry Lake has an amazing history, the real reason visitors flock to this Canmore park is the incredible scenery and the wide variety of fun things to do.
1. Enjoy the Stunning Views of the Canadian Rockies
With its enviable location high above the town of Canmore, visitors to Quarry Lake will be treated to stunning views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. From the moment you step foot in Quarry Lake Park, you’ll be in awe of the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Looking across the water from the main picnic area, you’ll have 180-degrees of mountain views. On your right will be Mount Rundle (which runs west all the way to Banff National Park), Ha Ling Peak, Mount Lawrence Grassi and Hope (the littlest of the famous Three Sisters).
If you walk to the far side of the lake, you’ll be treated to views of the rest of Canmore’s mountain family, including Grotto Mountain, Cougar Peak and Mount Lady Macdonald.
2. Have a Picnic
With such amazing scenery, it’s no wonder that Quarry Lake is one of the best spots for a picnic in Canmore. There are many picnic tables on the north shore and south shore of the lake, but if they are all taken, just plunk down your picnic blanket on the grass.
3. Kids Love Playing in the Water
The water in Quarry Lake is F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G, but you’ll be amazed at the number of hardy little kids laughing and playing in the water of this beautiful mountain lake on a hot summer day. It’s not a natural lake, but they have included a little sand beach near the northern picnic area. It’s a small beach, but again, kids don’t care – they’ll have fun anyway!
The water at Quarry Lake is shallow near the beach area, but you’ll notice a series of large rocks in the water. These rocks denote where the safe swimming area ends.
4. Swimming at Quarry Lake
I’ve never gone swimming here, even on a hot day, but there are people who do go for a swim at Quarry Lake. If you recall, the water is F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G, so if you do intend to go swimming at Quarry Lake, be sure you have the proper gear.
Having never gone for a swim in the freezing waters of this mountain lake, we can’t advise what the proper gear is, but we can tell you that every single swimmer we’ve seen at Quarry Lake had a wet suit on.
5. Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Quarry Lake is one of our favorite spots to go stand-up paddleboarding around Banff and Canmore. We are drawn to SUP at Quarry Lake because of the truly incredible mountain scenery. It’s a pretty small lake, but you’ll be too busy admiring the surrounding mountain peaks to notice.
Although we prefer to stand-up paddleboard at Quarry Lake, another popular waterborne activity is kayaking.
7. Walking Trail
One of our favorite Canmore walking trails is located at Quarry Lake. The short trail hugs the shoreline all the way around lake, treating walkers to a variety of different mountain vistas along the way. There are several sightseeing benches along the walking path, which are perfect for soaking in the views.
If you are lucky enough to walk around the Canmore lake early in the morning or in the evening when the wind is calm, you’ll be treated to glasslike water and some amazing mountain reflections!
8. Watch for Wildlife
Located at the very edge of Canmore, Alberta, Quarry Lake is a prime spot for spotting wildlife. There is nothing but forest separating the lake from the headwall of Ha Ling Peak, so from time-to-time our furry friends will pop out of the forest for a visit.
The most common wildlife I’ve seen at around the lake are elk, but you’ll also have a good chance of seeing deer. Bears are not unheard of, but they are not commonly seen here.
Dogs are not allowed in Quarry Lake Park, but due to the very popular off leash dog park located just north of the lake, most of the wildlife viewings will be at the south end of the park.
Improve your chances of seeing an animal with our expert tips on spotting wildlife.
9. Off Leash Dog Park
As mentioned, dogs are not allowed anywhere near the lake, but there is a very large off leash area right next door. This is a popular off leash dog park due to the views and the dog pond, which is a fun swimming area for your dog.
10. Mountain Biking
While there are no trails in the immediate area, there are several popular mountain biking trails near Quarry Lake.
If you are a serious mountain biker, you should bypass Quarry Lake and head to the nearby Canmore Nordic Centre, which has tons of awesome mountain biking trails for all skill levels.
Aside from the highly enjoyable easy walk around Quarry Lake, there are no real hiking trails in the area. That said, there are several excellent Canmore hikes within a 10 minute drive:
- The family-friendly Grassi Lakes Trail is one of the most popular easy hikes in Canmore.
- Those looking for more of a challenge should try tackling the Ha Ling Peak trail or EEOR (East of of Rundle). These challenging Canmore hikes take you to the summit of the mountains surrounding Quarry Lake, allowing you to look down on this popular Canmore picnic spot.
How to Get to Quarry Lake
Quarry Lake is located on Spray Lakes Road on the very western edge of Canmore. There are many different ways to get to Quarry Lake:
- Drive: It’s a quick 5 minute drive from downtown Canmore. There’s a few things you should know about parking at Quarry Lake though, which we’ll cover in the next section.
- Bus: Canmore’s public transportation is free on the Roam bus system. The closest bus stop to Quarry Lake is the Prospect Heights West stop. From this bus stop, it’s a 10 minute walk to the park.
- Bike: It’s a quick 14 minute bike ride from downtown Canmore to Quarry Lake.
- Walk: Walking to Quarry Lake from downtown Canmore is a highly enjoyable experience. The walk is approximately 2 km and should take approximately 30 minutes.
Our recommended walking route would be to start in Riverside Park, then walk along the Bow River to West Canmore Park. From here, walk up the Canmore Creek Waterfall trail (one of the best easy hikes in Canmore) to the entrance of Quarry Lake.
This Google Map shows most of our recommended walking route to Quarry Lake. When you reach the end point of this trail map, simply follow the road until you see a trail which has a warning sign about old coal mining equipment in the area. Follow this short hiking trail past a beautiful waterfall all the way to Quarry Lake.
Parking at Quarry Lake
The popularity of this beautiful Canmore lake has exploded in recent years. Sadly, many of the visitors to Quarry Lake did not treat the area respectfully and left piles of trash all over the place.
In response to the popularity of this beautiful lake, the Town of Canmore upgraded the parking lot, and then introduced a paid parking system. It’s free for locals who register their cars with the town, but everyone else has to pay to park at Quarry Lake.
The revenues from the paid parking at Quarry Lake helped pay for upgrades to the park, including the installation of many more bear-safe garbage cans (please use them).
The paid parking at Quarry Lake is very actively enforced – sometimes it feels like the peace officers live in that parking lot. Please make sure you’ll pay, or you will almost certainly get a parking ticket.
When the parking lot is full, it’s tempting to park along the Spray Lakes Road, but this is prohibited and also actively enforced. And, finally, parking in the nearby Canmore neighborhoods requires a parking permit, and you guessed it, is actively enforced too.
If you are planning to drive to Quarry Lake on a sunny day, on a weekend, or any day in July or August, you must arrive early to guarantee a parking spot. Otherwise, we recommend you take the free Roam bus from downtown Canmore, or even better, enjoy the beautiful walk.
Facilities at Quarry Lake
The parking revenues have allowed the Town of Canmore to invest in better facilities at the park. Visitors can now enjoy:
- Lots of garbage cans and recycling bins. Human food is very harmful for wildlife, so please make sure you pick up after yourselves.
- Picnic tables and toilets at both the north and south sides of the lake.
- Interpretive signs about the coal mining history and ultimate creation of Quarry Lake Park.
- Life saving equipment on all four corners of the lake. There’s a bunch of complimentary life jackets available at the main picnic area on the north side – they are hanging from the information sign.
Quarry Lake History
Canmore has a long and proud coal mining history dating back to 1886. The quality of the anthracite coal in Canmore was excellent, but the underground mines had a very complex geology, making it difficult and dangerous to extract the coal.
In the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, Canmore Mines Ltd. established a series of five surface mines, including Canmore Creek Mine Number 3, which is now the site of our beloved Quarry Lake Park.
In less than 2 years all the economic coal had been extracted from Canmore Creek Mine Number 3, leaving a pit 36 m deep, 365 m long and 150 m wide. In 1974, the Province of Alberta took back control of the land as part of an effort to further develop Alberta’s mountain parks.
After a long and complex reclamation project, the land was renamed Quarry Lake in 1982. With the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics just years away (with Nordic events to be held down the road at the Canmore Nordic Centre), the town further invested in amenities at Quarry Lake.
We are grateful to the visionaries who took an industrial eyesore and lovingly turned it into one of the most scenic and popular places in Canmore.
Quarry Lake FAQ
Can you swim in Quarry Lake?
Yes, you can swim in Quarry Lake, but the question should be, “do you want to swim in Quarry Lake?”. There is a small, shallow swimming area by the beach for hardy little kids who don’t seem to notice the near freezing water temperatures. Adult recreationally swimmers also enjoy swimming in Quarry Lake, but they have proper wet suits to protect them from the frigid waters.
Do you have to pay to go to Quarry Lake?
No, you do not have to pay to go to Quarry Lake. While nearly all the land north and west of Quarry Lake is part of Kananaskis Country, and therefore requires a Kananaskis Pass, Quarry Lake itself is not part of Kananaskis Country. As mentioned above, non-residents will be required to pay for parking at Quarry Lake.
How long is the trail around Quarry Lake?
The beautiful walking trail around Quarry Lake is only 1 km long, with virtually no elevation gain.
Where is Quarry Lake in Canmore?
Quarry Lake is on the western edge of Canmore, Alberta. It’s located on Spray Lakes Road, just minutes away from the Canmore Nordic Centre – a host venue for the nordic events for the 1988 Calgary Olympics.