Midway between Kananaskis Country and Banff National Park, the charming town of Canmore makes a great base for exploring the Canadian Rockies in winter. It’s a destination that absolutely sparkles when the snow falls. One of the best ways to enjoy the frosty season is to get outside and enjoy Canmore winter hikes and snowshoe trails. There are plenty of wonderful pathways and trails both inside and outside Banff National Park to explore and the scenery can’t be beat. Here are some suggested Canmore winter hikes and snowshoe trails outside the national park.
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Winter Hikes inside the Town of Canmore
Canmore has lovely trails right inside the town. The top three that are good for winter hikes are Bow River Loop, Three Sisters Pathway, and Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk. Bow River Loop is a flat 2-km loop trail located two blocks from Main Street. The trail has nice views of the Bow River and the mountain peaks that surround Canmore. The Three Sisters Pathway follows the Bow River downstream to Three Sisters Mountain Village. It is 6.7 km one-way and goes through wooded areas, meadows and an old mine site. From the Mineside Trailhead, the first 1.7 km of the trail is gravel and the rest is paved. Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk can be accessed from downtown Canmore near the Big Head Sculpture. The 3.9-km boardwalk trail runs beside Policeman’s Creek and passes ponds and forested areas. It’s common to see wildlife along this trail.
Troll Falls is an easy 3.4-km round-trip hike in Kananaskis Country. It’s about a 45-minute drive from Canmore to the Stoney Trail Day Use Area where the hike begins This is one of the best Canmore winter hikes for families. There’s very little elevation change and you get rewarded with views of a stunning waterfall at the end. It’s particularly beautiful in winter when the falls are frozen. If you’re careful, you can climb up near the frozen falls and get a picture from the rocks nearby.
Related: Read our detailed post about Hiking to Troll Falls in winter.
Grotto Canyon – One of the Closest Canmore Winter Hikes
The trailhead for the Grotto Canyon hike is just ten minutes outside Canmore. Grotto Canyon is beautiful in every season, but it is particularly special in winter when you can hike on the creek bed and get a view of the canyon from the bottom up. This short, family-friendly hike has 226 metres (740 feet) of elevation gain and a round trip distance of about 4 km (2.5 mi.). There are bathrooms in the parking lot at the trailhead. As you hike up the creek, the rocky canyon walls will start to rise and get taller on either side. If you look closely, there will be many rock climbing anchors in the canyon walls as this is a popular rock climbing spot in the summer. You’ll also pass some ancient Indigenous pictographs. With all of these features, Grotto Canyon is one of the best winter hikes in Canmore.
Related: Read our post, Grotto Canyon Hike in Winter.
It only takes a couple of hours to complete the 4 km Grassi Lakes hike. The trailhead is located about 15-minutes southwest of Canmore past the Canmore Nordic Centre. It is one of the prettiest family-friendly hikes in the Canadian Rockies. There is a difficult trail and an easy trail. Both trail choices lead to the same final destination: a pair of beautiful turquoise blue lakes. There are also some shallow caves that are fun to explore. The easy route on the Grassi Lakes hike goes up an old gravel service road so the grade is gentle and even young children can handle it. It’s a good route to take in the winter when trails can be slippery. The final destination is a pair of beautiful greenish-blue lakes that are surrounded by mountains.
Related: Read our post, Grassi Lakes Hike – Family Fun Near Canmore.
Chester Lake – A Pretty Snowshoe Trail Outside Canmore
Chester Lake is one of the prettiest snowshoe trails in the Rockies – especially on a clear day. The trailhead is about 75 minutes south of Canmore in Spray Valley Provincial Park. The hike to the lake is about 9.3 km return and takes about 3-4 hours. The trail climbs for the first few kilometres through the woods until you reach a large meadow. It’s a gentle grade the rest of the way to the lake and the mountain views are worth the effort. It’s so pretty. The total elevation gain is 287 metres. Chester Lake is a multi-use winter area and there is a designated snowshoe trail as well as a backcountry ski trail. In summer, you can hike beyond the lake, but in winter, it’s best to stop at the shore, because the steep slopes on the other side are an avalanche zone.
Rawson Lake Trail – Snowshoe Near Canmore
There are dozens of snowshoe trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, but one of the best is the Rawson Lake Trail. Stop in at the park’s visitor centre to get the latest info on trail conditions. The trailhead is about 70 minutes south of Canmore on Highway 40. It’s about 8 km round-trip with a 320 metre (1050 foot) elevation gain. You start out on the Lakeshore trail and walk along the shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake for the first 1.2 km. Along the way, you’ll pass Sarrail Falls on a wooden bridge. At the junction, the trail to Rawson Lake climbs for the final 2.7 km. Once again, make sure you stop at Rawson Lake to avoid getting into avalanche terrain. This is a beautiful winter hike best done on snowshoes.
Rummel Lake – To the Bench and Beyond
Just over an hour south of Canmore on AB-742, Rummel Lake is an unofficial trail that takes you to a bench overlooking the Spray Valley before you reach beautiful Rummel Lake. Close to Mount Engadine Lodge, the trail is well packed and easy to follow in winter. It takes about 1.8 km to reach the bench. Then you follow the High Rockies Trail until you reach the Rummel Lake Trail. The total distance is about 10 km return with roughly 420 metres of elevation gain. It should be noted that there is a backcountry campground at Rummel Lake that is open year-round. In winter, this trail has an ATES (Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale) of class 1. Hikers should read the avalanche report and follow the main trail. Even if you only make it as far as the bench, the views are beautiful.
About an hour northeast of Canmore, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park has more than 25 kilometres of multi-use trails in the shadows of the Rockies. It is a day-use only park that is free to visit and has lots of free parking. The visitor information centre, open from 11 am – 3 pm on winter weekends, has trail maps and information. The park protects more than 1,300 hectares of rolling fescue grasslands along the Bow River. Some trails are paved and good for hiking in winter. You will need snowshoes or ice cleats for some of the other trails. Watch for wildlife as you hike or snowshoe along the trails in this park.
Prairie Mountain – Ultimate StairClimber Workout
75 minutes southeast of Canmore, Prairie Mountain is a short, steep hike that offers a great workout that’s even better than a Stairmaster. The hike is 7.6 km return with about a 700 metre elevation gain. It’s popular in every season – even in winter – and some people do it regularly just for the exercise. The views are fantastic from the top. It’s one of the few peaks you can summit in just a few hours. Ice cleats are really helpful on the steeper sections – especially on the way down.
Related: Read our post, Prairie Mountain – Hike a Mountain Before Lunch!
Snowshoeing the West Bragg Creek Trails near Canmore
West Bragg Creek Provincial Recreation Area is about an hour southeast of Canmore near Prairie Mountain. This area is known for its cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. Two snowshoe trails that are particularly nice are Snowshoe Hare and Ranger Summit – Strange Brew Loop. Snowshoe Hare is a 5.5 kilometer loop trail that has nice views and provides a good chance to see wildlife. It’s a nice easy trail with only 167 metres of elevation gain. December through March is the best time to use this trail. Another good hiking and snowshoe trail is Ranger-Summit – Strange Brew Loop. This 9.7 km trail connects Ranger Summit with the Boundary Ridge Trail. It’s a pleasant trail through the forest. There’s about 374 metres of elevation gain. Dogs are allowed on both of these trails, but they must be kept on a leash. Fat bikes are also allowed.
Tips for Canmore Winter Hikes and Snowshoe Excursions
If you’re going to snowshoe in Canmore or enjoy one of the winter hikes in the area, you need to be prepared. When you’re in the Canadian Rockies, a storm can blow in at any time. It’s best to dress in layers and a good base layer can make all the difference. Carry a sturdy backpack with extra clothing, hand warmers, a flashlight, energy bars, a water bottle or a thermos with something warm to drink. Hiking poles can be particularly helpful in winter when trails get slippery. Depending on trail conditions, you may need ice cleats or snowshoes.
Related: Read our product review of Canadian Tire ice cleats – Microspikes for Hiking.
Have You Heard About Rechargeable Hand Warmers?
The Malcolm – A Great Base for Canmore Winter Hikes and Snowshoe Trips
There are plenty of excellent local accommodations that make a great base for Canmore winter hikes and snowshoe excursions. One of my favourite properties is the Malcolm Hotel by Clique. It’s one of the newest properties in Canmore and has a lot of wonderful amenities. It’s the only hotel in Canmore with an onsite concierge and underground parking is included in the rates. There’s a highland games room, an outdoor heated pool, two outdoor hot tubs, good onsite restaurants and it’s a five-minute walk to downtown. Rooms are comfortable and have lovely modern décor and amenities.
Where to Eat in Canmore
After a day of winter hiking or snowshoeing, you’re going to need some après time. Canmore has some great restaurants and bars. The Grizzly Paw Pub is a fun little brew pub with four signature beers and six different craft sodas. You can order a flight of beers or sodas along with classic pub food like burgers, fries, wings, pizza and salads. If you’re looking for something more gourmet, check out The Sensory. This fine dining restaurant has amazing views, delicious food and a nice selection of cocktails, wines and craft brews. The “Trust Me” chef’s menu is a good value if you don’t mind letting the chef decide what you’re going to eat.
More Winter Fun in the Canadian Rockies: Read our post Johnston Canyon Winter Hike and Ink Pots.