The Best Things to Do in Canmore in Winter
Most people don’t realise that Canmore is JUST as beautiful as Banff and only 20 minutes away. It is also less crowded and has loads of things to do all-year-round.
Winter in Canmore provides you with endless things to do – from ice skating to hiking, to skiing to spa days and so much more!
Canmore is set in an area surrounded by towering snowy mountain peaks that provide the magical town with a perfect amount of coziness during Winter.
It is 1 hour 20 minute drive from Calgary International Airport to Canmore and 20 minutes drive from Banff, making it the perfect place to have a Winter getaway or even spend a white Christmas.
This guide will fill you with loads of Wintery ideas of how to spend your time in Canmore. As well as the best Winter activities in Canmore, I have also listed the coziest places to stay and restaurants worth visiting.
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Why Canmore Instead of Banff
You don’t have to choose to visit Canmore over Banff as they are located literally right next to one another.
When choosing accommodation however, we usually find Canmore more affordable than Banff because.. well.. it’s not Banff. 😂
Canmore is just as beautiful as Banff. It has a lovely strip of shops and bars and restaurants that actually remind us very much of Banff Boulevard but less busy and less touristy.
If you are wanting to visit Banff or the Canadian Rockies in general, but not keen on spending loads of money on accommodation, Canmore is a great choice!
Places to Stay in Canmore in the Winter
If you are planning on staying in Canmore in December, make sure you book your accommodation nice and early to make sure you don’t miss out. It is a beautiful place to stay for Christmas.
Basecamp Resorts Canmore – Basecamp Resorts are full apartments with a kitchen and are located right next to the world famous bagel café, The Rocky Mountain Bagel Company! They also have a hot tub with a view of the mountains. 😍
Nomad by Samsara Resort – Panorama Top View – These townhouse style holiday homes are great for big family or if you are travelling with a group of friends.
Canmore Inn and Suites – The Canmore Inn and Suites is more of a classic hotel style hotel. They have a fitness centre, indoor swimming pool with waterslide and mountain views!
For a larger list of accommodation options, click here!
When Does it Start Snowing in Canmore?
Usually the snow begins in early November, however can also start as early as October! Then it continues until April where it then lingers for a while. The Winter is definitely long in Canmore, but also so magical and there is plenty to do in the way of outdoor activities.
The coldest month is usually December where it can often get down to -12 degrees Celsius so you will want to make sure you pack some warm clothes!
Things to do in Canmore in Winter
Wondering what there is to do in Canmore in Winter? Here is a list of some really fun things and ways to enjoy the magic of the snow in Canmore during the Winter!
Most of these Winter activities are located right in Canmore so that you don’t even need to go anywhere, however, because Canmore is so close to Banff National Park, this opens up loads more options!
Ice skating in Canmore
One of my personal favourite Winter activities is ice skating and there are plenty of places in Canmore to skate, both indoor and outdoor!
- Canmore Skating Pond – outdoor
- Cougar Creek Skating Rink – outdoor
- Larch Ice Rink – outdoor
- Rundle Crescent Ice Surface – outdoor
- Canmore Recreation Centre – indoor
- Peaks Park Ice Surface – outdoor
You can also go wild skating on some of the larger frozen lakes around, however, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are with a local expert or know exactly what you are doing.
Canmore has lots of trails that are great for snow shoeing. If you aren’t familiar with snow shoeing, the Canmore Nordic Centre and do their dedicated 3km snowshoe loop which is a great way to practice.
Some other great snow shoe trails in Canmore include Snowshoe Hare, Chester Lake and Rawson Lake Trail.
Go to the Canmore Winter Carnival
The Canmore Winter Carnival happens every year towards the end of Winter in February. It holds activities such as the annual Ice Carving Challenge, the Sugar Shack, the Kid & Mutt Races and Log Sawing.
It is a great way to get outside, have some fun and celebrate!
Take an Ice Climbing Tour
The Canadian Rockies are considered to be one of the best places in the world for ice climbing! You can ice climb in Canmore anytime from November to the end of April depending on the year and the weather.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures does classes from very beginning to pro ice climbing and will provide you with all of the gear that you need to get started.
Go on a Winter Hike
Just because it is Winter doesn’t mean you have to stop hiking! Purchase a pair of micro spikes and get out there! There is so much to explore!
Some of Canmore’s best Winter hikes include Grassi Lakes, the Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk (which is much more leisurely and close to town) and Quarry Lake Loop.
Visit the Local Breweries
Canmore is home to some great local breweries such as the Canmore Brewing Company and The Grizzly Paw Pub and Taproom.
You can also join a brewery tour at Canmore Brewery & Distillery Tours.
Try Fat Biking
Fat Biking is a must try Winter sport and Canmore is a great place to do it! A Fat Bike is like a normal bike but with extra fat tires which enables them to ride on top of snow and gives you extra traction.
Some great beginner trails for fat biking in Canmore include:
- Bow River Loop
- Quarry Lake Recreation Area
- Canmore Nordic Centre
You can rent fat bikes from Trail Sports in Canmore who also do guided tours.
There are quite a few options for skiing near Canmore. The weather in Canmore is quite often beautiful blue skies and sunny during Winter, perfect conditions for a day out on the slopes!
- Nakiska Ski Resort – 40 minutes drive from Canmore located in Kananaskis
- Mount Norquay – 20 minutes drive from Canmore located in Banff
- Sunshine – 30 minutesdrive from Canmore located in Banff
- Lake Louise – 1 hour drive from Canmore
Try Cross Country Skiing
There are lots of great cross country ski trails in and around Canmore. The Canmore Nordic Centre is great for if you are visiting Canmore because they have nicely groomed trails that cater to beginners and professionals and you can even rent a pair of cross country skis from there.
Some other great cross country ski areas near Canmore include:
- Ribbon Creek in Kananaskis – this area has a network of trails in an area surrounded by beautiful forests and frozen creeks.
- Mount Shark – more off the beaten path.
Visit the Three Sisters at Sunrise and get Some Epic Shots
If you are into photography then you are going to love Canmore! One of Canmore’s most famous photography spots is the Three Sisters viewpoint. The best time to visit is at sunrise and it is a small walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint.
Bring along your micro spikes because the trail can be quite slippery during Winter.
To get to the viewpoint, direct to the off leash dog area across the road from the Three Sisters Viewpoint on google maps. You can park here and cross the road to get to the short trail to the lookout.
Go on a Helicopter Tour
Canmore and the rest of the Canadian Rockies is an absolutely stunning part of the world and what better way to see as much of it as you can than a helicopter flight!
Alpine Helicopters Inc. has a range of different tours to choose from!
Rock climbing in Canmore
Indoor rock climbing is a perfect indoor activity to do if the weather is bad or if you don’t feel like venturing out into the cold during Winter in Canmore.
There are a couple of different places you can go rock climbing in Canmore.
Visit the Frozen Falls in Grotto Canyon
In Winter Grotto Creek transforms into a frozen wonderland and you can actually walk along the frozen creek. At the end of the frozen trail, you will reach a magical frozen waterfall. This is a fun adventure for the whole family including kids!
You can also join a group tour so that you can experience the magic of Grotto Canyon with an experience tour leader.
You WILL need micro spikes for this Winter adventure or you won’t get very far.
Tip: The best time to go is when the creek is fully frozen but without a huge snow buildup, otherwise you may need your snowshoes.
The hike is 5.2km / 3.2 miles return with about 259m / 849 ft elevation gain and will take you around 1-2 hours.
The best time to hike Grotto Canyon is towards the end of Winter when there is a thick layer of ice to walk on. Try to avoid hiking to Grotto canyon straight after snowfall.
Go on a Tour to see Canmore’s Caves
You can explore Canmore’s Rats Nest Cave which is located under Grotto Mountain by joining a cave tour!
There are a few different ways you can see the Caves but you should expect to feel like a real explorer! These cave tours have less of a “touristy” feel to them and more of an adventure feel!
One of the tours includes an 18m rappel deeper into the cave and you will have the opportunity to squeeze through narrow passages to explore more of the caves.
Enjoy a Relaxing Spa Day
Just because you are in one of the most adventurous places in Canada doesn’t mean you have to be adventuring ALL of the time.
Each of these spas have a range of different packages and experience to choose from and all are perfect to help you recover from a few days of outdoor adventure.
Visit the Canmore Christmas Artisan’s Market
Canmore puts on Christmas Markets where you will find lots of artisans selling hand crafted items. The market was started in 1996 to raise money for the Canmore Preschool Society which became an annual event after being successful in its first year.
The markets usually take place towards the end of November but you can check https://canmoreartisansmarket.com/ for updates.
Canmore has some great shops. There are loads of outdoorsy shops so if you have an outdoorsy friend to shop for this Christmas now is your chance. There are also lots of gift shops and also print shops with the most incredible photos of the Rockies!
Visit Johnston Canyon while it’s frozen!
Johnston Canyon is one of the best things to do in Banff National Park all-year-round, but personally I think it is 100% times more special in the Winter.
From Canmore it is a 40 minute drive to Johnston Canyon. You will then need to hike to see the Lower and Upper Johnston Canyon Falls. You can choose to visit Johnston Canyon on your own or with a tour.
Please note that Johnston Canyon is free to visit, however you will need a Canada Discovery Park Pass to visit Banff National Park.
The hike to Johnston Canyon during the Winter can be icy and slippery so micro spikes are a must.
Hike the Tunnel Mountain Trail in Banff
If you feel like adventuring a little further away from Canmore to do a hike, the Tunnel Mountain hike has incredible views overlooking Banff and the surrounding mountains.
The Tunnel Mountain trail is 4.5km / 2.8 miles return with an elevation gain of 300m / 984 ft and will take you around 1.5-2 hours to complete.
Tip: Don’t forget your micro spikes!
Relax in a Hot Spring!
This is by far my favourite thing to do in the colder months. The closest hot spring to Canmore is the Banff Upper Hot Springs which is a man-made hot spring resort but uses real hot spring water which comes from high in the mountains.
Banff Upper Hot Springs have awesome views of the mountains and are a 30 minute drive from Canmore.
The hot springs do get quite busy and you cannot reserve a spot. It is a first-come-first-serve basis so try to go first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon after the midday rush.
Visit Lake Louise!
Just because it is Winter doesn’t mean that Lake Louise is equally as stunning as it is in the Summer.
Yes, the lake freezes over in the Winter and the gorgeous bright turquoise colour does tend to disappear, however if you embrace the Winter magic, you will realise that Lake Louise is one of the most magical places in Banff National Park during the Winter.
There are lots of things to do at Lake Louise during the Winter. You could go ice skating on the lake, snowshoeing in the forests around the lake or warm up with some yummy food and drinks at the Fairmont Hotel.
The Fairmont also puts on an ice castle show out the front every Winter which is really very impressive!
Lake Louise is about a 1 hour drive from Canmore, however a visit is totally worth it as it will be something that you remember forever!
Go on a Dog Sledding Tour
This is a bucket list Winter activity for a lot of people including Dave and I.
There are 3 different Dog Sledding Tour companies in Canmore to choose from and there are lots of different types of tours ranging from 1.5 hours tours to 2 days / 1 night trips.
- Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours Inc.
- Howling Dog Tours
- Mad Dogs & Englishmen Expeditions Inc.
A Dog Sledding Tour is a great way to get out and see Canmore’s wild surroundings without having to hike or ski.
Where to Eat in Canmore
Canmore has loads of great restaurants but some that are worth trying are:
Planning a trip to Banff in the Winter? You might also enjoy:
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