Last updated: May 5th, 2021
If there was an award for the most beautiful mountain town in Canada, Canmore would likely take the title. Fringed by the towering Canadian Rocky Mountains, Canmore sits in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth, just minutes from world-famous Banff National Park.
While it has become very popular over the years, Canmore is basically the “local” version of Banff. Whereas Banff was specifically designed for tourists and caters to millions of people each and every year, Canmore is the town where locals live, which is a mere 15-minute drive from Banff and about 60-minutes from Calgary.
It’s just as beautiful as Banff and is close enough to be another option for accommodation and sightseeing.
What To Do In Canmore Alberta Canada
With such close proximity to Banff National Park, the Kananaskis, and the stunning Icefields Parkway, there are many things to do in Canmore and the surrounding area. While there are four seasons in Canada, the most distinctly different seasons are summer and winter, so we will separate all the things to do in Canmore between these two seasons.
Things to Do in Canmore in Summer
Summer in the Canadian Rockies is absolutely beautiful. The vast “whiteness” of winter is replaced by lush green pine trees, grey-tipped mountains, and turquoise-coloured lakes and rivers. For those who don’t like the cold or who don’t like winter activities such as skiing, this is the time to visit. Temperatures are generally warm but certainly not considered hot. Expect temperatures ranging from 10-degrees Celsius to 25-degrees Celsius throughout the day and as cold as 0-degrees Celsius at night.
Three “summer seasons”:
- Late Spring (May – June): More rain than usual. Higher and faster rivers. Still snow in the mountains. Not as many tourists.
- Summer (July – Mid-September): Warmest time of year. Almost no snow in the mountains. The busiest time of year to visit.
- Early Fall (Mid-September – October): Cooler days and nights. Some rain. Beautiful fall colours. Rivers are calm. Possible snow. Slightly less busy in terms of tourism.
There are lots of things to do in the summer, however, and this is why it is a popular time to visit.
Explore the Town of Canmore
For those looking for what to do in Canmore itself, there are plenty of Canmore activities, including museums, art galleries, shopping, restaurants, and breweries. Canmore is also often considered as part of the “best of Banff”, due to its scenic look. You can even take a self-guided walking tour, and learn more about local culture, history and trivia.
Whether you just go for a stroll through town or opt to go inside the various shops and museums, everyone loves Canmore.
Canmore Events in the Summer
With beauty and popularity comes a variety of events. Canmore is also a very artistic town, which leads the way to a variety of festival and music festivals. One of the most popular music festivals is the Canmore Folk Music Festival, which draws talent from around the world. There are many other events as well, including the Canmore Highland Games, Canada Day Festivals, and much more.
Without a doubt, hiking is one of the most popular things to do around Canmore. From the moment you step foot into the town, you’ll notice that most people are quite fit, and that’s because almost everyone enjoys the outdoors in some way or another. Hiking is a simple activity to partake in. All you need is summer clothes, good hiking boots, some water and snacks, and some bear spray. There are hundreds of solo and guided Canmore hiking trails ranging from very easy to very difficult, taking anywhere from an hour to multiple days. If you’re new to the area and would like to hike to the summit of a mountain for jaw-dropping views, we definitely recommend Ha-Ling Peak. However, we’ve also created a guide to the best hikes in Kananaskis Country, which will give you some great ideas ranging from easy to difficult.
Another popular activity in the area is rock climbing. With towering peaks all over the place, people can be seen climbing almost anywhere you go. If you’re an experienced climber, you’ll likely want to team up with locals who know where to go. However, even if you’re new to it, a few companies offer climbing experiences for all skill levels. Even if the outdoors seems scary, there are indoor climbing walls as well!
One of our favourite activities in the Rocky Mountains is rafting on the various rivers in the area. Whether you’re looking for a calm scenic float or an adrenaline-packed whitewater adventure, there’s a rafting company that offers it. Our favourite is Kicking Horse river rafting, which is a couple of hours away near Golden, BC, but there’s also the Bow River, which goes through Canmore. Or the nearby Kananaskis River. If you’re looking for the ultimate whitewater adventure, May and June are the best months. If you don’t care about how ferocious the rapids are, then anytime from May – September should suffice. Either way, floating down a turquoise river surrounded by mountain peaks is an experience you won’t forget.
In the warmer months, you’ll see people biking all over the place, whether it’s on backcountry trails, throughout the town, or even along the major Trans-Canada highway. If you don’t have your own bike, many shops rent them in the area and there’s a variety of trails ranging from easy to difficult. For a real thrill, try Mountain Biking Rocky Mountains, typically offered at ski resorts during the summer months.
Canoeing, Kayaking, and Paddle-boarding
With hundreds of lakes and a few rivers, there’s a plethora of opportunities for going canoeing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding. Many shops in the area rent water vessels or you can also bring your own. If you’ve never done these activities before, you may want to take a lesson. You’ll also need a life jacket as it’s mandatory in Alberta. Popular places to go paddling include Lake Louise, Lake Minnewanka, Spray Lakes, Rundle Forebay and more.
What could be more romantic or adventurous than horseback trail riding through the incredible Canadian Rockies? A range of possibilities exists for all skill levels, including 2-hour rides to six-night adventures. We’ve done a six-night horseback tour through the backcountry and we’ll never forget it. Whether your goal is to ride a horse high into the mountains or along the valley, there’s an outfitter that can help you out.
If the Rocky Mountains look spectacular from below, imagine how they look from the air! Helicopter tours are a popular thing to do in Canmore, Banff, and Jasper, and there are a couple of companies that offer them. Flights range from 12-minutes to a full hour and can be combined with other activities such as hiking and yoga.
The area around Canmore, including Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, the Kananaskis, and the Kootenays are the perfect place for a road trip. In fact, one of the most famous road trips in the world is the Icefields Parkway, which takes you from Lake Louise to Jasper. Driving this route, you’ll see many glaciers, lakes, and towering peaks, as well as wildlife and numerous waterfalls. If you’re looking for an incredibly scenic Canada road trip, this is the place to do it!
Athabasca Glacier Tour
Just a 2-hour drive North of Canmore is the spectacular Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier. Although you can simply see it from the highway for free, you can also pay to take a ride in an all-terrain bus, which takes you onto the glacier for a chance to walk on it and even drink fresh glacier water. Whether you view it from the sidelines or walk onto it, it’s one of the most popular things to do in the area.
If you want to get out on a boat, a popular nearby tour is a boat trip on Lake Minnewanka. This is one of the biggest lakes in the region and has quite the history, especially the underground town that some people go scuba diving to find. Basically, an old mining town was flooded out when a dam was introduced to the area. This tour is mostly scenic in nature but will also educate you on the history, wildlife, and folklore of the area.
For those interested in going beneath the Earth, there’s plenty of opportunities for caving. In fact, this is one of the few activities that can be enjoyed the same way all year round. Due to the internal temperature of the cave, it remains at the same temperature in both summer and winter. The most popular of the Canmore caves is Rat’s Nest Cave, which is organized by Canmore Cave Tours.
Things to Do in Canmore in Winter
Winter in the Canadian Rockies is a spectacular time to visit. While it’s much colder in temperature, it’s also far less busy. For some, winter is the best time to visit. The entire area becomes a winter wonderland with snow-capped mountain peaks and pine trees, frozen lakes, and rivers cutting through a white sparkling landscape. There are also new activities such as world-class skiing and snowboarding. Temperatures are quite cold though, ranging from -10-degrees Celcius to -40-degrees Celcius, but as long as you dress appropriately, it’s a wonderful time to experience Canmore and the Canadian Rockies.
Three “winter seasons”:
- Late Fall (November – December): Typically not as cold yet. Ski resorts are just opening. light to moderate snow. Lakes may or may not be frozen.
- Winter (December – March): Coldest time of the year. Loads of snow. All the lakes are frozen. Ski resorts are all open.
- Early spring (April – May): Still lots of snow in the mountains. Weather gets warmer. Some ski resorts still open until May but snow can become soft.
There are lots of things to do in the winter, however, and this is a great time to visit if you want to see snow, participate in winter sports, or enjoy fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation.
Canmore Events in the Winter
With 6 months of cold temperatures, the winter does not stop Canmore from being active, artistic, and full of festivals. Popular events include the Canmore Winter Carnival, Canmore Uncorked, the Canmore World Cup Biathlon, New Year’s Eve Party on the Pond, Festival of Trees, and much more.
Hiking is much more popular to do in the summer but some trails are great for winter hiking as well. Obviously, you’ll need to be much better prepared, which includes warm clothing, and cleats for the bottom of your winter hiking boots. One of our favourite hikes to do every winter is Johnston Canyon, which features frozen waterfalls and ice climbers!
When the snow is too deep for winter hiking, strap on some snowshoes and you’re good to go! This is a great activity for hiking the many winter trails in the area. It’s also a cheap activity as the only thing you’ll need to do is rent snowshoes or buy a pair. Again, you’ll want to talk to people in the area to find out what trails are opened or closed and to make sure you’re prepared for where you go. However, there’s also companies offering snowshoeing tours and even the chance to go helicopter snowshoeing Banff and Jasper.
If you thought that mountain climbers give up their passion in the winter months, you’re wrong! All they do is grab new tools, strap on heavy-duty ice cleats and start climbing frozen waterfalls. You can see this in action at the popular Johnston Canyon, and tour companies in the area offer the experience to certain people.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Without a doubt, the most popular activity during the winter is skiing and snowboarding. After all, the area around Canmore is world-class, with a variety of ski resorts such as Nakiska Ski Resort, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mount Norquay, making this the perfect destination for Canada ski holidays. There’s even more if you drive a couple of hours, including Panorama Ski Resort, Kicking Horse Ski Resort, and Revelstoke Ski Resort. The biggest mountains are Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, which offer over 100 runs. Sunshine Village is located at a higher elevation, which allows them to stay open until late May, more than a month longer than any other ski resort in the province. Get ready for an epic time!
Not all skiing consists of going down a 7000-foot mountain. For those who want more exercise and less black diamonds, you can go cross-country skiing, which is basically skiing on flat land. For this, the skis are not as wide and they require much more work in terms of pushing yourself along. However, it’s a great way to get some exercise and experience the snow-covered trails. There are even opportunities to cross-country ski across frozen lakes or to lodges located deep in the forest.
If you’re looking for groomed trails or a place to learn how to cross-country ski, then we certainly recommend spending a day at the Canmore Nordic Centre.
For those who love snowmobiling or want to try one out for the first time, there’s a variety of options for renting your own or for joining a tour. This is a great way to shred the trails but is not allowed in the national parks. This means that most tours run in Golden, BC (two hours from Canmore) or Panorama, BC (two hours from Canmore). However, some of these tours offer transportation from Canmore.
Winter Helicopter Tours
Helicopter tours don’t stop in the winter. In fact, you can combine them with winter activities such as snowshoeing. That’s what we did. This particular activity is not right in Canmore but is 2-3 hours away in the middle of the Icefields Parkway. You’ll get to fly up and over mountain peaks and land in the backcountry where you’ll get to snowshoe in untouched snow!
This magical experience is best experienced in the Rocky Mountain where a team of dogs will pull your sleigh through pine-tree trails while you gaze at the towering mountains surrounding you. There are also opportunities to take the dogs onto a frozen lake, which is where they can truly let loose and run as fast as they can. No obstacles!
The relatively new sport of fat-tire biking brings mountain biking into the winter season. Basically, fat-tire bikes have fat tires! This allows them to push through the snow, giving you the opportunity to go biking on winter trails. It’s quite the workout as well, so make sure you have strong legs. Many companies rent out fat-tire bikes and you can easily go for as little as an hour to a full day.
How to Get to Canmore
Most visitors arrive through British Columbia or from Calgary, Alberta. From Calgary to Canmore, you’re looking at a short one-hour drive, depending on where you’re coming from. It’s an impressive drive, consisting mostly of flat farmland up until you reach the Kananaskis, which is when the mountains start to look much bigger. It’s a great place to stop on the drive from Calgary to Banff but even if you’re going from Edmonton to Jasper, we recommend going down the world-famous Icefields Parkway to Banff and then making your way to Canmore as well.
Canmore Alberta Hotels
Due to the high tourism that Banff National Park receives each year, there are hotels and other styles of accommodation for all budgets, whether you’re looking at staying in Canmore or where to stay in Banff. For those low on budget, there are opportunities to go camping in Alberta, stay in hostels, or perhaps find a deal on Airbnb. For mid-range, there are hundreds of options ranging from the odd Bed and Breakfast to popular chain hotels like Best Western. There are also luxurious options including the Fairmont Springs, the Rimrock hotel, and many Alpine-style lodges. Whether you’re looking for a simple hotel or an 8-bedroom luxurious house, there’s plenty of options for both Canmore accommodation and Banff accommodation.
A Bear & Bison Canadian Country Inn
Our personal favourite place to stay in Canmore is A Bear & Bison Canadian Country Inn. This place really makes you feel at home with a beautiful living and dining room, very spacious and cozy rooms, and one of the best breakfasts you’ll ever have. From oatmeal with peanut butter and jam to delicious eggs and french press coffee, it was a real treat waking up to it at our door. I’m not sure what all the rooms have but ours also had a fireplace and a Jacuzzi!
Where to Eat in Canmore
Thanks to the popularity of the town, Canmore is home to a plethora of delicious restaurants. We’ve tried a few of them during the years, and some of our favourites are below.
Ramen Arashi: This is one of the best places for ramen in all of Alberta. It’s a small, quaint little place with friendly owners and mouth-watering ramen. Not only do they have the common types of ramen, such as Tonkotsu, but they have some new flavours we had never tried before, such as one with a spicy peanut sauce. At roughly $15 a meal, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better value too. Highly recommended!
Alberta Tourist Attractions
As one of Canada’s premier tourist destinations, there are so many things to do in Alberta. There’s the wild Boreal forest in the North, the prairies in the South, the mountains in the West, and even the badlands of central Alberta, which are one of the best places on Earth to find Dinosaur fossils and learn about pre-historic history. Whether you’re into major cities and looking for fun things to do in Calgary or things to do in Edmonton, or into small-town road trips like the Crowsnest Pass, there’s something for everyone in Alberta.
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