45 Locals Reveal Their Favourite Things to Do in Canmore
In our Google-search addicted world of endless choices, planning a vacation can be both wonderfully convenient and a time-consuming headache. Flights need to be selected and booked, accommodations researched and confirmed. Finally, driven by the intention to have a flawless, unforgettable getaway, you scour the Internet for hours, hunting for the most exciting local activities to pack into your adventure.
When it comes to things to do and places to eat in Canmore, there are information gems that exist online. However, it’s impossible to squeeze ALL of these amazing activities into a one-week vacation! With hundreds of kilometres of hiking and biking trails, close to 100 dining options, numerous art galleries, summer farmers’ markets and amazing music festivals, how do you determine the top things to do in Canmore? In a futile attempt to fill your daily itinerary with the best, locally-recommended activities, some of you take your research on the road, interviewing everyone from the front desk staff at the hotel to restaurant servers and coffee baristas. There’s got to be an easier way to plot your holiday in Canmore!
Search no further! This is the only source of information that you need to plan an incredible Canmore adventure. We reached out to 45 locals to give us their top 3 recommendations for things to do in Canmore. Below you will discover favourite local activities from an intriguing mix of Canmorites, from yoga instructors and mountain guides to realtors and photographers.
Ron Casey, MLA for Banff/Cochrane
While sharing my time between Edmonton, Canmore and the rest of the Banff-Cochrane Constituency means I have less time to enjoy Canmore than ever before, my favourite things to do in the Bow Valley have to be:
1. Riding my motorcycle
2. Having friends and family over to share a meal (My wife Pennie is a fantastic cook and this community is filled with so many great friends)
3. Backyard fires, with the mountains in the background, life is good.
John Borrowman, Mayor of Canmore
1. Elevation Place: From the gym to the pool to the climbing wall – there’s a host of activities under one roof to challenge yourself and enjoy the day in Canmore’s newest recreation facility, Elevation Place. Just want to chillax? Then check out the library, art galleries, and sip on a coffee and read the paper at Good Earth Café.
2. Elk Run Artisans: I may be a bit biased (I own of Cabbages and Kings Pottery with my daughter Katie), but I find the artisan shops in the Elk Run area pretty compelling. There is a collection of professional artists with working studios in the Elk Run area of Canmore. With a visit to this area you can peek into an artists’ studio, meet with working artists, and do some great shopping too!
3. Dog sledding: The surge of anticipation, the rush of excitement, and the desire to operate at full speed… And that’s just the dogs. Dog sledding in the picturesque Canadian Rockies isn’t cliché – it’s number five on The Loop’s list of things to do in Canada before you die. However, writing about dog sledding can’t adequately elicit an appropriate physical reaction – it’s just something that you gotta experience for yourself.
Sean Krausert, Canmore Town Councillor
My favourite things to do:
In the summer:
1. Golf our spectacular golf courses.
2. Visit the outdoor market on Thursdays.
3. Sit on one of Canmore’s many outdoor restaurant patios and sip a beverage while soaking in the mountains.
In the winter:
1. Check out the winter festival, especially closure of Main Street for a few days to be covered with snow and cross country ski tracks.
2. Go out to dinner with my family, choosing from Canmore’s varied incredible restaurants.
All year round:
2. Walk up and down Main Street checking out the latest offerings from our many shops.
3. Attending the various festivals and community celebrations . . . Canada Day, Folk Music Festival, Highland Games, Winter Festival, ArtsPeak and many others.
Vi Sandford, Canmore Town Councillor
I have lived in Canmore for 30+ years. Some of my favourite activities include:
1. Cross-country skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre. A great place for olympians, families, seniors and recreational skiers like me! I like to skate ski when the temperature is +4 to -4, and classic ski when it’s -5 and colder. It is a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours, and suits a Canmore lifestyle including work, fitness and play.
2. Biking on the Legacy Trail from the Travel Alberta Visitor Info Centre on the west edge of Canmore, to Valley View Picnic site in Banff National Park. This is a great stretch of trail, and you can continue west to the Town of Banff and beyond, as time and your endurance permit. I have encountered people who seldom ride a bike, or haven’t ridden in 10 years, get out and enjoy this beautiful section of paved bike path.
3. Tennis at Lion’s Park Tennis Courts. An annual membership with the Canmore Tennis Association lets you participate in great social and competitive events, and meet other tennis players from near and far, and with every range of ability. It is one of the great ways to meet people, feel very welcome in our community, and get motivated to enjoy outdoor fitness in the mountains.
P.S. In the 30+ years I’ve lived in the Bow Valley (32 to be exact, since 1981), I’ve never seen a cougar, wolf or lynx! I’ve seen just about every other creature that inhabits this eco-system though. Find me on Facebook.
Joanna McCallum, Canmore Town Councillor
It is no secret there are lots of awesome things to do with kids in Canmore. Most of my recreation time is spent with my kids, though the odd time I get out on my own for an hour of three.
1. The Pond in Downtown Canmore a very popular place to take your kids for a skate or to play a game of shinny. The Town does a great job of grooming the ice. There are benches to sit and tie skates and public washrooms are only a block away. Afterwards, I recommend an affordable ‘gourmet’ kids hot choccy at Beamers Downtown to warm up.
2. When getting from a) to b) on foot or bike, I really enjoy using the alleys in Canmore with my children. There is much less vehicle traffic and the kids can generally walk the lane without holding your hand. Many of Canmore’s lanes hook up with trails and shortcuts on Valley bottom. In many parts of South Canmore you will still see glimpses of lovely manicured gardens and teeny, tiny, tidy houses from days gone by.
3. If I have an hour of “me” time and I want to enjoy a cold beverage with my partner or a friend, I recommend The Canmore Hotel as the local’s home of “keeping it real”. The “Hilton” has a great patio with fantastic views in summer, great live acts on the weekends and some great pool tables to while away your time.
Esme Comfort, Granny & governance, Canmore Town Councillor
3. Exploring the Bow Valley trails with our dog, Rosie
Mike Liverton, founder at LeaveTown.com Vacations
1. Hiking: fav hikes Plain of 6 glaciers at Lake Louise, Ha Ling in Canmore
2. Mountain Biking: Goat Creek to Banff then back on the Legacy Trail. Lake Minnewanka ride along the lake in the Fall
3. Skiing: Norquay, Nakiska, Sunshine and Lake Louise, all within an hour of Canmore
Hugh Hancock from CanmoreAlberta.com
What I have most enjoyed about life in Canmore over my 25 plus years of being a resident, in addition to the physical environment, activities, wildlife, etc., is the people. Although Canmore’s small population is diverse, we all share a “sense of place”, a happiness and serenity that comes with living and working in one of Canada’s most beautiful towns.
In a recent survey conducted by Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, visitors were asked what their favourite impression of Canmore was….the overwhelming response of the majority was “friendly residents”! Heck, I could have told them that. Hugh Hancock
Russ Ullyot, editor for The Bow Valley Crag and Canyon
I would recommend for Canmore:
1. Cross-country skiing (home to the national X-C and biathlon teams)
2. Hiking (the Rockies are our backyard for summer and winter)
3. Cycling (on mountain trails and between Canmore and Banff on Legacy Trail and other paved bike routes).
In Banff, and you could swap out cross-country skiing with alpine skiing or snowboarding at Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, which annually hosts the only World Cup alpine races in Canada. The two ski resorts are truly Canada’s greatest winter playgrounds.
Russ Ullyot is the editor for the Bow Valley Crag & Canyon. He keeps in touch with the great outdoors by placing his writing desk so he can look out an office window.
Len Youden, GM at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
1. Ice Climbing: There are a lot of great venues around Canmore for beginner and intermediate ice climbing. The approaches are short so you can go out, get some exercise and be back home or at work within a couple of hours. It is a great winter activity.
2. Ski Touring: There isn’t a lot of ski touring within Canmore but a short drive to Kananaskis and along the Spray lakes road have some excellent ski touring venues. Again, great exercise and the potential for fresh tracks every run.
A word of caution on both of these – avalanche hazard is something that needs to be considered and while these are fun winter activities it is critical anyone venturing into avalanche terrain have the appropriate gear and training.
1. Rock Climbing: Within a short walk or drive there is a lot of easy, moderate and challenging routes. You can spend a whole day or a couple of hours climbing in some beautiful areas.
2. Mountain Biking: Canmore and the Bow Valley has a growing network of excellent trails. This is my favorite after work summer activity. With reasonable sunlight until almost 10pm in the summer you can always get out for a fun cruise or a real lung burner.
We don’t sell mountain biking trips but if I am being truly unbiased it is one of my absolute favorite summer activities.
Eric, “Be active, stay healthy” at Eric Daigle Photographer
1. I would definitely include mountain biking the Highline trail in the Three Sister and the Benchland area behind Silvertip.
2. Hiking Grassi Lakes, Lady MacDonald and Heart mountain
3. For sure in winter, cross country skiing in the great Nordic Centre!
This is what I do!!
Michelle from Kananaskis Outfitters
My favourite 3 Canmore/Bow Valley activities are:
1. Paddling around Barrier lake on a warm sunny day; stopping along the way for a picnic or just to relax in the quiet and enjoy the beautiful mountains from the sandy beach.
2. Cross country skiing in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The trails are very well groomed (and free), the terrain is fun and it’s usually pretty quiet.
3. I know eating isn’t an activity but if it was, having brunch at the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis would top the cake. It’s just divine. After we are full to the brim we like to walk the village rim trail and take in the breath taking views.
Raymond from CanmoreHomeSales.ca
3. Canoeing or rafting the river.
I also enjoy skating on the pond and going for walks around Canmore.
Anita Szabo, Theatre in the Rockies at Pine Tree Players
1. Biking the Legacy Trail to Banff for lunch! This is a must do.
2. A hike up Jura Creek. This hike is kid friendly and involves a stunning canyon and water. Beautiful & fun.
3. Biking on the bike trails around town (or one of the many mountain bike trails) and stopping at the Wood afterwards for a glass of wine & an appy.
1. Skate ski at the Nordic centre.
2. Skating on the pond.
3. Dog sledding or mushing.
Ruth, classic movie blogger at SilverScreenings.org
I would say:
1. Snowshoeing with family on crisp, sunny mornings.
2. Tobogganing with kids who squeal all the way down the hill.
3. Spending a stormy evening with a classic movie you’ve seen 100 times before.
Carol, chair of Canadian Rockies School Division
My top three recommendations would be:
1. An evening concert at Communitea Cafe, with live music in an intimate setting with good wine and good friends. An amazing place to catch some of the best Canadian and international indie and folk artists.
2. Author readings and book launches at Cafe Books on Main Street. At last count there are more than 60 published authors in Canmore, and the independent bookstore is THE hub of activity for local literary types, as well as the not-so-local. It’s not unusual for such bestsellers as Jo Nesbo to just pop in and sign whatever copies of his work is on the shelves.
3. In the summer, the weekly Thursday farmers’ market in front of the Civic Centre, where you can find everything from organic, regionally-sourced produce and locally made Belgian waffles, Indian or Thai curries, along with dozens of artists and artisans selling everything from pottery and glass to photos and clothing.
Tasha, “Long live snow” at Nordic Body
Canmore has so many wonderful activity options but if I was to recommend three. I just love Canmore in winter so I would say.
1. Cross country ski at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Beautiful views at every turn and a chance to experience our world renowned Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial park.
2. Ice skating on the Town of Canmore Pond. Such a wonderful feeling to bundle up and skate! They have lights to skate by but you can still see the stars. It’s so joyful, you’ll want to skate every night.
3. It’s not an activity exactly but imagine experiencing World Snow Day in Canmore. The festival and atmosphere is a winter lovers dream. Bring on the hot chocolate and rosy cheeks.
Heather, Registered Physiotherapist at Active Life Physiotherapy
1) Cross country skate skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre
2) Mountain Biking the “Highline Trail” in Canmore
3) Road biking the Legacy Trail to Banff then the Lake Minnewanka Road loop and back to Canmore.
Craig, “the opinionated hiker” from HikingCamping.com
I’m tempted to say “hiking, hiking, and hiking,” or “hiking, backpacking, and walking.” But in truth, I’d say…
3. Jazz concerts at the Banff Centre
Bonny-Lynn, “Teaching with Zest & Pleasure” at Embody Pilates
1. Taking your canine friends to the Quarry Off-Leash Dog park. Everyone is friendly and it’s such a picturesque location. It is sure to make both humans and dogs happy.
2. If you only have 2 hours or less, the short hike/walk up to Grassi Lakes. You’re still close to town and yet you feel removed from the busy streets. It’s the perfect quick escape and the walk is accessible to almost everyone. It’s fun to watch the rock climbers at the top as well.
3. Cross country skiing at the Nordic Center. Do you know it’s FREE after 6pm? It’s spectacular during the day, but there’s something magical about skiing at night under the lights.
Cory, “Building with Integrity” at Method Contracting
1. Bmx Dirt jumps at the Nordic center
2. Canmore skatepark
3. Snowboarding at any of the local hills
Jason from Soul Ski and Bike
The big two for us at Soul are obviously biking (both road and mountain) and skiing! Other important activities that are really popular in Canmore are Nordic skiing in the winter and stand up paddle boarding in the summer. The 3 favorite I would recommend would be:
1. Ride the Highline mtb trail in the summer.
2. Go Nordic skiing at the Nordic Centre in the winter.
3. Road cycle along the Legacy trail to Banff and back or carry on along the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise if you have the metal!
I would say go skiing at one of the local ski resorts but they are not as Canmore based as the above three.
Jay, proprietor at Bicycle Cafe
1. Mountain Biking
2. Backcountry Skiing and
3. drinking good coffee!
Raf, editor at The Alpine Start
1. Ice Climbing — the Bow Valley, the Canadian Rockies to the north and Kananaskis Country to the south are host to some of the best ice climbing in the world and Canmore is the perfect home base from which to explore this frozen playground.
2. Rock Climbing — with several prominent canyons and cliffs within sight range of downtown, Canmore is the perfect base for summer rock climbing offering hundreds of easily-accessible routes for everyone from beginners to experts. The hardcore even manage to climb year-round, coinciding their mid-winter days out on the rock with the warm Chinook winds.
3. Hiking — Canmore is bordered by four peaks (Ha Ling, Grotto, Lady MacDonald, East End of Rundle) all of which are easily accessible year-round and each offering stunning views of Canmore, the Bow Valley, and the vast expanses of the Canadian Rockies to the north and west, and the prairies to the east.
Wes, manager at Exposure Photo Festival
1. Visit to the Nordic Centre. If you want to understand the heart and soul of winter sport in Canada this is the place.
2. A stroll down Main Street is a must. My wife says Main St. is one of the best places anywhere for shoe shopping.
3. Dinner/ lunch at Crazyweed. You won’t be disappointed.
Richard, Head Coach at Biathlon Alberta Training Centre
Outdoors or indoors, Canmore has it all! I would recommend:
Jamie, Executive Director at Rocky Mountain Adaptive Sports Centre
1. Sit Skiing with friends
2. Summating a local mountain to watch life unfold beneath you
3. Relaxing with Friends at any of the fantastic restaurants in Canmore
Sylvia, marketing manager at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
1. Well I will agree that ice climbing is certainly one thing I would recommend. With the Bow Valley having some of the best ice climbing in the world and being able to offer both full and half and multi day ice climbing opportunities it’s something every winter time visitor should try.
2. Cross country skiing at the Nordic Centre is another of my favourites. With an Olympic level facility and views to match what more could you ask for.
3. I also think that Canmore has some excellent mountain biking opportunities that you can access right from your door. No need to drive and with easy river trails thru to more difficult single track theirs is lots for everyone.
Jamie, “The Sauce Boss” at Bow Valley BBQ
I would have to say that if I had to pick my three favorite things to do in Canmore it would include the following:
1. Mountain biking on any of the numerous trails.
2. A cold beer beer on the Iron Goat patio on a summer day to take in the views.
3. Number one would have to be a round of golf at any one of Canmore’s courses.
Ron from Rainbow Investigations
Three Things I would recommend:
1. Cross country skiing
2. Nordic Trail
3. Retreating in Kananaskis for reflection, and playing hockey at the arena.
Christopher, “Imagery from the natural world” at Christopher Martin Photography
1. Grassi Lakes Trail: a quick hike that leads to two beautiful ponds surrounded by mountain peaks. Great for photography, rock climbing and general exploration.
2. Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park: A sprawling area but one favourite, rarely visited section, is just east of Canmore. I like to hike in where Cougar Creek crosses under Bow Valley Trail and then follow the wildlife trails through the forest to the Bow River. Great views and the chance to see wildlife at any point.
3. Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. The place for cross country and related activities resting on the hillside above Canmore. Great for the dedicated athletes, enthusiasts, kids, etc.
Drew, Head Coach at The Rocky Mountain Freeriders
We at RMF obviously love the mountains, just getting out to explore the mountains around Canmore, ski touring and skiing and exploring our favorite ski areas sharing our passion for skiing at the winter season with all we encounter. We do also advocate a balanced life style so in the spirit of summer not getting the short end of the stick we do love hiking and getting out on the water boating or fishing!
Hilary, co-owner at The Yoga Lounge
Okay, so… we’re biased, of course, so taking a class at the Yoga Lounge has to be on the list. Here’s our list for a fun winter day spent in Canmore proper.
1. A trip to the Nordic Centre for a cross-country ski tour around the vast network of trails. Whether you have 30 minutes or three hours, it’s worth the trip for the views, the crisp air and the wonderful feeling of gliding through snow on your own power.
2. A visit to the Yoga Lounge for a fun, challenging Flow class or a soothing, gentle Restorative class, depending on what will best feed your body and mind. Stretch out those legs, hips and shoulders after your ski.
3. A cozy home-cooked meal by the fire with a view of the mountains. Ideally, this would be followed by a dip in a hot tub and a tumbler of wine… we’re listing our ideal scenarios here, right?
Lauren, historian of mountains and museums at CanEnviroRock
Picking only three things to do is a challenge here is one summer, one for winter, and one for anytime.
1. Hiking Grassi Lakes – not a challenging or a long hike (approx 1hr round trip) but perfect for a quick morning escape. Lots of climbing routes if you’re so inclined, if not there lakes are sublime and there are pictographs to find. It is also a great warm up for Ha Ling or a stop on the way to the Goat Creek trail head.
2. Skating Carrot Creek – not “in” Canmore but just over the park boundary. Early in the season is best when the ice is crystal clear and the wind blows the snow away.
3. Coffee at Mountain Mercato – Inside or outside, this is the best coffee in town. Always packed so go expecting to wait and with a friend so someone can grab a table as soon as one opens.
Chris from Precision Spinal and Wellness Centre
My top 3 activities are:
1. Skate skiing at the Nordic Centre
2. Walking around the River path with my family
3. Mountain biking the highline Trail
Courtney, “Better Health… Naturally” at New Leaf Holistics
My top three activities in Canmore would be:
1. Taking photos almost anywhere
2. Hiking all over the valley
3. Rock climbing in various sweet spots around Canmore
Paddy from Canadian Rockies Mountain Guides
Favourite activities in Canmore are:
1. Rock Climbing
2. Ski Touring
3. Ice Climbing
Mike, proprietor at Gear Up Sports
My favorite activities to do in Canmore are:
2. Mtn biking
Jason, “the Smart Move” at Jason Penny Homes
Here are my top 3 activities for Canmore. Short and sweet. Hope its useful.
1. Summer time means mountain biking for me and my wife. We love to ride both sides of the Valley. One day its G8 and Horseshoe, the next it’s the single tracks of the nordic centre. There is so much to choice from, it’s really hard to pick my favourite.
2. We, like many residents of Canmore have dogs, and there is no better off leash park than Quarry Lake. We’ve lived in many places on our travels with our dogs, but nothing comes close to Quarry Lake for having fun with the mutts. It’s huge and our guys just love it!
3. Having the privilege of the Nordic centre so close to town make it so easy to hit the trails for some winter cross country skiing. The facilities are excellent and the trails are suitable for all levels. My wife and I are quite new to cross country skiing, and having this centre of excellence here in Canmore makes our learning experience so supportive and enjoyable. I highly recommend giving it a go if you haven’t tried before.
Marnie from Communitea
For outdoor activities in Canmore I would have to go with:
1. Hike to Grassi Lakes – there are few places so easy to get to (although be sure to take the “more difficult” trail up, unless it is the middle of winter and it turns into an ice climb), that provide such amazing views of Canmore, waterfalls, lakes, rock features, and rock climbers.
2. Mountain Biking – So many good cross country trails on either side of the valley. Ride the G8 and finish off with a beer on the Iron Goat patio on the “sunny side”. Or the Highline trail finishing off at the Quarry on a sunny day for a quick dip to cool off.
3. Cross country skiing at the Nordic Centre - A truly world class facility where you frequently will get passed by Olympic athletes. Great for a quick workout or a long ski.
Melissa, “Obsessed with bodies in motion” at Refocus Pilates
My 3 favourite activities in Canmore
1. Walking along the river
2. Night skiing at the Canmore Nordic Center
3. Dinner with my husband at Tapas!
Kevin, Canadian National Ski Team from Sandau.ca
I would have to say my favorite Canmore activities are:
1. it’s not really much of a surprise for me but if your in Canmore during the winter you need to spend a day up at the Nordic Centre (maybe two if you want to ski all the trails). Tons of varying terrain for different skill levels (even a trick and jump park for the more adventurous) and Fresh Trax Café has everything you’d want for the après ski. Summer time at the nordic centre is also great, lots of single track for biking and running.
2. Legacy Trail to Banff – one of the coolest additions to the Bow Valley, the Legacy Trail is great for roller skiing (or biking if your more into that) and connects up with Lake Minnewanka and Banff, and continues onto the 1A Highway towards Lake Louise at Vermillion Lakes. Good way to spend the day and check out Banff and area or get an easy workout in.
3. The Canmore Winter Carnival – definitely a one of a kind experience for a mountain town during the winter. Every February the town puts on a bunch of activities on Main Street and at the civic centre including dog sled racing, skiing, and ice carving to name a few (how many times can you put on the skinny skis and ski downtown?). This year is also going to coincide with the Olympics and the Alberta Winter games (in Canmore and Banff) and they’ll be showing some of the events at the civic centre on some big screens for everyone to watch and cheer.
Darren from Rocky Mountain Bagel Co.
1. Spending family time at Quarry lake with swim suits, bug catching gear, and fishing rods in tow.
2. Going for bike rides along all the paths and exploring.
3. Anything winter! Tobogganing, building snow forts and luge tracks, snowball fights, skiing at Norquay and watching avalanche bombing on Rundle from the Bagel Co patio (perfect view)
Beth, Happy & Romantic Wedding Photographer at ENV Photography
1. Wading in the shallow end of Quarry lake on a hot summer afternoon
2. Dinner & drinks at the Iron Goat
3. A lazy stroll through downtown while people watching & window shopping
Neil from Life Works
1. Mountain biking
2. Road biking
3. Working out
For your upcoming trip to the Rockies, plan your vacation with the advice from true locals!
According to our locals, here are the top three recommended activities in Canmore:
#1: Leading the pack is cross-country skiing and skate skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre. As a world-class facility with a huge network of trails and stunning scenery, this Olympic venue is popular among locals and athletes.
#2: Claiming second place is mountain biking/road biking. The top recommended trails include: Legacy Trail to Banff, Highline Trail, Goat Creek Trail, G8 Loop, Horseshoe Trail and the trails at the Nordic Centre.
#3: With breathtaking views of dramatic mountain peaks, pristine lakes and crashing waterfalls, hiking places third on our podium. Here are our locals’ favourite hikes: Grassi Lakes, Ha Ling Peak, Jura Creek, Heart Mountain and Lady Macdonald.
Honourable Mention: For those of you bringing your beloved furry pets to Canmore, meet the locals at Quarry Lake in the huge off-leash dog park!”
If you found these recommendations helpful, please share your comments with us. If you know and love Canmore, feel free to post your favourite things to do!
Special thank you to our Canmore locals for revealing their favourite activities and helping future visitors plan their stay.