Canmore is the perfect destination to enjoy an amazing town with smaller crowds. Experience Canmore the authentic way, with the local’s version of things to do in Canmore.
Canmore is an incredible destination, but it doesn’t get the same number of travellers streaming through the town as Banff.
And that means there are plenty of lesser-known spots to explore and things to do in Canmore. People who live in Canmore love the laid-back vibe and the unspoiled beauty of this mountain town. Plus, they’re more than happy to help visitors discover incredible things to see and do in their own backyard.
While all the headline attractions located in Banff National Park are magnificent, the area surrounding Canmore is full of hidden gems that don’t see the same size of crowds.
Take the Rat’s Nest Cave in Grotto Mountain for instance, where you can squeeze deep into a cavern and explore spectacular underground terrain that’s been left in its natural state. In the winter, take the family to Grotto Canyon and stroll along a frozen creek while admiring the sparkling ice falls.
Plus, Canmore is surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of trails leading to pristine places that simply aren’t on the typical traveller’s radar.
If you’re not up for exploring the wilderness, you can find plenty of fun things to do in Canmore town.
The town is full of great parks, perfect for picnics or a quick game of Frisbee. When the weather turns cold, take the kids to one of the three ice rinks maintained by locals. Or drop by the world-class Canmore Nordic Centre, where 65 kilometres of groomed trails await.
From quaint cafés where the locals linger to off-the-beaten-path day trips, the Canmore area is full of great places to explore. Here are some of our favourites:
What did we ever do without Elevation Place?!
This aquatic/climbing/cultural space opened in 2013, and takes great advantage of Canmore’s location in the Canadian Rockies with huge floor-to-ceiling windows that literally make you feel like you are outside while you’re inside.
Looking for things to do in Canmore on a rainy day? Elevation Place is where you want to go. Plus, it’s always a great place for the kids to burn off some of that endless energy. With a water park, water slide, lazy river and an Olympic-sized pool, there’s something for everyone. The centre’s climbing wall is also exceptional, which is to be expected in a town with a hefty number of world-class climbers! Even if you choose not to give it a try, you can’t help but watch others tackle the 30-foot speed wall, which was designed by the International Federation of Sport Climbing.
For some quiet time, Elevation Place is also home to the local public library and an exceptional community art gallery that is well-worth your time (Canmore, in addition to being an outdoor-sports enthusiast’s dream town, also has an incredibly strong arts community.) The Good Earth Cafe on-site has great take-away lunches and is a lovely place for a morning coffee or just a snack on the go.
Contact Elevation Place directly for hours for the Climbing Gym, Library, Fitness Centre, Cafe and Art Gallery at 1-403-678-8920 or online at www.ElevationPlace.ca.
The Canmore Nordic Centre was originally designed and built for the 1988 Winter Olympics.
These days, it serves as a world class recreational facility that provides access to more than 65 kilometres of groomed machine-made and natural trails.
This centre features a range of excellent routes for use by hikers, mountain bikers and cross country skiers – all located only a few minutes away from downtown Canmore. With over 100 km of trails, the centre is widely known as one of the best mountain biking centres in all of North America. It was redeveloped in 2005 for the Cross Country World Cup and for future international events. It also boasts a Day Lodge, which has meeting rooms, a cafeteria, day lockers, showers, lessons and equipment rentals.
Suite #100, 1988 Olympic Way
Canmore, Alberta T1W 2T6
Grotto Canyon is an awe-inspiring, fun adventure for the entire family, including kids as young as 6 years old.
How many places in the world can you walk on a frozen creek, through a canyon, explore ancient Native pictographs and marvel at ice falls? This hike is a fun physical adventure and a real-life history class all in one journey. Check out the ice climbers scaling the frozen Grotto Falls!
Feel free to walk it on your own, or join a guided group and learn the history of the native rock art and the local geology. On the narrow canyon walls watch for the ancient Hopi pictographs created by native people from the Arizona region who travelled to this area between 500 and 1300 years ago.
The pictographs found at Grotto Canyon are of animals and humans. One of the pictographs on the limestone wall is the flute player known as Kokopelli. This is the symbol of the Hopi people and is said to be the symbol of the traveller, as well as the symbol of fertility (Honeymooners beware!).
To rent ice cleats (recommended), call Gear Up Sport or 1-403-678-1637). This is probably obvious information, but remember to bring a hat, gloves, a winter jacket, warm boots and your camera.
Drive east on Bow Valley Trail for about 10 kilometres. Look for the Grotto Pond Day Use Area and pull into the parking area.
If you or your kids love to play hockey, the local ice rink in Cougar Creek is the place to go to join in on a game of shinny with the locals, or start your own.
The public park’s outdoor ice rink is dedicated to kids and adults who want to have fun playing hockey, so bear this in mind if you’re looking for a spot for a leisurely skate (we’d recommend the Pond downtown if that’s more your pace). This is definitely one of the more Canadian things to do in Canmore. The rink is lit until 10pm, so evening games are popular (and it’s just minutes from the Iron Goat, which is a great place for a post-game beer and nachos!)
Cougar Creek Ice Rink is located at the corner of Elk Run Boulevard.
The mountains surrounding Canmore have many secret spots, nooks and crannies.
One of our favourite hidden gems is the Rat’s Nest Cave at Grotto Mountain, although we wouldn’t suggest it if you have a tendency to feel claustrophobic in small spaces! Canmore Cave Tours and a few other local outfitters offer guided tours here and will outfit you with coveralls, gloves, kneepads and hard-hats with powerful headlamps reminiscent of the Seven Dwarfs. Learn about our 4.5 hour cave explorer adventure here.
There is a strenuous hike up to the entrance to the cave and once inside there is no interior lighting, handrails or walkways. Your guides will show you the animal bones and fossils inside and teach you about the geology of the Bow Valley in the Canadian Rockies.
The Rat’s Nest Cave is accessible year round and some tours are suitable for older children.
Find out more about cave tours in Canmore by browsing our selection of activities in Canmore.
We have spoken with a massive group of local Canmore residents who gave us an insight into their most beloved things to do in Canmore. Take a look at the full list here.
We have a variety of Canmore vacation rentals to suit a variety of needs. Call our highly knowledgeable Destination Experts who can answer any questions you may have about Canmore wildlife, or browse our selection of Canmore accommodations.