The Bow Valley is a beautiful area with lots of exciting outdoor activities to experience during all seasons. Winters offer endless chances to ski (both downhill and cross-country), snowboard, snowshoe, and even ice climb for the more adventurous types. Hiking and biking are extremely popular 3-season activities that attract people not just from Canmore, Banff, and the rest of Alberta - but also domestic and international tourists from far and wide! We've made a list of 6 of our favourite hikes to do near Canmore, ranging from a scenic stroll through downtown Canmore to full-fledged mountain peaks!
1. Policeman's Creek Boardwalk (Easy)
There’s few more accessible ways to soak in the Bow Valley mountain views than on a stroll through downtown Canmore on the Policeman's Creek Boardwalk. This trail is mostly paved with some flat dirt sections - and of course the wooden boardwalk. The boardwalk follows the Policeman's Creek through forest and alongside ponds. The trail connects to more than 70 kilometres of Canmore walking trails, so you can extend the trail for as long as your legs will take you!
Please note, the trail may be muddy in early spring and late fall - so be prepared!
Distance: 4.2 km
Elevation Gain (net): 81 m
2. Grotto Canyon (Easy)
The Grotto Canyon Trail, just outside of Canmore, has become quite a popular trail in both the summer and the winter - and for good reason! It’s easy, it's a lot of fun, and is perfect for all ages. Please wear proper footwear for the season, as the terrain in the summer is rocky and unsteady - and in the winter, the canyon is completely covered with ice! We don't recommend trying this trail in the winter without at least micro-spikes and hiking poles - but better still crampons and an ice axe. The trailhead for this hike is just a few minutes down Highway 1A heading east towards Cochrane. Arrive early, because parking on weekends and in the summer tends to be at a premium unless you get there before the crowds from Calgary!
Distance: 7.1 km
Elevation Gain (net): 300 m
3. Grassi Lakes Trail (Easy)
Grassi Lakes is one of the most popular Canmore hiking trails. There are two separate trails that start from the same trailhead - both are considered quite easy and meander through an evergreen forest to a pair of stunning mountain lakes. When the sun is shining, you won’t believe the incredible colors in the water. This trail is short and easy with a spectacular reward – something that most avid hikers really appreciate!
Distance: 3.4 km
Elevation Gain (net): 178 m
4. Ha Ling Peak (Hard-ish)
Ha Ling Peak is arguably the most popular peak hike in the entire Bow Valley. Visitors to Canmore often make the short trek up the unpaved Smith-Dorrien (Highway 742) to the trailhead of Ha Link Peak. Alberta Parks & Recreation spent $850,000 in 2018/2019 to make the peak more accessible and safer to visitors by installing stairs and chains in parts of the hike that used to require scrambling to get up. The trail is now more of a long and strenuous uphill walk with exceptional views of Canmore, the Palliser mountain range to the east, and the beautiful Sundance mountain range to the west. Highly recommended for those with reasonable levels of fitness!
The Canadian Rockies don't offer a lot of hikes we would consider "moderate" to visitors without experience on mountainous terrain. That's why we consider this hike as "hard-ish".
Distance: 7.2 km
Elevation Gain (net): 748 m
5. Grassi Knob (Harder Still)
One would be hard pressed to find a better view of Canmore's most iconic (and the Canadian Rockies' most photographed mountain) than from the summit of Grassi Knob. While this is not an overly challenging hike technically (there is a bit of mild scrambling involved) - it is strenuous and relentlessly uphill. This hike does offer an incredible view of not just the Three Sisters, but of Canmore, the Bow Valley, and the entire Palliser mountain range to the east of town.
Distance: 9.2 km
Elevation Gain (net): 861m
6. Lady MacDonald Teahouse (Hard)
If you make it anywhere near a mountain peak in the Bow Valley, there's a very good good chance you'll have a clear view of the surrounding mountains and the valley floor below. Very few of those hikes are more popular than the trail up to the Lady MacDonald Teahouse. Beware however, you won't reach a teahouse because it was never built - but there is a platform with an incredible view of the valley! If you're feeling adventurous, the summit of Mount Lady MacDonald can be accessed from the lookout point - but the objective requires a careful ledge walk near the summit with exposure to the mountain on either side. Pushing beyond the lookout point should not be attempted by hikers that aren't comfortable on rocky terrain - and should be avoided on days with strong winds.
Distance: 7.9 km
Elevation Gain (net): 976 m