Life in the Bow Valley provides an incredible amount of opportunities to get outside and explore. There's a wide variety of fun activities and interest things to experience, just steps from your front door. We are constantly amazed at the range activities this area offers, from new activities that are gaining in popularity, as well as classics that have been part of the area's heritage for many decades. Here are some of our favourites -
1. Fat Bike or Cross-County Ski from the Nordic Centre
Originally built to host the cross-country ski events of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, the Canmore Nordic Centre remains open today, providing over 65 kilometres of groomed trails in the Bow Valley with beautiful Rocky Mountain views in all directions. While mainly used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, fat biking is one of the new and all age friendly winter activities to take on in the Bow Valley.
Extra-large tires and strange frames are some of the signatures of a fat bike. Be sure to dress warm and bring hand warmers so you too can explore the Bow Valley winter wonderland in places that used to be limited to those with skis or snowshoes. While many of the groomed cross-country skiing trails at the Nordic Centre don't allow fat bikes, there is an increasing number of fat bike exclusive trails as the activity continues to grow in popularity. For more information on the Nordic Centre trails, contact their front desk or view their pamphlet at: https://bit.ly/3sAtdGP
Effective June 1, 2021, visitors to the Canmore Nordic Centre will need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass to park vehicles at any provincial park or public land site in Kananaskis and the Bow Valley.
2. Skate at Canmore Pond
One of our top free activities in Canmore is to go skating at one of the many locations around town. Without a doubt, our absolute favourite place is the Canmore Pond Natural Ice Surface. Located just two blocks from Main Street in Downtown Canmore, this pond is appropriate for all age groups and is ideal for families.
The pond has lights for night use until 10pm, open style gazebo with benches and thermal heating, waste receptacles, washrooms located at the Information Centre on 7th Ave., and roadside parking. Combine all that with the proximity to all of the services and restaurants the downtown core offers, and you can have a fun day around town - just bring your skates and a smile.
3. Take a dog sledding tour
(Photo: Discover Banff Tours)
Experience the Canadian Rocky Mountains the adventurous way - by dog sled! While tourists in Canmore often come to visit Banff National Park, many of the dog sled tours from Canmore operate in the lesser known, but equally as breathtaking Spray Lakes Provincial Park. Immerse yourself in the dog sledding experience, become a musher, and bond with a team of beautiful Huskies this winter.
There are a few companies that offer dog sledding tours in the Bow Valley, Howling Dog Tours, Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours, and Mad Dogs & Englishmen Dogsled Expeditions, to name a couple. Not sure which to choose? Check out each of their websites and choose the package tour that fits what you and your family want to experience.
4. Go ice climbing with Yamnuska
While exploring the Bow Valley by dog sled is adventurous, climbing a waterfall with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is the thrill-seekers dream. Yamnuska has a long history of offering various mountaineering courses and adventure packages to locals and tourists alike in the Bow Valley.
If you're seeking an adrenaline rush, consider enrolling in an ice climbing course or a guided tour. Ice climbing is quickly becoming one of the more popular winter sports, and Canmore and the Canadian Rockies offer some of the world's finest ice climbing sites. In addition to intense and extensive multi-pitch routes, there are lots of fantastic beginner climbing areas. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures offers a wide range of ice climbing instruction and guiding for all skill levels, and depending on temperatures and elevation, the ice climbing season run from November to the end of April. Visit their website at https://yamnuska.com/ for more information on their offerings.
5. Explore caves below Grotto Mountain
(Photo: Canmore Cave Tours)
One unique way to escape the cold snaps that happen during a Bow Valley winter is to go caving underneath Grotto Mountain. At a balmy 4.5C temperature year round, exploring the caves gets you out of the wind and under the mountain. While certainly not for the claustrophobic, caving can be a fun experience to see a different side of the Bow Valley - one that looks a lot more like Mars than Earth!
Canmore Cave Tours offer a couple of different packages, from a shorter day of exploration to full day, deep dives into the Grotto caves. Check out their website for more information at: https://canmorecavetours.com/
Bonus: Visit Johnson Canyon
(Photo: Discover Banff Tours)
While technically in Banff National Park, Johnson Canyon is only a 25 minute drive down the Trans-Canada Highway from Canmore. The waterfalls and rivers of Johnson Canyon freeze in the winter, creating a dream-like cascade of giant icicles and frozen waterfalls. While you can visit the Canyon on your own, if you aren't comfortable hiking in winter conditions, there are guided tours from Canmore and Banff that will ensure you see the best of Johnson Canyon - with the proper footwear. You may even catch an ice climber or two making their way up the falls the hard way!
While extremely popular and accessible with the most basic footwear in the summer, in the winter, the situation changes. We highly recommend wearing some sort of traction footwear (like crampons) if you visit in the winter, as the catwalk and trails often freeze over and are extremely icy.