Destination :: Canmore, Alberta

Feature Image Courtesy of Tourism Alberta

Enjoying a cup of coffee one morning, I gazed out the window of my ground-level apartment in Canmore, Alberta, when a herd of elk suddenly appeared, mere steps away. As they gracefully walked by, exhaling clouds of vapor in the brisk morning air, I was utterly dumbfounded by the moment. I lived in Canmore for a couple of years and would go back in a heartbeat. Every day was filled with magic—snow dusting the Three Sisters peaks, hiking to remote alpine lakes in the summertime, or visiting the downtown farmer’s market. If you find yourself in the region, the town and surrounding area are definitely worth visiting.

You are likely already familiar with Banff; however, a mere 20-minute drive southeast will take you to an equally picturesque and less crowded base near the boundary of Banff National Park. Located in the Bow Valley, Canmore offers visitors limitless opportunities for year-round pursuits, including hiking, fishing, biking, cross-country skiing, camping, paddleboarding, and indoor and outdoor rock climbing.

Photo Credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Where to Stay in Canmore

With Banff National Park and Bow Valley Provincial Park close by, campers must adhere to stringent boondocking rules. Your best bet is to reserve a spot at one of the local campgrounds, which offer scenic views and standard facilities. Options include the Bow River Campground, Three Sisters Campground, or the Lac Des Arcs Campground, all located in Bow Valley Provincial Park. Note that vehicles parked at provincial park and public land sites in the Bow Valley or Kananaskis Country need to purchase a daily or yearly Conservation Pass from Alberta Parks.

What to Do in Canmore

Outdoor Activities

Canmore residents are the most active folks I’ve met and are constantly up to something. Nearby hikes and trail-running opportunities include the ever-popular Ha Ling Peak and East End of Rundle, Grassi Lakes (family-friendly and the local rock climbing crag), Mount Lady Macdonald, and many more. Cyclists can sweat it out on the 26-kilometer (one way) paved Legacy Trail, which runs from Canmore to Banff. Paddleboard enthusiasts might enjoy a visit to Quarry Lake, and those looking for some fresh air and a leisurely stroll may enjoy a path bordering the turquoise waters of the Bow River. Spray Lakes Road is fantastic and filled with trailheads, lakes, campgrounds, and corrugations if you’re itching for a drive.

Photo Credit: Richard Giordano

Photo Credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Winter is a cold but gorgeous time of year in the Bow Valley. Try your hand at ice skating or brush up on your hockey skills at the Canmore Pond outdoor ice rink located two blocks from Main Street at 7th Avenue and Mallard Alley. A short drive from town center, the Canmore Nordic Centre offers cross-country ski tracks, while downhill skiers and snowboarders should head to Sunshine Village, a 35-minute drive from downtown Canmore.

Photo Credit: Richard Giordano

Photo Credit: Richard Giordano

In Town

Spanning 7th Avenue, Canmore’s Mountain Market operates every Thursday from May 26 to October 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Visitors can browse an ample selection of produce, food stalls, crafts, art, clothing, and jewelry. If the fresh mountain air and extra exercise stimulate your appetite, Ramen Arashi, Communitea, Where the Buffalo Roam Saloon, and Red Rock Pizza are some of my favorite food spots, while Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. is also popular with visitors. Elevation Place is the go-to local community center and is outfitted with an indoor climbing gym, cardio and weight room, shower, and pool facilities. I recommend a dip in the hot tub during the cold winter months.

Photo Credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

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Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory.