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One of the best winter walks in Canmore takes you to Grotto Canyon

10 BEST Winter Hikes in Canmore & Nearby

Just because it’s cold outside and the ground is covered in snow doesn’t mean you can’t go hiking! In fact, one of the best things to do in Canmore in the winter is hiking. This cute mountain town is surrounded by trails that are just as accessible in the winter as the summer. 

And the best part? Some of the best winter hikes in Canmore are actually even more beautiful in the snow! Expect a winter wonderland with frozen waterfalls, snow covered peaks, and pine trees dusted with snow – it’s stunning. 

So without further ado, here are the 10 best winter hikes in Canmore and nearby. With this list, you can get out and about this winter and enjoy some incredible views right from the trails. 

Ice walks in Alberta - a smooth section of ice in Grotto Canyon
You could almost skate this section of the Grotto Canyon Ice Walk

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Grotto Canyon 

Distance: 4.4 km return, about 115 metres of elevation gain

Rating: Easy

Time needed: 1.5-2 hours

Trailhead: Off highway 1A about a 10-minute drive from Canmore

Grotto Canyon is a winter favorite in Canmore. This is likely the singular most popular winter hike in the area, and for good reason – it’s so cool in the winter!

In the winter months, Grotto Canyon is one of those hikes that gets even better. Thanks to the water in the canyon freezing, you can actually walk right through the canyon! Sure, it is a little slippery, but with a good pair of ice cleats/crampons this is no problem. 

Along the way you’ll see frozen waterfalls, pictographs on the canyon walls, and even an inukshuk garden. The pictographs can be kind of hard to spot, your best bet to find them is to ask other hikers on the trails or go on a guided tour. These guided tours to Grotto Canyon are great if you don’t have your own ice cleats since all gear is provided. 

It's great fun hiking up Grotto Canyon on ice
It’s great fun hiking up Grotto Canyon on ice

Jura Canyon 

Distance: 2 to 7 km return depending on how far you go

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Time Needed: 1-3 hours

Trailhead: Off Highway 1A east of Exshaw

Like Grotto Canyon, Jura Canyon is another winter hike in Canmore that’s more exciting in the cold weather when there’s ice beneath your feet. Just be prepared with your ice cleats and you’ll love this adventure

There are a couple of different ways to hike Jura Canyon. If you’re just looking for a short easy trail, then you can simply hike to the first slot canyon. This is about 1 kilometre into the hike and where most people with kids go. The slot canyon is narrow and very neat to explore. 

However, if you’re up for it, you can continue further. You’ll come across a short ice walk section and then, at the end, a second slot canyon. Here, have a little rest before turning back around.

One thing to note is that Jura Canyon isn’t the most popular winter hike in Canmore, so the snow might not be all packed down. In this case, you might need to be prepared with snowshoes. 

The Jura Creek hike near Canmore
The Jura Creek hike near Canmore is fun and family-friendly

Grassi Lakes 

Distance: 4 km return

Rating: Easy

Time Needed: 1-2 hours

Trailhead: Just off the Smith Dorrien Trail about a 15 minute drive from Canmore

Grassi Lakes is hands down one of the best easy hikes in Canmore, and therefore, also one of the most popular. The thing is, most people hike to Grassi Lakes in the summer and don’t even think to visit in the winter. This is a shame because this spot is breathtaking in the winter, and it’s much less busy. 

In the winter months you’ll have no problem getting a parking space at the Grassi Lakes Trailhead (which is not always true at other times of the year.) The trail will be peaceful as you make the gradual 300 metre incline up to the lakes. 

The hike is short with little elevation gain, making it suitable for the whole family. With that said, when I hiked it last winter it was very icy and people were struggling to stay on their feet. My ice cleats came in super handy and made it to the top with ease.

Once you reach the lakes, you might be surprised to find that they aren’t completely frozen. These lakes are naturally heated, which keeps them from freezing – and makes for a beautiful winter photo!

Grassi Lakes are pretty in winter especially with fresh snow
Grassi Lakes are pretty in winter especially with fresh snow

Ha Ling Peak 

Distance: 7.8 km return with over 700 metres of elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate

Time needed: 3-5 hours

Trailhead: Goat Creek parking lot on Smith Dorrien Trail, a 20-minute drive from Canmore

Ha Ling Peak is one of the best hikes in Canmore with amazing views. From the top, you’ll have views over Canmore and the Bow Valley. The panoramic views make this hike extremely popular, but less so in the winter. 

Ha Ling Peak is a steep hike since it gains about 750 metres in elevation over less than four-kilometres. Although the trail is well marked and easy to follow, it’ll definitely have you out of breath from time to time. 

Winter adds an extra level of difficulty to this already moderate-rated hiking trail. You’ll definitely need a good pair of ice cleats and warm gear for when you reach the summit (it is often very windy up there!) Even in the spring and fall, be prepared for snow as you pass the treeline. 

But one you make it to the top, all of the effort will be worth it as the views are out of the world!

Best winter hikes in Canmore include Ha Ling Peak
Pick your day to do the Ha Ling hike – preferably not in wind or snow

Canmore Hoodoos and Benchlands Trail 

Distance: 3 km

Difficulty: Easy

Time Needed: About an hour

Trailhead: Benchlands Bike Park right in Canmore

This one might be less of a hike and more of a “walk”, however I think that it’s worth a mention because it really is beautiful. Plus, sometimes all you’re looking for is a short hike to get out and stretch your legs, in that case, this hike is perfect. 

You can start this hike from really anywhere in Canmore, or just drive and park at the Benchlands Bike Park along Benchlands Trail. From here, follow the path along the road up the hill. Follow it until you reach a fork, here, take the sharp left up the hill. It is a little steep, but gradual. 

This path takes you up to a ledge overlooking Canmore – it’s beautiful. Keep following the trail until the end of the cul de sac and look down the hill, you should see the Canmore hoodoos from here! You can walk down to the hoodoos to get a closer look, just be careful because it is really steep. 

Great view of Canmore from the Hoodoos trail
Great view of Canmore from the Hoodoos trail
Pretty hiking on the Benchlands in Canmore
Pretty hiking on the Benchlands in Canmore

Troll Falls 

Distance: 3.4 km

Difficulty: Easy

Time Needed: 1-2 hours

Trailhead: Off Kananaskis Trail, 35 minutes from Canmore

Troll Falls is one of the easiest hikes in the Kananaskis. Located only about a 35-minute drive from Canmore near Nakiska Ski Area, this is the single most popular winter hike in the area for families. The short out and back trail is mostly flat and leads to the beautiful Troll Falls – which is completely frozen in the winter!

Although the trail you’ll wind your way through the forest coming to a couple of mountain views before reaching the falls. There is a boardwalk and viewing platform to enjoy the falls here. You can also hike up to a viewpoint above the falls, however in the winter, it is particularly icy and slippery and you will definitely need a good pair of ice cleats, and maybe even poles to assist with your balance. 

You return back the way you came. 

Looking at Troll Falls from a distance
Looking at Troll Falls from a distance

Bow River Loop

Distance: 2 km

Difficulty: Easy

Time Needed: About an hour

Trailhead: In Canmore downtown area near the Bow River Bridge

This easy loop track is not to be overlooked when you’re looking for a beautiful winter hike right in the heart of Canmore. In fact, if you’re staying in Canmore, you could probably walk to the trailhead right from your hotel! When I lived in Canmore I did this hike every morning after grabbing my morning coffee. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an easy stroll with an amazing view!

The trail takes you alongside the Bow River before reaching the historic Engine Bridge where you’ll cross the bridge and return along the other side of the river. Since it is a loop, you can actually start the trail from wherever you’d like and go in either direction. It is completely flat, and even in the winter, easy enough to do without ice cleats.

From the trail you’ll enjoy views of the Three Sisters and the Bow River. There are various benches along the way to stop and relax as well. 

This trail joins with the large trail system in Canmore, so you can do a little exploring if you’re after a longer hike. There are signs around the trails so you know where to go, and the trails are also on Google Maps. 

Best winter hikes in Canmore - Bow River Loop
Best winter hikes in Canmore – Bow River Loop

Rawson Lake

Distance: 8 km return, about 320 metres in elevation gain

Difficulty: Moderate

Time Needed: 3-4 hours

Trailhead: Upper Kananaskis Lake day use parking lot

Up for a little day trip? Then you certainly need to make your way from Canmore to the Upper Kananaskis Lake where you explore one of my favorite places to visit in Alberta. After just over an hour’s drive, you will reach the lake. Here, you will be blown away by the stunning vistas. But the best part is that this is just the beginning!

Head to the far left side of the parking lot (when you’re facing the lake.) From here you can jump on the trail that goes around the lake in a clockwise direction though be wary and prepared for some places with avalanche danger. There is also a trail map here so you can see the direction for Rawson Lake. 

The first part of this hike is flat as you walk beside Upper Kananaskis Lake. You’ll get stunning views and even cross a bridge over a gorge with a small waterfall. 

Eventually, you’ll come to a fork in the trail; stay left to continue to Rawson Lake. This is where the incline begins! It is about 3 kilometres from here to reach the lake. All of the elevation gain happens here. 

Rawson Lake is gorgeous with towering peaks as its backdrop. It also isn’t typically busy in the winter months, so with luck you’ll likely have the entire place to yourself. If it’s a gorgeous sunny weekend, you will not. 

Be prepared with ice cleats and snowshoes for this hike, as you will likely need them! Be sure to check recent trail conditions and avalanche reports before you go as well.

Rawson Lake never fails to impress in winter
Rawson Lake never fails to impress in winter

Quarry Lake Loop and nearby trails 

Distance: Various trails 1km to 11 km in length

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Time needed: 30 minutes to a couple of hours

Trailhead: Quarry Lake in Canmore

Quarry Lake is a small lake located in Canmore. In the winter many people come here to explore the variety of trail systems that start here. 

For something short and easy, walk the loop trail around the lake. This is only about 1 km and flat. For something a little longer, walk to the Reservoir and back on part of the Powerline Trail. This is also fairly flat and should only be about 2 kilometres return (depending how long you walk along the Reservoir.) 

You can also do the Highline Trail Loop from here. This is a 10.9 kilometre-long trail that starts from Quarry Lake. You’ll hike up towards the Highline Trail and then loop back down near the Three Sisters Village. 

The scenic Quarry Lake loop can be lengthened or shortened depending on hoe much time you have
The scenic Quarry Lake loop can be lengthened or shortened depending on hoe much time you have

Johnston Canyon 

Distance: 2.4 km return to the lower falls, 5 km return to the upper falls, 11.4 km return to the Ink Pots

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Time needed: 1 hour to 4 hours depending on the hike you choose

Trailhead: Johnston Canyon trailhead, about a 45-minute drive from Canmore

Johnston Canyon is one of the best hikes in Banff National Park. But, it’s actually not far from Canmore either at only a 45-minute-long drive. 

Johnston Canyon is a wonderful hike for various reasons. First of all, it is stunning all year round. In the summer you can see the bright blue river beneath you as well as powerful falls. And in the winter, it becomes a frozen paradise where you can do an ice walk and marvel at icicles and frozen waterfalls. This makes it easily one of the best things to do in Banff

Johnston Canyon is also great for all fitness levels since there are a couple different trails you can choose to do here. The shortest hike is only 1.2 km each way and takes you to the lower falls. This hike is super easy and only gains about 50 metres in elevation. For something a little harder, continue past the lower falls to the upper falls. In total, the hike to the upper falls is 2.5 km each way and gains 120 metres in elevation. And finally if you’re up for the challenge, hike to the Inkpots. This is 5.7 km each way and gains 330 metres in elevation. 

If you do choose to hike Johnston Canyon in the winter be prepared with the proper safety gear, otherwise, you can book this guided tour which includes it all along with an experienced guide to complete the icewalk. 

Catching the ice climbers in action in Johnston Canyon
Catching the ice climbers in action in Johnston Canyon at the upper falls

Conclusion

Canmore is an outdoor paradise – even in the winter! With fewer crowds, frozen waterfalls, and the beautiful snowy landscape everywhere you turn, it’s no wonder Canmore is just as popular a winter destination as a summer one. 

All you need to do is be prepared for the snow and ice and you’ll be on your way hiking some of the best winter trails in Canmore!

Location map of the trailheads for winter hikes in Canmore

                     

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Top 10 winter hikes in Canmore Alberta and nearby

Bailey

Bailey is a Canadian-born travel blogger. Alongside her partner, Daniel, the couple loves exploring destinations that offer incredible outdoor experiences. This has brought the couple to Canmore on countless occasions - they even called Canmore home for a season! You can follow Bailey and Daniel and their adventures in Canada and around the world on Instagram.

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