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9 Canmore Hikes That Offer Great Views

9 Canmore Hikes That Offer Great Views

The town of Canmore is both the gateway to Banff National Park and an access point to Kananaskis Country. As a result there is an unbelievable amount of truly exceptional hiking within an hour’s drive. I’ve tried to showcase Canmore hikes that offer views within a short distance of the town, with most about a 15 -20 minute drive away. The hike to the Sparrowhawk Tarns is the exception.

Many of these Canmore hikes can be done beginning early in spring – save for the Year of the Virus. Ha Ling in particular can get very busy even in March, depending on the year and snow cover. Always go prepared for a change in weather and don’t forget the bear spray.

On some Canmore hikes you often see elk in town
You often see elk in Canmore

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If you plan to do early season hikes, then don’t forget the icers. They can make a huge difference in being able to stay upright and safe on the mountain.

Heart Mountain – one of the early season Canmore hikes

The Heart Mountain hike is part hike but mostly it’s a scramble, albeit not one that is too difficult except for one move described in the blog below.

Its 2.8 kilometres one way with an elevation gain of 745 metres. Count on nothing but up until the homestretch to the summit. It took us just over four hours return including time for lunch on top.

The trailhead is located off of the Lac des Arc exit, 18 kilometres east of Canmore. Park at the Heart Creek Trailhead and follow the detailed instructions in the blog below.

Read: The Heart Mountain Hike near Canmore

Canmore hikes - the half day Heart Mountain hike
Heart Mountain lives up to its name especially in snow when the heart becomes obvious
It's steep in places
It’s steep in places on the Heart Mountain hike
 Canmore hikes with beautiful views on the Heart Mountain hike
Beautiful views on the Heart Mountain hike

Ha Ling Peak

You can see Ha Ling Peak from all over Canmore. It looks imposing and yet there’s a great hiker’s trail to the summit. Its 3.0 kilometres one way with an elevation gain of 737 metres. It’s very steep right off the bat but moderates slightly when you’re out of the trees.

The trail to Ha Ling Peak was closed for some time but reopened in 2019. Its safer than it was for the huge numbers of people who hike it.

The trailhead is easy to find as it’s across the road from the Goat Creek parking lot. 

Read: The Fantastic Hike to the Summit of Ha Ling Peak

Canmore hikes with a view looking south along the Smith Dorrien Trail
Looking south along the Smith Dorrien Trail
Looking out to the Goat Creek Trail in the valley bottom that takes you to all the way to Banff
Looking out to the Goat Creek Trail in the valley bottom that takes you to all the way to Banff
Looking down to Canmore and the Trans-Canada Highway
Looking down to Canmore and the Trans-Canada Highway

Mount Lady MacDonald

If you’re looking for an early season hike in the Canmore area then you’d do well to choose Mount Lady MacDonald. What you get is a great workout and some exceptional views of the Canmore area. 

There is the option to continue past the heli-pad up a steep scree slope to an airy ridge walk. I have yet to do that but if you’re fleet of foot and fearless you’d get even more incredible views.

All told it’s approximately 6 kilometres round trip with 610 metres of elevation gain to the heli-pad. To get to the summit its 8.6 kilometres return over a gain of 905 metres.

Read: The Mount Lady MacDonald Hike near Canmore

First good view of Canmore from the hike
First good view of Canmore from the hike
The helipad is a great place for lunch
The helipad is a great place for lunch
If you're doing an early season hike bring icers
Another one of the Canmore hikes with great views but if you’re doing it early in the season bring icers

Grassi Lakes – one of the very popular Canmore hikes

One of the most popular trails in the Canmore area is the one to Grassi Lakes. It’s a quick one to knock off as its 4 kilometres return with an elevation gain of 300 metres. Just pick your times to go – either early or late in the day if you want to avoid crowds.

There are two trails that take you to Grassi Lakes. One is marked easy and the other difficult. Choose the difficult one if you’re looking for variety or better yet do them as a loop. I’d recommend taking the difficult one up and the easy one down.

The lakes are also an enjoyable spot to watch the rock climbers or to enjoy a picnic.

Nice views either below or above Grassi Lakes
Nice views either below or above Grassi Lakes
The Grassi Lakes are also a great place for a picnic
The Grassi Lakes are also a great place for a picnic
Map of the Grassi Lakes trail
Map of the Grassi Lakes trail

EEOR (East End of Rundle)

The hike up EEOR – also called the East End of Rundle – isn’t for everyone. It’s unrelentingly steep climbing – some 875 metres over only 2.9 kilometres. Part of the hike near the cliff band is more scramble than hike and not everyone will feel comfortable doing it.

But the payoff is an incredible view over Canmore, the Bow Valley and south to the mountains along the Smith Dorrien Road.

Wait till the snow has left before you do this hike, some years by early May. You can usually hike it through till October, just as the snow starts to fly. In the summer take lots of water and sunscreen.

Note that a small dog was attacked and killed by a cougar on EEOR in October 2019. So be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re hiking at non-peak times. 

Read: Test Your Mettle on the EEOR Hike near Canmore

The crux of the hike is the cliff-band up ahead
The crux of the hike is the cliff-band up ahead
The final approach to the summit
The final approach to the summit
Now that's a view of Canmore
One of the Canmore hikes that delivers a superlative view
Getting back down into the trees but it's still steep
Getting back down into the trees but it’s still steep

One of the Canmore hikes is right in town

If you’re looking for an easy, scenic family-friendly hike you don’t even need to leave Canmore. Look for over 20 kilometres of well-marked trails that wind through the woods, meander along the Bow River and take you over bridges. Many sections offer truly lovely mountain views.

Sometimes there’s a well-placed bench and even a bit of wildlife like the elk I saw enjoying a drink from the Bow River.

Town of Canmore Riverside Trail
The trail alongside the Bow River in Canmore
Good signage along the trails in Canmore
Good signage along the trails in Canmore

High Rockies Trail

The 80 kilometre High Rockies Trail is part of the Great Trail, also known as the Trans-Canada Trail. This part of the Great Trail is the westernmost section in Alberta. It’s a multi-use trail meant to be shared with mountain bikers and even horseback riders. 

There are numerous access points along the Smith Dorrien Road to get to the High Rockies Trail. The closest one to Canmore is the Goat Creek Trailhead and parking lot, 5.6 kilometres up from the Canmore Nordic Centre along Highway 742 (a dirt road).

Don’t expect any services along the trail and be bear aware when you’re hiking. Plan on an out and back hike unless you’ve arranged a car shuttle.

Read: Biking the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis Country

Great signage on the High Rockies Trail
Great signage on the High Rockies Trail
Nice view of Ha Ling Peak from the High Rockies Trail
Nice view of Ha Ling Peak from the High Rockies Trail
One of the really pretty sections of the High Rockies Trail
One of the really pretty sections of the High Rockies Trail by the Spray Lakes Reservoir

Mount Yamnuska – one of the challenging Canmore hikes

Mount Yamnuska is the first notable mountain you see when driving east from Calgary towards the mountains. So while not in Canmore proper, the trailhead is just 25 minutes from the town.

This is a hike that can be quite challenging for many people and one I wouldn’t recommend if you loathe any exposure or scrambling. There are three parts to it that can be hard for some – getting through the chimney, loads of scree and a short chain section that isn’t as bad as it sounds.

The 11 kilometre hike gains 900 metres and save for a few short sections it’s nothing but up. Take short gaiters for the descent as there’s one heck of a lot of scree to contend with. (Note the scree slopes in the photo below you’ll be descending.)

Read: The Demanding Yamnuska Hike is Full of Surprises

Yamnuska is easily visible from the Trans-Canada on the way to Banff National Park
Yamnuska is easily visible from the Trans-Canada on the way to Canmore & Banff National Park
The view on the other side of the chimney
The view on the other side of the chimney
The crux of the hike on Mt Yamnuska
The chain section is the crux of the hike on Mt Yamnuska

Sparrowhawk Tarns – one of the quieter Canmore hikes

Do this superb 13.8 kilometre return hike from around the third week of June through to mid-August if you want to catch the tarns full of water. They usually dry up over the course of the summer. The hike is a moderate one with only 720 metres of climbing. The biggest issue is staying on the right trail – all described in the link in the blog below.

The trailhead for the Sparrowhawk Tarns is just 22.5 kilometres from the Canmore Nordic Centre. There is a signed Sparrowhawk Day Use Area on the dusty Smith-Dorrien Road. If it’s full you can park on the road. 

Read: The Gorgeous Sparrowhawk Tarns Hike near Canmore

The first of the Sparrowhawk Tarns
The first of the Sparrowhawk Tarns
Stupendous mountain vistas on the Sparrowhawk Tarn hike
Superb mountain vistas on the hike
Beautiful backdrop on the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike
Beautiful backdrop on the Sparrowhawk Tarns hike

Where to stay pre or post hike in Canmore

Inexpensive: The Canmore Clubhouse located 4.5 kilometres out of town is run by the Alpine Club of Canada. It’s only $30/night for members, $40/night for non-members.

Bed & Breakfast: The Howling Wolf B&B is rated as exceptional.

If you’re after lodging that comes with a fully equipped kitchen along with a washer and dryer then the Basecamp Resort is a great choice. Enjoy well-appointed rooms with thoughtful touches like local coffee and Rocky Mountain soap. The downside in my books is the lack of a personal touch as you’re given a code to your room so you don’t have to talk to anybody. Ever. But maybe that’s just me. Prices are reasonable.

Boutique Hotel: The Malcolm Hotel near downtown Canmore is a four star hotel with an outdoor heated pool. It opened in 2019.

If you like a full service hotel with lots of amenities like pools and spas check out Solara Resort and Spa or the Stoneridge Mountain Resort.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

9 Canmore hikes that offer great views

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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