Just 75 miles west from Calgary International Airport, Canmore, Alberta, has mountain scenery, year-round outdoor sports, and makes an excellent base for exploring Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country.
From Calgary, Canmore is an easy day trip for some hiking followed by refreshments in town before heading back home. Many overnight visitors stay here instead of in nearby Banff, though both towns have something to offer.
It’s easiest to visit or stay in Canmore if you have a vehicle. Calgary International Airport has car rental options. Public transit is limited, but you can get an airport bus from Calgary. The best thing is to check the official tourist website for Canmore and book a ride directly with one of the airport shuttle operators.
In and from Canmore, there may be bus service, but this needs to be carefully researched to ensure it fits your plans. Schedules and availability change seasonally.
Thanks to the legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics, many Olympic athletes live here and use the excellent training facilities.
Some of the world’s best mountain climbers call Canmore home as well. Sharon Wood, the first North American woman to summit Mount Everest, is a Canmore-based mountain guide.
Consider a visit to Canmore for the activities or a quiet day enjoying lovely scenery.
Things To Do In Canmore
The choice of activities in Canmore depends on the season. Pretty much everything you can do with snow, ice, fast water, slow water, and mountains, you can do here.
1. Find The Perfect Hike
From the easygoing Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk and the in-town trail system to the more challenging “Strenuous Hikes” listed on local website KananaskisTrails.com, you don’t have to go far to find a hike around Canmore.
The trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre are well used by hikers and trail runners.
2. Cross-Country Skiing And Biathlon At The Nordic Centre
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park is where the Olympians train.
You can get cross-country ski lessons here and explore the trails.
Watch for high-level ski races and biathlon competitions at the Nordic Centre.
In biathlon, cross-country skiers race from one station to another. They have to stop and steady themselves, shoot their rifle at a target, and then get going again at top speed. You can give it a go at TryBiathlon.
4. Winter Skiing And Summer Hiking At The Ski Hills
Canmore is a great base if you want to ski around at different resorts. You’ll be driving to each rather than staying on the hill, but the variety is worth checking out. These resorts are also nice places for summer hiking.
In Kananaskis Country, the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 40 will get you to Nakiska, 35 miles from Canmore, with lots of runs for all levels. Check their website for ski and accommodation deals.
On the same road, 50 miles from Canmore, Fortress Mountain Resort is a ski hill with no lifts. During its multi-year redevelopment, Fortress is offering cat skiing instead. Skiers ride in vehicles to find the best snow on this expansive terrain. This is for strong intermediates and more qualified skiers, not beginners.
The Banff National Park hills are easy to reach from Canmore via the Trans-Canada Highway. Mount Norquay (20 miles), Sunshine (25 miles), and Lake Louise (50 miles) have excellent skiing, or in the summer, you can ride the lifts to the top for alpine hiking.
Where there’s downhill skiing, there’s snowboarding too.
5. Visit The Original Police Cabin And The Museum And Geoscience Centre
For an in-town cultural experience, check out Canmore’s history. The charming white cabin downtown is the original 1893 North West Mounted Police Barracks, one of very few such buildings in Alberta still in their original locations. Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre, five minutes away, tells about Canmore’s days as a coal mining town.
Best Restaurants In Canmore
The quality and range of food and drink just keeps getting better throughout the province of Alberta, and Canmore is a great example. Discover the best of Canmore’s culinary scene with Alberta Food Tours.
I asked a few friends from Canmore to let me in on their favorite places to eat and drink. From a quick morning coffee to a pleasant extended dinner, here’s what we came up with.
The Coffee To Start The Day
Beamer’s is friendly. That counts a lot in the pre-coffee hours of the morning. With two locations in Canmore, this is a convenient place to fill up before a trip.
Both Communitea Cafe and Rocky Mountain Flatbread earn high marks for their menus overall and especially for their salad choices. Good Earth is a great place for coffee and fresh, wholesome food at two locations in Canmore.
The Wood Restaurant and Lounge offers a kids’ menu in addition to a nice mix of classics and some fresh, creative inventions. They have choices for both vegans and carnivores, proving that the steak sandwich and the watermelon salad can coexist.
Craft Beer And Pubs
Skiing and hiking make you thirsty. Canmore is blessed with a number of cures for that problem.
Across the Trans-Canada Highway and up the hill, the Iron Goat gets high marks from locals and visitors for its beer selection and its food menu.
Can’t decide? That’s what brewery tours are for.
This Bakery Looks Amazing
I haven’t had a chance to sample Le Fournil yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. They had me at “French pastries.”
The artisan breads at The Uprising Craft Bakery all sound great, and so does pretty much everything at JK Bakery. They’ve been in Canmore since 1994 and serve healthy lunches as well as a lovely array of breads and baked goods.
Fancy, Not Fancy Dining
Try Santa Lucia for an Italian meal out.
Where To Shop In Canmore
On Thursdays in the summer, till the end of September, the Canmore Mountain Market brings lots of vendors to town with fresh fruit and vegetables, crafts, food to eat on the spot, food to take home, pottery, deli meats -- all kinds of things! There’s a Christmas market, too.
To serve all the top athletes and skilled sportspeople in Canmore, there’s a nice selection of shops for gear. Valhalla Pure Outfitters, Vertical Addiction, SkiUphill / RunUphill, and Outside Bike and Ski are all popular.
Best Hotels In Canmore
Paintbox Lodge Owned By Olympians
Canmore claims that more Olympians per capita live there than any place in the world. Olympic skiers Sara Renner and Thomas Grandi own Paintbox Lodge, a boutique hotel in town.
With attractive timber and stone and lots of windows for morning mountain views, The Malcolm is a luxury hotel with everything you would expect.
A Room With A View Bed And Breakfast
Because of a shortage of affordable housing, both Canmore and Banff have strict rules about short-term accommodations and vacation rentals. If you book a bed and breakfast, make sure it’s legal.
From A Room With A View, you can come and go by car easily enough. But, if you feel like a nice nature walk for a change, follow the trail through the woods to get downtown. People rave about the food and hospitality here.
I haven’t even mentioned the great golf courses, fishing, or cave tours available in Canmore, or the local art scene. This town is full of interesting people who have chosen to live here because they love the setting. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and ask for tips about where to go and what to do.