Where to snowshoe near Calgary this winter: West Bragg Creek, Banff, and Kananaskis
For good, snowy fun, try snowshoeing this winter! Snowshoeing is an affordable way to experience the snowy season and is suitable for all ages. While it’s tempting to strap on the big shoes and hit your favorite trails, we recommend sticking to official winter trails to stay out of avalanche terrain. We hope you’ll enjoy this collection of snowshoe trails near Calgary. With options in West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis, and Banff National Park, you can try a different trail every weekend!
Kananaskis Valley Snowshoe Trails
There are several snowshoe trails in Kananaskis Valley. Here are our top picks for snowshoeing with the family.
Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail
With minimal elevation gain and lots of bridges, Ribbon Creek snowshoe trail is fun for families. We went over five bridges in the first kilometre! 3.3 km one way with 60 m elevation gain. *Avalanche danger beyond the end of the trail!* Note that a couple sections are shared with cross country skiers; please be courteous and stay off the ski tracks. 🙂 Read our trip report here: Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail, Kananaskis.
Troll Falls and Upper Falls
Hike or snowshoe to several waterfalls at Troll Falls, Marmot Falls, and Upper Falls. It’s really cool to hike behind Marmot Falls (on the Upper Falls Trail)! This popular trail tends to get packed down and icy, so traction devices are recommended, but after a big dump of snow, you can snowshoe here. 1.7 km to Troll Falls + 1 km to Upper Falls, minimal elevation gain. For more details, read Hiking Marmot Creek’s Waterfalls: Troll Falls, Marmot Falls, and Upper Falls.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Spray Valley Provincial Park Snowshoe Trails
Hogarth Lakes Loop
Hogarth Lakes Loop is a pretty, family-friendly snowshoe trail with minimal elevation gain. From Burstall Pass Parking lot, wind your way around three lakes. There’s an avalanche beacon training area along the trail if you’d like to brush up your skills. For more details, read our story: Snowshoeing Hogarth Lakes Loop. 3.9 km loop, 30 m elevation gain.
Penstock Loop is an easy, mostly forested snowshoe trail that takes you past a meadow, Kent Creek Flume, Spillway Lake, and across Lower Kananaskis Lake Dam. We like that it’s pretty pretty quiet compared to most of the other trails in the area. For a longer trip, you can combine this loop with Lower Lake Trail. For more info, see our blog post: Penstock Loop Snowshoe Trail. 5 km loop.
Elkwood Loop/Marl Lake
The short and sweet trail to Marl Lake starts at Elkwood Amphitheatre Parking Lot. Snowshoe across the campground to the interpretive trail. As you travel through forest, fen, and meadows, signs tell you how the landscape is changing. Enjoy great views of Mount Indefatigable from Marl Lake, then follow the snowshoe markers back to your starting point. Get directions in our story: Elkwood Loop Snowshoe Trail. 3.4 km, 23 m elevation gain.
Chester Lake is a good climb with awesome payoff at the end. Although you hike up through the trees, the meadows near the lake are expansive and just beyond the lake, snow covered boulders (the Elephant Rocks) make for fun climbing and cool photos. For more information, please see our story, Year Round Fun at Chester Lake. 7.2 km return, 287 m elevation gain.
Black Prince Cirque
Black Prince Cirque is a fun and pretty trail with lots of snow to play in. Do not pass the lake as there is significant avalanche danger. Note that this trail is shared with backcountry skiers. 4.3 km round trip, 90 m elevation gain.
Rawson Lake Trail starts at Upper Kananaskis Lake. Around the 1 km mark, you will pass Sarrail Falls. At the junction, take the left fork and follow the switchbacks 2.7 km through subalpine forest to Rawson Lake. Do not cross the lake as the awesome peaks overlooking the lake pose serious avalanche danger. 7.8 km return, 320 m elevation gain.
Wintour Trail is actually Highway 40 past the winter gate. It may seem odd to snowshoe on the road, but the vistas are pretty amazing! Park near the winter gate and snowshoe south. 5 km return, 74 m elevation gain. *THERE IS AVALANCHE DANGER 2.5 KM PAST THE WINTER GATE. TURN BACK AFTER 2.5 KM.* See the Alberta Parks – Kananaskis Snowshoeing Brochure for more information.
Stop at the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park Visitor Centre before or after your snowshoe outing. There are cool exhibits, washrooms, and a microwave and kettle available for public use. The views off the back deck are gorgeous too! Check the events calendar for interpretive programs.
Afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge is a fantastic après-snowshoe treat! Available daily from 2 pm – 5 pm.
Pick up hot chocolate or snacks from Fortress Junction Gas Station & Convenience Store.
There are also several restaurants and a pub at Kananaskis Village. We like ramen and beef bowls at Moose Family Kitchen (beside Kananaskis Outfitters).
West Bragg Creek Snowshoe Trails
Snowy Owl Trail
Snowy Owl Trail is great on a calm day as it’s quite open and gets lots of sun. It parallels the Mountain Road ski trail and is quite flat for the first couple kilometres. Download the West Bragg Creek Trail Map here.
- Option 1: For a nice 2.6 km round-trip snowshoe outing, make the blue bridge your destination and return the way you came.
- Option 2: Make a 2.7 km loop with Snowy Owl, Snowy Shortcut, and West Crystal Line.
Snowshoe Hare Loop
Snowshoe Hare Loop is a rolling trail that is 5.4 km long with 173 m elevation gain when you’re ready for more of a challenge. For more information, see BCKOR’s trip description. Download the West Bragg Creek Trail Map here.
West Bragg Creek Amenities
Stop in at the Powderhorn Saloon (7 Balsam Ave Unit 220) for tasty pub fare, Handle-Bar Living Room (27 Balsam Ave.
Old West Mall Unit #4 & #3) for a taste of the Alps, Creekers Bistro for delicious soup and sandwiches and bibimbap (20 White Ave), or get a sweet treat at Frontier Candy & Ice Cream (7 Balsam Ave)! Several more tasty options await in the charming hamlet of Bragg Creek.
Banff Snowshoe Trails
Banff National Park is a winter wonderland with several great snowshoe trails. Where trails are shared with cross country skiers, please stay off the ski tracks.
Johnson Lake offers fantastic views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. You can take the flat and pretty trail around the lake, or snowshoe right on the lake once it’s frozen. The safest times to do this are typically mid-December until the end of February, but weather conditions are always changing, so check ice thickness before venturing on to the ice. For ice safety tips, please see this post. 2.8 km loop.
Lake Minnewanka offers several options. Snowshoe to Stewart Canyon (1.5 to the bridge), the river gorge (3 km one way), or the first campground (7.6 km). For more information, see our story: Stewart Canyon.
Tunnel Mountain is a short and scenic trail that starts at Tunnel Mountain Drive and St Julien Way. Ice cleats or snowshoes are recommended for this popular trail. 2 km one way, 130 metres elevation gain.
There are tons of dining options in Banff. We really like Farm + Fire and The Bison for lunch, Maple Leaf Grill or Sky Bistro (at the top of the Banff Gondola) for a fancy dinner, and Old Spaghetti Factory for a casual dinner. For inexpensive take out, head to the Food Court at Cascade Mall, McDonald’s, or Chaya (Japanese food).
Lake Louise Snowshoe Trails
Louise Falls / Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
Snowshoe across Lake Louise or take the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (4 km return) to 100 metre high Louise Falls. Both routes are Chariot friendly. For more information, see Snowshoe, Ski, Skate, and Walk on World Famous Lake Louise.
Fairview Lookout is a steep, but fun trail that leads to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Louise and the Chateau. 2 km return, 100 m elevation gain. For more information, see Snowshoeing to Fairview Lookout.
Take Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake. This trail is a good climb through the trees that offers occasional glimpses of Lake Louise and a good view of the Beehive from Mirror Lake. Note that there is an avalanche path 1.8 km from the trailhead, and serious avalanche terrain beyond the lake. Do not go past Mirror Lake as “the trail is rated as Challenging Class 2 for avalanche exposure and travel requires appropriate avalanche training and equipment” (Parks Canada). 5.4 km return from Chateau Lake Louise, 295 m elevation gain. See Snowshoeing to Mirror Lake for details.
Peyto Lake Viewpoint
Peyto Lake Viewpoint is located off the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). A short trail takes you to stunning lookout. 1.2 km round trip, 44 m elevation gain.
For more information on these and other trails, please see Parks Canada – Winter Trails in the Banff Area and Parks Canada – Winter Trails in the Lake Louise Area.
Lake Louise Amenities
The Visitor Centre, located in the Village, has several exhibits and washrooms.
Chateau Lake Louise has several dining options from casual to fine dining. We’ve enjoyed cocoa and lunch at the cafe and Lakeview Lounge, fondue at Walliser Stube Fondue place, and Afternoon Tea at the Fairview restaurant.
For an unforgettable dinner, head to Deer Lodge (fine dining). In the Village, we like Laggan’s Bakery and Timberwolf Pizza & Pasta (at Lake Louise Inn).
Know Before You Go
- A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online at https://www.alberta.ca/kananaskis-conservation-pass.aspx.
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park.
- Bears are often active until December (we’ve seen them in January and March too)! Review our Bear Safety Tips and carry bear spray just in case.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
- Where trails are shared with cross country skiers, please stay off the ski tracks to keep the tracks usable and stay safe (skiers can move a lot faster than snowshoers, but can’t always stop quickly).
What to Bring
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Base layers, wool socks, insulated winter boots, a down jacket and windproof/waterproof shell (or insulated ski jacket/parka), gloves or mittens, and toque are must-haves. See our fall/winter hiking gear guide or Best Winter Gear for Kids for product recommendations.
You should also carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/satellite communicator (or compass) and map of the area, sunscreen (this one is safe for babies), and bear spray. Carry bear spray in a Frontiersman Bear Spray Holster (attaches to your backpack or belt) or Scat Belt.
Snowshoes with good crampons will prevent you from slipping on hills, and trekking poles with snow baskets help you balance on uneven terrain. See our Snowshoeing Gear List for a complete pack list – don’t forget the hot cocoa!
Where to rent snowshoes
In Calgary, you can rent snowshoes at:
- Outlaw Sports Rapid Rent (903 Heritage Dr SW)
- Sports Rent (4424 16th Ave NW): Adult & kids snowshoes available.
- U of C Outdoor Centre (2500 University Dr NW): Adult & youth snowshoes available.
In Kananaskis Village, you can rent snowshoes from Kananaskis Outfitters.
We hope you have tons of fun snowshoeing! See you out there!
- Winter recreation guide for Calgary, Banff, and Kananaskis: Where to skate, ski (alpine and nordic), and snowshoe
- Children’s Snowshoes Reviews
- 10 Tips for Fun Family Snowshoeing
- Yukon Charlie’s Elite SPIN Snowshoe Review
- 14 Things to Do in Canmore This Winter
- 9 Things to Do in Lake Louise This Winter
- 10 Things to Do in Banff This Winter
- Snowshoeing at Marble Canyon, Kootenay National Park
- The Best Winter Gear for Kids
- Why You Need Avalanche Skills Training
Hey Jacqueline, snowshoes will attach to your boots. I recommend hiking boots (vs Sorels will do not provide much support and come off easily in deep snow) for snowshoeing – winter hiking boots are even better if you have 'em. The rental shop can show you how to put them on. Poles are nice to have and should be included in the rental cost!
Hey Karen, planning on finally trying snow shoeing with family. We need to rent, do we need poles? Do we need special snow boots or do they just strap onto ours?
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