Winter is here, and while it would be easy to stay inside and hibernate, you’d be missing out on some beautiful hiking. In winter, say goodbye to mosquitoes and crowds, and say hello to snow-capped peaks and ice falls! They’re worth bundling up for, I promise (don’t forget to pack your camera and a hot drink). Here are the best winter hikes near Calgary.
1. Grotto Canyon, Exshaw
Grotto Canyon is a classic winter hike near Calgary that takes you through a frozen creekbed to pictographs and stunning ice falls. Pack microspikes for this trail as you will be walking on solid ice (unless it has been covered with snow). For more details, please read Grotto Canyon Ice Hike. Distance: 4.2 km round trip
2. Lake Louise Shoreline Trail, Banff National Park
Walk across Lake Louise (take care to avoid the avalanche slopes on the boathouse side of the lake), or take the Shoreline Trail, to Louise Falls. These spectacular ice falls are popular with ice climbers and over one hundred metres tall! Read Skate, Ski, Walk, and Snowshoe on World Famous Lake Louise for details on hiking, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing to the falls. Distance: 5 km return
3. Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park
Johnston Canyon is best visited in winter, when all the falls are frozen. Cross the catwalk, go through a small tunnel to the Lower Falls Lookout, then carry on to Upper Falls. The trail gets packed down and icy, so ice cleats or microspikes are recommended (especially for the section between Lower Falls and Upper Falls). Distance: 2.2 kilometres round trip to the Lower Falls or 5.4 kilometres round trip to the Upper Falls. NOTE: There is a construction closure past Lower Falls until further notice.
4. Grassi Lakes, Canmore
Grassi Lakes is one of the best short hikes near Calgary. Follow the old gravel road to two azure ponds. The “easy” trail, which is open year round, is Chariot friendly! For more information, read Hiking Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore. Distance: 3.8 km round trip. NOTE: Grassi Lakes is closed until 2023 for parking lot construction.
5. Jura Canyon, Exshaw
For a unique hike through a slot canyon, head to Jura Canyon. From Jura Creek parking lot, head west to the creekbed, then hike north through the narrow, sculpted canyon. Microspikes required as you will be hiking on ice! We recommend waiting until after a long cold snap to do this trail as some of the plunge pools are several feet deep. Please read our story Jura Canyon Ice Walk for details on this cool hike near Canmore. Distance: 3 km return for the ice walk (including 800 metre walk to the canyon), with the option to continue further for a 7 km return hike.
6. Tunnel Mountain, Banff
With its short approach and lovely views, Tunnel Mountain makes a great first summit. Don’t miss the red chairs, and viewpoints off the back side of the mountain. For more information, read our story: Tunnel Mountain, Banff. Distance: 4.6 km round trip.
7. Big Hill Springs Provincial Park
Big Hill Springs Provincial Park has all the elements of a fun family hike – bridges, water, and a forest trail – over a short distance even preschoolers can manage. 40 minutes from Calgary or 15 minutes from Cochrane. Distance: North Viewpoint Loop is 700 m, South Viewpoint Loop is 420 m.
8. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park‘s 30+ kilometres of trails offer foothills and mountain views just minutes from Cochrane. Try Tiger Lily Loop (1.4 km) to take shelter from the wind, then take Glenbow Trail to the old Glenbow Store. Read more in our story: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park – So Close to Calgary, So Much to Do!
9. Troll Falls and Upper Falls, Kananaskis
Explore Marmot Creek’s cascades and waterfalls beyond Troll Falls on the trail to Upper Falls. November is the ideal time to go before the plunge pool freezes, but the ice falls are stunning all winter. Read more in our story: Hiking Marmot Creek’s Waterfalls (Beyond Troll Falls). Distance: 5.4 km round trip.
10. Johnson Lake, Banff
Johnson Lake’s highlights include great views of Mount Rundle and Cascade mountain, an old hermit cabin, and hoodoos viewpoint. The hermit cabin is slightly off the main trail, but we have directions in our story: Exploring Johnson Lake so you don’t miss out. Inner loop: 2.8 km, outer loop: 3.5 km.
11. Widow Maker Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park
Widow Maker Trail is a short and scenic trail along the Kananaskis River. Take the trail north past turquoise pools to Canoe Meadows. Distance: 4 km round trip.
12. Prairie View Trail (Yates Mountain), Bow Valley Provincial Park
Prairie View Trail (Yates Mountain) to McConnell Ridge or Barrier Lake Fire Lookout is a good hike to do when it’s super windy, as the trees provide shelter from the wind. When you finally break out of the trees at McConnell Ridge, you are rewarded with views of Barrier Lake, Mount Baldy and beyond. There’s a fun little scramble to a higher viewpoint (not recommended if icy), as well as the option to hike up to Barrier Lake Fire Lookout offering 360 views. Return the way you came for the quickest way down. Distance & elevation: 13.2 km return, 421 m elevation gain. Add on 0.7 km, 100 m elevation gain to the Fire Lookout.
13. Black Prince Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Black Prince Cirque / Warspite Lake follows an old logging road most of the way to beautiful cirque. Watch for skiers in late autumn – this trail is popular with backcountry skiers. Distance & elevation gain: 4.2 km loop with 90 m elevation gain. Do not cross the lake in winter conditions – there is significant avalanche danger!
14. Rawson Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Rawson Lake is a great year-round hike. You can hike or snowshoe here depending on how packed down the snow is. Start at Upper Kananaskis Lake parking lot, take the lakeshore trail past Sarrail Falls to the first turnoff (1.2 km), turn left at the junction (look for a sign with a map on it), and follow the switchbacks 2.7 km to Rawson Lake. Distance & elevation gain: 7.8 km return, 320 m elevation gain. *DO NOT CROSS THE LAKE IN WINTER CONDITIONS – THERE ARE HUGE AVALANCHE SLOPES!* For more info on this trail, see Hiking Rawson Lake, Kananaskis.
15. Prairie Mountain, Elbow Valley
Prairie Mountain is an awesome year-round hike near Calgary. Bring microspikes and trekking poles as the top part gets icy in winter conditions, and is super steep. Distance & elevation gain: 7.8 km round trip, 700 metres.
16. Canyon Creek Ice Cave, Elbow Valley
Canyon Creek Ice Cave, a large limestone cave in the side of Moose Mountain features cool ice formations during the winter and early spring. It’s best done as a bike and hike in late spring as the first 5.5 kilometres are on a gravel road. Climbing helmets are recommended due to significant risk of rockfall near the cave. Distance: 12.4 km round trip.
Even MORE Winter Trails
While these are the most scenic winter trails near Calgary, there are several more to try. See our post Winter Trails and Trail Reports for Banff and Kananaskis for more trip ideas! Trails are listed by park/region (Spray Valley, Elbow Valley, etc) and there’s even a handy PDF you can save to your phone.
Snowshoe Trails Near Calgary
For more trails to explore, you’ll need snowshoes. See our story Where to Snowshoe near Calgary for trails in Kananaskis and Banff.
Know Before You Go
- A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park in Kananaskis. Purchase your pass online from the Government of Alberta.
- A Parks Canada Discovery Pass / daily admission fee is required to stop in Banff National Park.
- Bears are active until mid to late November but will awaken from torpor (like a deep sleep, they don’t truly hibernate) if they are disturbed. Learn how to stay safe in bear country with our Bear Safety Tips for Hikers, carry bear spray just in case (cougars and wolves are active year round), and keep your dog on a leash. It’s a ticketable offense to have dogs offleash in provincial and national parks.
- It gets even colder once the sun goes down, so we recommend getting an early start. See our Fall and Winter Hiking Tips for more ways to stay safe while winter hiking.
What to Bring
1. Baffin Chloe Boots + Kahtoola Microspikes; 2. Smartwool Patch Beanie & Smartwool Intraknit Merino 200 Top, Fjallraven Keb Trousers; 3. KUHL Spyfire Down Hoodie
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Base layers, windproof/waterproof outerwear, gloves/mitts, a hat, and insulated hiking boots are must-haves. For recommendations on what to wear and pack this time of year, see our Fall/Winter Hiking Gear Guide, or Best Winter Gear for Kids.
Traction devices such as Kahtoola Microspikes (Available from Amazon and MEC), or Hillsound Trail Crampons (Available at Amazon and Sport Chek) are highly recommended.
Trekking poles are also recommended, especially if you have a heavy pack or are babywearing. If you’re hiking with toddlers and preschoolers, we strongly recommend a good-quality child carrier backpack like the Deuter Kid Comfort Carrier (max capacity: 22 kg).
You should always carry The Ten Essentials including: water, extra food, extra clothes, a headlamp, a GPS/compass and map of the area, bug spray (this one contains 20% icaridin and will repel ticks), 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.
More Winter Fun
- Where to Snowshoe Near Calgary
- Where to Cross Country Ski in Calgary
- 14 Things to Do in Canmore this Winter
- 10 Things to Do in Banff this Winter
- 9 Things to Do in Lake Louise this Winter