Spring in Canmore can be sunny or snowy, but you can count on spectacular views and fantastic dining no matter the weather. Here are 15 fun things to do in Canmore this spring.
Canmore is wonderful in all seasons, but there’s something special about visiting in spring, as ski season winds downs, and lakes begin to melt. The streets are less busy, and the trails are too… though avalanche danger persists at elevation until late spring on many trails (so check the trail report and avalanche report before heading out). Hike to frozen waterfalls in early spring and gushing waterfalls when the snow melts; climb; paddle (when the lake ice has melted); or explore the museum and discover Canmore’s history and geology. Here’s how to spend a fun spring weekend in Canmore.
1. Chase waterfalls
May 20, 2023 Update: Grassi Lakes Trail has reopened!
Have you ever taken the time to visit the waterfalls along Grassi Lakes Trail? They’re pretty photogenic, especially in late spring when there’s lots of water. Take the “More Difficult” / Interpretive trail (check the Alberta Parks trail report to make sure it’s open) to the stairs. The falls are to your left. If you choose to visit them, use caution as the rocks are slippery! Rain jacket recommended; umbrella optional. 😉 Return to the main trail to visit two turquoise ponds, and check out the pictographs past the second pond before heading back on the “easy” trail. 3.2 kilometres round trip. For more details, read our story: Hiking Grassi Lakes Trail, Canmore.
Another easy, but beautiful waterfall hike in Canmore is Three Sisters Creek. Hike to two small waterfalls in two kilometres! While this trail has less elevation gain, you may get your feet wet going to the second waterfall (a shallow creek crossing is required).
2. Visit a Cold War Bunker
According to urban legend, the The Heart Creek Bunker aka Bow Valley Bunker or Diefenbunker was built to house politicians, but it was actually constructed at the height of the Cold War to house sensitive documents. While the “bunker” was never used, large (80 foot x 25 foot) caverns remain in the side of Mount McGillivray, near Heart Creek. For directions, please read my story: The Bow Valley Bunker. Note that the cavern entrance is on an avalanche slope, so you should NOT do this hike when there is snow on the mountain. Bring a headlamp or flashlight.
3. Explore Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park is an awesome year-round playground. Cross country ski, fatbike, skate, and toboggan until April, weather permitting. Canada’s National Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Teams train here, so you can count on impeccable grooming. Cross country ski trail fees are in effect; read Cross Country Skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre for more information.
After the trails dry out, return to CNC for orienteering, disc golf, and mountain biking. There’s a fun bike skills park too.
4. Play inside at Elevation Place
Elevation Place is a beautiful fitness facility in the heart of Canmore with an aquatic park, gym, and climbing gym. Kids of all ages will love the large aquatic park with its pools, lazy river, waterslide, steam room, and hot tub. After a swim, challenge yourself in the climbing gym with routes of varying difficulty. Climbing lessons are available if you’d like to up your skills in a safe environment.
5. Complete the Triple Crown of Canmore
MARCH 2023 UPDATE: Ha Ling Peak & East End of Rundle have reopened, but Lady MacDonald remains closed until further notice. Alternate easy scrambles include: Heart Mountain, Grotto Mountain, and Wind Tower.
Complete the Triple Crown of Canmore by hiking Ha Ling Peak, Mount Lady MacDonald (to the teahouse platform), and East End of Rundle (EEOR) to earn a commemorative beer mug from the Georgetown Inn. Start with Lady MacDonald (8.7 km return, 1015 m elevation gain) as its southern aspect makes for good early season conditions. Save Ha Ling (6 km return, 732 m elevation gain) and EEOR (5.8 km round trip, 870 m elevation gain) for later in the season when the trails are dry. EEOR has significant avalanche danger and is prone to large cornices.
6. Bike the beautiful Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail
Bike the beautiful Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff (26.8 km one way). This paved trail doesn’t have many big hills and has several access points, so you can ride as long or little as you like. One-way distances from these starting points to Banff High School follow: Canmore Hwy 1 Travel Alberta Visitor Information Centre (26.8 km), Valleyview Picnic Area (12.4 km), and Cascade Ponds (4.8 km). On the return trip, let the prevailing winds push you back to Canmore or ride ROAM Transit (Route 3); they are equipped with bike racks (first come first served space for bikes) for your convenience. The Legacy Trail is best biked from mid-April to mid-October.
7. Go back in time at Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre
Discover Canmore’s history and geography at the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre. We were amazed at how many hands-on exhibits, artifacts, videos, and displays relating to Canmore’s history, geology, and geography were inside this little museum. Our kids loved completing the scavenger hunt to win a prize too. To learn more about the museum, check out our story: Exploring Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre. Don’t miss the nearby NWMP Barracks, “the oldest NWMP site in Western Canada to still stand on its original location”.
8. Go on a cave tour!
Explore Grotto Mountain’s Rat’s Nest Cave with Canmore Cave Tours. Walk along narrow ledges to caverns adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, rappel into the depths, and squeeze through the Laundry Chute. There are several tours to choose from depending on how long you’d like to stay in the cave and how adventurous you are. Recommended for ages 10 & up.
Read about our experience in Go Underground with Canmore Cave Tours.
9. Learn to stand-up paddleboard
Learn to stand up paddleboard (SUP) at Canmore Reservoir aka Rundle Forebay. The water is usually pretty calm and the views are amazing. Update: As of 2020, you need to park at the Canmore Nordic Centre and walk over to the reservoir.
Another scenic but smaller option for stand-up paddleboarding is Quarry Lake, below The Three Sisters. Note that paid parking is in effect.
For more information on paddling here and where to rent stand-up paddleboards, read Where to Stand Up Paddleboard Near Calgary.
10. Hike West Wind Pass
Hike West Wind Pass, one of the best short hikes in Kananaskis, to a spectacular viewpoint of the Spray Valley. There’s avalanche danger here, so wait until the snow has melted (late May is usually ok). 4.2 km return, 380 m elevation gain. For details, see West Wind Pass Trail, Kananaskis.
11. Go on a self-guided Clue Solvers Adventure
Clue Solvers Adventures are super fun, self-guided tours that are “Part scavenger hunt. Part escape room. Part amazing race.” After purchasing the tour/adventure of your choice, download the free Mystery Towns app, and follow instructions to solve the first clue. Enter the answer to get the next clue. If you get stumped, there are hints, but using them will add to your completion time. Entering incorrect answers will also add to your time, so read the rules carefully, work as a team, and watch your spelling.
We recently did the Sculpted in Time (Calgary) Clue Solvers Tour as a family and loved it! The clues were challenging enough to keep us thinking, but not too hard that my kids got frustrated (my kids are 10 & 11.5 years old). We only needed one hint to solve 17 clues in 1 hour and 22 minutes.. however our official time was over 2.5 hours due to asking for a hint and entering a few wrong answers.
The Clue Solvers Adventures are entirely outdoors, so they’re good, social-distanced fun. Depending on the course you choose, expect to walk 2-4 kilometres and spend about 90 minutes solving the mystery. Race the clock and see where you end up on the leaderboard, or compete against other teams too; perfect if you’re in town with friends (each team must purchase its own adventure)! Designed for adults but suitable for kids 10 & up with some adult assistance. *Also available in Banff, Calgary, Cochrane, Crowsnest Pass, and Kananaskis.
12. Look for wildflowers
In May and June, you can find tons of wildflowers in Bow Valley Provincial Park. The park boasts several family-friendly interpretive trails with lots of wildflowers including lady’s slipper orchids and tiger lilies, and is a short drive east of Canmore. Please leave the flowers for others to enjoy! For more information on hiking trails and other activities in the park, please read our Bow Valley Provincial Park Camping & Recreation Guide.
13. Enjoy good eats and local brews
Canmore has tons of amazing dining options. We love pizza at Rocky Mountain Flatbread, dinner at Blake (they have design-your-own bento boxes on the kids menu), the patio at Iron Goat Pub & Grill, and diverse and delicious menu at Crazyweed Kitchen.
14. Attend a play, musical performance, or festival (Alberta Health Guidelines permitting)
Canmore Uncorked 2023 dates are coming soon. Enjoy the best food, drink, and adventures in Canmore with your Festival Passport which gets you deals at participating partners.
For more upcoming events in Canmore, visit Explore Explore Canmore Kananaskis | Event Calendar.
15. Shop and nosh at Canmore Mountain Market
Canmore Mountain Market is where you can pick up local treats or handcrafted items. Open Thursdays from May long weekend to October, 10 am to 6 pm at Elevation Place parking lot.
Where to Stay
Basecamp Resorts Canmore offers modern, spacious suites accommodating 2-16 people (studio, 1, 2, 3, and 5-6 bedroom suites available). Conveniently located on Bow Valley Trail, a short walk from downtown Canmore, Basecamp has everything you need to feel at home from a full kitchen and high speed internet to blackout blinds and wonderful Rocky Mountain soap products (love the lemongrass soap!). Virtual check-in is easy; simply punch in the keycode that is emailed/texted on your arrival date. The same code gets you in to the hot tub area.
Whether you decide to make your own meals or dine out, everything you need is close by. Over the long weekend, we cooked most meals at our suite (Safeway is less than 1 km away so getting extra groceries was a breeze), but we enjoyed breakfast from Rocky Mountain Bagel Company (next door), a latte from Eclipse Coffee Roasters (at the end of the block) on our way back from Elevation Place, and lunch at Blake (kitty corner from Basecamp). Blake is my kids’ favorite because they can build their own bento boxes there.
In the evening, watch the sunset from Basecamp’s amazing rooftop hot tub, then relax in your home away from home and plan tomorrow’s mountain adventures.