40+ Fun Things to Do in Canmore, Alberta

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Canmore is my dream home. I’ve been visiting since I was a kid, and hope to retire there someday (if I can afford it!)

Located just six kilometers outside of Banff National Park on the TransCanada Highway, Alberta’s ninth largest town is often touted as a cheaper and less touristy alternative to Banff.

But in so many ways, Canmore is one of the most appealing places to visit in Alberta in its own right. Downtown Canmore is replete with art galleries, cozy cafés, breweries & distilleries, and healthy eating options. Everyone in Canmore seems to be outdoorsy or artistic. There’s a real sense of community and environmentalism, and visitors are greeted with smiles.

A couple sitting by the Bow River in Canmore
Canmore is definitely dreamy…

Canmore was originally a coal town, but underwent a revival after it hosted parts of the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. Much of the area around Canmore is a corridor for wildlife, and many films have been shot in the area, including parts of Brokeback Mountain.

Canmore also serves as a hub for a seemingly endless number of hiking trails and other outdoor activities in the greater Kananaskis area (see my guides to the best easy hikes in Canmore and easy hikes in Kananaskis!)

The town is also surrounded by iconic Rocky Mountain peaks, including Three Sisters, Mount Lawrence Grassi, Mount Rundle, and Grotto Mountain.

In this article, I’m going to cover a large number of attractions, things to do, places to visit, places to eat & drink, and summer & winter activities in Canmore. I hope this goes to show that Canmore is much more than just a place to stay while visiting Banff!

Where to Stay in Canmore

Wapiti Campground, the only campground in Canmore town, and best budget place to stay when doing Canmore sightseeing
Wapiti Campground, Canmore’s municipal campground

Canmore is known for having cheaper accommodations than nearby Banff.

At the budget end, try Wapiti Campground (official site / see on TripAdvisor) or Canmore Downtown Hostel (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda).

We really enjoyed our stay with our kids at Rocky Mountain Ski Lodge (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda), a motel with mountain views, hot tub, and playground for the kids. It is one of the best value choices in town.

For a super cozy experience, try Ambleside Lodge B&B (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda), or for true luxury, opt for The Malcolm Hotel Canmore (see on Booking / TripAdvisor / Agoda), chosen by Travelers’ Choice as one of the best hotels in the world.

Heading north after Canmore? Read my recommended Banff itinerary, things to do with kids in Banff, and guide to the best lakes in Banff and best lakes in Jasper.

Things to Do in Canmore Town Center

Canmore is a compact town with numerous attractions that can easily be explored on foot. Park your car and spend half a day uncovering the following downtown attractions:

Explore Downtown Canmore

Some flowers and buildings on the street in downtown Canmore
Flowery, colourful downtown Canmore

Downtown Canmore is located west of Highway 1, between Bow River and Highway 1 (the TransCanada).

The downtown core is between 8th avenue and Policeman Creek, and 10th street to 7th street. 8th street is the Main Street of Downtown and is closed off to traffic in the summer months.

Town centre of Canmore with mountains in the background
The mountains are always visible in Canmore, even downtown.

Time will slip by as you explore Downtown’s high concentration of shops, cafés, artist galleries, restaurants, and more. I’ll cover each of these more specifically below.

Even when you’re downtown in Canmore, you’ll never forget you’re in the mountains, with stunning peaks ever visible in all directions.

For other fun destinations in Alberta, read my guides to Edmonton, Waterton Lakes, Lethbridge, Drumheller, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, Dinosaur Provincial Park, and Fort McMurray.

Best Walks in Canmore

You don’t even have to leave Canmore’s city centre to find highly scenic walking and cycling opportunities. The town is crisscrossed with trails. Take a few steps and you’ll be immersed in nature, quickly forgetting you’re in an urban centre.

You can pretty much traverse the entire town from north to south or east to west without stepping off a walking trail.

Here’s are some of the best cycling and walking trails in Canmore town centre; you can find even more options in my Canmore easy hikes guide.

Policeman’s Creek

A boardwalk running along Policeman's Creek, one of the best walking trails in Canmore
Pretty Policeman’s Creek, right next to downtown

Policeman’s Creek is a north-to-south 4-km boardwalk that follows the creek of the same name. The creek is highly scenic in all seasons, and a fun, easy stroll with kids. You can access the middle of it from Big Head statue on 8th street.

Spur Line Trail to Canmore Engine Bridge

A trail through the forest on Spur Like Trail Canmore
Spur Line Trail, which traverses Canmore east to west

This casual stroll through the forest connects Railway Avenue in the east to Canmore Engine Bridge in the west on the Bow River. The mountain backed bridge is one of the most gorgeous views in town.

From the bridge, you can follow trails in either direction along the river, or cross the bridge to access Canmore Nordic Centre and a number of other trails on the opposite side.

Canmore Engine Bridge over the Bow River, with mountains in the background, one of the best things to see in Canmore
Iconic Canmore Engine Bridge

Higashikawa Friendship Trail and West Canmore Park Trail

Riverside Park on the Higashikawa Friendship Trail in Canmore
Riverside Park

These trails follow either side of the Bow River just west of Downtown Canmore. Higashikawa Trail passes through Riverside Park, a lovely spot to suntan in the grass or enjoy a picnic. West Canmore Park has a boat launch on the Bow River.

Larch Island Walking Path

A trail beside a creek, Larch island trail
Larch Island Trail, perfect for a stroll with kids

These easy loop trail begins in a residential area of dream houses, following a few branches of Bow River before meeting the river itself. It’s an easy natural stroll perfect for kids (you can even include a stop at Larch Park Playground), and feels miles away from the city.

You can park at the end of 17th street or 1100 Larch Place to access it, or just walk there from downtown.

Art Galleries in Canmore

Paintings in an art gallery in Canmore Alberta
Fallen Leaf Gallery

Canmore is an artists’ haven, and numerous renowned painters, photographers, craftspersons, and jewelry makers have galleries in town.

For art seekers, here’s a list of galleries that we most enjoyed, located downtown unless otherwise stated:

Stumble Upon Public Artworks

Close-up of Big Head sculture in downtown Canmore
Big Head, the most famous public artwork in town

Besides the many indoor galleries in town, there’s also a wealth of public art on display in Canmore.

Some of the most iconic permanent pieces include Big Head (8th street and Policeman Creek), Touchstone (a 30-foot sculpted pole at Elevation Place), and the Pigs out of Rubble mural (10th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue).

Here’s a map of all the public art in Canmore and a map of all the painted utility boxes in town

Pigs out of Rubble mural in Canmore
The famous Pigs out of Rubble mural

Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre

Inside the Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre
Canmore Museum display

Canmore’s small museum is housed in the handsome Town of Canmore Civic Centre building between 8th and 9th street downtown.

The museum focuses on the human history of Canmore, including coal mining, immigrants, war-time, RCMP, and more. The museum is quite small, so you won’t need more than 30 minutes to peruse it, but entrance is only $5 and kids are free.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday to Monday.

Visiting Canmore in winter? Also read my guides to Banff in winter, Jasper in winter, and the Ice Bubbles at Abraham Lake.

Canmore NWMP Barracks

A wagon and the backside of the Canmore Northwest Mounted Police Barracks
Back side of the NWMP Barracks

The Northwest Mounted Police Barracks is a Provincial Historical Resource in Downtown Canmore. Dating to 1893, it served as lodging for police officers and a jail until 1929. It is maintained by the Centennial Museum Society of Canmore, which also runs the Canmore Museum.

The Barracks is right on 8th street at the eastern end of downtown. Visitors are welcome to take a look around inside, and there are volunteers on hand who are more than welcome to give a free tour.

There’s also a garden in the back and a teepee that you can peek inside.

Teepee at NWMP Barracks
Teepee at NWMP Barracks

Shopping Downtown

Products for sale at Alberta's Own Marketplace
Unique locally made gifts at Alberta’s Own Marketplace

Besides the usual souvenirs you can expect in any mountain resort town, there are a number of creative shops supporting local arts & crafts downtown.

Here are some of the Canmore shops we liked the most:

Shelves of tea and teware at Canmore Tea Company
Tea galore at Canmore Tea Company

Elevation Place

Elevation Place, the main recreation centre in Canmore
Canmore’s excellent recreation centre

Canmore boasts ones of the best recreation centres in the province. It includes a large swimming pool with waterslide, fitness centre, rock climbing, and child minding service.

Elevation Place also houses two art galleries: Canmore Art Guild Gallery and Three Sisters Gallery. Outside, 30-foot Touchstone is an iconic local artwork.

Touchstone, a tall tower artwork in Canmore
Touchstone, a monumental artwork in front of Elevation Place

Canmore Mountain Market

A woman and two kids looking at products at the Canmore Mountain Market, the Canmore Farmers' Market
My wife & kids at Canmore Mountain Market

Canmore Mountain Market is Canmore’s farmers’ market. It takes place every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., May to October.

You can expect to find loads of produce, meats, jams, baked goods, clothing, crafts, and some of the most impressive jewelry and artwork we’ve ever seen at a farmers’ market.

Normally held in the downtown core, in 2021 the Canmore Mountain Market took place in the parking lot of Elevation Place, with free parking available.

Curbside Museum

Curbside Museum in Canmore
Smallest museum in Canada?

On Railway Avenue and Pinewood Crescent, this tiny nook in the wall houses a rotating museum exhibit. When we visited, it covered Larch Island in town, complete with an informational brochure and recommended walking tour to take away.

Canmore Pond

Gazebo and trees reflecting in Canmore Pond

A few steps north of downtown, there’s a lovely pond with a gazebo. In the morning, mountains reflect on the water. You can park on 7th avenue beside the pond to access downtown or Spur Line Trail.

In winter, the pond is one of the best spots in Canmore for ice skating.

Trees reflecting in Canmore Skating Pond
Serene Canmore Pond

Eating & Drinking in Canmore

You will be spoiled for choices when it comes to dining in Canmore. The city also has some excellent breweries, distilleries, and cafés. I can’t cover everything, so I’ll stick mainly to the places I’ve personally tried.

Best Restaurants

Green curry noodles at Communitea, the best restaurant for vegetarians in Canmore
Green curry bowl at Communitea

For breakfast in Canmore, try Rocky Mountain Bagel Co., while Harvest Café does excellent brunch.

I especially enjoyed my lunch at Communitea, which does health and vegetarian focused bowls, noodles, and an assortment of teas.

Bowl of noodles at Ramen Arashi Canmore
Ramen at Ramen Arashi

For dinner, we really enjoyed the food at Tank310, the Grizzly Paw Brewery (see more on that below). I loved the vegetarian Yumbo Gumbo.  We also loved the noodles at Ramen Arashi, a good budget choice right downtown.

Although we didn’t go, The Sensory is a top-rated upscale restaurant in town, while Where the Buffalo Roam Saloon is popular for its quality food and cocktails. Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. is also a popular choice for pizza.

Best Cafés

A hand holding up an iced american in front of Beamers, the best cafe in canmore
Beamer’s Cafe downtown

Café culture is big in Canmore, and there are numerous choices on offer. Beamer’s has been around for a quarter of a century and has two locations in town. Besides the usual, they’ve also got kombucha, nitro cold coffees, booze, and even a turmeric latte! 

Good Earth Coffeehouse emphasizes ethically traded, organic beans, while Eclipse Coffee Roasters is yet another great choice downtown.

Ice Cream, Juices, & Sweet Treats

Two kids eating ice cream cones at Old School Bus Ice Cream, some of the best ice cream in Canmore
Ice cream from an old school bus is a must for kids (and adults).

For your ice cream fix in Canmore, grab a cone from a bus at Old School Bus Ice Cream, especially if you’re looking for fun things to do in Canmore with kids. The kids size was only $2.50 and was big enough for me! Scoopin’ Moose is another popular choice right on Main Street.

For artisanal ice cream, including several non-dairy options, try Scratch Rare Ice Cream at PD3 (watch for the silver double decker bus), an outpost of Blake Restaurant right on Main Street.

If you’re visiting from abroad, you may want to try BeaverTails Canmore. It’s a typical tourist treat, and you can find the same shop in Banff and Jasper, but they are undeniably tasty.

A hand holding up a red smoothie in front of Mountain Juice Cafe in Canmore
For fruit smoothies, head to Mountain Juice Café.

Chocolate lovers can’t miss Cacao 70, a Montreal-based expanding chain that does everything chocolate, from fondues & waffles to creative hot chocolates and mochas.

Chocolate fondue at Cacao70
Chocolate fondue at Cacao70

Last but not least, Le Fournil Bakery does French bread, coffee, and some of the best pastries I’ve ever tasted. You can also splurge on more fancy chocolates at JACEK Chocolate Couture downtown.

A pastry from Le Fournil, the best bakery in Canmore
This chocolate mango confection from Le Fournil is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.

Breweries in Canmore

Two flights of beer samples on a table with brewing equipment behind at Canmore Brewing Company
My two beer flights at Canmore Brewing Company

Canmore is blessed with three excellent breweries.

We were especially impressed with the facility and beers at Canmore Brewing Company. Over a dozen draft beers are on offer in the sparkling clean taproom, with cozy seating overlooking the actual brewing facility.

There’s an excellent patio too, and on weekends food trucks offer snacks in the parking lot. You can even order in your own food if you’d like. The Rye IPA, dry cider, and peach sour were notably delicious.

Glass of beer held up inside Tank310, one of three breweries in Canmore
Raising a pint at Tank310, the Grizzly Paw Brewery

Grizzly Paw’s brewery-restaurant, called Tank310, was a close second for us. The facility itself is gorgeous, making us feel we were in an oversized mountain lodge that looks down on the brewing area.

They’ve got four staple beers plus the summit series (named after local mountains) and rotating seasonals. Grizzly Paw also has a pub downtown.

Sheepdog Brewing is a more casual operation on the east side of the highway. Bring your dog, and prepare to make some friends. If you make the trip, then also check out the distillery around the corner (see below).

Distilleries in Canmore

Spirit samples at Wild Life Distillery
Spirit samples at Wild Life Distillery

Wild Life Distillery is a local spirits distillery is run by two passionate locals. Their spirits make use of local ingredients and are gaining attention across the province.

We stopped in at Wild Life to sample their offerings. Our favorites were the rhubarb gin, purple-hued Rundle Bar Gin, and the unique Wildcat Amaro. They also create bitters and syrup, and there are creative cocktails on offer.

BLAKE is a restaurant just east of the railway line that makes their own vodka and rum, as well as a small line of beers, house-made ice cream (including non-dairy options), and scrumptious bites for pairing.

Places to Visit in Canmore Beyond Town

Canmore is the perfect base for visiting nearby Banff National Park, as well as Kananaskis Country, a vast region encompassing more than 10 provincial and wildland parks, and many more regional parks.

Kananaskis surrounds Canmore, with the bulk of it lying to the south. It is one of the most visited regions (by locals) in Alberta, with countless outstanding hikes and opportunities for outdoor activities.

Below I’ll introduce some popular hikes and other attractions just outside of Canmore town. I won’t even get into all the things to do in Banff and further afield in Kananaskis; that will be whole other future article!

To visit anywhere outside of the Canmore town centre, including all the below sights, you’ll need to purchase a Kananaskis Pass. Here’s a map showing exactly where the pass is needed. For Banff National Park, you’ll need a separate Canada National Parks Pass. Both have options for one day or one year.

Canmore Nordic Centre

Canmore Nordic Centre in summer with mountains in background
Canmore Nordic Centre

Canmore Nordic Centre was first constructed for the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. Today it is a provincial park encompassing a huge network of hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and biathlon trails.

Various programs are on offer throughout the year, and general membership or day passes are required to make use of the trails.

Winter cycling at Canmore Nordic Centre
Winter cycling at Canmore Nordic Centre

Because parts of Canmore are wildlife corridors, it is essential to carry bear spray wherever you go. Also, never leave trash behind, and always keep dogs on a leash.

Legacy Trail

Cyclists on Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff
Legacy Trail connects Canmore to Banff

The popular 22.3-km Legacy Trail connects Canmore to Banff village. It is a multi-use trail running parallel to the highway.

Quarry Lake Park

A walking trail beside Quarry Lake, one of the best places to swim in Canmore
Trail around Quarry Lake

Quarry Lake Park is one of the best natural spots to go swimming in Canmore. A short trail leads to the spring-fed lake and around it. There is a rocky beach, and the park is a popular spot for families and dog-owners.

Because Quarry Lake has become so popular in recent years, there is now a steep $20 parking fee. If you’ve got the energy, you could walk here from town. A Kananaskis Pass is not needed for visiting Quarry Lake.

Grassi Lakes Trail

A green-colored Grassi Lake surrounded by trees
Stunning Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes Trail is an extremely popular easy walking trail to a set of gorgeous, blue-green lakes. Because the trail is easy, it’s a good choice to go hiking with kids in Canmore. A K-Pass is required.

Ha Ling Peak Trail

Summit of Ha Ling Peak in Kananaskis
Ha Ling Peak, which overlooks Canmore

A more challenging but also extremely popular hike is the trail to Ha Ling Peak, a sheer vertical peak overlooking Canmore town. It is relatively easy as far as summits go. The trailhead is at the back of the mountain and takes around 4 hours return. It’s especially popular for sunrise.

Grotto Mountain & Canyon

Grotto Mountain in Kananaskis
Grotto Mountain

A difficult, full-day loop trail leads to the summit of Grotto Mountain just east of downtown Canmore.

Grotto Mountain is also famous for its caves, which are some of the deepest in Canada. Canmore Cave Tours runs guided cave tours year-round.

Frozen waterfall, Grotto Canyon, Kananaskis
Frozen waterfall in Grotto Canyon

On the other side of the mountain, Grotto Canyon Trail is another high-traffic trail to a waterfall on Grotto Mountain. Walking the trail to the frozen waterfall is one of the more popular things to do in winter in Canmore.

It’s accessed on Bow Valley Trail, and the parking lot is often overflowing.

Three Sisters Creek (Highline Trail)

A bridge over a creek on the Three Sisters Creek Trail, one of the best walking trails in Canmore with kids
Three Sisters Creek Trail

For a less trafficked hike in Canmore that is totally doable with kids (there’s also a fun community playground just below the trailhead), try Three Sisters Creek. The trail begins in Three Sisters Mountain Village, a small suburb of Canmore, and follows a creek at the base of the mountain.

The trail technically begins in Canmore town, but halfway up it enters Kananaskis, so whether you need a K-Pass for this one is a gray area.

Other Canmore Activities & Events

Here are even more ideas for things to do in Canmore this weekend, whether you’re visiting in winter or summer.

Well, that brings us to the end of this Canmore travel guide! I hope that you’ve found more than enough ideas for things to do in Canmore. If I’ve missed anything, or you have any other feedback, please let me know in the comments below!

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