By Lisa Kadane
There’s a reason Canmore is Calgary’s playground. The gateway to Banff National Park is surrounded by towering mountain peaks and laced with hiking and mountain biking trails. But instead of just day tripping here, stay at one of two Bellstar resorts—the Solara or Grande Rockies—and see how many of the Top 19 you can knock off your list.
Hike the Grassi Lakes Trail
This classic four-kilometre loop trail leads everyone from toddlers to seniors up to Grassi Lakes, a set of two tourmaline-hued alpine lakes situated above Canmore. Spot wildlife in the woods, and look for sport climbers ascending the surrounding rock walls.
Go for a swim in Quarry Lake
With a shallow wading area and a beautiful mountain backdrop, Canmore’s swimmable lake—reclaimed from an old mining area—is one of the town’s favourite summer beaches.
Grab a pint at The Grizzly Paw
Canmore’s après-adventure patio at The Grizzly Paw Pub & Brewing Company is the best spot to toast an epic hike or bike ride with a Beavertail Raspberry Ale or a Rutting Elk Red.
Ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain
Take the four-person gondola up Sulphur Mountain for a 360-degree view of the Canadian Rockies. Then, get hands on inside the interactive interpretive centre, and grab a bite to eat at the aptly named Sky Bistro, perched atop the summit.
Admire the churning waterfalls in Johnston Canyon
Hike the 2.6-km trail to the Upper Falls in Johnston Canyon, located off the Bow Valley Parkway. Along the way, marvel at the seven spectacular waterfalls that plunge into blue pools of water on their surging path through the gorge.
Fuel up at Beamer’s Coffee Bar
Grab a cuppa Joe, latte, breakfast snack or baked treat at one of the three Beamer’s locations in Canmore, consistently voted the best coffee shop in the Bow Valley.
Mountain bike at the Canmore Nordic Centre
Practice two-wheeled tricks at the Mountain Bike Skills Park or hit the more than 100 kilometres of wide, flow and technical single-track at this summer adventure centre.
Scale the climbing wall at Elevation Place
Get fit and have fun at Canmore’s indoor playground that includes a cardio and weight room, an aquatic centre, and a climbing gym with a range of routes and extensive bouldering terrain.
Browse the boutiques on Main Street (8 St.) in Canmore
Bowl with craft beer and cocktails at High Rollers
Quaff a summery wheat ale or complex IPA between bites of pizza while bowling a strike or spare. Banff’s hip bowling alley is located inside what was once the Aurora nightclub.
Soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs
“Take the waters” like Banff’s first tourists by soaking in the mineral-rich geothermal pools that led to the creation of Canada’s first national park.
Cycle between Canmore and Banff
Pedal the 22-km mostly flat Legacy Trail that connects the mountain towns. The two-to-three hour ride takes cyclists past plenty of viewpoints, covered picnic areas and rest stops.
Try fondue at the Grizzly House
This Banff institution has been serving fondue alongside dishes of exotic meat (e.g. ostrich), game or beef—cooked right at the table—for over 50 years. It’s kitschy and retro (be sure and ask about the phones at each table), and once you get used to the smoky interior you’ll have a memorable night out.
Tackle the Via Feratta at Mt. Norquay Ski Resort
Climb a cliff in Banff National Park with the assistance of rungs, pegs, cables and bridges along a secure fixed route called an “Iron Road,” a.k.a. Via Feratta. Choose between four routes, from beginner to advanced, and prepare to be awed by the challenge and reward of mountaineering.
Indulge your senses at The Sensory & Wit Bar
Eat foraged ingredients and regional cuisine at this Canmore restaurant that’s as much about sight, smell and texture as it is about taste.
Explore Banff on horseback
Experience the national park like an original explorer on the back of a trusty steed with Banff Trail Riders. Operating for over 50 years, the company guides historic routes that take you deep into the park on a quest for mountain vistas and wildlife.
Go underground at Ratt’s Nest Cave
Join a spelunking tour with Canmore Cave Tours and explore Rat’s Nest Cave, a subterranean world of stalactites, stalagmites, animal fossils and crystal clear pools of water.
Walk among the wildflowers in Sunshine Meadows
Hike through blossoming meadows to pristine high-altitude lakes at Sunshine Village. The ski resort runs its gondola and a chairlift in the summer so the adventurous can access alpine trails surrounded by stunning Banff National Park scenery.
Tour and then taste the spirits at Park Distillery in Banff