Kananaskis Country is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of recreational activities such as hiking, biking, fishing, camping, skiing, and golfing. It is also home to several parks, including Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
In addition to its natural beauty, Kananaskis Country is also known for its luxury resorts and spas, making it a popular destination for both adventure-seekers and those looking for a relaxing getaway.
In this article, we go over the basics of Kanaskis and a compilation of the best activities to consider for your next visit.
Before we jump into our curated list of the best things to do in Kananaskis, there are a few important details to cover that will benefit you if you are looking to visit this great mountainous district.
Transportation: How to Get There and Around
Kananaskis Country is a region located in the Canadian province of Alberta, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It covers an area of over 4,000 square kilometers and is situated between the towns of Canmore and Calgary.
It includes 9 provincial parks and 50 recreation, wilderness, and natural areas… therefore it is difficult to get around Kananaskis and surrounding areas without a vehicle. If you are visiting Kananaskis from out of province, you’re best to fly into Calgary International Airport (YYC) and take a rental car from there.
If you plan to drive and park in Kananaskis, you will need to purchase the Kananaskis Conservation Pass. The Kananaskis Conservation Pass is a new fee system that was introduced in Alberta, Canada in 2020 to help fund the maintenance and protection of natural areas in Kananaskis Country. The pass is required for all motor vehicles parked at select Kananaskis parks and recreation areas. The pass can be purchased online or in-person at various locations throughout Alberta, such as Alberta Parks offices, Alberta Registries, and some outdoor retailers. The fees are $15 per day, per vehicle, or $90 per year, per vehicle.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Kananaskis
There are actually only a handful of options for accommodations right in Kananaskis Country, ranging from luxury resorts to campgrounds, including:
- Kananaskis Mountain Lodge – This is a luxury resort located in the heart of Kananaskis Village. It offers a range of accommodations, from standard rooms to luxurious suites. The lodge also features several restaurants, a spa, and a fitness center.
- HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel – This is a hostel located in the heart of Kananaskis Country. It offers affordable accommodations, including dorm rooms and private rooms. The hostel also features a communal kitchen, a lounge area, and a fire pit.
- Mount Engadine Lodge – A rustic mountain lodge offering a range of accommodations, including cabins and lodge rooms, and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the area’s hiking, biking, and skiing trails. The lodge also features a restaurant serving locally sourced, seasonal cuisine, as well as a cozy lounge area with a fireplace and stunning mountain views.
- Backcountry camping – There are several backcountry campgrounds located throughout Kananaskis Country, offering a true wilderness experience. Some popular campgrounds include Elkwood, Mount Kidd, and Ribbon Creek.
- Frontcountry camping – There are several frontcountry campgrounds located throughout Kananaskis Country, offering a more traditional camping experience. Some popular campgrounds include Canyon, Bow Valley, and Spray Lakes West.
It is important to note that the availability of accommodations may vary depending on the season and demand, so it is recommended to book well in advance.
Alternatively, you might look into staying in Canmore which is not far from Kananaskis (about a 40-minute drive from Canmore to Kananaskis Village). Dead Man’s Flats is another alternative that is slightly closer and also cheaper than Canmore.
The Best Things to Do in Kananaskis
Things to Do in Kananaskis, Anytime of Year
Relax at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa
The Kananaskis Nordic Spa is a spa located right in Kananaskis Village, at the Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection. It offers a unique outdoor spa experience that combines hydrotherapy, relaxation, and wellness in a natural mountain setting.
The spa features a range of pools, saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation areas that are designed to help visitors unwind and rejuvenate. The pools are kept at different temperatures, and visitors can alternate between hot and cold pools to stimulate blood circulation and detoxify the body.
In addition to the pools and relaxation areas, the spa also offers massage therapy and other wellness treatments.
The Kananaskis Nordic Spa is a great destination for those seeking a peaceful and rejuvenating retreat in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
Grab a Pint at One of the Nearby Brewing Companies
If you are looking for breweries and beer near Kananaskis, there is unfortunately nothing directly in the Kananaskis Country area. However, there are several options that are just a short drive from the area, including:
- Half Hitch Brewing Company, located in Cochrane, Alberta, about 45 minutes from Kananaskis, Half Hitch offers a variety of craft beers, including IPAs, lagers, and stouts, both seasonal and limited. They also serve food in their taproom with restaurant hours from 11:30 AM-9:00 PM daily.
- Canmore Brewing Company, located in Canmore, Alberta, about 30 minutes from Kananaskis. They offer a variety of craft beers, including pale ales, IPAs, and lagers. They have a nice tasting room and also offer tours on Saturdays.
- Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, also located in Canmore, Grizzly Paw Brewing Company has been brewing craft beer since 1996. They offer a variety of beers, including pale ales, lagers, red ales, and even a ‘Beavertail Raspberry Ale’. They have both a downtown pub-focused location and a Taproom at a second location.
While it would be nice if Kananaskis had its own brewery, having three solid options close by more than makes up for the lack of local brewski.
Capture Some Stunning Photographs
Kananaskis offers stunning opportunities for photography. Some popular spots for photography in Kananaskis include:
- Barrier Lake: a beautiful lake with crystal-clear water surrounded by mountains and forests.
- Mount Allan: a scenic mountain with panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the nearby ski resort.
- Troll Falls: a picturesque waterfall that’s accessible via a short hike through the forest.
- Rawson Lake: a serene alpine lake located at the end of a scenic hiking trail.
- Spray Lakes: a chain of pristine lakes that offer beautiful reflections of the surrounding mountains.
In addition to these locations, there are numerous other spots throughout Kananaskis that are perfect for capturing the natural beauty of the area, including wildlife, wildflowers, and stunning sunrises and sunsets.
There is also a very scenic drive called the Smith Dorrien trail, one of the highest roads in the country. It is recommended to have a 4×4 vehicle for this drive.
Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Kananaskis is a great location for stargazing, thanks to its remote location and having some of the clearest skies in Alberta.
Here are some tips for stargazing in Kananaskis:
- Go on a clear night: The best time for stargazing is on a clear night, so check the weather forecast before you head out.
- Find a dark spot: Try to find a spot that’s away from any artificial lights, such as a campground or picnic area.
- Bring warm clothing: Even in the summer months, temperatures can drop at night, so make sure you bring warm clothing and blankets.
- Bring a red flashlight: A red flashlight can help you navigate in the dark without disrupting your night vision.
- Use a star chart: A star chart or stargazing app can help you identify constellations, planets, and other celestial objects.
- Be patient: Give your eyes some time to adjust to the darkness, and be patient as you scan the sky for shooting stars and other celestial wonders.
Some great spots for stargazing in Kananaskis include:
- Barrier Lake: Located just off Highway 40, Barrier Lake is a popular spot for stargazing thanks to its clear skies and lack of light pollution.
- Peter Lougheed Provincial Park: The park has several campgrounds and picnic areas that offer great stargazing opportunities, including the Mount Kidd RV Park and the Elkwood Amphitheater.
- Mount Allan: The summit of Mount Allan offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the night sky. The mountain is accessible via a hike or a scenic gondola ride.
- Upper Kananaskis Lake: This beautiful lake is surrounded by mountains and forests and is a great spot for stargazing on clear nights.
- Black Prince Cirque Trail: This scenic hiking trail leads to a beautiful cirque that offers stunning views of the night sky.
The best time for stargazing in Kananaskis is during the fall, winter, and early spring months when the nights are longer, and the skies are clearer. The lack of light pollution in Kananaskis means that even during the summer months when the nights are shorter, stargazing can still be good. However, it’s important to check the weather forecast before heading out, as cloudy or overcast skies can hinder visibility. Additionally, moonless nights are generally better for stargazing, as the moon’s light can wash out the fainter stars and objects in the sky.
Bring a telescope, and your camera (with a tripod!), or just come out and enjoy the view.
Kananaskis is a fantastic place for wildlife viewing, as it’s home to a variety of animals, including elk, deer, moose, black bears, grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, and many others.
Some great areas for wildlife viewing in Kananaskis include Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Spray Valley Provincial Park, and Bow Valley Provincial Park. You’ll want to bring some binoculars or a telephoto lens to get as close a look as possible. It’s important to view wildlife from a safe distance to avoid disturbing them or putting yourself in danger.
The best times to view wildlife are early in the morning and late in the evening when animals are most active. You may also have luck during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. Winter is also a great time to spot wildlife in Kananaskis, as animals such as elk, bighorn sheep, and moose are often more visible in the snowy landscapes.
Wildlife viewing tours are available through local tour operators, such as White Mountain Adventures.
Here are some safety tips for wildlife viewing in Kananaskis:
- Be respectful: Wildlife is a precious resource, and it’s important to be respectful and mindful of the animals you’re observing. Keep a safe distance, avoid disturbing the animals, and don’t feed or approach them.
- Stay in your vehicle: If you’re viewing wildlife from a vehicle, stay inside and keep your windows rolled up. This will prevent animals from feeling threatened and keep you safe.
- Stay on designated trails: If you’re hiking, stay on designated trails and be aware of your surroundings. Make noise to alert animals of your presence and carry bear spray as a precaution.
Lastly, remember to always be respectful of the animals and their habitat, and enjoy the beauty of nature!
Things to Do in Kananaskis in Summer
Kananaskis Country is a great destination for outdoor activities during the spring and summer months. Here are some things to do in Kananaskis during this time.
Play Golf in the Mountains at Kananaskis Country Golf Course
Kananaskis Country Golf Course is a world-renowned golf destination. The course offers 36 holes of championship golf, with stunning mountain views and challenging terrain.
The course was designed by renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. and has been consistently ranked among the best golf courses in Canada. The course is divided into two 18-hole courses, the Mount Kidd Course and the Mount Lorette Course.
The Mount Kidd Course is a par 72 course that measures 7,089 yards from the back tees. The course winds through dense forest and offers stunning views of Mount Kidd. The course is known for its challenging fairways and greens, as well as its many water hazards.
The Mount Lorette Course is a par 71 course that measures 7,200 yards from the back tees. The course is situated along the Kananaskis River and offers stunning views of Mount Lorette. The course is known for its long, challenging holes and its deep bunkers.
Both courses offer a variety of tee boxes to accommodate players of all skill levels. The courses are also equipped with state-of-the-art practice facilities, including a driving range, chipping green, and putting green.
In addition to the golf courses, Kananaskis Country Golf Course also offers a variety of amenities, including a pro shop, clubhouse, and restaurant. The clubhouse features a patio with stunning mountain views, making it the perfect place to relax after a round of golf.
Overall, golfing at Kananaskis Country Golf Course is a truly unforgettable experience, with challenging courses, stunning views, and world-class amenities.
Take a Hike
Kananaskis Country offers a wide range of hiking trails for all levels of experience. Here are some popular hikes in Kananaskis:
- Ha Ling Peak: This intermediate-level hike is a 7.4-kilometer round trip with an elevation gain of 845 meters. The hike offers panoramic views of the Bow Valley and Canmore and is a popular destination for rock climbers.
- Grassi Lakes: This easy hike is a 4-kilometer round trip with an elevation gain of 195 meters. The trail leads to two beautiful lakes with turquoise-blue water and stunning mountain views. There are two trails – one is steeper and the other more gradual.
- Ptarmigan Cirque: This moderate-level hike is a 4.5-kilometer round trip with an elevation gain of 270 meters. The trail leads to a beautiful cirque with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and is known for its wildflowers in the summer.
- Upper Kananaskis Lake: This moderate-level hike is an 11-kilometer round trip with an elevation gain of 370 meters. The trail follows the shoreline of Upper Kananaskis Lake and offers stunning views of the mountains and the lake.
- Rawson Lake: This moderate-level hike is an 8.8-kilometer round trip with an elevation gain of 305 meters. The trail leads to Rawson Lake, a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by mountains.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are many more hiking options available to you, depending on your skill level. When in doubt, have a look at AllTrails.com.
It is important to always be prepared for the trail conditions and bring proper gear, including sturdy footwear, water, food, and layers of clothing. It is also recommended to check trail conditions and closures before heading out (again, see AllTrails.com).
Although the hiking season in Kananaskis officially starts in Mid May, the best time to go hiking in Kananaskis is generally during the summer months of July and August. This is when most of the snow on high-elevation hikes in the area has disappeared, particularly for some prominent mountain summits like Mount Sarrail or Mist Mountain.
Take a Bike
There are many mountain biking trails throughout Kananaskis including, just to name a few:
- Moose Mountain Trail
- West Bragg Creek Trail System
- Canmore Nordic Centre
- High Rockies Trail
- Jumpingpound Loop
- Powderface Creek Trail
- Blackshale Suspension Bridge
There are trails for all skill levels so make sure to choose a trail that matches your level of ability. Some trails in Kananaskis can be quite technical and challenging, so it’s important to choose a trail that you feel comfortable on.
Make sure you bring all the necessary gear for a safe and enjoyable ride. This includes a helmet, gloves, appropriate footwear, and plenty of water and snacks. If you are more of a casual mountain biker, you can rent equipment from Kananaskis Outfitters, located right in Kananaskis.
Kananaskis, being home to many lakes and rivers, offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the Canadian Rockies.
As far as species of fish go, Kananaskis is home to a variety including rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, and brook trout. Some lakes and rivers are stocked with fish, while others are self-sustaining.
Some popular fishing spots include the following:
- Barrier Lake,
- Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes
- Kananaskis River.
- Spray Lakes Reservoir
To fish in Alberta, you need to have a valid Alberta Sportfishing License. You can purchase a license online (AlbertaRelm) or at a local vendor. It is important to follow the fishing regulations in Kananaskis to protect the fish population and their habitat. These regulations include catch limits, gear restrictions, and fishing season dates. Additionally, it is important to always leave the fishing area clean and free of litter.
If you are new to fishing or want to learn more about the area, guided tours are available. These tours are led by experienced guides who can show you the best fishing spots and provide tips on techniques and equipment.
Explore the backcountry of Kananaskis on horseback. Several outfitters offer guided horseback rides through the mountains, most notably: Boundary Ranch. If you’re willing to venture into Banff there are some outfitters based there as well (Banff Adventures Unlimited, Brewster Adventures).
Some popular horseback riding trails in Kananaskis include the Highwood Pass Trail, the Powderface Creek Trail, and the Elbow Loop. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, horseback riding in Kananaskis is a great way to experience the natural beauty of this stunning wilderness area.
Note: Boundary Ranch also offers a dog sledding experience in the winter!
Other Ways to Experience the Outdoors: Camping, Rafting, Kayaking
There are many campgrounds throughout Kananaskis that offer a range of camping experiences, from backcountry camping to frontcountry camping. Some popular campgrounds include Elkwood, Canyon, and Three Isle Lake.
Finally, the Kananaskis River offers great opportunities for rafting and kayaking, with rapids ranging from Class I to Class IV.
Things to Do in Kananaskis in Winter
Kananaskis Country is a winter wonderland, offering a wide range of winter activities for visitors to enjoy. Below are some popular things to do in Kananaskis in the winter.
It is important to note that many winter activities in Kananaskis require proper gear and equipment, as well as knowledge and experience. Visitors should always check trail conditions and weather forecasts before embarking on any winter activities.
Go Skiing or Snowboarding at Nakiska Ski Area
Kananaskis is home to Nakiska Ski Area, which offers a variety of terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Here is a summary of what Nakiska ski hill has to offer:
- Nakiska Resort has 71 runs spread across 1,021 acres of skiable terrain. The runs are suitable for all levels, with 28% beginner, 36% intermediate, and 36% advanced/expert. The resort also has four terrain parks for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.
- Ski and snowboard lessons – Nakiska Resort offers lessons for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, including group lessons and private lessons.
- Tube park – Nakiska Resort has a tube park that is open to both kids and adults. It is a fun activity for non-skiers who want to experience the snow.
The resort also has dining options, including restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Fun fact: there is another ghost resort called Fortress Mountain which has been closed since 2004. Rumor is the mountain is going to be re-opened by a new owner at the end of 2023! You can also still do Cat skiing at Fortress (learn more).
Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
Kananaskis has several snowshoeing trails, ranging from easy to challenging, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the snowy winter landscapes. Some popular snowshoeing trails include the Sawmill and Ribbon Creek trails near Kananaskis Village, the Chester Lake trail near Spray Lakes, and the Ptarmigan Cirque trail near Highwood Pass. These trails vary in difficulty and length, so be sure to choose a trail that matches your skill level and experience.
If you don’t have your own snowshoes, there are several outdoor shops in the area that rent snowshoes, including Snowtips-Bactrax in Canmore and Uprising in Calgary. You can also buy snowshoes at many outdoor retailers in the area.
Furthermore, Kananaskis has over 85 kilometers of groomed cross-country skiing trails, offering visitors a great way to explore the winter landscapes while getting a workout.
Who knows, maybe you’ll even see a frozen waterfall!
Ice skating in Kananaskis is a popular activity during the winter months, and there are several great locations to go ice skating in the area. Here are some of the best places to go ice skating in Kananaskis:
- Barrier Lake: Barrier Lake is a beautiful location for ice skating, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The lake is typically frozen over from mid-December to early March, depending on weather conditions. Note that the lake is not maintained for skating and there may be natural hazards, so skate at your own risk.
- Spray Lakes: The Spray Lakes Reservoir is a popular location for ice skating and other winter activities. The lake is typically frozen over from December to April, depending on weather conditions. Note that the lake is not maintained for skating and there may be natural hazards, so skate at your own risk.
- Mount Kidd RV Park: The Mount Kidd RV Park, located near Kananaskis Village, has a small ice skating rink that is open to the public. The rink is typically open from December to March, depending on weather conditions.
- Nakiska Ski Area: The Nakiska Ski Area, located just outside Kananaskis Village, has a small outdoor skating rink that is open to the public. The rink is typically open from December to March, depending on weather conditions.
Before heading out for ice skating, it’s important to check the ice conditions and make sure it’s safe to skate. Always skate at your own risk and be prepared with appropriate gear, such as skates, a helmet, and warm clothing.
Fat Tire Mountain Biking
Fat tire mountain biking is a popular activity in Kananaskis during the winter months when the trails are covered in snow. The wider (up to 4.5”) tires on fat bikes allow riders to easily navigate through the snow and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery.
You can rent fat bikes and also book personalized tours through Kananaskis Outfitters, located right in Kananaskis. Fat bike rentals cost $25/hr or $59 for a full day.
Fat tire winter biking does require biking experience but you don’t need to be an expert. The bikes are geared low to make it easy to pedal on the snow, with more advanced bikes available for the more experienced.
Kananaskis Country offers a wide range of activities for visitors of all ages and interests. Whether you are looking for outdoor adventures or relaxation, Kananaskis has something for everyone. So no matter the season, pack your bags and get ready to explore this beautiful destination in the Canadian Rockies.
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