Canmore and Kananaskis Country may be outside the boundaries of Banff and Jasper, but they’re definitely in my book on places to visit. The book is metaphorical, yes, but the reasons to visit Canmore and Kananaskis Country—which share the Rockies with their National Park neighbors—are very real.
Located just outside the southeastern boundary of Banff National Park, Canmore is how the Canadian Rockies do small-town life. It has a population of about 12,000 people, many of whom work in the neighboring park (Parks Canada enforces strict residency restrictions in Banff and Jasper), and it feels even smaller. It’s a place where the Canadian Rockies’ only brewery, the Grizzly Paw Brewery (try the Rutting Elk Red) is a local favorite (the town’s gregarious mayor stopped by while I was there), and the open-air market is the place to be every Thursday afternoon. Historically, it was a prosperous coal mining town, but more recently it found the international spotlight hosting athletes and cross-country skiing (technically in Kananaskis Country) during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. About an hour out of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway, Canmore’s charm is very accessible and a great way to spend a few days of real Rocky Mountain living.
Where to stay: The Grande Rockies Resort offers more than 136 boutique suites, great food and a pool with a waterslide, all within walking distance of downtown Canmore. The remote control showers are pretty wild, but in true Canmore fashion, the service, warm and refreshing, is the highlight.
- Three Sisters
- Canmore Mountain Market (Thursdays)
- Iron Goat Restaurant and Pub
Named for the effervescent Kananaskis River that flows through it, Kananaskis Country is a park system bordering neighbor Canmore, for whom it provides a wealth of outdoor opportunities. Life here is about hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, road biking, golf, and pretty much anything else you could ever want to do outside. In the foothills of the towering Canadian Rockies, the nature here is raw and wild—just not quite in the way it is Banff and Jasper. Still, free of National Park restrictions, K-Country provides a more concentrated, close-to-your-hotel kind of escape that complements the full-scale vanishing act you’ll pull in Banff and Jasper. Lying between the two and Calgary—less than an hour via gravel-lain Highway 68 off the Trans-Canada—it’s certainly worth a stop.
Where to stay: The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis hosted the 28th G8 Summit in 2002, and it’s easy to see why. Perched above the Kananaskis Valley in Kananaskis Village, the property is both stunning and expansive, and pervades the same fun-loving spirit the hotel’s staff so wonderfully embodies. The internet isn’t the best, but that’s not really what the Rockies are about—so no worries there.
- Canmore Nordic Centre
- Chester Lake
- Grassi Lakes
- Pickle Jar Lakes
- Site for Canmore Nordic Centre
- List of hiking trails in Kananaskis Country
- Site featuring comprehensive trail reports