A vast playground of over 50 interconnected provincial parks and recreation areas, Kananaskis Country covers 4,257 sq km (1,643 sq mi) of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. Oh, and there’s a very cool town called Canmore. And the Canmore Nordic Centre. And Nakiska. Think 1988 Winter Olympics. You get the picture.
Calgarians consider Kananaskis their own backyard as it’s only 45 minutes west of the city. Fifteen minutes further west is the town of Canmore, the heartbeat of what’s known locally as K-Country and an ideal base for your alpine adventures. Plenty of accommodation choices, loads of restaurants – from fine dining to cozy cafés – shops and mountain equipment outlets are at your fingertips. Get settled and then pull on your hiking boots. Take any number of trailheads from the townsite. Or hire a certified guide and go climb a mountain.
Welcome to year round backcountry bliss. In summer, get out and golf, hike, bike, fish, ride, paddle or climb. Get the adrenaline pumping on a wet and wild whitewater rafting trip. Sleep under the stars in a provincial park campsite or get a permit and spend the night in the backcountry. Winter is all thrills and chills, with dog sledding, ice climbing, skating, snowmobiling, and world class skiing. As if this weren’t enough, add jaw-dropping mountain vistas, over a dozen protected areas and subtract the crowds of the nearby national parks. The result is pure Rocky Mountain high.
Backcountry thrills. Olympic legends. Pristine parks. Movie Mecca. Here’s your insider Kananaskis Country checklist!
Tee off on top of the world in Kananaskis Country. Rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest, the Stewart Creek Golf Club was designed to take advantage of the natural alpine beauty. If you golf at Brewster's Kananaskis Ranch Golf Course don’t forget your camera for there’s an abundance of wildflowers and wildlife. Or swing by the Canmore Golf Club for a game and lunch on the patio. If you’re short on time, Silvertip’s spectacular 18-hole course takes less than three hours to play – if you can solve the optical illusions created by the Rocky Mountain backdrop.
A bird’s-eye view is a great way to introduce yourself to Kananaskis Country. Home base for Rockies Heli Tours is on your way from Calgary. Watch for it at the junction of the Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) and Hwy 40. Or drive into Canmore and hook up with Alpine Helicopters.
Nakiska Mountain Resort
Nakiska is the closest mountain to Calgary for downhill skiing, just 45 minutes west of the city. It was developed for the alpine events of the 1988 Winter Olympics and many teams continue to train here. There’s easy on-mountain navigation with a variety of terrain for novice, intermediate and advanced skiers.
Half an hour from Nakiska is Fortress Mountain, a haven for cat skiing, the only kind of skiing available here. Average snowfall of 8-11 m (26-36 ft) means the chances of virgin snow are high. No lift lines – the only waiting you’ll do is when the cat takes you up another face for another run.
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
Designed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, Canmore Nordic Centre is among the top cross-country ski destinations in the world. Whether you’re training or playing, Nordic skiers of all skill levels will enjoy the challenges on 65 km (37 mi) of groomed and track-set trails. Mountain bikers love this place in summer.
This is a perfect family hike. The trail winds through the forest, past a waterfall and on to two beautiful spring-fed lakes. Panoramic views surround you every step of the hike. The trailhead begins on Spray Lakes Road, just 2 km past the Nordic Centre. This is 3.8 km (2.3 mi), round trip.
Grotto Canyon is another very popular hike. Follow the creek bed at the bottom of the narrow walled canyon and at the fork in the road either head right to a sparkling waterfall or continue on to Hoodoos and a cave. Trailhead is at the Grotto Lake parking lot. This one is 6 km (3.7 mi), round trip. Come back in the winter and learn how to ice climb!