What to Know BEFORE Visiting Quarry Lake in Canmore

Quarry Lake is one of my favorite places to visit when searching for a beautiful and easily accessible relaxation point in Canmore. I love to ride my bike to Quarry Lake from our house multiple times a week for some exercise in the summer. I also frequently enjoy a leisurely walk around the lake, taking in views of Ha Ling Peak, the Little Sister, Mount Lady MacDonald, and the Rundle Range.

It’s not just one of my favorite places in Canmore, but many visitors and locals also prefer this peaceful place. Quarry Lake doesn’t just have an interesting history, but there are plenty of walking and biking trails nearby. It provides a beautiful picnic setting, and it’s easily accessible from Downtown Canmore.

What is the History of Quarry Lake?

What is the History of Quarry Lake?
Quarry Lake in the summer

Around the turn of the 20th century, Canmore thrived from coal production. It was a big Alberta mining town as a premium-quality coal seam was found in the area, eventually forming Canmore Mines. Oil and gas quickly replaced coal as the province’s energy source in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In the early 1970s, Quarry Lake was an open-pit coal mine (hence the name quarry) and part of Canmore Mines’ operations. It was once Canmore Creek Number 3 Mine; however, in 1974, the Alberta Government, led by Premier Peter Lougheed, took back control of the area. Their goal was to develop Alberta mountain regions, and eventually, they created Quarry Lake with two shallow beach areas.

When Canmore’s Industrial past eventually gravitated to tourism after mining ended, engineers began to reclaim and develop the land, and the area was appropriately named Quarry Lake in 1982. Now, Quarry Lake is managed by the Rocky Mountain Heritage Foundation and the Town of Canmore.

Fun fact - almost the entire Mystery Alaska movie was shot at Quarry Lake!

How to Get to Quarry Lake

Quarry Lake is very easy to get to from the Town of Canmore. Living nearby, I typically ride my bike to Quarry Lake on the Fun Forest Trail multiple times a week in the summer to take in the views.

  • Getting to Quarry Lake By Car: From Downtown Canmore, take Three Sisters Drive, then turn right onto Three Sisters Parkway/Smith Dorrien Spray Trail, where you will then come across Quarry Lake on your left-hand side about 1 minute later. Quarry Lake is less than a five-minute drive from Downtown Canmore.

Is Quarry Lake Man-Made?

Is Quarry Lake Man-Made?
Quarry Lake in the fall

Yes, Quarry Lake is a man-made lake on the site of an old coal mine and fed by an underground mountain spring.

Do You Have to Pay to Go to Quarry Lake?

Do You Have to Pay to Go to Quarry Lake?
Quarry Lake in February

Many people think you must pay to visit Quarry Lake, but you just have to pay to park at Quarry Lake. The Town of Canmore introduced parking fees at Quarry Lake after the area was loved to death by visitors during the pandemic. Many visitors sadly did not pick up after themselves and left the area a huge mess. It was a big problem on summer weekend days and holidays. In 2021, the town introduced paid parking fees at Quarry Lake.

If you travel just a bit further down Spray Lakes Road to the Canmore Reservoir or Canmore Nordic Center, you are now in Kananaskis Country and need a Kannaaskis Conservation Pass to recreate there. However, since Quarry Lake is managed by the Town of Canmore, you do not need any sort of pass to visit.

Parking at Quarry Lake

Parking at Quarry Lake

There is a medium-sized parking area at Quarry Lake. Parking is rarely an issue in the winter and shoulder season months unless it’s a weekend. However, on beautiful July and August days, Quarry Lake becomes a very popular place to recreate, and the lot fills up around 10am. If parking is full, it’s best to have a backup plan, as parking is not allowed on the Smith Dorrien Trail.

If you are staying in a Canmore hotel, we suggest walking to Quarry Lake in the summer, as it takes under 30 minutes to get there from Downtown Canmore.

Do You Need a Parking Pass for Quarry Lake?

Do You Need a Parking Pass for Quarry Lake?

All visitors who park a vehicle at Quarry Lake must pay for parking. Paid parking is in effect seven days per week during park hours:

  • Peak season rates (May 15 – Oct. 14): $10 for two hours
  • Low season rates (Oct. 15 – May 14): $2.5 per hour

Canmore Resident Parking Permit holders get up to 3 hours free in all paid zones every day. Canmore residents must still use the Blinkay Parking app to start their free parking at Quarry Lake. Parking attendants actively monitor the parking at Quarry Lake, especially in the summer, and do not hesitate to issue tickets.

While the parking fees at Quarry Lake may be frustrating to visitors, it’s important to remember that the revenues from the paid parking have helped pay for upgrades to the area.

Can You Swim in Quarry Lake?

Can You Swim in Quarry Lake?

I wouldn’t call it a swim, as Quarry Lake is frigid year-round, but if you want to take a cold dip in Quarry Lake, it’s possible to jump right in! If you really want to swim, it’s best to wear a wet suit to stay warm – even in the dead of summer!

How Deep is Quarry Lake?

How Deep is Quarry Lake?
quarry lake life jackets

Although it may not look like it, Quarry Lake is 100 meters deep in some areas, so swim at your own risk. Free life jacket loaners are available in the summer months for those who want to swim in the water or take their paddleboard out.

Quarry Lake Hikes

Quarry Lake Hikes

Quarry Lake Park has over 5km of trails suitable for walking and cycling. There are multiple trails around Quarry Lake that locals (including myself) love to bike and walk on.

  • Quarry Lake Parking Lot to the Highline Trail
  • Canmore Creek to Quarry Lake: 1.2 km
  • Quarry Lake to the Red Commuter Trail: 3.1 km

Are Dogs Allowed at Quarry Lake?

Are Dogs Allowed at Quarry Lake?

There is always a lot of confusion about dogs at Quarry Lake. This is because an off-leash dog park is right next to Quarry Lake. The Quarry Lake Dog Park provides two designated off-leash sections: a meadow and pond area suitable for dog swimming. Clearly marked boundaries indicate the off-leash zones, and dogs must be on a leash outside these designated areas.

dogs at Quarry Lake

Dogs are not allowed at Quarry Lake, and dogs are definitely not allowed to swim there. Despite these rules and CLEAR signs, I almost always see dogs off-leash at Quarry Lake, often in the water. Please respect the rules so more restrictions are not put into place in the park.

Adjacent to the lake, there is a designated off-leash area for dogs. Bylaw officers regularly patrol Quarry Lake to alert uninformed visitors if they see dogs off leash in the wrong areas. Please mind your dog in the area to avoid potential fines or causing frustration for locals.

Picnicking at Quarry Lake

Picnicking at Quarry Lake

There are quite a few picnic areas around Quarry Lake. Plenty of picnic benches skirt the lakeshore on the north and south sides of the lake. Because of this we consider Quarry Lake one of the best Canmore places to bring a packed lunch with friends and family.

Please dispose of all trash from your picnic. It’s nearly impossible to miss the numerous bear-safe trash bins and recycle boxes at Quarry Lake, which is a clear sign from the Town of Canmore that visitors are not picking up after themselves and to do better.

picnic at quarry lake

In the summer, I ride my bike to Quarry Lake multiple times a week, and nearly every time, I find myself picking up trash from careless visitors. PLEASE throw away all garbage so we can keep this beautiful place pristine. There are many animals that roam around Quarry Lake, including elk, coyotes, and bears. Feeding wildlife, even if nonintentional by leaving food behind, has harmful impacts.

Gas stoves are allowed at Quarry Lake, but campfires and charcoal BBQs are prohibited.

Bathrooms at Quarry Lake

Bathrooms at Quarry Lake

There are multiple toilets at Quarry Lake, which is about a five-minute walk from the parking area. There is also a bathroom near the off-leash dog park. These bathrooms are closed in the winter.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding at Quarry Lake

Quarry Lake is a great place to stand up paddleboard or kayak around, especially for beginners, as it’s not a huge lake and is typically less wind-affected than others around Canmore and Banff. There are no sup rentals at Quarry Lake, but if you have your own nonmotorized watercraft, you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings here from the water.

Can You Visit Quarry Lake in the Winter?

Sunset at Quarry Lake in the winter

Quarry Lake is easily accessible all year round. However, in winter, the bathrooms are closed, though you can still enjoy the picnic tables around the lake and take in the views. Please do not walk or ice skate on the lake, as it is unsafe.

Mountain Biking Around Quarry Lake

Canmore nordic center biking
Mountain biking at the Nordic Center

I’ve mentioned that I often bike to Quarry Lake, and that is because there are a few amazing mountain bike trails near Quarry Lake.

  • Powerline to Highline Trail
  • Lokis Trail to Fun Forest (Kid Friendly)
  • Keep riding to the Nordic Center and hit up Soft Yoghurt
35 Best Canmore and Banff Bike Trails

The Ultimate Canmore Day

Grassi Lakes Natasha
Grassi Lakes

If you are spending the day in Canmore, there are plenty of things to do without driving too far. We recommend starting your day at Eclipse Coffee and strolling Downtown Canmore, making your way to Quarry Lake for a beautiful 1km walk around the lakeshore, continue to the Rundle Forebay Reservoir for a paddleboard before containing to Grassi Lakes for a nice easy Canmore hike under Ha Ling Peak.

Stay Nearby!

There are many great Canmore hotels to stay at, but our favorite is easily The Malcolm Hotel near Policemen’s Creek. If you can score a stay here, don’t hesitate! They have a heated pool with one of the best views of the famous Three Sisters.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

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About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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