26 FUN Things To Do In Kananaskis Country

There is no shortage of awesome things to do in Kananaskis, but this provincial park often gets overshadowed by Banff, its big sister. Though we recommend visitors to at least visit Kananaskis for a day, because that’s all it will take to fall in love.

From ice skating on frozen ponds in the winter to canoeing on one of the most beautiful lakes in the summer, you could spend years here and never get bored.

Let’s dig into the best things to do in Kananaskis Country!

A Pass is Needed to Hike in Kananaskis

Visitors are required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass, which covers Kananaskis and the Bow Valley Corridor. This pass is separate from the National Parks Pass needed to visit Banff and the other national parks. Passes may be purchased online and are attached to a license plate number. Requirements are around vehicles and parking, not the individual. This includes parking at the Canmore Nordic Center or Grassi Lakes.

Pass Prices

  • Daily Pass: $15 (registers one vehicle)
  • Annual Pass: $90 (registers two cars)

A Guide to Understanding the Kananaskis Conservation Pass

Best Things to Do in Kananaskis Country

Paddle on Goat Pond

canoeing on goat pond
Canoeing on Goat Pond

Whenever I’m looking for an excellent activity close to Canmore, I’ll head to Goat Pond. It’s a great place to bring a Canoe or Kayak as there is super easy access to get your water device in.

paddleboarding on Goat Pond
Paddleboarding on Goat Pond

Goat Pond is typically calm and enjoys lots of sunlight with majestic mountain views. It’s also a great alternative when the other lakes in Banff are busy in the summer. A bit of a local secret! You’ll need to bring your own canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard here!

20 Amazing Places to Paddle in the Rockies!

Ice Skate on Spray Lakes

spray lakes ice skating
Ice skating on Spray Lakes in December

One of the best things to do in Kananaskis in the winter is head to Spray Lakes when the lake freezes over. Spray Lakes is right next to Goat Pond and often freezes over enough to ice skate sometime in November or December – however it is all weather dependent.

This massive lake in Kananaskis cannot be missed if you’re driving down the Smith Dorrien Trail/Spray Lakes Road.

The key to finding great frozen lakes to skate on is timing. Wild skating on these lakes is best when the lakes first freeze, but a significant snowfall hasn’t fallen enough yet to cover the ice.

Amazing Places to Go Ice Skating in the Canadian Rockies

Hike to Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes Natasha

Right near Quarry Lake in Canmore are the famous Grassi Lakes, some of the easiest lakes to hike to in Kananaskis. To reach these amazing blue lakes, you’ll have to complete a short hike, but I promise it’s worth it to see these small lakes in Alberta.

Grassi Lakes is located right near the town of Canmore, but still in Kananaskis, and they are a popular destination for weekend visitors to the area. Head here on a nice summer day or a weekend afternoon, and it’s unlikely you’ll have the trail to yourself. However, during the winter, you can trail run or fat bike up to the lakes and likely never see another soul!

The mesmerizing colors of the water at Grassi Lakes are remarkable and easy to reach on a short hike. Though there are other trails in the area, they’re clearly marked, and you’ll know to turn around when you’ve reached the brilliant lakes.

Hike Up Ha Ling

Ha Ling Peak Summit
On top of Ha Ling Peak

If you want to summit a mountain in Kananaskis head to the top of the most notable mountain in Canmore, Ha Ling Peak. It is one of the most approachable mountains in the region, with a recently revamped trail that includes steps, informational signs, viewpoints, and a clear trail.

The downside of Ha Ling is its popularity; on a nice summer weekend day, the parking lot and trail are packed with what feels like thousands climbing the short trail to the peak. It’s still a challenging hike as you gain almost 800m in just under 4km. Don’t underestimate this one!

Mountain Bike at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Canmore nordic center biking
My favorite view at the Nordic Centre

Once the snow melts in Kananaskis in May and June, so do the trails, and a myriad trails for mountain biking cater to any skill set. That could mean a nice mellow bike ride through a field with gorgeous views or screaming down a ridgeline on a white-knuckle ride.

The Canmore Nordic Centre transitions from cross country skiing to mountain biking in the summertime. There is a trail for everyone here, although my personal favorite and go-to is the Odyssey Trail!

Mountain biking has caught on all over North America, and the opportunities and trails continue to grow every season. For the most current information on trails in the area, stop in a local bike shop like Rebound Cycle, Outside Bike near Save On in Canmore, or Gear Up, or check out the trails on Trailforks.

Hike Up Windtower

things to do in kananaskis
The view from Windtower

If you’re looking for a challenging hike/easy scramble, consider hiking up Windtower! It’s one of the best hikes in Kananaskis Country and provides absolutely epic views of both Canmore from the summit and Spray Lakes from the other direction.

Depending on your hiking fitness, the hike will take between 3-6 hours round trip and gains some serious elevation, but the views are worth it!

21 BEAUTIFUL Kananaskis Hikes To Tackle This Summer

Relax at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa

Travel Alberta / Karl Lee

The Kananaskis Nordic Spa at Kananaskis Mountain Lodge is one of the best places to head on a cool or winter day in the Rockies.

It’s here you can find outdoor hot tubs and a pool, as well as a relaxation room, steam room, and saunas. It’s great for a romantic holiday in the Rockies or to enjoy with friends!

Mountain Bike at Moose Mountain

Mountain Bike at Moose Mountain

If you’re into mountain biking, Moose Mountain is one of the best places to head in Kananaskis. Moose Mountain’s extensive network of mountain bike trails is undoubtedly one of the best spots in the province to tackle some single track. The area has various trails for beginners and experts, focusing on tech, flow, and some decent intermediate jump trails. It also boasts the most impressive wood features outside of British Columbia.

What’s most notable about Moose Mountain is the ability to do shuttle laps with personal vehicles, which is extremely popular with locals on the weekend. We recommend a high-clearance vehicle and a group of riding buddies, but Alberta 66 Mountain Biking runs an open shuttle on the weekends along with guiding and lessons.

Stay at Sundance Lodge

Kananaskis cabins

This awesome accommodation option in Kananaskis is located near the Wasootch Ridge Trailhead and Nakiska Ski Resort. Sundance Lodges offers accommodation in the form of canvas tipis and trappers tents.

It’s an excellent choice for those who wish to have more of a camping adventure, as each site is unserviced. The Kananaskis campground is down a quiet forested road, perfect for basing yourself around some incredible Kananaskis hikes or for stargazing at night.

You aren’t entirely camping here though, as there are hot showers and flush toilets. The staff even serves hot coffee in the morning!

Sundance Lodge is one of the most unique accommodation options in the Rockies, but they only have a limited number of sites, so you’ll want to book in advance in the summer (they are closed in the winter).

Hike Tent Ridge

tent ridge hike kananaskis
Tent Ridge is glorious!

Nearby to Windtower is one of the most famous Kananaskis Hikes. Tent Ridge is a favorite for locals and visitors alike. It’s a short (for the Canadian Rockies, that is), easy scramble with absolutely incredible views of Spray Lakes. The best time to get up there is at sunrise or sunset for amazing photos.

Bike Highwood Pass

Biking Highwood Pass before the road opens to cars

Highwood Pass is the highest highway in Canada, with some astounding views of the front range. It lies west of Mount Rae and Mount Arethusa of the Misty Range, south of the Elbow Pass within the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Alberta Highway 40.

Due to the elevation and high snow levels, the road closes in the winter months due to avalanche risk.

However, at the start of summer, the snow often melts before the official opening date for the highway (typically June 15th). It makes for an excellent car-free route for cyclists and a pretty nice challenge if you bike the entire route.

Ski at Nakiska

Nakiska Ski Resort

Another one of the best things to do in Kananaskis in the winter is ski or snowboard. Nakiska Ski Resort has family-friendly terrain perfect for beginner skiers and children.

It’s an excellent alternative for beginner and intermediate skiers compared to Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise Ski Resort. I love Nakiska, as there’s typically not a soul around on the weekdays (however, weekends are another story as all of Calgary flocks here). They also have some fun tree skiing and long cruiser groomers.

Enjoy Kananaskis Lakes

things to do in kananaskis
I get a lot of questions about this viewpoint over Kananaskis Lakes, and it is from a now-closed trail

Kananaskis Lakes are some of my favorite lakes to enjoy in all of Alberta. The Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are surrounded by colossal peaks that visitors can hike, or just enjoy from the shore.

There’s a large beach area here to come on a nice summer day with the family. Bring a blanket and a cooler with some treats!

Stay At Mount Engadine Lodge

mount engadine
Staying at Mount Engadine in the fall

There’s no better place to stay in Kananaskis than Mount Engadine Lodge! In the remote section of the park is this truly amazing place to stay. Mount Engadine offers cabins, yurts, and traditional rooms.

They operate all year long and offer a home away from home in the mountains. It’s the closest thing to Glamping that you’ll get in the area and is right next to the trailhead for Smutwood Peak and Tent Ridge.

Check Rates for Mount Engadine!

Walk Across the Blackshale Suspension Bridge

blackshale suspension bridge
Walking the Blackshale Suspension Bridge

Not many people know about the Blackshale Suspension Bridge. Even after more than a year of living in the Rockies, we didn’t!

However, it’s a beautiful very short hike in Kananaskis near Kananaskis Lakes that will take you high above the trees on a scenic bridge. It’s a nice free bridge alternative to the Golden Skybidge.

Hike Up to Rawson Lake

rawson lake alberta

From the parking area at Kananaskis Lakes, you can actually hike up to another lake. Rawson Lake is an 8 km (return) easy hike that is an excellent endeavor in the summer months.

Make sure to bring bear spray on this hike, as it’s prime grizzly territory. Though if you are doing any hiking in the Rockies, you truly need bear spray with you at all times.

30 Helpful Tips for Hiking in Banff for New Hikers

Continue to Sarrail Ridge

Sarrail Ridge

From Rawson Lake, you can either stop there or continue up to Sarrail Ridge. The hike up to Sarrail Ridge is incredibly steep and crosses grizzly territory, but once you reach the top, you get astonishing views over Kananaskis Lakes.

Make sure you have good shoes on this hike and poles to make for a more pleasant descent.

How to Hike Sarrail Ridge Via Rawson Lake in Kananaskis

Find the Mist Mountain Hot Springs

things to do in kananaskis

Somewhere deep in Kananaskis are the Mist Mountain hot springs, considered some of the best hot springs in Alberta. You may have seen them on social media as they’ve become more popular over the years.

I don’t like calling them hot springs, as they are more “warmish.” Regardless it’s quite literally a natural warm tub in the middle of the mountains. I don’t think you’ll ever find springs like this that are more scenic.

Get there at sunrise in the offseason to avoid crowds, or you will likely be waiting in a line to get in the springs meant for 3-4 people max. Keep in mind there is nowhere to change at the hot springs.

Catch Sunrise Over Barrier Lake

Barrier Lake

Barrier Lake is one of the most popular spots to head in all of Kananaskis. It’s beautiful for one, but you can reach the trailhead in less than an hour from Calgary, as it’s located right after the entrance to Kananaskis.

Visitors can choose to either enjoy the lakeshore of Barrier Lake, or go for a moderate hike to the Prairie View lookout point, head up Jewell Pass via the Prairie View trail, or continue up to Yates Mountain and check out the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout.

Barrier Lake Hike Guide (Prairie View Trail and Jewell Pass)

Shoeshoe Around Burstall Pass

Burstall Pass

Burstall Pass is a classic hike in the summer and snowshoe trail in the winter in Kananaskis Country and off the Smith Dorrien Trail. The hike moves past several marshy lakes and streams, before a steep ascent up to an alpine meadow and then finished on a high mountain pass with grand glaciated mountain views.

Before venturing back here in the winter, it’s best to have proper avalanche training, gear, and knowledge.

Drive the Smith Dorrien Highway and Connect to Highway 40

things to do in kananaskis

If you’re just feeling a leisurely road trip day and enjoying the mountains from the car, you have to drive the Smith Dorrien Highway. This gravel road drive starts in Canmore and ends at Kananaskis Lakes or vice versa.

Along the drive, you’ll pass sights like Whiteman’s Pond, Goat Pond, Spray Lakes, and so many beautiful mountains, possibly even some mountain goats or bighorn sheep! You can connect the Smith Dorrien to Highway 40 to make it a full loop! I suggest at least 2-3 hours to complete the drive at a leisurely pace.

Please drive the speed limit as there is plenty of wildlife on this road, and fast drivers often cause a wildlife collision.

Hike Up to West Wind Pass

Kananaskis Hikes
Heading up to Rimwall Summit from West Wind Pass

Before you make your way up mountain summits like Windtower or Rimwall Summit, you will hit West Wind Pass first. The hike starts out pretty mild. You’ll hike in the treeline for the first 45 minutes or so until you reach West Wind Pass.

It’s a steady uphill easy climb to West Wind Pass. If you want a nice short hike – stop here and enjoy the valley views. You’ll know you have reached West Wind Pass around 3km when you get above the trees and have fantastic views.

You can continue up to Rimwall Summit or Windtower from West Wind Pass if you want to keep going. Make sure to research these trails before continuing on as hikers frequently get turned around, particularly on the Rimwall summit trail.

Hike to Troll Falls

things to do in kananaskis

A fun, family-friendly Kananaskis hike to an incredible Alberta waterfall is Troll Falls. This 3.4 km heavily trafficked out and back trail brings you to Troll Falls. It’s fantastic in the summer, but in the winter you’ll be able to see a fantastic frozen waterfall.

See the Larches on the Pocaterra Ridge Trail

things to do in kananaskis
Pocaterra Ridge in the Fall

Pocaterra Ridge is a well-known hike in Kananaskis come September. This is thanks to the endless larch trees that turn golden yellow come the last few weeks of September.

Hiking Pocaterra Ridge is one of the best things to do in Kananaskis during this time! Other nearby larch hikes that are also great larch hikes are Arethusa Cirque and Ptarmigan Cirque.

The Most Unreal Alberta Larch Hikes

Hike Wasootch Ridge

things to do in kananaskis
Enjoying Wasootch Ridge in Early June

Wasootch Ridge is a favorite hike near Canmore in Kananaskis Country. The trail is straightforward to follow and gains quick elevation, then travels along a ridge that delivers spectacular views for hours.

The roadway slowly evaporates from view on the ridge before a challenging scramble to the true peak.

How to Hike Wasootch Ridge in Kananaskis Country

Hike Porcupine Ridge

Kananaskis Hikes
The view from Porcupine Ridge

Literally right across the valley from Wasootch Ridge is Porcupine Ridge. This is a very similar Kananaskis hike to Wasootch Ridge. It starts off steep initially, and as you get on the ridge, you walk the ridge most of the way until the summit, with stunning views the entire time.

The main difference here is the beginning. Instead of starting straight off like Wasootch, you must navigate your way along Porcupine Creek, crossing a few times before you begin to ascend towards the ridge. After about 1km along the creek bed, you’ll see a trail in the treeline.

The ascent is pretty easy to the ridge. Once to the ridge, you can stop and enjoy the views or continue to the summit!

Where to Stay in Kananaskis

Where to Stay in Kananaskis

Camping – There are plenty of front and back-country camping sites in Kananaskis. A few of our favorites are Spray Lakes West and Mount Kidd. We break down all the best camping spots in Kananaskis here.

Glamping – Camp in luxury at Mount Engadine! Mount Engadine is one of our favorite cabins in Kananaskis. They offer excellent all-inclusive packages in their rooms, yurt, and glamping tents.

Kananaskis Hotels – There aren’t a plethora of accommodation options in Kananaskis Country, and only a limited number of hotels. Our favorite in the park is Kananaskis Mountain Lodge at the base of Nakiska.

Want More Kananaskis Hikes?

Smutwood Peak Hike
Hiking to Smutwood Peak

For a bit more challenge, check out our full list of hikes in Kananaskis! A few of our favorites are Mount Allan, Smutwood Peak, and Tent Ridge!

About Kananaskis

Arethusa Cirque in larch season
Arethusa Cirque in larch season

The majestic peaks of Kananaskis took shape around 200 million years ago due to tectonic plate movements, with the predominant limestone rock forming from layers of fossilized sea life. Carved by glaciers during the last ice age, the soft limestone transformed into the mountains you see today.

Human habitation in the area dates back to 4500 BC, with the Stoney and Blackfoot First Nations residing there until the early 1800s. Captain John Palliser, who was a notable Canadian Rockies explorer, named the area Kananaskis, derived from the name of a warrior, “Kin-e-a-kis,” who survived an axe blow in an apparent fight for love.

In 1930, the provincial government gained control of land once under federal jurisdiction, once part of Rocky Mountain National Park (now Banff National Park). In the ’50s and ’60s, provincial parks were established, and a Calgary-based environmentalist advocated for a protected area, leading Premier Peter Lougheed to establish Kananaskis Country in the ’60s, preserving the landscape and delicate ecosystem.

Today, Kananaskis Country spans 4,000 square kilometers, comprising designated wildland parks, provincial parks, recreation parks, ecological reserves, and cultural zones.

Hopefully, this helped you determine some fun things to do in Kananaskis!

If you have any other questions leave a comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, and everything else.

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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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