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 Kananaskis Conservation Pass is Needed to Hike in Kananaskis
Visitors are required to hold a Kananaskis Conservation Pass. The area covered in the pass includes Kananaskis and the Bow Valley corridor. 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.
Kananaskis Conservation Pass Prices
- Daily Pass: $15 (registers one vehicle)
- Annual Pass: $90 (registers two vehicles)
Best Things to do in Kananaskis Country
Paddle 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.
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!
Ice Skate on Spray Lakes
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 is a massive lake in Kananaskis that literally 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.
Hike Up 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!
Relax at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa
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!
Stay at Sundance Lodge
Located near the Wasootch Ridge Trailhead and Nakiska Ski Resort is this fantastic accommodation option. 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 camping adventures as each site is unserviced.
Hike Tent Ridge
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
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
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
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
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.
Walk Across 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!
Hike Up to Rawson Lake
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.
Continue to 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.
Find the Mist Mountain Hot Springs
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 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.
Shoeshoe Around 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
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 drive is a gravel road that 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 are often the cause of a wildlife collision.
Hike Up to 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
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
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.
Hike Wasootch Ridge
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.
Hike 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
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.
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?
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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Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies
- Hiking in the Rockies: Purchase an AllTrails subscription to have a mobile map on you as you hike.
- Hotels in the Rockies: There are many places to stay, from luxury hotels to wilderness cabins. See all our favorites here.
- Pack for the Rockies: See our complete Alberta packing list here.
- Get Around: We suggest either renting a car to get around, you can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip with companies like Outdoorsy.
- Fly For Free: Turn your spending into airline miles and points with travel credit cards (that’s what we do!). See our favorite travel credit cards. We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
- Travel Insurance: We don’t recommend traveling without travel insurance. We recommend checking out HeyMondo, which offers competitive rates for all travelers.