Alberta & BC Rockies Kananaskis Recreation
If you're in Kananaskis Country, here are some of your recreational opportunities:
Biking is popular in and around the Kananaskis. You can ride along the wide shoulders on the Transportation-Canada Highway, all the way between Calgary and Banff, though the route has some serious hills. The best route is west to east, to go with the prevailing wind and the general drop in elevation.
The Kananaskis has plenty of off-road mountain biking terrain (along Smith-Dorrien Creek Road). You should also stick to trails to minimize damage to plants and danger to animals. The most popular trails are around the Spray Lake Reservior, about 40 kilometres south of town. In back-country areas, use the bell on their bikes to warn bears of your approach. You should also have a helmet, a repair kit, a first aid kit, extra clothing and energy snacks.
Other Links: [ Learn to Bicycle ]
Motorized and non-motorized boats are allowed on most lakes and rivers in
Kananaskis Country. There are, however, no boat rentals in the park area. Boats are also allowed on the Bow River, though between Canmore and Lac des Arc, there are plenty of floating and submerged logs and stumps. The Bow River has many "braids" in the stretch between Banff and Lac des Arcs, with a good likelihood you'll see many wild mammals over summer months. The River is really slow through Lac des Arcs (you'll be paddling). The May/June spring runoff have the highest river levels, repeated again in August with peaking glacial melting. Rafting trips on the Bow and Kicking Horse rivers are available for a day or overnight.
Canoeing and rafting is best in the stretch of the Kananaskis River between Barrier Lake/Widowmaker and the Canoe Meadows.
This stretch of river is used by several rafting companies as well as kayakers
and combines class 1 and 2 portions with level 3 rapids. The river section between Kananaskis Lakes and Barrier Lake
is mostly class 1 and 2 water and is most navigable whenever there is dam release of water.
Windsurfing is not recommended, since all the waters are snow or glacial runoff. Lac des Arcs (by Dead Man's Flats) and Ghost Lake (50 km west of Cochrane at the Ghost Dam on the Bow River) offer good winds, though wet suits or dry suits should be worn.
Other Links: [ Learn to Windsurf ]
Kananaskis has about 20 roadside campgrounds, with a total of 3,000 campsites,
usually with flush toilets, picnic tables, cooking stations and drinking water. Firewood isn't freely
provided but can be bought at various area vendors. Camping prices range from $7 to $19 per night and some do take reservations. If you're looking for a little more privacy, Kananaskis is home to about 12 designated backcountry campsites. There is no charge or registration for backcountry camping in this provincial park.
For a more "wilderness " experience, there are 30 trail-accessible campgrounds
in Kananaskis Country for back-country hikers and bikers. You should reserve ahead, particularly during the summer.
There are several campgrounds in the Ghost River and Waiparous Creek valleys about 50 km (30 miles) north of Canmore--as the crow flies. The Rocky Mountain Forest Preserve, which is east of the National Parks, stetches from Canmore almost to Hinton (near Jasper) in the north. Access to these campgrounds is via highway 940, accessed from highway 1A at Ghost Lake Dam, about 60 km east of Canmore.
Most cross-country skiing is done in the valleys, and there are several groomed "loop" trails
at Canmore Nordic Centre, Grassi Lakes, Spray Lakes (Mount Shark), are all popular trails around Canmore. These areas all have trails can each be managed nicely in a day.
Other Links: [ Learn to Ski ]
There are a number of popular downhill ski areas close to Canmore, some in the Kananaskis
area, and some in the Banff
Other Links: [ Learn to Ski & Snowboard | Ski conditions ]
The mountain waters are quite cold and relatively low in nutrients, so fishing is generally poor. To compensate, a number of lakes have been stocked from hatchery-raised fish. The Bow River around Canmore is best known for its mountain whitefish (use a fly), brown trout and brook trout. The Spray lakes Reservoir is stocked by and is host to one of two lake trout fisheries in the region.
To maintain the natural fish stocks, "catch and release" practices are recommended. Of course, it's not always about the fish you catch: here you not only talk about the "one that got away" but the spectacular mountain scenery. You should check with Park Information Centres for appropriate fishing seasons, catch limits and permits. Alberta sportfishing licences are $18 for Canadian residents, and between $20 and $36 for non-residents, plus $8 for a five-year Wildlife Identification Number (WIN) permit.
Golf is a popular sport in Kananaskis Country, with the Kananaskis Country Golf Course's spectacular
scenery, located right beside Kananaskis Village. The course is popular with Calgary
executives and it has a no jeans rule (yes, even in Alberta!)
Other Links: [ Learn to Golf | Mountain Golf Courses ]
There are hundreds of kilometres of popular trails
in Kananaskis Country. Routes range from short loops from the parking lot to wilderness routes along Smith-Dorrian Creek in Kananaskis Country. Backpackers should practice no-trace camping (take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints). Bring along an extra change of clothing, waterproof equipment, a first aid kit, and a campstove. Check with the Park Information Centres for current weather, fire, and wildlife hazards.
Other Links: [ Learn to Hike ]
This was how explorers moved around the mountains before the steam locomotive. There are a number of trails for horseback in and around Kananaskis Country. The best places are the Kananaskis Guest Ranch and the Rafter Six Guest Ranch, just off Highway 1. You can also rent horses at the Boundary Stables, east of Kananaskis Village, and by Jewell Bay beside Barrier Lake in the north end of the park.
Mountain climbing, or a simpler version, rock climbing, is a popular way to explore the extremes of the mountains. The Rockies have over 700 peaks that exceed 10,000 feet or 3,000 metres, so there is plenty of challenge and opportunity. Many of the rocky faces are crumbly sedimentary rock, so many of the routes to the tops of mountains incorporate glaciers, snow or ice. Modern equipment and clothing makes winter mountaineering more popular, and the Rockies provide a number of frozen waterfalls that are a challenge for ice-climbers.
Kananaskis Country has many walkable trails that can take you to the peaks of popular mountains. You should check topographic maps for routes that match your skill and endurance levels. If you are interested in more challenging routes, you can hire a professional mountain guide, who can provide both guidance and equipment for your mountain ascent. There are a number of steep cliffs that are very popular with rock climbers who are more interested in challenging verticals, rather than ascending al the way to the top of the mountain.
Some of the more interesting peaks close to Canmore are: Princes Margaret Mountain and Mount Lady Macdonald (on the north side of the Bow River just inside Banff National Park), Grotto Mountain (on the north side of the Bow River across from Dead Man's Flats) and Three Sisters (right above Canmore).
Other Links: [ Learn Mountaineering ]