Where to Snowshoe Near Calgary

by - Saturday, December 31, 2016

You can snowshoe anywhere there is snow, but the best trails have lots of puffy snow and beautiful scenery. If the snow is packed down, go off trail! Not only will you get more of a workout, you'll have way more fun log hopping and jumping in the snow.


Kananaskis

There are 17 official snowshoe trails in Kananaskis. Snow seekers should make their way to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The Chester Lake area receives a TON of snow each winter! 

Here are our top picks for snowshoeing with the family:
  1. Hogarth Lakes Loop is a family-friendly snowshoe trail that is only 3.9 km return with 30 m elevation gain.
  2. Elkwood Loop Trail is scenic and not too long! Start at Elkwood Amphitheatre Parking Lot and snowshoe through trees and pretty meadows to Marl Lake. There are great views of Mount Indefatigable across the lake! 3.4 km, 23 m elevation gain. 
  3. Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail, located near Kananaskis Village, has several bridges that kids will love to cross. We went over 5 bridges in just 1 km! 3.7 km one way with 60 m elevation gain. *Avalanche danger beyond the end of the trail!* Note that a couple sections are shared with cross country skiers; please be courteous and stay off the ski tracks. :) See our trip report here.
  4. Black Prince Cirque is a fun and pretty trail with lots of snow to play in. Do not go past Warspite Lake as there is avalanche danger across the lake. Watch for skiers as this is a popular ski trail. 4.3 km round trip, 90 m elevation gain.
  5. Wintour Trail is actually Highway 40 past the winter gate. It may seem odd to snowshoe on the road, but the vistas are pretty amazing! Park near the winter gate and snowshoe south. 5 km return, 74 m elevation gain. *THERE IS AVALANCHE DANGER 2.5 KM PAST THE WINTER GATE. TURN BACK AFTER 2.5 KM.*
  6. Rawson Lake takes you along the shore of Upper Kananaskis Lake to Sarrail Falls, then up switchbacks through subalpine forest to Rawson Lake. Do not cross the lake as the awesome peaks overlooking the lake pose serious avalanche danger. 7.8 km return, 320 m elevation gain.
  7. Chester Lake is a good climb with awesome payoff at the end. Although you hike up through the trees, the meadows near the lake are expansive and just beyond the lake, snow covered boulders (the Elephant Rocks) make for fun climbing and cool photos. For more information, please see Year Round Fun at Chester Lake. 7.2 km return, 287 m elevation gain.
Mention: Troll Falls is a great family hike year round. Bring ice cleats as the trail gets packed and icy (not suitable for snowshoeing unless Kananaskis Village has received a huge dump of snow). 3.1 km return, minimal elevation gain.

For more information, please see the Alberta Parks - Kananaskis Snowshoeing Brochure.

Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail, Kananaskis Valley

Marl Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Approaching Chester Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Troll Falls, Kananaskis Valley

AMENITIES

Stop at the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre before or after your snowshoe outing. There are cool exhibits, washrooms, and a microwave and kettle available for public use. The views off the back deck are gorgeous too!

Afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge is a fantastic apres-snowshoe treat! Daily 2 pm - 5 pm. $17.50/person. 

West Bragg Creek

  1. Snowy Owl Trail is great on a calm day as it's quite open and gets lots of sun. It parallels the Mountain Road ski trail and is quite flat for the first couple kilometres. Download the West Bragg Creek Trail Map here.
    • Option 1: Make the blue bridge your destination (1.3 km) and turn back for a 2.6 km snowshoe. 
    • Option 2: Do a 5.4 km loop by continuing on Snowy Owl 1.8 km past the bridge and returning on Snowy Shortcut, a 1.0 km connector that rejoins Snowy Owl. There is some elevation gain on the section between the bridge and the connector trail.
  2. Snowshoe Hare Loop is a rolling trail that is 5.4 km long with 173 m elevation gain when you're ready for more of a challenge. For more information, see BCKOR's trip description. Download the West Bragg Creek Trail Map here.
AMENITIES

Stop in at the Powderhorn Saloon for lunch or get a sweet treat at Frontier Candy & Ice Cream! Several more tasty options in the charming hamlet of Bragg Creek.

Mountain Road, West Bragg Creek (snowshoe trail is to the right)

Banff National Park (Banff & Lake Louise)

Winter offers the opportunity to snowshoe across frozen lakes. The safest times to do this are mid-December until the end of February, but weather conditions are always changing, so check ice thickness before venturing on to the ice. For ice safety tips, please see this post.
  1. Johnson Lake offers fantastic views of Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain. You can take the flat and pretty trail around the lake (2.8 km), or snowshoe right on the lake once it's frozen. Chariot friendly. 
  2. Lake Minnewanka's shoreline is gorgeous year round! If the ice is thick enough, you can snowshoe on the lake, but use extreme caution and stay close to shore. You can snowshoe to the first campground (LM8 at 7.6 km), but Stewart Canyon is a nice destination with kids. It's only 800 metres to the bridge, or 6.5 km return to the river gorge (minimal elevation gain). For more information, see Hiking With Barry - Stewart Canyon.
  3. Tunnel Mountain Drive gives you great views of Cascade Mountain. 1.7 km one way. Start at Tunnel Mountain Drive and St Julien Way in the town of Banff. The upper part of the road is closed to cars in the winter! For a longer trip, hike to the summit of Tunnel Mountain! If the trail is packed down, snowshoes or ice cleats will provide great traction (needed most on the descent).
  4. Snowshoe across Lake Louise or take the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (4 km return). Both are Chariot friendly. For more information, see Snowshoe, Ski, Skate, and Walk on World Famous Lake Louise.
  5. Fairview Lookout is a steep, but fun trail that leads to a viewpoint overlooking Lake Louise and the Chateau. 2 km return, 100 m elevation gain. For more information, see Snowshoeing to Fairview Lookout.
  6. Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake is a good climb through the trees that offers glimpses down at Lake Louise and a view of the Beehive from Mirror Lake. Do not go past Mirror Lake as it is avalanche terrain! 6  km return from Chateau Lake Louise, 300 m elevation gain. Follow the signs on the right side of the lake (opposite the boathouse).
  7. Peyto Lake Viewpoint. While not as spectacular as in summer when you can see the brilliant blue lake, the view is still pretty grand and the trail is easy. 1.5 km return, 25 m elevation gain.
For more information on these and other trails, please see Parks Canada - Winter Trails in the Banff Area and Parks Canada - Winter Trails in the Lake Louise Area.

Johnson Lake, Banff
Lake Louise
Fairview Lookout Trail, Lake Louise

AMENITIES - BANFF

There are tons of dining options in Banff. For inexpensive take out, head to the Food Court at Cascade Mall (they have a Rocky Mountain Flatbread), McDonald's, or Chaya (Japanese food). 

We really like The Bison for lunch, Maple Leaf Grill for a fancy dinner, and Old Spaghetti Factory for a casual dinner.

AMENITIES - LAKE LOUISE

The Visitor Centre, located in the Village, has several exhibits and washrooms.

Chateau Lake Louise has several dining options from casual to fine dining. We've enjoyed cocoa and lunch at the cafe, fondue at Walliser Stube Fondue place, and Afternoon Tea at the Chateau. 

For an unforgettable dinner, head to Deer Lodge (fine dining). 

In the Village, we like Laggan's Bakery and Timberwolf Pizza & Pasta Cafe (at Lake Louise Inn).


Disclosure: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador, but all words and opinions are my own. I did not receive compensation to recommend snowshoeing trails in the parks.

Happy Trails! Tag your Instagram and Facebook photos with #playoutsidegal so I can see where you 
went! I will share my favorites! 

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2 comments

  1. Hey Karen, planning on finally trying snow shoeing with family. We need to rent, do we need poles? Do we need special snow boots or do they just strap onto ours?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Jacqueline, snowshoes will attach to your boots. I recommend hiking boots (vs Sorels will do not provide much support and come off easily in deep snow) for snowshoeing - winter hiking boots are even better if you have 'em. The rental shop can show you how to put them on. Poles are nice to have and should be included in the rental cost!

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