Where to snowshoe near Calgary this winter: West Bragg Creek, Banff, and Kananaskis
For good, snowy fun, try snowshoeing this winter! Snowshoeing is an affordable way to experience the snowy season and is suitable for all ages. While it’s tempting to strap on the big shoes and hit your favorite trails, we recommend sticking to official winter trails to stay out of avalanche terrain. We hope you’ll enjoy this collection of snowshoe trails near Calgary. With options in West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis, and Banff National Park, you can try a different trail every weekend!
***Click the trail name headings to read our detailed trip reports.***
Kananaskis Valley Snowshoe Trails
There are several snowshoe trails in Kananaskis Valley. Here are our top picks for snowshoeing with the family.
With minimal elevation gain and lots of bridges, Ribbon Creek snowshoe trail is fun for families. We went over five bridges in the first kilometre! 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. 🙂
Hike or snowshoe to several waterfalls at Troll Falls and Upper Falls. Although you can no longer hike up to Troll Falls, you can hike behind Marmot Falls (on the Upper Falls Trail)! This popular trail tends to get packed down and icy, so traction devices are recommended, but after a big dump of snow, you can snowshoe here. 3.1 km return, minimal elevation gain.
Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and Spray Valley Provincial Park Snowshoe Trails
Hogarth Lakes Loop is a pretty, family-friendly snowshoe trail that is only 3.9 km return with 30 m elevation gain. From Burstall Pass Parking lot, wind your way around three lakes. There’s an avalanche beacon training area along the trail if you’d like to brush up your skills. For more details, read our story: Snowshoeing Hogarth Lakes Loop.
Penstock Loop is an easy, mostly forested snowshoe trail that takes you past a meadow, Kent Creek Flume, Spillway Lake, and across Lower Kananaskis Lake Dam. We like that it’s pretty pretty quiet compared to most of the other trails in the area. For a longer trip, you can combine this loop with Lower Lake Trail. See the Alberta Parks – Kananaskis Snowshoeing Brochure for more information.
Elkwood Loop (Marl Lake)
The short and sweet trail to Marl Lake starts at Elkwood Amphitheatre Parking Lot. Snowshoe across the campground to the interpretive trail. As you travel through forest, fen, and meadows, signs tell you how the landscape is changing. Enjoy great views of Mount Indefatigable from Marl Lake, then follow the snowshoe markers back to your starting point. 3.4 km, 23 m elevation gain. Check out our Elkwood Loop trip report here.
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 our story, Year Round Fun at Chester Lake. 7.2 km return, 287 m elevation gain.
Black Prince Cirque is a fun and pretty trail with lots of snow to play in. Do not pass the lake as there is significant avalanche danger. Note that this trail is shared with backcountry skiers. 4.3 km round trip, 90 m elevation gain.
Rawson Lake Trail starts at Upper Kananaskis Lake. Around the 1 km mark, you will pass Sarrail Falls. At the junction, take the left fork and follow the 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. See the Alberta Parks – Kananaskis Snowshoeing Brochure for more information.
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.* See the Alberta Parks – Kananaskis Snowshoeing Brochure for more information.
Stop at the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park 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! Check the events calendar for interpretive programs. (JANUARY 2021 UPDATE: The PLPP Visitor Centre Information Counter, wifi, and flush toilets are open to the public, with capacity limitations in place. The lounge and Theatre are currently closed.)
Afternoon tea at Mount Engadine Lodge is a fantastic après-snowshoe treat! Available daily from 2 pm – 5 pm. (From January 2021 until further notice: Afternoon Tea is only available to overnight guests)
Pick up hot chocolate or snacks from Fortress Junction Gas Station & Convenience Store.
West Bragg Creek Snowshoe Trails
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: For a nice 2.6 km round-trip snowshoe outing, make the blue bridge your destination and return the way you came.
- Option 2: Make a 2.7 km loop with Snowy Owl, Snowy Shortcut, and West Crystal Line.
Snowshoe Hare Loop
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.
West Bragg Creek Amenities
Stop in at the Powderhorn Saloon (temporarily closed) for lunch, or get a sweet treat at Frontier Candy & Ice Cream! Several more tasty options await in the charming hamlet of Bragg Creek.
Banff Snowshoe Trails
Banff National Park is a winter wonderland with several great snowshoe trails. Where trails are shared with cross country skiers, please stay off the ski tracks.
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. 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. Chariot friendly.
Lake Minnewanka offers several options. Snowshoe to Stewart Canyon (800 metres to the bridge), the river gorge (3.2 km one way), or the first campground (7.6 km). For more information, see Parks Canada | Banff National Park | Stewart Canyon.
Tunnel Mountain is a short and scenic trail that starts at Tunnel Mountain Drive and St Julien Way. 2 km one way, 130 metres elevation gain. For more information, read our story: Hike to the summit of Tunnel Mountain from town. Ice cleats or snowshoes are recommended for this popular trail.
Lake Louise Snowshoe Trails
Snowshoe across Lake Louise or take the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail (4 km return) to 100 metre high Louise Falls. Both routes are Chariot friendly. For more information, see Snowshoe, Ski, Skate, and Walk on World Famous Lake Louise.
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.
Take Lake Agnes Trail to Mirror Lake. This trail is a good climb through the trees that offers occasional glimpses of Lake Louise and a good view of the Beehive from Mirror Lake. Do not go past Mirror Lake as “the trail is rated as Challenging Class 2 for avalanche exposure and travel requires appropriate avalanche training and equipment” (Parks Canada). 6 km return from Chateau Lake Louise, 300 m elevation gain. Follow the signs on the right side of the lake (opposite the boathouse).
Peyto Lake Viewpoint
Peyto Lake Viewpoint is located off the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). A short trail takes you to stunning lookout. (2020 update: construction closure until further notice).
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.
There are tons of dining options in Banff. We really like Farm + Fire and The Bison for lunch, Maple Leaf Grill or Sky Bistro (at the top of the Banff Gondola) for a fancy dinner, and Old Spaghetti Factory for a casual dinner. For inexpensive take out, head to the Food Court at Cascade Mall (they have a Rocky Mountain Flatbread), McDonald’s, or Chaya (Japanese food).
Lake Louise Amenities
Note that several Lake Louise restaurants are temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Please call ahead to see what is open.
The Visitor Centre, located in the Village, has several exhibits and washrooms. (temporarily closed – see Banff National Park COVID-19 for updates)
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).
What to Bring
Extra layers, snacks, and hot drinks are a must! For a detailed list of things to bring, please read our story: Snowshoeing Gear List.
We hope you enjoy these snowshoe trails near Calgary as much as we do! See you out there!
- Winter recreation guide for Calgary, Banff, and Kananaskis: Where to skate, ski (alpine and nordic), and snowshoe
- Children’s Snowshoes Reviews: Atlas Sprout, MSR Tyker, Snowtrek SS14, Yukon Charlie’s Sno-Bash
- 10 Tips for Fun Family Snowshoeing
- Yukon Charlie’s Elite SPIN Snowshoe Review
- 14 Things to Do in Canmore This Winter
- 9 Things to Do in Lake Louise This Winter
- 10 Things to Do in Banff This Winter
- Snowshoeing at Marble Canyon, Kootenay National Park
- Keeping Kids Warm in Winter – what to look for and what we wear
- Why You Need Avalanche Skills Training