Discover the Top 5 Winter Trails and Waterfalls in the Scenic Bow Valley

Written by
Staff Writer
December 12, 2023
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Gear up for an epic winter odyssey in and around Canmore and Banff as we guide you to some of the most epic and spellbinding trails in the area. From the frozen wonders of Grotto Canyon to the stunning Johnston Canyon Upper Falls, the family-friendly vibes at Upper Stoney Lookout, and the challenging ascent to Rawson Lake, each trail promises a unique adventure.

Grotto Canyon Ice Walk

Located just a short drive from Downtown Canmore, Grotto Canyon offers an immersive experience. Traverse the frozen creek bed within the narrow canyon, leading to a captivating ice waterfall. Along the way, encounter unique rock formations. A hidden gem is the ancient Native pictographs & keep an eye out for ice climbers scaling frozen waterfalls.

Easy | 4.4km (2.7mi) | 1h 10min to complete | 115m (377ft) | Out & Back

Photo Credit: Globe Guide

Johnston Canyon Upper Falls

Situated approximately 30 minutes from Downtown Banff, this hiking trail guides you through snowy, wooded areas, icy canyon walls, and past frozen waterfalls and serene pools. The trails and boardwalks are blanketed in snow and ice, adding an element of challenge due to potential slipperiness. The use of catwalks built into the canyon's sides makes the hike truly unique. The Upper Falls Trail at Johnston Canyon spans about 2.5 km each way, leading you uphill through the snow-covered forest, eventually emerging from the lower canyon to the falls.

Moderate | 5km (3.1mi) | 1h 53min to complete | 270m (885ft) | Out & Back

Photo Credit: Discover Banff Tours

Upper Stoney Lookout

Situated at Mt. Norquay, this family-friendly hike is conveniently located just outside of the Town of Banff. The Stoney Lookout hike, also known as the Upper Stoney trail, commences at the far end of the Mount Norquay ski area parking lot. The trail is well-marked with a large sign. After about 2.0 km, you'll reach a clearing with stunning views of the Town of Banff below. This vantage point provides excellent perspectives of Sulphur Mountain, Mt. Norquay, the Sundance Range, and the Vermilion Lakes.  From the summit, you can either return the way you came or continue for a looped hike.

Moderate | 4.3km (2.7mi) | 1h 36min to complete | 238m (780ft) | Loop

Photo Credit: Dan & Celine Brewer | Travel Banff Canada

Rawson Lake

The Rawson Lake trailhead is located at the Upper Kananaskis Lake parking area, starting from the Upper Kananaskis loop route. After about a kilometer, the trail branches off towards Rawson Lake. Some hikers use snowshoes, but the well-packed trail allows hikers to use trail crampons as well. If there's recent snowfall, waiting a day or two is advisable. Lakes are always popular hiking destinations, providing a satisfying endpoint. Regardless of the season, the Rawson Lake hike promises a rewarding experience at the trail's end.

Hard | 6.8km (4.2mi) | 2h 40min to complete | 423m (1387ft) | Out & Back

Marble Canyon

During winter, Marble Canyon transforms into a picturesque landscape of snow-covered rock formations, while the turquoise water below remains unfrozen. The trail, featuring bridges and viewpoints, takes around 30 minutes to complete, providing an excellent pitstop from driving. For a full day outing, consider pairing Marble Canyon with a nearby hike like Johnston Canyon—an easy trail that may be slippery but can be kid-friendly. Note the absence of barriers near rocks and viewpoints, so exercise caution with children near the edges.

Easy | 1.4km (0.6mi) | 30min to complete | 42m (137ft) | Out & Back

For optimal access to these hikes, and cozy accommodations at the end of your adventurous days, explore our diverse range of properties in Canmore, Banff's charming cousin just outside Banff National Park. If you crave proximity to all the action, consider Basecamp Suites Banff. Enjoy easy access to and from Banff Town Centre, only a short drive away from many of these trails. If you're seeking a more rustic experience to fully embrace the mountain lifestyle, explore Baker Creek by Basecamp.

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