Living Local: A summertime guide to Canmore, Alberta

Downtown Canmore; Photo James
Downtown Canmore, Alberta. Photo: Gaby James
Ten years ago, Rose Johansen was a traveling climber who stopped into Canmore, Alberta, for her first time after climbing a nearby mountain. A decade later, she is (finally) considered a local climber after deciding to settle down in the Bow Valley town that welcomes mountain lovers with easy access to the spectacular Canadian Rockies.

During Johansen’s first visit, she didn’t have a clue where the best place to have a coffee or beer was, let alone the best places to play outside. Now, she’s got the inside scoop and shares it with you.

When everything thaws

Once the long summer days begin to set in, it’s game on in Alberta. The sleepy winter town emerges with street patios opening at the cafés downtown, pick-up games of ultimate Frisbee and slacklines being set up throughout the parks, and someone always strumming away on their guitar. Summer days offer close to 20 hours of daylight, beckoning living creatures of all kinds to get out and stretch after the cold season. (“It was the wild bunnies that actually captured me,” Johansen jokes about her reason for making the town her home.)

If you like to get high

Looking over Canmore atop Ha'Ling  ; Photo James
Looking over Canmore atop Ha’Ling. Photo: Gaby James
Alberta’s got altitude. “I love looking out my window and being able to choose a new direction each day,” says Johansen. “I can walk to a number of peaks from right out my doorway.” Canmore is the gateway into the Canadian Rockies, which stretch well into British Columbia, leaving you with endless mountains, valleys, and remarkable glacier lakes to explore. Some of these mountains include “The Four Points” Ha’Ling, EEOR, Lady Macdonald and Grotto. All of which offer hundreds of climbs, great day hikes, and backcountry skiing in winter. BASE jumping and paragliding have also become popular in the area both of which are legal to do.

Taking the long way

The Legacy Trail; Photo James
The Legacy Trail. Photo: Erik McRitchie
If you like to mountain bike, The Legacy Trail runs from Canmore to Banff (home of Lake Louise Ski Area in Banff National Park), offering breathtaking views of the mountains. Canmore boasts more than 45 miles of trails within the town boundaries.

“One of the first times I walked downtown, I saw this bike work station set up for community bikers, equipped with air and tools — everything to adjust or fix your bike, right there, set up for free,” says Johansen. “I remember thinking, ‘Well, what do ya know, it’s biker heaven.’” The extensive network means there’s a trail leading to practically anywhere you need to go, which makes driving minimal if you so choose.

Witness the Northern Lights

“I hadn’t seen the Northern Lights until I came to Canmore,” says Johansen, and she’s not alone. Canmore, being located quite north, gets beautiful, frequent arrays of the Aurora Borealis, and with little light pollution, you don’t have to travel far to see it. “My favorite place to watch them is the local dog park; it’s a huge open field above the city surrounded by mountains. The lights dance above them, and it’s one of those moments where nothing seems real,” she remarks. There are a number of Facebook pages such as Aurora Borealis Notifications  as well as Aurora Forecast the app  both of which notify you and give you up to date chart readings on lights happening all over the world.

Indulge in some patio beers

The Georgetown Miners Pub; Photo James
The Georgetown Miners Pub. Photo: Gaby James
One of the best things about summer has to be the end-of-the-day patio beer. “My favorite place to end my day has to be the Georgetown, an old climbing pub full of climbing memorabilia all over the walls and stories,” says Johansen. “It’s the only pub/restaurant in the city without any televisions. Oh, and their shepherd’s pie is a must-try.”

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