Walk This Way: Your Guide to Nearby Activities This Summer | New
Fake statues in Florence. A rope around Stonehenge. Virtual reality tours of the Seven Wonders of the World and timed admission tickets to some of America’s most popular parks (such as Glacier National Park).
No one is claiming this is a snapshot future of Alberta parks, but Canmore and Kananaskis Country (combined) have seen a whopping 30% spike in visitors since COVID began. In fact, this area saw about one million more visits than Banff National Park in 2020.
Unable to travel overseas, Canadians (mostly Albertans) pulled on their hiking boots, dusted off their tents, and hiked with Mother Nature like never before.
According to Leia Cathro, BA’20, Marketing Manager with Canmore Kananaskis Tourism (TCK). By comparison, Banff National Park welcomed 3.6 million visitors, down from its pre-pandemic peak of 3.9 million.
Canmore Kananskis Tourism
After 27 months of recurring freedoms, the healing powers of time spent outdoors are now well documented. With the hike high on TCK visitors’ must-do lists, it’s no surprise that the impact of overcrowding on the province’s most popular hikes, Grassi Lake and Ha Ling Lake (both located on the outskirts of Canmore), has become a critical issue.
This is precisely why these areas (along with the Goat Creek area, Junkyard Trail, Miner’s Peak, East End of Rundle and some nearby mountain bike trails) are closed this summer as Alberta Parks invests $4 million dollars in the expansion of car parks, the installation of bus stops. and maintain trails.
Alternative hikes are Grotto Canyon and Heart Creek (for beginners); Wasootch Ridge, Galatea Lakes, South Baldy Pass, Chester Lake and Prairie View (for intermediate hikers); followed by Yamnuska, Wind Ridge, Pigeon, Tent Ridge and Mt. Allen for advanced hikers, suggests Cathro’s partner with TCK, Bruce Marpole.
What’s new and what’s back
While there aren’t any new trails open this summer, there are new experiences, adds Cathro. Take Bark Canada (guided hikes for dogs and their handlers in K-Country) or a personalized high-end sunrise or dusk tour with the new outfitter Experiences in the Canadian Rockies.
Festival-goers will be happy to know that the small town of Canmore, always pleasant Canada Day Parade is back, just like Alberta’s oldest folk festival (in Canmore, from July 30 to August 1) who hope to meet face-to-face this summer. For those looking for something off the beaten path, delve into the belly of the earth with a cave tour in the rat nestor learn to howl Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuaryled by the former Georgina De Caigny, BSc (Eng)’11.
Avid cyclists will be delighted that a 17 km stretch of the well-laid Banff Road Bow Valley Walk will be closed to vehicles from September 1 to 30. It is open to cars at the moment.
Tourism in Banff and Lake Louise
As for the city of Banff, visitors continue to enjoy recent upgrades on Bear Street, which added patio space and hosted the Three Bears Brewery and Restaurant and the new Jolene’s Tea House (the only hand-blended organic tea in the Canadian Rockies). Just steps from Bear Street is the new Shoku Izakaya, Banff’s first Japanese pub, opened by longtime Banffite chef Stéphane Prévost. Calgary’s Una pizza lovers will find the same thin-crust cheese wonders at Banff’s first Una restaurant. Hello Sunshine is also relatively new, a sushi/karaoke joint at the end of Bear Street. Local intelligence suggests heading to the secret little four-seater bar that serves an ultra-exclusive omakase table.
Like Canmore and Kananaskis, Banff National Park traffic and parking concerns continue to be a key management issue. Returning this year is the ability to book a shuttle to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, but it departs from a different location – Lake Louise Ski Resort. Banff’s public transit and shuttle options serve most major park attractions (including Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon, and Lake Minnewanka). And, again, the Roam bus service will connect you between Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise.
Not to be outdone, Canmore’s food scene has new kids on (or just off) Main Street: Sauvage, Mumbai Local and Das Schnitzel Haus. Though not all that new, the happy hour outside of the Hotel Malcolm’s patio — which doubles as a sun trap — is still hard to beat.
Yes, that’s my shameless take on the upper outdoor terrace, according to a relatively new Canmore resident – me. And her colleague Audrey Taylor, BA’12, MBA’18, adds that Bar Déjà vu — Canmore’s spin on a speakeasy — is his new favorite Rocky Mountain gem. “I love eclecticism decor. . . from rotary phones to perfume bottles and Furbies. . . to the best cocktails like the Golden Snitch,” she says.
Now that people are on the move again, Calgarians could find themselves besieged by visitors this summer. While many tourists will still want to head west into the Rockies, there are plenty of new attractions in Calgary to keep them entertained for a few days and we mean more than First Street Market and the brand new District at Beltline, with its funky food hall, outdoor fireplaces and countless micro-breweries. Depending on when, you can still get tickets to Calgary Folk Fest (July 21-24) and GlobalFest (August 18-22).
Those who want to avoid the crowds can choose lesser-known festivals in check this calendar at Calgary Tourism, suggests Alysia Kwong, Haskayne grad, BComm’20, Influencer Relations Coordinator for Tourism Calgary. After studying marketing at UCalgary, Kwong started working at Tourism Calgary several months ago and suggests a variety of newly created passes could save you money and turn sightseeing into a game.
For general interests, a Check out the Calgary Pass offers – loaded with discounts on attractions, experiences and restaurants – may be just the ticket. Discounts on Food Tours, Gelato Joints, Beebop Donuts, Dinner Theater, our nearby Wolfdog Sanctuary, and the Leighton Art Center are all neatly curated on this free pass. For those who want to experience some of Calgary’s more than 40 craft beverage makers – from cider houses and wineries to breweries and distilleries – check out the new Beer and cheer pass which has all sorts of challenges and prizes built into a mobile passport.
No matter what’s on your summer bucket list for 2022, travelers will need to get creative if they want to skip the lines for . . . Well, anywhere, whether it’s a patio in the Beltline or a campsite in the backcountry. We hope you find this summer cheat sheet on local gems useful.