The Essential Itinerary: Canmore and Kananaskis, Alberta

Mount Engadine Lodge is the perfect base for a slew of spectacular mountain trails

  • Mar 19, 2024
  • 752 words
  • 4 minutes

It’s a balmy 10 degrees on this winter’s day, the chinook winds turning last week’s powdery trail into a sparkling, crystalline path — not great for snowshoeing, but ideal for strolling in spikes. The snow-topped peaks of the Rockies beckon, encouraging us ever upward. Curious spruce grouse pop out from the shadows and gregarious Canada jays swoop overhead. Tracks beside the trail suggest the proximity of hares, sheep, some sort of cat. These are the glorious Rockies of the Canmore, Kananaskis region, an abundance of snowshoe and ski trails right on the doorstep of Mount Engadine Lodge, a classic six-room mountain getaway (think fireplaces, warm leather chairs and breathtaking views) with a few cabins and luxury yurts nearby. It’s frequented mainly by in-the-know Calgarians, but the rest of Canada deserves to be in on the secret.

Day 1

9 a.m. | Spikes and snowshoes

Get going! Ease into your vacay with the Hogarth Lake Trail, less than 10 minutes down the road. A family-friendly and flattish forest walk around a string of fishing lakes, this four-kilometre loop is also busy with Canada jays looking to cadge a handout of nuts or dried fruit. Once you’ve got your snow legs, head a few more kilometres down the road to the Chester Lake Trail, a gorgeous eight-kilometre out and back that starts in spruce forest and ends at the lake, surrounded by snow-covered peaks. Luckily, the lodge provides a packed lunch to keep you fuelled. 

Spruce grouse, which are common along the trails, are tame among humans and easy to spot.
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There are plenty of Canada jays on busy trails, waiting for hikers or snowshoers to offer seeds.
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4 p.m. | Fireside charcuterie and strudel

Après-snowshoe, sink into an oversized leather chair and put your feet up by the fireside. Dig into a generous charcuterie plate and try a local craft brew as you recover from the first day’s adventures and plan the second. Insider tip: The recipe for the delectable strudel, served every afternoon with the charcuterie, is jotted down on the last page of the Lodge binder in the lobby. 

The charcuterie board at Mount Engadine Lodge is a sight to behold. You don't have to be a guest to enjoy it — hungry day hikers, skiers and snowshoers can stop by daily from 2-4 p.m.
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The pretty tea station at the lodge. Early risers grab their tea or coffee just before dawn so they can watch the sunrise hit the mountains from the lodge's balcony or through the large windows in the dining room.
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Day 2

10 a.m. | Chat and climb

“We always give before we take,” says Heather Black, also known as Buffalo Stone Woman, as she guides us in offering tobacco to the land ahead of a hike to the magical aquamarine waters of Grassi Lake, just minutes from Canmore. Black guides Indige-scape walks along many area trails, sharing knowledge as she goes. It’s a true conversation, a gift communicated by Black with generosity and openness.

Heather Black, who operates Buffalo Stone Woman tours, runs personalized hikes on many area trails, including to Grassi Lake. Along the way, she shares her knowledge of the land, the beauty of her Indigenous culture and stories of resilience.
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Not surprisingly, the trail to the magical aquamarine waters of Grassi Lake is the most popular one in Canmore.
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1 p.m. | Stroll, shop and swig 

Make like the locals (so many Patagonia jacket-clad dog walkers and stroller moms and dads) and spend an hour or two exploring Canmore’s extensive trail system, the two most popular of which are the Bow River Loop and Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk Trail. Then stroll the compact downtown, brimming with galleries, cafés, craft breweries and gift stores — Rocky Mountain Soap Company and Stonewaters separated us from our cash. Head home to Mount Engadine Lodge before dark — up, down and windy, Hwy. 742 is not for the faint of heart.

Rocky Mountain Soap makes more than 350 products, all handmade and naturally sourced.
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Established in 1997, Canmore's Crazyweed restaurant has a global menu rooted in the Rockies.
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Day 3

10 a.m. | A mountain to climb

Just do it. No driving needed today. The Rummel Lake Trail starts right outside the lodge entrance. It’s a spectacular 10-kilometre out and back hike that wends its way slowly upward through mixed conifers, offering up ever more spectacular views. After a few days of warm weather, the ice has melted at one end of the lake and we spend a pleasant half hour photographing the mountain peaks reflected in the open water. The lake is a winter backcountry campground and two sets of intrepid campers have built full igloos in which to spend the night. We laugh, turn around and head home to leather chairs and a warm hearth.

The Rummel Lake Trail features spectacular views and some forest walking. It ends at the lake, where there are a few year-round back-country camping spots.
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A bench halfway up the Rummel Lake Trail is the perfect spot to sit for a while and watch sun and shade play over the snow-capped mountains.
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7 p.m. | Reach for the stars

Splurge on a night sky hike by Canadian Rocky Experience. They bring the hot drinks, headlamps, snowshoes and enthusiasm. You’re just along for the ride (in a luxury SUV). Snowshoeing in the dark is a unique way to experience the Rockies. On a clear night, stop, turn off the headlamp and behold the sparkling universe above.

Where to Stay

Mount Engadine Lodge (where shoes are a no-no and socks and slippers are de rigueur) is an all-inclusive backcountry nature retreat nestled in the mountains of Spray Valley Provincial Park. Here, fine food, fine views and cozy fireplaces compete with the urge to strap on snowshoes or spikes and immerse yourself in the epic scenery of the Kananaskis Range.

Guests at Mount Engadine Lodge can dine in the dining room or reserve an intimate table for two by one of the two fireplaces.
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A hearty breakfast of french toast and bacon sets lodge guests up for a long day on the trails or slopes. The chef changes it up daily, offering three breakfast choices, along with fresh pastries, yogurt and fruit.
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