Snowshoeing in Calgary and the Kananaskis Rockies: Maps, trails and what you need to know
Snowshoeing is as easy as walking, but much more fun if you get off trail in the powder and explore. You can join me for a organized snowshoe in the Rockies or take to the trails on your own. Snowshoeing is much more fun when the snow is deep, and you could not walk there with boots alone. It is rare to have that much snow in Calgary, but on occasion we get a big snowfall in March and this would be a great time to head out in the city. If venturing out on your own in the Rocky Mountains, you need to be a good understanding of avalanche terrain and current snowpack conditions. Go to Avalanche Canada
- Know what mountain structure is above you at all times. You will need a topographical map (Gemtrek maps for the Alberta Rockies) to show the terrain as you might not see it through the trees.
- Snowshoeing at the base of an avalanche slope is dangerous. Slopes can let go above you due to a cornice breaking off or if people are on the slope above. You might find yourself in this situation while snowshoeing around a mountain lake that is surrounded by slopes.
- Do not snowshoe alone. While snowshoeing is a low impact sport and people do not tend to get injured from speed, when going off trail in the powder, it is easy for a leg to sink under a log or tree, and/or get a snowshoe stuck on a branch. Sometimes you cannot maneuver to get yourself out and need help.
- Snowshoeing in the powder is the fun part, but you need to pay attention to your location at all times. Map reading, route finding and navigational skills are required for off trail exploration to avoid getting lost. Expect to have to pay attention to your location and do not depend on the designated trails below being obvious. When people use the area, they create new trails, and all of them start to look official.
There are many wonderful, designated snowshoe routes in the Kananaskis, and when Calgary has snow, you can explore in the city as well. Here is an overview:
Join us on the trails!
Calgary and area
- Confederation Golf Course: In 2016 snow will be made on this golf course and tracks will be set.
- Shaganappi Golf Course
- Sandy Cross Conservation Area (22 x and 130 St)
- Any park that is covered in snow
For a full list of options check the City of Calgary website: ski and snowshoe
West Bragg Creek
The West Bragg Creek recreation area is multi-use. Cross Country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking (fat biking in the winter) and dog friendly activities area all supported in this incredibly popular (busy) area. You will see a map of the designated snowshoe trails here. This area is very close to Calgary, but the snow cover is minimal most of the year. While find for track-set cross-country skiing, it is not necessary to have snowshoes most of the winter. With the chinooks that role in, the snow becomes very packed and boots with traction devices suffice unless the hiker plans on going off trail into the woods and the clear-cuts. So, snowshoeing is best in this area after a fresh snowfall.
The Spray Lakes Provincial Park and Peter Lougheed Provincial Park have the best snowshoeing within an hour-1.5 hours drive of Calgary. These areas are in a snow belt and the snow last until June. Even when there is not snows in Calgary and very little snow along Hwy. 40, there will be over a meter of snow in the Spray Lakes area. Designated snowshoe routes have been created, with signage to ensure that you do not enter avalanche terrain. This is the biggest issue once into the mountains. You need to know what avalanche terrain looks like so that you do not accidentally enter into it, or even walk at the base of an avalanche slope.This area is popular but much less busy that West Bragg. It is also more remote. When travelling on the trails in this area you should have the snowshoe trails maps AND the trail and topographical map in hand and know how to use it. It is easy to get disoriented with all of the unofficial trails that scatter the area. And if you do not know what an avalanche slope is, then DO NOT enter this area. You need to learn about avalanche terrain before stepping out.
Here is a great website with a review of 5 wonderful snowshoe trips in the Kananaskis.