The Bears of Canmore and the Bow Valley

The Bears of Canmore and the Bow Valley

Where to See Bears

Bears are a common sight in the Bow Valley, both black bears and grizzly bears. They are often seen within the town of Canmore and places near to town.  Bears are a huge draw to our surrounding national and provincial parks.  I often get asked where is a good place to see bears.  One of the best and safest places to see bears, for you and the bears, is on the summer gondola at the Lake Louise ski area.  The winter ski runs transform into summer flower and grass filled meadows that bears feast on.  They are often spotted and photographed from the lift.  During the summer bear-viewing season, the resort posts a calendar that documents all the sightings. 

My second tip for bear viewing is to take a drive down highway 40 south from the Trans Canada Highway (20 minutes from Canmore) to Peter Lougheed provincial park.  When the dandelions first emerge in spring is when you are most likely to see a bear along this drive.  If you don’t see a bear, do not despair as the scenery is spectacular and there is a very good chance you may also see big horn sheep, elk and deer.  If you are really up for an adventure, rather than double back up the highway, return via the Smith-Dorrien (also called Spray Rd. and hilariously, Highway 742) to Canmore.  This is a rough, gravel, pot-holed road that can be dusty in summer but it has awesome wildlife viewing potential and even more splendid scenery.  You can add moose to the prior list of wildlife you might see.

What If You See a Bear on Your Drive?

Seeing a bear in the wild is truly a thrilling experience but please, please, please for the sake of your safety and the bear’s, never ever get out of your car for a better view or to snap a photo.  Parks’ Canada has some excellent tips here for roadside bear viewing.   Please do not cause a bear jam to form.  Chances are, unless it is very early in the morning, you will cause or be part of a bear jam if you stop on Highway 40 due to the volume of traffic.  However, if you journey up the Smith-Dorrien Rd., which has a fraction of the traffic, chances are you can pull over and enjoy a wonderful and safe bear encounter.  Last year, on June 21st, we did the Highway 40/Smith-Dorrien circuit with family members visiting from Ontario.  Two young grizzly bears were spotted near the side of the Smith-Dorrien Rd.  We pulled over and watched this pair voraciously feeding on dandelions and grass for about 20 minutes.   They did not pause for a second but chowed down non-stop.  Two cars passed but didn’t stop. We had this incredible wildlife viewing opportunity all to ourselves.  What a treat! 

What If You See A Bear on Your Hike?

A very common question I get is, have you ever seen a bear?  Oh yes!  Frequently.  While soaking in my hot tub in the back yard.  In the little parkette across the road from our house.  While out hiking a number of times.  Crossing the road right in front of me near the Canmore Nordic Centre.  Sauntering through West Canmore Park.  While paddling on Upper Kananaskis Lake.  While camping at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  While driving the Bow Valley Parkway through  Banff National Park.  While driving the Icefields Parkway.  On the course, while golfing at Stewart Creek. A grizzly sow and her three cubs from several hundred metres away, while stopped at the Highwood Pass day-use area (highway 40).  It was such a treat to watch the cubs cavorting through binoculars!

Because bears are common in and around Canmore, it is very important to know how to deal with a bear encounter.  Bow Valley Wildsmart has excellent information on living smart with wildlife that covers all animals including bears here.  More specific information on what to do in the case of a bear encounter is here.  A recent survey was done that revealed very few people were recreating with bear spray, despite all the education being done to encourage people to always carry bear spray.  I have encountered people who didn’t have bear spray on them because they were only visiting for a day or two and didn’t want to purchase it or were not aware of its importance.  An option is to rent bear spray.  In Canmore, it can be rented from Rent-A-Tent or from Trailsport, located in Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.  Other people thought they would not encounter bears on popular trails in town or on the trail to Grassi Lakes or the Ha Ling peak trail…. WRONG!   For details on carrying and using bear spray, check out this Wildsmart page.

The bears of the Bow Valley are treasured by residents and visitors alike. They are a magnificent symbol of wildness. But their continued existence in the Bow Valley is threatened by our presence.  Please join us in doing everything we can to minimize our impact on their lives by being…. WildSmart.  Thank you!   

What to wear & bring (Spring, Summer, Fall):

  1. Wear comfy casual clothes.
  2. Bring a warm extra layer & rain jacket, just in case.
  3. Running shoes are fine while light trail or hiking shoes provide even more support and are ideal.
  4. Please no flip-flops or sandals.
  5. Leave purses at home. A small backpack is a great bring-along.
  6. Don't forget your water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, insect repellent and your camera.

What to wear & bring (Winter):

  1. Wear a long sleeve t-shirt/thermal underwear top plus 1 or 2 layers (i.e.: light fleece top, heavier fleece top) & a wind/waterproof shell. Heavy winter parkas and snow pants are usually too warm.
  2. Wear winter boots or lined hiking boots. Icers, which go over your footwear to prevent slipping, are provided when necessary.
  3. Leave purses at home. A small backpack is a great bring-along.
  4. Bring water, gloves/mitts, a hat/headband, scarf/buff/neck warmer, tissues/handkerchief, sunglasses and don't forget your camera!

Reserve OnLine:

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Liability Waiver:

Liability waivers are a necessary part of any commercial activity experience. I recommend that you take the time now to review this legal document that you will be required to sign before we start our clinic or walk together:

View the Waiver

Your Health & Physical Activity Readiness:

We ask guests who are experiencing cold symptoms and symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home and practice self-isolation under the direction of the appropriate governing body. For almost everyone, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh any risks. For some individuals, special advice from a Qualified Exercise or health care provider is advisable before becoming more active. This questionnaire is intended for all ages – to help move you along the path to becoming more physically active.

Please review this Questionnaire if you have concerns about your health or fitness level for participating in Nordic walking.

Cancellation Policy:

Full refunds are given if a cancellation is received 24 hours or more prior to the clinic or tour date. No refunds are given with less than 24 hours notice. Clinics/tours go rain or shine. If the weather is extreme, then it may be cancelled with a full refund given.

Malcolm Hotel

Canmore Public Parking


Parking is available on-street or in public lots throughout Canmore. It is a good idea to arrive early on busy days to locate suitable parking.

Malcolm Hotel - Onsite


Restrooms are available at the Malcolm hotel in the lobby.

Canmore Public Restrooms


Public restrooms are available within a short walk:

Canmore Public Restrooms - Trailheads


Public pit toilets are available at all trailheads.

Canmore Various

Where to meet:

Starting locations will vary seasonally with instructions included in your booking confirmation.


Parking options will vary by location with details included in your booking confirmation.

Tour Canmore

Various Canmore Trailheads

Canmore Walking Tour 1.5 Hour

Canmore Walking Tour 3 Sisters

Hikes Cognito Form

Winter Hikes Cognito Form

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