Monday, October 21, 2013

Summer's Over - Now What? 10 Ways to Enjoy the Late Autumn Season

Summer's Over but the mountain parks are still open!  There are so many fun things that can still be done in the mountains near Calgary, and early snow opens up doors for a whole new season of activities from skiing to snowshoeing.  Below are 10 suggestions for your family to make the most of this late autumn season here in Kananaskis and Banff. 


Go on a Halloween Costume Hike

We started this last year and it's now an annual tradition.  To read about some of our adventures last year, follow this link to Our Halloween Winter Wonderland.  (We had lots of early snow last fall so we got to go tobogganing and do a hike with sleds which was super fun.)

Hiking in Heart Creek last October


Ski Frozen Thunder at the Canmore Nordic Centre

The Canmore Nordic Centre offers x-country skiing from Mid-October each year on a special track known as Frozen Thunder.  Snow is stored on site from the previous season in  order to get this course up and running each fall.  Frozen Thunder opened for the season on Oct. 19th this year and special day passes are available to ski it before the rest of the trails open up.  It is open for public use after 12:00 noon on week days and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Go Hiking in the Front Ranges of Kananaskis and Banff

The front ranges would refer to Bow Valley Provincial Park along the TransCanada Hwy, hikes along Hwy 40 around Barrier Lake and Kananaskis Village, and the foothills of Bragg Creek, Sibbald Creek or even down near the Sheep River area near Sandy Mcnabb day use area.  Hikes around the townsite of Banff are also popular for late season hiking.

For  hiking ideas, follow the links in the previous paragraph.  Also, you can visit my story:  Life After Summer in the Mountains - part two.  In this story, I've listed most of our favourite fall hikes in a huge list! Note that this story was written pre-flood though so the Alberta Parks website should be consulted for up to date trail reports before setting off on any hike listed in the story. 

Waterfalls in the Sheep River Area, Kananaskis


Climb a Mountain 

Many people don't realize this but the Banff Gondola is open year round.  You can either ride the gondola both ways to tag the easiest summit ever; The summit of Sulphur Mt. is a very short 2km return walk from the upper gondola terminal on a boardwalk with stairs, or you can hike up to the top, gaining 700m of height spread over 6km, and ride down for a reduced fee.  Alternatively, we love hiking up Tunnel Mountain in Banff each fall.  It's a great shoulder season hike and can be hiked all winter with the aid of ice cleats.  To read up on latest trail conditions, visit the Parks Canada Trail Report.

To read some past stories on autumn fun in Banff, follow these links to Life After Summer in the Mountains, November in Banff, and a Stress Free Day in the Mountains.

Tunnel Mountain

Go on a Family Bike Ride Before the Snow Flies

Top suggestions here would be the Banff-Canmore Legacy Trail or the River Trails in Canmore.  Both will be snow free well through November most years though it is recommended to check with the Tourism Canmore prior to heading out.  Afternoons will also be better on days when the trails have frozen overnight.  For information on both, visit the Tourism Canmore website or The Town of Canmore website for trail maps.

Scenery along the Bow River, Canmore
Biking the River Trails in Canmore

Celebrate the Longest Non-Glacial Ski Season at Sunshine Village With November Skiing

The hill is scheduled to open November 8th weather permitting and Sunshine Village always has some of the best early season snow in the Rockies.  Want to stay overnight at Sunshine Village in their on-hill hotel?  Visit their Sunshine Mountain Lodge website for early booking stay and ski specials.

Sunshine Village Ski Resort, Banff

Go Skating in Banff

November ushers in a magical time of year in Banff known locally as Skating Season.  It doesn't happen every year, but we're two for two now in being able to skate on lakes in Banff over the last couple of years.  Skating Season refers to the brief window when some of the local lakes have frozen over but are still snow free.  The most popular lake near Banff with families is Johnson Lake on the Minnewanka Loop Road.  There's no set date to plan for unfortunately but mid-November is a safe bet.  More information can be found on my past stories:  How to Love Winter in the Rockies - on Skates, Enjoying Shoulder Season in the Rockies - Think Outside the Box, and November in Banff.

Skating at Johnson Lake, Banff

Skating on Cascade Ponds, Banff

 Get the Kids on the Slopes at Canada Olympic Park

Opening day is November 15th this year so downhill ski enthusiasts can get out there again in less than a month!! visit the Canada Olympic Park website for more information.

Canada Olympic Park, Calgary's local ski hill (photo:  Winsport Canada )

Ski the Moraine Lake Road, Lake Louise

By mid to late November, the Moraine Lake Road is typically groomed and track set for early season cross country skiing.  We're usually itching to get out by that time and this is always one of the first places to x-country ski near Calgary.  To read the story I wrote a couple of years ago now, follow this link to Cross country skiing with toddlers - November at Lake Louise.   To find out the current trail conditions, check the Parks Canada Trail Report.  It will  be updated for skiing by mid November.

Skiing the Moraine Lake Road, November at Lake Louise

Go Snowshoeing at Highwood Pass

There is a brief window where snowshoers and winter hikers can access the trails at Highwood Pass, Kananaskis, before the highway closes for the winter.  We always make our annual trip to Elbow Lake at the end of November each year before the road closure date December 1st.  To read last year's trip report and story, go to Family Snowshoeing Adventures - Elbow Lake.  

November Snowshoeing at Elbow Lake
Family Snowshoeing at Highwood Pass

Too many wintery ideas and not ready for snow yet?  Fortunately some of my outdoor blogging friends have other ideas for you that do not involve snow.  Check out the links below for more inspiration to get outside this fall.  Have your own story you'd like to share?  You can add your own link to the list below.


  1. These are such awesome and inspired ideas, Tanya!

    1. Thanks Kate. We love our snow here. Can't wait to put my snowshoes and skis on. And skating - wee, so excited for that!