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Canmore Runner's Guide to Canmore Running

Canmore Runner is a forty-something middle of the pack trail runner who is lucky enough to run on the stunning and varied trails of Canmore, the Bow Valley and beyond. This blog is dedicated to showcasing those trails and, over time, to becoming a resource for trail runners living in, or visiting, Canmore and the surrounding area.

 

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Canmore Runner hoofing it round Lake Agnes, near Lake Louise. Photo: Fitzy

As trail running destinations go, Canmore is exceptional. The number, variety and accessibility of the trails is incredible, all set against the most stunning backdrops. The trails present a broad range of possibilities and challenges depending on what you’re after.

There is, for example, the epic, undulating High Line Trail, a short drive from town and accessible from Quarry Lake, with its magnificent views of Ha Ling and the East End of Rundle and across the valley to Lady Mac. There are various points at which you can join it but whichever you choose, be prepared for two or so lung-busting kilometers of climbing to get up there and a thrilling, brakes-off descent back down.

If you’re after something more gentle or serene, there are the trails along the banks of the beautiful Bow River, across the Old Railway Bridge, along Policeman’s Creek and the possibility of a fun, root strewn detour along the Larch Island hiking trail.

Across the valley, the Montane Traverse and Horseshoe Loop are popular with local trail runners and accessible from Cougar Creek. They offer a mix of climbs and undulating single track and fabulous views across to Ha Ling and Mount Rundle.

Outside of the ski season, for short, steep climbs among other challenges there’s the seemingly endless maze of trails that crisscross Canmore Nordic Centre provincial park. These provide the testing ground for such races as the Grizzly Ultra, Rundle’s Revenge and the Five Peaks and First 49 trail race series.

If you really want a challenge, there are the grinding ascents (and roaring descents) of the towering giants of Yamnuska, Ha Ling, East End of Rundle, Lady Mac and Grotto, all with summits well in excess of 2000m. For the masochistic, the last four of can be combined into the grueling (yet, strangely popular) 56km Canmore Quad.

Further afield, there’s the gentle 14km run to Banff from the Nordic Centre along the Banff and Rundle Riverside trails with the possibility of returning via Goat Creek, thereby circumnavigating Mount Rundle and putting some 40km or so in the bank – perfect for that weekly long run.

Or you could pick a section of the fast, rolling, 70km-long High Rockies Trail (here, here, here and here) that begins at Goat Creek and takes you deeper into beautiful Kananaskis Country, home also to the spectacular (one might even say, not-to-be-missed) Tent Ridge and Prairie View runs.

Talking of Banff, as Canada’s first national park, it is predictably the gateway to some spectacular trail runs, including Sulphur Mountain from the Cave and Basin, the shores of Lake Minnewanka and the more challenging (but oh so worth it) Mount Bourgeau and Cory-Edith Loop runs – both renowned for their daunting climbs at the beginning but which reward handsomely with breathtaking views of the Rockies and long, speedy, technical descents. And if you find yourself further west at Lake Louise, the run to the Plain of Six Glaciers (with the optional return via Lake Agnes) is a must.

For more information on these and other runs, click on the links above or check out canmorerunner.com

But don’t just take Canmore Runner’s word for it. There are other excellent resources that are well worth a look. There’s this handy piece by Jen Lowery and Edward Marran, as well as the Bow Valley edition of Bob Walker’s Mountain Running in the Canadian RockiesWalker’s book contains a wealth of routes in and around Canmore, ranging from easy routes requiring minimal or no navigation to expert “committing routes” with “serious objective dangers”! And there’s also expert advice on hand from the friendly, knowledgeable staff in Strides Canmore, or from the always welcoming Canmore Trail Culture.

Disclaimer! Trail running can be a dangerous sport. Conditions in the mountains and on the trails can change rapidly and may be different than described on canmorerunner.com. While every effort has been made to present thorough information, its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Maps are provided for reference only and should not be used to substitute for more detailed topographic maps. Always be self-sufficient and prepared to deal with changing conditions and emergencies, as well as the possibility of a wildlife encounter. The Bow Valley is bear country and it’s advised to always carry bear spray (and know how to use it), make lots of noise and respect wildlife closures.

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