Sandstone Ranch in Winter (Photo by River Run Photography)

Sandstone Ranch in Winter (Photo by River Run Photography)

5 ways to enjoy winter in Alberta

Bunchberry Meadows, AB (Photo by Brent Calver)

Bunchberry Meadows, AB (Photo by Brent Calver)

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) encourages everyone to get outside and experience nature. With only a handful of summer months in Alberta, it may seem like there isn't enough time for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy natural areas.

A common misbelief is that summer is the most suitable season for hiking and getting outdoors. I once held this belief and thought that winter was the worst time of the year for outdoor activities. However, it didn't take long for me to recognize that Alberta has some of the most stunning winter views and activities to offer.

Here are five enjoyable activities to help you and your family connect with nature during the wintertime:

  1. Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is a great option for individuals seeking out an adventure and for families looking for a Sunday afternoon getaway. West of Calgary, the Canmore Nordic Centre offers 65 kilometres of groomed and trackset trails. The centre offers also guided tours and equipment rentals for new and experienced skiers.

Other natural areas that offer cross-country skiing are Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, West Bragg Creek and the Mount Shark trail system.

  1.  Hiking

Alberta offers some of the most stunning winter hikes, with varying levels of difficulty. For beginners, the Johnstons Canyon trail features a 5.1-kilometre hike filled with frozen creeks and waterfalls. Similarly, the Badlands interpretive trail in Drumheller offers an easy 1-kilometre hike packed with snow-covered coulees and hoodoos.

Intermediate and expert hikers can opt for the Spray River trail in Banff. This 11.4-kilomtre trails passes through forested areas and includes frozen waterfalls and stunning views of Mt. Rundle.

Additional options include NCC's Nature Destinations, which cover some of the greatest examples of Canada's natural areas. Visitors are welcome to go on hikes during the winter, however, camping is not allowed.

  1. Snowshoeing

When the snow is too deep for walking, bring out your snowshoes for a magical experience in Alberta's Rockies. The activity is both affordable and great for cardiovascular health.

If you are interested in snowshoeing, the Rawson lake trail in upper Kananaskis starts with 15 minutes of flat surface for an effortless snowshoeing experience. Likewise, the Elk Island National Park contains 10snowshoeing trails, covering 80 kilometres of natural areas. Along the way, you will discover mixed forests, meadows and frozen lakes.

  1. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

Located near Canmore, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is home to neglected and abandoned wolfdogs. The sanctuary works hard to raise awareness and educate people on conservation and responsible wolfdog ownership.

During the wintertime, the sanctuary hosts interactive tours where you can see the dogs up close and maybe even get the chance to feed them! This is a great way to connect with nature and support a local conservation initiative.

  1. Stargazing

Given the shorter daylight hours, winters are a great time to go stargazing in Alberta's Dark Sky Preserves. These are protected areas where artificial lights are restricted to minimize light pollution and enhance celestial light. Some of the best parks to go stargazing are Jasper National Park, Cypress Hills and Wood Buffalo National Park. Remember to check the weather before you go and turn off any lights that you're not using.

Regardless of what time of the year it is, there is always a way to connect with nature.


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