Mountain towns and regions are prime destinations for enjoying outdoor activities in Canada. Among the world’s most beautiful and scenic landscapes are right at their doorsteps. There’s more than just exciting skiing and snowboarding to be had in the great Canadian outdoors that even non-skiers have plenty to see and do – whether it be up in the Canadian Rockies, the Laurentian Mountains or down along the shores of Vancouver Island.

    Many of these towns are great in any season. Beyond the amazing, wild and natural scenery, you can go on hiking adventures even when the snow subsides. Here are some of the coolest and most well-positioned towns and areas that let you discover or rediscover Canadian nature in any season.


    Whistler, British Columbia

    North America’s skiing haven, with much more to offer

    Whistler is a chalet-style town at the base of one of North America’s biggest ski resorts. It’s hard to find a better area for winter sports in the world, but those who don’t ski or snowboard can enjoy the great Canadian outdoors from Whistler just the same. Furthermore, non-skiers get to enjoy Whistler in more ways than carving pistes and conquering powder.

    In Whistler Village, you can stroll, shop and browse cool galleries. Or you can take a detour from the village’s many different sections that connect to parts of the 46-km-long Valley Trail, eventually leading you through scenic forest and creeks. From Whistler, you have over a dozen mountain trails that lead to stunning views – be it either alpine meadow landscapes, forested mountains or glacial lake vistas.


    Banff, Alberta

    Experience the heights of Alberta’s Rockies

    Staying in Banff, you have the namesake National park’s stunning alpine vistas as well as scenic trails that lead to lakes, forests, and waterfalls at your doorstep. Set at over 4,600 ft up in Alberta’s Rockies, it's among the highest towns in Canada. Alberta’s ski season is often long, usually from November through late May, yet you can enjoy its stunning natural beauty either with or without a pair of skis.

    Within the town, there are beautiful gardens to stroll through. There’s the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, which offers art exhibits and seasonal music festivals. Beyond the resort, enjoy over 1,600 km of hiking trails. This area is a popular spot for kayaking, either along Bow River, the Vermillion Lakes (with the majestic contours of Mount Rundle as a backdrop), or beautiful Lake Louise. The Lake Louise Ski Resort gondola is also available year-round to take you even further up to breathtaking heights.


    Jasper, Alberta

    Winter fun and more beyond the snow

    In Jasper, you can swap your ski boots for a pair of hiking shoes and head out to discover some of Alberta’s stunning wilderness. Jasper is a great destination to reconnect with nature. There’s also plenty of activities non-skiers can enjoy.

    Firstly, there’s the iconic Icefields Parkway – a scenic 3-hour alpine drive between Lake Louise and Jasper, littered with breathtaking outlook posts and access to various trails in between. Alternatively, take the 7-minute ride above the clouds on the Jasper Skytram, Canada’s highest and longest aerial tramway. From Jasper, you can also reach beautiful lakes such as Maligne, Medicine, Pyramid and Patricia Lakes.


    Mont-Tremblant, Quebec

    A village that ‘blooms’ in all seasons

    Mont-Tremblant is a winter wonderland that offers over 600 acres of skiable terrain. Besides skiing, you can also venture through the snow on a guided snowshoe tour – there are even night tours available. Prefer to sit back and cruise through the snow? You can opt for an adventure by dogsled, with a small troop of mighty, fluffy huskies to pull you through miles of forest.

    Families can head to the rink by the Chapelle Saint-Bernard for some ice skating fun, which lights up and provides an even more memorable sight at night. In summer, you can hike up to the 2,871-ft summit for amazing views of the Laurentian mountains. It’s beautiful at any time of day but it’s best at sunrise. You can also go mountain biking and horseback riding while the kids can get their thrills whizzing down the slopes at Skyline Luge Mont Tremblant.


    The Laurentians, Quebec

    Discover snow-topped peaks and scenic mountain forest trails

    The Laurentians is an alpine region and popular winter getaway in southern Quebec. It’s where you can find stunning Canadian natural beauty with snow-topped peaks, forests, and beautiful lakes with crystal clear waters that are swimmable in the summer. Among the beautiful lakes are Louisa, Sauvage, and Lac des Sables.

    Nearly a dozen ski resorts call the Laurentians home. St-Sauveur, Morin Heights, and Val-David are among the many popular villages to choose from to serve as your base. Beyond skiing, the range is delightful year-round. You can conquer the snow by dogsled or enjoy golfing, white-water rafting, canoeing, and fishing in the spring and summer months. Mont-Tremblant National Park is great for hiking virtually any time of the year.


    Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

    A lush valley with flowing vineyards and forests

    The Okanagan Valley is an all-season Canadian destination for outdoor enthusiasts, foodies, and families. There’s thrilling skiing in the winter, particularly around main cities like Kelowna and Vernon. Here, you’ll find the valley region’s top ski resorts such as Crystal Mountain and Big White.

    There’s also splendid water-sports action to enjoy in the summer months, especially on the namesake lake. Okanagan Lake has over 30 beaches – most featuring playgrounds on the shore, along with stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, kayaking, and canoeing in the water. North of the lake, you’ll discover quaint towns and lush vineyards, all of which is surrounded by the region’s rolling, pine-forested hills.


    Collingwood, Ontario

    Your base for exploring Blue Mountain

    Collingwood serves as the gateway to Blue Mountain Resort, Ontario’s popular year-round vacation spot. The ski resort is just 15 minutes’ drive west of the port town. It offers skiing and snowboarding in winter, while non-skiers can enjoy sledging and ice skating. Golfing, mountain biking, and even rock climbing and ziplining are top options for summertime fun.

    Collingwood sits on the southern shore of Georgian Bay. It has a harbour area brimming with other things to see and do. The summer months allow for great sailing and windsurfing, while trails around the lake and town let you hike and bike to notable landmarks such as the Collingwood Museum and St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.


    Kamloops, British Columbia

    Home to numerous ski runs and hiking trails

    Kamloops is a city in British Columbia that proves a ski resort can be just as good for non-skiers. Sun Peaks Resort, less than an hour’s drive northeast of the city, offers numerous ski runs, snowshoe and hiking trails. You can also explore the backcountry in style by snowmobile, cruising across frozen lakes and clear meadows.

    A 15-minute drive east of Kamloops lies the British Columbia Wildlife Park, which is home to grizzlies and arctic wolves. The Secwepemc Museum & Heritage Park is east of town, on the western bank of the South Thompson River. Great for understanding the local culture and history, the complex has 4 separate galleries showcasing the remains of a 2,000-year-old village.


    Fernie, British Columbia

    Gateway to the East Kootenay region

    Fernie is a city in Elk Valley that serves as the ideal base for enjoying powder-skiing up in Fernie Alpine Resort, just south of town. The ski resort has the highest annual snowfall of all the resorts in the Canadian Rockies. Even so, Fernie is also a great go-to for summer getaways.

    Summer brings great hiking options around Fernie. One is Mount Fernie Provincial Park which is just a short drive out of town. It offers lush forested areas with plenty of hiking and biking trails. South of Fernie, there’s the Ancient Cottonwoods trail with its spectacular old-growth trees – some are known to be the biggest and oldest black cottonwoods in the world.


    Tofino, British Columbia

    One of Canada’s best surf spots

    Tofino on Vancouver Island, right off Canada’s west coast, is a must-go for seaside vibes. It offers a different side to the great Canadian outdoors with its remote feel and natural beauty. This peninsular district in Clayoquot Sound is popular as one of Canada’s great surfing destinations. Sandy shores like Long Beach, Chesterman Beach, and Cox Bay draw in wave riders to the rolling surf throughout summer.

    When the crowds subside, Tofino offers blissful scenery you can enjoy almost to yourself. Whale watching is also a great highlight around the coasts of Tofino. You can sometimes catch a grey whale breaching the surface in the winter months. You can spot other interesting wildlife on a guided trip to Hot Springs Cove, docking at Maquinna Provincial Park.

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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