Carrot Creek: Banff’s Secret Skating Spot

Outdoor Ice Skating at Carrot Creek in Banff National Park

Carrot Creek is one of the prettiest skating spots in all of Banff National Park

I’m a fair wether snowboarder, skier and snowshoer. Ice skating, however, I can tackle anytime no matter the weather. Skating outdoors in the Rockies turns mundane weekends into something magical. Plus there’s the added bonus that it kind of counts as a work out, depending on how long and hard you skate. Over the holidays I discovered Carrot Creek, a secret serene spot in Banff National Park.

Where is Carrot Creek?

I’d heard friends talk about skating at Carrot Creek for years, but I never could figure out where it is. Googling it wasn’t that helpful either, but I eventually found my way by stalking a dad friend who took my daughter along on his family outing.

Carrot Creek: Banff’s Secret Skating Spot

Carrot Creek is close to Canmore and is just minutes away from the Park gates.

From Calgary you drive about 2.5 km past the Park Gates. Carrot Creek is on the opposite side of the highway, so you pull a quick U-turn at the first turn off that allows you to do so. There are likely cars pulled over on the side of the road, but if not, just pull over immediately after getting onto the opposite side of the Trans Canada Highway (heading east towards Calgary).

Carrot Rink in winter

You’ll want to bring a shovel (or broom for light snow) to clear the ice surface.

Outdoor ice skating near Banff and Calgary

Part of the attraction of skating here is the journey is just as exhilarating as the destination. You walk towards the metal wildlife fence then stroll down a short, steep hill. Go through the gates and follow the well trod path through the forest towards the creek. It’ll probably take you just under a 10-minutes to get to the creek. Along the way you’ll have to jimmy yourself down another hill, but fortunately there’s a rope to assist your descent. Kids think this is a hoot.

winter hiking

You won’t find this at an indoor ice rink, now will you?

There are no benches to put your skates on nor are there any fire pits to warm yourself up at. What you’ve got is pure, unsullied wilderness. As such, it’s a good idea to pack a shovel and broom for clearing the ice if there’s been a recent snowfall and a winter picnic is always delightful. Just remember to practice no trace left behind, packing out what you packed in.

outdoor ice skating

Kids love the novelty of Carrot Creek even more than adults. It’s an adventure! (But only if you bring a thermos of hot chocolate.)

Gingerly stepping onto the ice, I was cautious about going very far at first. The ice looked solid, but how would I know if it’s thick enough? I was reassured that it was at least 6 inches thick and therefore perfectly fine, you uptight weekender,  I’m pretty sure I heard my guide mutter under his breath. And I rationalized since it’s a creek and presumably not very deep, in the unlikely event I did hit a hole, I surely wouldn’t go down very far.

kid skating outdoor ice rink canada

And away she goes!

Natural ice rinks for skating in Alberta

Gliding across the smooth expanse of ice as the sun was casting its last rays over the rockies is a serene way to end your day. All was glinting and golden and good. Trapped air bubbles, silvery pebbles and even brave fish are visible below the surface. The scene could’ve been on one of those old fashioned postcards, and you’d be hard pressed to find a prettier, more secluded natural ice rink. Gazing up at the grey, craggy peaks of the Mount Rundle range snaking its way along the western side of the Bow Valley, I felt alive and grateful to live so close to such a salubrious spot. Outdoors, exercise, mindfulness: this is why I love Alberta winters.

winter sunset

Oh what light! What bliss!

Have you ever skated on a pond or creek in the great outdoors? I’d love to hear your favourite spots.

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

11 Comments

  1. Carol-Ann 08.01.2015 at 09:05 - Reply

    We had a creek behind our house that we lived in from 2009-2013 and we would make an outdoor rink each winter….we used construction lights so we could skate at night as well.

    • Jody 08.01.2015 at 18:01 - Reply

      That’s so awesome!

  2. mommyisweird 08.01.2015 at 20:16 - Reply

    I have never heard of it. Looks great. My kids would LOVE IT. What a view!

  3. merry120 08.01.2015 at 22:26 - Reply

    Now I wish I could skate. It looks like an amazing place to visit.

  4. tkoob 09.01.2015 at 09:17 - Reply

    Well done! Anybody can sit down and write about the best skating rinks in Banff, but to do research and help us access one of the “secret” ones is much appreciated. Carrot has been on my list for years!!!

    Now me passing it forward, go out to the ghost reservoir and try skating there. It’s incredible and amazing! Often snow free all winter. we were out just before Christmas.

  5. Wandering Carol 10.01.2015 at 18:33 - Reply

    I’m always on the lookout for out of the way places around Banff. This sounds amazing. Even though I’m a terrible skater, I’d love to give Carrot Creek a try.

  6. Colleen Lanin 11.01.2015 at 10:56 - Reply

    Outdoor ice skating on a real lake or pond is way better than an indoor ice rink experience. I’ve gone skating on various Minnesota lakes. It can be pretty dang cold, but it makes the hot cocoa afterwards taste that much better!

    • Jody 12.01.2015 at 19:02 - Reply

      OMG, Minnesota would be so cold!

  7. Corinne 11.01.2015 at 20:36 - Reply

    Just incredible–how fun!

  8. Katie 12.01.2015 at 11:24 - Reply

    It looks so beautiful compares to our watery outdoor rinks here in San Diego!

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