Spring is almost here, and it’s a great time to plan the family’s first hike of the season. Many trails in Kananaskis come into condition by March or early April, and you’ll find that parks are much quieter this time of year. Check out these suggested trails and put one on your calendar for a fun Spring-break outing.
1. The Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail, Elbow Valley.
This 1.5-kilometre out and back trail is guaranteed to fascinate small children with its string of ponds and beaver dams connected by an enchanting creek that you’ll follow the length of the hike. When Hwy 66 from Bragg Creek is open past Elbow Falls, you’ll be able to park right at the Beaver Lodge trailhead. Before May 15, however, you’ll have to park at the winter closure gate, which is located right at the driveway down to Elbow Falls. From the gate, it is a short 500-metre walk to the Beaver Lodge trailhead along the closed highway. If it is snow-free, this is a good place for an early season bike ride with no cars.
If you have children that like to be in the water rather than looking at the water, make sure you bring appropriate clothing and rubber boots. The creek and ponds are a lot of fun to play in on a warm sunny day. Sand toys are recommended for children that want to get interactive with the ponds.
2. Troll Falls, Kananaskis Village.
A sunny trail through Hay Meadows takes you to the frozen Troll Falls. The trail starts at the Stoney Trailhead below Kananaskis Village and from here, you can either get on the Troll Falls trail or the Hay Meadows trail to make a loop. If the Troll Falls trail is snow-free, this is a great family bike ride and popular with young children on balance bikes. This hike also has many geocaches hidden along it, if your family enjoys geocaching. Children can hunt for the secret trolls that have also been hidden along the trail.
More information can be found on the Hidden Troll Stroll Facebook page, facebook.com/hiddentrollstroll.
To reach the Stoney Trailhead, drive out toward Kananaskis Village on Hwy 40 and take the signed turn-off for the Village onto Mt. Allan Drive. Rather than turning left for the Village, go straight, heading toward Nakiska Resort. You’ll see the Stoney Trailhead on your right.
The hike is a 4-kilometre loop, if parked at Ribbon Creek, but you’ll cut off close to a kilometre by parking at the Stoney Trailhead.
3. Paddy’s Flat Interpretive Trail, Elbow Valley.
This easy hike follows the Elbow River below the Paddy’s Flat Campground. Little bridges and creek crossings guarantee the hike to be a success with small children. This campground is easily found between the Allen Bill Pond Day-Use Area and the Elbow Falls Day-Use Area on Hwy 66 out of Bragg Creek. Before May 15, you’ll have to park at the campground gate and hike through the closed campground to reach the trail. It adds a bit of distance but if you go before the snow melts, you can take a sled, if you want. If the campground is snow-free, you could bring bikes and enjoy riding on vehicle-free roads down to the river. From the gate, hike toward the playground located in Loop C, across from the trailhead to the hiking trail. Bring a lunch and enjoy the day down by the river.
4. Heart Creek Interpretive Trail, Bow Valley.
Seven bridges and a hidden waterfall guarantee this will be a successful hike. There’s so much water to play in, you’ll likely only get halfway to the waterfall before your children decide they just want to play in the creek, throw rocks in the water, or even spend an hour scrambling on small boulders. Early season, expect lingering snow, a lot of water, and some icy sections. I highly recommend bringing a change of clothes for everyone for the car ride home.
5. Flowing Water Interpretive Trail, Bow Valley.
This short hike is a 2-kilometre loop and is lovely in the Spring. The trail begins inside the Willow Rock Campground in Bow Valley Provincial Park. It features the perfect habitat for beavers and other pond animals, making it a hit with kids! The campground is open on April 1, but you can still access the trail when the campground is closed. Park at the campground gates and walk down to the trailhead.
As with most trails in Spring, there will be plenty of water and mud. Plan accordingly and bring extra clothing. Rain pants are a good idea for children who like to explore off-trail.
For full information on all these hikes, visit the Alberta Parks’ Website, albertaparks.ca.
See you on the trails!
Tanya is a freelance writer, and a mom to a spunky nine-year- old. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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