My family goes into full ‘weekend warrior’ mode during May and June as we count down the days until school lets out for summer and we can go on vacation. While my family patiently waits for the last day of classes, we pack our weekends full of fun hikes, bike rides, and camping trips to hold us over.
Enter ‘weekend warrior’ mode with these 10 family adventures:
1. Enjoy an easy family bike ride in Kananaskis. The Bill Milne Trail is a paved trail, relatively flat for most of the distance, and very scenic. My family always starts at the Kovach Pond Day-Use Area below Kananaskis Village, and we ride to Wedge Pond and back in a 17-kilometre round-trip distance.
To shorten the ride, send an adult back for the vehicle while you play at the pond. Alternately, turn around at the Mt. Kidd Campground if energy is starting to fade.
For more information, stop in at the Barrier Lake Visitor Centre on your drive out to the Village. You can also check trail conditions on the Alberta Parks website.
2. Take a fun hike to Troll Falls in Kananaskis. An easy, favorite hike for many, the trail is relatively flat and short (less than a 4-kilometre return) and can also be enjoyed on bikes. The proximity to Kananaskis Village also makes this hike popular.
As an extension to the hike, look for a new trail that has been built to the “Upper Falls,” a beautiful two-tier set of falls located a short distance away from Troll Falls.
Note: This is not a trail to the top of Troll Falls. You’ll be hiking to a completely different set of waterfalls and the trail starts on the far side of the creek beside Troll Falls. Do not try to climb above Troll Falls. The new trail has been built with family safety in mind and stays away from all drop-offs. Obey signs to turn around once you reach the Upper Falls and watch young children carefully the entire time.
For more information, stop in at the Barrier Lake Visitor Centre on your way out.
3. Plan a day trip to Canmore. My family loves biking or walking along the river on the town trails, visiting the bike park in Millennium Park, or stopping in at the skateboard park beside the Canmore Recreation Centre.
Add a stop at one of the local coffee shops, family- friendly patios or pubs, or an ice cream shop along the main street, and you’ve got a fun day ahead of you.
4. Go camping in Bow Valley. Bow Valley Provincial Park is only an hour from Calgary and is very easy to reach after work on a Friday. Head out with your tent or trailer, spend a couple of nights in one of the provincial park campgrounds (some of them offer first come, first serve camping), and return to the city refreshed and recharged for work or school on Monday.
While in Bow Valley, my family likes walking around the loop on the Many Springs Trail from the Bow Valley Campground or just walking along the river on the easy Bow River Trail. Across the road, we like exploring the Flowing Water Trail in the Willow Rock Campground.
For more information or to check campground availability, visit the Alberta Parks website.
5. Go exploring to find the High Rockies Suspension Bridge in Kananaskis. The High Rockies Trail is an 80-kilometre-long, multi-use trail outside of Canmore. For families, the highlight will be the 240-foot- long suspension bridge at Blackshale Creek south of the Black Prince Day-Use Area.
Access the trailhead from the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail (Highway 742) out of Canmore to the north or from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to the south. There is no official parking lot for this section of the trail, so watch for the trail heading up from the east side of the highway, approximately a kilometre south of the Black Prince Day-Use Area.
Once you find the trail, climb up roughly 500 metres in distance (gaining approximately 50 metres of height) to reach the bridge. It doesn’t matter which side of the creek you hike up from the highway because both trails join at the bridge.
To extend your hike, start from Black Prince in a 4.6-kilometre return trip.
For more information, stop in at a visitor centre on your drive out to pick up a map, or view the map: kananaskistrails.com/high-rockies-trail/maps/HRTSouth.jpg.
6. Plan a day trip to Banff. There’s no shortage of fun activities to enjoy in Banff. Take a ride up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola (admission for kids is free before noon with a regular adult ticket, one child per adult), visit the hot springs, or climb your first mountain of the season with a short walk up Tunnel Mountain.
My family also likes biking the paved Legacy Trail between Canmore and Banff. It’s a 17-kilometre ride from Cascade Ponds in Banff to the Travel Alberta Visitor Information Centre in Canmore. At this point, send an adult back for the vehicle and head to one of the fast-food restaurants nearby to wait it out over ice cream and French fries. Alternately, the Valley View Day-Use Area along the Trans-Canada Highway makes a nice half-way stop for an out-and-back ride to either town on the Legacy Trail.
7. Take a day trip to Drumheller. My family loves visiting Drumheller in late Spring when it’s not quite so hot yet. Visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum (which has a great dinosaur-themed playground as well), take a short hike on one of the many trails around town (we like stopping at Horseshoe Canyon on the way into Drumheller), or go for a spin on your bikes on the Drumheller Badlands River Parks System paved bike trail that connects the Visitor Centre downtown with the museum (pick up a map from the Visitor Centre).
My family has also enjoyed biking the road to Wayne, a ghost town with one remaining business: Last Chance Saloon (it’s family-friendly). Along the road, you’ll cross 11 one-lane bridges, which children will enjoy.
Note: You will be sharing the road with vehicle traffic, but people tend to slow down as they pass, and the speed limit isn’t very high on this scenic road. The ride is a 10-kilometre return. You can also drive to Wayne if you want to visit the saloon and take in the badlands scenery without biking there.
For more information, stop in at the Visitor Centre in Drumheller.
8. Bike a closed highway to view a set of beautiful waterfalls. Highway 40 through Kananaskis doesn’t open to vehicle traffic until June 15, making this an ideal road biking trip for families.
You’ll be starting your adventure from the town of Longview, south of Calgary. From here, head west on Highway 40 until you reach Highwood Junction. This is as far as you will drive, and you can park on the side of the highway by the closed gate.
From the gate, it is approximately a 4.5-kilometre bike ride one way to the Cat Creek Day-Use Area where you can hike in to see the Cat Creek waterfall (1.3 kilometres one way).
Note: There may still be a bridge missing from the last flood, so prepare to hop a small stream (there are usually logs to help with the crossing). If you have problems with the trail, return to the highway and enjoy a bike ride (where you’ll enjoy fabulous scenery even without the hike).
For more information on current trail conditions, contact a visitor centre.
9. Take a trip to the Columbia Icefields. It is a three- and-a-half hour drive from Calgary to the Columbia Icefields Centre en route to Jasper. Last year, my family enjoyed the day trip without staying overnight. If you want a more relaxed outing, there are several wilderness hostels along the Icefields Parkway. You can also stay at the Glacier View Lodge (located right at the Icefields Centre).
While at the Icefields, book a Glacier Adventure Tour (I recommend making a reservation in advance) where you’ll get to ride out on the Athabasca Glacier on a giant Ice Explorer Bus. Walk on the glacier and then move on to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk for part two of your tour where you’ll walk out on a cliff-edged glass sidewalk with incredible views.
I encourage families to enjoy this tour now, in the Spring, before it gets too busy.
For more information, visit the Pursuit Tours Banff Jasper Collection website: banffjaspercollection.com
10. Take a road trip to BC’s Columbia Valley. This is my family’s favorite place to visit in the Spring because summer comes early here, and you’ll be able to enjoy mountain biking, hiking, or even a day on Lake Windermere by early May. Accommodations are plentiful through the valley between Radium Hot Springs and Invermere, but my family loves staying at Fairmont Hot Springs where access to the hot pools is included with your stay.
New to Fairmont Hot Springs is several deluxe cabins near the pools where you’ll get your own balcony, barbecue, and kitchen for a fun family weekend away. Visit the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort website for more information on overnight packages.
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. 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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