September is one of the most beautiful times of the year to plan that final trip to the mountains, wrap up the camping season with one last trip, or cross one more hike or bike ride off of your family’s summer checklist. Try some of the following suggestions and show your kids that their summer vacation is far from over.
1. Plan a camping trip to your favorite campground that was booked solid this summer. Reservations are much easier to come by in September, and you’ll often be able to reserve sites last minute when the weather is looking nice. Autumn days can be as warm as any summer day, so there’s no reason to put the trailer or tent away just yet.
2. Try backpacking in Kananaskis. Some backcountry campgrounds have communal fire pits and Alberta Parks stocks them with firewood. The Tombstone Campground is reached in an easy 7-kilometre hike via Elbow Lake and the trail only gains 125 metres of height. It is stroller-friendly, if you have something with big wheels. Other easy campgrounds to reach in Kananaskis include Jewel Bay, the Point, Elbow Lake, and Quaite Valley.
3. Hike through golden larch trees at Highwood Pass. The larch trees peak around the third weekend of September and Ptarmigan Cirque is an easy destination for the family in Kananaskis. The hike is a 4.5-kilometre loop, and the trail gains 200 metres of height.
4. Head to the beach one last time! Quarry Lake is a popular summer destination in Canmore with a beautiful beach and swimming area. While it is usually very busy, autumn days can be quiet. It is a good place to spend a Friday afternoon.
5. Cruise the paved bike trails around Banff and Canmore. If you haven’t biked the Legacy Trail yet from Banff to Canmore, seize the opportunity. The trail is 20 kilometres one way and easiest if ridden toward Canmore. An adult can always ride back for the car if you don’t want to ride both directions. For a shorter ride, consider the Sundance Trail from the Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff. This one is less than 10 kilometres round trip and if you bring a bike lock, you can hike farther up Sundance Canyon.
6. Bike the Highway 1A to Johnston Canyon in Banff. The popular Johnston Canyon hike is only accessible this year via an easy 12-kilometre return bike ride on the closed highway from Castle Junction. The ride is relatively flat, and the hike is amazing without the crowds. Hike to the Lower and Upper Falls in a return distance of 5 kilometres.
7. Go for an autumn hike at Lake Louise. This is the year to visit Lake Louise while it’s a local attraction with less tourists and crowds. Hike up to one of the tea houses at either Lake Agnes or the Plain of Six Glaciers. If you want to see golden larch trees, you’ll find them above Lake Agnes at either the Little or the Big Beehive Lookouts.
8. Climb Ha Ling Peak with the kids in Canmore. This popular hiking trail was rebuilt last year with staircases and stone steps placed at difficult steep sections. The trail is 7 kilometres (round trip) with approximately 750 metres of height gain, but you’ll be rewarded with great views, even if you don’t make it to the summit. There are new viewpoints along the trail, and just reaching the ridge below the summit is an accomplishment for most people.
9. Head to the mountains for a relaxing picnic on a nice Fall weekend. Find a lake with picnic tables, bring the paddle boards or boat, grab the fishing rods, and round up the family for an afternoon of fun! Personal favorites include the Peninsula Day-Use Area on Lower Kananaskis Lake, the Driftwood Day-Use Area on Spray Lake outside Canmore, or Johnson Lake in Banff.
10. Take a final road trip with the family. Drive to Drumheller for the day, visit Sylvan Lake, or head south to explore the small towns along the Cowboy Trail. There are plenty of options for a scenic drive. Find a new playground, visit a new ice cream shop, stop to play at a lake, or take a walk at a provincial park you pass by.
Summer may be ending, but the fun still goes on. See you outdoors this Fall!
Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to an energetic 11-year-old 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.
Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2023 Calgary’s Child