Snowshoeing is an awesome winter activity for families, especially when you live in a place where it snows for half the year. Imagine floating on snow past marshmallow trees, to an alpine lake surrounded by snow capped peaks. Squirrels chitter in the trees and the kids laugh as snow drops from low branches (perhaps aided by a well-aimed snowball).
With snowshoes attached to your boots, it doesn’t matter how deep the snow is, and in fact, it’s much more fun on a powder day! Expect gorgeous scenery, snowy fun, and a good workout. Snowshoeing on flat terrain burns about 400 calories per hour.
If you plan on taking up the fastest-growing winter sport, rest assured that it’s easy to learn. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! It’s also relatively affordable. Once you have the gear, you just need to find a suitable trail without avalanche danger (no lift tickets required)!
Here are a few family-friendly snowshoe trails near Calgary:
Hogarth Lakes Loop offers beautiful mountain views from Mud Lakes and Hogarth Lakes. Stay on the trail to stay out of avalanche terrain; and if doing the loop clockwise, enjoy a picnic at the third lake (the larger of the Hogarth Lakes). 3.9km loop, 30m elevation gain.
Elkwood Loop takes you through Elkwood Campground to Marl Lake. Learn about the landscape on the interpretive trail, then bask in the sunshine at the lake and watch out for cheeky gray jays looking for food (people have been feeding them, but you shouldn’t!). 3.4km loop, 30m elevation gain.
Fairview Lookout Trail takes you through the forest to a scenic viewpoint overlooking Lake Louise. While you’re in the area, ice skate on the lake (usually ready by Christmas, but check first!), hike the Lakeshore Trail to the ice falls at the back of the lake (keep your distance - large chunks of ice can fall off without warning), or get a pastry and coffee at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen. 2km round trip, 100m elevation gain.
Ribbon Creek is a fun snowshoe trail with lots of footbridges and peekaboo views of the mountains. Yield to cross country skiers and stay off the cross country ski tracks on the shared use section of the trail at the junction about 1.6km in, and turn back at the avalanche danger sign at 3.7km. Nearby Kananaskis Village has several delicious dining options. 3.7km one way, 60m elevation gain.
Troll Falls, Marmot Falls, and Upper Falls are gorgeous year-round, but they’re especially magical when frozen - and you can even go behind Marmot Falls! While the popular trail is usually packed down enough to hike in boots, snowshoes will provide traction if it’s icy. 1.7km to Troll Falls plus an extra 1km to Upper Falls, 150m elevation gain.
Johnson Lake is a pretty mountain lake near Banff that boasts beautiful views of Cascade Mountain and Mount Rundle. Starting from the picnic area, make your way around the lake. After crossing the dam, take the inner trail for the quickest way back (option: visit the hermit cabin! Google “Hermit of Inglismaldie” for directions), or take the outer trail to see some hoodoos. 2.8km loop/3.5km outer loop, minimal elevation change.
More snowshoe trails: After a big dump of snow, try Snowy Owl Trail at West Bragg Creek (2.7km loop with several options to go further), or Widow Maker Trail (2.4km to 5km round trip, 120m elevation gain) near Barrier Lake. If you’re lucky, there will be river surfers or kayakers to watch at the end of Widow Maker Trail. Some hardy souls brave the chilly waters year round!
Hiking with bigger kids? Try Rawson Lake (7.8km round trip, 320m elevation gain) or Chester Lake (9.2km round trip, 275m elevation gain). Both are classic Kananaskis snowshoe trails with stunning scenery at the lakes.
What to Bring & Wear
For a successful snowshoe outing with kids, you should bring the following:
Wear technical base layers made of synthetic material or merino wool, snow pants, an insulated jacket, toque, and mittens.
Have fun and stay safe!
Karen is a mother and a lover of maps, mountains, and mochas. With her geography degree and experience leading hikes and backpacking trips in the Rockies, she is full of ideas on where to go and what to do. The mission of her blog, playoutsideguide.com, is to provide everything families need to know to get outside and have fun. Follow on Instagram @playoutsidegal.
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