Thursday, May 14, 2020

Ten Day Trips for Spring Adventures Close to Calgary

We all want to get outside, but spring is always challenging with lingering snow on trails in Kananaskis, some still snowy enough that you could probably ski. Add this year's particular challenges with physical distancing, trying to avoid crowds, and wanting to "explore local," and it's really hard to come up with an idea for a weekend outing.

Spring is a great time to explore Bow Valley Provincial Park 


Start with the day trips below, my family's annual favorites for early spring hiking and exploring.





1. Start Local and Explore a New City Park or Natural Area


If everybody's healthy and you're not being asked to self-isolate, this is a great way to get outside close to home. Drive to a natural area  in a neighboring community. Maybe explore a park you've never visited before.

Check out some of my personal favourites in Calgary here: Calgary Urban Hikes  

Go for a walk on Nose Hill and find the First Nations Medicine Wheel

As with any hike at this time, please practice physical distancing and have a backup plan if the parking lot for your chosen park appears to be crowded. Please remember too that some parks won't have bathrooms open so be prepared for emergencies and pack everything out with you! Finally, you'll find much more solitude if you grab your hiking boots and get off the paved pathways!!

Recommended reading: Calgary's Best Walks 35 Brand New Urban Jaunts And Nature Strolls


Go for a walk or bike ride and discover the Split Rock in Confluence Park 


2. Explore the City Pathways on your Bikes


My son and I biked all the way from Tuscany in the far NW corner of Calgary all the way down to the Highway 22X below Fish Creek Provincial Park following the paved Bow River Pathway. It took us two days using Carburn Park in the SE as an ending/re-starting point but it gave us a goal for a weekend, and we discovered several new sections of the pathway system we'd never biked before.

I've created a giant list of paved pathways we want to bike in the city this summer and I suspect it'll actually take us till September to finish the list.

We've discovered many new parks and natural areas by biking across the city 

Recommended reading:  

Ten Epic Bike Pathways in Calgary - Tourism Calgary

City of Calgary Pathways and Bikeways Map 

Top 12 Bike Rides in Calgary - This Mom Bikes 

Suggested Pathway Routes in Calgary - City of Calgary


We love biking the Bow River Pathway through Calgary 

3. Explore Glenbow Ranch or Fish Creek Provincial Park 


You don't have to go far to access a provincial park. Fish Creek Provincial Park is located in South Calgary and  is one of the largest urban green spaces in North America. You'll find over 80 km of trails here including paved pathways, singletrack mountain bike trails, and wide gravel trails for walking or biking.

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is located just outside NW Calgary on the way to Cochrane along the Highway 1A. It's a beautiful park with a scenic paved pathway that follows the north bank of the Bow River. There's a long hill down to the river from the parking lot but once you reach the bottom, it's relatively flat as your ride out and back towards Calgary.

There are also many hiking trails in Glenbow Ranch. Our favourite is the Tiger Lilly Loop, a short 1.4 km loop that starts from the Visitor Centre by the parking lot.

Early spring hiking in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park 

4. Discover the Trails and Pathways in Cochrane


We live in NW Calgary so we've been exploring the trails in Cochrane this spring. For hiking, we absolutely fell in love with the trails at the Cochrane Ranche. You can view the Cochrane Ranche Trail guide here and I recommend looking for the Grandfather Tree (number 9 on the map.)

We always start at the parking lot off the Highway 1A and hike a loop up towards the ranch house. From the ranch house you can continue further to complete the Cochrane Ranch Trail as shown on Trail Forks. It's a 6km loop and note that you'll be on private property once you start the back loop. Treat the trail with respect and do not bike this loop. We also did the back loop as an out and back on the right side of the creek. (We couldn't find a trail on the left side other than the gravel road.)

Go for an easy hike and discover the Grandfather Tree at Cochrane Ranche 

For biking, check out the beautiful paved trail through Riverfront Park. My suggestion would be to park at the large Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre, biking carefully through the off leash dog park heading west, or to park at the small parking lot at the bottom of River Ave (north side of the river) at the far side of the dog park.

From the River Avenue Bridge, it's a beautiful 12km return bike ride along a paved pathway through Riverfront Park, past Mitford Pond (there's a big climb here,) and on to the Glen Boles Trail which ends at a beautiful viewpoint. The entire ride is paved and there are only a couple of big hills.

Most of the trail is quite flat. For the easiest ride with young children, just ride through Riverfront Park where there are no hills. There's a parking lot by the Highway 22 bridge north of the river.

You can get more information on the Cochrane Parks and Pathways page. Google maps also shows a dotted line along the entire route that you'll be biking.

Cochrane is a beautiful place to go for a bike ride along the Bow River 

 5. Spend a Day in Bow Valley Provincial Park


We love biking or hiking around the Bow Valley Campground off the TransCanada Hwy and Highway 1X. Park at the Middle Lake day use area and bike around on the quiet paved campground roads. They are open to vehicles as of May but they are very quiet. Cars will also be driving very slowly and will give cyclists plenty of space.

We like to bike to the Elk Flats Group Campground where you can have a picnic. We then continue on to the Many Springs Trailhead (bring a bike lock if you want to go for a short hike,) and then we head down to the river. From there we return through the campground.

Biking the quiet campground roads through the Bow Valley Campground 


You can also hike around the park, completing a loop with the Elk Flats, Bow River, and Moraine Trails. Add on the Middle Lake or Many Springs Loop to extend the distance. See the map here.


We love hiking the Moraine Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park 

Finally there is a paved bike trail that connects the Visitor Centre near the Highway 1X with the camp store. We like to bike around the campground from Middle Lake and then hop on the bike trail at the end to extend our ride. We return to Middle Lake on the road. This can all be done in a big loop of 12km. Alternately, park at the Visitor Centre and bike on the paved trail to the campground and over to the river for a picnic.

Note the bike path is very hilly and would not be appropriate for beginner riders.

** Author's current trail report: All trails in the Bow Valley Campground are dry, snow free, and without mud.


The paved bike path in Bow Valley Provincial Park is a very scenic trail


Other places to explore in Bow Valley Provincial Park:

  1. Hike the Flowing Waters Trail in the Willow Rock Campground off the Highway 1X across from the Bow Valley Campground.The Flowing Water Trail is a short 2.5 km interpretive loop

  2. Hike the Prairie View Trail above Barrier Lake off Highway 40. The Prairie View Trail climbs to a beautiful viewpoint over the lake and then continues on to a fire lookout. Expect some snow on this trail until things dry up. Ice cleats are currently recommended as of mid-May.

For other suggestions read The Best Trails in Bow Valley Provincial Park from the All Trails Website. Note you'll want to choose trails that don't gain too much height. Anything big (Heart Mountain, Mount Yamnuska, Mount Baldy...) will be snow covered.


The Prairie View Trail takes you to this beautiful viewpoint over Barrier Lake


6. Spend a Day in the Elbow Valley

 
There are several great day use areas and hiking trails outside Bragg Creek. Below are my current recommendations:

One.  Hike the Fullerton Loop from the Allen Bill Day Use Area.

This trail is very popular but it's also nice and wide to allow for safe passing. It's an easy trail for young children and has a nice viewpoint over the valley. You can also have a picnic down by the Elbow River after.


We've always loved the Fullerton Loop in the Elbow Valley


Two. Hike the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail from the Paddy's Flat Campground.

Park at the closed campground gate (It doesn't open until June 1st this year) and hike down to the river. Hike along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail until it joins the Riverview Trail. This is a great place to practice physical distancing because you'll have a large campground to spread out in.

This is also a great place to bring the kids' bikes for some easy campground riding on gravel roads before it opens, and there are secret beaches along the river with beautiful sand.


We loved the Paddy's Flat Trail when my son was young


Three. Hike the Prairie Mountain Trail from the Elbow Falls parking lot.

Note it is still snow covered and ice cleats are recommended. This is also not a beginner hike. You'll gain 700 metres of height. The trail is also busy so go early or hike mid-week.

Read more here: First Summits: Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis 


We love the Prairie Mountain hike!


Four. Hike the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail from the Beaver Lodge Day Use Area

The pull out for this small day use area is a 2 minute drive past the Elbow Falls parking lot. The short hiking trail takes you to the Beaver Flats campground and is a great hike with kids as you meander along beaver ponds (which are super fun to play in.) Bring sand toys. The full hike is less than 3 km return.

Alternately, the campground doesn't open until June 1st this year so you could park at the closed campground gate and hike down into the campground to reach the hiking trail.  You could even bring bikes to use around the campground. The roads are gravel, but easy to bike on. Kids usually enjoy biking on the Beaver Flats Trail too.


The Beaver Flats Trail has many small ponds that are fun to play in


Five Have a picnic at Forgetmenot Pond in the Little Elbow Campground.

This campground is closed until June 1st this year so it's a great place to explore and have a picnic. Go for a walk along the river, play in the sand underneath the suspension bridge, or head towards the Nihahi Ridge Trailhead at the back of the E loop (which might still have snow along the ridge until early June this year.)

I'd also bring bikes because this would be a great place to explore quiet roads while the campground is closed. You can also go for a short out and back ride on the Big Elbow Trail, a wide gravel road, until you reach a beautiful open area along the Elbow River. I believe the campground roads are also gravel.


We love playing along the river in the Little Elbow Campground 


7. Go for a Walk around Kananaskis Village or Ribbon Creek


Kananaskis Village is a beautiful place to walk around with many trails in the area. You can also start from the Ribbon Creek parking lot below the Village for a nice walk along Ribbon Creek. There are lots of bridges in the first couple of kilometres until you reach the junction with the Kovach Trail. You can make a 5.5 km loop as well with the Ribbon Creek, Kovach, and Terrace Trails. (See the loop here on All Trails.)

Note that the Troll Falls Trail is currently closed but you can still hike the Hay Meadows Trail to have a picnic beside the Kananaskis River.

Last I heard the paved Bill Milne Trail still had snow on it, but you can definitely walk this easy trail.

The Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge is reopening as of May 15th but services are limited and I understand the coffee shop will not be open yet.


We like exploring along the Hay Meadows Trail from Ribbon Creek


8. Bike Highway 40 in South Kananaskis before the Highway opens


We love biking on closed highways and roads in spring. It's a great way to self-distance yourself from others too when you're on a big road with space for miles! (Much easier than on a narrow bike path in the city!)

Highway 40 west of Longview doesn't open to vehicles until June 15th. Park at the winter gate at Highwood Junction and ride as far as you get, returning when the kids get tired. You'll have some very big hills in both directions so save energy for the return ride. We like to ride as far as the Cat Creek day use area where we then hike in to see the falls.

Read: Biking to Cat Creek Falls on Highway 40


Biking closed highways is always a favourite spring activity for us


9. Take a Day Trip to Sheep River Provincial Park south of Calgary


For families who live in South Calgary, this is a beautiful corner of Kananaskis. It's similar in vibe to the Elbow Valley but sees a third of the traffic and crowds.

Take a drive along the scenic Sheep River Road heading west from Turner Valley, and find a new favourite day use area. We love the Sheep River Falls Day Use Area and these waterfalls are way more spectacular than Elbow Falls!

You can have a picnic by the Sheep River as well from numerous day use areas along this highway.


Sheep River Falls is beautiful in spring!


10. Explore the Sibbald Creek Region of Kananaskis


This is a lesser-known area of Kananaskis and there are a few nice little hiking trails out this way. The turnoff for the Sibbald Creek Trail (Highway 68) is also a short drive for Calgary, 20 minutes west of Calaway Park. We like the Sibbald Lake Day Use Area located beside a quiet campground that will be closed until June.

From Sibbald Lake you can either hike the Sibbald Flat Interpretive Trail or continue on to the Deer Ridge Trail where you climb up to a pretty viewpoint along the ridge.


Deer Ridge is a lovely hike in a quiet corner of Kananaskis 


If you choose to visit provincial parks, please follow the guidelines and information below:

  • You should be healthy if you are leaving your house to visit parks. If you have any Covid-19 symptoms please stay home.

  • Avoid the mountain towns of Canmore and Bragg Creek. Go straight to the trailhead and back home again. (Banff National Park is closed for hiking right now and they currently have check stops at all entrances to the Town of Banff where you'll be turned away if you try to access the town.)

  • There are not many bathrooms open in the provincial parks right now. Go to the bathroom before you leave home and bring emergency supplies with you in case somebody in your family needs them. This should include wipes, toilet paper, plastic bags, and hand sanitizer. You will be packing everything home with you (and that includes your used toilet paper, diapers or a pile of poo!!)

  • Pack your garbage home with you! Not all garbage cans are being emptied.

  • Wear gloves if filling up with gas before you go. Stock your vehicle with hand sanitizer as well in case you have to touch anything while away from home.

  • Have a plan A, B, C, and D! If you get to a trailhead and the parking lot is already full,  please consider choosing a different trailhead or hike. Yes, people do separate once they get on the trail, but Alberta Parks could shut everything down again if they see hundreds of cars in a parking lot on a Saturday afternoon!

  • Avoid popular trails on a weekend and try to hike outside of peak times. Get an early start or head out later in the afternoon.

  • Carpooling is NOT physical distancing. Hiking with a group of friends is also challenging with physical distancing unless you focus really hard on keeping the recommended 2-metre distance from one another or you restrict your group activities to one cohort family as recommended by our Alberta Chief Medical Officer.

  • Remember that bears are waking up and starting to move around for the spring. Bring bear spray with you and make lots of noise.





Friday, April 17, 2020

Spring Geocaching Challenge (Join us in the FUN!)

My son and I had dabbled in geocaching over the past few years, but had never found any great "excitement" in it. It was a fun little activity that we'd casually enjoy after school while out for a walk or that we'd participate in with friends on a Friday afternoon. Up until recently, we had no goals around the sport or determination to find every cache in our neighborhood.

One of my son's first geocaches found in a natural area near our house

Enter Covid-19,  30+ days of physical distancing, bans on driving into provincial or national parks, and daily lectures to "stay the (insert expletive) home," and suddenly geocaching is the most brilliant sport/outdoor activity in the freakin' world!!!

We have now found over 50 geocaches and we've come up with a goal to find every geocache within walking or biking distance of our house. (which means we should be occupied from now through next year!)

The best geocache we've found so far!

What is Geocaching / How to get Started


In a nutshell, 
"Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location." - Geocaching.com 

Kids love finding geocaches hidden in parks or natural areas


Getting started requires the following five steps:

  1. Register for a free basic membershipYou can also upgrade to a Premium membership which will allow you to search for a larger collection of caches. (something I highly recommend right now.)


  2. Load the Geocaching app on your phone. (We like the Groundspeak app.)


  3. Search the map in the app to find caches near your house. (Traditional caches show up as little green boxes.)


  4. Use your phone to navigate to the cache and try to find the hidden container. 

    And I recommend paying attention to the difficulty, terrain, and size. As a beginner, you'll want to choose larger caches and you might not want to start with micros (often the size of a matchbox or a small pill container.)

    I also click on the "hint" to help us narrow down the search, we always read the description for hints and tips, and we read the "activity" section for each cache to see when it was last found. If it was last found a year ago it might mean it's either super hard to find or that it's gone missing.

    You'll also find additional tips under the activity section from other users who've already found the cache and left a comment. (You have to leave a comment with every found cache.)


  5. Log your find.

    Click "log" when you have found your geoache, leave a comment, and then enjoy the victory that comes with the happy face that appears over that cache.

    Also, most people open the cache to exchange treasure and to sign the physical log book.

    The basic rule with "trading" is that you must leave something equal in value to the treasure you are taking out of the cache. Not every cache has treasure in it (micros are too small for example) but sometimes you'll find little Lego figurines, toys, and small tradeable items.

    And I've recently been "educated" that if you do not sign the physical log book inside the cache, you are not allowed to log the find on your app. - Which is stupid, but I didn't create the rules.

    For those of you worried about touching things during the Covid-19 outbreak, it's recommended that you either wear gloves, bring hand sanitizer with you, or choose to find the cache without logging it (no fun in my opinion.) 

Note the above steps apply to "phone geocaching." If you want to use a traditional GPS device, you can find more instructions on the Geoaching.com website.

This geocache had a giant spider on it! 


5 Reasons to try geocaching



  1. It's a great way to get outside in your neighborhood. You don't have to drive anywhere, you can stay close to home, and you can squeeze a short adventure in as a Physical Education break between school work. It is a great after school activity as well, even while homeschooling.

    We'll be doing a lot of geocaching on weekends as a family as well this spring.


  2. Discover new trails and natural areas near home. We have a small pond by my house that we'd never hiked around because we never had a reason to. Suddenly we're exploring the area while we search for geocaches and I'm thinking, "Wow, this is a great little walk!"

    We've discovered so many "new to us" paths and trails around my neighborhood that I had no idea existed. We've found new trails I can't wait to bike when it dries out, and we found a cool ravine full of possibility (hiding under our noses for years!!)


  3. Exercise for the whole family. Maybe it's just my neighborhood but we climb endless hills every time we go geocaching! It's been great exercise and I look forward to getting out every day.

    Geocaching has also been great motivation to go for long walks around the neighborhood (that I would normally have considered boring.)


  4. It's FUN! Find treasure (even if you don't open the cache,) leave messages for future treasure hunters (which you can do virtually on your phone without touching anything,) and challenge friends to go and find caches.

    If you have friends in your neighborhood, you can give them the names of the caches you've recently found and then challenge them to go find the caches.

    We've also encountered wildlife while geocaching including moose, deer, porcupines, and rabbits. We truly never know what we're going to find each time we head out!


  5. Outdoor education and navigation experience. Geocaching teaches you to navigate through some challenging terrain at times. You learn to follow a map, and you gain valuable skills walking off-trail. Add a compass or a handheld GPS unit if you really want to take it up a notch.

    Geocaching also teaches you to be observant and to pay attention to your surroundings. Skills like this could save your life someday if you got lost in the woods. 

Imagine finding this geocache hiding under a log in the forest!


Geocaching is a Great Activity that's Safe at this Time 



We've been loving geocaching this spring because we aren't violating any of the health guidelines in our province. We've been encouraged to get outside daily (as long as we're healthy and symptom free) and to spend time with our families.

We've also been encouraged to stay close to home (which you can easily do while geocaching.) Walk or bike to find caches and you'll never have to get in a car.

This micro cache was hanging from a fence


It's also super easy to enjoy the activity while physical distancing because you'll often be taking paths less traveled while searching for your caches. In my neighborhood everybody sticks to the pretty paved pathway. Fortunately, you can't go geocaching from the paved path! You might start from the paved path, but then you'll be climbing hills on narrow dirt tracks and following skinny trails into the bush.

If you do meet up with another family or group on your hike, just step to the side, keep the recommended 2 metre distance, and carry on.

Note I do not recommend geocaching with friends at this time because there's no way you'll be able to keep that 2 metre distance from one another at the end when you get close to the cache.

We've discovered many new trails geocaching in our neighborhood 

So, who's in? Ready to find every cache within walking or biking distance from your house this spring? Take it to the next step and purchase the premium membership so you'll have more caches to find.



Disclaimer: This story is not sponsored. It's your choice if you want to purchase a paid premium subscription or start with the free version of the geocaching app. We used the free version for years and had a lot of fun.



Friday, March 27, 2020

Spring Survival Guide for Outside Fun during Covid-19

Treat this guide as a "choose your own adventure" resource. Want to stay home and go no further than your backyard? I've got options for that. Want to practice social distancing on local trails around the city? I've got those options too.

Spring Survival Guide for Outside Fun during Covid-19 

I've focused on the area around Calgary since that's the home base for our family. (You'll find many ideas for your family regardless of where you live though.)



1. Backyard Fun for Safe Self Isolating


Scroll through the ideas below and follow the links for more resources from other blogs and websites. Some links also go to recommended books on Amazon.

Create a backyard you actually want to play in! 

  • Build a sandbox

  • Build a mud kitchen
  • Buy a bird book and build a birdhouse or a bird feeder  (and you can use the bird book for walks around the neighborhood too.)

  • Make a magical Fairy Garden, Dinosaur World or Troll Land - Born to be Adventurous

  • Use that hot tub if you're lucky enough to have one (or fill a wading pool with warm water on a sunny day and pretend you're at the beach)

  • Get out the lawn chairs, the loungers, the hammock if you have trees to hang one, and take your reading time outside. I have one friend who's made it a goal to enjoy her morning coffee outside every day. - And any new furniture you buy now can be used for camping this summer.

  • Create a backyard ninja obstacle course with pieces of wood, logs, hula hoops, buckets or barrels, and any other random items you have at home

  • Buy a trampoline, a climbing dome or something else you'll continue to use all summer long

  • Put up a badminton net if you have a large backyard or get out the soccer ball and make goals using pylons, buckets, or anything you can find around the house (this would work well for younger kids who don't need a big field for soccer)

  • Buy a basketball hoop for your driveway or a hockey net and basic equipment for ball hockey

  • Try some backyard gardening projects with the kids

  • Buy some new backyard toys or games. Example: Learn to play Spike ball or Learn to play Ladder Ball Toss. - and bonus, you can take both games with you when you go camping this summer. 

And I know that many of these ideas will involve shopping but fortunately we live in an age where most things can be ordered online. I also encourage you to choose purchases that will have a shelf life beyond the Corona virus. Choose items you can take camping with you this summer and that will provide hours of outside fun all summer long.

Rainy day fun in our backyard 

Recommended Reading:


100+ Ideas for Backyard Play and Outdoor Activities - Bring the Kids


130+ FREE Outdoor Learning Activities For Kids Unexpectedly Stuck at Home - Outdoor Families  Magazine

- and the guide above has tons of STEM and science activities for the backyard


Keeping busy with nature activities (bucket list & calendar) - Take them Outside


School’s Out(side) - Tales of a Mountain Mama


100+ Ideas for Outdoor Family Fun - Tales of a Mountain Mama


Easy Sidewalk Chalk Obstacle Course - Tales of a Mountain Mama


How Will Your Garden Grow? - AK on the Go


Spring Activity Calendar and free printable- Born to be Adventurous


Bored kids? Create an Activity Jar with these 75 Activities (+Free Printable ) - Born to be Adventurous


School’s cancelled—what now? Here are 200+ activities you can do with kids at home - Active for Life

- and the story above is a goldmine filled with links to other guides and resources


30-Day Rewilding Challenge Activity Calendar – FREE Printable! - Outdoor Families Magazine


We built a large sandbox in our backyard when my son was younger. He still plays in it.


2. Try Backyard Camping


I know many of us are worried about our summer camping plans and have had spring trips already cancelled. In the meantime, choose a warm night and set the tent up in the backyard. You could even have a "virtual camping trip" with friends and chat online from inside your tent.

There are great tips in this guide: Camping at Home - Take Them Outside

I also recommend this guide: Camping at Home - 30+ Backyard and Indoor Camping Activities, Games, and Recipes - Little Family Adventure

Backyard camping is always allowed 

3. Get Outside in your Neighborhood (no driving required)


This is a great one for those who are not self-isolating and are feeling healthy, but want some fresh air beyond the backyard.

Remember that you still need to practice physical distancing which can be challenging on neighborhood pathways on a warm sunny day.

We could play in our neighborhood ravine for hours!


Try these suggestions for neighborhood spring fun:



  • Learn to geocache and look for caches hidden around your neighborhood (I use the Ground Speak geocaching app on my phone and paid for a premium subscription - though you can use the free version as well.)

    Read my newest guide here: Spring Geocaching Challenge (Join us in the FUN!)


  • Get out the wheels! Get out the scooters, the inline skates, the bikes or the skateboards. Maybe invest in a new toy. And while we're a ways off from some of these toys in Calgary, my son has had success outside with his scooter already.

    And, you can always try building ramps or jumps in your driveway for the kids' bikes or skateboards.
We have a great pathway around my neighborhood and we've getting out for daily walks 

  • Get out the sports equipment and head to your local playground or field to play baseball, soccer, or basketball as a family. You can even practice some basic volleyball skills without a net.


  • Go on a puddle jumping adventure (How wet can you get? Adults included.)


  • Explore natural areas in your community. We have a ravine in our neighborhood that's essentially a wild natural playground. There are trees to climb, bridges to explore, there's a creek to play in, and there are plenty of obstacles to challenge children.

    Read this story for more inspiration: Playing in Nature Protects Our Children During a Pandemic - Backwoods Mama

We're lucky enough to have this in our neighborhood 
Get outside in your neighborhood and go for a scavenger hunt 

4. Explore Parks and Natural Areas in a Neighboring Community (driving required) 


If everybody's healthy and you're not being asked to self-isolate, this is another great way to get outside close to home.

Drive to a natural area  in a neighboring community. Maybe explore a park you've never visited before. (Note you are still staying inside your city.)

Check out some of my personal favourites in Calgary here: Calgary Urban Hikes 

There are MANY cool things to discover on Nose Hill in Calgary 

And with any hike at this time, please practice physical distancing and have a backup plan if the parking lot for your chosen park appears to be crowded.

I also recommend staying away from parks with playgrounds since that will only upset some kids who may not understand why they are closed.

Please remember too that some parks won't have bathrooms open so be prepared for emergencies and pack everything out with you!

Finally, you'll find much more solitude if you grab your hiking boots and get off the paved pathways!!

Recommended reading: Calgary's Best Walks 35 Brand New Urban Jaunts And Nature Strolls


We love exploring the Weaselhead in South Calgary 

Fun Activities to enjoy in Calgary's Parks and Natural Areas:

  • Geocaching

  • Disc Golf

  • Scavenger hunts

  • Bird walks

  • Bike rides (bring the scooters or inline skates if there's a paved pathway)

Geocaching in Bowmont Park, NW Calgary






Nature Walk Printables - Backwoods Mama


There's lots of solitude to be found on Nose Hill 
Calgary has several great disc golf courses 

 

5. Explore Closed Campgrounds near Home 


You'll meet very few people if you go hiking around a closed campground near home.

Even if you cross paths with another family, there's a LOT of space in a campground. I'm pretty sure you can manage to keep the recommended 2-metre distance between yourselves and the other family.

I'm telling you about my favourites below in hopes that it inspires families to go beyond the usual trailheads. Trust me, there is life beyond Elbow Falls!! Let's spread out and choose parks with lots of wide open space.

And please remember that there are no bathrooms open in many parks at this time. Pack emergency supplies with you and be prepared to pack everything out with you. (Yes, that includes a pile of poo!!)

You should also drive straight to the trailhead or campground from your house and then drive straight home again. Stay out of Canmore.

Need to get gas on your way out? Wear gloves and touch nothing with your skin. I have hand sanitizer in my car as well for this purpose. 

And if you don't feel comfortable leaving the city? No problem. Don't! I'm simply presenting options for those who will do so with or without my recommendations so that I can encourage families to explore NEW QUIET AREAS and to spread out!

See the crowds on the closed Bow Valley Campground roads? Me neither! 


A few recommended campgrounds near Calgary:


Bow Valley Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Park at the Middle Lake day use area and bike around on the quiet paved campground roads. They are open to vehicles as of May but they are very quiet. Cars will also be driving very slowly and will give cyclists plenty of space. We like to bike to the Elk Flats Group Campground where you can have a picnic. We then continue on to the Many Springs Trailhead (bring a bike lock if you want to go for a short hike,) and then we head down to the river. From there we return through the campground.

You can also hike around the park, completing a loop with the Elk Flats, Bow River, and Moraine Trails. Add on the Middle Lake or Many Springs Loop to extend the distance. See the map here.

Finally there is a paved bike trail that connects the Visitor Centre near the Highway 1X with the camp store. We like to bike around the campground from Middle Lake and then hop on the bike trail at the end to extend our ride. We return to Middle Lake on the road. This can all be done in a big loop of 12km.

Hiking along the river in the Bow Valley Campground 


Willow Rock Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Park at the campground gate and hike into the Flowing Waters Interpretive Trail.

The Flowing Water Trail is a great early season hiking option


Paddy's Flat Campground, Elbow Valley

Park at the campground gate and hike down to the river. Hike along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail until it joins the Riverview Trail

Hiking along the Paddy's Flat Trail by the Elbow River 


Beaver Flats Campground, Elbow Valley

This is a hike-in campground until Highway 66 opens on May 15th. Park at the winter gate by Elbow Falls and walk down the closed highway. (It's also a fabulous bike ride when the snow is gone!!) - Note that this has been a very popular parking area lately so you should aim to arrive early in the day or go mid-week!

Either hike/bike all the way to the campground (30 minutes at most on a bike) or stop at the Beaver Lodge Day Use area (about a 5 minute walk from the winter gate) and hop on the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail.

The hiking trail takes you to the campground and is a great hike with kids as you meander along beaver ponds (which are super fun to play in.)

Playing in the water along the Beaver Flats Trail in the Elbow Valley 

6. Explore Closed Highways or Roads near Home 


We love biking on closed highways and roads in spring. It's a great way to self-distance yourself from others too when you're on a big road with space for miles! (Much easier than on a narrow bike path in the city!)

Top 3 highways to ride with kids near Calgary:

Highway 66 outside Bragg Creek  (opens to vehicles on May 15th) - Enjoy this big wide open space to ride as a family. There are many hills and it is a challenging ride if you go all the way to the Little Elbow Campground. Park at the winter gate and go as far as the Beaver Flats Campground with younger kids or just ride as far as you get and turn around.

Highway 40 west of Longview (opens to vehicles on June 15th) - Park at the winter gate at Highwood Junction and ride as far as you get, returning when the kids get tired. You'll have some very big hills in both directions so save energy for the return ride. We like to ride as far as the Cat Creek day use area where we then hike in to see the falls.

Highway 546 west of Turner Valley (opens to vehicles on May 15th) - Park at the winter gate and ride towards Sheep River Falls (a return distance of 30+ km with some big hills.) Turn around whenever the kids get tired (you likely won't make it to the falls.) This is one of the best road rides for wildlife viewings and if you're lucky you'll see sheep.

Biking Highway 66 in the Elbow Valley (closed to vehicles until May 15th) 


Read the following stories for inspiration here:




Biking Highway 40 in Southern Kananaskis

7. Explore Quiet Trails near Home 


The trails in Kananaskis are open again and there are many great options for a short day hike near home.

Don't feel comfortable hiking right now, don't! I'm including this section for those looking for quiet trails outside the city to escape the crowds in city parks.


Quiet spring day at Heart Creek 

Below are some recommended stories:




** Disclaimer, I have not edited or updated these guides for the season. They do list some popular hikes that you may want to avoid right now (especially on a weekend.) 

** I also recommend doing a bit of research on your hike before you head  out. The visitor centres are not open in Alberta's provincial parks so you won't be able to get advice or current trail conditions there. Some trails might be closed this spring, and the national parks are currently closed.

As of May, Troll Falls is closed for trail maintenance. 

Quiet shoulder season hike on the Prairie View Trail 

If you choose to visit the provincial parks, please follow the guidelines and information below:

  • Avoid the mountain towns of Canmore and Bragg Creek. Go straight to the trailhead and back home again. (Banff National Park is closed for hiking right now and they currently have check stops at all entrances to the Town of Banff where you'll be turned away if you try to access the town.)

  • Stay close to home and return to your own bed for the night.

  • There are not many bathrooms open in the provincial parks right now. Go to the bathroom before you leave home and bring emergency supplies with you in case somebody in your family needs them. This should include wipes, toilet paper, plastic bags, and hand sanitizer. You will be packing everything home with you (and that includes your used toilet paper, diapers or a pile of poo!!)

  • Pack your garbage home with you! Nobody is collecting garbage in our parks right now.

  • Wear gloves if filling up with gas before you go. Stock your vehicle with hand sanitizer as well in case you have to touch anything while away from home.

  • Have a plan A, B, C, and D! If you get to a trailhead and the parking lot is already full,  please consider choosing a different trailhead or hike. Yes, people do separate once they get on the trail, but Alberta Parks could shut everything down again if they see hundreds of cars in a parking lot on a Saturday afternoon!

  • Avoid popular trails on a weekend and try to hike outside of peak times. Get an early start or head out later in the afternoon.

  • Carpooling is NOT physical distancing. Hiking with a group of friends is also not physical distancing unless you focus really hard on keeping the recommended 2-metre distance from one another. If your family is not comfortable hiking by yourselves, consider waiting and not hiking at this time.

  • Remember that bears are waking up and starting to move around for the spring. Bring bear spray with you and make lots of noise.

We always choose quiet days to climb Prairie Mountain in spring 


8. Stay Home but Plan for the Future 



For those that are starting to get depressed about having to stay close to home I recommend a bit of dreaming, list making, and goal setting right now. Get the kids involved as well and focus on happier times ahead.

Create a 2020-2021 Winter Fun List

Did you have trips get cancelled this spring? Add them to a 2020-2021 Winter Fun list. Were there trips you wanted to do, but ran out of time? Add them to the list. Maybe there was a trail you wanted to ski or a hike you wanted to do - add it to the list.

Creating a list for next winter creates hope that cancelled trips were really just "rescheduled" or "postponed." They will still happen  - just a little bit later.

Inspiration for next winter:

Read: The Best of Winter in the Canadian Rockies - Gotta do THIS 

Where do you want to explore NEXT winter? 


Create Summer Fun Lists 

Nobody knows what this summer will look like but we can dream and we can plan.

Create a list of hikes you want to do as a family or a list of trails you want to bike.

Create a list of fun things you want to do this summer or maybe a list of summits you want to conquer as a family.

I keep these lists on my phone and then we check things off as we do them.

I also like writing lists on construction paper and we post them around the kitchen for inspiration.


Inspiration for this summer:

Read: The Best of Summer in the Canadian Rockies - Gotta do THIS 


What's on your Summer list this year? 




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