Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hike, Paddle, Walk, Bike - in KEEN Flip Flops! Kona Flip II Review

I could write a love story about my beloved Keen Kona Flip Flops. I started out in the first version of them back when my son was a toddler 8 years ago, and I'm pretty sure I walked most of the city in these flip flops while he napped - once walking up to 7 kilometres (because they were that comfortable.)

Fast forward many years and I'm now wearing the Keen Kona Flip II sandals, an updated version of the original Kona flip flops, but as far as I can tell, they are identical to the first model I used to have (which is good news when you saw nothing that needed fixing or improving.)

KEEN Kona Flip II Sandals 

My Journey with Keen Kona Flip Sandals

My original Keen Kona flip flops died after I decided that wearing them on a kick scooter would be a fun idea. This was after wearing them for a few years though, so they had a very long life for flip flops. The problem was that Keen had discontinued these sandals - finally bringing them back just this year! Needless to say I was pretty ecstatic when I saw them listed on Keen's website - and requested a pair to review immediately!

I've started testing out the new sandals, wearing them on city bike rides, walks to and from school, and on light hikes. So far so good - and they perform 100% the same as the original Kona Flip sandals I fell in love with so many years ago.

Flip flops you can ride a bike in

10 Reasons to LOVE the Keen Kona Flip Sandals

  1. No blisters.  I often get blisters if I wear my regular Keen sandals for long walks or if they get wet while I'm wearing them. I've never had a single blister though in the flip flops - even after wearing them for hours on end (and after getting them wet.)

  2. They fit true to size. I might have weird feet, but I often struggle to order shoes online because I never know what size to order. With the Kona Flip sandals though you can order your normal size and they should fit. (In the odd chance they don't, Keen has great return and exchange policies that are super easy.)

  3. No toe imprints! You know the imprints you get in your cheap department store flip flops (part of the reason you can only wear them for one season?) - Yeah, that won't happen with the Keen flip flops. The footbed of the sandal is super supportive and rigid.

  4. You won't get holes in the soles. I can't count the number of flip flops I've had to retire because the soles would wear out by the end of one season after my toes would punch holes right through the soft footbed. That won't happen with these ones because the footbed is solid and built to last!

  5.  Molded Footbeds. These flip flops are designed in the same way Keen designs all their shoes, with molded insoles (or in this case, molded footbeds for your bare feet.) Lovers of orthotics might just find they can wear flip flops for the first time ever. - and again, remember I said I once hiked 7 kilometres in these flip flops (and not because I forgot my hiking boots!)

  6. No sprained ankles - I can't even hike a cute little creekside trail without wearing hiking boots (and orthotics!) I sprain an ankle at least once a season and as a result have very weak ankles. Put me in Keen's Kona Flips though and I've never sprained an ankle! I have no scientific reason behind this but it means I can confidently go out for a hike around our campground, knowing I won't be twisting an ankle on a stupid root.

  7. They have amazing grip for a pair of flip flops. The outer sole of the flip flops has a very grippy base so you'll be comfortable hiking through the forest, riding a bike, or even chasing the kids around the playground. These are sport sandals in the form of flip flops.

  8. Free toes!! I love all Keen sandals, but enough with the covered toes! I want my pretty little manicured piggies to wiggle free in the summer. - especially on a hot day!

  9. They are perfect for urban life. Nobody feels attractive in athletic sandals that cover 80% of their feet. The Kona Flips on the other hand are something I'd wear to the beach, to the grocery store, to school, or even to church. Flip flops are an acceptable footwear choice wherever you go (and for me that would even include weddings.)

  10. You'll have to try really hard to separate the toe piece from the sandal. Face it, we've all had the thin rubber toe piece separate from the base of our flip flops and rip out - leaving it virtually impossible to walk the rest of the way home!

    As you can see from my photos, the Keen flip flop sandals have fabric straps connecting to a solid footbed (and not thin rubber that pulls out of the base as soon as you run or stretch them too much.)

    Just don't use a kick scooter while wearing them and you should be good! (trust me.)
Molded footbeds and flip flops with actual grip! This is an athletic sports sandal

Buy your own pair of Keen Kona Flip II Sandals 

I haven't seen these sandals for sale in any stores yet, but you can order them online off the Keen website. They fit true to size and the exchange/return policy is great if you choose the wrong size.

They come in 3 different colors and I chose the Majesty/Shark Color because I have an obsession with all things purple. The duck green/Wasabi color is very pretty too.

I should mention that these sandals also come in a version for MEN

Hiking in my Keen Kona Flip II Sandals 

Disclaimer: I was given a pair of these sandals to review from KEEN Canada. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC

If you've been following me on Instagram lately, you might be wondering if we've moved to British Columbia, specifically Radium Hot Springs. And what can I say except that we really love the Columbia Valley, that the sun is almost always shining here, and that we spend many weekends here! (many, many...)

Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC (Photo:  Redstreak Restoration Trail)

From Calgary (where honestly we do still live,) it is a 3 hour drive to the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the gateway to the Columbia Valley (aka "Heaven on Earth.") The drive is very doable for a 2-day weekend but you'll probably enjoy yourself more if you spend at least 3 nights here (especially if you're camping.)

Below are ten of the activities we personally enjoy when we visit Radium Hot Springs in the warm months from spring through autumn - and you definitely won't knock them all off in one visit so you'll have to plan several trips here in the coming months.

We've already spent 4 weekends in Radium Hot Springs since the end of March with another trip coming up in a few weeks.

Spring camping in Radium Hot Springs (Photo: Redstreak Campground)

Ten Fun Activities for Active Families in and near Radium Hot Springs 

1. Start with a Trip to the Visitor Information Centre

Start your visit to Radium Hot Springs at the Visitor Information Centre where you can spend some time looking at the educational exhibits on the animals of the valley and the landscape/environment that has shaped their home. Also take the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about tours or activities in the valley. You can get trail reports here as well along with maps and brochures to plan out your trip.

Read more about the services offered at the Visitor Information Centre here. - and you'll find the Information Centre on the main street of Radium Hot Springs right along Highway 95 beside the grocery store.

Checking out the wildlife display at the Radium Visitor Information Centre

2. Explore the Village on Foot and Explore the Town Trails 

Once you've learned all about the bighorn sheep, you're going to want to go explore the village (either on foot or on bikes.) We love riding and walking around the quiet streets looking for sheep and deer in the morning or evening. You'll also find a great playground on the corner of St. Joseph Street and Park Drive (conveniently located behind the Bighorn Cafe if you're walking around.)

Main Town Playground in Radium Hot Springs

If you're looking for a hike to enjoy with the kids while camping or spending a few days in Radium Hot Springs, I recommend the following options:

Sinclair Creek Hike or Bike 

You'll find the parking lot by driving through the sawmill located off Forsters Landing Road. See the trail on Trail Forks or read about it on the Village of Radium Hot Springs website here.

Trail length: under 3 km return

Biking the Sinclair Creek Trail in Radium 

Sinclair Canyon and Waterfall Hike

You can reach this trail from the Canyon RV Resort (park in visitor parking and walk through the new "Creekside in the Canyon" development beside the campground, following signs for the Sinclair Canyon hiking trail.)

Trail length: approximately 1 km return from the campground

Alternately, you can drop down into the canyon following a series of switchbacks from highway 93 just outside the west gate near the hot springs. (Download a map here

Sinclair Canyon Trail, Radium Hot Springs

Juniper Trail / Redstreak Campground Trail Loop Hike

This is a great option if you're camping at either Redstreak or at the Canyon RV Resort. The full loop is approximately 6.5 km but you can shorten the hike by doing just one of the trails. Download a map here to see the full loop.

Hiking the Redstreak Campground Trail

And best of all, you can follow these trails to reach the hot springs from either campground. Distance to the hot springs is 7.4 km return from Canyon or 5.4 km return from Redstreak.

Bridge on the Juniper Trail down at Sinclair Creek

Edge of the Rockies Trail, Redstreak Campground

This is a gorgeous trail that starts from the E loop in the Redstreak Campground. It climbs up to a viewpoint over the village in an easy 1 km return hike.

Read more about camping at Redstreak here:

Read: Why we LOVE Camping at Redstreak, Radium Hot Springs

Viewpoint at the top of the Edge of the Rockies Trail, Redstreak Campground 

Redstreak Restoration Trail Hike or Bike

We discovered this trail through Trail Forks where you can find it as the Pacemaker Trail and the Pacemaker Return Trail. Together they make for a short loop that's under 3 km long - and that starts right from the Redstreak Campground if you're camping here.

It's become a favourite evening bike ride for us when time is limited and we just want a bit of exercise before bed.

Biking the Redstreak Restoration Trail (Pacemaker Return on Trail Forks)

On the Parks Canada site, this area is called the Redstreak Restoration Trail, and it describes the hike as a walk through meadows reborn by a prescribed burn.

We love riding our bikes here as we look for bighorn sheep and pay a visit to the Narnia lamp (a lamp post straight out of the pages of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - sitting in the middle of the meadow.) And there's nothing strange about that at all??

The Narnia lamp post in the middle of the meadow on the Redstreak Restoration Trail

3. Relax at the Radium Hot Springs Pools (with a swimming pool for the kids)

This one is a given! If you're going to spend time in Radium Hot Springs, you have to visit the hot springs!

What we love most about these hot springs is that there are two separate pools, one for hot soaking, and one for swimming. And, the swimming pool has both a slide and a diving board!

I also recently discovered that capable swimmers can play in the cold pool alone if you want to soak in the hot pool while the kids play in the swimming pool. (Check the age requirement for this when you visit. My son was allowed to swim there alone but he is 10 years old.) For me, this has become a game changer because I love jumping off the diving board with my son, but after 20 minutes in the swimming pool I just want to retreat to the hot pool.

Visit the Radium Hot Springs website for more information.

Kids will love the swimming pool at the Radium Hot Springs pools

4. Hop on your Bikes to Explore the Valley Trails 

I've written a comprehensive guide to all of the bike trails in the Columbia Valley that I recommend for families.

Read: The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley

Mountain biking near Radium Hot Springs

From Radium Hot Springs, I especially recommend the areas below for families:

Biking Sinclair Creek and Playing at the Radium Pump and Jump

There's a sweet little bike park and pump track located in Sinclair Creek just down off Forsters Landing Road in Radium Hot Springs.

Find directions to the Pump and Jump Bike Park on Trail Forks. 

Playing on the Radium Pump and Jump along the Sinclair Creek Trail

We also love riding our bikes along the easy Sinclair Creek Trail, a wide gravel trail that is popular with cyclists, hikers, and dog walkers. There is an official parking lot that you can find off Forsters Landing Road by driving through the sawmill.

Find directions to the parking lot for Sinclair Creek here on Trail Forks

Biking the Sinclair Creek Trail in Radium Hot Springs

Easy Mountain Biking on the Old Coach Trail, Dry Gulch to Radium

This was one of my son's first mountain bike trails back when he could barely start and stop on his own (and my husband had to run alongside him for the entire 9 km distance.)

The Old Coach Trail is an old gravel road without any technical challenges. There are some nice views though and it makes for a good family ride.

We always park at Dry Gulch (see the trail on Trail Forks here) and ride back to Radium. It is mostly a gradual downhill ride in this direction with a few long hills beginners may find challenging if they get going too fast.

Biking the Old Coach Trail

The crux of the ride comes at the end when you have to climb back up to Radium for the final kilometre. Honestly though, we just ride what we can and walk the rest. It's far easier to walk the ending than to return back to Dry Gulch (which would be uphill for a good 8 km.)

Intermediate mountain bikers will find other unofficial and unsigned trail options off the Old Coach Trail.

Shuttling tip: Send an adult back for the vehicle before you get to the uphill climb at the end. Make your way to Radium with the kids and hang out at the Bighorn Cafe on the main street while you wait. (They have great cinnamon buns and baking.) There's also an ice-cream store on the main street or you can bike to the town playground (a couple of blocks back behind the cafe.)

Easy mountain biking on the Old Coach Trail

Easy to Intermediate Mountain Biking at Lillian Lake, Invermere

Families will enjoy a quick spin around the Junior Johnson on the Lillian Lake Trail Network. It is a double track loop, 3 km in length, and a good opportunity to practice with brakes and gears on the short hills. (See the trail on Trail Forks here.

Easy riding on the Junior Johnson Trail, Lillian Lake

Once you've mastered that, or if you want a solo ride while the kids play at the lake (where there's a dock for jumping off of on a hot day,) I recommend the Kloosifier Loop, a gorgeous flowy 8 km intermediate mountain biking loop. My 10-year old just rode it but he is a strong rider. Alternately, check out the full Johnson Loop (slightly more technical than the Kloosifier.)

Beautiful flowy riding on the Kloosifier Trail, Lillian Lake 

Paved Pathway Riding on the Westside Legacy Trail, Invermere 

If it's pavement you're after, this is your best (and only) option near Radium Hot Springs. The Markin MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail will eventually connect Invermere and Fairmont in one long 25 km trail. As of spring 2019, the first 5 segments are open and ready for riding with beautiful new pavement.

Paved pathway riding on the Westside Legacy Trail, Invermere

And to find the trail, just drive out of Invermere on Westside Road (which parallels Highway 95 on the far side of Lake Windermere) and drive along until you see a paved bike trail beside the highway. There are a couple of parking lots so you can choose where to start and end (and shuttling is an option if the kids want to ride one way on the entire distance that's open so far, which is at least 10 km.

One big thing to know in advance about this trail is that it is not a beginner bike trail, even though it is paved. There are gigantic hills and climbs along the trail, and it doesn't matter which direction you ride because you'll be climbing up and screaming back down multiple times in either direction. There are always good switchbacks for climbing and descending (but they are steep.)

Gears and hand brakes are necessary for this trail.

Climbing a steep section of the Westside Legacy Trail

5. Spend a few hours at the Valley Zipline Adventures near Radium

We got to try a tour with the Valley Zipline Adventures this month and it was a LOT of fun.

While it's not the biggest zipline course, there were a few things we really liked about it including how hands-on the tour was. Read my full review below:

Read: Valley Zipline Adventures Tour, Radium Hot Springs 

Our family loves ziplining and it's great that we can enjoy it close to home

6. Take a day trip to Lake Windermere and Hit the Beach 

This one is easy to explain  - drive to Invermere for a day and hit the beach! Lake Windermere is a great spot on a hot day and kids will love the slides out in the water at Kinsmen Beach.

Trust my kid to go head first!

And, before you head to the beach, make sure you stop by Far Out Gear Rentals in Radium to pick up inflatable stand up paddleboards (including youth sized ones,) single kayaks (child, youth, and adult sizes available,) tandem kayaks, or canoes - with racks available for the kayaks and canoes.

Jumping docks on Lake Windermere 

7. Spend a day on the Colulmbia River floating from Invermere to Radium

We love paddling the Columbia River from Invermere back to Radium Hot Springs in the summer. We've done the trip a number of times and I always use a stand up paddleboard for the gentle float trip. My boys use a tandem kayak or my son paddles his own sit on top kayak.

Floating down the Columbia River is a great way to tour the wetlands

And if you need to rent boats or arrange for a shuttle service, you can either contact Far Out Gear Rentals in Radium Hot Springs or Columbia River Paddle in Invermere. Both companies offer guided or self-guided tours of the Columbia River wetlands, shuttle services, and a variety of boat rentals.

You can also save 10% on your next rental or tour with Columbia River Paddle with a special offer from the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website. (View the offer here.)

Want to try an overnight trip on the Columbia River?

Read: Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids

Gentle family-friendly floating down the Columbia River

8. Try Yurt Camping at Radius Retreat 

I never knew it was a dream of mine to camp on top of a mountain, until I did it. Now I've added the experience to my annual "summer cool list" - a very long list that grows by the year, and we look forward to discovering more unique places to camp.

I should clarify that we didn't exactly camp "on top of a mountain" but rather, we camped in a yurt on a scenic bench overlooking the Columbia Valley outside the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

Yurt camping at Radius Retreat, Radium Hot Springs

Mountain summit or not, it certainly felt like a mountain, AND, our nearest neighbors were a kilometre away! This was the most private campsite we've ever had, and we enjoyed sitting around our campfire without having to listen to drunken neighbors partying around us at a noisy campground.

Read the rest of the story here: Yurt Camping on top of a Mountain at Radius Retreat 

Camping on top of a mountain at Radius Retreat

9. Spend a day at Nipika Mountain Resort (biking, hiking, and disc golf)

Nipika Mountain Resort is an eco resort located approximately 45 minutes outside Radium Hot Springs. Spend a day here exploring the mountain bike trails, hiking along the Cross River and the Kootenay River, or playing a round of disc golf.

Families have their choice of single track mountain bike trails or double track ski trails (great if you're pulling younger children in a bike trailer) - or skip the bikes and explore on foot as you follow trails to the natural bridge or down to the river to throw rocks with the kids.

Biking across the Natural Bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort

You can also spend a couple of nights here in one of the cabins located on the Nipika property.

Read more about Nipika Mountain Resort on their website

Also, read one of my previous stories here: Kids on Wheels - Nipika Mountain Resort

Playing by the Kootenay River at Nipika Mountain Resort

10. Refuel at Local Restaurants, Pubs, and Coffee Shops

We have a few favourite places to eat when we're in Radium Hot Springs:

For a great family meal: We love the sunny patio at the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery in Radium. The place is family-friendly and the food is always good. Kids will enjoy the hamburgers with the "choose your burger style" option (including options for beef, chicken, or veggie, and several options for a side including classic french fries of course.)

When you need coffee, a quick breakfast, or a light lunch: We love the Bighorn Cafe and it's safe to say we would never pass through Radium without stopping here at least once (a day that is!) - and if you love cinnamon buns, you can always call ahead and get some set aside for your family (because they do sell out each day.)

At the end of a hike or bike ride when you need Ice-cream: You'll find Screamers right on the highway (just down from the Visitor Information Centre and the grocery store.) - It's also conveniently located across from the Bighorn Cafe in case there are conflicting interests in the family (as there always is in mine!)

When it has to be PIZZA: The Wildside Pizzeria is our go-to stop for lunch before driving home on a Sunday afternoon. They sell pizza by the slice and have a couple picnic tables outside. It's also located beside the Bighorn Cafe which is perfect for us so we can grab coffee afterwards for the drive.

More dining options can be found on the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website.

You'll always need an ice-cream store or a coffee shop (even when camping!)

Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs 

We usually camp if we're visiting Radium between May and Thanksgiving. Families looking for other options can visit the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website for ideas and some special offers.

You'll always see lots of bighorn sheep if you choose to camp at Redstreak up above the village

Special thanks to Tourism Radium Hot Springs for their support and partnership.

Other businesses that have hosted us over the past few months include the Valley Zipline Adventures, the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery, and Radius Retreat. 

Thanks to Nipika Mountain Resort for their continued support as well over the years.

Disclaimer: As always, all opinions are my own and this story was not paid for or sponsored. All photos are my own.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Valley Zipline Adventures Tour, Radium Hot Springs

We got to try a tour with the Valley Zipline Adventure  just outside Radium Hot Springs this month and it was a LOT of fun. While it's not the biggest zipline course, there were a few things we really liked about it (and that made it stand out above some of the other zipline tours we've tried.

Valley Zipline Adventures, Radium Hot Springs, BC 

Brief Introduction and Overview

Radium Hot Springs is one of our favourite destinations for a quick weekend getaway from Calgary and the drive is only 3 hours (totally doable for Friday after work.)

The Valley Zipline Adventures Centre is located a short distance outside Radium Hot Springs at Dry Gulch, and you'll see it off the right hand side of the highway as you drive towards Invermere.

Of note for families curious about this adventure tour:

  • The parking lot is very large so you can park your trailer or RV here if you're passing through - something that was important for us because we did the tour on a Sunday morning before returning to Calgary

  • The tour only lasts a couple of hours so you can stop in for a rest break if you're driving through on your summer vacation

  • You'll get to enjoy 7 different ziplines on this course

  • Participants must be a minimum of 48 inches (4 feet) tall. Participants must also be a minimum weight of 65 lbs and a maximum weight of 250 lbs

  • Children under the age of 10 need a parent or guardian to accompany them on the tour. If you have kids older than this, you could drop them off without actually taking the tour yourself (great if you the parent has a fear of heights or you need to save money and can't afford for the whole family to participate)

  • You'll want to wear closed-toed shoes, sunblock, and comfortable clothing. Leave your hats behind because you'll be wearing helmets the whole time

  • Cameras are welcome as long as they are secure. My husband put my cell phone in a zipper pocket and I had a camera with a long strap secured to my harness
Ziplining is a fun activity for the whole family

What we loved about this zipline adventure:

It's awesome when you can go ziplining locally without having to go all the way to Mexico or Costa Rica! 

My son LOVES ziplines and we actually went ziplining every single day on our recent trip to Mexico. Radium Hot Springs is a whole lot closer though and more affordable!

A kid who could go ziplining every single day!

It's a family adventure and a great intro tour for those who've never tried ziplining before

I appreciated that this tour was not too scary or overly intimidating. The crossings weren't very high off the ground - The first 5 ziplines are on average 80 feet or 24 meters off the ground at the highest point. The 7th zipline is 120 feet or 36 meters at its highest point. (This isn't a jungle forest canopy you're crossing.)

Also, our speed was never overly crazy. - The 7th zipline was the only one that required a brake at the end.

I also appreciated that each landing was quite gentle. Each of the first 6 crossings brought us slowly to a stop (my son and I had to be pulled in with a rope a couple of times at the end so we definitely weren't going super fast.)

Kids often get pulled in with a rope at the end if they don't go fast enough

This is a full hands-on experience and you are in charge of your own gear the entire time!

You're not just a passenger along for the ride on this tour. You actually get to do all of your own "technical work" on this course, clipping in to the line for each crossing with your own carabiners, using a set of double carabiners to stay connected to a fixed line through the entire tour, and switching between the safety cable and the actual zipline cable before and after each crossing.

Most zipline guides on other tours do everything for you and you'll never even touch a carabiner or a pulley. This is not the case with the Valley Zipline Adventures Tour.

You'll get very comfortable with your carabiners and equipment on this tour

Our adventure felt like a combination between a zipline tour and an aerial park

If you've ever done a high ropes course or tried an aerial park adventure, you'll be familiar with the use of carabiners, fixed safety lines, and the constant clipping and unclipping from cables. I like this because it keeps me active and engaged the whole time, and I'm not just "babied" by guides who take care of all the equipment for me.

When you do a tour with Valley Zipline Adventures, you'll follow a course high up in the trees, climbing ladders, flying between platforms, and crossing high up between each tower. It was exhilarating and was a fun adventure for the whole family.

High up in the trees at the Valley Zipline Adventures Tour

And don't worry about falling to your death by doing something wrong!

The guides were amazing at making sure we all knew exactly what to do before we started out on our tour! There's a short practice course that you get to start on, and you won't progress beyond that until you're ready!

You'll also be using smart carabiners that talk to one another, so you'll always be attached to the cable with at least one carabiner (and it won't release or unlock until your second carabiner is locked to the cable.)

Practice course to learn the equipment 

Other Activities at the Valley Zipline Adventures

There is also a climbing wall and a freefall jump tower on site that you can add to your zipline package. We decided not to try the climbing wall because my son didn't want to switch to a different harness, but we did try the freefall jump and it was a LOT of fun. (and not that scary if you're a bit nervous of heights.) - the hardest part for me in fact was the climb up!

Climbing wall and free fall jump 

For more information, please visit the Valley Zipline Adventures website. On their website you'll find full details on the pricing and various packages offered. Our package included the climbing wall and jump tower on site.

And, receive a 10% discount when you book online using a promo code off the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website. (view the discount here.)

Freefall jump at the Valley Zipline Adventures Park 

Disclaimer: Our tour was hosted by the valley Zipline Adventures and partnered with Tourism Radium Hot Springs. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Family Guide to the BEST Adventures on the Icefields Parkway (Lake Louise to Jasper)

The Icefields Parkway is one of the world's most beautiful driving tours, and with a bit of careful planning (and willingness to go for a short hike,) it's actually possible to escape the crowds!

Bow Summit Lookout, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

We love exploring and hiking on the Icefields Parkway because once you get a half hour past Lake Louise, the crowds start to thin out a bit, and the scenery is every bit as spectacular! Yes, it's still busy in the middle of summer, but we're talking 50 people at a popular viewpoint instead of 200! (Step into a pair of hiking boots and it's easy to leave the tourists behind completely!)

Adventure awaits on the Icefields Parkway (Photo: Hector Lake)

Quick Intro: Where I'm Sending you to Explore

The Icefields Parkway, Highway 93 North, connects the Village of Lake Louise in Banff National Park with the Town of Jasper in Jasper National Park to the north. 

The parkway is 232 kilometres in distance and without stops you can complete the drive in 2.5 to 3 hours from Lake Louise to Jasper. From Calgary, you can easily drive out to Louise, enjoy a stop or two along the Parkway, and still arrive in Jasper for dinner that night.

Precautionary notes before heading out:
Panther Falls, Icefields Parkway

  • This area sees a very long winter! Expect lingering snow on trails until mid to late June.

  • Bring a pair of gloves, a hat, and layers of clothing including a warm sweater and a jacket any time you travel through this area. It generally won't go above 20 C in the daytime and it can easily drop to 5 degrees Celsius at night (even in the middle of summer.)

  • You can hike to the toe of a glacier on this highway (without climbing!) Again, bring warm clothes and don't rely on a pair of sandals as your footwear of choice while out exploring.

  • There is ONE gas station located between Lake Louise and Jasper, at Saskatchewan River Crossing, and you shouldn't need me to tell you that the gas there is not cheap. Fill up before you start your drive!

  • There is no cell coverage for the entire duration of the drive between Louise and Jasper. Make sure you're prepared before you start out.

  • Services are limited and any food you'll find is expensive. Pack snacks and a lunch for your trip rather than relying on the busy cafeterias at the Saskatchewan River Crossing or at the Columbia Icefields Centre. - Also know that there are only services available in the summer (June - September.) Winter travel on the Parkway is a bigger adventure.

  • The speed limit is 90 Km/hour. Don't speed! Expect to encounter wildlife, hikers crossing the highway, or slow moving vehicles at any time. Chances are you'll be driving well under 90 at times. - And do not get outside your vehicle if you see an animal that you absolutely must take a photo of (or stop in the middle of the road!)

  • A park pass is required to drive this highway (even if you don't stop.) You can purchase a day pass at the gates as you leave either Lake Louise or Jasper if you don't have an annual Discovery Pass. 

Standing on the Athabasca Glacier, Icefields Parkway 

Our Favourite Adventures along the Icefields Parkway 

Below are our favourite adventures along the Icefields Parkway, starting in the south and working north towards Jasper.

This list will grow each year as we discover new things to do, so it won't always be a top ten list. And yes, you should save it for the future since I'll keep adding to it.

Finally, for driving locations, open Google Maps and you should be able to find each destination. There's also a good map here on the Parks Canada website

All links below provide more information on the hike or destination. 

Red Chairs on the Wilcox Pass Trail, Icefields Parkway

1. The Herbert Lake Diving Board

I'm not going to remove all the adventure here because I believe that if you want to find the diving board, you should be willing to look a bit. Hint: It's on the far side of the lake. 

Rumor has it the diving board is straight from the original pool at the Banff Hot Springs. And lest you worry that the water is glacial in temperature, this is actually the warmest mountain lake we've found in the Canadian Rockies. 

The diving board at the back of Herbert Lake, Banff National Park 

2. Hiking to Helen Lake 

We haven't done this hike since our son was a baby and we carried him up to the lake in a child carrier. Time to return! 

The hike is 6km one way so save the adventure until your children can tackle a 12km hike with 455 metres of height gain. You'll be rewarded with gorgeous views when you arrive at the lake and hopefully lots of marmots running around in the boulders.

Gorgeous scenery en route to Helen Lake along the Icefields Parkway 

3. Hiking around Bow Lake 

There's an easy trail around the shoreline of Bow Lake to the back of the lake. Escape the crowds by hiking further to Bow Glacier Falls (4.6km one way.)

For a paddle-hike adventure, paddle across the lake and then continue on foot to Bow Glacier Falls. (This has been on our list of things to do for years. Hopefully this is the year!)

Want a bigger adventure? Take the kids on an overnight backpacking trip up to the Bow Hut, one of the Alpine Club of Canada huts. The hut can be reached in an 8km hike from the parking lot at Bow Lake. 

I'll be adding to this section as we explore the area around Bow Lake more as a family.

Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway 

4. Hiking to the Bow Summit Lookout from Peyto Lake 

Enjoy a beautiful hike to the Peyto Lake Lookout.

Then, leave the crowds behind for the 2.9km one way hike to the Bow Summit Lookout (where you'll get views of Bow Lake.)

And there are usually lots of marmots on this trail as an added bonus for the kids.

Note: this area will be closed as of mid-August 2019 for repairs to the parking lot. 

Hiking to the Bow Summit Lookout with views of Peyto Lake below 

5. Hiking to the bottom of Panther Falls at the Big Bend 

Between Saskatchewan River Crossing and the Columbia Icefields Centre you will drive up a big hill and around the "big bend" hairpin turn. There are two parking lots on the Big Bend, each provided for tourists to pull over and take photos. Pull over into the uppermost parking lot at the top of the Big Bend.

Escape the crowds in the parking lot by hiking down the signed trail (far right side of the parking lot) to the bottom of Panther Falls in an easy 0.5km outing. (Just warn the kids in advance that they will be hiking down to the falls and that they'll have to climb back up after.)

Panther Falls, Icefields Parkway 

6. Hiking Parker Ridge to the Saskatchewan Glacier Viewpoint 

This is an easy hike and was one of my son's first big solo hikes without the child carrier. The Parker Ridge Hike is only 2.7km one way and you'll gain 250 metres on the well switch-backed trail.

From the top of the ridge enjoy views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and off-trail rambling in either direction. If you're fortunate enough to be staying at the HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, you can follow the ridge all the way towards the Hilda Glacier and descend a creek down to the hostel in a beautiful day trip.

Read More about our adventures here:

Hiking along Parker Ridge, Icefields Parkway 

7. Visiting the Columbia Icefields Centre and walking on the Athabasca Glacier 

We've visited the Columbia Icefields Centre many times and you can read all about our adventures in the following stories:

Standing on the Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefields Adventure 

And read more about the tours offered here including the Icefield Glacier Adventure where you ride a snow coach out onto the glacier, and the Skywalk, a cliff-edged glass sidewalk and observation platform with fantastic views! 

Glacier Skywalk and Observation Platform with Mount Athabasca in the background 

8. Hiking the Wilcox Pass Trail in Jasper National Park

Reach the Columbia Icefields Centre and you're officially in Jasper National Park now.

Wilcox Pass is one of our favourite hikes along the Icefields Parkway for easy access to great views. It's only 2.4km return if you want to reach the first viewpoint, which is ideal if you're traveling to Jasper and need a rest stop to stretch the legs (and let the kids burn off some energy.)

If you have more time and energy, you can hike all the way to the pass in an 8km return hike. Elevation gain is only 390 metres as well so this is not a challenging hike.

Views from the Wilcox Pass Hike, Jasper National Park 

9. Visiting Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls 

Next up on the drive north to Jasper, you'll pass the day use areas for Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. If you only have time for one, stop at Athabasca Falls. If you have time for both, they are short walks and mostly a good excuse to get out of the car to stretch the legs. (Though Athabasca Falls are pretty spectacular.)

Prepare to be overwhelmed by tourists at both spots as they are very popular with tourist busses.

Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park 

10. Jasper Sky Tram and Hiking to the top of Whistlers Summit

This one is not cheap, but it's 100% worth the expense! From the upper station of the sky tram, the summit is only 200 metres above you and the views are phenomenal as you leisurely hike through the alpine environment for 1.2km (one way,) on the lookout for marmots.

I'll never get tired of this hike, and you'll leave two thirds of the crowds behind as soon as you start hiking towards the summit.

Read more about the Jasper Sky Tram here

Hiking through alpine meadows en route to the Whistlers Summit off the Jasper Sky Tram

And now that you've officially arrived in the Town of Jasper, you'll want to check out these stories below:

Our Top Ten Favourite Things to do in Jasper 

Where to Camp in the National Parks of Alberta 

Viewpoint above the Jasper Sky Tram on the hike to Whistlers Summit

Need accommodations and don't want to camp? Check out the accommodations offered by Hosteling International Canada. HI Canada operates and maintains many wilderness hostels across the Rockies, 6 of which are located along the Icefields Parkway!

HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel on the Icefields Parkway 

Below are wilderness hostels located on the Icefields Parkway (links go to the website or to a story I've written on that hostel:)

The hostels are in order as you'd pass them from south to north.

HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel

HI Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel

HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel

HI Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel

HI Edith Cavell Wilderness Hostel

HI Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel