Saturday, July 15, 2017

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges

I've wanted to do an overnight "moms and kids trip" for a couple of years now but challenges have always gotten in the way. Backpacking was out because I don't have the strength to carry gear for two people into a backcountry campground, and while regular camping was the easier option, I've really come to like my trailer (which I can't tow on my own.)

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
An overnight trip I can handle on my own at Sundance Lodges, Kananaskis

Sundance Lodges in Kananaskis - Solo "Mom Trip" Perfection

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
One of the tipis at Sundance Lodges
I've always wanted to stay at Sundance Lodges in Kananaskis and decided it just might be the perfect overnight summer trip that I could do solo with my son. 

Sundance Lodges is a private campground offering comfort camping options in the form of canvas walled trappers tents and canvas tipis. I figured if we stayed in one of the trappers tents, it would make for a very easy camping experience. We'd still be camping without having to haul the trailer out on my own and we'd get to sleep in a tent (which my son would love as a change of pace from the trailer.)

I invited a girlfriend and her daughter to join us for a night at Sundance Lodges and our plan was set into motion for a moms and kids overnight mountain trip. We even planned a very ambitious hike for the following day and my friend lined up child care for her younger son.

As a bonus, we'd get this great camping experience from a campground we could drive up to in a short 45 minute trip from Calgary! We'd save our hiking adventures for the next day when we could travel light with day packs.

Sundance Lodges Takes Most of the Work out of Camping 

We showed up at Sundance Lodges late afternoon and brought a very simple dinner with us that would involve no cooking. My friend brought a rotisserie chicken with her and I brought wraps and some veggies. Chicken burritos were served in minutes and we never needed to pull out a camp stove.

We took "lazy" to a whole new level after that and packed up all of our dishes to take home and wash the next day. After all, it was only one night!

Entertainment was easy with the beaver ponds day use area next door. A short walk took us over to a creek where the kids happily played in the shallow water.

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Playing in the creek at the Beaver Ponds, Sundance Lodges

We went back to camp and made a small fire, roasted a few marshmallows, and went to bed - in our tent that was already set up for us when we arrived! My girlfriend is a regular tent-camper and said it was the easiest camping trip she'd ever done. No tent to set up, no mattresses to blow up, and no set up of any kind at all. You won't even need a screen tent because there's a lovely canvas awning in front of the tent with a picnic table underneath in case it rains.

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Camping at Sundance Lodges with our cozy trappers tent

Our tent had a double bed and two single beds in it (all with vinyl mattresses.) Bring sleeping bags and you're good to go. There was also a heater inside which we should have honestly used because it gets chilly in Kananaskis at night.

The next morning we built a small fire to warm up, had a simple breakfast of cinnamon buns and fruit (no cooking being a goal on our short trip,) packed up our dishes again to wash at home, and then headed out for our day hike.

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
A look at the inside of our trappers tent at Sundance Lodges

It was the easiest camping trip ever.

And the kids have asked for a repeat trip next summer. Success!!

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Morning at camp. Experience EASY camping at Sundance Lodges in Kananaskis

A Beautiful Area for a Campground 

Whether you want to try comfort camping in a trappers tent or in a tipi, you want to bring your own tent, or you want to bring your trailer, Sundance Lodges has options for all styles of camping.

Sundance Lodges has over 20 trappers tents, over 10 tipis, and over 25 normal campsites.

Sundance Lodges is located in Evan Thomas Provincial Recreation Area along Highway 40, minutes away from Kananaskis Village.  It is set beside the Kananaskis River which is ideal for evening or morning walks!

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Sundance Lodges is located beside the scenic Kananaskis River

In the nearby vicinity you can find the following areas to explore:

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Beaver Ponds Day Use Area, Sundance Lodges

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Playing in the Beaver Ponds at Sundance Lodges

And if you want to read about the hike we did after staying overnight at Sundance Lodges, this is the epic trip report from our hike up Grizzly Peak

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Day hiking in Kananaskis up the Grizzly Peak Trail

For More Information 

Please visit the Sundance Lodges website for more information on camping, reservation, rates, and season dates.

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Wild children at play at Sundance Lodges

Disclaimer: We received complimentary camping for a night at Sundance Lodges. As always, all words and opinions are my own and I was not paid to write this review.

We would happily stay at Sundance Lodges again.

Thank you to Sundance Lodges for the great trip and for making a solo trip possible for two moms and our kids.

Moms' Comfort Camping Adventure at Sundance Lodges (Rockies Family Adventures)
Evening at Sundance Lodges, Kananaskis

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

First Summits - Grizzly Peak, Kananaskis

Last week my son and I headed out to Kananaskis to hike up Grizzly Peak with a girlfriend and her daughter. My friend lured me in with the claim that this was the most beautiful hike in Kananaskis, assured me that our 7 and 8 year olds should love it, and said that it was a relatively straight forward, (albeit steep,) hike.

Hiking up towards Grizzly Peak, Kananaskis Valley

I didn't do much research on the hike (mistake one,) took my friend's recommendation with blind faith (mistake number two,) and figured I could totally do it solo (without my husband coming along to help.) - And yes, that was mistake number three for this challenging outing.

I'm pretty sure I owe this summit's success to a second girlfriend who joined us for the day without kids (and ended up pulling/pushing my son up all the steep parts.) My other girlfriend (the one who initiated the hike) can also be credited with rescuing my son with a rope when he accidentally slid down a steep scree slope on the descent (and got stuck half way down.)

Sounds like a fun day, right??

Two mighty seven and eight year olds climbing up Grizzly Peak

 Bringing Kids on the Big Stuff 

I remember the "big stuff" that I used to do in the days before having a child.

- 30 km day hikes
- 3 day backpacking trips, done as single day epic long hikes so that we could travel light
- Scrambles and summits with 1700 metres of height gain
- Long ridge walks where we were lucky to make it back to the vehicles by dark

An average day in the mountains usually left me gashed, bruised, bleeding, blistered, soaked in sweat and dirt, and sore for days.

The crazy thing though is that I actually LIKED this. I liked pushing myself, challenging myself, and waking up exhausted (in true zombie mode) the next day. I can't say I always "liked" every part of an outing (and many trails were definitely one-timers that I will never repeat.) Overall though, I "liked" the adventure, and I had fun checking summits off in my local guide book.

Fast forward 8 years though and I have a child who also enjoys pushing himself, who likes a good challenge, and loves climbing mountains. And while we aren't doing 30 km days yet or tackling epic amounts of height gain, we are starting to have some pretty BIG days.

The apple did not fall far from the tree with this kid who loves climbing mountains

Like before, in the pre-kid days, my family hikes are now leaving me sore for days, they are leaving me gashed and bleeding on occasion, and we were so filthy after our Grizzly Peak summit day that my husband wouldn't let our son even sit down in the house until he'd taken a shower.

Our family hikes are entering the realm of the "big stuff" and it's making me reflect on how we do things. I can't take our outings lightly anymore. Mistakes can have serious consequences and a low-energy day is a pretty big deal now!

Hiking the BIG stuff with my 8-year old son

Grizzly Peak Stats for our Summit Hike

Height Gain: 900 metres (not 2535 metres as indicated in Alan Kane's newest guide book! That is the total height of the mountain.)

Distance: 7 km return according to one website I found.

Time it took us: 8 hours return (4 hours up, 4 hours down)

Age of kids we hiked with: a 7 year old girl and an 8 year old boy

Temperature: 30+ degrees!

Best Guide Book: Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies by Alan Kane

After 800 metres of relentless steep climbing, you reach this meadow below the summit of Grizzly Peak

Trailhead: The trail is located on Highway 40, just south of the Fortress Gas Station in Kananaskis. Drive past the gas station and look for the Ripple Rock Creek Drainage on your left. It is 1 km south of Grizzly Creek and is located between Grizzly Creek and Hood Creek.

If you are driving south you'll have to find a place to turn around so that you can park on the side of the highway (in the north bound direction.) There is no parking lot. We ended up going all the way to the King Creek parking lot, turning around there, and then driving back north until we found the right creek.

Scrambling a cliff band lower down on the Grizzly Peak trail

Overview of the Grizzly Peak Hike / Scramble

The trail is easily seen from the side of the highway where you park. It is also fairly straight forward all the way to the summit (just as my girlfriend had promised.) I would not say that exceptional route finding skills are required for this hike, and a strong hiker with a good background on unofficial trails would have few problems finding his/her way up the mountain.

The "straight forward hike" part aside though,I can NOT say that this hike is easy. It's not technical, a fall would never kill you, and there's no exposure. However, it is far from easy and is certainly no walk in the park. This hike kicked our butts and I feel like I grossly underestimated its difficulty.

The trail started off relatively easy but it soon became relentlessly steep and loose

The Trail up Grizzly Peak is STEEP as Heck!

The trail starts off steep right from the highway and this beast quickly let's you know that you are not messing around here. There are no switch backs, and the trail wastes no time with a warm up. You'll be breathing heavy within the first minute.

The first part of the trail climbs through forest on a reasonably good trail but is relentlessly steep and very slippery on the way down. My son did a full face plant on the descent (in good hiking boots) and slipped (landing on his bum) at least 15 times on this section alone. (There is a reason it took 4 hours to get up and another 4 to get down! This trail is every bit as challenging on the way down (if not more so.)

Nearing the first cliff band on the lower trail up Grizzly Peak

You'll be Using Your Hands. This is a Scramble

After climbing the forest for roughly an hour, we ended up at a small cliff band where people with acrophobia might be mildly scared for a moment or two. It would be hard to hold hands on this section so you have to trust that kids can climb up and traverse a narrow staircase of rock next to a cliff band. On the way down we did wrap a rope around the kids' waists as they descended so that if they fell, they wouldn't fall "as far."  I always vote for bruises over a broken arm or leg.

Scrambling up the cliff band on the lower slopes of the Grizzly Peak hike

This Hike is Stunningly Beautiful (which partly makes up for how steep it is!)

Cliff band scaled, you are in the second part of the hike. There are more trees, the trail gets steeper, and gets even looser. Again, it's not so bad on the way up but dreadful on the way down.

Eventually you get into the "pretty part" of the hike though (roughly 1.5 hours in if hiking at a slow to moderate pace,) and you'll be traversing grassy slopes with views of Mt. Evan Thomas to your right and the Royal Group across the valley with the Kananaskis Lakes.

This was one of my favourite parts of the hike and you actually get a chance to breathe again. At times, the trail is even flat!! Alas, the trail is still very narrow so you won't be sitting down for a prolonged snack.

Grassy slopes on the trail up Grizzly Peak (Mt. Evan Thomas to the right)

This Trail is LOOSE! Bring Band-Aids!!

The next part of the hike is dreadful on both the way up and down. A bit of route finding is required as there are multiple "sheep trails" through the scree and rock, the trail is very loose (in both directions,) and you start to leave the trees behind you.

You're into the land of rock and scree below the cliff face of Grizzly Peak to your left. We picked our way up the best we could, occasionally got off trail for a moment here or there (wondering why the heck the trail was so steep, yes, even steeper than before, and where our trail of sorts had gone to.) Then we'd round a corner and realize the trail was above or below us and that we'd been off route.

By this point we'd been hiking straight up for over 2 hours and there had been very few places to stop and rest. And then the trail got even worse!!

I have no idea if we were on the trail here. Probably not!

Hope you Enjoy Scree Bashing

Bashing our way up scree to the meadow on top
Now we were in the true "scree bashing" section and thank goodness for my friend Robin who practically pushed/pulled my son up sections (while I fought to get my own butt up the trail without falling.) This part of the hike went on forever and there was no shade. It was 30+ degrees out and I was starting to think that the gorgeous meadow we'd been promised would never come. The kids were asking for lunch by this point too but there was honestly nowhere to stop.

We finally pounded our way up the nasty slope, and found the beautiful meadow. This part had all taken about 3 hours but we still weren't at the summit. For one of the kids, this was the end, feeling mighty proud of herself for making it this far. To reach the meadow you'll already have climbed over 800 metres of height.

We spent half an hour or so in the meadow eating, airing out our feet, and trying to summon more energy for the summit.

Clawing our way up steep slopes to the meadow

Somebody needs to Build a Hut in the Meadow so we can Stay Overnight Next Time!

After all the work you'll go through climbing up to the gorgeous meadow below the summit of Grizzly Peak, it would be lovely to find an alpine club hut.

The meadow below the Grizzly Peak summit

I have never enjoyed a meadow so much in my life. It was stunningly beautiful and perfect for a good rest and lunch break before trudging further up to the summit.

How does a meadow like this end up on top of a mountain?

The Summit is Magnificent 

The final walk to the summit was actually the best part of the whole hike. We climbed up grassy slopes (that were not slippery in the slightest) to the ridge in approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Then it was just a short narrow ridge walk (airy in spots) to reach the summit.

Crossing the airy ridge to the summit of Grizzly Peak

And families can stop at any point if the ridge becomes too airy for comfort. Otherwise, I felt fine just holding my son's hand and walking close beside him, or letting my friend Robin walk across with him while I tried to get photos of him reaching the summit.

900 metres of height gain and 4 hours of hiking but we made it to the top of Grizzly Peak!

All in all, it took roughly 4 hours to reach the summit (including our break in the meadow.) 

This mountain kicked our butts but we made it to the top!

What Goes up, Eventually has to go Down!

I've been joking about the "demon hike" I did last week and it's 100% because of the descent! I can handle steep trails and a bit of route finding. Loose scree that causes a child to fall down 50+ times is another story entirely!

The descent took another 4 hours, and never had I done an out and back trip up a mountain where the descent took as long as the ascent. A short section of rope got pulled out numerous times to help the kids down the steepest sections of scree and I took a nasty wipe out, resulting in some ugly road rash down one leg.

This is the initial descent down from the meadow

Add the challenges that it was still dreadfully hot (30+ degrees most of the time,) that it was getting late and we wanted to get down quickly before husbands back home started worrying, we were all running out of water, and the trail required a lot of concentration (when everybody was getting tired.)

A brief section of easy hiking along grassy slopes on the way down

Things we Loved about this Hike

We are proud that we made the summit and Noah was very happy on top of the mountain

The meadow was gorgeous! It just needs a backcountry hut!

The summit really is pretty as is the ascent trail once you reach open grassy slopes and the flatter section of trail.

The rest of the steep,loose hike was miserable and I won't be doing this trail again. 

A very happy 8 year old on the summit of Grizzly Peak

Lessons Learned  on Grizzly Peak

  1. Pay attention to "bad omens" or signs that it might not be a good day to climb a mountain from the very beginning! For us, my son Noah really didn't seem to have a lot of energy from the get go. And I usually find that you can tell within the first 5 minutes if you're going to have a strong day (or if you should just call it a day and go for ice-cream.)

  2.  Climbing a mountain when there's an extreme heat warning for the area is kind of dumb. I admit this!

  3. I took a friend's suggestion for this hike and followed with blind faith. This was naive and careless on my part. She honestly does love this hike and her daughter liked it too. Had I have "tested" it out ahead of time, I would have known it would be too loose and steep to solo it with my son. I could have used my husband's help on the steep parts. I'm just not confident enough on steep loose terrain to help somebody else, and get my own butt up/down the trail

  4. My son was begging to turn around within the first hour - and I didn't listen. I encouraged him on and pushed him to continue. And while I'm "mostly" glad that I did, because he loved the summit and was very proud of himself, it would have been a lot easier had we just have turned around and come back with husband in tow on a stronger energy day (without a heat warning!)
A look at the easy summit of Grizzly Peak above the meadow


Overall Opinion of the Trail

Some kids would enjoy this hike but my son is used to more "scrambling," more hands on moments, and more interesting moments where he's traversing narrow ridges or climbing up and over boulders.

Climbing and descending a steep loose trail in 30 degree heat for 8 hours failed to impress in my family.

Am I glad we did this hike - YES.

Is Noah happy that he made the summit - YES.

Will we do it again - NO. Too steep, too loose, too relentless.

A beautiful hike with a lot of steep loose rock

Suggested Prerequisite Hikes

East End of  Mount Rundle - for steepness and loose rock. This is the most similar hike we've done to Grizzly Peak (and interestingly enough, my son didn't like this one either.)

Little Lougheed - purely for steepness

Heart Mountain- If you do the full horseshoe, you'll be looking at a 7 to 8 hour day.

Parting shot of the summit ridge on Grizzly Peak

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

First Summits - Little Lougheed, Spray Valley Provincial Park

We are always looking for relatively easy summits that we can hike up with children, and it's always a bonus if we can find a trail that we don't have to share with dozens of other groups. The reality of doing easy hikes though is that you're almost never alone. The easy summits are always crowded and solitude can be hard to find.

Summit of Little Lougheed, Spray Valley Provincial Park - and we had the mountain to ourselves

A couple of weeks ago we found a hidden gem in Kananaskis, a trail that has somehow escaped guidebooks, and a summit that we had all to ourselves. We didn't see a single other party on our hike the entire day until we were well on our way down the mountain and ran into a small group who'd stopped halfway up and was taking photos before returning to their vehicles.

Little Lougheed is a fabulous hike, an easy summit with very few hands-on moments (none if you're comfortable scrambling up boulders,) one of the most scenic trips we've ever done in Kananaskis,  and completely off the grid! Trust me, try to find this hike in any of the local guide books. (I only found it in one -and it was a book on snowshoeing!)

You'll be rewarded with gorgeous views the entire ascent of Little Lougheed

Introduction to Little Lougheed

Mount Lougheed has several summits, one of which is the tiny peak, known as "Little Lougheed." The trailhead is found near the Spray Lakes West Campground in Spray Valley Provincial Park off of Highway 742 (the Smith Dorrien Trail) out of Canmore.

Hiking to the summit of Little Lougheed with the Spray Lakes Reservoir below us

Complete directions to the Trailhead:

Head south of Canmore on Highway 742 and pass by the turnoff for the Spray Lakes West Campground. (don't turn in, but drive past the dam.)

The trip starts at Spencer Creek (not shown on most maps) and is 2.8 km south of Spurling Creek (which also might not show up on many maps.) What I did find though on Google Maps was a faint line going up to the summit of Windtower (which is the trail for West Wind Pass,) and another faint line to the south heading up to the summit of Mt. Lougheed (which is where you'll park.) - And honestly, we parked the car right at the exact trailhead just by using the dotted line on  Google Maps for Mt. Lougheed.

You'll see the trail heading into the trees right where you park your vehicle on the side of the highway. (This is a great trail and it leads straight to the High Rockies Trail above you, paralleling the highway.)

And if you reach the Sparrowhawk Day Use Area, you've gone too far. It is further south of the trailhead for Little Lougheed.

If you're coming from the South, from Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, aim for Sparrowhawk Day Use Area and then look for the dotted trail line on Google Maps for Mt. Lougheed to the north of you.

Trailhead location (courtesy of Marko Stavric)

Stats for our Summit of Little Lougheed 

Height Gain: 780 metres (but felt like more!)

Distance: Approximately 5 km return (again, felt like much more)

Time it took us: 6.5 hours total (4 hours up and 2.5 hours down)

Age of kids We hiked with: Two 8 and 9 year old boys. We also had two younger children with us but they stopped at the ridge.

Best Guide Book: Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies by Andrew Nugara. (Note, I would never do this as a winter ascent with kids! Save it for summer when there is no avalanche hazard.)

You will  be tired when you reach the summit!

Hiking up from the Highway to the Boulder Field

The first part of the hike was delightful. We got on a good, easy to follow trail, right from the highway and it led us through this magical world of moss, a meandering creek, and a beautiful little forest. (I honestly expected to see fairies or elves.) Make sure you save some time to play here on your way down.

The magical mossy forest
After a very short walk, we intersected the High Rockies Trail which starts at Goat Creek and continues down to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We turned left onto the High Rockies Trail (a very wide double track bike trail) and had very easy travelling for ten to fifteen minutes.

We jumped off the High Rockies Trail at a small marker on the right hand side of the trail. It was a small rock cairn with flagging where a good trail headed up into the trees. The trail was easy to follow (at first) and was relatively gradual for height gain. So far, it was all a walk in the park.

Gradually, the good trail began to disappear and we had to watch attentively for flagging. This is the point where I became glad we had two excellent route finders in our group. If I had been on my own, I would have been quite nervous picking my way through the forest on what had become a very unofficial trail. (I'm surprised it shows up on Google Maps because I wouldn't call this a trail!)

Heading uphill through the forest eventually led us to a very large boulder field. Here you have choices. Head up through the boulders (which we did on the way up) or hike beside the boulders through the forest for easier traveling (which we did on the way down.)

You might not get further than this once the kids start playing in the creek

Hiking through the Boulder Field to the Ridge below Little Lougheed

We decided to hike straight up through the boulder field and the kids loved it! It was tedious and took a long time picking our way through the giant rocks, but at least the kids were entertained. I'll take this any day over a boring plod through the trees.

Hiking up through the boulder field en route to the ridge on Little Lougheed

Alternately you can bypass the boulder field on the right hand side by just hiking beside it.

The map below from fellow scrambler, Marko Stavric  shows three routes to the ridge. 

"Green is probably the best path if people are looking for a faint trail. Red goes right through the boulder field, which is fun to explore. Purple stays on the amphitheater trail for a little while before a short bushwhack to gain the faint trail up Little Lougheed.

Various route options up Little Lougheed (photo: Marko Stavric)

We followed what would have been Marko's green line on the High Rockies Trail and forest trail above, and then up to the base of the boulder field. From there we took his red route to the ridge, straight through the boulder field angling to the left to avoid a sub peak you want to miss. On the way down we followed the green line the whole time going around the boulder field.

The boulder field was challenging but fun!

And while I wish I could provide a more detailed description to get you to the ridge, the reality is that this is a scramble on a very unofficial trail. If you do not have good route finding skills, this is not the hike for you or your family.  I would never have chosen this hike for a family outing had I not have been with a very strong, accomplished group, led by two dads who both have extensive mountaineering experience.

Finally reached the ridge!

Hiking up the Ridge to Treeline below the Summit

We reached the ridge and had fabulous views down to the Spray Lakes Reservoir. This was a great spot for one family in our group to stop as they had two very young children with them (including a 3.5 year old who'd hiked most of the way on his own up till this point) and it was a very hot day. Google Maps also showed us half way at most and we knew we still had a lot of height to gain!

Group photo at the ridge before we lost four members and split ways (photo: Sean Strang)

We continued with the two 8 and 9 year old boys up the ridge towards treeline. This was one of the "easier" parts of the hike in terms of route finding. Head left and go UP.

The challenge at this point though was that the trail was very steep, unrelenting, and suddenly not as interesting without the boulders to pick our way through.

Thank god for the views!!! It helped a lot as we plodded our way to the summit

Both boys lost steam as we hiked up the ridge and it almost looked as if our journey would be cut short half way to the summit. Fortunately, my son Noah caught a second wind shortly up the ridge and took off at a pace I could hardly keep up with. His friend slowly plodded on and both boys made treeline where the views became even more spectacular.

Following the ridge to treeline below the summit

The Final Summit Push

We left our friends at the bench below the summit where the trees suddenly ended. Noah's friend had run out of energy and at this point, it was 100% mental. Either you pulled deep from your energy reserves and continued, or you didn't.  Both boys were tired and it took sheer will power at this point. (Something Noah's been building one trip at a time over the last few years.)

Treeline and the final summit approach ahead of us (which looks easy, right?)

The final 50 metres or so to the summit honestly didn't look too bad from below but the trail grew steeper, very rubbly, and loose. It wasn't too bad on the way up, but it was very sketchy on the way down and we had to be very careful not to slip and fall on the rocks constantly turning under our feet.

Climbing rubble on the final scramble to the summit

You'll be bashing your way through rubble to the summit, veering to the left to avoid cliff bands. Once we reached the final summit ridge, it was a fun little walk (airy in spots) to the summit cairn. While it was never extremely exposed, attention certainly was called for and a slip could have been fatal if a child fell off the far side of the ridge in spots.

Reaching the summit ridge - at last!

The Summit of Little Lougheed

Never was victory so sweet! The summit of Little Lougheed is one of the prettiest in Kananaskis (in my opinion) and we worked our butts off to get here.

The summit of Little Lougheed

Never in a zillion years would I call this a "kid hike" or a "family outing" but my son Noah crushed it and was honestly still running when we hit the parking lot after catching a second wind on his way up the ridge. He was a power house this day and I hope to see this side of him on our future hikes this summer.

Summit Victory!
Appreciating the views from the summit of Little Lougheed

The Descent

We could have stayed on the summit for hours on this beautiful day without a hint of a breeze and barely a cloud in the sky. Unfortunately, we had to eventually start the dreadful process of going back down the steep trail we'd come up.

Walking back along the ridge on Little Lougheed
Pausing before the descent of the rubble slope off the summit

There's not a lot left to be said at this point but both boys were very perky on the way down, running, jumping off of rocks, and stopping only occasionally for a quick sip of water. They made short work of the 800 metre descent and arrived back at the creek in good spirits.

Running down the boulder field to reach the highway

 Sadly, we didn't have time to stop and play in the creek on our descent so we'll have to come back sometime (with bikes) to explore the High Rockies Trail.

The moss beside the boulder field was as soft as a bed! (and very soft on the feet on the descent)

Is your Family is Ready for Little Lougheed?

  1. How are your route finding skills? You'll want and need them for this outing. If you don't have a strong background in off-trail hiking and scrambling, you'll want to choose something with a better trail for your family outing.

  2. How are your kids on steep terrain? Little Lougheed was relentless at times and I won't lie - it was a bit of a slog near the end.

  3. What other summits have you done as a family? Good prerequisite trips would be nearby Windtower, Heart Mountain, the East end of Mount Rundle, or some of the big hike-up summits near Lake Louise such as Mount Fairview or Mount St. Piran.

  4. How do your kids do on boulders, scree, rubble, and loose rock? You'll need sure footing to get up and down Little Lougheed safely.

Much of the trail on Little Lougheed looks like this!


Recommended Reading

Read my last story: First Summits - Heart Mountain Family Scramble. This story has a giant list at the end containing all of my other "first summit" stories. (Including many that are great for beginners.)

I also recommend reading Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits. I write about our hike up Nihahi Ridge to the South Summit in this story and provide a good overview of the sport of "scrambling," adding plenty of notes on how to do it safely with kids.

Another story I recommend is my First Summits - The East End of Mt Rundle Summit as a Family. In this story I cover several reflections I've learned while hiking difficult trails with children.
Each reflection or lesson has helped us learn how to have more successful outings.

My boys on Little Lougheed