Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Day Trip to the Columbia Icefields Centre to Walk on a Glacier

Back in my more adventurous days I used to wake up at ungodly hours to trudge up glaciers for what's known in the mountaineering world as an "alpine start." Fast forward several years, and an alpine start becomes a more respectable 6am for a family glacier day.

Day Trip to the Columbia Icefields Centre to Walk on a Glacier

Day Trip to the Columbia Icefields Centre

We took an overnight trip to the Columbia Icefields Centre back in April but got snowed out for our glacier adventure tour (and as it turns out, visibility is highly desirable for glacier walks.)

We still wanted to do the tour and to get out on the Athabasca Glacier this year, so we decided to make a "power trip" up to Jasper, leaving at 6am the morning of our tour, and returning later that afternoon (after stopping a few times to explore on the way home.)

Power Day Trip to walk on the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park 

Is it Really Possible to Visit the Icefields Centre as a Day Trip from Calgary?? 

From Calgary, it is roughly a 3.5 hour drive to the Columbia Icefields Centre on the border of Banff and Jasper National Parks. We had a glacier adventure tour booked for 10:00 am, so for us, that meant leaving Calgary around 6:00 am so that we'd have time to check in and get ready for our tour.

So, yes, it's doable to make it to the Icefields Centre from Calgary as a day trip, but I would recommend booking a later tour time so you don't have to speed! (and so you have time to enjoy the drive along the Icefields Parkway without stressing out over slow drivers in front of you, that you can never seem to pass.)

With views like this, you want to take your time on the drive (photo: Glacier Skywalk Viewpoint)

Our Glacier Adventure Tour

We'd booked our tour ahead of time and already had our tour time selected for us. This made it very easy to show up 10-15 minutes early, walk straight up to the loading area, and wait for the staff to call our tour time. (You do not have to go anywhere near the crowded tour desk.)

We then loaded a tour bus which drove us to the staging area for the Athabasca Glacier. From the staging area, we stepped onto a giant snow coach ice explorer which would drive us up the glacier to a safe cleared area, free of crevasses, and relatively flat for walking around on.

Walking on the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park 

We had half an hour on the glacier (which is plenty of time) to take photos, walk around, check out the interpretive displays, and examine the giant ice explorers (You've got to try fitting inside one of the bus tires just for fun.)

Our Glacier Transportation on a giant Ice Explorer

After our glacier adventure, we drove back down to the staging area, boarded the tour bus again, and then headed for the Skywalk Adventure, next up on our itinerary.

Read more about the Glacier Adventure here on the Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection website. 

A very BIG Ice Explorer to travel on the glacier 

Our Glacier Skywalk Tour 

Our tour bus drove us a short ways up the highway to a viewpoint where we could walk out on a glass sidewalk over the edge of a cliff. The views from here are amazing and the experience has a high education component for those who want to borrow a set of headphones and listen to the interpretive tour as they walk the sidewalk up to the viewpoint.

Hanging out on the glass sidewalk of the Glacier Skywalk 

With high energy boys, we didn't really stop to read any of the interpretive signs (and didn't use the headphones,) but we still had a lot of fun on the glass sidewalk.

And as with all visitors, the boys had to sit and lie down on the sidewalk, staring at the ground far below.

Views from the Glacier Skywalk 

5 Reasons we LOVE the Columbia Icefields Glacier Adventure 

The easiest way for a family to walk on a glacier
  1. When was the last time you walked on a glacier? This is the easiest chance you'll get in the Canadian Rockies unless you want to sign up for a mountaineering expedition to go climb something.

  2. You could wake up at 4am and spend hours trudging your way up a glacier, or you can show up at a time that suits your schedule and let a giant bus climb the glacier for you! This is a family-win in my books.

  3. The scenery at the Columbia Icefields Centre is some of the most beautiful in all of Banff and Jasper National Parks. I highly recommend taking family and friends here if they're visiting you this summer.

  4. There are interpretive signs on the glacier explaining different parts of a glacier and hazards for those who dare to venture out across them. The staff are very knowledgeable and they point out all the surrounding mountains, talk about the different kinds of moraines around the glacier, and explain why the landscape looks the way it does. Honestly, it's all very fascinating.

  5. We love stopping here as a rest stop en route to Jasper if we're heading up there for a long weekend. By booking your tour online ahead of time, you can be in and out in less than 2 hours.
Glacier Adventure with my Boo 

Other Fun Hikes, Attractions, and Activities to Enjoy on the Icefields Parkway 

Panther Falls, Banff National Park 
  • Hike the Wilcox Pass Trail, right up above the Icefields Centre (2.4 km return to the first viewpoint)

  • Hike the Parker Ridge Trail, 5.4 km return

  • Stop in for a short hike down to Panther Falls, 1.6 km return from the uppermost parking lot on the big bend

  • Hike Mistaya Canyon, 1.5 km return

  • Hike the Bow Summit Lookout Trail from the Peyto Lake Viewpoint, 5.8 km return

  • Hike around Bow Lake to Bow Glacier Falls, 9.2 km return

  • Stop in for some swimming at Herbert Lake 

Herbert Lake, Banff National Park 

Recommended Reading 

Wilcox Pass Hike, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park 

Bow Summit Lookout Hike, Banff National Park 

Tips for Visiting the Columbia Icefields Centre 

- Always book a tour time ahead of your visit. Otherwise, you risk showing up to find a 3 hour wait ahead of you (or all tour times sold out for the day.)

- Dress for snow and ice! Pack a light pair of gloves, a warm hat, a sweater, and maybe even an insulated jacket. We lucked out and it was warm the day of our visit. This is not always the case.

- Expect wind. It is always windy at the Icefields Centre

- Pack a cooler with food, snacks, and lunch. The cafeteria gets very overcrowded. I also recommend bringing drinks and a large thermos with coffee so you don't have to wait in line for that either.

- Make a day of it! Plan a hike after your tour, stop at a viewpoint or two, or even bring the swimsuits and stop in at Herbert Lake on your way home (everybody's favourite swimming lake on the Icefields Parkway.)

Peyto Lake, Icefields Parkway 

Disclaimer: Our tour was provided for us by Pursuit Tours. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Happy Hour at the Campsite! (Hydro Flask Wine Bottle and Beer Growler Review)

I'd been hearing awesome things about Hydro Flask's beverage containers for a while now, but my interest was truly piqued when I heard about a couple products that would keep my favourite beverages cold on summer camping trips.

Backcountry camping with cold wine

The Hydro Flask Wine Bottle

Product Introduction:

"Whether you’re summiting peaks or chasing sunsets, think outside the wine box with our new 25 oz Wine Bottle. It holds an entire bottle of wine and features TempShield™ insulation to keep your whites perfectly chilled and your reds at room temperature." - Altitude Sports 
An entire bottle of chilled wine

Features (as copied directly from the Altitude Sports website)

• TempShield™ insulation and leak-proof cap keep wine at the perfect temperature

• Durable 18/8 Pro Grade Stainless Steel construction won’t retain or transfer flavors

• Pure Pour™ opening makes it easy to fill and pour without drips

• BPA-Free and Phthalate-Free

• Silicone base for extra traction on slippery surfaces

• Holds an entire standard bottle of wine

• Pairs with our 10 oz Wine Tumbler

My favourite beverage as a reward for reaching the backcountry campsite 

How we tested it:

A full bottle of wine fits in the Hydro Flask Wine Bottle
We first took the Hydro Flask Wine Bottle into a backcountry hut this past June. While I could have poured my wine into a plastic nalgene bottle, I don't like warm whites or ros├ęs (and don't really like hot red wine either.)

We then tried the product on an overnight backpacking trip and finally on an overnight paddling trip, camping on a beach along the Columbia River.

Initial thoughts:

I have to admit that the Hydro Flask bottle is heavy and is probably not ideal for backpacking when you're also carrying a tent, overnight gear, cooking gear, etc.

The flask weighs close to a pound (empty.) Add your wine, and it's not the best "lightweight" option for backpacking.

It also isn't ideal for backpacking because you probably won't clip it to the outside of your pack (meaning you need to find room inside your pack for it,) and it doesn't become any smaller once your wine is finished. (Unlike a platypus that would fold up very small for the hike out.)

Top uses for the Hydro Flask Wine Bottle: 

  1. Day trips. I know I could get in trouble for suggesting you drink in public places (so I'm leaving this choice 100% on you,) but the Hydro Flask would be ideal for picnics, day trips with boats to a quiet beach somewhere, a sunset hike, or for a movie or concert in a park.

  2. Overnight paddling trips. Let your boat carry the weight for you and appreciate your cold wine when you reach your campground or beach. This is the absolute best use of the Hydro Flask Wine Bottle.

  3. Backcountry hut trips. You'll be carrying less gear here, so an extra pound won't matter as much. In winter, you can also use a sled to get your wine to camp.

  4. Car camping trips. My family has a trailer (with a fridge) but many of my friends don't - and wine bottles take up a lot of space in a cooler. Use a Hydro Flask bottle and you won't have to worry about keeping your beverages cold.
Nothing beats a cold beverage at camp 

Other recommended uses:

The other day I filled my Hydro Flask Bottle with cold brew coffee (did you know that you can buy cans of Kicking Horse Cold Brew Coffee at the store?) The bottle easily held two cans of cold brew coffee (along with a special addition I used to sweeten and add cream to it.)

This has become my new favourite use for the Hydro Flask Bottle and I loved using the little tumbler to drink out of while watching my son play in the creek where we'd parked ourselves for the afternoon.

Pair with: 

You'll want to get the 10 oz insulated wine tumbler to pair with your Hydro Flask Wine Bottle. It is temperature controlled to keep your wine at the ideal temperature (trust me, I have several of these tumblers and they are amazing!!)

Make sure you get a lid to go with your tumbler as well. This way you can walk around with your drink without risk of spilling it. - And it helps to keep it cold.

I got both my flask bottle and the tumbler from the Altitude Sports website, but they are currently out of stock in the 10 oz tumblers so the link above is to the actual Hydro Flask website.

Overall opinion and recommendation: 

- The product performs as intended. It definitely keeps wine and other beverages cold, and I was surprised at how refreshing my cold brew coffee tasted out of the bottle (even while sitting in the hot sun for hours.)

- Not recommended for backpacking due to weight.

- Highly recommended for day trips, overnight paddling trips, hut trips, and car camping.

- I'd like to see the 10 oz tumbler (and lid) included in the price of the wine bottle. The bottle is currently on sale for $39.99 from Altitude Sports. The tumbler though is an extra $29.95 from the Hydro Flask website - which seems a bit expensive for a cup. (And the lid is an extra $7.50 - which is actually crazy.)

Future plans for Our Hydro Flask Wine Bottle: 

I'm excited to try using it more for day trips. It has a date with some backcountry hot springs I want to visit, and I definitely plan to use it for picnics at lot this summer after my experience with cold brew coffee. I'll be taking it straight into the nearest Starbucks store all summer long to fill.

The Hydro Flask Wine Bottle is great for overnight paddling trips 

The Hydro Flask 64 oz Beer Growler

Product Introduction:

"The 64oz Beer Growler by Hydro Flask was designed to make happy hours even happier. It’s made from pro-grade stainless steel and features the Fresh Carry System™, which keeps beer carbonated throughout the day or evening. The TempShield™ double wall vacuum insulation keeps every sip as carbonated and icy cold as when it was first poured. The new streamlined handle makes transporting this Growler easy." - Altitude Sports 

Features (as copied directly from the Altitude Sports website)

Cold beer wherever you want it

  • Pro-Grade stainless steel

  • Fresh Carry System™

  • TempShield™ insulation

  • Streamlined handle

  • BPA-Free & Phthalate-Free

  • Lifetime warranty

How we tested it:

We quickly discovered that the 64 oz beer growler is way too big to take backcountry camping. We therefore tried the product on a car camping trip to see what we thought of the whole "growler experience."

Initial thoughts:

We are brand new to using a growler, so finding a growler bar to fill the flask was the first task I had to undertake.I then learned that liquor stores don't really like to fill growlers they can't see through. It makes them very hard to fill when the staff can't see how much beer (and foam) is filling the bottle. It took the store a good 20 minutes to fill the bottle (while my son went stir crazy.)

Lesson learned - go fill the growler when my son isn't with me, and find places to fill it where they have solid experience with a wide variety of growlers (including ones that are not clear glass bottles.)

Car camping with our Hydro Flask Beer Growler 

Top uses for the Hydro Flask Beer Growler:

  1. Car camping! If you are tenting and limited with space in your cooler, this will be a lifesaver for you! Skip the cans of beer taking up all the room in your cooler and fill your beer growler instead.

  2. Overnight paddling trips. This is the ideal situation for a Hydro Flask Beer Growler. Let the boats carry the weight of the flask (close to 2 pounds empty + the weight of beer.)

  3. Winter hut trips. If you're using a sled to tow your gear to a hut this winter, you'll love bringing a beer growler in for your group to enjoy. 

Pair with: 

You'll want to buy a 16 oz tumbler to go with your flask. As with the wine tumblers, it helps to control the temperature of your beer.

Filling our hydro flask at a local growler bar 

Overall opinion and recommendation: 

- The product performs as intended. It keeps beer cold and carbonated.

- Not recommended for backpacking due to weight and size

- For backcountry use, I'd recommend purchasing the 32 oz Hydro Flask beer growler instead.

- Highly recommended for overnight paddling trips, car camping, and winter hut trips with sleds

- I'd like to see the 16 oz tumbler included in the price of the beer growler. The growler is currently on sale for $57.99 from Altitude Sports. The tumbler though is an extra $21.99  - which seems a bit expensive for a cup.

Future plans for our Hydro Flask Beer Growler:

I can't wait to use it in the winter on backcountry hut trips when we have a sled to haul the heavy stuff in with.

I'm also very excited about our upcoming road trip across BC. I plan to fill the growler up at micro breweries across the province from Fernie through to the Okanagan.

Finally, I think this could be an amazing Christmas present for friends who love car camping (and always struggle with not having enough cooler space.) - Though I'll have to buy them another one because I'm definitely not giving mine up.

Nothing like returning to camp for cold beverages 

Disclaimer: We were provided with Hydro Flask products for review from Altitude Sports, Canadian online outdoor adventure store. As always, all opinions and reviews are my own. 

And, shopping tip: If you're thinking that these products would be good Christmas presents for somebody in your family, they are on sale now! Buy early and save yourself some stress come December.

The face of a happy backcountry camper 

Monday, July 30, 2018

First Summits - The South End of Mount Lawson, Kananaskis

This summit has been on my list for a couple of years now so I'm thrilled that we finally completed the hike - and discovered how beautiful it is! It's a new favourite hike in Kananaskis, and one of the easier summits we've reached as a family.

South End of Mount Lawson Summit, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Why you Need to Add South Lawson to your Family Summit List 

  1. Nobody knows about this trail! How many people did you pass on the trail the last time you hiked up Ha Ling Peak? How about Yamnuska, the East End of Rundle, Lady Macdonald? - Well, we met ONE other group the entire day on the South Lawson Trail. And it was a weekend!!

  2. The scenery is gorgeous!! You'll be looking down on the Lower Kananaskis Lake as soon as you reach the ridge - and we found the views to be way better than those from the popular peaks in Canmore.

  3. The ridge is super fun with light scrambling and a few airy moments. We love ridge walking so this was a highlight for us!

  4. This hike is EASY. It's actually much easier than Ha Ling Peak. No loose rock, no scree, and no exposed cliffs at the summit - You just have to be a bit careful walking along the ridge in spots.

  5. This hike is short. We completed it in 4.5 hours round trip (at a moderate pace with plenty of breaks.)
Fun hiking along the ridge of South Lawson 

Stats for the Hike 

Distance: 3.5 km one way

Height gain: 762 metres

Time it took our group: 4.5 hours round trip (with kids ages 7 and 9)

Rating: Easy 

Best Guide Book: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 1, by Gillean Daffern - Amazon affiliate link 

Views from the lower ridge on South Lawson 

Trailhead Information and Finding the Trail for South Lawson 

This is probably the crux of the entire trip. The trail is not marked and there is no signed parking lot. Once you do the trip your first time though, you'll see how easy it is to find the trail. 

I was a bit worried about route finding for this, never having done it before, but it was actually super easy and always quite obvious.

Parking: Drive down Highway 40 through Kananaskis, past the turnoff for Kananaskis Village, or down the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail from Canmore. You are heading for Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and the Lower Kananaskis Lake.

About 200 metres north of the Peninsula Day Use Area you'll see a gated TransAlta Road with a parking lot in front of it. This is also the end of the High Rockies Trail from Blackshale down to Peninsula. See the parking lot on the Trail Forks Map - park at the red square. 

The gated TransAlta Road that you will park beside (and hike up) 

Trailhead: Hike or bike (though it would be a very short bike ride) up the TransAlta Road for 0.7 km until you reach a giant flume (photo below.) - it looks like a water slide (though I can't recommend you use it for that.) The flume is used for diverting water from Kent Creek to the Lower Lake. 

Hiking up the TransAlta Road (South Lawson shown ahead of my son in this photo)
The flume that you'll see at the end of the road
Once you reach the flume, cross rocks in the dry creek bed to the far bank and head straight up the hillside here on a steep but easily followed trail. You can see my husband starting out on the trail below.

Cross the dry creek at the flume and start hiking up through the forest

Gaining the Lower Ridge on the South End of Mount Lawson 

This is probably the worst part of the hike because there's nothing exciting, no views, and you just have to climb your way up the trail through the trees until you finally reach the open lower ridge. Fortunately, it's only steep at the very beginning and then it turns into a pleasant trail that is relatively easy.

We just played a lot of trail games here to pass the time. 

Hiking up the South Lawson Trail to reach the lower ridge

Hiking along the ridge to the Summit 

This part of the story could be broken down into separate sections, but honestly, the trail is so easy to follow, there's no point describing each separate mini-section.

Below are highlights of this part of the trail, where the views cause you to stop every couple of minutes for more photos. 

Finally Reaching the Lower Ridge!! - and it's gorgeous! 

Reaching the lower ridge on the trail up South Lawson 

There are a few steep sections but the views help you forget about your climbing. The trail is always easy to follow. 

Climbing up South Lawson in Kananaskis

On the Ridge!! Wahoo!

There was one section where we had to go down, and then back up to get around a gully, but other than that, we were always hiking up and along a gorgeous ridge. 

We finally reached the ridge and could just follow it up to the summit 
Final steep climb to reach the upper ridge and the summit
Airy scrambling on the ridge below the summit 

Reaching the Summit 

It took us 2.5 hours to reach the summit, where we stopped for a nice break. 

Summit Cairn on South Lawson 

You can see from the photos that the summit was not overly narrow, no overhanging cliffs, and that it was a great spot for a lunch break. 

The boys had to add a rock to the cairn

Also notice how many people we had to share the summit with outside our group members - NONE! 

Glorious, quiet summit! 
 And you could spend hours taking photos along the ridge here.

Summit ridge of South Lawson 

Hiking Back down the Ridge 

It's always nice hiking back down, and because this hike is never overly steep, the knees don't take too much of a beating.

Hiking back down the ridge 

We also appreciated the lack of scree and loose rock.

Hiking along the summit ridge of South Lawson 

The ridge was playful and airy in spots but we just kept a close eye/hand on the kids.

Gentle hiking down the ridge with no loose rock 

Fun End to the Hike 

You'll be hiking along Kent Creek as you walk down the TransAlta Road at the end. The boys had a blast dropping sticks into it and watching them float down the creek (seeing whose stick would make it the furthest before getting trapped next to the bank.)

Next time we'd bring rubber ducks or some other fun object to float down the creek (bringing them home with us of course) and we'd label them (or have different colors/objects) to enable the kids to have a fun little competition/race.

We also joked about sending the kids down the creek in a youth sit on top kayak (but nobody really wanted to haul one up the road.)

The creek would also be fun to play in if you had water sandals with you (which we did not.) - Next time! 

The creek you can play in on your way out 

Recommended Reading

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Biking the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis with Kids

We can officially say that we have a favourite bike trail in Alberta, and we believe it is the most beautiful trail for mountain biking in all of Southern Alberta. It's also a lot of fun, and there was a lot of whooping and hollering going on in our party on the flowy descents.

Biking on the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis 

Introduction to the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis

The High Rockies Trail is a newly completed 80 km long multi-use trail outside of Canmore, Alberta. The trail starts at the popular Goat Creek Parking Lot on the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail and ends on the Alberta/BC border at Elk Pass in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, paralleling the Spray Lakes Road until you reach the Lower Kananaskis Lake.

Views along the trail are spectacular!! 

The trail travels through through three provincial parks, Bow Valley Wildland PP, Spray Valley PP, and Peter Lougheed PP with numerous day use areas and campgrounds along the way.

While much of the trail truly excels as a mountain bike trail, it is also becoming popular with  hikers, and is even enjoyable in winter on snowshoes, fat bikes, or cross-country skis. And there's one section that's even paved for super easy riding!

Visit the Kananaskis Trails website to see detailed maps for each section of the trail. I have the maps downloaded on my phone to access without cell coverage.

Much of the trail is easy riding like this

I'll be updating this guide annually, but for now, I'm writing about the four sections of the High Rockies Trail that we've ridden as a family. I'll also be focusing on biking the trail (even though you can also hike it.)

Fun flowy mountain biking on the High Rockies Trail

Spray Lakes West Campground to Goat Creek via Goat Pond 

Distance: 9.9 km one way, relatively flat. Chariot-friendly

Kananaskis Trails Map: North High Rockies Trail Map 

Trail Forks Map: High Rockies Trail (Buller to Goat Creek shown on this map)

Highlights: Boardwalks and bridges near Goat Pond

Biking on the High Rockies Trail between the Spray Lakes West Campground and Goat Pond

Description: This section is great for an easy family mountain bike ride. The trail is never overly narrow and is relatively flat. Much of it is double track wide and follows old roads. If you can set up a vehicle shuttle, start at the campground and ride down to Goat Creek. Often, we send an adult back for the vehicle at the halfway mark if we only have one car.

Note we have not biked this section of the trail since its official designation as part of the High Rockies Trail. Back when we tried to make it to Goat Pond there was a lack of bridges and we couldn't connect the campground with the pond. We are excited to try this section again later this summer.

Shorter Outing: For a shorter ride, start at the campground and make your way to Goat Pond and back for an easy 7.6 km return trip (no shuttle needed.) The reward for this section is the boardwalks and bridges over the many creeks near the pond.

Options for Hiking: This would be a pleasant hike out and back from the Spray Lakes West Campground. Kids would enjoy the bridges and boardwalks around Goat Pond.

Camping: First come first serve campsites can be found at the Spray Lakes West Campground.

Biking towards Goat Pond from the Spray Lakes West Campground 

Buller Day Use Area to Spray Lakes Day Use Area 

Distance: 7.5 km one way, rolling terrain

Kananaskis Trails Map: North High Rockies Trail Map and Centre High Rockies Trail Map 

Trail Forks Maps: Buller Pass Connector and High Rockies Trail (Buller to Goat Creek shown on this map)

Highlights: Gorgeous views down to the Spray Lakes Reservoir from rocky avalanche slopes

Crossing avalanche slopes on the High Rockies Trail north of the Buller Pass Trail

Description: This is the most beautiful section of the entire High Rockies Trail as you travel high up above the Spray Lakes Road looking down on the lake below. It is a challenging mountain bike ride (best enjoyed with older youth or teens who have some solid mountain bike skills.)

To bike this section, you’ll have to first climb up 900 metres of the Buller Pass Hiking Trail (44 metres height gain.) Turn left onto the High Rockies Trail when you see it coming in from the north. From here, you’ll travel through a summer-only section of the trail for 4.7 km (where the best views can be found.) Continue to the Spray Lakes Day Use Area (where you’ll want a second car parked) or turn around at any point if doing an out and back trip.

How's this for a bike trail?!

Shorter Outing: When my family rode this section, we exited the trail at the end of the 4.7 km mark where you can easily drop down to the highway. From here, my husband biked back for the vehicle (though you could bike back on the road as well.)

Options for Hiking: Families may enjoy hiking this part of the trail for the views. Just make sure you watch out for mountain bikers coming up behind you on descents and step off to the side of the trail to let them pass.

Consider an out and back trip to the first rocky avalanche slope. The second one is higher, but you’ll still get amazing views from the first viewpoint in a round trip distance of less than 8 km (including the distance on the Buller Pass Trail.)

Biking across rocky avalanche slopes

Camping: You can either camp at the Spray Lakes West Campground or you can camp at one of the campgrounds in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (where you can also make reservations.) A couple of the campgrounds in PLPP also have power hookups for trailers (and some sites have water as well.)

The high point on the High Rockies Trail north of the Buller Pass Trailhead 

Blackshale Creek to Peninsula Day Use Area

Distance: 3.8 km one way, mostly all downhill

Kananaskis Trails Map: South High Rockies Trail Map 

Trail Forks Map: Blackshale to Peninsula 

Highlights: The 240-foot-long suspension bridge will be the highlight of this section for your family. For many, it will be the highlight of the entire trail.

Biking across the suspension bridge above Blackshale Creek

Description: There is no official parking lot for this section so watch for the trail heading up from the east side of the highway. It is approximately a kilometre south of the Black Prince Day Use Area.
Once you find the trail, climb up roughly 500 metres in distance (gaining approximately 50 metres of height gain) to reach the bridge.

We climbed up to the bridge and the kids happily crossed the bridge back and forth dozens of time! (It felt as if we’d hiked up to a hanging playground.)

The highlight of the High Rockies Trail for families

From the bridge, continue in a fun downhill ride to the Peninsula Day Use Area where you’ll want a second vehicle parked. Alternately if you don’t have a shuttle, an adult can bike back for the car while you hang out beside the Lower Kananaskis Lake (a great spot for cooling off if it’s been a hot day.)

For families wanting to bike this section, it is a very fun, fast, flowy descent down to Peninsula. Children will need some solid experience with mountain biking but can always walk any hill that looks to be too steep. The trail is very smooth, and we had a lot of fun riding it.

The trail down to Peninsula was very fast, flowy, and fun!! 

Shorter Outing for Hikers:  If you just want to hike up to see the bridge, consider walking up to the bridge on one side of Blackshale Creek, crossing the bridge, and descending on the other side of the creek. There are good trails on both sides of the bridge leading down to the highway. Round trip distance is a kilometre.

Camping: Choose one of the campgrounds in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. There are options for reserved camping, first come first serve camping, and there's even a tents-only campground.

Great views from every section of the High Rockies Trail

Boulton Creek to Canyon

Distance: 8.5 km on a paved rolling bike trail. Chariot-friendly

Kananaskis Trails Map: South High Rockies Trail 

Trail Forks Map: Canyon to Boulton 

Highlights: A paved trail that is great for families with strollers, bike trailers, or chariots.

Paved biking on the High Rockies Trail through Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Description: This section of the trail takes you from the Canyon Campground to the Boulton Creek Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The entire distance is paved and great for a family bike ride. (and if the Boulton Creek Trading Post is open you can buy ice-cream at the end.)

While you can ride this trail in either distance, we prefer riding it from Boulton Creek to Canyon where it feels more downhill. From Boulton Creek you’ll lose 100 metres of height and gain 76 metres.

A vehicle shuttle can easily be set up for one-way riding if traveling with friends. Otherwise, we like to end at Canyon by the campground playground while an adult rides back for the car.

Shorter Outing: Ride between the Canyon and Elkwood Campgrounds for a shorter 3.7 km distance one way (ideal if riding both directions without a shuttle.) The Elkwood-Boulton Creek section can also be ridden in 4.8 km (one way.)

Camping: Again, choose one of the many campgrounds in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We like camping at Boulton Creek so we can bike right out of our campsite. Alternately, camping at Canyon is nice too so an adult can return for the vehicle while you hang out at your campsite.

Note: this section of the trail is periodically closed due to active bears in the area so always check the Alberta Parks Trail Report before heading out.

Family biking on the High Rockies Trail between Boulton Creek and Canyon

Safety Tips for Biking on the High Rockies Trail

  • Each member of your family should have a mountain bike (recently tuned and in good working condition) for this trail. Suspension isn't vital for the kids, (adults may appreciate having a hard tail with front suspension,) but I do recommend the kids have hand brakes.

  • There are no services or facilities along much of the trail. Take a bike repair kit, spare tubes, a first aid kit, water, layers of clothing, and sufficient food/snacks for your outing.

  • If you will only be riding your section one-way, plan the return to your vehicle in advance for maximum safety. We neglected to think about this and ended up with my husband riding back solo at one point, my son and I left with no water, no backpack, no bear spray, and no food. It wasn't our finest moment in backcountry responsibility. In hindsight, each adult should have had a backpack with their own provisions for the end of the ride.

  • Pick up a map at the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre or download the section you want to ride from the Kananaskis Trails Website.

  • Make lots of noise to alert animals of your presence and take bear spray with you. It’s also a good idea to travel in a group.

  • Take rest breaks well off to the side of the trail, removing your bike safely to the side as well. I also recommend listening for fast riders coming up behind you. It would be a good idea to move off to the side to let them pass.

  • Visit the Kananaskis Trails website for more information on each section of the trail along with detailed maps. 

There is no shortage of bridges on the trail

The trail can also be found on the Trail Forks website or app, where you’ll find the height gain for each section. Know though that the trail is broken down into different segments on Trail Forks. The link above going to the longest segment.

A spectacular bike trail in Kananaskis