Tuesday, September 20, 2022

First Summits - Mt. Allan and Centennial Ridge, Kananaskis

Centennial Ridge is the highest maintained trail ever built in the Canadian Rockies and is one of the best ridge walks in all of Kananaskis. Strong hikers can continue to the summit of Mount Allan which looms high above the Nakiska Ski Area. This is a very long day hike but it should go on every local hiker's "someday" list. Families will appreciate that there are few technical challenges and it's largely just a long scenic hike on a well built trail.

Hiking Centennial Ridge, the highest maintained trail in the Canadian Rockies

Hiking through the Rock Garden is a highlight on Centennial Ridge

Stats for the Hike 

Distance:  16 km round trip from Ribbon Creek to the summit of Mt. Allan according to my guide book. (I tracked 17 km.)

It's also possible to do a one-way traverse from Ribbon Creek to Dead Man's Flats but then you'd need two vehicles, you have an extra 2.5 km of hiking, and you also have an extra 200 metres of height loss at the end because Dead Man's Flats is lower than Ribbon Creek (so whatever you do, don't start at Dead Man's Flats!) 

All in all, it's just much easier to do the trip as an out and back hike starting and ending at Ribbon Creek.

Height gain: 1300 metres height gain from Ribbon Creek to the Mt. Allan summit. (I tracked 1400 metres including all ups and downs.)

Time it took us to complete the return hike: It took us just under 9 hours for this one (like I said, long day!) This was a solid moderate pace and we were faster than several adult groups on the trail so plan for 8+ hours depending on your personal pace.

Best time to do this hike: Wait until late June when the snow will be clear on the route. This is a beautiful summer hike when everything is very green and there are lots of marmots playing around in the rocks along the ridge.

Fall is another good time for this hike because there are larch trees along the ridge. The peak for golden larch hiking is the third weekend in September.

Annual Seasonal Closure: April 1 - June 21 for the protection of bighorn sheep during a sensitive birthing period

And don't forget to purchase your Kananaskis Conservation Pass!

Mount Allan Summit looking over the Wind Valley

Rating: This is an easy scramble or an advanced hike. You won't have to use your hands at all on the trail to Olympic Summit. There is one small cliff band after that which requires some hands-on scrambling to reach the summit of Mt. Allan. 

There's a fairly decent trail the whole time and much of the trip is just steep hiking. Route finding is also generally easy once you get off the ski trails from Ribbon Creek.

And best of all, there is no bad scree on this hike nor is there any real exposure (other than the one small cliff band mentioned above.)

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

All Trails Link: Mount Allan from Centennial Ridge 

Note to download the map, you'll need to have a premium paid subscription. I find it to be worthwhile, even just so I can see how far I am from the summit every time somebody asks "how much further?" 

Having a downloaded map will also help you navigate through the ski trails down below.

Map of our Route: 

And should you want to navigate using my routes, you can follow me on All Trails.

You can also follow me on Strava

Looking down over the Nakiska Ski Area from Centennial Ridge

Ribbon Creek to the Centennial Ridge Trail

You'll park at the Ribbon Creek trailhead (google maps link) and start by hiking up the Hidden Trail, a wide cross-country ski trail. Within 300 metres there is a junction with the Coal Mine Trail where you turn left on another ski trail. Stay on this trail until you come to the official "Centennial Ridge Trail" sign and the trail becomes more narrow resembling an actual hiking trail.

That was your warm up. Now the climbing begins. The Coal Mine ski trail takes a more gradual approach but the Centennial Ridge trail climbs straight up between switchbacks on the Coal Mine Trail.

The first section of the hike is approximately 2.5 km in length and you'll climb a very gradual 250 metres of height until you cross the Coal Mine Ski Trail for the final time.

After this, it is straight UP until you reach the Olympic Summit.

The end of the ski trails at the Coal Mine site

Climbing to the top of the Olympic Summit (and the beginning of the ridge walk)

From the end of the Coal Mine Trail where you leave all ski trails long behind, it is a steep climb to your first summit (and you won't be alone if you decide that Olympic Summit is as far as you can make it.)

The trail to Olympic Summit is well maintained and easy to follow, but it is steep! There are many switchbacks (thank goodness) but you will be tired when you reach the top of the first summit.

The trail to Olympic Summit is relentlessly steep but well switchbacked

It is a 700 metre climb to the top of Olympic Summit overlooking the Nakiska Ski Area (plus the 250 metres you already climbed to get to the end of the ski trails.) This means you'll have already climbed 950 metres just to get to the top of Olympic Summit! And you still have 350 metres to go! - Like I said, it's a BIG day.

It's a gorgeous hike to Olympic Summit (even if you call it a day here!)

Distance to the top of the Olympic Summit is 3 km (So you'll climb 700 metres in 3 km.) And then add on the initial 2.5 km for 5.5 km of total distance just to reach the first summit of the day. - Good news, you only have 2.5 to 3 km left of hiking along Centennial Ridge to reach Mt. Allan.

Just a tad steep!

Climbing, climbing, climbing!

Simply put:

Ribbon Creek to the end of the ski trails and Coal Mine site: 2.5 km (250 metres climbing)

Coal Mine to Olympic Summit: 3 km (700 metres climbing)

Olympic Summit to Mt. Allan along Centennial Ridge: 2.5 to 3 km (350 metres climbing)

All numbers are approximate! Every guide book/website varies slightly from the All Trails app, and then my own personal stats were different yet.

If you do nothing but Olympic Summit, it's still a rock star hike! 

You'll know you've arrived when you reach a weather station and then a small cairn with a flag. This is your first summit and the Nakiska ski area is far below you now.

So far, you have climbed almost 1000 metres so be gracious with your bodies (and energy levels.) If you turn around here, it's still a fantastic hike!! (One of the best.) And Olympic Summit definitely counts as a mountain!

Reaching Olympic Summit above the Nakiska ski area

If only Nakiska ran chairlifts in the summer! 

Hiking across Centennial Ridge to the Rock Garden 

The next 3 kilometres are the most spectacular part of the hike as you walk across Centennial Ridge. Most of the big height gain is done and while technically there is still 350 metres of climbing, it's spread over a long distance and you won't notice much of it until the final summit push.

Easy hiking along Centennial Ridge,  the rock garden and the final summit of Mt. Allan ahead

The big highlight along the ridge is the rock garden or the "mushroom garden" where you'll hike through giant conglomerate rock pillars, the largest named the "Claw." 

Striking a pose in the rock garden (watch for playful marmots here)
The giant "Claw!"
Beyond this, there is a short section that requires some brief down scrambling at a cliff band, but it's generally easy and there are lots of good hand holds. Remember, this is an official hiking trail.

The short cliff band that you have to down climb to reach the summit

Hiking to the Summit of Mt. Allan 

Once you pass the down climb, it is a short but steep push to the summit. Fortunately the rock is solid and there is no bad scree.

Hiking to the summit of Mt. Allan (closer than it looks)
There's a good trail to the summit
The ridge is never overly airy or exposed and the summit should feel big enough for most people. Enjoy the views over the Kananaskis Valley and the Wind Valley, and then return the same way (unless you've set up a car shuttle for a one-way hike to Dead Man's Flats.)

Mt. Allan Summit 

On the Mt. Allan Summit looking down over the Wind Valley

The Return Hike to Ribbon Creek 

By now you're probably really tired so it's not comforting to know that you have an 8 km hike left to reach your vehicle!

Climbing back up the cliff band to the rock garden
My family passed the time with loud singing and trail games (partially because we'd seen a bear on the way up)  and I'm sure anybody who passed us would have thought we were completely crazy with some of our song choices ("I want to be sedated" by the Ramones was just one of the fun tunes we sang loudly off key running down the trail.)

Hiking back through the rock garden

Read about more great first summits in my complete guide below! 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Powderface Ridge - Family Hiking and First Summits in Kananaskis

There are very few hiking trails that I would repeat annually, but Powderface Ridge is one of them. We keep finding new and creative ways to hike this trail, and it never really gets old as a destination. It's the perfect first summit for families, and there are several options to make the trip as short or as long as you want it to be.

Powderface Ridge sunset hike in June (photo: Joyce Cortes)

The Official Trailhead and Route up Powderface Ridge

This official trailhead for this ridge starts at the end of highway 66 in the Elbow Valley where the pavement ends (right before you drive into the Little Elbow Campground.) From this parking area it's a steep 600 metre climb (13 km round trip distance.)

You can read about the official trail and see a map on the Kananaskis Trails website. And if you have a copy of the Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 2, by Gillean Daffern you can read all about the trail there (Trip 31.)

And note, the highway only opens on May 15th each spring so while this is a great spring hike, wait until the road is open past Elbow Falls. 

This large boulder begs to be climbed while hiking up or down the Powderface Ridge trail

My personal opinion about the official trail for Powderface Ridge can be summed up in one word: DOWN. This is a great way down from the ridge. It sucks as a climbing route. I like doing a one-way shuttle for this hike, starting high and ending low.

I have hiked Powderface Ridge many many times, but I've never climbed up the official trail because I don't seen a point in starting at the lowest point possible to access the ridge, especially when there are two other routes that both start much higher!

Powderface Ridge is a beautiful ridge in the Elbow Valley

Powderface Ridge via Three Trail Pass 

For an easier outing, we always do a traverse (with a car shuttle) via Three Trail Pass allowing us to gain only 400 metres of height, hiking across the ridge, and descending the official trail in a complete distance of approximately 8 km.

To access this shortcut trail and by far the easiest access for the ridge, turn right on to the gravel Powderface Trail (road) when you get to the Little Elbow Campground and the end of the paved Highway 66.

You'll enjoy a long meadow traverse to the summit of Powderface Ridge from Three Trail Pass

Drive up the Powderface Trail road for approximately 6 km until you reach Sacramento Pass. You can see the Google maps location for the Three Trail Pass trailhead here. 

Note the All Trails link above has you starting at Highway 66 but this is where you want to END. You want to start high, finish low. You should be starting from the Powderface Trail road and then ending on Highway 66 at the entrance to the campground.

Because the All Trails version of this hike is done in reverse, the numbers for height gain will be off. The distance is also a bit high.

Follow this link to a good description from the Alberta Parks website (where there is a good map showing both trailheads.)

There are lots of fun scrambly rocks at the summit of Powderface Ridge

Route Description for the Powderface Ridge Traverse

From Powderface Trail, you'll begin by hiking a kilometre on an old road /double track trail to a three-way junction, climbing a gradual 150 metres of height. This is Three Trail Pass and here you'll turn right to climb up to the ridge. Don't go straight or you'll find yourself heading along the Powderface Creek trail which ends by Elbow Falls! It's a great mountain biking trail but not too fun as a hike.

The trail climbs a rocky wide road to Three Trail Pass

From Three Trail Pass the hike starts to get more beautiful as you climb up and through grassy meadows to gain the ridge  and official summit for Powderface Ridge. This section is approximately 2 km in length and you'll gain another ~ 150 metres of height. The hiking is never steep and the ridge is not narrow.

Three Trail Pass with the ridge visible above

Either turn around once you reach the summit or (if you've set up a vehicle at the far end) continue hiking towards the exit trailhead on Highway 66.

Powderface Ridge is a beautiful hike in the Elbow Valley

And this is where I mention that all distances and height gain references in this guide are approximate numbers! I've used several different guide books, websites, and apps to create this guide, and every single one is slightly different!

Early season snow on the ridge crest 

From the ridge, drop down off the opposite side of the ridge, following the trail that descends from the summit. You don't have to traverse the ridge very far before you'll see the trail leaving the ridge.

If you hike this trail early season there may still be snow on this section requiring you to kick steps as you descend off the ridge (or follow steps others have made.) Once below the ridge crest, the snow disappears.

Descending the ridge on early season snow

The trail loses 100 metres of height over the next couple of kilometres as you descend through trees without views. At the bottom, you'll arrive in another large meadow and you have the option of climbing up to the East Summit. It's a quick "run up and down" with less than 50 metres of climbing to reach this summit, and in my opinion it is highly worth it for great views over the Elbow Valley. This summit also feels more like an official summit than the one on the ridge top.

Tag the East summit if you want, or continue your hike through the meadow and down the official Powderface Ridge trail to the trailhead on Highway 66. This is where you'll lose another 400 metres of height over 3.5 km.

The trail down from the meadow travels through trees much of the time without views. It is never overly steep, and the trail is good, but those with bad knees will definitely know they are descending!

East summit of Powderface Ridge

Easy Peasy Shortest Hike Possible for Powderface Ridge 

Start and end your hike via Three Trail Pass for the easiest hike (6 km round trip.) 

This is a great one with young kids or as a half day hike.

It's only 6 km round trip to tag the official summit via Three Trail Pass

Powderface East Ridge Trail from Rainy Creek Summit 

For an alternate (shorter route) to the East Summit, you can start from Rainy Creek Summit and take the East Ridge Trail off Highway 66 for a short 4 km round trip outing with 400 metres of height gain.

The East summit feels most like a real "summit" and it's a great evening hike. Note the East Ridge Trail is steeper than the route via Three Trail Pass. You'll also be hiking along a rocky ridge for a bit where the terrain could feel a bit scrambly for some.

Hiking up the Powderface East Ridge Trail

To extend your hike, drop a small amount of height and then climb up the regular Powderface Ridge Trail to gain the official summit for a double summit day. Return the same way via  the East Ridge Trail.

Tagging both summits from the East Ridge Trail would amount to ~ 150 metres of extra climbing and 4 extra kilometres of hiking.

See the Google Maps location for Rainy Creek Summit where you'll park here. 

Youth hike up the Powderface East Ridge Trail to the East Summit

Alternate Traverse: Three Trail Pass to Rainy Creek Summit 

This traverse is still on my list for the next time I head out to hike Powderface Ridge. Start high on Powderface Trail and approach the ridge via Three Trail Pass. Then end high as well by finishing at Rainy Creek Summit (which sits at a much higher elevation than the regular trailhead on Highway 66 at the end of the road.)

This route is only 9.5 km long with an easy 450 metres of climbing! (SCORE!)

Girls night out on the East Powderface Summit

Read more about Hiking in the Elbow Valley 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Family Adventure Bucket List for Kimberley, BC

Kimberley has become a new destination fav. for us, so much so that we've started spending many of our summer long weekends here. There's great camping, a wide variety of trails for hiking + biking, and you can easily get a lakeside picnic site on a summer weekend.

Family Adventure Bucket List for Kimberley, BC (photo: St. Mary's Lake)

I've had many requests for this guide, so here you go friends. Enjoy! This guide will be updated annually as well so keep it handy.

Spring is a beautiful time to visit Kimberley for the sunflowers

Destination Introduction to Kimberley, BC

Kimberley is a very small city located in the East Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia, south of Radium Hot Springs and Invermere. And while technically Kimberley is a city, I would say "small mountain town" is more accurate when you compare it to large centres like Calgary or Vancouver.

From the community of Invermere, Kimberley is approximately an hour and a half to the south and we often day trip to Kimberley if we're staying in Fairmont Hot Springs for a weekend (because the biking in Kimberley is that good!)

From Calgary it takes about 4.5 hours to reach Kimberley, but it's an easy drive for a long weekend. We usually stop in Radium Hot Springs or Invermere to break up the drive, go to the hot springs, or go for a short walk, and still arrive in Kimberley by late afternoon to set up camp. 

We've found that driving to Kimberley is perfectly doable after work Friday as well from Calgary, but you'll enjoy your trip much more if you stay for at least three nights.

Kimberley is an incredible adventure destination!

Where to Camp in Kimberley 

We've found an amazing gem of a private campground, the Kimberley Riverside Campground, located just outside town.

Highlights of camping here include:

  • They have huge wilderness style campsites! Nobody is parking their RV in a paved parking lot, the sites are surrounded by trees, and most sites have good privacy. This isn't your traditional "private campground" where the resort has paved a large field and painted lines on the pavement for each trailer.

  • You can set up a trailer or tent on most sites. There are no "trailer only" sites so you can camp side by side with friends who may be camping differently than you (a challenge we always face because we want a full hook up site for our trailer, but still want to camp near our friends who sleep in a tent.)

  • Most sites are full service (power, water, sewer) - and as mentioned above, you can put a tent on these sites which is great news for those who need access to power while tenting (even if just to charge devices) or want to fill up water jugs right at their site.

  • It’s a private campground that takes reservations a full year in advance for zero stress bookings! Just call the campground and boom, you're taken care of without having to wait in a booking queue for hours! And starting very soon, their new booking system will allow online reservations, again, a full year in advance.

  • All sites have fire pits (something that is shockingly rare at many private campgrounds.)

  • There’s a heated swimming pool, mini golf course, hiking trails all around camp, and you’re on the St. Mary River for fishing.

  • They have glamping tents and RV rentals.

  • St Mary's Lake is just up the road for serene paddling, the Kimberley Nature Park is across the road for endless biking and hiking, Bootleg Mountain is nearby for downhill mountain biking, and there’s a golf course just down the road.

  • You can rent e-bikes, kayaks, or SUPs from camp.

  • The campground is always quiet. We camp here over long weekends, and we never have to put up with loud neighbors, parties, obnoxious music, etc. It's a fabulous family campground. - So if you want to have a party at your campsite, please choose a different campground!!

Visit the campground website to make a reservation or to read more about the campground. 

Camping at the Kimberley Riverside Campground

Hiking around Kimberley

We're just beginning to discover the amazing hiking trails around Kimberley. Below are some of our favourites so far.

Hiking around the Kimberley Nature Park 

Follow this link to visit the official website for the nature park. There you can view maps and get trail suggestions. There are several trailheads for the nature park, including one that is directly across the road from the Kimberley Riverside Campground.

Personally, I like to use the Trail Forks app which is primarily a mountain biking app. Most of the trails in the nature park are designated for shared use (biking and hiking) and Trail Forks is the best resource for piecing together different trails to come up with a loop to bike or hike. Some of the trails are described on the All Trails app, but it isn't as detailed.

See the Nature Park on Trail Forks. - and note that you need to pay for a subscription to use this app on your phone, but you can use it for free on a computer.

One of the many viewpoints in the Kimberley Nature Park

Our favourite Nature Park Loops:

Sunflower Hill - The trailhead for this is across the highway from the Kimberley Riverside Campground. We did this 4 km loop from camp one evening and it took us an hour. The trail is especially beautiful in spring when the Balsam root sunflowers are in  bloom. They usually peak around the May long weekend.

This is what you'll see on Sunflower Hill at the end of May!

SW Passage Viewpoint - You can access this viewpoint from the Kimberley Riverside Campground as an extension from Sunflower Hill or by just hiking up the Jimmy Russell Trail. Jimmy Russel is part of the Great Trail and is a wide double track gravel road. It climbs 200 metres over 3 km.

To access the viewpoint, turn off the Jimmy Russell Trail when you reach the SW Passage junction. From there it's a short climb to reach the beautiful viewpoint with a bench. It's my favourite spot in the nature park.

To create a loop, return on the Sunflower Hill trail.

Discover other trails on the Tourism Kimberley website. 

I also recommend stopping in at the visitor centre where you can grab paper maps if you aren't a fan of apps.

SW Passage Lookout in the Kimberley Nature Park

Hiking around Marysville and Wycliffe

There are two hikes that we like in this area and both are a short drive from Kimberley heading south towards Cranbrook.

Marysville Falls - This trailhead is very close to the Kimberley Riverside Campground and it's a great evening hike to see a beautiful waterfall and several smaller cascades on Mark Creek. The trail is only 0.5 km round trip and easy for young children. You can reach Marysville Falls in 10 minutes. This is also a great hike if it's raining and you're looking for something fun to do.

Marysville Falls 

Wycliffe Buttes - This hike is especially beautiful in spring when the Balsam root sunflowers are in bloom, but the viewpoint at the top of the butte is always beautiful. There are a couple of benches when you reach the top of the butte along with a couple of very photographic trees!

The link above shows the loop route that we took following the All Trails app. The loop is 4 km with 160 metres of very gradual climbing.

Funky old trees on top of the Wycliffe Buttes Trail

You can also read more about the trail on the Tourism Cranbrook website where two different routes are described. Both routes go to the top of the Butte. The loop is more gradual though and the trail circles around the back of the lookout rather than climbing straight up the front side.

The Wycliffe Buttes Trail is a family favourite of ours near Kimberley

Hiking around Cranbrook 

Cranbrook is a short 20 minute drive south from the Kimberley Riverside Campground so we spent a lot of time biking and hiking here on a recent camping trip.

My favourite hike here so far takes you to the top of Eager Lookout.

Technically the Eager Lookout trail is a multi-use biking/hiking trail but I can't imagine biking it. I think it's a much nicer hike. You'll follow a wide double track old road/route to the top of a beautiful viewpoint with benches. The hike is less than 3 km round trip with only 130 metres of climbing.

This is another pretty one in spring when the sunflowers are in  bloom.

Visit the Cranbrook Tourism website for more hiking suggestions in this area. 

Wildflowers are the highlight of this hike in spring

Biking around Kimberley

Biking The North Star Rails 2 Trails from Kimberley to Cranbrook

The North Star Rails to Trails path is a converted railway trail,  25 km in length, and completely paved.  Start in Kimberley and it is all downhill to Marysville.  From here there is a wee bit of uphill but it is mostly flat to Wycliffe.  From Wycliffe, you will descend and then climb back up from the St. Mary River Bridge.  Once you finish the climb back up, it is relatively flat again until you reach Cranbrook.

There is very little shade on this trail so bring lots of water or else bike it on a cooler day.  Starting early is also a good idea before it gets too hot.

We like to ride this trail one-way, setting up a shuttle with friends (stashing a second vehicle in Cranbrook.)

When we last rode this trail, my husband parked in Cranbrook and then biked back up the trail to meet us.  This meant that he didn't get to ride the whole trail with us but at least we had our truck at the end.

Biking on the North Star Rails to Trails Path

Mountain Biking at the Kimberley Nordic Centre

Drive up past the ski hill to the Nordic Centre and you'll find a gigantic network of trails that connect to the Nature Park.

We have ridden the following trails:

Happy Hans Loop - Beginner friendly and perfect for novice mountain bikers wanting a gentle intro to the trails around Kimberley. The loop is 1.9 km and gains/loses roughly 85 metres of height.

There are a couple of hills to climb that could be walked by young children or beginner riders, but I love the flowy ending to the ride as you descend back down to the trailhead (clockwise direction.)

This is one of the smoother trails you'll find at the Nordic Centre or in the Nature Park so I highly recommend testing the kids out here before progressing to harder trails.

Mountain biking at the Kimberley Nordic Centre

Magic Line - An intermediate loop, 6.6 km in distance, with 376 metres of climbing. It is ridden clockwise and you'll climb to three viewpoints along the ride (each one bigger than the one before.) 

I started out on this one but personally found it to be way too rocky and rough. I escaped on ski trails while my boys finished it. They completed the loop but they also found it to be unpleasantly rocky on all of the climbs. They said the first two descents were "unremarkable" but the third one was a lot of fun with flowy berms, jumps, and rollers. (So there is a reward if you manage to complete the loop.)

Enjoying one of the viewpoints at the Kimberley Nordic Centre on "Magic Line"

Mountain Biking in the Kimberley Nature Park

We found the trails in the Nature Park to be quite rocky and challenging, but families will enjoy the two traverses that we have completed. (All links below go to the Trail Forks website.)

 - SW Passage Traverse from the Nordic Centre

We started from the Nordic Centre on the Spruce Trail, a multi-use double track trail that's part of the lit loop for cross-country skiing in winter. (Starting at the Nordic Centre allows you to start high for less height gain when traversing into the Nature Park.

From Spruce, we followed a few singletrack cross-country ski trails, open to multi-use traffic in summer. We followed the Horse Trail, Roy's Cut  and Mussers. These trails took us to the boundary with the Nature Park.

Once officially in the Nature Park, we took Higgins Hill, a short connector trail that I walked much of due to the rocky descent. And all this, to finally reach the Army Road, part of the TransCanada Trail (or the Great Trail as it's now called.) 

Easy scenic riding on the Army Road in the Nature Park

The Army Road is a beautiful double track trail that traverses through the entire Nature Park. It is great for families or beginner mountain bikers. The section we rode took us through a beautiful lush forest and we felt miles from civilization. 

You can also get on the Army Road lower down in the City of Kimberley at the Swan Street Trailhead where you start on the Lower Army Road. We just wanted to start higher up to avoid extra climbing.

We took the Army Road to Jimmy Russell, another section of the Great Trail, and also a wide double track trail that's great for novice riders. From here we were able to hop on the SW Passage Trail, our objective for the ride.

Our objective for the ride: The SW Passage Viewpoint

The SW Passage Trail only climbs 45 metres but I found it too steep to ride. After this, we took the short SW Passage Viewpoint Trail to reach a fabulous lookout that I encourage all families to either hike or bike to. Apparently this trail only climbs another 13 metres, but again, it is straight up, and there's no way any of us could ride it. (Though my boys did ride down.)

My recommendation is to bring a bike lock and to leave the bikes at the junction of Jimmy Russell and the SW Passage Trail. Continue on foot for the final 500 metres of distance. (It was a long ways to push one's bike!)

From the top of the viewpoint we walked/rode back down to Jimmy Russell and continued all the way down to the bottom, ending across the road from the Kimberley Riverside Campground where we were staying. My husband rode back across the park for the truck.

Riding down the SW Passage Viewpoint Trail

- Sunflower Hill Traverse from the Swan Street Trailhead Entrance

Most people just climb up to Sunflower Hill from the Kimberley Riverside Campground and return the same way. All I can say for our excuse is that we don't like climbing if there's a way to avoid it. And we wanted to see more of the Nature Park in another big traverse.

We followed the Lower Army Road, a double track section of the Great Trail, from Swan Street until we reached the Ponderosa Trail, another double track trail but with steeper climbing. We got back on the Lower Army Road and connected on to Eimer's Road so that we could check out Eimer's Lake (not much to see in reality.) 

Our goal from there was to reach Elbow, and eventually the Forest Crowne Through Road. Everything we rode was double track easy riding and we were able to traverse much of the nature park without any technical riding.

Sunflower Hill was the objective for the ride and it was a beautiful ridge which we loved riding across. Then the ride down to the campground was a lot of fun as well. 

Scenic riding along the ridge on Sunflower Hill

However you reach Sunflower Hill, it is a viewpoint I highly recommend hiking or biking to, and you'll only gain 126 metres if you decide to ride up from the campground. The grade is pretty gentle too.

Riding down the Sunflower Hill Trail in the Nature Park

The Kimberley Bike Park and the Mark Creek Trail

My son loves the Kimberley bike park with its progressive jump lines. There is also a small pump track at the back for beginners. And if your kids prefer skate parks, there is also one of those beside the bike park.

If you want to go for a trail ride after playing at the bike park, you can try the Mark Creek Trail (also known as the Lion's Way.) This is a beginner-friendly single track trail great for a short family ride. It is 3.7 km one way or you can ride it one way to Marysville and send an adult back for the vehicle. 

If you decide to ride the Mark Creek Trail both ways, know that it's downhill all the way to Marysville (so you'll be climbing on your way back.) I'd suggest starting in Marysville so that you climb first, spend some time at the bike park as a reward, and then coast all the way back down at the end.

We spend hours at the Kimberley Bike Park

Downhill Mountain Biking at Bootleg Mountain 

My husband and son love the intermediate downhill trails on Bootleg and the shuttle road is one of the most comfortable I've driven.

You'll want to take turns riding as adults so that you can do truck drops (driving up to the top, letting out the riders, and then driving down to the bottom to pick them up.) 

Starting off on NIMBY: NIMBY is the easiest trail here and you'll want to start on this one before you progress to anything harder. NIMBY loses 119 metres of height and is an amazing downhill flow trail.
"Kimberley's newest machine built trail is a 1.5km downhill/ flow/ jump trail. This trail can be ridden by all riders and has nice smooth dirt with very few rocks. The 44 features include tons of table tops and a gap jump over a big fallen tree, as well as one over a rock garden. Every big feature has an easier alternate line. This trail has 40 berms from top to bottom with the biggest ones being 6+ ft high." - Trail Forks

Kimberley's premier downhill trails at Bootleg Mountain

Progressing to Purple People Pleaser: PPP is the next trail you'll want to try as long as you have somebody willing to drive further up the mountain. Personally I've seen worse shuttle roads and don't find this one too bad. I am always very happy though that I drive a truck with high clearance. 

PPP descends 225 metres of distance over 1.7 km.
"Built as an option for riders who want to progress a bit higher and more advanced than Nimby (Miss Demeanour). This new trail is fast and fluid with giant berms and terrific tabletops for intermediate riders." - Trail Forks

Safe to say, if you don't like berms or tabletops, you'll want to give Bootleg a pass. (I was content to be the shuttle driver for these rides.)

Starting off on the beginning of PPP, high up on Bootleg Mountain

Biking on the Cranbrook Trail Network

We've only just begun to scratch the surface of biking around Cranbrook to the south of Kimberley. 

Below are my personal recommendations for the area:

The Chief Isadore Rail Trail  - From the Isadore Canyon Trailhead, follow the wide gravel rail trail out of town heading towards Highway 393. The trail climbs very gradually and then begins its descent, losing 92 metres of height in a lovely beginner-friendly outing. 

I recommend sending a second adult to the Ramparts Rest Area to meet you. My husband parked here and then started biking back to meet us. For a lovely loop, exit the Chief Isadore Trail on the Rampart Prairie Connector Trail - and make sure you take the second junction for the connector trail as it's much more gradual. The connector trail is an easy singletrack trail that finishes with a lovely ride across a meadow before reaching the Ramparts Rest Area. Our ride from town to the rest area was 12 km in total, most of it all downhill.

Easy family-friendly biking on the Chief Isadore Trail

Pilsit Trail in the Cranbrook Community Forest - This trail starts from the same trailhead as the Chief Isadore Trail and is one of my top fav. trails I've ridden in BC.
"This is an easy beginner trail that is 1.2 metres wide that climbs at 3 - 5 % from the Chief Isadore Trail to the Kettle Lake parking lot. The lower part of the trail can also be linked with Elephant Run to make a nice 3.8 km beginner loop.

This makes for a great first ever downhill run. This trail is also a part of the Cranbrook Great Trail Loop" - Trail Forks
 We climbed Pilsit to Kettle Lake and I have to say, it is the easiest climbing trail I have ever ridden! And it is a blast to come back down on. We also enjoyed Elephant Run with its baby berms - perfect for novice riders. (And if you are biking here in the summer, you can also drive to the top of Pilsit for pure downhill biking that will please young children.)

Easy flow riding on Pilsit and Elephant Run

We also rode the Padawan Trail on the other side of the highway which is another great beginner-friendly mountain bike trail. It is an adaptive trail with a width of 1.8 metres wide and works as a great intro for climbing as there were many uphill sections on the loop.

My boys also rode the R2DTour Loop, one of many Star Wars themed trails here, but weren't very fond of the trail as they said it felt uphill most of the time. While they rode this trail, I hiked up the Eager Lookout Trail to a beautiful viewpoint (so there are options here for both hiking + biking.)

For other trails in the Cranbrook Community Forest, see the map here on Trail Forks.

Read more here on the Cranbrook Tourism website: 4 Mountain Bike Rides to do with kids in Cranbrook.
Padawan is a great mountain bike trail for novice riders

Lake Fun and Paddling around Kimberley 

St Mary's Lake is the closest option and is just up the road from the Kimberley Riverside Campground. It is a large lake and a beautiful destination for paddling on a calm day. Watch the wind before you head out too far into the middle of the lake.)

There are lakeside picnic sites as well, but the beach area is rocky and there is no sand. The water is also pretty chilly so this is not really a "swimming lake."

St Mary's Lake is a beautiful spot for paddling near Kimberley

For an awesome day trip, head north to Wasa Lake where you'll find a beautiful sandy beach and warm water for swimming. The lake is 45 minutes to the north so pack a lunch and plan to spend the day here. The lake also allows motor boats.

And near Wasa Lake, a visit to Lazy Lake will get your heart pumping! This incredible lake has cliff jumping, an amazing rope swing, and is a great place to paddle around with no loud motor boats. There is also a healthy painted turtle population.

Lazy Lake is one of our favourite day trips from Kimberley

Cliff jumping at Lazy Lake

Note for Lazy Lake, you'll need paddleboards, kayaks, or a canoe to move around the lake between the rope swing (opposite side of the lake from the day use area) and the cliff jumping (which is near the day use parking lot.) There is also no beach here, so this is purely a paddling/ destination.

There's also a small campground here (see the link above for more information) or you can camp at nearby Wasa Lake which takes reservations.

Sunbathing on Turtle Rock at Lazy Lake

The Tourism Cranbrook website has other suggestions for lakes in the area for boating, fishing, beach fun, and paddling.

You can also read Splash into Summer: 10 Swimming Holes We Love Near Kimberley BC on the Tourism Kimberley website. 

Rope swing at Lazy Lake (paddle access only) 

Dining, Coffee shops, and Restaurants in Kimberley 

I have to confess that we haven't eaten out a lot in Kimberley but we do have a few favourite spots we like to visit.

For casual (but super delicious food) we always go to the Pedal and Tap Restaurant in the Platzl downtown. I highly recommend the Mucked up fries and the spaghetti balls. Order the burgers if you have a big appetite (and an even bigger mouth - seriously they're ginormous!) 

The Platzl downtown is a great place to find food, coffee, and to go for a stroll

For fine dining, it has to be the Old Bauernhaus Restaurant, an authentic Bavarian restaurant housed in an authentic German barn which was dismantled and shipped to Canada.

For a good cup of coffee, we always head to the Snowdrift Café in the Platzl downtown.

For a full list of options here, please visit the Tourism Kimberley website.

The chicken burger and mucky fries from the Pedal and Tap

Other Fun activities around Kimberley

Below are a few other suggestions to keep the troops occupied.

Swimming in the Flume, downtown Kimberley - The Mark Creek Flume is a great place to cool off on hot days in Kimberley. 

Note the water would be over the head of most children so bring life jackets if your kids can't swim and watch them carefully.

Kimberley's "outdoor swimming pool"

The Lake Koocanusa Waterpark is an hour and a half away, but it was one of the favourite trips we took from Kimberley last summer. I wouldn't make the trip if we were just camping for a couple of nights, but if you're in Kimberley for a week, it's a great destination for a day on the water.

The Lake Koocanusa Waterpark at Sunshine Marina

And a warning if you don't like long drives from camp, don't show your kids the photos of this park. And be careful of taking them as a "one time treat" because they will want to go every single year!

It's my son's number one thing he has to do from Kimberley this summer.

This inflatable waterpark has lots of big slides and climbing towers!

Tourism Kimberley has more suggestions for family fun as well on their website including the underground mining railway in town, golfing, visiting the Kimberley aquatic Centre, rafting, and horseback riding.

The Marysville Falls Hike is a great family outing!

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored or paid for. All opinions are my own and everything in this story has been personally researched and tried by my family. All photos are my own.