Friday, January 20, 2017

MSR Shift Snowshoes for Kids (Gear Review)

We don't snowshoe a "lot" but when we do, we need our snowshoes to perform. We don't use snowshoes if a trail is perfectly packed and easy to walk on in normal boots. We also avoid the cute little forest walks when we head out. Our first snowshoe trip of this season for example required climbing 320 metres up hill over 3.9 km. With a round trip distance of 8 km, it was one heck of a way to launch our snowshoeing season with a 7 year old.

 MSR Shift Snowshoes for Kids (Gear Review)

My 7 year old had been using a small pair of Atlas snowshoes for the past few years. We liked them for easy flat outings but we were starting to notice that they didn't have enough traction to get up the big hills. They fell off too easily and weren't strong enough for the big trips we wanted to start doing. It was time to graduate to a real pair of youth snowshoes and to sell the preschool ones.

Fortunately, we were given a pair of MSR Shift Snowshoes from All Out Kids Gear to try out this winter and we are extremely impressed with them so far. We've used them on the Rawson Lake Hike in Kananaskis and on the Emerald Lake Circuit in Yoho National Park. We've tested them on hills, on flat terrain, in powder, on packed trails, and while playing. They have performed well in all areas.

Close up view of the MSR Shift Snowshoes

Basic Design of the MSR Shift Snowshoes

"The MSR Shift Snowshoe is an excellent youth snowshoe. Perfect for the 5-12 age group. Fits boot sizes 1-7 adult. Injection-molded decks will stand up to years of use allowing them to be handed down. Metal crampons and traction bars that run down both sides provide great traction. The Shift has a free pivoting binding, that allows the snow to slide off, and not be kicked back up." (All Out Kids Gear)

For full information on weight, size, and other specs, visit the All Out Kids Gear website. 

Personal notes on design:

  • My son has size 1 feet and is about to turn 8 years old so he is fully in the range for kids that these snowshoes are intended for.

  •  The snow does indeed slide off the snowshoe and does not kick back up at the child (as described above.) I've seen snowshoes kick a lot of snow up at a person's backside but that is not the case with the MSR Shift Snowshoes.

Snowshoes designed for durability, longevity, and performance!

Performance: Hills, Climbing, and Running

This is the area where I have been most impressed so far. When we hiked the Rawson Lake Trail, my son decided he would RUN down the entire trail (the trail that we had climbed 300+ metres up.) He never once fell and was running so quickly, neither my husband nor I could keep up.

The trail was quite steep at times and I made my way down carefully in my own snowshoes to avoid falling. I walked as quickly as I could, but there was no way I was going to start running at top speed. Noah flat out ran though, and ended up at least 5 switch backs below us at one point, waiting for us to catch up while he rested on a log (wondering why his lame parents were so slow I'm sure.)

It's not every pair of snowshoes that you can actually go trail running in so the MSR Shift Snowshoes get a huge check mark in this department. Kids love running down trails so for us, this area of performance is imperative and not purely an option.

Trail Running and nobody could catch this kid!

Performance: Flat Terrain and Packed Trails

We recently hiked the Emerald Lake Circuit in Yoho National Park on flat, mostly packed down terrain. My son was able to hike normally in his Shift snowshoes with a regular gait and speed. They weren't clunky, uncomfortable, or heavy on his feet.

I'm very picky about the design of snowshoes because I want to be able to hike with a normal gait when snowshoeing and don't like feeling as if I have these heavy paddles strapped to my feet. The MSR Shift Snowshoes perform well in this area and definitely allow children to walk comfortably on a packed trail.

Snowshoes that allow for a normal gait and easy hiking

Peformance: Powder and Playing in the Snow

"Let's ignore the powder, the big soft field where we could make snow angels, the rocks and stumps to jump off of... and let's just hike!!" - Said no kid ever!

Kids want to play in the snow while snowshoeing and there's no way you're going to keep them contained to the official packed trail. While the trail up to Rawson Lake in December was packed down, the lake certainly wasn't. With Emerald Lake, we frequently got off the beaten path to play in the snow and ended up short-cutting our way back across the lake on the return, blazing our own trail through the fresh snow.

Snowshoes that perform in powder and deep snow

On both recent hikes, the MSR Shift Snowshoes performed well in deep powder. They never fell off while playing, they stayed on while my son jumped off of big rocks, and they allowed him to wade through some pretty impressive snow without completely sinking.

The Shift Snowshoes aren't designed for slogging through fresh knee deep powder for hours (you'd want bigger snowshoes for that or tails on the end) but they are great for playing in deep snow or for venturing off the packed trail to explore.

Kids will always want to go off trail to play

Overall Opinion:

The MSR Shift Snowshoes are easy to put on, stay on reasonably well (because face it, if you don't do the straps up tightly enough, any pair of snowshoes will fall off,) and perform in a variety of conditions.

Kids will be comfortable in them and should be able to walk, run, and play with normal freedom.

Disclaimer: We were given a pair of MSR Shift Snowshoes to review by All Out Kids Gear. I am extremely picky when it comes to snowshoes though and would never recommend a pair unless I truly liked them. I was not paid to write this story and it was not sponsored by MSR or by All Out Kids Gear.

Youth snowshoes that perform like adult snowshoes


Additional Reading Suggestions:

Kids Snowshoes 101 - How to Snowshoe with Kids  - All Out Kids Gear Blog

Family Snowshoeing Super Guide - Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies

A Beginner's Guide to Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies (Book Review) 

7 Reasons your Family Will Love Snowshoeing - Traveling Mom

Blaze your own trail!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

InjaNation! Calgary's Newest Indoor Adventure Park

My family is what you'd call "weekend warriors." We live and work in Calgary but we escape the city most weekends, seeking out adventure in the nearby mountains. Some weekends however, it just isn't feasible to get away and we need to find an urban adventure to satisfy our inner warriors.

Fortunately for us, Calgary has no shortage of cool attractions, adventure parks, and climbing centres to more than keep us occupied (and happy) for a day, including the city's first Ninja Park.

Unleashing our Inner Warriors at InjaNation in Calgary

Explore your Inner Ninja at InjaNation

What do you get when you add Imagination + Ninja? You get InjaNation, a rad new indoor adventure park in NE Calgary. The park is a "one-stop playground" that combines features from indoor climbing centres and trampoline parks. It then takes the adventure one step further with the addition of several ninja obstacle courses designed for both children and adults.

Bounce, Bounce, Bounce at InjaNation

Trampoline Park

I visited InjaNation with 3 other families and the kids all loved the trampoline park. They started out on the obstacle courses and climbing walls, but quickly decided to spend the majority of their visit bouncing on the trampolines.

Jumping into giant foam pits at InjaNation

While I haven't visited any other trampoline parks to make a comparison, I was pretty impressed with the facilities at InjaNation (and the kids had a blast!) The kids loved doing flips and big jumps off of a couple platforms into giant foam pits, had a lot of fun trying to knock each other off a balance beam using soft rollers to hit each other, and enjoyed the dodge ball courts.

Working on balance at InjaNation

Personally, I loved the big trampoline area where you could jump from one trampoline to another as you bounced your way across the room. The kids also thought it was fun trying Trampoline-Parkour as they'd run up the soft walls at the end of each row of trampolines, trying to make their way to the top of the ledge.

Trampoline Parkour at InjaNation

Climbing Features

InjaNation has a small climbing area with two big walls, a giant net, and a super cool feature where you climb up a series of pillars to reach the very top before jumping off. All walls/features have auto belay so no climbing experience is required.

Would you Dare?

Ninja Obstacle Courses

The kids I was with (ages 6 - 7) enjoyed playing on the Ninja Obstacle Course. They were able to do "most" features or could at least walk around the tricky spots. Our youngest (age 5) was able to try the Mini-Ninja Course (and could try elements on the bigger course too.)

Playing on the Ninja Obstacle Course

The older kids also enjoyed "trying" the adult Military Obstacle Course. While there was no way we'd let them try everything (they were way too short for example,) they did really enjoy elements of it.

Trying out the Military Obstacle Course

Adults in our group also had fun trying out the obstacle courses and I could see this being an amazing "date night" or "girls/guys night out" idea.

Balance, Strength, and Agility - all tested in this course


Here are a couple of videos to check out from the trampoline park:

Planning Your Visit 

Things to know before your visit:

  • You'll have to buy special grippy trampoline socks when you arrive if you don't have a pair already.

  • You must sign a waiver before your visit (and it's easiest if you do it online ahead of time if you know you'll be visiting)

  • You'll need to bring a pair of indoor shoes for the climbing walls and obstacle courses.

  • There are cubbies where you can stash your stuff while climbing. I left everything in mine but it would be best not to bring too many valuables with you as they are not locked.

  • Dress in comfortable athletic clothing. And expect to sweat.

  • If visiting with toddlers or preschoolers, consider visiting mid-week (Monday through Thursday) when it's cheapest and quieter. I also recommend going early before the park gets too busy.
Mastering one of the climbing walls at InjaNation

Hours and Pricing

For full information, please visit the InjaNation website.

It's cheapest if you are able to visit weekdays Monday through Thursday (except holidays) and children under 2 are free. There is also a special Micro-Ninja area just for the little ones.

Trampoline Dodge ball at InjaNation

Disclaimer: My group was given complimentary access to visit InjaNation so that I could help promote this new park. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

And yes, we would go back!

InjaNation is great with a group of friends

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Family Hostelling - Book an Entire Wilderness Hostel!

Every winter we book the HI Hilda Creek Hostel for a family trip in our own private hostel. It's easy to book this whole hostel because it only sleeps 6 people. We book all 6 beds with another family and we have a beautiful wilderness oasis all to ourselves.

The HI Hilda Creek Hostel and our Private Wilderness Oasis

The HI Hilda Creek Hostel has two cabins. One is for cooking, eating, and hanging out in. The second is for sleeping and has three bunk beds. This is rustic accommodations at best and you have to be familiar / experienced with winter camping to stay here. There is no running water and so you either have to haul jugs of water in with you or else melt snow to drink. Bathrooms are pit toilets located in a separate building down the hill from the other two cabins. Other than that, heat comes from propane heaters that you'll have to turn on when you arrive, there's no electricity, and no fridge. (So plan your food as you would for backpacking.)

Fortunately with it being winter, you'll always have a good source for keeping food and drinks cold outside the cabin and it's easy to haul coolers in with ice packs. The hostel is located right off the Icefields Parkway on the Banff / Jasper National Park border and is a 5 minute walk from where you'll park your car. We usually find that snowshoes are required to reach the hostel and that sleds are imperative for getting everything in.

To read more about our previous trips to the HI Hilda Creek Hostel check out these following stories:

Raising Tough Kids - Hilda Creek Wilderness Trip

Easter at the Best Wilderness Hostel in the Canadian Rockies 

Moving on to Big Adventures - and the kids get to come along (Autumn trip to Hilda Creek)

There's no Finer Scenery than in the Backcountry above the Hilda Creek Hostel

Want to travel with a larger group of people? Or want something a tad more comfortable with electricity, lights, showers, and even microwaves? Fortunately, there are many other wilderness hostels that can also be reserved as a private booking if you pay for all of the beds at the hostel.

Our Pre-Christmas Trip at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel

In December, 2015 we made our first family trip to the HI Castle Mountain Hostel in Banff the week before Christmas. We went with one other family and the boys slept in the shared boys dorm room while us moms slept in the much nicer shared girls dorm room. (Bet it doesn't surprise you that the girls dorm smells a whole lot prettier!)

Overall we enjoyed our experience but it felt strange to have to split our families up. Each family had one child (a boy) and this left us moms sleeping by ourselves. (And while we really didn't mind making the dads sleep with the kids, it's always nice when you can share the night time responsibilities.)

Sharing a hostel also means that you have to share a kitchen with other people (which can get very crowded if you aren't doing communal meals,) and that you have to share common areas with others who might not be as "accepting" of your children's energy as other families would be. (I do have to say though that most people we've shared hostels with have been very lovely and understanding.)

HI Castle Mountain Common Room and Fireplace

This winter we decided to book the entire HI Castle Mountain Hostel for a group of families. I aimed to have 6 families and figured we'd put 3 families per room. I then split the cost of the entire hostel booking amongst the 6 families (it didn't matter how many kids a family had) and that was how we made it all work.

The hostel sleeps 28 people but we only had 22 people which was a nice number. I don't think I wouldn't have wanted to have packed the place out with every bed filled.

Kids playing in one of the shared dorm rooms (photo: Sean Strang)

Because we had booked the whole hostel we could have shared bedrooms (dads and moms sleeping in the same room with their kids) and we could do a big communal dinner in our private kitchen. We also didn't have to worry too much about our kids running around, waking up early, or younger kids crying. This was our private space for the weekend and we just shared it with two friendly hostel managers who helped to keep everything running smoothly.

Dinner at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel

For more information on booking an entire hostel, please visit the Hostelling International website. The link goes to the "Wilderness Hostels for Groups" page and lists all of the hostels that you can reserve for a complete rental.

Booking a hostel for your next group outing is an easy way to ensure you'll all be under one roof (rather than staying in individual hotel rooms) and is much more comfortable than camping in the winter months. It's a great way to spend Christmas or another holiday with your extended family and friends (or to celebrate an early Christmas trip with friends as we did.)

Group Hostel Life (photo: Sean Strang)

Note that if you want to book an entire hostel you will want to book EARLY. Think, a year in advance.

The HI Castle Mountain Hostel

Our Group Hostelling Experience this past December

We had great plans for the weekend. We wanted to go to Lake Louise and go skiing, we wanted to hike Johnston Canyon, others wanted to go downhill skiing and ice skating at Lake Louise. Then the weekend arrived and it was too cold to do much of anything!

A Cold Weekend at the Castle Mountain Hostel

It was easily -30 C with wind chill the entire time we were at the hostel and it went down close to -40 C overnight with the wind. Cars wouldn't start, families with young children didn't want to brave the cold for long outings, downhill skiing was out of the question (as was ice skating,) and one family actually fled for on Saturday and hopped over the border to BC where it was a bit warmer for a few hours. (and yes, I'll admit, that was me!)

We tried to get outside for very short outings

In the end, members of our group made the short hike to nearby Silverton Falls, the kids played out behind the hostel in the creek bed, we did a TON of indoor crafts and activities, the kids decorated cookies, and we all fled to warmer temperatures on Sunday.

Families who braved the temps to hike to Silverton Falls (photo: Sean Strang)

It was a good weekend but next time we do something like this I honestly home it's a lot warmer!

Thank gosh we had the whole hostel to ourselves!

Other Winter Hostelling Trips

Winter Camping in Kananaskis - HI Kananaskis Hostel 

Affordable Family Ski Vacations in the Canadian Rockies - HI Kananaskis Hostel 

Winter at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel with Kids

Rampart Creek - Our new Favourite Wilderness Hostel 

Beyond Lake Louise Where the Real Ice Magic Begins - HI Mosquito Creek Hostel 

Winter Paradise at Mosquito Creek

It's still Winter at Lake Louise - HI Mosquito Creek 

5 Reasons to Take Your Family to Mosquito Creek this Winter 

Winter Road Trip to Jasper National Park - HI Maligne Canyon 

Winter Escape to Jasper National Park - HI Athabasca Falls

HI Rampart Creek Hostel

Thanks so much to the families who joined us this year at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel and to all those families who have enjoyed winter camping with us at the other hostels over the past several years.

Disclaimer: We paid for our recent stay at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel and this story is neither sponsored or paid for. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

Monday, January 09, 2017

2017 Campsite Reservation Guide for Alberta and BC

It's January and it's time to start booking campsites. For the summer. Yes, in January. And yes, for the entire camping season. In January.

Anybody else excited? Horrified that we have to start planning this early? Angry? A mixture of excitement and horror? (that would be me.)

Fortunately for my family, I am a super planner and actually love pulling out the new calendar to schedule another summer season of awesomeness. For the rest of you, the good news is that you only have to make national park bookings now. Provincial campgrounds still give you time to enjoy the winter season first before jumping into summer.

This campsite has to be booked in January (Photo: Redstreak Campground, Kootenay National Park)

Canada National Park Reservations 

National Park campsites can be booked for the entire 2017 camping season beginning in January. There is no 90 day window. Book a site for any month this upcoming season in January. This includes comfort camping sites as well.

Below is the reservation launch schedule for national parks near Calgary:

Banff National Park - Wednesday, January 11th, 8am!

Jasper National Park - Tuesday, January 10th, 8am! (and backcountry campground reservations can be made as of January 25th, also at 8am!)

Waterton Lakes National Park - Thursday, January 12th, 8am!

Kootenay National Park, BC  - Thursday, January 12th, 8am!

Yoho National Park, BC - All campgrounds first come first serve. The Lake O'Hara Bus can be reserved for the entire summer season on April 20th at 8am.

All times are in MDT.

For full information on reservations in all parks, visit the Parks Canada website.

Camping in Yoho National Park

What you can Expect this year with Camping in the National Parks (and Tips for Getting the Site you want!)

  • Campgrounds will be busier than normal with free admission into the national parks this year due to Canada's 150th anniversary.  Follow this link to order your FREE National Park Discovery Pass.

  • You will want to book campsites the day that the reservation system opens for each park and at 8am sharp if planning on camping on weekends during the summer season. There will be more flexibility if camping mid-week or in the spring/fall months.

  • Be on the computer, logged in, and ready to go for 8am sharp!! Know which site you want and have it already up on your screen so that you can click on it at exactly 8am. (and if you prefer to book by phone, that is an option too.)

  • Tag team with friends to get sites you really want (especially if you are looking for sites side by side.) - Make sure you exchange all booking info. with your friends ahead of time because you can't hold more than one permit in your name for the same date/campground. If booking for friends, you'll want their full name and address with postal code. You'll also want to know the size of their trailer or tent along with how many people they will have on their site. (And if you are booking for friends who haven't committed yet, you can change the name on a campsite permit before you show up. You just need a good guess when you book as to which family you will  be camping with.)

  • Have your payment information handy. And know that you can't book more than three sites at a time. If you need to make separate bookings on the same day for different campgrounds, you'll want to have multiple tabs open on your computer and you will have to pay for the first campground before switching to the second one.

  • There are still several first come first serve campgrounds in Banff, Jasper, and Yoho National Parks.

  • Consider private campgrounds if you can't get into a national park campground or choose provincial park campgrounds just outside the national park. For example, in Waterton, we like the Waterton Springs private campground. For Banff, we like camping outside the park gates at the Bow Valley Provincial Park Campground. There are many private campgrounds in the Radium Hot Springs area if you can't get into Redstreak as well (including the Canyon RV Resort.)

  • Make sure there is a fire pit on the site that you are reserving. Some sites in Banff do not allow fires. You will be paying for a fire permit if your site allows a fire.

Waterton Lakes National Park is a fabulous park to visit with the family

Important Links:

Camping in Banff with a List of all Campgrounds

Camping in Jasper with a List of all Campgrounds

Camping in Kootenay National Park with a list of all Campgrounds

Camping in Yoho National Park with a list of all Campgrounds

Camping in Waterton Lakes National Park with a list of all Campgrounds 

Parks Reservation Service Website 

Road Trip to Jasper anyone?

Alberta Provincial Park Reservations

Reservations go live on February 21st for the 2017 camping season. Before you get too excited (or worried though,) you can only book up to 90 in advance of your departure date. This means if you want to camp over the May long weekend, you must book sites on February 21st. Otherwise, put your tentative trip on your calendar, count back 90 days, and mark the reservation date for that trip on your calendar.

Note that for the May long weekend, there are specific booking times for each provincial park to ensure that the website doesn't crash. (and yes, that has happened before!) Follow this link for a full list of times for each park.

Once May long weekend reservations have been made and the reservation system is officially open, reservations always start at 9am for each 90 day window. This includes group and comfort camping reservations.

All times are in local Alberta time.

Camping in Alberta's Provincial Parks (Photo: Beauvais Lake, Southern AB)


Special Dates:

May Long Weekend Camping - February 21st

Group Camping - February 6th (for the entire 2017 season. No 90 day window)

Comfort Camping - February 13th (for the entire 2017 season. No 90 day window)

Group camping at Twin Lakes, Crimson Lake Provincial Park

Special Tips:

  • Follow many of the same tips as per national park bookings above. Be religious about logging in before 9am and at having your site up on your computer screen ready to be booked. Tag team with friends (especially for group bookings) and pay very close attention to those 90 day windows!

  • Make sure everything is in your calendar with reminders! I even put reminders beside my computer, my coffee pot, and my bed the night before making a campsite reservation so that I don't accidentally forget.

  • If you don't get the site that you want, there are plenty of first come first serve campgrounds. Many campgrounds also have a small number of  FCFS campsites. A Full List of FCFS Campgrounds can be found here.

  • Consider booking a group site if you have at least 5 families coming with you. You'll get your own private campground or group area and will have lots of room for the kids to run around and play. Note that group sites do not have power or services for RVs so you'll have to either bring generators or camp off the grid as we do. Most group sites can be booked with a payment for 5 units but some require payment for 10 units so make sure you check the details before reserving a site. Full info. on group camping can be found here.

Spring Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park

 Important Links:

Alberta Parks Online Reservation Information

Reservation website 

Comfort Camping in AB Parks  

Backcountry Reservations (also 90 days)

And, check out these two stories I wrote for Alberta's RV and Resort Magazine:

Group Camping Guide

Campsite Reservation Tips

Scenic campsite in Bow Valley Provincial Park

British Columbia Provincial Park Reservations

BC Parks has eliminated their opening day system and now goes with a rolling system of 4 months for all campground  bookings. (Last year it was 3 months.)

"In other words, on January 2nd, reservations (if available) can be made for any arrival date of May 2nd or sooner. Sites will then be available each day, 4 months in advance (ie, On January 3rd, you can book up to a May 3rd arrival, January 4th up to May 4th arrival etc)." - words from BC Parks reservation site.

Note that this is 4 actual months to the day so you do not need to count back the days as you would with AB Parks.

Beach Camping at Wasa Lake, BC

 For full information please visit the Discover Camping Reservation Service.

Other news, changes, and full booking policies can be read about on the BC Parks website here. 

Some provincial parks also offer group camping. Group camping reservations can be made up to 12 months in advance of the arrival date via the Discover Camping reservation service. Information on group camping can be found here.

And follow this link if you would like more information on backcountry camping and reservations.

Camping at Surveyor's Lake in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

Backcountry Huts and Wilderness Hostel Reservations

Alpine Club of Canada huts and cabins can be booked a full year in advance as can wilderness hostels beds or private rooms.

This means that if you haven't booked anything for this upcoming summer, it might be too late. It is not too late however to start figuring out your winter plans for 2017-2018. Mark those dates on your calendar now if planning to book something for Family Day in 2018 for example.

For more information, visit the Alpine Club of Canada website or the Hostelling International website.  

One of the many ACC huts that you can book for your family (photo: Elk Lakes Cabin, BC)

Other Suggested Reading 

Camping in William A. Switzer Provincial Park

Mountain Bike Weekend in Banff at the Tunnel Mountain Campground

Friday, January 06, 2017

Top 10 Posts from 2016! - Did you miss any?

I love looking back at the beginning of a new year and it's a great opportunity to see which stories my readers have most enjoyed on this blog. Below are the top 10 posts from 2016 in order, starting with the one that was the most popular last year. At the bottom I've included a few more of my personal favourites that you may have missed.

Top 10 Posts from 2016 


Alberta Comfort Camping Destination Guide

I admire people who continue tenting as a family and who actually enjoy sleeping on the ground. It's natural, it's "real" and it's authentic. Unfortunately, the older I get, the less I appreciate the whole "authentic" camping experience and the more I long for comfort in the outdoors....

Comfort Camping in Alberta at the Mount Engadine Yurt in Kananaskis

The 5 Best Waterside Campgrounds near Calgary, Alberta

I participate in a lot of conversations around where to find the best campgrounds, and usually the number one focus is water! Families are looking for waterside campgrounds where they can roll out of their tent and immediately launch their canoe without carrying or driving it to the lake. Families want to sit back at their campsite and watch the kids play in the lake - right in front of the tent. And families want to spend the day at a campground beach, chilling, and cooling off on hot summer days...

Camping in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis

Family Guide to Banff - Top 10 Places to Explore with Kids 

Just have one week in Banff this summer and want to make your trip really count? Get off the beaten path, see the top sites, and get some valuable tips for capturing those prized views without crowds of other tourists jumping into your photos....

Biking around the Town of Banff

Ten Tips for Stress Free Camping 

We love camping but I won't lie and say that it's this easy peasy stress-free thing we look forward to every weekend. There are trips where we ask ourselves why we are going away for the fourth weekend in a row. There are drives that make us want to switch to planning permanent day trips instead of overnight outings. There are stressful weeks where I can't believe I now have to pack up for camping Friday morning, knowing I still have a huge pile of work I haven't finished...

Hammock City while camping in Banff

Winter at the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park

The Cameron Lake Cabin is the newest addition to the Alpine Club of Canada's collection of backcountry cabins and huts, and with a 2 km approach, is one of the EASIEST cabins for families to reach in winter. The trail is packed and track-set allowing for easy cross country skiing or hiking with a flat level surface for towing sleds. Arriving at the cabin you might even be tempted to proclaim: "What? We're here already? But I'm not tired yet!" - I know I did...

Skiing out from the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park

Backcountry Cabin Camping with Kids (Elk Lakes Cabin, BC)

You like vehicle-accessed camping, you've mastered sleeping in a tent with the kids, enjoy eating and cooking outside, don't freak out at the thought of using a pit toilet, can handle a few bugs and creepy crawlies, don't mind getting dirty (and can survive without showering for a few days,) enjoy an easy hike as a family, and generally like being outside. Yes? Well then, read on...

Group Cabin Camping Trip at Elk Lakes

Winter Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge  

Raise your hand if you like winter camping? In a tent. While it's snowing outside. After you've been skiing all day and you're already wet and cold. Thought so - I don't see many hands raised. And I don't blame you because I don't like winter camping either. "Usually."

Now ignore the classic idea of winter camping and picture this instead: You drive up to your beautiful backcountry lodge perched on a bench overlooking a snowy meadow with awe-inspiring mountains in the background. You then grab your bags and set off on a two-minute hike through the forest to reach your cozy home for the night - a small yurt tucked away in a remote corner of the Mount Engadine Lodge property...

Winter Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge

Backpacking in the Bugaboos (and our first family glacier traverse)

I still remember the first time I saw the granite spires of Bugaboo Provincial Park 11 years ago. We had planned a September backpacking trip to the Conrad Kain Hut with friends and it was our first visit to this provincial park in the Purcell Mountains of Southeastern British Columbia.

Going over a rise on the drive in, we caught our first glimpse of Hounds Tooth Spire and Marmolata Peak, and promptly jumped out of the vehicle, mouths wide open! "Did we suddenly get teletransported to Patagonia" I remember asking? "There's no way we're in Canada anymore" was next out of my mouth...

Hiking in the Bugaboos of British Columbia

Summer Backpacking Trip to the Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass  

This post could easily be called "Introduction of Family Mountaineering" or "Mountaineering with Kids 101" because the Asulkan Cabin is a great base camp for exploring glaciers and for hiking to the nearby Asulkan Pass across a wild landscape of glacier moraines and permanent snow fields...

Gorgeous scenery from the Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass

Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Mountain Bike Loop

We've spent a lot of time biking the trails around Banff over the past month and have come up with a few amazing family tours. Today's loop is for the more experienced riders in your family and takes you on the best single track mountain bike trails around the Tunnel Mountain Bench...

Mountain Biking in Banff on the Tunnel Bench

Other Popular Posts from 2016

Technically, if I were to have included them, many of my Gotta do THIS monthly posts would have also been in the top ten. They definitely had high volumes of traffic but I chose to leave them out of the above "top 10," choosing stand alone pieces instead.

For those just joining us here, I publish a monthly edition of Gotta do THIS in the Canadian Rockies. January's Edition has just been published and you can read it here: Gotta do THIS - January Edition.

Other popular posts that I left out of the above Top ten posts were my annual Holiday Gift Guide and my 2016 in Review post. Both had the traffic to have been included but I wanted to focus on trips from the past year and feature guides.

One of the many things that you've Gotta Do in January!

Posts you May have Missed from 2016

Introduction to Family Backcountry Ski Touring

I've participated in many conversations on the topic of taking  kids "backcountry skiing"over the last year or two with questions centered around when the kids would be ready, how to keep it safe, how to build a pair of backcountry skis for a child (or whether it was even necessary,) and if it was really all that necessary to take kids into the backcountry at a young age...

Backcountry ski touring in Kananaskis


Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort

I recall ski trips to Kimberley Alpine Resort with great fondness back in my pre-parenthood days. My husband and I used to make the trek across the border into BC to ski at Kimberley every couple of years and it was always one of my favourite hills. Many years later, we have finally returned to ski in this small mountain town, and everything was just as awesome as I remembered! Perhaps better...

Kids Tree Skiing in Kimberley, BC

Family Guide to Fernie Alpine Resort 

Fernie Alpine Resort used to be our favourite ski hill back in the day before we became parents and had to "tone down" our adventurous weekends. My husband and I would leave Calgary after work Friday, check into an affordable hotel room downtown Fernie, and then spend two days skiing the intermediate/advanced terrain on the upper mountain before driving home Sunday night in the dark...

Fernie Ski Weekend in British Columbia

Gym to Crag - How to Transition to Outdoor Rock Climbing  

My son has always loved outdoor rock climbing but has never shown much interest in the indoor variety. Fortunately, my husband is an experienced climber with the knowledge, training, and gear required for a family day at the crag. We also have a great group of friends who like to climb so we can meet up with other families for an evening of family climbing after work...

Outdoor Family Rock Climbing in Kananaskis