Thursday, November 14, 2019

5 Reasons to Visit Golden, BC this Winter

Golden is a year-round adventure destination and is only 3 hours away from Calgary, making it an easy location to visit for a ski weekend this winter. Plan a longer getaway over a long weekend and you'll have plenty of time to explore the town and surrounding national parks. 

Plan to spend at least one day at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden BC 

5 Highlights of a Winter Getaway to Golden, British Columbia

1. Skiing or Snowboarding at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

We just visited Kicking Horse Mountain Resort as a family last winter for the first time (shocking I know!) What impressed me the most was the scenery. Don't believe me, just look at the views from the top of the gondola in the photo at the top of this story.

Scenery aside, other things families will love about Kicking Horse:

  • There's an easy way down from the top of the gondola, allowing for top to bottom skiing for all abilities. (See the ski map here.) I also found a good way down from the Stairway to Heaven chairlift that most advanced beginners/ intermediate skiers could handle.

  • There's a beginner chair at the bottom of the mountain where you can warm up before getting on the gondola. I always appreciate having a beginner-specific chairlift when I'm at a new resort because I can just enjoy skiing without constantly checking the map to make sure I don't end up somewhere I won't be able to ski down. - especially useful when skiing with kids who like to ski ahead!

  • I like resorts with gondolas! Gondolas are so much warmer than open chairlifts and Kicking Horse is one of the few resorts here where you can get to the top of the mountain without having to ride several chairlifts.

The Eagle's Eye Restaurant at the top of the gondola 

  • There's a family-friendly restaurant at the top of the gondola! Reservations are recommended and I appreciated knowing I could show up and be guaranteed to have a table. (unlike trying to find space in a crowded day lodge.)

  • I liked the assortment of other restaurants at the resort including the Double Black Cafe in the Village. I'm a big fan of resorts having an authentic coffee shop rather than just a day lodge with cafeteria. (It makes for a nice place to unwind if you're a person who sometimes finishes skiing earlier than the rest of the family.)

  • Strong skiers will love the advanced terrain at this resort. With 5 alpine bowls and 85+ inbound chutes, you'll feel like you're backcountry skiing without the work of climbing up the mountain first. Note that a short hike is required to reach some of the bowls but you'll appreciate that ski down after you've worked a bit for it.

How's this for a sea of mountains all around you at the top of Kicking Horse! 
Climbing up to ski the Whitewall at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort 

2. Cross-Country Skiing at the Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre

I love downhill skiing, but I'm also very fond of nordic skiing and was very excited to finally visit Dawn Mountain on our trip to Golden last winter. The Nordic Centre is located less than a kilometre away from Kicking Horse so if you aren't a downhill skier, you could drop the family off at the hill, and then continue back to the nordic centre for the day.

At the Nordic Centre you'll find 33 km of trails groomed for both classic and skate skiing. There are loops for all abilities and the trails get freshly groomed within 24 hours of every snowfall. You can also phone ahead if you'd like to sign up for a lesson while you're here.

Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre day lodge 

Dawn Mountain has a full rental shop and so my son rented skate skis for our outing here. He'd been begging to try skate skiing all winter and I was happy that he finally got the opportunity on such meticulously groomed trails.

You can also rent snowshoes if you'd prefer to check out the trails around Dawn Mountain while hiking. There are a couple of short snowshoe loops here that would be perfect for families.

The Nordic Centre also has a beautiful day lodge where you can warm up  between ski loops or have your lunch before driving home if you visit for a few hours of skiing Sunday morning (as we did.)

Learning how to skate ski at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre 
Cross-country skiing at Dawn Mountain Nordic Centre

3. Winter Hiking and Chasing Frozen Waterfalls in Yoho National Park

There are many beautiful hikes near Golden, but my favourite is the Wapta Falls Trail in Yoho National Park. Best of all, you'll pass right by the trailhead on your drive to or from Calgary. Leave Friday morning for an extended weekend and you can hike to Wapta Falls on your way to Golden. Alternately, stop on your way home Sunday.

Wapta Falls from the first viewpoint above the river (most groups climb to the top of the snow pile in front)

The trailhead is located 32 km east of Golden, so this hike is definitely day-trip worthy from Golden as well if you're spending a few days in town.

Hiking across the frozen river to the base of the waterfalls 

In summer, the falls are reached in a round trip distance of 4.6 km. In winter, you have to add an extra 3.6 km for hiking the closed gravel access road from the highway. In total, it's an 8.2 km winter outing and fast parties can make the return trip in 2.5 hours.

Standing at the base of Wapta Falls 

I hiked this trail last spring with a few girlfriends and we didn't need snowshoes because the snow was packed down. If you go earlier in the winter, you'll want to pack your snowshoes. Depending on conditions you might also want ice cleats for the steep hill down to the river.

The snowpile in front of the falls makes for a great lunch spot!

4. Family Backcountry Adventure at Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park

We travel out to Golden and beyond to Glacier National Park to spend a couple of nights at Rogers Pass every winter. We rent out the entire A. O. Wheeler Hut, An Alpine Club of Canada property.

From Golden, you can reach Rogers Pass in roughly an hour (82 km away) when roads are good.

A. O. Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass 

The Wheeler Hut sleeps 24 people in winter and is one of the larger backcountry huts managed by the Alpine Club of Canada. With three separate rooms on the main floor, it always feels spacious and comfortable for a big group. Reservations must be made in advance and you'll want to book your spots at least 6 months in advance (earlier if you want to stay on a weekend or you want to book the entire hut.)

Skiing into the Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass 

In summer you can drive right up to the door of the hut, but in winter it's about a 30 minute hike in. You can also use cross-country skis to reach the hut from the highway.

From the hut, families can't go too far without entering avalanche terrain, but you can hike up to the first bridge in the Asulkan Valley and the kids will have fun playing in the ruins of the old hotel here.

Read more: The Easiest Family Winter Backcountry Trip (Wheeler Hut, Rogers Pass) 

Snowy hiking at Rogers Pass in the Asulkan Valley 

5. Unique Winter Tours and Activities for the whole family! 

Don't ski but still have a day or two to spend in Golden? Check out this large list of fun winter activities below.

Some of these activities are also great for the more "extreme" person in the family if you want to divide and conquer, sending one or more adults in your group off on a guided tour while others spend time with the kids.

Finally, there are a few suggestions below that definitely say "romantic weekend away without the kids!"

Eagle's Eye Restaurant on top of Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Dogsledding with Golden Dog Sled Adventures (photo: Julie Brown and Golden Dog Sled Adventure)

Disclaimer: our stay in Golden was hosted by Tourism Golden. As always, all words and opinions are my own

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Holiday Gift Guide for Happy Campers

I'm back with another one of my annual holiday gift guides, and this year I've decided to focus on camping as my theme. I've collected a large list of Christmas gift ideas for families who enjoy tenting, RV camping, and backpacking.

As always, there are also some great giveaways. Read to the bottom to enter the contests. There is also an outdoor family link up at the end of this post so scroll down to find other gift guides and giveaways this holiday season.

Holiday Gift Guide for Happy Campers 

All links go to the product or company website. A few links go to the Amazon Canada website (If you choose to purchase anything off Amazon I might make a few pennies off the purchase, but please feel free to shop wherever works for your family.)

You'll also find many links for products off the All Out Kids Gear website, where I'm an affiliate partner. Altitude Sports has also been a huge supporter of this blog so you'll find links to their website as well. Shop from either company where you can order quality outdoor gear and clothing online across Canada.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Happy Campers

1. Leatherman Multi-tools and Knives (with giveaway)

Learning to use a pocket knife is a valuable skill for older children, and whittling by the campfire can be a fun source of entertainment. For us parents, a good multi-tool is one of the most basic "must have" items in a day pack or on a backpacking trip.

Enter to WIN a Leatherman Signal Multi-Tool
The Leatherman Squirt is a small keychain-size multi-tool. Tools include pliers, scissors, a screwdriver, knife, bottle opener, and a file. This small multi-tool is perfect for snipping fishing line, and is nice and light for backpacking.

Alternately, the Leatherman Micra is perfect for a stocking stuffer gift. With a small knife, tweezers, a nail file, scissors, and a bottle opener, this is an item that should be in any mom's purse or day pack.

Finally, for the full meal deal, check out the Leatherman Signala full-size multi-tool which includes a firestarter, hammer, one-handed blade and an emergency whistle. Alternately, take a look at the Leatherman Free, P4, "the most advanced multipurpose tool ever made." This multi-tool comes with 21 tools and yet weighs in at only 8.6 ounces (making it ideal for backpacking.)

*** Proceed to the bottom of this gift guide to ENTER TO WIN a Leatherman Signal full size multi-tool.

Leatherman Multi-Tools make great Christmas gifts for your camping adventures (winter or summer!)

2. New Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Pads, or a New Tent (with giveaway) 

With technologies always improving, it's safe to say most of us could appreciate a new sleeping bag that's either warmer, more lightweight for backpacking, easier to compress, or just more comfortable. The same can be said for sleeping pads! I upgraded a few years ago and I sleep so much better on my much thicker (yet somehow lighter in weight) sleeping pad.

You'll find a great collection of sleeping bags and sleeping pads for the whole family from All Out Kids Gear (follow the links above) with free shipping included.

And I'd especially like to highlight one of the coolest things I've seen for parents who want to co-sleep with younger children. The Big Agnes Dream Island double wide sleeping bag is a nice roomy bag with an  integrated pad coupler that can accept a double-wide sleeping pad.

Finally, you'll find a great collection of tents for all family-sizes from the All Out Kids Gear website.

*** Proceed to the bottom of this gift guide to ENTER TO WIN a $60 gift card to use online from All Out Kids Gear.

Invest in a new tent or upgrade your sleeping bags and pads this Christmas 

3. New Backpacks or Hydration Packs 

My son got his first overnight backpack from his grandpa a few years ago and it was a fabulous Christmas present. Last year I was asking for a new day pack for mountain biking, and my husband recently updated his overnight pack as well.

Regardless of who you're shopping for in your family, there's almost always a need for a new backpack of some kind or size. 

You'll find no shortage of great packs on the All Out Kids Gear website so take a look around and see if there's something you're missing. Maybe the kids just need a bigger pack. 

I also recommend hydration packs for the kids for day hikes. My son doesn't carry a huge pack when we're out for the day, but he does need to carry his own water, a few basic items, and most importantly, his own candy!

Backpacks are a great Christmas gift for anybody!

4. Hydro Flask Products for Camping and Backpacking  (with giveaway) 

We LOVE our Hydro Flask products and have used several different items from this company while both car camping and backpacking.

Some of my favourite items are below (with links to the Altitude Sports website where Canadians can easily order Hydro Flask products.)

25 Ounce Wine Bottle - Fits a full bottle of wine and keeps it perfectly chilled. Great for overnight paddle trips when you won't notice the extra weight. I've also used this bottle for cold brew coffee and taken it with me to the beach while camping.

10 Ounce Wine Tumblers - Each tumbler comes with an insulated lid and these cups are worth their weight in gold! I use these tumblers for car camping and my wine is always the perfect temperature (even sitting out in the sun.)

64 Ounce Beer Growler - One of our favourite things to do on camping trips is to stop at local micro breweries along the road. Having a growler in the trailer allows us to fill up at each brewery (even if they don't sell bottles to go.) The growler also allows you to take beer on overnight paddling trips without having to worry about keeping cans cold. The Hydro Flask growler keeps beer at an ideal temperature for a few days.

Stop at micro breweries on the road and fill your Hydro Flask Growler for cold bevies at camp

16 Ounce Pint Cups - Enjoy a cold beverage in these double wall insulated cups. Perfect for folks like me who take a while to nurse their beer and don't want it getting warm in the sun.

12 Ounce Coffee Mugs - Enjoy your morning coffee in one of these insulated mugs with a lid to prevent spills. I can't think of a better coffee mug for camping!

12 Ounce Food Flasks - I have a child who will not eat sandwiches while camping, hiking, or when on the go. Having a food flask in the trailer saves our butt on every trip. They also come in an 18 ounce model. 

18 Ounce Standard Water Bottles - While these bottles are a little heavy for hiking, they're perfect for hydrating around the campsite and for always having a cold drink handy. We spend a lot of time driving between new campsites and sightseeing on our road trips as well, where having a good water bottle in the vehicle for each person is imperative. These water bottles also come in 21 or 24 ounce models.

Cooler Cups - "The new Cooler Cup is two great things in one: it’s a can or bottle cooler, and, with one quick switch, it’s a 12 oz beverage cup. As a Cooler Cup, it’s brilliantly versatile with a silicone sleeve that lets you slide in a narrow bottle or a can—all with the same snug fit. Pop off the sleeve and you have a 12 oz cup made to keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot. The ultimate win-win." - and while I haven't tried this product yet, I'm definitely intrigued!

*** Proceed to the bottom of this gift guide to ENTER TO WIN a 12 ounce Hydro Flask Coffee Mug. 

Hydro Flask Wine bottle and Wine Tumbler for a camping win 

5. New Sun Hats or Knit Toques for Cold Weather Camping (with giveaway)

I recently discovered Sunday Afternoons when I was given an Aurora Beanie to keep my head warm this winter. Let me tell you, I am in love with this hat and if you've seen me in the past month, I was probably wearing it.

Sunday Afternoons has a giant collection of hats for all weather, seasons, activities, and temperatures. Fortunately you'll get a chance to take a good look through their website thanks to a generous giveaway for one winner to pick any one hat of their choice from their website.

Hats of note I suggest you take a look at:

- The Kids Fish and Fire Beanie

- The Kids Hearts and Owls Beanie

- Kids Play Hat (in a variety of different color themes)

- Kids Trucker Hats (in a variety of themes with beautiful animals and nature scenes on each hat)

*** Proceed to the bottom of this gift guide to ENTER TO WIN a coupon code for one free hat from Sunday Afternoons.

I've already placed a second Aurora Beanie from Sunday Afternoons on my Christmas list this year 

6. New Hiking Shoes 

Hiking is one of our favourite things to do when we go camping in the summer, and a good pair of boots will be invaluable on a backpacking trip.

We're big KEEN fans in this family and my son gets a new pair of Targhee Hiking Shoes every year. Myself, I live in my Terradora boots and I like the Explore shoes for mountain biking or walks around the city.

I also live in my KEEN slipper shoes around the campsite when it's cool outside and they're easy to put on for night time trips to the bathroom. 

Finally, another recommendation for happy camping ladies, you NEED a good pair of flip flops for the campsite. Something sturdy, built to last, and strong enough to even bike around camp. 

And my tip of the day: If you aren't 100% sure what kind of shoes or boots your partner or child would like, but you know they need new footwear, start with a "sample pair" in their size and wrap it up. Keep the receipt and they can always exchange the shoes after the holidays. At least they have something to open under the Christmas tree though. 

Kids grow! You can't go wrong with new hiking shoes as a Christmas present

7. Camping-Themed Books and Guidebooks (with giveaways)

I love receiving new guidebooks for Christmas because then I can spend the afternoon reading through each book, highlighting trails I want to hike, and dreaming about the upcoming summer.

For families planning to camp in the Canadian Rockies, I recommend both of the books below, written by local authors from Calgary:

Family Walks and Hikes in the Canadian Rockies - Volume 1: Bragg Creek - Kananaskis - Bow Valley - Banff National Park  - written by Andrew Nugara and published in 2019

This guidebook is filled with colorful photos of local families hiking around Calgary, and my son spent hours reading through it last summer. It's been a great tool for creating interest in hiking with my son and he's added several hikes to our list after reading about them in this book.

Andrew will also be publishing his second edition to this book with a publication date scheduled for June 2020. The next book will carry on with more hikes, areas to explore, and trails not described in the first book.

*** Proceed to the bottom of this guide to ENTER TO WIN an autographed copy of Andrew Nugara's family hiking guidebook, volume 1. A copy will either be hand-delivered to your house in Calgary by Andrew, or mailed to you if you live outside the city.

The Ink Pots in Banff National Park, one of the hikes we read about in Andrew Nugara's book 

Canadian Rocky Mountains Hiking Guide for Families - Hikes for Families, from toddlers to grandparents, near Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis, Bragg Creek, and Calgary written by Annika Mang and scheduled for publishing in June 2020.

Author, Annika Mang is the mother of two adventurous little girls and the creator of the Born to be Adventurous blog. Annika has been working for several years to launch her first guide book to the Rockies, and is working to publish it with a current Kickstarter campaign. As of now, the book is fully funded and will be published next spring.

Each hike featured in the book will have a good map, directions to the trailhead, a difficulty rating, a description of what to expect on the hike, nearby attractions, and insider tips from one outdoor family to another.

Best of all, every hike in this book has been researched and walked by Annika and her young children, so you can trust what you're reading.

*** Proceed to the bottom of this guide to ENTER TO WIN an autographed copy of Annika Mang's new hiking guidebook when it is published next June. A copy will be mailed to your house.

Other recommended books for Happy Campers 

 - A camping logbook and travel diary 

- Goodnight, Campsite - A children's picture book on camping

And by searching for this book on Amazon you'll receive suggestions for many other great camping-themed picture books to start a fabulous collection for your family.

- A Hiking Journal for Kids (we have this one and it's a beautiful way to record the hikes your child completes.)

This hiking journal was a great gift for a happy camper and outdoor child

8. Lightweight Gear for Backpacking or Tent Camping 

Christmas is a great time to update or upgrade backpacking gear. There's always something out there that's lighter, better, more comfortable, or easier to use.

Check out the All Out Kids Gear website for ideas

And a few of my personal suggestions:
  • Headlamps

  • LED Lights and lanterns

  • Backcountry chargers (we just found an affordable one at Costco that looks great.)

  • Inflatable pillows

  • Backpacking chairs

  • A new stove or cook set

  • Satellite communicators and locators 

  • A Gravity water filter (We LOVE ours and never sit beside a stream filtering water anymore.)

  • Down blankets (We always use our down blankets for hostels and backcountry cabins)

  • MEC hut booties 

  • An Icebreaker Camping Skirt - Change out of your hiking clothes when you get to camp and relax in this comfortable lightweight skirt that I fell in love with while camping this past summer. (It's also great for road trips, RV camping, and overnight paddle trips.)
Upgrade this Christmas with great gear for tenting and backpacking 

9. Camp Toys for both Kids and Parents

Admit it, camping is more fun when you bring the toys. Be it a great hammock that you spend hours chilling in with a good book or something as simple as a fishing rod.

Below are a few suggestions for gifts you can wrap and put under the tree:

Water Toys:

- Inflatable floaties and water toys (order the same Punk Duck that we have, pictured below)

- Inflatable stand up paddleboards (check out the affordable SUPs from Airhead Watersports.)

- Kids sit on top kayaks 

- Fishing rods and a starter tackle kit (We've loved this Ugli Stik rod for kids.)

Hours of entertainment at camp with inflatable SUPs and floaties 

Toys for the Campsite:

- A slackline from Slackline Industries 

- A great hammock (and consider getting a freestanding frame for sites without good trees)

- New games to play at camp (Exploding Kittens is my son's new fav. game and we also love Mexican Domino Train)

- Inline skates for campsites that have paved loops - and you want the adjustable rollerblade brand for awesome quality. It's what your child would have used if Alien Inline visited their school. (You'll want to buy a set of pads to go with them too!)

- Walkie talkies for the kids to use around camp

These skates were my son's fav. camping toy this past summer!

10. More Awesome Gear to take Car Camping to the next level! 

Some of these items could be hard to find this time of year, but you could always wrap a photo of what you intend to buy your partner once Costco brings their camping gear out for the new season. A Costco gift card would also work in this situation with a voucher for one "big round comfy Costco chair."

Below are just a sampling of suggestions other Happy Campers have said they'd like for Christmas this year:

Wrap up some awesome gifts to take car camping and RV life to the next level!

The Giveaways

Terms and Conditions for all Giveaways:

All contests finish on Tuesday, November 19th at midnight. A winner will be chosen randomly for each draw on the morning of the 20th.

Each winner has until noon on November 22nd to respond to the email I will send out. If you do not respond, a new winner will be chosen.

All times and deadlines follow Mountain Standard Time.

All contests are open to Canadian Residents 18 years of age or older.

The Leatherman winner will receive a product of their choice of color pending availability of stock

The "Canadian Rocky Mountains Hiking Guide for Families" by Annika Mang will  be shipped when the book is published in June, 2020.

The Hydro Flask winner is not guaranteed to receive a coffee mug of their preferred color. Color availability will depend on stock at the time of shipping.

Shipping is included for all items.

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Check out these other Family Holiday Gift Guides and Giveaways 

Gifts for Skiers and Skiing Families - The Brave Ski Mom

2019 Outdoor Holiday Gift Guide - Outdoor Families Magazine

25+ Gifts for Active Adventurous Kids: Awesome Non-Toy Gifts - Bring the Kids

Gift Guides for Outdoor Families - Tales of a Mountain Mama

Holiday Family Gift Guide - Born to be Adventurous

Big Thanks to all sponsors of this year's holiday gift guide!

- All Out Kids Gear

- Hydro Flask

- Sunday Afternoons

- Leatherman Canada

- Annika Mang, Calgary Author

- Andrew Nugara, Calgary Author

- HT Designs

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Best Ice Hikes in Kananaskis and Banff

Hike through a canyon on a solid ice creek bed to view large towering frozen waterfalls. Crawl behind curtains of ice, climb around on the ice, or even bring your skates when conditions are right. These are the top four ice walks near Calgary and they are all family-friendly.

Discover magical Troll Falls this winter in Kananaskis 

Jura Creek, Kananaskis

While there are other good hikes in Kananaskis that can be done in winter, Jura Creek is something special because it's a hike that can not really be done in summer.  The canyon through Jura Creek can only be tackled in winter when the water is well frozen under a layer of ice and snow.

The Jura Creek Canyon is also one of the tightest canyons in the area. There are sections where you can place one hand on each side of the canyon wall as you walk.  It's absolutely awesome and perfect for kids chasing each other around the tight twists and turns.

Magical ice walk through the Jura Creek Canyon 

Add ice slides and a frozen creek bed if the ground isn't covered with snow, and you have a magical adventure for kids. Best of all, this is a short half-day outing and less than an hour away from the west side of Calgary.

Hiking through the narrow Jura Creek canyon in Kananaskis

Read: Jura Creek - The Best Winter Hike in Kananaskis

Read: Ice, Ice, Baby - Winter Canyon Hiking 

Read: The Wildest Winter Family Hike in Kananaskis 

Family-friendly hiking in the Jura Creek canyon 

Troll Falls and beyond to the Upper Falls, Kananaskis

Troll Falls at Kananaskis Village just might be the best winter hike near Calgary for families. It's one of the easiest winter hiking options for our area, and is a guaranteed crowd pleaser for all ages. We've done this outing dozens of times, and have never had a bad day.

Frozen Troll Falls, Kananaskis Village

Troll Falls is blessedly short with less than a 4 km round trip distance if you start from the Stoney Trailhead near Kananaskis Village.

Read: Five Reasons Families LOVE Visiting Troll Falls in the Winter 

Playing behind curtains of ice at Troll Falls

Want to go further with older kids and have a solid spirit of adventure? Try going beyond Troll Falls to the Upper Falls. Along the way you'll pass several different ice falls and you can even walk behind frozen Marmot Falls.

Marmot Falls which you can hike behind

Know that this is not a hike to the top of Troll Falls, which is something I don't recommend attempting. You'll be visiting different waterfalls and will go nowhere near the top of Troll Falls. If you follow my directions in the story below, there is very little exposure.

Read: Chasing Frozen Waterfalls in Kananaskis! Troll Falls and beyond to the Upper Falls 

Upper Falls above Troll Falls, Kananaskis 

Grotto Canyon, Kananaskis 

Families will love hiking on the solid ice creek bed here with ice slides everywhere and a natural skating rink if you time your visit right.

It's approximately a 2 km hike to reach the set of twin waterfalls at the end of the "fun part" of the Grotto Canyon hike. After this point, the canyon opens up and it's more just flat walking up a creek bed.

One of the frozen waterfalls on the Grotto Canyon hike

At the waterfalls you can watch ice climbers putting on a show and kids will have fun on the giant ice slide. Note that if you hike up the ice slide (with spikes,) you'll find a third hidden waterfall (usually with more climbers on it.)

Playing on natural ice slides in Grotto Creek

Read: Grotto Canyon Ice Walk - 5 Reasons We LOVE this Hike

I timed my visit perfectly once to skate a part of the canyon

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park 

There must be photos of Banff's Johnston Canyon hiking trail on billboards across the world advertising the Canadian Rockies.  Come summer, you'd be hard pressed to get a photo on this popular trail without at least two dozen tourists in the shot, and you could be parking a mile down  the road in order to get near the place.

Hike Johnston Canyon in winter though and you'll find solitude in abundance, you'll get your quiet moments on the trail, and you might even have the whole place to yourself if you visit on a cold day.

Christmas hiking at Johnston Canyon in Banff

The highlight of this hike is the Lower and the Upper Falls which can both be reached in a return hike of 5.4 km. In the past we've also enjoyed descending down into the canyon near the upper falls where there's a fun cave and a beautiful frozen waterfall (shown in the photo above)

There is currently a restriction against leaving the official trail to drop down into the canyon but the latest bulletin says it should end mid-November. Check for important closures and restrictions here before you visit. 

Please read the stories below for more information but obey all signs that you see on the trail. I've mentioned dropping down into the canyon off the official trail in both stories below - something that might not be allowed depending on when you visit.

You used to be able to drop down into the canyon right at the Upper Falls as well for close-up photos, but this might be restricted as well now that new fencing has been placed around the viewpoint.

Frozen waterfall from inside the cave off the official trail

Read: The Most Popular Hike in Banff without the Crowds 

Read: Ice Caves and Frozen Waterfalls in Banff National Park 

Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon 

Recommended Gear and Safety Tips for Ice Hiking 

Please know that hiking in icy canyons can be very dangerous and you'll want to be sufficiently prepared should you decide to take your family on an ice hike.


Troll Falls, Kananaskis 

  • You'll want a good pair of ice cleats or micro spikes for each member of your family. We use Kahtoola Microspikes which can be purchased at most outdoor stores. We've also been lucky to find XS microspikes for children at the Switching Gear store in Canmore.

  • Spikes work much better than snowshoes, but in a pinch, you could use snowshoes if hiking trails like Jura Creek.

  • We've often used helmets for the children when hiking on ice. We compare it to ice skating and like to be extra cautious.

  • Exercise caution when hiking underneath ice, inside ice caves, or when  trying to climb on ice. Ice breaks and you don't want to be on or underneath a waterfall if a big chunk falls off.

  • Be very careful with children who like "sliding" on ice. I've seen kids try to slide down frozen waterfalls, only to pick up speed and end up nearly landing on their heads.