Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Bike Tour

We've biked around Banff a lot but recently set out to do a big loop around the whole Banff Town area. The goal would be to get from the Healy Creek trailhead at the bottom of the road up to Sunshine Village Resort back into town along Healy Creek and Sundance Canyon. From there, we wanted to ride through town and head back towards our vehicles by riding on Vermillion Lakes Drive and a portion of the Legacy Trail. We'd end up a few kilometres from our vehicles and send a couple of adults ahead to finish a short section on the TransCanada Hwy. The loop ended up being just short of 20 km and only took an afternoon to ride with many stops.

Family Version of the "Bow Valley Bomber"

Doug Eastcott came up with the "Bow Valley Bomber" loop in his book, Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies. Back when he first wrote about this circuit, the Legacy Trail had not been built yet and much more highway riding was involved. Today, almost the whole loop can be completed on trails or quiet roads. There was only one section at the end that required some highway riding and we sent the dads to complete this part. They rode ahead while the kids played at the third Vermillion Lake and were back at the vehicles before we had even left the lake.

Family-friendly Bow Valley Bomber

Healy Creek to Sundance Canyon

Starting at the Healy Creek trailhead, we rode approximately 5 km to the junction with the Sundance Canyon Trail in Banff. The trail was wide, relatively easy with a few hills that could be walked by younger children, and was great for novice riders wanting an easy mountain bike ride. We chose to ride the trail in the direction towards Sundance Canyon from Healy Creek thinking it would be more downhill. In hind site though I don't think it matters which direction you ride the trail. You'll go up and down in both directions with roughly 67 metres of elevation gain/loss according to the Bike Pirate website (where you can see the full trail description.) 

Easy mountain biking on the Healy Creek Trail

This was the most difficult part of the ride and once we reached the Sundance Canyon trail we had easy coasting on the paved trail back towards the Town of Banff.

Family biking on the Healy Creek Trail in Banff

Sundance Canyon to the Banff Townsite

The Sundance Trail is 3.5 km one way and starts at the Cave and Basin Historical Site. From where we entered the trail, we had perhaps 2.5 km to ride  and it was mostly downhill. The trail is paved, wide, and easy going after riding Healy Creek. You'll be sharing it with horse traffic and with hikers so children need to be encouraged to be respectful of other trail users and to get over as necessary. (encouraged when horses are passing)

Views on the Sundance Trail, Banff

Rather than climb up to the Cave and Basin site, we followed the horse trail down by the river leading towards the Banff Recreation Grounds and downtown Banff. 

Riding from the Sundance Trail to the Banff Recreation Grounds

We stopped at the Recreation Grounds to play at the bike park and playground. We then headed into the town to get ice-cream before getting back on the trails. Here is a map of the Banff Town trails if you'd like to see where you'll be heading.

Playing in the Banff Bike Park at the Banff Recreation Grounds

Central Park to the Fenland Loop

The next section was easy peasy and fun. We followed the paved pathway along the Bow River (map here) from Central Park over to the Banff Canoe docks. From here we got onto the Fenland Loop Trail which is an easy mountain bike trail (wide and flat with a few roots) shared with hikers and dog walkers. Please be respectful and make way for folks on foot rather than running into them.

Easy riding along the river downtown Banff

We didn't do the entire Fenland Loop though you certainly could as it's only 1.8 km in length and flat. We were making our way over to Vermillion Lakes Drive so we tried to turn left at all junctions. 

Once we got to the bridge leading to the Vermillion Lakes Drive, we jumped onto the paved road and continued our journey back towards the Healy Creek trailhead.

Family mountain biking doesn't get much easier than on the Fenland Trail

Vermillion Lakes Drive and the Legacy Trail

The Vermillion Lakes Drive Road is 4.3 km in length and you'll pass by three beautiful lakes on this section of your ride. The riding is easy, paved, and relatively flat. Note that you will be sharing the road with traffic but the speed limit is low and cars always give us wide birth on this section. We've never felt scared and we just remind the kids often to stay on the side of the road. 

Road riding on Vermillion Lakes Drive

There are many docks to stop at along the way and children will be entertained at each one. Once you get to the end of the road, you'll get onto the farthest section of the Legacy Trail (the paved trail running between Canmore and Banff) and you'll ride it 1.6 kilometres to the junction with the TransCanada HWY and the Highway 1A. (This will be the end with children and adults should bike back on the highway to reach the vehicles at Healy Creek.)

Finishing off our ride on the Legacy Trail which parallels the TransCanada Hwy

Ending our Ride

We hadn't quite reached 20 km and thought this would be a nice round number so we rode up the Highway 1A on the shoulder of the road for a couple of kilometres at the end. The dads were waiting for us here after having ridden ahead to get the vehicles from Healy Creek. If you don't want to ride on the 1A, do the Fenland loop a couple of times instead to reach 20 km or else ride further up the Sundance Canyon trail.

Finishing our trip with a short ride along the 1A Highway

Safety Notes

Vermillion Lakes

Wildlife is plentiful in this area of Banff and many people see bears on these trails. Ride in a group, have bear spray handy, make noise (especially around water and when riding around blind corners,) and give all animals wide birth. I came across a couple of large elk and got off the pathway, going  around to give them space.

It's also wise to check trail reports and look for warnings before starting out. There are often bear warnings on the Fenland Trail and trails get closed on occasion if there is a problem animal in the area. 

Follow these links for information on closurestrail reports, and important safety bulletins.



More information on Biking in Banff

Tour de Banff: Vermillion Lakes Drive section

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Biking to Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis

Want to take the family for a hike somewhere that's off the beaten path, almost "secret," and guaranteed to be quiet? Cat Creek is the place to go before Highway 40 opens on June 15th. With no road access, peace and quiet is guaranteed.

Biking Highway 40 in Kananaskis (solitude guaranteed!)


You'll be staging your adventure from the Town of Longview in Southern Alberta. From here, get onto Highway 40 heading west into the mountains. You'll drive approximately half an hour until you reach Highwood Junction where Hwy 940 goes south. This is as far as you will drive and you can park on the side of the highway by the closed gate, blocking your way from driving further into Kananaskis Country. On June 15th, you'll be able to drive all the way from here towards Peter Lougheed Provincial Park over Highwood Pass. For now, you bike.

Our Bike Crew for the Cat Creek Ride on Highway 40

The Road Ride

I tried to track the distance we rode and it was approximately 4.5 km one way to the Cat Creek day use area from the road gate. I figure that we rode about 9 km total on the highway.

Know that there are a few BIG hills so this is not a beginner ride, nor was it easy. If going with young children, prep them ahead of time with encouragement that they can walk any hill that is too big. Bring candy or something to reward them if they do get up the big hills, and bring along a Chariot or bike trailer for younger kids who can't ride 9 km. We had children on our trip who were using balance bikes without pedals but they did not ride the full time, nor did they do any of the bigger hills.

Family-friendly spring riding on Highway 40

The first hill from the gate is the biggest. I reached a speed of 40km/h on the way back down to the truck on this hill. It's also a kilometre long - so it's not the friendliest way to start off a ride. Rest assured though, it does flatten out for a bit after that (and it can always be walked.)

Cruising back down to the vehicles at the end of our ride

Hiking or Biking to the Cat Creek Falls

Ride until you see the sign for the Cat Creek Day Use Area. From here you have two options for reaching the Cat Creek waterfalls. Option #1 is to hike. If you choose this, park your bikes beside the road bridge above the picnic area and find the hiking trail on the opposite side of the bridge. It goes up a slope beside the highway, enters the trees, climbs to a viewpoint, and then descends to the creek. From here there are a couple of nice little bridges and you'll reach the waterfalls in an easy 1.3 kms. Go to the Alberta Parks website to read more about this interpretive hiking trail.

Creek crossing if you choose "not" to take the official hiking trail

The second option is to bike most of the way to the falls on an old road. The old road is found on the near side of the road bridge (opposite side from the hiking trail.) Descend down off the highway into a big clearing, go into the bush a short distance and you will see the old road. Follow it until you see the hiking trail on the other side of the creek. Cross the creek on rocks, and it's a very short 2 minute walk to the falls from here.

Biking to Cat Creek Falls on the old road

Cat Creek Falls 


Cat Creek Falls are a magical place and I love visiting them in any season. Some day though I want to come back on a hot day and go swimming. There is a scramblers route above the falls using an old rope but we decided to play it safe and stay beside the falls rather than trust a rope we did not personally put up.

Cat Creek Falls

The ride back was quick and was definitely more downhill. Families wanting to hike the Cat Creek trail once the road is open will just have to wait until June 15th. For the rest of you, go now and enjoy a fun bike/hike outing.

Bike/Hike outing to Cat Creek

Thursday, May 12, 2016

10 Reasons to Try Heli-Yoga

I recently had the fantastic opportunity to take a heli-yoga tour out of Kananaskis with Rockies Heli Canada. Heli-yoga, in case you haven't heard of it, involves taking a helicopter up to an alpine ridge for a relaxing mountain-top yoga experience. It was definitely bucket list worthy and I met some pretty cool people on my tour.

Mountain-top Yoga in Kananaskis

  10 Reasons to Try Heli-Yoga

1. It is 100% Bucket list worthy! 

My heli-yoga tour was done as part of Canadian author, Robin Esrock's, 2016 Canadian Bucket List Speaking Tour. Robin is the "bucket list expert" for Canada and has written 6 books devoted to traveling across the country in search of the top bucket list experiences.

Meeting a fellow bucket-list enthusiast and KEEN Ambassador
In his presentation at the beginning of our tour, Robin explained his criteria for naming something worthy of a "bucket list experience."
Is it unique in the world? (or in Canada in this case)
Will you remember it the rest of your life?
Will it make a great story?
Is it something everyone can actually do? (physically, logistically, financially won't cost you the moon...)
In answer to those questions, yes, Heli-Yoga is a bucket list experience.

Mountain top experiences are always special and unique (and really, how often do you get to do yoga on top of a mountain??)

Yes, I will remember this trip for the rest of my life. (I will remember every helicopter trip I've ever taken.)

It definitely makes a great story!! I've already been talking the tour up with friends and have been met with dozens of questions including the most popular: What the heck is Heli-Yoga??

And, yes, anybody can climb a mountain with the help of a helicopter. An intro yoga class is also something that most people can do if they take it easy and don't take themselves too seriously.

The last time you did yoga on top of a mountain or alpine ridge top??

2. You get to ride in a helicopter!!

Seriously, that's probably all I need to say for this point.

THAT is the helicopter I just rode in!!

3. You get to reach a summit without climbing or hiking

Many people will never know what it feels like to stand on top of a mountain or ridge top unless they can take a gondola, chair lift, drive up, or fly in a helicopter. Let's be honest, climbing mountains just isn't feasible for all people! Thanks to companies like Rockies Heli Canada though, you could take your grandparents on this tour.

The mountain top experience that anybody can achieve!

4. Outdoor yoga is absolutely unique and different from inside yoga

I remember bending over to do a down dog and thinking, "the mountains are upside down!!" "How cool is that?!"

I also thought it was super neat to look up at the sky while doing a stretch on the ground and just staring up at the fluffy clouds passing by over top.

I don't know about you, but I don't normally lie down on the ground after climbing a mountain just to stare at the clouds. That was a bucket list item in its own right.

Not your average yoga studio ceiling

5. I got to walk barefoot across a mountain ridge

I remember seeing a photo on instagram one time of a girl walking barefoot across a mountain ridge. At the time, I thought it was silly because who goes hiking without boots or shoes?? It was clearly staged and posed. I decided to try it though while on my yoga tour (since I was barefoot anyway) and it was pretty neat. I  definitely recommend a short barefoot walk next time you get on top of a mountain or ridge.

Experiencing nature in a whole different way

6. Great bonding with new people

As with any unique tour, you get a cool opportunity to meet new people, and to bond over a shared experience that you are all trying for the first time. I knew many of the people on my tour but I still came away with new friends. Meeting Robin was bucket list worthy alone if you know how passionate I am about making my own lists full of must-take trips, goals, and things I have to do this month/year/life time.

Friends, new and old, on my heli yoga tour

7. You get the chance to actually enjoy a summit experience 

My summit experiences usually consist of hiking up (often as fast as we can to tag the summit before dark,) spending 10 minutes on top to inhale an energy bar, and then running down (again, often with approaching darkness.) This was NOT that kind of summit experience. We hung out on the summit for over an hour, we did a yoga class, we had fresh smoothies, and we got to fully enjoy our experience. This has impacted how I view hiking and I am making a commitment to spend more time on top of the mountain rather than just running up and down. After all, what's the point of reaching a summit if you don't enjoy it??

Enjoying my summit experience

8.  This is a great chance to play outside and to embrace your inner silliness

I found this to be a playful yoga class where none of us took ourselves too seriously. We laughed, we fell over (a lot,) and we had a lot of fun. We tried new poses, we took goofy photos, and we just enjoyed playing! (Again, something I don't do very often on a hike or on top of a mountain.)

My favourite pose (with a helicopter as my backdrop this time!)

9. Heli-Yoga is a great way to recharge and get energized

What do you get when you add outdoor exercise + yoga + a mountain top experience? Energy, that's what! I definitely felt rejuvenated after my outing and felt more productive afterwards.

Add some energy into your week with a heli-yoga class

10. Heli-tours would be super fun with kids

We were all "big kids" on my tour but Rockies Heli Canada offers many different tours that would be family-friendly. The one that peaked my interest was heli-backpacking. The gist of it: get whisked into the backcountry without having to carry your gear or hike in. Spend a night or two camping with a certified guide, spend your days hiking, and enjoy your mountain experience - again without carrying all the gear!

Rockies Heli Canada also specializes in team building events and I can see how this would be a lot of fun to try something new with your co-workers in a great setting.

Visit the Rockies Heli Canada website for more info on their tours and programs.

Traveling to the backcountry in style!

Getting to Kananaskis in Style

Robin Esrock's Prairie Bucket List Tour was made possible by Ford Canada who provided Robin and his guests with awesome new cars to ride throughout the tour. We got to try out the new Ford Explorer which is being marketed as "The civilized way to return to nature." Given that the car had massage seats for the driver and front row passenger, I'd say this is pretty accurate. And did you know that you can get not only heated seats, but cooled seats? After being outside in the sun for hours, this is a pretty neat feature.  We upgraded our truck to a Ford F-150 last year and it just might be time to switch the car over to something a little more comfortable too.

Special thanks to Rockies Heli Canada, Robin Esrock, Brookline PR, Ford Canada, and the Canmore Yoga Lounge for all working together to make this tour possible.

Disclaimer: I participated in this tour as part of a media promotion through Ford Canada but all words and opinions are my own.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Gotta Do THIS - May Edition (with Giveaway)

Following up on the success of April's edition of Gotta do THIS, I am thrilled to be publishing my second edition of this monthly newsletter and family fun guide. This month I am focusing on activities and events across Kananaskis, Banff, and Southern Alberta. I want to give you some fun ideas for how to celebrate Mother's Day and offer suggestions for families still looking for something to do over the May long weekend. I am also featuring one getaway destination for those wanting to travel a little further and it's time to start thinking about that summer vacation!

Time is too precious to spend every weekend in the city doing chores and yard work. Plan a fun family-friendly day trip or getaway this month and celebrate spring!

It's Spring! Time to Get Out and Explore!! (photo: Nihahi Ridge hike)

Rockies Family Adventures Gotta Do THIS - May Edition


1. Attend the Banff Centre Children's Festival 

The annual Banff Centre Children's Festival is taking place on Saturday, May 21st. Journey into a magical world of contemporary creativity by attending this single-day celebration featuring free and $5 ticketed shows and activities for all ages.

"With a colourful lineup of over 20 free or low-cost arts activities and live shows including theatre, music, dance, circus, and puppetry, The Banff Centre Children’s Festival encourages both the young and young-at-heart to discover and enjoy the arts"

Free activities will include mountain films, circus school, family dance, contemporary art workshops, bouncy castles, climbing, swimming, face painting, a family singalong, and an activity by the Canmore Geoscience Centre.

Ticketed performances will include the Kif-Kif Sisters (circus/comedy,) Dan Zanes (music,) The Floating Mouse (pupetry,) and Cas Public (dance.)

For information on ticketed shows and all free activities, please follow this link to The Banff Centre Children's Festival

2. Purchase your Epic Summer Pass for Unlimited Adventures with your Family

Brewster Travel Canada is offering you and your family the opportunity of a lifetime to try all of their attractions this summer with unlimited access to the Banff Gondola, Banff Lake Cruise on Lake Minnewanka, The Glacier Skywalk and Glacier Adventure at the Columbia Icefields Centre, along with the Maligne Lake Boat Cruise in Jasper. The Epic Summer Pass pays for itself in three visits to any of the five attractions above. The more you go, the more you save.

Banff Gondola (photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography)

The best part about this pass is that it's only available to Alberta Residents!
"Let’s reconnect with everything that makes Alberta amazing: our families, our friends and, of course, our mountains. An epic summer isn’t beyond our reach — it’s right in our backyard."
The Epic Summer Pass makes a great present for Mother's Day with the Banff Lake cruise scheduled to open on May 6th. The Banff gondola will also be open on May 1st. Treat mom to brunch in Banff followed by a boat cruise and a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Hiking on top of the world on Sulphur Mountain

The summer pass also makes a great gift for the children to celebrate the end of a successful school year. My son loved the Glacier Adventure on the big snow coach bus when we last took the tour and he thought the glass sidewalk was pretty cool too! We usually ride the gondola in Banff a couple of times a year and the upper terminal building is currently undergoing a 26 million dollar renovation. (I can't wait to see it when it's finished!)

Please follow this link to read more about the gondola upper terminal building renovations. (Note that there will be construction and limited services available while renovations are being completed early summer.)

Glacier Adventure on the Athabasca Glacier

GIVEAWAY - Enter to win two adult epic summer passes and two children's epic summer passes for you and your family. See the rafflecopter giveaway box at the end of this story to enter. The giveaway is open to all Alberta residents.

Glacier Skywalk with Mt. Athabasca in the background

For more information on the Epic Summer Pass, please visit the Epic Made Easy page for Brewster Travel Canada.

Lake Minnewanka - Destination for the Banff Lake Cruise (photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography)

3. Finalize your Summer Vacation Plans

What are you doing for your summer vacation this year? Now is definitely the time to lock in those plans and make any reservations that need to be made. Campgrounds are starting to fill up through the entire summer and I just realized that I missed booking spots on the Lake O'Hara bus for yet another year. :(

Fortunately, it's not too late to make plans for an amazing summer vacation that the kids will be talking about for years to come. Take your family on a 6 day backcountry tour through Waterton Lakes National Park - on horseback! The Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies Organization still has openings in their three camps this upcoming August. It is recommended that children be at least eight years old and that you have some experience on a horse. That being said though, nobody is turned away for being too "green" and this club would love to teach your family to ride this summer.

The "Best Vacation of Your Life!"

Spend your days in the saddle touring backcountry Waterton Lakes National Park followed by evenings in camp with four course meals, nightly entertainment, and authentic teepees to sleep in.

For more information, follow this link to my previous story: Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies (The Best Vacation of Your Life!)

Western Living at its finest!

4. Spend Mother's Day in the Mountains

Mother's Day is coming up on May 8th and you don't have to break the bank to show mom that she's special. Here are 5 cost-friendly suggestions for celebrating Mother's Day this year:

  1. Take mom skiing for free at Sunshine Village (more details here)
  2. Go biking in Banff or Canmore and take mom out for lunch (or better yet, pack a picnic lunch and have lunch beside the Bow River in one of Banff or Canmore's many parks
  3. Visit Johnson Lake for a short hike, a picnic, and even a refreshing dip if it's warm enough at Banff's only beach. This is also a great lake for taking the canoe out on for a first paddle of the season
  4. Climb a mountain and bring a gourmet picnic spread for the top. Tunnel Mountain is in great shape right now and with less than 300 metres of height gain, most children can climb this one! (more on hiking in Banff here)
  5. Go camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park for easy access to Kananaskis, Canmore, and Banff. And don't worry if you haven't made reservations yet because Willow Rock Campground is first come first serve.
Biking in Banff on the Legacy Trail

Check out these links for more inspiration:

Best Day Trips and Picnic Sites

Spring and Fall Hiking

The Best Spring Bike Rides in Kananaskis

The Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis

The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore

The Best Family Bike Trails in Banff National Park

Hiking in Kananaskis (Prairie View Lookout)


5. Launch the Camping Season for the May long Weekend

Want to go camping for the May long weekend but haven't made a reservation yet? Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Southern Alberta is your best bet! This is a gorgeous place to go camping and there are still several campsites with availability for the long weekend. While looking on the AB Parks Reservation site I also noticed that there is still one site available at Little Bow (grab it now!) and that there are several other campgrounds that also have availability depending on how far you want to drive.

For more on Cypress Hills, follow this link to Our New Favourite Alberta Camping Destination.

Camping in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

 Other great campgrounds to check out for early season camping:


To check for availability, visit the AB Parks Reservation site.

Spring Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Additional Reading:

Summer Planning - The Best Provincial Park Campgrounds in Southern Alberta

Camping in Kananaskis - The Elbow Valley

What to Do When You've Dropped the Ball on Reservations

Spring Camping in the Elbow Valley

6. Sign the Kids Up For Their First Mountain Bike Race

Sign the kids up for their first cross-country mountain bike race on Friday, May 20th for only $5 per rider. Sign up on the spot without pre-registration and choose from four levels for children of all abilities. Run bikes are allowed as well in the beginner level.
"Are you under 16 years of age and interested in trying Cross-Country mountain bike racing?? The Trailblazers Youth Racing Series was made for you! Come on out for a fun-filled, action packed mountain bike event. Never raced before? No problem! From “Little Rippers” through to “Dialed”, there’s a race category for everyone."
 For more information, follow this link to the Cyclemeisters website. You can also sign up for the race on Facebook.

Other races are being scheduled for the summer including one on June 9th.

Sign the Kids up for a fun Bike Race this Month

7. Get the Boats Out for an Easy Spring Paddle in Kananaskis or Banff

May seems early for paddling but the ice is gone, the days are long, and that spring sun feels really good on the skin. Below are my top picks for spring canoeing, kayaking, or even stand up paddleboarding with links to stories I've written.

The Kananaskis River (Starting and ending at Seebe, you can paddle upstream as far as you want and then float back down after stopping on dozens of gravel bars to throw rocks in the river. This is a great choice for those not wanting to set up a shuttle)

Paddling on the Kananaskis River

The Bow River (Starting approximately 6 km west of the Town of Banff, this short two hour paddle is pretty relaxed and you'll end up in downtown Banff with little effort. Largely a float, this trip is great for wildlife spotting and makes for a good half-day activity in Banff)

Floating down the Bow River towards the Town of Banff

Vermillion Lakes and 40 Mile Creek  (We love paddling from the Banff Canoe Club dock up Echo Creek to 40 Mile Creek and into the first Vermillion Lake and then gently paddling back down the creeks to our vehicle. Alternately, it's often easier to find parking along Vermillion Lakes Drive but it can be trickier to find the entrance to the creek. The paddle on the creeks is easy with little flow and is great for novice paddlers.)

Canoeing across the First Vermilion Lake

8. Hit the Open Highway on Your Bikes

In the April edition of "Gotta Do This" I wrote about biking Highway 66 in the Elbow Valley from Elbow Falls before the road opens to traffic on May 15th.

I still recommend biking in the Elbow Valley but I have other suggestions for you as well if you want to hit the highways and roads before they open to traffic.

Biking on Highway 66, Elbow Valley

Closed Roads, Highways and Campgrounds for Spring Biking:

1. Highway 66, Elbow Valley (Park at Elbow Falls and bike as far as you want. A good turn around spot with kids is the Beaver Flats Campground where you can hike on the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail) - Highway opens for traffic on May 15th

Easy Riding on highway 66, Elbow Valley

2. Highway 40, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (drive out past Kananaskis Village and go as far as you can on hwy 40. Park at the winter gate and bike towards Highwood Pass. You won't get all the way there with kids as it's a long uphill ride of 17 km in length (one way,) but you can ride as far as you want and turn around at any point. You'll still get some good views and enjoy riding on Canada's highest public road) - Highway opens for traffic on June 15th

Biking Hwy 40 towards Highwood Pass (photo: J. Douglas)

3. Highway 40 from Highwood Junction (you can also bike highway 40 from the far side, starting near Longview, for a more gradual ride. You'd still have to climb to reach the pass but you can ride to the Cat Creek Day Use Area and back in roughly 9 km return. Note that it is still not a flat ride from this end and you will have a few big hills to contend with. (On the final hill back down to the winter gate at the end of our ride, my speed reached 40 km/hour without braking so needless to say it was not a fun first kilometre starting out.)

Biking on Highway 40 near Highwood Junction

From the day use area, there's a lovely set of waterfalls you can hike to. Either follow the hiking trail (you'll see a steep trail going up the hillside opposite the day use area on your right hand side, just after the vehicle bridge) or look for the old gravel road and follow it on your bikes. (To find the old gravel road, look for it just before you cross the highway bridge off in the grass to your right. The hiking trail starts on the far side of this bridge.) 

Biking the old road to the Cat Creek Falls

We chose to bike the old road rather than hike on the official trail. There's just one creek crossing you'll have to do if you follow the old road (where you'll leave your bikes) once you see the hiking trail on the opposite side of the bank. - Highway opens for traffic on June 15th

Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis

4. Highway 546 west of Sandy McNabb Campground, Sheep River Provincial Park (another great spring ride that starts down south near Turner Valley, bike from the road closure towards Sheep River Falls or as far as you get since it's 16 km one way to the falls, and return when the kids start to get tired) - Highway opens for traffic on May 15th

Biking and Longboarding down Hwy 546  (photo: Jordanna Kersbergen @Alyartistry )

5. Paddy's Flat Campground, Elbow Valley (Park at the gate above the Paddy's Flat campground and bike the closed campground roads. Bike down to the river and hike or bike the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail from where you can also hop on to the Riverview Trail. There is a fun little playground down near the river as well) - Campground opens on May 15th

 For more on road closures in Kananaskis, visit the Alberta Parks website.

Biking along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail

9. Climb a Mountain - Top Picks for May

I have two top picks for families wanting to get out and climb a mountain this month.

Prairie View Trail to Barrier Lake Lookout - This great Kananaskis hike is an early season favourite and is 100% snow and ice free. The ridge is beautiful if you choose to stop here, and from there, the views only get better as you hike up to some big rocks (fun to scramble on) and then go further to the fire lookout house.

To read my trip report from last fall, read First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout

Looking out over Barrier Lake from the ridge on the Prairie View Trail

Nihahi RidgeHike to the end of the official hiking trail in an easy 5 km round trip distance. Continue further as far as you feel comfortable for some easy scrambling. The brave and adventurous can scramble up a small cliff band to reach the ridge for some pretty spectacular views. Going further to the South Summit is for experienced climbers and scramblers only. (though we hope to try it with our son this summer)

To read my trip report from last summer, read First Summits - Nihahi Ridge, Kananaskis

Note, this trailhead is only accessible after May 15th.

Easy hiking on the Nihahi Ridge  Trail

Don't forget that Prairie Mountain - featured last month in Gotta do THIS - April Edition, is another good early season summit and still an excellent choice for May.

Prairie Mountain, Elbow Valley

Ten - Take a Road Trip North to Jasper National Park

I plan to feature one road trip each month so this month I thought I'd choose Jasper National Park. Spring is my favourite time to visit Jasper before the tourists descend on this small town in summer. The bike trails are dry and Jasper has a fantastic trail network.

There are also some lovely early season hikes that we enjoy such as the Old Fort Point Trail. Finally, you can't go wrong with a trip to Miette Hot Springs or just walking around town, visiting the Bear's Paw Bakery for goodies, or stopping in at the Banff Brewing Company for dinner and drinks (and yes, they take kids.)

Spring Biking in Jasper

To read previous stories I've written about Jasper, check out the links below:

Spring Adventures in Jasper

The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper

Experiencing Awesome in Jasper National Park

Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

Where to Camp in the National Parks of Alberta

Please visit the Jasper Tourism Website as well if planning a trip.

Our annual hike on the Old Fort Point Trail in Jasper

Giveaway - Win A Family Set of Four Epic Summer Passes 

Win two adult epic summer passes and two children's epic summer passes so you and your family can visit all of Brewster Canada's attractions this summer.

This contest is open to Alberta Residents only. The contest opens on Friday, April 29th and closes on Monday May 9th at 12:00am (mountain daylight time)

Please enter with the rafflecopter giveaway below. A random winner will be chosen on May 9th and notified immediately. If I do not hear back from the winner by the end of the day, I will choose a new winner on May 10th. This will continue until I have successfully reached a winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This Month's Sponsors

A big thank you to this month's sponsors of Gotta Do THIS: Brewster Travel Canada, The Banff Centre, and Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies.

Interested in sponsoring and being featured in a future edition of Gotta Do THIS? Contact me and I'd love to chat.