We'd always avoided camping in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (PLPP) before in the middle of summer because of its popularity but I was on a mission to find out why the park was so popular with families and why it was so hard to get a reservation in the park. I wanted to know why people would have their calendars circled in red way back in April - Book Boulton Creek Campground TODAY! And it goes beyond just having to count ahead 90 days to your planned camping date; you also have to call first thing in the morning when the park office opens. Waiting a couple of hours could cost you the reservation - and no, not kidding. Craziness!
We didn't have a reservation but we did manage to grab the last spot in the park I'm sure when we pulled in at 2pm Friday afternoon to the Lower Lake Campground. From our beautiful campground right on the Lower Kananskis Lake, we were able to explore the park in its glory from bike trails to hiking trails and I definitely understand more clearly now just why the park is such a popular weekend destination for families.
|Children playing on the beach of Lower Kananaskis Lake|
We'd already hiked most of the popular trails in PLPP but the short family trails were all new to us so we tried to cover as many of them last weekend as we could. Each one was less than 5km in total distance so we found it easy to do at least one or two per day. We started Friday with the Rockwall Trail outside the Visitor Centre. (this is where those without kids say, "there's a hiking trail beside the visitor centre?") It's a 0.5km loop, paved, very flat, easy, and actually - not all that scenic. However, the view from the Visitor Centre below is stunning so at least stop there and enjoy the view from the balcony to the meadow out back. We didn't see any bears but apparently they like this spot so if you're lucky you might see one. Otherwise, just hang out in the Lower Lake Campground where apparently a curious grizzly bear was making the rounds on Saturday. We missed the action but our friends saw park staff chasing the bear around the campground with bear bangers, flares, and guns loaded with rubber bullets.
|The view from the Peter Lougheed Visitor Centre|
|Easy riding on the Wheeler Bike Trail|
|The beach on Lower Kananaskis Lake below William Watson Lodge|
|Endless hiking along the Lower Lakeshore|
|Does hiking get any better than this?|
|The Boulton Creek Hiking Trail|
We didn't quite find time to visit the amphitheaters but the park boasts fabulous shows nightly at 8pm that give entertaining performances about the park's wildlife, flowers, and habitat. I've heard that the evening shows in PLPP are some of the best in Kananaskis. Personally, I think we missed the best show on Saturday when we were out hiking and missed the game of bear tag through our campground. Next time.
There are two more hikes worth mentioning in the park for families. Rawson Lake is accessed from Upper Kananaskis Lake and though we've done it in the past, we felt that a 8km return hike would be too much for our son at this time. It's a great hike though if you have school-aged kids or are still a baby-wearing/carrying family. The other hike which we did venture out on is Ptarmigan Cirque at Highwood Pass. This is a MUST DO hike if you are in the area. Again, I'll put some photos below because I think they speak volumes for how beautiful this area is. I actually think Ptarmigan Cirque is the most beautiful family hike in Kananaskis. It's a 4.5km loop and though steep at first with 210m of height gain, there's no easier way of accessing the alpine with so little effort. Note, that the trail is often closed to allow the local grizzlies to forage in peace. It had just been opened that morning so we got lucky. Even luckier - we saw a grizzly high up on a scree slope sleeping. We gave him very wide birth and he never stirred. If you manage to find the trail open, be bear-aware, hike in a group, and look for signs of bear activity.
|Ptarmigan Cirque and my son hitching a free ride up the first 200m|
|Glorious Alpine Hiking|
|Lots of scrambling opportunities for kids in the Cirque|
|This kid climbs better than me already.|