Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Hiking With Your Family in Kananaskis

Easter's coming and it's a three or four day weekend for most families.  If you have school aged kids, chances are good they are already on Spring Break - and maybe even driving you crazy by now.  Below is one of my top suggestions for where to get out and hike during the break or over the weekend.

Spring Hiking on the Beaver Flats Trail

 The Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail, Elbow Valley

This 1.5 km out and back trail is guaranteed to fascinate small children with its string of ponds and beaver dams connected by an enchanting creek that you'll follow the length of the hike.  When Highway 66 from Bragg Creek is open past Elbow Falls you'll be able to park right at the Beaver Lodge trailhead.  Before May 15th however, you'll have to park at the winter closure gate which is located right at the driveway down to Elbow Falls.  Total hiking distance from the gate is roughly 4km return, 400 metres of which you'll do at the beginning and again at the end as you walk the snow covered highway to the trailhead. 

Snowshoes  Not Necessary
We did this hike just today at the end of March with 9 toddlers and preschoolers.  We took a couple sleds for the road (not really necessary), snowshoes (which we left at the trailhead realizing they were pointless), and ice cleats (which would have been useful had we actually have worn them.) We didn't make it the full distance to the Beaver Flats Campground at the other end because each pond became increasingly more interesting with the children and we finally just decided to let them play rather than push for distance.  

The kids entertained themselves tossing rocks and snow into the water
If you have children that like to be IN the water rather than looking AT the water, make sure you bring appropriate clothing and rubber boots.  The creek and ponds would be a lot of fun to play in on a warm sunny day as today was.  

Directions in a nutshell:
  • Drive to Bragg Creek from Calgary
  • Head South for a few kilometres on Hwy 22 from Bragg Creek at the four way stop
  • Turn right (west) onto Hwy 66 into Kananaskis and towards Elbow Falls
  • Drive about 18km, passing the Allen Bill Pond Day use area, and arrive at the road closure right above the Elbow Falls Day Use Area. 
  • Hike along the highway for 400m until you see the sign for the Beaver Lodge pull out.  An arrow directs you down off the highway and onto the trail
 For a map of the area, visit the Alberta Parks website. (link goes directly to the Beaver Flats Trail)


 

 

 

Need more suggestions for early spring hikes that are safe and fun to do with snow still lingering on the ground?  The following trips are all excellent choices for late March and April. 


A sunny trail through Hay Meadows takes you to the frozen Troll Falls. Lots of fun can be had along the Kananaskis River as well as at the falls.  The trail starts near Ribbon Creek, just below Kananskis Village. To read more about this hike, please visit the story I wrote last January titled, How to Choose a Winter Hiking Trail.  For detailed directions to find the trailhead click on the title, Troll Falls above to go to the Hike Alberta Website.

Troll Falls, Ribbon Creek


This easy hike follows the Elbow River below the Paddy's Flat Campground. Little bridges and creek crossings guarantee the hike to be a success with small children.  Before May 15th you'll have to park at the campground gate and hike through the closed campground to reach the trail.  It adds a bit of distance but if you go before the snow melts, you can take a sled if you want.  To read our trip report from this past February, follow this link to the story I write titled Winter Hiking in the Elbow Valley.   If you follow the link on the Title, Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail above, you'll also go to the Alberta Parks website for clear driving directions.

Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail in Spring



7 bridges and a hidden waterfall - what's not to like?  In fact, I challenge you to reach the end of this hiking trail with small kids.  There's so much water to play in you'll likely only get half way at most before your family decides they just want to play in the creek, throw rocks in the water, or even spend an hour scrambling on small boulders.  Expect some lingering snow early season, a lot of water, and some icy sections.  Cleats, yak trax or icers are always a good idea when spring hiking.  For clear driving instructions and a map, follow the link above on the title, Heart Creek Interpretive Trail to the Alberta Parks Website.  

Heart Creek Trail in Spring



For a great hike with school aged kids, or for preschool children with brave parents, check out the story I wrote last April after doing this family hike in late March.  The story is titled, The Best Picnic Spot in Kananaskis and I stand by that title.   You'll follow a narrow path above the Kananaskis River that's barely wide enough for a family to walk single file above the slalom canoe course beside you.  For an alternate path, you can stay above the river with small children and stick to the trees - much safer.  Either way, you will find secret little spots that take you down to the river complete with small waterfalls and picnic tables.  It's the perfect trip for a warm spring day outing.  The link on the title, Widow Maker Trail, above takes you to the Alberta Parks website for clear driving instructions. 

Widow Maker Trail in late March

 I'll see you on the trails this weekend.






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