Friday, July 26, 2013

Favourite Summer Bike Trails and a Visit to the Fernie Skills Park

I have at least 10 stories waiting to be written - all related to biking, so I've combined all of the trail related posts into one story here, summarizing where we've been in our summer biking adventures.  If you've been following my Kids on Wheels series, you'll know that we are pretty serious about getting our whole family on wheels (myself included), that we've upgraded Noah's bike, enrolled him in bike classes, and want family biking to be front and center in our lives. 

Favourite Summer Trails With a Balance Bike

One -  Watridge Lake and Karst Spring, Mt. Shark Kananaskis

This is a 9km bike hike combo trip that we did while staying at Mount Engadine Lodge in June.  While the trail was closed for a while after the June flood, everything is open again, and you can access Mt. Shark trailhead from Canmore or Hwy 40 again.  We loved this easy mountain bike ride on an old logging road that was very family friendly.  We walked the steep hills and gave Noah the occasional push here and there.  We were extremely proud that Noah did the entire trip by himself to Watridge Lake and  back on his Strider balance bike.  I wasn't sure if he would be able to ride the whole 7.5km round trip without serious problems in motivation and energy but he did awesome and rocked it!  He even had the energy to run up to Karst Spring from the lake so that we could see the water gushing out of a hole in the ground and tumbling down in a thundering waterfall.  It was very cool to see and highly recommended with kids. We left the bikes at the lake for the short hike to the spring and back as it was very steep and NOT bike friendly on any kind of bike.

We definitely plan to repeat this trip next summer and Noah will be on his pedal bike for it.  Hopefully I'll have a new mountain bike by then too.  ;) 

Riding to Watridge Lake

What a fabulous place to ride a bike in the summer!  And there are no trail fees.  What a shock to find that out!  I'd always wanted to bike or hike at the Nordic Centre but feared we'd have to pay to access the trails as you do in winter. We met up with a couple of other families on Father's Day in June and rode out to the beautiful meadow at the heart of the park.  We had lunch in the meadow and returned after an easy half day of riding.  Noah was again on his balance bike but he could totally do it on his pedal bike now.  He would need the occasional push but other than that, there was a huge section of paved trail followed by a short stretch of mountain biking on double track trails to reach the meadow.  Maps can be purchased at the Centre and there are trails for every level of biking from  kids on balance bikes to dare devils looking for jumps and narrow single track trails.  Bikes can also be rented from Trail Sports on site. 

This is another "to be repeated" next summer trip and again, Noah will be off the balance bike by then.

Reaching the Meadow at the Canmore Nordic Centre

Three - Troll Falls, Kananaskis

This was another early season mountain bike ride we did this year before the June flooding.  I understand that the trail is still open but that you have to park beside the closed gate for the Stoney Trail Day Use Area. The parking area is closed for construction but I believe you can still access via this way.  (Contact Kananaskis Parks to verify) 

Noah rode his balance bike and we ran alongside him.  Next year we will all be riding and Noah will of course be on his pedal bike.  It's a lovely trail that combines double track ski trails, a short trail to a lovely waterfall (which you hike), and then a wide grassy trail along Hay Meadow.

Biking to Troll Falls on the Ski Trails of Ribbon Creek

Four - Wapta Falls, Yoho National Park

While signed as a hiking trail only, no bikes allowed, we figured it wouldn't hurt to take one small balance bike on the trail.  The short 5km return trail was steep in sections but for the most part, Noah loved riding to the falls and back.  He was much happier than he would have been on foot hiking!  We'd never hiked this trail before and were blown away by how beautiful the falls were!  We also loved hiking through the humid forest to reach the falls.  We knew we were definitely in British Columbia!

Riding on the Wapta Falls Trail

Five - Stewart Canyon, Banff National Park

This is another bike hike combo trip that we did last week while camping in Banff.  While Noah was able to bike most of the short 3km round trip hike, there were certainly sections where I would have had a heart attack were he to have been riding!  Riding off a cliff into the frigid cold waters of Lake Minnewanka would not be a nice end to a pleasant bike ride! Overall though, this is a great ride for kids on balance bikes.  The first section is paved as you make your way through the picnic day use area.  After that you get on the official trail to the bridge over the canyon and if you want to leave the bikes at the trailhead, you could always do that.

Sunset Bike Ride to Stewart Canyon, Banff

Visiting the Fernie Mountain Bike Skills Park

We decided to stop in Fernie on our way home from Kikomun Creek Provincial Park in early July and check out the Mountain Bike Skills Park my friend Char had told us about.  Noah had never tried any riding on a real pump track before and I was keen to get photos of him on one before he graduated to mountain biking on his pedal bike.  I thought it would be cute to get photos of him ripping up the course on his Strider balance bike.  I was right and it was adorable to watch him circling the pump track on the tiny bike.  We are very excited for the new pump track to open in Fish Creek Park right here in Calgary because I have no doubts that Noah will be using his new Spawn bike on it by the end of the summer.  To find the Bike Skills Park in Fernie, just head to the Aquatic Centre and Spray Park across the tracks on the other side of downtown.  It's all there together.  And the spray park was great for cooling off afterwards!

For information on the new skills park being built in Fish Creek Park in Calgary, visit the Calgary Mountain Bike Skills Park Association  website.

Fernie Bike Park
Mastering the Fernie Pump Track

Where To Next?

We are gradually fading out the beloved balance bike as Noah transitions to his new Spawn Cycles Banshee 16" pedal bike.  Noah loves his pedal bike and when given the choice, he chooses to ride it over the balance bike about 90% of the time.  We took both bikes on our recent camping trip in Jasper and Noah used the Spawn bike while riding around camp and on an intermediate mountain biking trail around Lac Beauvert in Jasper.  I had sent him and Dad out for the "easy" bike ride, thinking it was actually paved.  Oops!  I had no idea it was a mountain bike trail, rated as intermediate, and definitely - a bit advanced for a beginner rider!  Noah rocked it though and is ready for more!!  That's my kid!

Mountain Biking in Jasper
We still use the balance bike on bike-hike combo trips because honestly, a pedal bike is just too heavy to lug up a mountain (even if it is made of aluminum!)  It comes down to the focus of the trip.  If we are  going to be primarily biking, Noah brings the Spawn bike.  If hiking comes into play at least 50-60% of the time, we take the balance bike.  We also use the balance bike on trails signed as official hiking trails.  Don't want to get in trouble after all.  ;)

Bike Hiking the Old Fort Point Trail in Jasper

I will be writing more about Noah's adventures on his Spawn bike but my proudest moment last week while camping came when Noah started riding around camp on his own!  100% on his own.  Starting, stopping, steering, braking (some of the time), and dragging his feet when he got too lazy to brake.  He rode around with another 5 year old boy and they had a blast!  I was terrified at first and thought for sure he would get hit by a car but the boys were careful and jumped for the trees every time they saw a moving vehicle.  He did awesome and I can't believe my baby is riding by himself with friends.   

Riding around Camp on his Spawn Bike

Big thanks to Spawn Cycles for getting us going on such a great bike and special thanks as well to Pedalheads for teaching Noah all of the skills he's currently using!  I had no idea how to teach a kid how to start or stop on a bike.  Pedalheads did it in a week!  Yay Holly!!! Thank you so much for being an excellent teacher.  You'd be proud. 


  1. We are so excited to hear he's enjoying going out for rides, we are looking forward to more updates and pictures of his riding adventurous this summer! Tell him we a very proud of him and that he's a STAR!

  2. I know this is an older post, but thank you! My oldest son will be 9 this summer and wants to start mountain biking. And my youngest is 6 and of course wants to do what his older brother does. I had no idea where to take them to enjoy this new adventure. We've signed up with Pedalheads for some basic skills refresher and then a week camp with COP to learn some mountain biking skills. And we will be checking out as many of these trails as we can!

    1. Thanks Jen. Glad that your son will be able to do these trails this summer. We've moved on to a pedal bike now so we are very excited to be repeating many of these with pedals now. Most of them would be great for your son. Note, I wouldn't do Wapta Falls or Stewart Canyon. They were fun on a balance bike but would be too hard on a pedal bike. The others would all be fun. Troll Falls is a great beginner ride. As is Watridge Lake and the trail at the Nordic Centre to the meadow.