Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The BEST Spring Bike Rides in Kananaskis

Spring is here and it's our favourite time to bike as a family.  Trails are still muddy and wet but many highways and campground roads in Kananaskis are clear, dry, AND free of all traffic!  Now is the time to enjoy safe road rides with the kids The roads are ours!

Balance Biking the Beaver Flats Trail, Elbow Valley

Here are the best family road rides for spring - FREE of all traffic:

Bow Valley Provincial Park Campground Loop

Park at the Middle Lake day use area and bike around on the quiet paved campground roads. They are open to vehicles as of early May but they are very quiet. Cars will also be driving very slowly and will give cyclists plenty of space. Go before the campground opens and you'll have empty roads because there's a winter gate just past Middle Lake.

Note for 2020, the campground doesn't open until June 1st, but the roads are already open for the season.

Balance Biking the Roads through Bow Valley Provincial Park

We like to bike to the Elk Flats Group Campground where you can have a picnic (as long as the campground isn't open yet for the season.) We then continue on to the Many Springs Trailhead (bring a bike lock if you want to go for a short hike,) and then we head down to the river. From there we return through the campground (which is delightful when it's still closed for the season.)

There are also two playgrounds, one at the Elk Flats Group Campground and another one in the main campground that you'll bike through on your return.

Elk Flats Playground

See the map of the park here. (Note you'll always be on the roads for biking because the trails are closed to bikes.)

Finally there is a paved bike trail that connects the Visitor Centre near the Highway 1X with the camp store. We like to bike around the campground from Middle Lake and then hop on the bike trail at the end to extend our ride. We return to Middle Lake on the road. This can all be done in a big loop of 12km.

If you're planning to visit with small children, read the story I wrote after our first spring visit to this park:  The Bow Valley Biker Gang.

Bow Valley Campground paved bike trail 

The Elbow Valley and Highway 66

Highway riding with kids was never so easy!  Drive out to Bragg Creek to highway 66.  Park above the Elbow Falls Day Use Area on the side of the highway at the winter gate which doesn't open until May 15th. Until then, the highway and surrounding campgrounds are wide open for cyclists - and CLOSED to all cars.  Wahoo!

Biking Hwy 66 in the Elbow Valley

We like to bike the highway to the Beaver Flats Campground.  From here we bike around the campground and take a hike on the Beaver Flats hiking trail.  It's a cute little trail, balance bike and Chariot friendly, and the kids will have a blast exploring the beaver ponds. 

Bring sand toys, pails, and shovels to play at the ponds with if you have small kids.  You can either bike back on the highway or hike back along the Beaver Flats trail.  The trail takes you back to within 500m of your car.  (note, the trail is technically a pedestrian trail, so I wouldn't go ripping down it on mountain bikes.)

Balance Biking the Beaver Flats Trail
Playing in the Beaver Ponds on the Beaver Flats Trail

Paddy's Flat Campground, Elbow Valley

Here's another Elbow Valley campground that's fun to bike around before it opens on May 15th.  Park at the closed Paddy's Flat Campground gate along the side of Hwy 66.  From there, bike down into the campground and head for the playground or the river.  There's a fun interpretive trail that follows the river and is fun for kids to bike.  Again, it is a hiking trail so take it easy on the adult bikes!  Or walk.

Note for 2020, the campground won't be opening until June 1st so you'll have lots of time to explore this campground on bikes.

Balance Biking the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail
Playing beside the river on the Paddy's Flat Trail

Highway 40 West of Longview to Cat Creek Falls

Drive south to Longview and head west on Highway 541. Park at the winter gate at Highwood Junction where the road meets up with Highway 40. The highway climbs  to Highwood Pass and then descends to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (though you aren't going that far.)

The highway opens to vehicles on June 15th every year so you have plenty of time to enjoy this ride.

Ride as far as you get, returning when the kids get tired. You'll have some very big hills in both directions so save energy for the return ride. We like to ride as far as the Cat Creek day use area where we then hike in to see the falls.

You can reach the falls and back in approximately 10km. The hike itself is only 2km return.

Read more about this adventure here: Biking to Cat Creek on Highway 40

Spring Biking on Highway 40

More Great Rides

The trails along the river in Canmore are fabulous by May and June and offer families some easy pathways to ride.  For more information, read this story I wrote:   The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore

Biking the Canmore River Pathways

Also check out my other story on the Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis for plenty of great mountain biking options.  Troll Falls is a family favourite along with the trail to Watridge Lake.  These trails should all be in condition by early to mid June most years.

Biking to Troll Falls, Kananaskis


  1. Thanks for your post, we took your advice and went to Highway 66 today. We parked up at the barrier that closed the road - there were a lot of cars there, but most people seemed to be visiting the Falls. We cycled with our kids (6 years and 2 years) along the closed part of the road as far as Beaver Flats campground, then cycled round the campground, pausing to play by the river for a while, before heading back to the car. We'd seen a moose by the side of the road just after the Elbow Valley bridge (currently still being repaired and is traffic-light controlled), and there was a group of mule deer down by the road-closed barrier where the cars were parked.
    A great day, thanks for the suggestion! I've blogged here with some photos: http://chrisolga.blogspot.ca/2014/05/mothers-day.html

    1. Thanks Chris for sharing your story. Glad you had a great trip. We love this bike/hike combo trip every spring.
      I'll check out your photos.

  2. This is great post.I like this post. Many many thanks for this post.Really this post is so helpful for the kids balance bike .

  3. Hehe, these look like some great places to take a stroll/bike. One day I long to take my own kids on bike rides that are so scenic like this - muddy trails will be particularly fun with training wheels <3
    I wish I'd found this post sooner, I just finished writing something about taking my little boy to Alberta for a vacation: http://foxfan1992.deviantart.com/art/20th-May-2030-Adventure-in-Alberta-628318173