Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kids on Wheels - 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 on balance bikes, training wheels, tricycles, scooters... - you name it.  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

The Bow Valley Campground doesn't open until May 1st so if you go now, you can bike the whole campground and roads through the provincial park with no traffic.   Drive out to Bow Valley Provincial Park off of Highway 1 and park at the Middle Lake Day Use Area.  The road is closed here.  From this day use area, you can bike to the White Fish Day Use Area for a short hike on a beautiful little Many Springs Trail.  It's a 1.3km loop and should technically be walked (not biked.)  Exceptions would likely be made for kids on balance bikes and parents pushing Chariots (I hope.)

Balance Biking the Roads through Bow Valley Provincial Park

This is our favourite bike ride each spring and the scenery is spectacular in the park.  There's a playground in the Elk Flats Group campground en route  to the Many Springs Trail.  We like to stop here for lunch/snacks and some play time.  The Middle Lake area also has a nice walking trail around it and is pleasant to explore.

Elk Flats Playground
Middle Lake Day Use Area
 To see more photos, read the story I wrote last spring:  The Bow Valley Biker Gang.


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 

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 as well that there may still be some flood damage to this trail.  It might not be feasible to bike the entire trail.  Regardless, it's a fun little hike and you can still bike the campground roads to access the interpretive trail.

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

Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

The Elkwood Campground doesn't open until May 14th and can be fun to bike around without threat of traffic hitting beginner bikers.  From this campground, you can access the Marl Lake trailhead which is a 1.5km loop and super easy.  Kids could loop it on balance bikes and it's chariot friendly.  Again for adults on bikes, it is technically a hiking trail so maybe lock up the bikes before heading out on it.

Marl Lake Trail
Biking campground roads in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Finally, there are official paved bike trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park as well that can be biked all spring/summer/fall long.  (as long as they are snow free - they are ski trails right now.)
The Lodgepole, Wheeler and Lakeside Trails form 12 km of paved trails that connect most campgrounds in the park.  They are lovely to ride and if you bike from the Boulton Creek to Canyon Campgrounds, you will be going almost all downhill!  (arrange for a shuttle at the bottom.)

Biking the paved Lodgepole Trail in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Highwood Pass

This is not easy campground cruising, but an outing for families with older children and teens that can handle some steep hills and pedal with sustained energy.  Highway 40 is closed past the entrance to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park until June 15th each year.  This gives cyclists a rare opportunity to bike to Highwood Pass and back in a heart pounding 30km return trip ride.  While this is going to be way too much for most families, you don’t have to go the whole way to the Pass.  Ride as far as you have energy for, have lunch, and enjoy the fact that you got to share an empty highway with nobody but other cyclists for a day.

Highwood Pass (accessible by a 30km return bike ride until June 15th)

Strong cycling families with younger children could also do this ride with a Chariot or bike trailer for a nice spring outing.  It’s great training for bigger adventures you might have planned in the summer.
Park at the closed gate along the side of Hwy 40 for this trip and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife.  Herds of big horned sheep are frequently sited here.  Note,   it is advised to carry bear spray with you as Highwood Pass is a popular area for grizzly bears in summer.

Highwood Pass gets a LOT of snow (hence the late road opening date)

For more information on cycling to Highwood Pass visit this link to read a good description of the journey. 


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.

Biking to Troll Falls, Kananaskis

Did I miss any?  What's your fav. trail near Calgary??


  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

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