Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kids on Wheels - Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Parks

We found ourselves driving through the mountain town of Fernie on our way home from a camping trip and I remembered that the town had a little dirt jump park I'd been curious about.  Our son was 4 then and still on his Strider balance bike but I was fairly confident he'd be able to handle a few bumps and fun obstacles on his bike.

First Pump Track Experience in Fernie, British Columbia

We stopped at the park for an hour or so and my son definitely took to the idea of circling the dirt track on his little orange bike.  He just needed a bit more courage to truly commit to the jumps and bigger bumps - courage that would come with practice.

Practice definitely makes perfect, and we've spent our summers touring bike parks and pump tracks across Alberta and British Columbia. This story gets updated annually each time we visit a new park.

Practice Makes Perfect!  Canmore Pump Track on a first pedal bike

And want to see a video of the whole pump track experience? Here's a video of my son's first time on the Canmore Pump Track when he was 5 years old.


 

Getting Started on a Pump Track


At what age can kids start to use pump tracks?  Any age - if they are on a balance bike.  I really would not recommend taking a bike with training wheels on one of these courses!  My son was 4 when he first tried the one in Fernie on a balance bike, but he could have easily motored around when he was younger.  Below is a photo of my friend's son on the pump track in Radium Hotsprings - and he's 2 years old!

Radium Hotsprings Pump and Jump


Are there any special precautions to take?  Yes.  Below are some things to take into consideration:

  • Try your first experience with younger children at a quieter time such as mid-week.

  • Stay clear of faster, older riders when taking young tykes to a pump track.  If the track is too busy, come back another day or time. 

  • Helmets are absolutely vital!  And I'd recommend bike gloves, long pants and a long shirt at first when learning. 

  • Start off on a smaller pump track - and move up! The jumps can come later.

  • Invest in a full-face helmet and some extra padding (elbow and knee pads) for older kids that are doing jumps.

  • NEVER use a pump track or a bike park when it's wet. This will ruin the track.
Playing at the Radium Hotsprings Pump Track

 

Where to find pump tracks and bike parks Across Alberta and BC 


Alberta Bike Parks


Canmore Millennium Park


This park is conveniently located on the riverside bike paths in Canmore and is perfect for the little ones. There are two pump tracks side by side so younger kids can always play on one while older kids play on the other one.

Millennium Park Pump Track, Canmore
 
And when you're ready to take it to the next level, the Canmore Benchlands Skills Park should offer a nice transition to more advanced mountain biking:
“The Benchlands Skills Park rocks serious fun jump lines for ‘ALL levels’ of riders including transfer options and full flow from jumps to pumps."

Benchlands Skills Park, Canmore

The Canmore Nordic Centre (NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018) 


One of my son's new favourite parks!! It's not big, but there are amazing beginner and intermediate flow trails along with multiple jump lines to try. 

Having fun at the Canmore Nordic Centre's Bike Park 

Visit this park and then go explore the trails at the centre. There are no trail fees in the summer season but bear spray is required while using the park trails.

Recommended trails to try with the kids:

  • Get in/Get out - beginner loop just over one kilometre in length. Add on Baby Beluga for an intermediate extension of 600 metres.

  • Soft Yoghurt - a nice downhill flow trail with gentle berms and rollers. Only 400 metres in length so you can do laps of this by biking up the Old Devonian Access and Canmore Trail, ending at the bike park.

  • Bike out to the meadow on the paved Banff Trail (It turns gravel right before the meadow) and play around on the Odyssee Meadow Trail. - and if you have older riders with you, ride up to the Odyssey Trail (climbing a ways to the high point on the trail) for a super fun flowy descent back down to the meadow.)
Biking through the meadow at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Odyssey Meadow 

The Banff Bike Park


The park is located in the Banff Recreation Grounds at Sundance Road and Cave Ave.  It features a small pump track but otherwise is mostly designed for older children and teens with jumps, big hills and wooden bike park features from teeter totters to ramps.

Families with smaller children might want to check out the park for a bit when in Banff, and then hit the playground, conveniently located beside the bike park.

Banff Bike Park
Small pump track in the Banff Bike Park

And NEW for 2018, there's a fabulous skatepark right here too in the same park. My son loved it on his bike!

Banff Skatepark 

Chestermere Bike Park


We first visited this park in 2015 and it moved to the very TOP of the list for best bike parks and pump tracks that we'd visited at that time.  Truly, one of the BEST bike parks we've seen in Western Canada. (Though Fish Creek would now offer some good competition in the Calgary area)

Riding the pump track at the Chestermere Bike Park

This park near Calgary features a large pump track, a second loop with wooden features and a teeter totter, and a jump park.  There are features and loops for all abilities and even adults or older teens will find this park to be a challenge.

To see photos and to read more about this incredible park, visit the City of Chestermere's website.

Riding the easy jumps in the Chestermere Bike Park

Fish Creek Mountain Bike Skills Park, Calgary 


Brand new to Calgary for summer 2016, this bike park is my son's new favourite park and he likes it much better than the one in Chestermere above. It's definitely a challenging park and it offers plenty of terrain for the more advanced rider.

The park is located at Bow Bottom Trail and 153 Ave SE.  It gets very busy on weekends so less experience riders will want to go early in the morning before the park gets too busy.

The advanced pump track at the Fish Creek Bike Park

The park has two pump track circuits with plenty of rollers for jumping (one easier and shorter in distance.) It also has an amazing skills loop that offers an introduction to single track mountain biking. The skills loop teaches kids to be confident on their bikes, to use their gears, and offers progressions for the more advanced rider. Try the rock gardens if you think you're good on a bike. :)

For more on this park, please follow this link to "Time to Ride." It explains how to ride a pump track Vs. a skills loop.

Riding on a section of the skills loop


Blackfalds Bike Skills Park, Central Alberta (NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018)


This has become my son's new favourite bike park. It seriously has everything! Pump tracks, a progressive jump line series (including epic jumps for experts only,) wood boardwalks and features for building balance, and a downhill flow trail!

Most bike parks have a pump track, many have a section for jumps, and some have wooden features and boardwalks. An actual downhill flow trail though is very rare! We've actually only seen this in the Nelson bike park (below under British Columbia bike parks.)

A look at the large bike park in Blackfalds, Alberta


The downhill flow trail had tabletop jumps, banked corners, wooden boardwalks, small bridges, and plenty of rollers. It was amazing!

And then when riders reach the bottom of the park, there are gravel trails to take you back up to the top. (Allowing kids to work on their climbing skills as well.)

Riding the downhill flow trail

And then when you get tired of biking (or it gets too hot) just walk across the street and spend the afternoon at the McKay Ranch outdoor leisure centre with waterslides.


Practicing balance at the Blackfalds Bike Skills Park


Strathcona County Bike Skills Park, Sherwood Park (NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018) 


This park is smaller than the one in Blackfalds above, but is still a great park if you're traveling north across the province. It has a good progressive jump line series, a couple of pump tracks (including a dedicated beginner one for the littlest kids,) and has a separate section with boardwalks, technical features, boulders, and logs (that was actually very technical and challenging.)

Jumps at the Strathcona County Bike Skills Park

My son loves jumps so he had a blast going down the jump line, and then biking back up the gravel trail to the top. It didn't take more than an hour before he was exhausted.

Skills Area at the Strathcona County Bike Park


Devon Bike Park
(NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018) 


There was a lot of build up for this one (in my mind) but I admit we were a little disappointed by this park. While it's a big park, we far preferred the new bike park in Blackfalds with the downhill flow trails. Still, if you're in the Edmonton area, it's worth visiting.

The park is very large and is divided into several separate areas. While this is great in terms of size and variety of terrain, it would be hard if supervising multiple children or with a group of friends. You have to choose where you're going to bike, and then move as a group to the next area of the park when done.

The jumps at the Devon Bike Park (the best part of the park)


The different areas of the bike park:

  • Skills Area - Wooden features, boardwalks, teeter totters, and other obstacles (caution, there were a few loose nails sticking up here and there, with missing boards in spots. I didn't feel this area was particularly safe.)

  • Dirt Jumps - This was my son's favourite part of the park and probably the best section overall in terms of maintenance and care. So if your kids like jumps, make sure to visit the Devon Bike Park.

  • Pump Track - There is a nice pump track here. My only complaint was that it was separated from everything else and I had to keep running between the jumps and the pump track every time my son took off between the two.

  • Expert Jumps - There was another section with large jumps that we didn't spend any time at. It was well beyond my son's ability level.

  • Downhill Flow Trail - While there is a downhill flow trail that looked awesome, it required a long bike ride to reach the top (and so we never checked it out.) I prefer the flow trails at the Blackfalds Park where you can be back at the top in a 2 minute bike ride (rather than 20 minutes of riding uphill per lap.)
Skills Park at the Devon Bike Park 

Yellowhead County Concrete Pump Tracks (NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018) 


Visiting these pump tracks will be a highlight of our entire 2018 summer season. There are 5 concrete pump tracks in Yellowhead County west of Edmonton. 

Evansburg Pump Track (the largest one)

The parks are located in the small towns of Evansburg, Wildwood, Niton Junction, Peers, and Marlboro. There is also a concrete flow track at the Edson Skatepark for a total of 6 interesting parks you should visit. (we hit 5 of the 6 while camping at Pembina River Provincial Park.)

Concrete pump tracks are a LOT of fun! 

While all of the parks are fairly similar, there are a few highlights to note:

Evansburg Park - the Biggest! 

Niton Junction - Has an AWESOME playground beside it! There's also an older school playground right next door along with an outdoor swimming pool.

Peers - Has a fun little playground beside it as well.

Edson - Play on the concrete flow track and at the skatepark, both at the same location.

Wildwood Pump Track

And you'll find directions for each park on Google Maps. Just search "name of town + pump track."


Niton Junction Pump Track and Playground
Flow Track at the Edson Skatepark 


Hinton Mountain Bike Park


This was one of our newest favourite bike parks that we found in 2016. It is one of the largest parks of its kind in Canada and has something for all skill levels.

Playing in the Skills Park

There is a small pump track, a very large skills area with wooden ramps and features, and then a big jump park with different sizes of jumps.

This was a super cool trail feature in the skills park

What stood out most for me though was that there are mountain bike trails on site as well so that you can go out for a ride after playing in the park. Each trail is well signed and graded (beginner, intermediate, or advanced.) The intermediate/advanced trails have technical trail features on them with options to ride around.

Riding in the jump park

We didn't get to spend too much time here as we were just passing through and it had recently rained (making trails muddy) but we'll be back!!

Riding a boardwalk section on an intermediate trail from the bike park

Crowsnest Pass Bike Park in Blairmore


The Crowsnest Pass Bike Park just might be the best one we found in 2014! Not only does it have the sweet flow that we love about Millennium Park in Canmore but it has the jumps and progressions that we love about Fernie.  There's something for every age and ability of rider here.


Crowsnest Pass Bike Park
Working on his skills at the Crowsnest Pass Bike Park

And, Crowsnest Pass is on the way to Fernie!


Great place to stop en route to Fernie!

British Columbia Bike Parks 


Fernie Dirt Jump Park


This park is located beside the Aquatic Centre in the town of Fernie, British Columbia.  Located 3.5 hours from Calgary, Fernie is a great destination for a weekend biking trip and there are a lot of great family-friendly bike trails nearby.  You can read my Fernie biking story here: The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, BC.

Fernie Bike Park
The Fernie bike park is a bit more challenging than some of the others such as the Millennium Park one in Canmore.  While there is a small pump track, most of the park is set up as a jump park.There are adult sized jumps and, the beautiful flow that you'd find in Canmore is missing from this section. To do a full loop of the jump park requires being able to bike back up to the top again after riding down.

Moving up to the bigger jumps (age 8)

One thing I especially LOVE about the Fernie bike park is the practice mountain bike loop hidden in the trees behind the park. Ride it a few times, and it should pretty much teach your kids everything they'll need to know before they hit the trails with you.  You can find the practice loops on Trail Forks.(You'll see three different segments for practice loops on Trail Forks.)

Wooden feature on the practice loop behind the bike park

The Radium Hot Springs Pump and Jump


Located 3 hours from Calgary, this town is another great destination for a weekend away and is located on the border of Kootenay National Park.  The pump track is located in Sinclair Creek and is accessible by short bike ride or hike along the gravel Sinclair Creek pathway.

First Visit to the Radium Hotsprings Pump Track

The Sinclair Creek Trail is great for family bike rides and extends a trip to the pump track if you bike the creek trail to the bike park and back.  Information is found on the Sinclair Creek Pathway here along with a map of the trail.

Read more about biking in the Radium Hot Springs - Invermere area here: The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley.

Fall Riding on the Radium Hotsprings Pump Track
Biking the Sinclair Creek Pathway to reach the bike park

And, if you're spending the weekend or longer in the Columbia Valley, we've just discovered a NEW Pump Track in the town of Invermere, 15 minutes south of Radium Hotsprings.  The Mount Nelson Athletic Park in Invermere has a pump track, skate park and playground.  It is located on 14th Street near 15th Avenue and is a fun place to spend an hour.  While it is smaller than the Radium Hotsprings Pump Track, it's handy if you're staying in Invermere.

The Invermere Pump Track
Skate Park in the Mount Nelson Athletic Park

 Wasa Lake Provincial Park Bike Park


This is one of the more challenging bike parks that we've visited but what sets it apart is that it has a dirt half pipe. Personally, I'd choose dirt over concrete any day for a half pipe! (softer landing and less band-aids required)

Wasa Lake Half Pipe

Technically you have to be camped at this provincial park to use the bike park, but nobody is going to notice (or care) if you park at Campers Beach and bike into camp to use the bike park.

This park is best suited for kids ages 8+ and does have a fair bit of sand and tricky terrain to navigate.  If you have elbow and knee pads, pull them out for this park.

Wasa Lake Half Pipe and Bike Park

For more information on Wasa Lake, read my story:  Camping Across British Columbia - Wasa Lake.

Pump track at Wasa Lake

Golden Pump Track and Skills Park - NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018 


This is a small bike park with a basic pump track and a few wooden features to practice on. It's a great place to stop though if you're driving through Golden and the kids need to get out and move for an hour or so.

Playing on the small pump track in Golden 

The park is conveniently located behind the Mount 7 Rec Plex along the Rotary Bike Trail. This 7 km bike loop passes by the Golden Municipal Campground, the outdoor swimming pool, a skate park, and the pump track. All in all, this is a great way to spend a few hours in Golden.

Wooden features in the Golden bike park

My son loved the skate park as well, conveniently located right beside the bike park.

The Golden Skate Park is next to the bike park 


Kelowna Mountain Bike Skills Park


Families on vacation in the Okanagan in British Columbia will want to check out this amazing bike park that we just discovered. It's located along the Mission Creek Greenway so you can access it either by riding to the park or by driving straight here. We drove to the park but would like to check out the paths through the Greenway next time.

Pump track with jumps and ramps in the background

At this park you'll find a pump track, jump park section, and a wooden structure with ramps to ride off of.

Playing on the ramps

Poplar Grove KVR Pump Track, Penticton (NEWLY ADDED FOR 2018) 


We love biking the Kettle Valley Rail Trail when we visit the Okanagan so imagine how delighted we were when we discovered that they've built a concrete pump track right beside the Hillside Estates Winery along the KVR pathway.

Concrete pump track beside the KVR bike trail 

For more on biking the KVR, read my previous story: Biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Kelowna to Osoyoos.

Biking on the Kettle Valley Railway high above Penticton

Rosemont Bike Park, Nelson


 "Epic" would describe this park well. And I'd highly suggest elbow and knee padding for the kids (possibly a full face helmet.)

Different endings to choose from as you ride down the course at the Rosemont Bike Park

This park has a nice pump track but it would be very dangerous to just play around on it without starting at the very top of the park and riding down. Older riders bike up a steep course to ride down one of several mountain bike trails, ending at the pump track (which they circle before finishing.) If you have young children wanting to just play on the pump track, make sure no older kids are riding down from above.

Flowy downhill riding at the Rosemont Bike Park 

This park is basically a miniature "downhill mountain bike park" as you'd see at a ski resort. (without a chairlift.) Ride up, choose your path, and bike down. Repeat multiple times.

There are many different technical trail features, wooden features, and paths to choose from. (all rated by beginner, intermediate, or advanced.)

Trying out one of the technical trail features

There is also a really fun skate park beside the mountain bike park. My son enjoyed riding on both.

Rosemont Skate Park, Nelson

Castlegar Mountain Bike Park


Located in Millennium Park, this bike park will be the largest in the West Kootenay Region when it is completed. Right now, phase 1 and 2 are completed with phase 3 in progress.

Phase 1 - the pump track for beginner riders

Phase 1 consists of a large easy pump track. Phase 2 consists of jumps for the next progression of skills. Phase 3 jumps beyond that for the older rider. (and scared me, so I'm glad it was closed when we were there!)

Phase 2 - the Jump park

All in all, we loved this park, and it was totally deserted when we were there!! After, we moved on to the ponds located in the park for a cooling down.

Playing in the riverside ponds in Millennium Park, Castlegar

A visit here almost made me want to move to Castlegar so that we could go biking and swimming in this great park all summer long.

A great bike park with no crowds

Want to visit more bike parks in the West Kootenays: Check out this great resource - West Kootenay Skate Parks and Bike Skill Parks. This resource lists everything in the area and we'll try to visit more of the parks next summer.

Bike parks are great fun for kids! See how many you can find this summer!


It should be noted that ALL of the pump tracks and bike parks above are FREE to use.  Donations are always welcome to the organizations that have made the parks, but there is no fee required to use them.




2 comments:

  1. Great looking child and very nice information to read. i loves your blog and keep posting this kind of posts.

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  2. Thank you for sharing these family moments!
    When I was a kid, I loved spending the time riding with mom & dad. Now this is a family tradition that worth maintaining. Taking family bike ride is a fun way to spend some quality time with my child and get some exercise in the process.
    Read more

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