Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore

Canmore is only an hour away from Calgary and depending on where you live, it takes less time to drive to Canmore than it does to cross the city.  For that reason, we spend a lot of time biking the river pathways in this beautiful mountain town, and as soon as we can afford a house there, I'm moving.

Biking the Canmore Pathways Through Town

We like to drive out to Canmore mid-week when it's quiet and then we have the pathways and pump tracks to ourselves.  I expect the town to get busier once school is out but it's still a treat to spend a day out of the city and to dream about which house I'm going to buy near the big playground on the river.

My future backyard in Canmore from the West Canmore Playground

Without ever leaving the town limits, you can bike over 20km of beautiful maintained pathways and trails.  Most of them are gravel but there are a few paved sections here and there.  You don't have to worry about the trails being bumpy though, and they are very Chariot or stroller friendly.  The trails are very family-friendly and serve as a great introduction to mountain biking for children used to paved streets and sidewalks.

Biking along the Bow River in Canmore

Below are the favourite loops and trails that we usually bike in Canmore:


The Bow River Loop Trail - 2 km distance

Park near the river at the Mineside Trailhead by the river.  (From main street downtown, turn left onto 8th avenue and drive toward the Canmore Nordic Centre.  Cross the river and pull into your first parking lot on your left.)  From the parking lot, cross the bridge you drove over to access the other side of the river and bike towards Engine Bridge.  (see map) - You want the Bow Valley West Side Map

Engine Bridge
Cross Engine Bridge (which kids will LOVE) and bike around the hydro plant.  Bike down the other side of the river to get back to your car in a total distance of 3.1km.  The trail is flat easy gravel with no height gain. Park benches can be found along the way for rest stops. 

Easy Biking along the Bow River

Bow River Loop to Larch Island (and beyond)  - 5+ km distance round trip

Consider extending your trip by riding past Engine Bridge towards Larch Island, around the Canmore Golf and Curling Club (where you'll find the Canmore Recreation Centre and Skatepark,) and back to the river via one of two different options of trails (See it all on this map of the Bow Valley West Side.) 

Biking Towards Larch  Island along the river in Canmore

Expect a few more roots on the trails past Engine Bridge, dirt with pine needles in spots, and some loose gravel.  Otherwise, it's pretty easy and most small children would have zero problems on it.  Just maybe take the training wheels off first.

Bridge to Larch Island (hiking only on the island)

We biked a nice loop here the other day and stopped at a cute little playground along the way.  It is called the Larch Park Playground and it even had swings.  After that we followed Policeman's Creek until we got lost in a residential neighborhood and I had to pull out my map.  It wasn't too hard though with a map to find our way back to the river and Engine Bridge.  We crossed the bridge and biked back to our car in a total distance of 7.5km which took less than an hour at a very leisurely pace.

Larch Park Playground
Crossing Policeman's Creek on one of the many bridges

Millenium Park to the West Canmore Playground - 1.5 km one way

This short bike ride connects the two greatest playgrounds in Canmore.  One of a more traditional nature, and one for bikes! 

Playing at the Millennium Park Pump Track

For more information on the Millennium Park Pump Track, visit my other blog post:  Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Parks.  We love playing at the bike parks in Canmore and this one is super easy for young kids on balance bikes even.  Millennium Park is located at 5th Ave and 1st Street and there's a big parking lot here.  It's also a good back-up parking plan should the Mineside Trailhead be full (very possible in summer!!)

Playing at the Pump Track in Canmore
After playing at the pump track it's approximately 1 km to the bridge by the Mineside parking lot and then it's another 0.5 km to the big West Canmore Playground on the other side of the river directly opposite Millennium Park. The kids love it here and always spend a long time at the playground. There are even bathrooms and picnic tables!  Score!

West Canmore Park Playground

Three Sisters Pathway  - 6.7 km one way

Start from the West Canmore Playground and bike as far as the big wide open meadow where you'll find old coal mine cars and an abundance of space to run around in.  I am guessing that it's about 2 km one way to the meadow but you can turn around whenever you want or extend your ride all the way to the Three Sisters Mountain Village.

Riding across the Meadow on the Red Trail
The best part about this trail (other than that it has the best views) is that parts of it are paved.  This helps with some of the bigger hills you'll find on this route.  Of all the paths and loops described here, this is the most difficult due to the hilly nature of it and the modest climb required to reach the meadow.

Playing in an old coal car
Biking across the beautiful meadow on the Three Sisters Pathway

To see a  good map showing the trails in Canmore, go to the Town of Canmore website (Bow Valley Westside Map.)  All of the trails above can be combined in one big 13-15 km ride, and with plenty of playground stops it would take half a day to ride around Canmore and visit the pump track.

Crossing the River by the West Canmore Playground on the red path

Our Favourite Loop from the Skatepark to West Canmore Park (and beyond) - 12+ km 

We like to park at the Canmore Recreation Centre and play on the skatepark to begin. Then we hop on the pathway system by the Canmore Golf and Curling Club. We bike towards Larch Island until we reach Engine Bridge. We cross the bridge and continue on the far side of the river, heading for West Canmore Park. 

Canmore skatepark

We stop at the playground and then bike up to the meadow on the Three Sisters Pathway. Sometimes we continue but most days we turn around here and head for the pump track in Millenium Park on the other side of the river.

From Millenium Park we head downtown into Canmore and ride towards Spring Creek where the kids like to play. We head for ice-cream and then follow one of the trails back towards the river, heading back to the skatepark where we started.

Playing in Spring Creek, Canmore 

Still have energy for more biking??

The Benchlands Skill Park is another pump track like the one in Millennium Park and can be visited before heading back to Calgary.  It's located on the other side of the TransCanada Hwy and features more jumps than the tamer skills park downtown.

Playing at the Benchlands Skills Park

For more information on biking in the Canadian Rockies with kids, read my most recent stories:  The Best Family Bike Trails in Banff National Park and Biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail with Kids

Natural maze we recently found near the West Canmore Park Playground 


  1. Wow! Such beautiful photos. Since we've arrived in Calgary I've appreciated the tips and suggestions that I've found on your blog. Thanks!

    1. Thanks Harmony. Glad you are finding my blog useful. Have a great summer.

  2. Stunning pics! Kids will surely loves biking on that trail!

  3. I have read your blog. very nice picture.I have an 8 year old son with cereal palsy but has never ride on a bike and we can't afford a special bike. Can someone help give me information. Thanks

    1. I'd suggest you contact your local Cerebral Palsy organization for information on special bikes. I have no information on this. Sorry.

  4. 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 .Russell

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story and tips . They can be helpful to those who are looking for good bike deals.

  6. What a family moments you all have spent !! So nice. I found many useful information's. That's Fantastic. Thanks For Sharing

  7. Great review. thanks for sharing this post

  8. Wow, Great post. Just enjoyed reading this blog post. These post are indeed very valuable indeed.

    Thanks for sharing this post

  9. This is the best post for family biking. And I love Canmore, Such a great place I have never seen before. Thanks for sharing your post with us.

  10. This beautiful mountain town family bike trails in canmore. Canmore is perfect place for mountain biker & also for kids. It around awesome mountain & rivers.
    Thanks for sharing this post.

  11. Such e very wonderful article

  12. Nice post. I was looking like this. Really it is very useful and informative post. Thanks for sharing. Thanks again!

  13. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation.We are planning to visit next year at Canmore.