Thursday, August 28, 2014

5 Reasons to Introduce Stand Up Paddleboarding to the Family

I've spent the last three summers paddling my way across Alberta and BC on my stand up paddle board.  I've done SUP overnight paddle trips, I've fallen into glacial cold water, and I've battled head winds strong enough to bring me to my knees while my board spun in circles with each stroke against the wind.

 Regardless of the challenges, I love this awesome sport and I wouldn't choose any other vessel to take with me on the water.  We even sold our canoe so that my husband and son could join me on my adventures and bought a nice tandem kayak for the two of them.

Stand up Paddleboarding - Family Friendly!
 Stand up paddleboarding is a great family activity!  While the board may appear to comfortably carry one adult, I can testify that these boards can easily carry an adult and up to three small children or a dog.  Children can even accompany you on easy river trips and the whole family can join you for an afternoon at the lake.

Red Deer River Overnight Paddle Trip
This dog rides on the family board as much as the kids do.

5 Reasons to Introduce SUP to the Family

One - A SUP board is a LOT of fun around camp or at the beach.  Kids view the boards as water toys in the same way they enjoy playing in floating rafts or using inflatable swim toys, swim noodles, or kid-sized boats. 

Playing around at camp this summer

Two - A SUP Board adds fun to long river trips.  Kids get tired of sitting in a canoe or kayak for long periods of time but they'll always enjoy a break on your board for a while.  And I've even seen kids take river naps on them!

River Nap on a SUP
One adult, two kids, and an inflatable SUP for a fun river trip!

Three - Paddling is Safer when you have more than one vessel.   By dividing your family into multiple boats, rather than fitting everybody into one canoe, you are making it easier to do a water rescue should need arise.  We always travel with my husband and son in a tandem kayak, and me on my board.  If I have a problem, they can rescue me.  If my son falls in, I can maneuver my board over and pick him up.  If both of them fall in, I can still pick them both up to at least transport them to shore.  If however, we were all in one canoe and had problems, it would be a lot harder.

Family Overnight Paddling Trip in Kananaskis
Our Tandem Kayak - perfect for overnight or day trips

Four - The Cost of SUP boards is going down.  Really, it is.  I was on the Mountain Equipment COOP page the other day and there are a lot of boards on clearance right now.  Last year I got my full package (board, paddle, fin, leash, and case) for less than $800.00 at Costco.  That's a LOT cheaper than a good kayak or a canoe!  A family could even buy two boards, put a child on each board with one of the parents for day trips, and it would be a lot cheaper than buying a canoe or two kayaks.

Buy two boards and enjoy time with friends on the river

Five - A SUP board is a lot easier to transport than a heavier canoe or kayak.  Buy an inflatable SUP and you can fit it into a small compact car.  Buy a regular board and you can still stick it in the back of your truck or on top of your small car.  However, you choose to carry the board, it is easier than transporting a canoe or kayak.

Carrying my board in the back of the truck.

And Bonus Reason Number 6 - No Learning Curve!  The following photo was taken 10 min. after trying SUP for the first time ever.  And my son was only 3 at the time.

Balance comes naturally to most people on a SUP board.

Where to SUP in Western Canada

Paddling around Calgary and area

 For information on where to try SUP around Calgary, read my story, Stand up Paddleboarding in Calgary, that I wrote for Family Fun Calgary.  In this story, I list off my fav. places to paddle in the Calgary area. I also talk about where to rent boards in the city and where you can rent on site without having to transport a board.

Evening paddling on the Ghost Reservoir outside Calgary

Paddling through Banff, Kananaskis, and Canmore

I wrote a story called Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard and it covers the entire area from Waterton in the south to Jasper in the north.

Paddling on the Vermilion Lakes in Banff

Paddling on Moraine Lake, Lake Louise

Finally, more on paddling in the Banff and Kananaskis area can be found in my recent story:  Family Canoeing and Kayaking in the Canadian Rockies.

Paddling at Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Paddling in Jasper National Park and Edmonton 

I haven't paddled much near Edmonton yet but I wrote a story on Stand up Paddleboarding in Edmonton for Family Fun Edmonton that was just published.  It lists off a few places you can try SUP in the local area. 

Paddling on  Lake Annette in Jasper outside Edmonton

My story, Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard also covers the Jasper area with my favourite lakes to paddle in the area.

Paddling on Pyramid Lake, Jasper

Paddling through Southern Alberta


Waterton Lakes National Park

We've done a lot of paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park and it's one of my favourite places to take my board out on the water.

Paddling on Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park

My story, Touring the Canadian Rockies on a Stand Up Paddleboard covers the Waterton area with some of our favourite lakes to paddle in the area. 

I also wrote a second story purely on paddling in Waterton called Paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park.  It covers pretty much every paddle you could think of doing in the area.

Snow on the shores of Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park


Paddling The Red Deer River 

Another favourite is the Red Deer River from Central Alberta down to Dinosaur Provincial Park in the south.

Read more here: Paddling the Alberta Badlands

I've also covered a lot of Southern Alberta in this story: Campsite to River! Camping and Floating across Southern Alberta

Paddling on the Red Deer River near Dinosaur Provincial Park

Paddling in Little Bow Provincial Park

The Travers Reservoir is a beautiful place to paddle based out of a great family-friendly campground.  There is information on Little Bow Provincial Park in my camping story:  Two Campsites and Eight Families.

Paddling on the Travers Reservoir, Little Bow Provincial Park

  Paddling through Writing on Stone Provincial Park on the Milk River

We've camped in Writing on Stone Provincial Park twice now, spending our days paddling on the Milk River.  The scenery was incredible and the sections of river we did were very easy. 

More can be found in this story: Find us in the River: Camp Life at Writing on Stone Provincial Park 

Girl SUP Party on the Milk River
Hoodoos on the Milk River

British Columbia and Vancouver

I haven't done much paddling in the Vancouver area but we spent a week on the Sunshine Coast last summer and it was a lot of fun doing ocean SUP.

Paddling in Porpoise Bay outside Vancouver

I recently wrote a story for Family Fun Vancouver on Stand Up Paddleboarding in Vancouver and it's a great resource for families in that area.

More can be found in my story:  Mountain Family Meets Ocean on the Sunshine Coast

Paddling on the Ocean Near Vancouver

Paddling in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

For some easy lake paddling, Surveyor's Lake near Fernie is a family favourite.  It's the only place I know where you can SUP with painted turtles.  The water is warm and it's a safe spot to try SUP for the first time.  They even rent boards on the campground beach.

Even Daddy gives SUP a try at Surveyor's Lake.
More on Surveyor's Lake can be found in my story:  Camping in British Columbia - Kikomun Creek.

Easy paddling on Surveyor's Lake, British Columbia

Paddling in the Columbia Valley on the Columbia River

Another favourite spot in British Columbia is the Columbia Valley near the town of Invermere.  We like to paddle the Columbia River, which has to be the most family-friendly river we've ever found!!

Paddling Trip down the Columbia River

For more on paddling the Columbia River, read my story:  Exploring the Columbia River Wetlands by Boat, Bike, and Hike

Also read Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids 

Family-friendly Paddling on the Columbia River

Paddling in the Okanagan and Shuswap Areas

We take a trip  out to the Okanagan area of British Columbia every summer and love paddling the warm waters of Skaha and Okanagan Lake.

Penticton is our favourite base camp and we've done some fun paddles between Naramata and Penticton as well as from Summerland to Naramata.  There's nothing like paddling to have lunch on a beach in a different town!

Paddling across Okanagan Lake for lunch

Boards can be rented on many of the beaches in Kelowna and Penticton and it's a great warm spot to try SUP for the first time.  No glacial cold water to fall in to here!

Trying SUP on Skaha Lake in Penticton
For more information on the Okanagan, read my story:  The Importance of Summer Vacations (and the BEST of the Okanagan.) 

I also wrote a story on camping in the Shuswap area where there is a lot of paddling to be enjoyed on Shuswap Lake. 

Paddling on Shuswap Lake

There are a LOT more places to get out with the kids on the water but hopefully I've at least inspired you to try SUP, to take the kids with you, and to introduce the sport to your family.  While not all of the photos in this story showed children riding on boards, we had kids present on over 90% of our paddles over the last few years now.

My Support Boat that joins me on all of my trips

We've done rivers, lakes, overnight trips, and even paddled when there was still ice on the water this past spring.  SUP is a family-friendly sport and I can't wait to see what cool trips we do over the next several years.

Spring Paddling - and yes, that is ice.

See you on the water

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, British Columbia

We love mountain biking in Fernie and I feel completely spoiled after riding their beautiful trails. We've discovered some beautiful family-friendly gems and we're slowly learning our way around the trail network in this BC town

Mountain Biking in Fernie, British Columbia

Fernie is located roughly 3.5 hours south of Calgary in beautiful British Columbia. It's an easy destination to reach for a long weekend in the summer and has become one of our favourite places to visit for a family mountain biking destination.

This story has been UPDATED FOR 2017 and will receive regular updates every time we discover a new trail.

First time on the Lazy Lizard Trail and we are huge fans of this trail now!

Starting off at the Fernie Dirt Jump Park

This should be your first stop in Fernie if you are serious about introducing the kids to the sport of mountain biking and want to build up some necessary skills for the surrounding trails.  Even if mountain biking isn't really your style of biking, this park is FUN and kids love it!! Friends who visit it for the first time usually tell me they couldn't get the kids to leave for hours. 

Playing at the Fernie Dirt Jump Park

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ten Awesome Things to do with Kids in Waterton Lakes National Park

I've been writing about Waterton Lakes National Park for three years now and it seems like I always have a new photo to share, a new family-friendly activity to promote, or something awesome I want to tell you all about. This year is no different.

Biking the Kootenai Brown Trail in Waterton

I just wrote a story last week about paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park but there is so much more to do beyond boating - and I know that the majority of families to visit the park will likely not be spending too much time on the glacial cold water.

Hiking on the Waterton Springs Interpretive Trail

Below are the top ten things we've found to be awesome for families in Waterton, and the activities we go back every year to do:

One - Hike the Red Rock Canyon

We always take a trip out to hike and play in the Red Rock Canyon.  If you get an early start you'll avoid the worst of the tourist traffic and you'll often see bears along the road on the Red Rock Canyon Parkway while driving out.

Traveling around deep water in the canyon

Hike later in the season if you really want to play in the canyon when the water isn't as deep.  And wear good waterproof sandals with grip (Keen Sandals for example are the awesome.)  For more photos of hiking in the canyon, read the story I wrote last year:  Camping in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Always fun hiking in the canyon


Two - Swim and Paddle in Cameron or Emerald Bay on Upper Waterton Lake


Cameron and Emerald Bay are both protected areas popular with families wanting to swim or play around in the glacial cold water of Upper Waterton Lake in town.  Despite the water temperature, you will always see lots of people playing around in it.  For more on paddling and playing in the Waterton Lakes, read my story on Paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Hot day in Cameron Bay

Three - Play in the Waterton River at the Hay Barn Day Use Area

Fact, all kids love to play in rivers.  And the Waterton River has an easy access point at the Hay Barn Day Use area just outside of town.  Bring a picnic lunch and head out there for the day to get away from crowds in town.

Playing in the river at the Hay Barn Day Use Area 

Four - Canoe or paddle on Cameron Lake

The Waterton Lakes can get very windy and extreme caution is required when paddling on them.  Cameron Lake however is a safer bet for families and you can even rent a canoe or paddle boat here.

Family Paddling on Cameron Lake

Head out to Cameron Lake along the Akamina Parkway for the day and if you're lucky you'll see a bear on your drive out.  Last time we were at the lake we saw a bear right in the parking lot too! For more photos of paddling on Cameron Lake, read my recent story, Paddling in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Kayaking on Cameron Lake

Five - Hike to Crandell Lake

This beautiful lake is reached from the Crandell Campground and the hike is 4km return.  It can also be reached via a trailhead on the Akamina Parkway and then it is 2.4km return.  Both ways are scenic and an easy hike for young children.  With a car shuttle you could do the hike one-way starting from the Parkway for less height gain.

Hiking to Crandell Lake from the Crandell Campground
Hugging Bear Grass at Crandell Lake

We did the hike for the first time this year and we would happily do it again.   We might even camp here in the future at the backcountry campground.  For more information on hiking in Waterton, visit the Waterton Lakes NP Website.

Crandell Lake
Playing at Crandell Lake

Six - Hike the Bear's Hump

This is a classic hike in Waterton and gives you the best views of the park in a short family-friendly distance.  It is 2.8km return with 200 metres of height gain.  The trail is quite steep so I recommend starting early in the morning when it's cooler outside.  You'll also have better luck at finding a parking space in the small lot outside the visitor centre as well if you go early.

Bear's Hump Hike in Waterton

For more information on hiking in the park, visit the Waterton Lakes NP website

Looking down on Upper Waterton Lake from the top of the Bear's Hump

Seven - Hike in the Nature Reserve at the Waterton Springs Campground

We always camp at the Waterton Springs Campground and this hike is a summer highlight every year for us.   You can do the hike as well even if you are not camping here.  And it's often windy so bring a kite with you.

Taking advantage of the wind on the Waterton Springs Hiking Trail

For more photos of this hike, view the story I wrote last year:  Camping in Waterton Lakes National Park

Hiking in the Nature Reserve at  the Waterton Springs Campground
Evening on the Waterton Springs Hiking Trail

Eight - Bike the Kootenai Brown Trail

The Kootenai Brown Trail is the only paved bike trail in Waterton so it's the ideal choice for families who want to do a short bike tour through this beautiful park.

Biking the Kootenai Brown Bike Path

The bike path starts at the park gates outside the Waterton townsite and parking can be found at the closest day use area to the gates.  From there, it's a 6.9km ride to the edge of town near the Waterton Lakes Info. Centre and Prince of Whales Hotel.  Either bike the trail out and back or send an adult back for the vehicle while you play near the boat dock on Middle Waterton Lake.

Biking in Waterton

The trail is hilly and children may have to walk some of the bigger hills.   Other than that, it's an easy ride and you are well separated from the nearby highway. To continue past the end of the trail into town just follow the big hill down past the Visitor Info Centre and bike on the sidewalk if riding with kids.  The sidewalk is narrow though so you may have to walk your bikes if it is busy with pedestrian traffic.

For more information on biking in Waterton, visit the Waterton Lakes NP Website

Biking in Waterton on the Kootenai Brown Trail

Nine - Bike or Walk the Townsite Trail

The Townsite trail is a 3.2km loop with little elevation gain to speak of.  Much of the loop parallels the Upper Waterton Lakeshore and it's easy to take a quick detour on main street for ice-cream.  Watch out for pedestrian traffic but other than that, bike trails don't get easier than this.

Biking on the Townsite Trail
This trail is lovely for a walk after dinner as well if staying in town and children will enjoy playing in the cold lake.

Playing in Upper Waterton Lake beside the Townsite Trail
Biking the Townsite Trail

Ten - Visit the Town Playground and Splash Park

Waterton is one of the few mountain towns I can think of that has a splash park.   Maybe the only one in a National Park.   It sits beside an awesome playground and on a hot day the kids will likely be happier here than on any of the hiking trails in the area.

The Waterton Splash Park
Part of the playground in downtown Waterton

For more fun suggestions for things to do and see in Waterton, check out a previous story I wrote called Family Fun in Waterton Lakes National Park.  There is always something awesome to do in Waterton and you could stay a week without running out of places to visit.  We still find new things to do every year we visit.

Hiking in the Nature Reserve at Waterton Springs