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.

 "All non-motorized watercraft from outside of the park are prohibited from entering water bodies in Waterton Lakes National Park."

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 2021 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

I've written an entire story on bike skills parks and pump tracks so I'll refer you to that story,  Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Parks, for more information on the Fernie dirt jump park. 

Playing on the Fernie Pump Track

The Fernie Bike Park is conveniently located next to the town spray park and aquatic centre downtown.  It is also the hub for a number of family-friendly bike trails and there's a giant parking lot big enough to park a trailer in.

Finally, we've discovered that if you want to "truck drop" the Ridgemont Trails or the Montane Trails (biking downhill only,) the bike park is a great place to hang out with the kids while somebody bikes back up for the vehicle. (As my husband always gets to do.)

Working on skills in the Fernie Bike Park

Exploring the Children's Mountain Bike Practice Loops at the Bike Park

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.)

You'll find this fun rollercoaster feature below on one of the practice loops.

Children's Mountain Bike Practice Loop behind the Bike Park

Looping Downtown Fernie on the Fernie Recreational Trails

The town of Fernie can be looped by riding several different trails that all join together to start and end at the aquatic centre beside the bike park.  This was our first mountain bike ride in Fernie, and we biked a total distance of about 12 km. The trails are all mostly easy with the odd challenging section (ALL on Old Stumpy,) and much of the loop is flat.  In fact, most of the loop can not really be called mountain biking.  It is easy trail riding on well maintained gravel or dirt paths.  And most of it is double track and Chariot-friendly.  (Old Stumpy aside.)

The Fernie Recreational Trails are family-friendly and well maintained for a variety of users. Cyclists should expect to come across hikers, pedestrians, dog walkers, and even the odd motorized wheel chair along the river.  

Easy riding on the Fernie Recreational Trails.

Follow this link to the Tourism Fernie website where you can read more about the loop and download a map! Note that the color of trail does not indicate easy vs. intermediate.  Green is just green.  Blue is just blue. They are all easy!

Below is my personal overview of the trails that make up the big loop:  

The Kootenay Elk Trail - This trail is part of the Fernie Main Loop which is 8.2 km in length and follows the blue circle on the map.  We biked most of this loop except for the downtown connector trail. The Kootenay Elk Trail is unremarkable as far as trails go and basically serves to connect you to other more interesting trails such as Old Stumpy and the Great Northern Trail.  It is mostly flat and very evenly graded for easy riding.

Kootenay Elk Trail in Fernie (photo:  C. Hughes)

Old Stumpy - This is probably the hardest of the recreational trails.  Old Stumpy is more of a singletrack trail and has a couple sets of stairs that you may have to walk around depending on the direction that you are going. There is also a fair amount of climbing (from both directions) so expect to be walking some hills with young riders.

Scenic Biking on the Old Stumpy Trail

Old Stumpy is 2 km long and is part of the green Great Northern Loop.  This loop is 5.7 km in total length. 

Note that this area was recently logged and we haven't biked it since that time. This trail may look quite different.  

The Great Northern Trail - I like this trail and my son loves the train track crossing. Be careful crossing the tracks as this is an active rail line. The trail is part of the green loop with Old Stumpy.  It has a short section near the river near Maiden Lake that is also scenic.

Train crossing on the Great Northern Trail
Biking beside the river on the Great Northern Trail, Fernie  (photo:  C. Hughes)

The Emily Brydon and Dogwood Trails - These are the two easiest trails in the blue loop. Hardly mountain biking, they are still fun and kids love this section along the river.  You can stop to throw rocks in the river and stop at the Annex Pond for a rest spot.

Easy riding on the Dogwood Trail past the Boat Launch

The Brewery Creek Trail - I love this trail because it feels like you are out riding in the country (see the photo below.)  It is easy biking but feels more natural (and remote) than the section along the river.   It is part of the blue loop and connects the river section with the Coal Creek trail.

Note there has been a lot of recent development around this area and the trail may look different from my photos.

The Old Barn on the Brewery Creek Trail
Scenery on the Brewery Creek Trail

The Coal Creek Heritage Trail - This trail is much easier than Old Stumpy but is more singletrack in nature than the trails beside the river.  The trail follows an old railway line that connected mines at Coal Creek with the town of Fernie.

The recreational loop only covers a very short portion of the Coal Creek Heritage Trail. 

The Town Loop is also on Trail Forks. (a great app you can put on your phone so you don't get lost.)

The Coal Creek Heritage Trail in Fernie   (photo:  C. Hughes)

 Biking the Coal Creek Heritage Trail from the Old Townsite back to Fernie

The easiest way to bike the full Coal Creek Heritage Trail with kids is by parking at the old Coal Creek Townsite and then biking back to the aquatic centre.  It is mostly downhill this way.  Then an adult can ride back for the vehicle while the kids play at the bike park with a second adult. 

You can find the trail on the trail forks website/app in four separate segments. (and while it shows a gap between the middle and bottom parts, we managed to bike on a trail that paralleled the road the entire time.

- Coal Creek Heritage Trail East

- Coal Creek Heritage Trail (connector between East and Lower)

- Coal Creek Heritage Trail (Lower part)

We rode the complete Coal Creek Heritage Trail when our son was 6 years old.  I would have to say that a 20" bike with gears and hand brakes is the minimum requirement for this trail.  It was singletrack with a few challenging hills.

Many sections of the trail were lovely, flat, and easy going, but then a difficult section would appear out of nowhere and throw us for a loop. If you do this full trail with younger kids, just explain to them that they may have to walk the occasional section.  You'll still be biking more than you walk, and it is a lovely ride.

The trailhead at the Coal Creek Townsite

Family Mountain Biking on the Montane Trails

We've discovered some amazing smooth, flowy, gentle trails in the Montane area above downtown Fernie, and I fell in love with this area.

I continue to be a fairly novice mountain biker who hates roots, drops, or overly steep trails. My son started riding the Montane Trails at age 8 when he was a fairly decent mountain biker - but he vehemently hated riding up hill. We both found the Montane Trail Network to be the holy grail of all things awesome for our abilities and preferences.

A full face helmet definitely wasn't needed on the Montane Trails

We like to "truck drop" the Montane Trails for downhill riding into the Fernie Townsite. My husband bikes back up for the truck while we play at the bike park in town. 

Following the Trail Forks App, drive up the Coal Creek Road until you reach River Road, a forestry road that is definitely open to the public (despite the sign that would lead you to believe otherwise.) - We called Tourism Fernie to verify that we could drive up this road.

Park along the side of the road for the trailhead for Montane Blue For Evyr 

Connect onto Montane Blue (heading downhill) after 200 metres to continue this flowy trail. 

Scenic riding on the Montane Trails (photo: C.Hughes)

Montane Blue is a cruisy machine built trail - and it has set the bar petty high for what I now consider to be "awesome trail building!" There are no roots, the hills are all pretty gradual, and even this wussy bike mom is never generally scared. 

It's possible to bike all the way down Montane Blue to Coal Creek Road if you follow the Trail Forks app as you ride. Cross the road and you're at the town bike park and aquatic centre.

Switchbacks on the Montane Trail

And depending on which route you take on Montane Blue, there is a scenic viewpoint with a winter warming hut. 

All in, we usually bike roughly 5-6 km with approximately 300 metres of height loss, a short ride for the morning when temperatures are hot in the afternoon. Follow the ride up with a swim at the aquatic centre or some time at the bike park.

Biking down the Montane Trail near the warming hut

And for families who don't mind a bit of climbing, you can park at the bottom of the Montane Trail system and bike up Easy Beaver, an easy wide double track multi use trail.

Easy riding on the Montane Trail in Fernie

Family Mountain Biking on the Ridgemont Trails

This is the next step up for kids who have mastered the Montane Trails. The Ridgemont Trails are more natural (less machine grooming, more roots, more drops, etc.) 

Note this area has been recently logged and I haven't ridden here since the trails opened again. I'd suggest stopping in at a bike shop in town to get first hand info on the best trails to ride now. 

In the past, my son has enjoyed Broken Hip (AKA Space Unicorn,) and Eco Terrorist (where you'll find dozens of cool boardwalks.) 

The next step up! Riding Broken Hip AKA Space Unicorn  (photo: L. Nanninga)

Biking the Lazy Lizard Trail From Island Lake Lodge

Lazy Lizard has been our FAVOURITE bike trail in the Fernie area and has been very popular with families looking for a good easy downhill ride.

It is flowy, machine built, and has a lovely grade the whole way down. It's definitely downhill in nature with some berms and banked corners, but is never that difficult or technical.

In the past, we've always driven up to Island Lake Lodge  to start the ride (where you'll lose 535 metres of height on the upper part alone as you ride down Lazy Lazard.) My husband would drop my son and I off, drive down to the bottom, bike back up to the top, and then we'd all ride down together. (My son and I would hang out at the lake while my husband biked up.)

Biking through an old growth forest on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Note as of 2021, Island Lake Lodge is not allowing "truck drops" from the top. It is required that you bike both up and down this trail. Suffice it to say, a lot of people will no longer get to enjoy this trail without renting an e-bike because 500+ metres of climbing is not feasible for the average family looking for an easy bike ride.

If you want to take your children on this trail consider bringing a Tow-Whee tow rope to assist with the climbing.

And no, you can not bike up the road. You must bike up the singletrack Lazy Lizard Trail.

Boardwalks and bridges on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Biking Outside Fernie in Kikomun Creek Provincial Park

If you're going to go to Fernie in the summer, you'll find great camping at nearby Kikomun Creek Provincial Park.  And while you're here, you can bike the Great Northern Rail Trail in the Surveyors Lake Campground.

Family Biking on the Great Northern Rail Trail

The loop we did on the Great Northern Rail Trail was under 10 km in length and was generally easy double track riding.  It wasn't technical at all but a few sections were very hilly.  See the trail map below with a description underneath of how we did our ride.

Biking at Surveyors Lake

If you follow the map above, the loop from #1 to #7 is about 7 km in length and is great for introductory mountain biking. Our personal direction of choice is to go backwards from 1 to 7, down to 6, etc. And when you get to the country gravel road, that is what you will follow to connect #6 to #5.  The biking along the road is actually quite pleasant.

There's a short steep hill that you'll probably have to walk up at junction #5 (unless you are coming down this part) and then it's flat easy riding along the old rail bed to junctions #3 and 4. At junction #3, we go left rather than take the trail between Stink and Fisher Lakes.  It avoids a big hill climb and is very pretty through what resembles an old growth forest. (see photo below)

My favourite part of the ride between junctions 1 and 3

I like this loop a lot and we ended up riding it in the mornings when it was cooler at camp.  Then we'd spend the afternoons at the beach. 

To get a map of this trail, ask the campground attendant for one when you drive into the Surveyor's Lake Campground.  They'll give you a little interpretive pamphlet that tells you all about the trail and its history.  There are also maps at the trailhead in a little wooden box.

Parking can be found at the campers beach parking lot where you'll see a trail kiosk with maps.  Don't park at the day use parking lot or you'll have to bike around the lake a short distance to reach the campground.

Easy riding on the old rail bed (numbers 3 and 4 on the map)

Biking at the Next Level - Advanced Trails for Rad Riders

Got some rad riders in your family looking to try trails at the next level? I'll be adding to this section over the next few years as my son progresses and we get to try more trails. 

Riding Contra, one of Fernie's newest downhill flow trails

Contra is one of Fernie's newest downhill flow trails. This trail is full of giant table tops, berms, and steep descents. It is rated black and deserves that rating. Make sure your children have done some serious downhill riding before trying this one. 

Table top jumps on Contra 

Shuttle directions: Drive up the gravel Coal Creek Road until you get to the Rifle Range Road. Turn left onto this road. Take this road until you come to the Rifle Range Road Spur 3  where you turn right. And these are all shown on the trail forks app in case you're worried about getting lost. 

Large berms on Contra

Note you'll likely want a vehicle with high clearance for the spur road at the end. The other roads were not too bad. 

A good look at what to expect on Contra

For more epic downhill biking, check out my new story on resort biking at Fernie Alpine Resort.

Read: Family Downhill Mountain Biking at Fernie Alpine Resort 

Downhill mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort

This story will be updated annually as we discover new trails. If we've missed one of your favourite family trails, please let me know and we'll check it out next time we're in Fernie.