|Hay Meadows Trail in Kananaskis en route to Troll Falls|
Never again will I hike to Troll Falls because it is the most amazing family bike ride!! And I confess that I was seriously looking at all the hikers on the trail, wondering why we were the only ones on bikes??
|Why would you hike this??|
Park at the Stoney Trailhead near Kananaskis Village for this one. To find the trailhead, turn off of Hwy 40 for Kan. Village and go straight on Mt. Allan Drive instead of turning left for the Village. Immediately after the Village junction, you'll see the turnoff on your right hand side for the Stoney Trail under some power lines.
From the Stoney Trailhead, look for the trail to Hay Meadows and take that route on your way in. It's mostly flat or downhill in this direction and riding is easy on a grassy wide ski trail. The advantage of doing this way in is that you get to ride beside the beautiful river. To find the Hay Meadows Trailhead, push your bikes around the gate at the end of the parking lot and go up the old road under the power lines a few metres. You'll see a faint trail going through the grass on your right hand side. You want to go right! If you go left on the well marked trail with a map, you will be on the Troll Falls trail which is your descent route. All downhill on the way out. Uphill on the way in. Don't go that way on the way to the falls. No fun!
|Biking is scenic along the Kananaskis River through Hay Meadows|
It's a bit confusing after you reach the meadows but you want to follow the trail back to the power lines again and look for a good trail that will guide you back to the Troll Falls Trail. I've attached a map below. On the map you can see that by following the Hay Meadow Trail, you should cross the power line (green dotted line with a horse) and then make your way for the Troll Falls Junction. You'll find a really good dirt trail (wide enough for skiing in winter) and the final 0.3km to the Falls is best done on foot.
Once at Troll Falls, it's a good spot to let the kids play for a bit, have snacks and rest. It's only a couple of kilometres to the Falls so it should take you less than an hour to get here.
|Biking down the Troll Falls Trail|
There's a short climb or two in the uphill direction that we walked but other than that, you'll be flying and screaming downhill most of the way and it should take you less than half an hour to get back to the car.
The hills are beautiful too in that they aren't really steep enough to warrant braking. Just long and fun!
When you finish your ride, head over to Kananaskis Village for some ice-cream and a visit to the playground if you want. The total bike distance is 4km so this is a short half day outing.
In the area and want to try another bike ride? Try the Terrace Loop up at Kananaskis Village. This 3km loop would be best done with gears but otherwise poses no technical challenges. It is a double track cross country ski trail and slowly climbs to the first junction with Terrace Link, and then slowly descends back to the village.
Of note, the trail starts and finishes at a playground, and there's ice-cream at the village. That's probably enough incentive to at least try the short loop. If the hills pose too big of a challenge, turn around and return to the village with little effort lost.
|Meadow on the Aspen Trail, above the Terrace Loop|
The Watridge Lake Trail is a bit more committing than the Troll Falls Trail in distance and difficulty. My son did the ride on his balance bike the first year and made it the whole 9km return distance. This year we returned and did the ride on his Spawn 16" pedal bike but it was a challenge and we walked most of the hills in the uphill direction. Parts of the ride are definitely hike-a-bike if you have a child who is not yet on a bike with gears.
|Biking the old road and ski trails to Watridge Lake|
Park at the Mount Shark parking lot on the Smith Dorrien Road out of Canmore for this one and follow the signs for Watridge Lake. You'll be on an old road the whole time which is used for cross country skiing in winter. It is definitely not a hard trail but there are some hills. Without gears, they are challenging on the way up. On the way down, your child should be good at braking and will need to know how to handle rocky terrain. It seems like the biggest hills on this trail are the bumpiest too.
|Biking to Watridge Lake|
Even IF you have to walk a few hills, you'll still be riding 70% of the time and travelling three times the pace you would be if you were to do the whole thing on foot. I know people hike this trail and you'll likely meet few other bikers on your outing. However, as with Troll Falls, I would never bike the trail to Watridge Lake. Boring with a capital B. On bike though it is a splendid ride!!
Take a rest stop at the lake, have lunch, and do the short hike up to the Karst Spring. It's 11km round trip if you do the bike and hike combo. The springs are very cool with water shooting straight out of a hole in the rock to form a big cascading waterfall.
|Hiking up the Karst Spring Trail|
The Lodgepole, Wheeler, and Lakeside trails combine to form a 12km out and back ride in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. They are paved with gradual hills for the most part that most children should have few problems with. The odd steep hill can be walked and there are good signs in place when approaching a big hill.
|Easy riding on the Wheeler Trail|
We like to do the ride one way from the Boulton Creek Campground to the Canyon Campground. This is a bout 9km and is mostly downhill. It's a beautiful ride and you can hike the Canyon Interpretive Trail while you wait for somebody to bike back for the vehicle that you parked beside the Boulton Creek Trading Post.
|Biking on the Lodgepole Trail|
If you want to camp overnight, there are lots of campgrounds in PLPP. See my previous stories: The Best Family Campground in Kananaskis or The Best Place to Bike and Camp in Kananaskis.
|The Kananaskis Canyon Interpretive Trail at the Canyon Campground|
This trail in the Elbow Valley is rated as intermediate single track but I remembered hiking it in the past and thought it would be an easy bike ride. What I had forgotten was that it has a lot of roots, is really rocky and bumpy, and has a few really steep hills. We walked good chunks of the trail. Not to mention, the Paddy's Flat trail, which should have been the easiest part of the ride, was completely destroyed by the floods of 2013. (note, it might be repaired by now but I have not gone back to check recently.)
|Singletrack riding on the Riverview Trail|
All in all, I can't really recommend biking this with young kids but we did it this year so it goes on the list. If you have older children and are up for a challenge, check it out.
|The Riverview Trail in the Elbow Valley|
If you think your child is up for some singletrack riding and you are in the Elbow Valley, check out the Bike Pirate review, maps, and discussion on this ride. The discussion section includes comments from users who have found ways around the Paddy's Flat section so you could theoretically do the ride one way and bypass the worst section by the river.
|Challenges on the Paddy's Flat section|
The Canmore Nordic Centre features trails for users of all abilities and even has a lovely paved trail that goes almost the whole way towards a lovely meadow. The final section is on gravel but it's a nice family ride and is chariot-friendly for families with younger tots. The ride to the meadow and back is about 6km return.
|Lunch in the Meadow|
See the trail map and follow the pink trail, Banff Trail, to the meadow and back. It is double track the whole time and a good choice for family rides. We did it last year when my son was still on a balance bike but we plan to go back again soon to do it on pedals.
|The final section towards the meadow|
|Riding the Green Single Track Loop at the Canmore Nordic Centre|
This paved bike trail is 9.7km one way and starts up at Kananaskis Village. You can avoid the big hill down from the Village though by starting at the Kovach Day Use Area by the highway below. We rode the 17 km return distance between the Kovach Day Use Area and Wedge Pond at the far end in less than 2 hours at the pace of a 6 year old so it's fair to say that it's easy riding.
There are a couple big hills near Wedge Pond but the rest of the trail is relatively flat. You will notice it is more downhill as you head from Wedge Pond back to Kovach though as you will be coasting most of the return journey. I think it took us 20 min. to bike back from the pond to our vehicle. It makes sense therefore to bike to the pond on the way out with fresh legs, have a break at the pond, and then coast back to the car.
|Easy riding on the Bill Milne Bike Trail|
This paved trail is 4.2km one way and is located in the Bow Valley Campground. It is rated as an intermediate trail despite being paved and it's a fairly accurate rating. There are some good hills on this trail and you'll get a good workout in both directions.
Wait till the kids have gears and then head out to try this scenic trail while camping in Bow Valley. It's best to start from the store and ride up the trail. You'll then get a long downhill ride down to the Visitor Centre. From there, it's easiest to either have somebody pick you up with young kids or else to just ride on the main campground road (which would not be as steep.)
|Scenic Riding on the Bow Valley Bike Trail|
Newly added to this list of rides, we just finished this bike ride with our son at the age of 6 on a 20" bike with gears. This is the minimum size of bike kids will need unless you plan on pulling kids in a Chariot (not recommended unless you are extremely fit!!) Kids will also need gears for this ride. Despite the fact that it is mostly downhill, there are still some big hills in the up direction as you ride towards Banff.
To bike this trail, choose a good "power day" when the kids are feeling strong, and head to the Goat Creek Trailhead (description found on the Bike Pirate website and linked above by clicking on the title "Goat Creek.") Decide if you are going to stash a second vehicle in Banff or if somebody is going to bike back for the vehicle at the end. My husband chose to bike back for our truck while my son and I headed downtown Banff for ice-cream.
|Crossing the First Big Bridge on the Goat Creek Trail|
Total ride time for our family was approximately 3.5 hours (with an extra hour spent by Dad riding back for the truck.) We ended at Bow Falls in Banff and that was possibly the crux of the whole trip.
Directions to get OFF the trail in Banff: When you reach the golf course, do NOT cross the fairway heading straight for the Bow Falls Parking lot. Instead, turn right when you reach the golf course, following a good trail to the official sign for the East Spray River Trail. The trailhead is located off the paved Golf Course Drive. Bike down this road a short distance until you reach the bridge below the Banff Springs Hotel, ride over it, and you are at the Bow Falls Parking Lot.
What to expect on this trail:
- double track riding on gravel and dirt
- Some loose rocks and a few hills that are quite challenging with big rocks you must dodge. The hill down to the first big bridge is the worst and should probably be walked by young children. We rode it but it was scary and very sketchy. (it has a sign at the top of it warning people to take caution.)
- downhill riding with 435m of height loss spread out over 19km in the Canmore to Banff direction
- a few significant hills in the up direction with 176m of height gain (something we weren't prepared for - and why you need gears!)
- remote backcountry riding (make sure you have spare tubes and a bike repair kit)
|Crossing the second big bridge on the Goat Creek Trail|
For more awesome family-friendly bike trails in the Canadian Rockies check out my other stories that I've recently written:
|Biking the Troll Falls Trail|
The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore
Biking The Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail - With Kids
Mountain Biking the Tunnel Bench Loop in Banff - With Kids
The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper
Family-friendly Biking on Calgary's Bow River Pathway
Mountain Bike Parks and Pump Tracks in the Canadian Rockies
Campsite to Trail - The Best Campgrounds for Biking Families
The Best Spring Bike Rides in Kananaskis