Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Top 10 Spring Family Hikes in Kananaskis

I got the following email message a couple weeks ago:
"I am a mom of 4 kids. I really want to start family hiking - but am a complete novice.  Scared I might be eaten by a bear or fall into ice!!!  Have you written a post about getting kids and families started - best hikes to start with?"

Then last week I received this following message:
"I would like to take my 18 month old daughter out to the mountains this weekend and was hoping that you might have a trail suggestion or two.  Ideally within 1 hour or hour and a half drive."

While I did respond to both moms, I figure there are at least a few more of you with the same questions.  And since it's spring in the Rockies, I'm going to start with Spring Hiking.  I'm also going to focus on Kananaskis because it's close to Calgary with trails that lose their snow quickly in the warm spring sun.

Spring Hiking in the Bow Valley on the Flowing Water Trail

The Top Ten Spring Family Hikes in Kananaskis 

The First Five Hikes for Young Children

In my story, Spring Hiking with your Family in Kananaskis, I write about the following five hikes that are awesome for families with young children.
  • Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail, Elbow Valley

  • Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail, Elbow Valley

  • Troll Falls, Kananaskis Valley

  • Heart Creek, Kananaskis Valley

  • Widow Maker Trail, Kananaskis Valley

Information on  those the trails can be found in the story above.

Playing on the Beaver Flats Trail, Elbow Valley

More Hikes in the Elbow Valley

The Fullerton Loop is the next little hike that comes to mind and it's the perfect next step for children that are able to hike a 5km loop.  The trailhead has a brand new start post-flood so if you've done this one before, you'll find the new trail starts across the highway from the Allen Bill Pond Day Use Area.  Also, there is no more pond at this day use area.  The river has reclaimed the whole area.  It's still a fun little spot though for the kids to play by the river and for the family to have a picnic.

Resting on the Fullerton Loop, Elbow Valley
The next hike in the Elbow Valley that I LOVE in spring is the Prairie Mountain trail.  This one is great for the older kids because you'll be climbing 700 m to get to the summit.  There's no cute little creek on this one but the feeling of reaching a summit is incomparable.  And the trail is already in great condition this year so we just did it last weekend.

Standing on the summit of Prairie Mountain, March 8th

For more information on this trail, please read the story I wrote last September, More First Summits:  Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis.   

Hiking down the summit ridge on Prairie Mountain

Hikes in the Bow Valley

I've written a lot about spring hiking and biking in the Bow Valley on the Flowing Water Interpretive Trail and the Many Springs Interpretive Trail.  Therefore, I refer you to those stories:

Hiking on the Many Springs Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park
Biking the closed campground roads of Bow Valley Provincial Park in April

The final hike - Prairie View Trail

This one isn't last for any reason other than that the link to this hike leads you to many other hikes you can do with your family this spring.  You may not have noticed, but there is an entire page on my blog devoted to the topic of Spring/Fall Hiking.  Really there is.  It's at the top of the website beside other tabs on best hikes, day trips, picnic sites, and city hikes.

Barrier Lake from the Prairie View Trail, Kananaskis Valley

Here's the link to the page so you can save it for later - Spring and Fall Hiking.   There is info. on the Prairie View Trail along with a dozen or more other trails not mentioned already.

Spring Hiking in Kananaskis on the Paddy's Flat Trail

Bonus Number 11 - Because it's my Favourite Spring Hike

I can't write about the best spring hikes and not include the climb up Ha Ling Peak in Canmore.  It is highly recommended you wait until the ice is gone off the trail (or that you wear micro spikes) but we did it one year on March 7th.  We even got 3 kids to the ridge and the youngest was four years old.

A very early ascent of Ha Ling Peak in Canmore

Warning:  The advanced hike up Ha Ling is for experienced scramblers and advanced hikers only, competent in their abilities guiding children up a steep trail and across an exposed ridge.  If you haven't done Ha Ling without the kids, you should not do it as a family trip until you've solo climbed it first.

To see more photos and read my story from last summer, go to Ha Ling:  My Baby Climbed his first real Summit

My March summit shot on Ha Ling Peak

I hope I've given you tons of suggestions now.  There is life beyond Elbow Falls!  I promise.  So get out there and explore.  Happy Hiking!!

Rest Break on the Heart Creek Trail


  1. and life beyond Troll Falls! LOL. So sad there's no pond at Allen Bill anymore, but plenty to see in the area. Great hike suggestions!!!

    1. agreed Karen. Life beyond Big Hill Springs too. Some day I'm going to write a replacement story. So you want to hike here - but you should really go here.