Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gotta Do THIS - April Edition

Wondering what you can hike right now without needing ice cleats or spikes? Wanting to get out for that first camping trip and not sure what's open? Maybe you aren't done with winter yet and still want to get out skiing a couple more times. Or perhaps the warm spring weather is making you long to do a short road trip somewhere near Calgary and you'd like a suggestion or two.

This is my brand new monthly newsletter and destination guide which will be full of ideas and suggestions on how to make the most of the upcoming month. Watch for this post at the end of every month and grab your calendar because you'll want to add at least a few of these ideas to your family's "fun list" this month.

Rockies Family Adventures Gotta Do This - April Edition

Climb a Mountain

Prairie Mountain is the place to be right now and snow is melting rapidly. I was up here a few weeks ago and we only needed spikes at the very top before hitting the ridge. I'd guess that by now you won't need spikes or cleats at all. Temperatures are supposed to reach the high teens this Saturday so it's a great time to get out and climb something.

The Summit Ridge of Prairie Mountain

To avoid the crowds you'll definitely encounter on the trail get an early start. Alternately, start later in the day since it's light into the early evening now. Pack a dinner that you can eat on the trail and come down as the sun is setting.

Prairie Mountain Summit in March 2016, snow free

To read about our previous adventures climbing Prairie Mountain follow this link to More First Summits: Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis.

Prairie Mountain is a classic spring training hike

Go Biking on Highway 66 in the Elbow Valley

Highway 66 past Elbow Falls is snow free and vehicle free until May 15th. Seize the opportunity to ride a wide open highway with no cars to worry about. We like to bike from the closed gate above Elbow Falls to the Beaver Flats Campground. We bike down into the campground (go left into the campground) and we head to the Beaver Flats Trailhead. From here we hike to the beaver pond to play and look for water bugs. Expect some mud but the trail was snow free when I was there a few weeks ago.

Biking Highway 66 in the Elbow Valley

The highway is relatively flat (slight uphill grade to Beaver Flats) and is great for young kids learning to ride, tots on balance bikes, and families pulling chariots or bike trailers. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of this fun outing near Calgary. And don't worry about parking - you'll find out rather quickly that everybody just parks along the side of the highway before the closed gate above Elbow Falls. Go early if you don't want to be a mile back from the gate! Alternately park down in the Elbow Falls day use area where you'll find bathrooms.

Family Bike Outing in the Elbow Valley

Return distance to Beaver Flats and back is roughly 3 to 4 km so most young children should be able to do this ride with few difficulties.

Playing at the beaver pond on the Beaver Flats Trail

More suggestions for spring biking can be found here at Kids on Wheels: The Best Spring Bike Rides in Kananaskis.

Biking on the Beaver Flats Trail, Elbow Valley

Enjoy an Easy Spring Hike

My top pick for the month of April would be the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park combined with an easy bike ride from the Middle Lake Day Use Area. The whole campground is currently closed past Middle Lake until April 29th so you'll enjoy riding the roads without cars on them. You can stop at the playground in the group campground en route to Many Springs as well and have a picnic lunch here.

Biking in Bow Valley Provincial Park to the Many Springs Trailhead

For full details on the  bike/hike, read this story that I wrote back in 2013 when we first discovered this great spring day trip: The Bow Valley Biker Gang

Hiking the Many Springs Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Full information on all of our favourite spring hikes can be found here: The Top Ten Spring Family Hikes in Kananaskis. 

The Flowing Water Trail is a Family Spring Favourite in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Best Spring Getaways Near Calgary

My top pick for spring getaway in April is the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs or Invermere) in BC. It's a close drive for a weekend away and you'll find green grass, mountain bike trails that are good to go without mud or snow, and no shortage of things to do from hiking to swimming in hot spring pools.

Spring Outdoor Swimming at Fairmont Hot Springs

I've written a full story for Calgary's Child Magazine on the best of spring in the Columbia Valley and it can be found here: Explore Columbia Valley, BC this Spring.

Spring paddling in Invermere, BC

You can also find more on spring in the Columbia Valley here in these stories:

Want Spring? Head West to the Columbia Valley

Kids on Wheels: Biking the Columbia Valley 

The Best of the Columbia Valley (Radium Hot Springs to Invermere and beyond)

Spring Hiking in the Columbia Valley

Go Camping

Ready to go camping? Here are some suggestions for early season campgrounds open in April:
The Dinosaur RV Park - Drumheller. Visit the Royal Tyrell Museum, hike Horseshoe Canyon, or enjoy spring biking around town. Families may also enjoy biking to the town of Wayne, crossing 11 one-lane bridges on Hwy 10X. Start from the 11 Bridges Campground off the main Hwy 56. You'll end up at the small ghost town of Wayne and the Last Chance Saloon which is family-friendly. (This would be a great day trip too)

Willow Rock Campground - Bow Valley Provincial Park. This is the access point for the Flowing Waters hike and is right across the road from the main Bow Valley Campground for biking/hiking the Many Springs Trail. And don't worry if you only see the RV part of the campground at first. There are lovely spots in the trees down below. No reservations are required to camp here so just show up if you want to head out on a nice weekend.

Dinosaur Provincial Park - Reservations are not required yet if you want to seize prime spots in this top Alberta campground before May. This is a great place to go camping in April with warmer temperatures and great hikes through the Alberta Badlands. Enjoy a quiet campground before the crowds descend over the May long weekend.

Spring Camping at Willow Rock in Bow Valley Provincial Park (open as of April 1st)

Plan a Banff Day Trip

Banff will be the place to be on Saturday, April 23rd. Visit the Cave and Basin Historic Site for a free concert by Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy. They will introduce your family to the great music and culture of the Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia with their passion for fiddling and Celtic music. More information can be found on the Banff Lake Louise website.

My other top pick for the month of April is to get out on the Legacy Trail for some easy biking between Canmore and Banff. The trail is snow free and ready to go. Enjoy it now though before it gets insanely busy come summer. Full information on riding the Legacy Trail with kids can be found here at Biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail - With Kids.

Biking the Legacy Trail between Banff and Canmore

Catch a Final Day of Spring Skiing

Catch the last 90 cent day at Mount Norquay on April 6th. At that price, you won't find a better deal and it won't matter how icy or slushy the snow is. It's 90 cents!! You could go for an hour of skiing and spend the rest of the day working on your tan on the deck with a beer and a burger. :)

Now is also a good time to enjoy a final day at Nakiska with those family passes you might have. The ski hill is still open and will be through most of April. As of this morning every run is still open too!

Spring Skiing at Nakiska Mountain Resort

Off the Beaten Path Suggestions

Want to do something a bit more unusual this month? Here's an idea: Stay at a Wilderness Hostel! The Castle Mountain Hostel is just minutes away from the trailhead to the Johnston Canyon Trail (best done in the off season before summer crowds descend on this beautiful trail.) The Kananaskis Hostel is also a great choice right now for a final ski weekend at Nakiska. Bike trails will also be in condition here soon.

I have checked availability at both hostels and there are definitely spots free if your family wants to stay at either hostel in April. Note that for staying at Castle, children must be 6 years old to sleep in the shared dorms. Kananaskis however has three private rooms families can request.

Here's some reading to get you started on trip planning:

Winter at the HI Castle Mountain Hostel with Kids

Affordable Family Ski Vacations in the Canadian Rockies 

How to Plan a Kananaskis Biking Weekend - without camping

And to make a reservation, visit the Hostelling International Canada website. 

Biking the Bill Milne Trail from the Kananaskis Hostel

If there's something I haven't featured or included, please feel free to leave a comment or question at the bottom of this post and I'll do my best to provide an answer for you.

If you would like your business featured in an upcoming edition of this newsletter please contact me. 


  1. Such lovely photos! I'm excited that it's finally spring - lots of activities are opening up to give a go. Thanks for these recommendations!

  2. Great to see Family Bike Outing in the Elbow Valley. Actually it is quite lovely when you see kids biking.