Thursday, May 19, 2016

Epic Family Bike Rides: Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis via Highway 40

Want to take the family for a hike somewhere that's off the beaten path, almost "secret," and guaranteed to be quiet? Cat Creek is the place to go before Highway 40 opens on June 15th. With no road access, peace and quiet is guaranteed.

Biking Highway 40 in Kananaskis (solitude guaranteed!)


You'll be staging your adventure from the Town of Longview in Southern Alberta. From here, get onto Highway 541 heading west into the mountains. You'll drive approximately half an hour until you reach Highwood Junction where Hwy 541 turns into Highway 40. This is as far as you will drive and you can park on the side of the highway by the closed gate, blocking your way from driving further into Kananaskis Country. On June 15th, you'll be able to drive all the way from here towards Peter Lougheed Provincial Park over Highwood Pass. For now, you bike.

Our Bike Crew for the Cat Creek Ride on Highway 40

The Road Ride

I tried to track the distance we rode and it was approximately 4.5 km one way to the Cat Creek day use area from the road gate. I figure that we rode about 9 km total on the highway.

Know that there are a few BIG hills so this is not a beginner ride, nor was it easy. If going with young children, prep them ahead of time with encouragement that they can walk any hill that is too big. Bring candy or something to reward them if they do get up the big hills, and bring along a Chariot or bike trailer for younger kids who can't ride 9 km. We had children on our trip who were using balance bikes without pedals but they did not ride the full time, nor did they do any of the bigger hills.

Family-friendly spring riding on Highway 40

The first hill from the gate is the biggest. I reached a speed of 40km/h on the way back down to the truck on this hill. It's also a kilometre long - so it's not the friendliest way to start off a ride. Rest assured though, it does flatten out for a bit after that (and it can always be walked.)

Cruising back down to the vehicles at the end of our ride

Hiking or Biking to the Cat Creek Falls

Ride until you see the sign for the Cat Creek Day Use Area. From here you have two options for reaching the Cat Creek waterfalls. Option #1 is to hike. If you choose this, park your bikes beside the road bridge above the picnic area and find the hiking trail on the opposite side of the bridge. It goes up a slope beside the highway, enters the trees, climbs to a viewpoint, and then descends to the creek. From here there are a couple of nice little bridges and you'll reach the waterfalls in an easy 1.3 kms. Go to the Alberta Parks website to read more about this interpretive hiking trail.

Creek crossing if you choose "not" to take the official hiking trail

The second option is to bike most of the way to the falls on an old road. The old road is found on the near side of the road bridge (opposite side from the hiking trail.) Descend down off the highway into a big clearing, go into the bush a short distance and you will see the old road. Follow it until you see the hiking trail on the other side of the creek. Cross the creek on rocks, and it's a very short 2 minute walk to the falls from here.

Biking to Cat Creek Falls on the old road

Cat Creek Falls 


Cat Creek Falls are a magical place and I love visiting them in any season. Some day though I want to come back on a hot day and go swimming. There is a scramblers route above the falls using an old rope but we decided to play it safe and stay beside the falls rather than trust a rope we did not personally put up.

Cat Creek Falls

The ride back was quick and was definitely more downhill. Families wanting to hike the Cat Creek trail once the road is open will just have to wait until June 15th. For the rest of you, go now and enjoy a fun bike/hike outing.

Bike/Hike outing to Cat Creek

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