Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Gotta do THIS - June Edition

June is here and it's time for another edition of "Gotta do THIS" focused on Calgary, Kananaskis and our surrounding mountain parks. Check out the events, activities, and attractions below, and add a few to your family's "Fun List" for the month of June.

Gotta do THIS - June Edition

1. Go Camping! 

I'll be featuring cool places to go camping over the next few months. This month's camping sponsor and our feature campground is Sundance Lodges in Kananaskis. Family owned and operated, Sundance Lodges is proud of their family-friendly reputation and popularity with repeat visitors. Once is never enough with this great campground and the kids will be begging to come back year after year.

Trapper's Tents at Sundance Lodges

5 Reasons to Try Camping at Sundance Lodges this Summer:

  1. Proximity to Calgary. Located in Kananaskis, less than an hour away from the Calgary city limits, this is a great destination for that first camping trip or for families camping with young children. If something goes wrong, you won't be far from home and you'll easily get out to camp Friday after work without a long drive.

    Tipis at Sundance Lodges
  2. Comfort! Sundance Lodges offers the opportunity to camp in cozy trapper's tents or tipis. This is great for chilly early or late season camping and for families needing a little bit of additional comfort. You'll appreciate your trapper's tent or tipi if you are up in the wee hours with babies or toddlers, and you'll love your accommodations when it's raining or cold outside. Comfort camping is also a great way to convince reluctant friends or spouses to try camping with you and beginners won't need to invest in a lot of gear for a trial trip.

  3. Location, location, location. You could camp here for a week and never run out of things to do. Hike along nearby Ribbon Creek, hike or bike to Troll Falls, visit Kananaskis Village for a coffee or ice-cream cone after biking the paved Bill Milne Trail, rent a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard and go for a paddle across Barrier Lake, or check out the trails in nearby Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Sundance Lodges is located in the heart of the Kananaskis Valley with access to a wide range of outdoor activities. For information on trails in the area, visit this link to the Alberta Parks website. For information on boat rentals, visit the Kananaskis Outfitters website.

  4. Family-friendly Accommodations. Sundance Lodges is a family run establishment with strict quiet time hours. You won't have to worry about rowdy campers here partying all night long. The owners want to make sure everybody has a lovely camping experience so that you'll be coming back for years to come.

  5. Group friendly. Sundance Lodges permits group bookings for up to 6 sites. This is great news if you want to go out camping with family and friends, knowing you'll be in close proximity to one another for group meals, campfires, and social time while the kids play. There are also RV/tent sites at this campground so families in your group will have a wide range of options for how they choose to camp.
Want to make a reservation? There are still a few weekend openings in June for tipis and trapper's tents, and again starting the September long weekend until closing Sept 18th. There is also some room midweek most of the season. Finally, Sundance Lodges has a cancellation list for weekends in the tipis & trapper's tents if you'd like to call and put your name on it for a prime weekend this summer. Unserviced campsites for RVs, trailers, and tents are available most weekends in the summer as well as midweek. Visit the Sundance Lodges website for contact information.

Camping at Sundance Lodges

2. Road Trip Feature: Explore the Alberta Badlands

This month's road trip feature is the Alberta Badlands with June sponsor, Canadian Badlands Tourism. Just in time for summer, Canadian Badlands Tourism has come out with a super fun bucket list featuring activities and attractions across Central and Southern Alberta. I'd like to share my five favourite activities on their list with you that I'd recommend adding to your family's personal bucket list this summer.

Hiking in Alberta's Badlands (Dinosaur Provincial Park)

One - Paddle the Milk River, Tube the Oldman River, or Kayak the Red Deer River

We spent two days paddling on the Milk River while camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park a couple of years ago and it was an amazing experience. We paddled through a scenic landscape of hoodoos with cliffs towering above us, and enjoyed calm water that was perfect for leisurely floating. The Writing on Stone Provincial Park campground makes an ideal base camp for day trips on the river and it's best to visit when the river level is high late June to early July.

For more on camping, hiking, and paddling in Writing on Stone Provincial Park, check out my story on Camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park.

Paddling down the Milk River near Writing on Stone Provincial Park

The Oldman River can be floated from Lethbridge with tube trips available from the Old Man Tubing and Raft Tours Company. Camping is available at Park Lake Provincial Park or at the Oldman River Campground in the Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area.

We have also paddled on the Red Deer River as an overnight trip and plan to do a repeat trip this summer. There are many easy stretches along this river with campgrounds spread out along the way. For more information on paddling the Red Deer River, visit this great resource guide: Paddling the Alberta Badlands from Paddle Alberta.

Easy overnight paddling on the Red Deer River

Two - Examine the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs and pictographs on the great plains of North America in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.

While camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park and paddling on the Milk River, you have to do some exploring on foot to see the ancient petroglyphs and pictographs. The hiking trails in this park are spectacular and there's a lot of freedom to climb and explore off trail.

For more on camping, hiking, and paddling in Writing on Stone Provincial Park, check out my story on Camping in Writing on Stone Provincial Park.

Exploring and hiking in Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Three - Walk among one of the largest dinosaur fossil collections in the world at the Royal Tyrrell Museum

We finally visited the world-famous Royal Tyrrell Museum this spring and it was a fabulous day trip destination. We're slowly exploring the Drumheller area one day trip at a time and eventually need to plan an entire weekend in this spectacular area.

For more information on exploring Drumheller, check out this great guide from AB Parks Ambassador, Kelsy Nielson: Top Ten Drumheller Attractions with Kids 

Checking out the dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller

Four - Revel in the century-old Last Chance Saloon in Wayne

This spring we took a day trip to Drumheller to visit the Royal Tyrell Museum and decided to visit the ghost town of Wayne while in the area. We wanted to do things a little differently though so we decided to bike to Wayne for drinks at the Last Chance Saloon (completely family-friendly in case you're wondering why I am suggesting you bike to a pub.)

Visiting the Ghost Town of Wayne near Drumheller

While biking (or driving) to Wayne, you will cross 11 one-lane bridges on this scenic country road. The ride is short if you want to bring your bikes and is approximately 10 km return. The stop at the saloon breaks the trip up and it's an extremely pleasant outing.

Biking across one of the 11 one-lane bridges on the way to Wayne

Notes if you want to bike to Wayne with children:
  • You will be sharing the road with vehicles and motor bikes. Make sure your children know to stay to the right side of the road. We found most vehicles and bikers to be very respectful of us and most let us cross the bridges first before passing.

  • The motorbikes were quite scary at times when they came up behind us in groups of 10+ riders. Children with sensitivities to loud noise might not enjoy this ride.

  • You will be visiting a "biker bar." Most visitors to Wayne arrive on motor bike and you will most likely be the only guests on "pedal bikes." There is also a very good chance that you will be the only people with children in the bar. Needless to say, language is sometimes an issue and conversations around you might not always be family-friendly. We didn't really find this to be a big problem but I would suggest going early in the day before the bar gets too busy.

Not your average way to ride to the Last Chance Saloon

Overall, we found this to be an incredible experience biking through the badlands to a ghost town and we'd do the trip again.

Not your "every day" experience in the Alberta Badlands

Five- Join a real excavation and dig for fossils in Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

We LOVE Dinosaur Provincial Park and camp here late May most years. June is an ideal time to camp in this park before the mosquitoes come out and while it's still a reasonable temperature. If you can't make it in June, try to visit the park in September when the mountain parks start to get chilly. Dinosaur Provincial Park is a great destination for cooler weather when it's still very warm down in the badlands.

Biking around the Campground in Dinosaur Provincial Park

For information on guided tours, please visit the Alberta Parks website.

For a complete guide to this park, please check out all the previous stories I have written:

Camping in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Hiking in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Wild about Dinosaur Provincial Park

Camping in the Alberta Badlands

Exploring Hoodoos in Dinosaur Provincial Park

3. June's Featured Alberta Park: Bow Valley Provincial Park

As an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I want to feature one provincial park each month in this monthly series. This month I've chosen Bow Valley Provincial Park because we recently camped here at the Bow Valley Campground, and it's a great early-season camping destination.

Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Reasons we love camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park at the Bow Valley Campground:
  • The campground has always been quiet and peaceful when we've camped here.

  • There are power sites for those who need to run their microwaves or other appliances which means no generators! Those who want power can have it without annoying the rest of us. We always choose a power site when possible early season so that we can bring a portable heater for our small trailer and enjoy added warmth in the chilly mornings and evenings. I confess too that I like using my drip coffee maker. :)

  • The sites are well spaced, private, and surrounded by trees. Most of the time you won't even know you have neighbors.

  • There are playgrounds for the kids (something national park campgrounds don't often have.)

  • Families can bike all over the park to access trailheads on the quiet campground roads. There's also a lovely paved bike trail in the park that is quite enjoyable.

  • We like the park trails for short morning walks, hikes before bed, and for general exploring during the day

  • The park is well situated for activities in Canmore, Banff, and throughout Kananaskis.
Evening hiking on the Many Springs Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Recommended Reading on Bow Valley Provincial Park

Family paddling on the Kananaskis River 

First Summits: The Mighty Yamnuska (with a 6 year old)

Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park 

Spring in Bow Valley Provincial Park 

The Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis

First Summits: Barrier Lake Lookout

Biking in Bow Valley Provincial Park

Information on camping at the Bow Valley Campground can be found on the Alberta Parks website and reservations can be made 90 days in advance of your stay. If you can't get into this campground, try the Willow Rock Campground across the road which is first come-first serve. Follow this link for a full list of campgrounds in Bow Valley Provincial Park.

Prairie View Hiking Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Top Trails in Bow Valley Provincial Park:

Hiking on the Yamnuska hiking trail in the Bow Valley

4. Gotta Attend these Events in June


Trails Fest in Kananaskis

The second annual Trails Fest is hosted by Friends of Kananaskis Country and takes place on June 11th at Kananaskis Village.

  • Connect with local hiking, biking, skiing and outdoor clubs & organizations and find out how you can get involved.

  • Attend presentations about Kananaskis trail projects

  • Join a guided trail activity including interpretive hikes, mountain biking, orienteering, bear spray demonstrations and more.
For more information please visit the Friends of Kananaskis Country website.

Biking near Kananaskis Village on the Bill Milne Trail

Banff National Park's Performance in the Park

Banff's the place to be on June 10th and 11th with this year's Performance in the Park featuring a great line up of musical artists.

For complete information on performers and tickets, visit the Banff Lake Louise Tourism Website.

The event takes place at the Cascade Gardens in Banff with discounted tickets available for children ages 2 - 12 years old.

Never a bad day in Banff! Follow your bike ride or hike up with a concert in the park

International Mud Day and the Calgary Mud Fair

Celebrate International Mud Day on June 26th in Calgary. The Children's Commons Ecological Society is hosting a fun Mud Fair which will take place at Lloyd Park, 5 minutes west of Spruce Meadows in South Calgary. All proceeds will go toward supporting the Red Deer Lake Community Association and the CCES Calgary Nature Kindergarten.

Activities will include mud pits, a mud slide, mud kitchens, live music, and outdoor yoga. Food trucks will be on site along with a green market.

For full information, please visit the Event Brite website where you can purchase tickets for the Mud Fair.

Celebrate International Mud Day

5. Celebrate Father's Day at Mount Engadine Lodge

Give Dad a "MANcation" at the beautiful Mount Engadine back-country lodge. Situated an hour from Canmore in the Spray Lakes Valley, this is the only back-country lodge you can drive to in the Rockies.

Father’s day at Mount Engadine Lodge includes a guided fishing trip to secret fishing holes in the area with Wapiti Sports. After, enjoy a gourmet dinner prepared for you with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Dinners at the lodge are served family-style, allowing guests to share stories and spend quality time together.

Spend Father's Day at Mount Engadine Lodge

Want to come out for the day? The area also offers some of the best hiking and outdoor-adventurers in the Rockies. Day hikers can stop by for a cold local brew and a few hours of re-fuelling. The lodge serves afternoon high tea every day from 2-5pm and features a charcuterie plate of local meats, refined cheeses and olives, daily-baked goodies, fresh fruit, locally blended coffee from Canmore's Mountain Blends Coffee Roasters and your choice of Canadian tea blends. On Sundays, Mount Engadine also offers freshly baked Swiss strudel.

For more information, please visit the Mount Engadine Lodge website and make sure to ask about their fabulous yurt the whole family will enjoy staying at. Stays in the yurt include all meals at the lodge.

Glamping at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis

6. June Bike Trail Feature

It's June and this is your last chance to bike Highway 40 before the road opens to traffic on June 15th. For more information on the bike ride we enjoyed this past month, check out my story: Biking to Cat Creek, Kananaskis. We enjoyed glorious wide open roads followed by a beautiful hike to the Cat Creek waterfalls.

Road biking on Highway 40 with no traffic and total solitude

My second pick for this month is anything in the Banff or Canmore areas. These towns get crazy busy come July and are best enjoyed before the kids get out of school and family vacations begin. Spend a weekend biking around Banff or Canmore now before the tourists descend on these small towns next month and you'll have a much more pleasant "local" experience.

Biking around peaceful Canmore

Recommended Stories to Check out:

Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Bike Tour

The Best Family Bike Trails in Banff National Park

The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore

Biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail - With Kids

Riding Vermillion Lakes Drive in Banff

7. June's Mountain - Climb a Summit

There's so many great peaks out there and I want to feature one great family-friendly summit each month (season permitting of course.)

Rest break on the saddle between Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak, Canmore

This month I'm choosing Ha Ling Peak and it's neighbor, Miner's Peak. Both can easily be done in the same trip but we actually prefer Miner's Peak if you have to choose one. There's a lovely meadow that looks like it should have sheep hanging out in it, and there are three bumps next to the peak offering fun scrambling. The full trip report can be read here: The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond.)

Fun scrambling on Miner's Peak

 8. Explore Local! Discover Calgary's Great Parks and Natural Areas

Want to visit a new park this month or find a new favourite natural area to explore this summer? My Calgary Urban Hikes page is full of fun ideas across the city.

This month, check out Ralph Klein Park in South Calgary for Parks Fest on June 19th. This is Father's Day and it would be a great way to spend a fun day outside as a family. Parks Fest activities will include:
  • Free activities and entertainment

  •  Face painting

  • Pond dipping

  • Guided walks

  • Nature crafts

  • Opportunities to learn about Canada’s largest man-made wetland

  • Opportunities to visit the park’s Environmental Education Centre
Find a new Favourite Park this month

9. Make Plans for the July long Weekend

Don't have a campsite yet? Don't despair because you can still go camping for the long weekend. Here are my tips for getting a campsite for the long weekend.
  1. Go to the Alberta Provincial Parks Reservation site. Plug in the dates (June 30th through July 3rd) and see what's available. I just did it and there are still a few sites out there.

  2. Drive out early and grab a first come-first serve site close to Calgary. I'd suggest going Tuesday if possible. You'll still have to pay for your site, even if not camping there until Thursday night. You also have to put something significant on your site. (Tent, trailer, etc.) Don't just put a lawn chair on the site and leave. There are many first come-first serve campgrounds in the Elbow Valley as well as in the Bow Valley. Visit the Alberta Parks website for a complete list of first come-first serve campgrounds.

The July long weekend is for camping


10. Future Planning: RCR Season Ski Passes on Sale Now for 2016-2017

I know you aren't thinking about snow or winter sports right now but great savings can be had for the family who plans ahead. Buy your RCR season ski passes now and get great deals for the whole family.

Adult Season Passes at Nakiska are reduced to $259.00 (from $869.00) with youth passes reduced to $199.00 (from $649.00) and children's passes reduced to $99.00 (from $349.00.) Family passes are $599.00 (reduced from $1 999.00)

Buy your season passes for RCR resorts by June 25th for great savings

Sale ends June 25th so jump on these great deals now!

Families with children going into grade 2 next year will really want to consider getting passes because grade 2 students can get a special seasons pass for just $20.00!! The RCR Grade 2 Fun Pass includes an entire winter of skiing at all four RCR Resorts (Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberley, and and Kicking Horse.)

Information on season passes for all four RCR resorts can be found on the RCR website.

Fun Skiing at Kimberley Resort in the Children's Glades

Special Thanks

Special thanks to this month's official sponsors, Sundance Lodges and Canadian Badlands Tourism. I also want to thank Mount Engadine Lodge and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies for their continued support in helping my family enjoy time in our beloved Rocky Mountains.

Thanks also to Alberta Parks for choosing me to be one of their AB Parks Ambassadors this year. We will be visiting many new parks and spreading the word about Alberta's awesome provincial park campgrounds.

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