Challenging as "shoulder season" can be though, I personally really love the months of October and November. I enjoy the down time where I can rest a bit before we launch into ski season. I like staying home a little more (something we never do in the summer,) and I value having the time to catch up on chores around the house. I also have a very strong belief in "seizing the moment" and making the most out of every season.
|Put on a happy face and make the most of every season!|
Peak hiking season may be behind us with ski season yet to arrive, but read on and find out what my family loves to do in October to make the most out a great month.
Gotta do THIS - October Edition
Go Yurt Camping at Mount Engadine Lodge (With Contest)
Last winter we got the opportunity to spend a night in the rustic yurt at Mount Engadine Lodge, located in Spray Valley Provincial Park. The lodge can be reached via the Spray Lakes Road, Hwy 742, and is only an hour south of Canmore. We've spent many weekends at this cozy lodge and it is one of my favourite places to spend a weekend in the Rockies.
Mount Engadine Lodge offers their guests the opportunity to "feel" as if they've skied or hiked into a backcountry lodge for the night with its remote setting in Kananaskis. Fortunately though, you won't have to ski or hike into the lodge. Mount Engadine is fully accessible by vehicle and makes for a lovely base camp for the nearby trails in both Spray Valley and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks.
|Mount Engadine Lodge, Summer|
The Chester Lake trailhead is less than 5 minutes down the road from the lodge and the Rummel Lake trailhead is directly across the highway. The Mount Shark trailhead is also located less than 5 minutes from the lodge for families wanting to bike or hike into Watridge Lake for a day. Other options in the area include hiking in the Upper or Lower Kananaskis Lakes area, biking the paved trails in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, or exploring around Canmore as you drive to or from the lodge.
|Nearby Chester Lake, Trailhead is 5 minutes from Mount Engadine Lodge|
All stays at Mount Engadine Lodge include accommodation in either a comfortable lodge room or suite, or in one of the suites in the cabin next door. Their is also a 4-person yurt on the property for those who want to try some luxury glamping. Stays include afternoon tea (with charcuterie board and desserts,) dinner (served family style in the lodge dining room,) breakfast the next day (made to order,) and a packed lunch for your day's adventures. Dogs are welcome at this lodge as well with several suites allowing pets to stay with you in your room.
|Evening at Mount Engadine Lodge|
Please visit the Mount Engadine Lodge website for more information on accommodations, services, and location. If you are interested in reserving the yurt for a stay this fall or winter, it is $125.00 per night per adult including all meals at the lodge. Children receive a reduced rate. If you just want to camp in the yurt without meals, it is $50.00 per night.
|Mount Engadine Lodge, Winter|
Spend the Night at Mount Engadine Lodge in their 4-Person Yurt (CONTEST)
Enter to win a one-night stay in the yurt at Mount Engadine Lodge for a family of three or four people. All meals will be included with your stay as mentioned above. The winner will receive a gift certificate which will expire on May 31st, 2017.
|Mount Engadine Yurt, fall season|
Please note that accommodations in the yurt are very basic. The yurt comes furnished with two bunk beds and a small table. Be prepared to bring warm down sleeping bags as there are no linens or bedding on the bunks. The yurt is also not heated but does come equipped with a small propane heater in winter. When we stayed at the yurt, we slept there but spent most of our time in the cozy lodge which is definitely heated with indoor plumbing and electricity.
To read about our family's stay in the yurt last winter, please read my story: Yurt Camping in Kananaskis at Mount Engadine Lodge.
To enter to win, please go to the bottom of this post and follow the instructions there. If you have problems let me know and I will help you enter.
|Mount Engadine Yurt, winter season|
Plan a Thanksgiving Road Trip (and bring the bikes)
Thanksgiving is around the corner and it's not too late to plan a weekend away! Check out my last story on 5 great destinations for a fall bike weekend or day trip. The story even has suggestions for where to stay and I already checked them out to ensure there was still room.
|Fall Biking in the Columbia Valley|
Plan an Outdoor Halloween Party and Costume Hike
This is hands down our FAVOURITE thing to do in October! We plan a ginormous outdoor Halloween party complete with costume hike, pinatas, bonfire, hot dogs and marshmallows. Add candy, snacks, and everything else that arrives for the pot luck affair and it's a great afternoon spent in Kananaskis.
|Outdoor Halloween Party in Kananaskis|
Want an invite to the party of the year? Sign up in our Wild Family Nature Club here in Calgary. You'll have to create an account first, but you can then sign up for all of our outings coming up from after school play dates to junior biker gang rides, fall hikes, winter snowshoe hikes and ski trips.
|Halloween Costume Hiking|
Not up for "crowds" or don't want to plan a big party? That's fine! Gather a few family friends then and plan a smaller costume hike in the city or on your favourite hiking trail. Just make sure it's an "easy" hiking trail because those princess dresses get caught on roots and tree branches very easily!
|What child doesn't like running around in the woods dressed as a super hero or a pirate?|
We've also done costume bike rides near Halloween which has been super fun. I like assigning a "super hero" theme because everybody has a cape (or can make one out of a pillow case) for creating an easy bike-friendly costume. Near Calgary, I like Troll Falls as an easy Halloween bike ride. It's even appropriately named for a spooky ride.
|Super Hero Themed Fall Bike Riding|
For more on how to plan an outdoor Halloween party, check out this story I wrote on how to Plan an Outdoor Halloween Bash.
|Snow never stops us from getting out for a Halloween Costume Hike|
Take a Fall Hike (Our Favourite Shoulder Season Hikes)
The leaves are gone from the trees, it's chillier and possibly windier, and there's a definite feeling of "gloom" in the air on many weekend days. No matter though because there are some great hikes that are actually MORE fun in the fall than they are in the summer.
Here are a few picks for hikes that we love in October:
|Cat Creek Waterfalls, Kananaskis|
To plan your return drive, visit the Cool Little Towns website and choose a restaurant or coffee shop to visit after your hike.
Prairie View Trail, Kananaskis. The Alberta Parks website lists this trail as 6.6 km one way but that is the full distance to the intersection with Jewel Pass and you likely won't be going that far with your kids. Hike to the scenic viewpoint on the ridge overlooking Barrier Lake and Mt. Baldy across the way for a pleasant 4.6 km hike one way. Turn around when you reach the rocks and lookout site or continue up to the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout in an additional 0.7 km. Total height gain if you were to hike to the Fire Lookout is 616 metres with a total of 10.6 km return distance.
|Prairie View Trail, Kananaskis|
The reason I like the Prairie View Trail as a shoulder season trip is because it's a pleasant hike when higher elevations are covered in snow. You can often hike this trail year round and it's an enjoyable walk on a cooler day. You'll also be protected in the trees for much of the hike. To read about our fall hike up to the Fire Lookout last year, please read First Summits: Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis.
|Hanging out at the Prairie View Lookout above Barrier Lake|
Sulphur Mountain, Banff. This strenuous hike gains 655 metres of elevation gain in 5.5 km and takes you to the Upper Terminal for the Banff Gondola (from where you can hike a short ways further to the summit of Sanson's Peak on a lovely boardwalk trail.) Honestly though, unless you really need the exercise or want to save the money, skip the climb and enjoy the 8 minute gondola ride.
Kids LOVE this gondola ride and while it's definitely expensive, it's also something I can justify as a once-a-year treat. Let the kids enjoy the ride and then hike up the boardwalk trail to the old weather station. The views are stellar and the experience is extremely pleasant if you go between the months of October and May (outside prime tourist season.)
|Fall on top of the Banff Gondola|
The Banff Gondola has also recently undergone a huge expansion and upgrade, and we got to take a look around a couple of weeks ago. There's now a fabulous interpretive centre in the upper terminal building, a brand new "sit down" restaurant, and a specialty cinema. I'll be back early October and will have a full update and review for you then.
|Exploring around the Banff Gondola's brand new interpretive centre|
Tunnel Mountain, Banff. This is another short hike that I find hard justifying in the middle of summer as an actual "day trip." In autumn however, it makes for a pleasant half day hike when the kids get off school at noon on Friday. Combine it with a trip to the hot springs or dinner out in Banff for a longer day trip.
The hike is only 4 km return with 300 metres of height gain. For many children, this will be their first summit that they tackle on their own little feet and it's a proud moment for many families when the kids reach the top of this peak for the first time.
|Enjoying a warm autumn day on the Tunnel Mountain Summit|
Climb a Mountain (Fall Favourites)
It may be autumn but you can still get out and climb mountains before the snow falls. And even after it does start to fall, there are many easy summits that are quite doable with a pair of ice cleats or spikes (even for children.)
One of our fall favourites is Forget Me Not Ridge in the Elbow Valley to the North Summit. We hiked the ridge last October and it felt like August up there. The return trip distance is roughly 9 km to the north summit (so save it for a day when the kids have a lot of energy) and you'll be gaining 625 metres of height gain on a very steep trail.
|Forget Me Not Ridge in October|
My son loved the Forget Me Not Ridge hike last year at age 6 but I'd recommend it for children that are perhaps a little bit older unless you have a very strong 6 or 7 year old who's done some other big hikes this summer.
En route to the summit you'll have to cross the Elbow River (very braided and easy to cross) so we like to save this hike for fall when the river is lower. Last year our feet barely got wet.
|Crossing the Elbow River to get to Forget Me Not Ridge|
To read my full trip report on last year's hike, please follow this link to First Summits - Forget Me Not Ridge, Kananaskis
|The giant summit cairn on the North Summit of Forget Me Not Ridge|
Another popular summit that is great this time of year is Prairie Mountain in the Elbow Valley. It is accessible for hiking well through November and is relatively easy as long as you bring a pair of ice cleats or spikes if it's snowed recently.
|Prairie Mountain Summit, Elbow Valley|
|Running down the Prairie Mountain Trail, Elbow Valley|
This Month's Events
Three events come to mind that I want to make sure I tell you about. For full information go to the event website (by clicking on the links below.)
While this festival is an adults-only event, I feel like it is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon or evening with your partner or a group of friends and we all need some time away from the kids. Last year I discovered my new favourite bottle of wine at this festival and I still enjoy it today.
Note that I will running a giveaway for a pair of tickets to this festival starting on Tuesday, October 4th. The tickets will be valid for the afternoon tasting session on Saturday, October 15 from 12-4 p.m.
The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival - October 29th to November 6th at the Banff Centre. This is another event that does not scream "family friendly" but that I highly recommend should you want to plan a "date" day or evening with your partner, or should you want to plan a girls or guys getaway to Banff.
My husband and I used to go out to the festival every year for the Saturday and Sunday day time screenings on the second weekend. We'd watch the entire program both days, watching until our bums were numb, but our heads were spinning with fresh inspiration and zest for mountain adventures. Even if you just make it out one evening to see a movie, I highly recommend a trip to Banff to soak in some "Banff culture" during this 9 day festival.
If you want to pop by with the kids while out in Banff for a hike, make sure you stop in at the Mountain Art and Craft Sale, one of the free kids' programs, or the Mountain Market Place.
The Jasper Dark Sky Festival - October 14th - 23rd in Jasper. As mentioned in my recent story on fall biking trips, Jasper is a fabulous destination for an autumn road trip with the bikes. Plan a weekend getaway to Jasper and spend your days riding the easy trail system with the kids, and then spend your evening star gazing and attending some great interpretive programming.
There are many free as well as ticketed events during the festival so check out the events section on the festival website and see what your family may find interesting or within budget.
|Head North to Jasper for some Fall Biking and Star Gazing|
Much as I'd like to stick with just the "Best of October" in this post, one has to plan ahead or you'll find that there are no hotels, cabins, hostels, or resorts left when you want to travel. Below are a few things to plan for and to keep on the radar.
Next Major Event to Attend - The Santa Claus Parade of Lights in Banff on November 19th. Yes, it's moved to November this year. I'll talk more about this in next month's "Gotta do THIS" edition but if you want to stay overnight after the parade, you'll want to book that hotel room now.
|Santa Claus is coming to Banff on November 19th (photo: Banff Lake Louise Tourism and Paul Zizka Photography)|
Buy your Winter Ski Passes Now - Now is the time to buy your family ski pass for Calgary's closest mountain, Nakiska Mountain Resort, for just $699.00. The winter pass sale for Nakiska Mountain Resort ends on October 15th though so buy those passes now. And if you have a child in grade 2, you can buy them a special Grade 2 Fun Pass for just $20.00!! You can bet my son has one of these already and we're planning to ski as much as we can this winter.
The RCR grade 2 fun pass is valid for skiing at Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberley, and Kicking Horse Resort.
And should you need a single adult season pass for Nakiska Mountain Resort, they have been reduced as well to $299.00.
|Nakiska Mountain Resort, our closest mountain|
Special note for families wanting to ski at both Nakiska and at either Fernie or Kimberley, you can buy a Ski BC Add on Pass with your Nakiska Seasons Pass (adult or family passes) which allows you two days of skiing for $69.95. (which is an amazing deal!!)
|It's a winter wonderland at Fernie Alpine Resort in BC|
Plan your Family Getaways Now - It may already be too late to book spaces in some wilderness hostels or backcountry huts for this winter, but it's worth a try. Below is some inspiration if you want to research ideas.
HI Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park
Backcountry Huts in Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Southern Alberta
Resort Skiing Weekend at Fernie Alpine Resort, BC
Resort Skiing Weekend at Kimberley Alpine Resort, BC
Elizabeth Parker Backcountry Hut, Lake O'Hara, BC
|Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara|
HI Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park
HI Rampart Creek Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park
HI Hilda Creek Wilderness Hostel, Banff National Park
|HI Hilda Creek Hostel, Banff National Park|
HI Maligne Canyon Wilderness Hostel, Jasper National Park
HI Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel, Jasper National Park
|Winter in Jasper National Park|
Mount Engadine Lodge Contest
Enter to win a one-night stay in the yurt at Mount Engadine Lodge for a family of three or four people. All meals will be included with your stay as mentioned earlier in this story. The winner will receive a gift certificate which will expire on May 31st, 2017.
The Winner's name will be drawn randomly and I will be following up directly with the winner to verify that the chosen person will be able to make it out to the Lodge before the end of May. I will also verify that the winning person is in fact planning to bring at least one child with them and that this will be a "family getaway" with a maximum of two adults and up to two children.
Please note again as mentioned earlier in the story that this is a rustic yurt with basic amenities. Guests must bring their own bedding and be prepared for a "camping" experience. You will find more than enough luxury in the main lodge building to make for a very comfortable night.
The contest will close at midnight Monday, October 10th. Winning name will be drawn the following morning on Tuesday, October 11th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you to this month's sponsor, Mount Engadine Lodge, for partnering with me on the opportunity to spend a night at their fabulous lodge.
|Cozy yurt in the woods at Mount Engadine Lodge, Kananaskis|
Please note that I was not paid to endorse any of the companies, festivals or activities in this month's post. I search the web and try to simply share the best of the best with you each month.