Friday, April 28, 2017

Gotta do THIS - May 2017 Edition

And we're back! This is my monthly list of cool outdoor things to do as a family in the Canadian Rockies, focused on Southern Alberta.  I also want to give you some fun ideas for how to celebrate Mother's Day and to offer suggestions for families still looking for something to do over the May long weekend. I am also featuring one getaway destination for those wanting to travel a little further.

Gotta do THIS - May 2017 Edition (photo: Prairie View Hike, Kananaskis)

I've added one new category to this month's edition as well on summer planning. I've featured one destination you may want to consider visiting this summer. (A favourite of mine!)

Time is too precious to spend every weekend in the city doing chores and yard work. Plan a fun family-friendly day trip or getaway this month and celebrate spring!


Gotta Do THIS - May 2017 Edition

1. Attend Calgary's First Ever "YYC Fit Health and Fitness Expo"

          - with Giveaway -

Sponsored Event with Giveaway for a family set of tickets. (details on how to win at the bottom of this post)

The first ever YYCfit Health and Fitness Expo launches on May 13th and 14th with more than 100 booths featuring Calgary’s most popular boutique fitness studios, martial arts, fitness apparel, adventure travel and healthy eats!

Families can enjoy the KIDfit Zone during the day which will include super hero training camps to get young ones moving as they learn skills from today’s most popular super heroes. Kids will also be given the opportunity to demo all sorts of different activities, and parents will have the ability to sign their kids up for classes on the spot!

Other things to look forward to:

Health and Fitness for the Whole Family
  • Strongman Competition run in conjunction with the Alberta Strongman Association

  • Two demo stages featuring displays and competitions including aerial yoga, hip hop dancing, boxing, powerlifting, and even a sword demonstration.

  • A seminar stage, (with a no-sales policy) that will be full of engaging and informative presentations and several panel discussions.

  • Special guests for the weekend including personal trainer and model Daniel Maguire, from the Bachelorette reality show as well as Emily Abbott, Crossfit Competitor recognized as the eighth fittest woman in the world.

  • Pedalheads Obstacle Course and Superhero Training Camp for the kids

For full information on location, tickets and hours of operation visit the YYC Fit Health and Fitness Expo website.

Coming to the KIDfit Zone….Superhero Training Camps!

2. Spend Mother's Day in the Mountains

Mother's Day is coming up on May 14th and you don't have to break the bank to show mom that she's special. Here are 5 cost-friendly suggestions for celebrating Mother's Day this year:

  1. Take mom for some FREE skiing for free at Sunshine Village (more details here)

  2. Go biking in Banff or Canmore and take mom out for lunch (or better yet, pack a picnic lunch and have lunch beside the Bow River in one of Banff or Canmore's many parks

  3. Visit Johnson Lake for a short hike, a picnic, and even a refreshing dip if it's warm enough at Banff's only beach. This is also a great lake for taking the canoe out on for a first paddle of the season

  4. Climb a mountain and bring a gourmet picnic spread for the top. Tunnel Mountain is a great choice and with less than 300 metres of height gain, most children can climb this one! (more on family-friendly activities to enjoy in Banff here)

  5. Go camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park for easy access to Kananaskis, Canmore, and Banff. And don't worry if you haven't made reservations yet because Willow Rock Campground offers first come first serve camping. (And it has lovely sites down in the trees near the Flowing Water hiking trail.)
Family Picnic in Bow Valley Provincial Park

3. Launch the Camping Season for the May long Weekend

Yes, I know it will snow and rain - both in the same day! Still, it's a tradition and you know you don't want to sit this one out.

Haven't made a reservation yet? Good news - there are still 30+ provincial park campgrounds in Alberta with space!

Camping at Gregg Lake in William A. Switzer Provincial Park (which has space over the May long!)

Some Campgrounds and Parks that we love (with space over the long weekend):

  • Cypress Hills Provincial Park (there are still a few spots available in the beautiful campgrounds of this park in Southern Alberta)

  • Gregg Lake, William A. Switzer Provincial Park (gorgeous park near Hinton Alberta, just outside Jasper National Park)

  • Little Bow Provincial Park (great location in Southern Alberta when the mountains are still too chilly. Still has 2 available campsites)

  • Many provincial parks in Central Alberta (including Pigeon Lake, Jarvis Bay, and Aspen Beach - Gull Lake)
Camping in Cypress Hills Provincial Park

For information on the campgrounds and parks above, please visit the Alberta Parks website and make reservations on the AB Parks Reservation site.

I've also written reviews for many of these campgrounds. Links can be found on my Camping Super Guide page.

Disclaimer: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador and receive free camping. All reviews and opinions are my own.

Spring Camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park

4. Hit the Open Highway on Your Bikes

In the April edition of "Gotta Do This" I wrote about biking Highway 66 in the Elbow Valley from Elbow Falls before the road opens to traffic on May 15th (Something I still haven't done yet with my own family this year!)

I still recommend biking in the Elbow Valley but I have other suggestions for you as well if you want to hit the highways and roads before they open to traffic for the summer.

Biking on Highway 66, Elbow Valley

Closed Roads, Highways and Campgrounds for Spring Biking:

1. Highway 66, Elbow Valley - Park at Elbow Falls and bike as far as you want. A good turn around spot with kids is the Beaver Flats Campground, a very short mostly flat return ride, where you can hike on the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail.  Highway opens for traffic on May 15th

Easy Riding on highway 66, Elbow Valley

2. Highway 40, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park - Drive out past Kananaskis Village and go as far as you can on hwy 40. Park at the winter gate and bike towards Highwood Pass. You won't get all the way there with kids as it's a long uphill ride of 17 km in length (one way,) but you can ride as far as you want and turn around at any point. You'll still get some good views and enjoy riding on Canada's highest public road.  Highway opens for traffic on June 15th

Biking Hwy 40 towards Highwood Pass (photo: J. Douglas)

3. Highway 40 from Highwood Junction - You can also bike highway 40 from the far side, starting near Longview, for a more gradual ride. You'd still have to climb to reach the pass but you can ride to the Cat Creek Day Use Area and back in roughly 9 km return. Note that it is still not a flat ride from this end and you will have a few big hills to contend with. (On the final hill back down to the winter gate at the end of our ride, my speed reached 40 km/hour without braking so needless to say it was not a fun first kilometre starting out.)

Biking on Highway 40 near Highwood Junction

From the Cat Creek Day Use Area, there's a lovely set of waterfalls you can hike to. Either follow the hiking trail (you'll see a steep trail going up the hillside opposite the day use area on your right hand side, just after the vehicle bridge) or look for the old gravel road and follow it on your bikes. (To find the old gravel road, look for it just before you cross the highway bridge off in the grass to your right. The hiking trail starts on the far side of this bridge.)

Biking the old road to the Cat Creek Falls

We chose to bike the old road rather than hike on the official trail. There's just one creek crossing you'll have to do if you follow the old road (where you'll leave your bikes) once you see the hiking trail on the opposite side of the bank.

Highway opens for traffic on June 15th

Cat Creek Falls, Kananaskis

4. Highway 546 west of Sandy McNabb Campground, Sheep River Provincial Park - Another great spring ride that starts down south near Turner Valley, bike from the road closure towards Sheep River Falls or as far as you get since it's 16 km one way to the falls, and return when the kids start to get tired.  Highway opens for traffic on May 15th

Biking and Longboarding down Hwy 546  (photo: J. Kersbergen)

5. Paddy's Flat Campground, Elbow Valley - Park at the gate above the Paddy's Flat campground and bike the closed campground roads. Bike down to the river and hike or bike the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail from where you can also hop on to the Riverview Trail. There is a fun little playground down near the river as well. Campground opens on May 15th

Biking along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail

5. Climb a Mountain - May's Featured Hikes and Summits

I have two top picks in Kananaskis for families wanting to get out and climb a mountain this month.

Prairie View Trail to Barrier Lake Lookout - This great Kananaskis hike is an early season favourite with a beautiful ridge overlooking Barrier Lake. From there, the views only get better as you hike up to some big rocks (fun to scramble on) and then go further to the fire lookout house.

To read my trip report and summit report read First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout

Looking out over Barrier Lake from the ridge on the Prairie View Trail

Nihahi RidgeHike to the end of the official hiking trail in an easy 5 km round trip distance. Continue further as far as you feel comfortable for some easy scrambling. The brave and adventurous can scramble up a small cliff band to reach the ridge for some pretty spectacular views. Going further to the South Summit is for experienced climbers and scramblers only (though we made it last spring with our 7 year old son on a short rope.)

To read my trip reports for this hike read First Summits - Nihahi Ridge, Kananaskis 

- and -

Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits (Our journey to the South Summit of Nihahi Ridge)

Note, this trailhead is only accessible after May 15th.

Easy hiking on the Nihahi Ridge  Trail

Don't forget that Prairie Mountain - featured last month in Gotta do THIS - April Edition, is another good early season summit and still an excellent choice for May. (And we STILL haven't done this trail yet as a family for the 2017 season!! Shame shame...)

Hiking on Prairie Mountain, Elbow Valley

6. Road Trip Time!! This Month's Spring Feature - Jasper National Park

Spring is my favourite time to visit Jasper before the tourists descend on this small town in summer. The bike trails are dry and Jasper has a fantastic trail network.

There are also some lovely early season hikes that we enjoy such as the Old Fort Point Trail. Finally, you can't go wrong with a trip to Miette Hot Springs or just walking around town, visiting the Bear's Paw Bakery for goodies, or stopping in at the Banff Brewing Company for dinner and drinks (and yes, they take kids.)

Spring Biking in Jasper

For more information on family-friendly activities, sightseeing, and camping in Jasper, please read the following two stories:

Our Top Ten Favourite Things to do in Jasper   

Where to Camp in the National Parks of Alberta

Old Fort Point Lookout, Jasper

7. Summer Planning - May's Travel Feature: The Okanagan

Step out of your tent and hop on your bike at one of the many great campgrounds situated just a few feet away from the Kettle Valley Railway converted rail trail. Our campground this summer will literally be on top of the KVR and we're very excited about being so close to one of our favourite bike trails.

Biking the Kettle Valley Railway, Penticton, BC

Spend your mornings biking the KVR, hiking local trails, or even rock climbing at the Skaha Bluffs south of Penticton. Then spend your afternoons chilling at a local lake where you'll find some of the best beaches in British Columbia. Round off your day with a wine tour (or two or three... - many vineyards are very kid-friendly,) play some mini-golf, or try out a Wibit Aqua Course in either Kelowna or Penticton. There is no shortage of things to do in the Okanagan Valley.

Read about our favourite things to do between Kelowna and Penticton, all the way south to Osoyoos in my story: The Importance of Summer Vacations (and the BEST of the Okanagan)

You can also read my newest story on the Okanagan (with campground recommendations) in the May/June publication of Calgary's Child Magazine, available around the city right now. Here is web copy of the story: Family Vacations in BC's Okanagan Valley

Swim Bay in Peachland (Beach with zip line, rope swing, and diving boards!)


May Events to Note

The Banff Children's Festival - Saturday May 20th

Spring in Banff at Vermillion Lake

Other Recommended Reading

Gotta do THIS - April 2017 Edition

Gearing Up for Biking Season - with links to all of my spring biking stories

The Top Ten Spring Family Hikes in Kananaskis

Spring Biking in the Bow Valley  (campground roads are now open to traffic but you can still bike here on the quiet roads)


Giveaway- Enter to Win Tickets to the YYC Fit Health and Fitness Expo

The set of tickets includes two adult tickets and two children's tickets. The tickets are good for visiting the expo on Saturday or Sunday and can be picked up at Will Call at the event location.

The contest is open to all adults 18+ who would like to visit the festival as a family. Please make sure you will be able to attend the event either Saturday or Sunday before entering the contest.

Winner will be chosen Friday morning, May 5th and will be notified that day. I will contact the winner by email. If I don't hear back by the following Monday morning, I will choose another winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The Rockies look like such a beautiful place to live with so many outdoor opportunities!

  2. What is your favourite active thing to do together as a family? That's a tough question because there's many active things we enjoy doing together.... hiking, rock climbing, skiing, biking :-)

  3. We love rolling together on paved paths such as Fish Creek, Bow Valley Park etc. I say rolling because I can use the scooter, my son on his 14" bike, & wife on bike.

  4. We love rolling especially on paved paths free of cars. My son on his 14" bike, me on his scooter & wife on her bike.

  5. Our favorite thing to do as a family is biking, now that my kids are getting older and camping

  6. Our favourite active thing to do as a family is to take our dog for walks/hikes. :)

  7. oh too many! We love hiking, snowboarding, climbing, swimming as a family! Just getting outdoors is the best!