Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sunshine Village in Summer! (Premier Lift Accessed Hiking in Banff National Park)

I feel like I must be an official Canadian Rockies gondola and sightseeing tour expert by now. So far this summer, I've ridden 5 different gondolas at ski resorts across Alberta and BC. Add 2 chairlifts and we've definitely made the rounds this July/August.

Summer at Sunshine Village, Banff National Park

Each ski resort that I've visited this summer (most with my family) sets itself apart slightly, with different advantages for choosing this particular resort over the others. (And some day, I'll do a big comparison post of them all!)

For Banff's Sunshine Village, it wasn't hard to come up with a list of 5 key reasons I believe all families, locals or travelers, would have a fantastic day at the resort.

Fields of flowers at Sunshine Village, Banff

Four Season Fun at Sunshine Village


Standing on the Continental Divide at Sunshine Village
Summer is almost over, but the fun at Sunshine Village is never over. The wildflowers will soon be gone, but they will be replaced by golden meadows of orange and yellow larch trees. Late September is actually my favourite time to visit Sunshine Village and I've always gotten my best photos around the third week of the month.

Then, once the larch trees lose their needles, it won't be long before the resort is transporting skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers up to the village sometime in early November for another glorious winter

And thanks to Sunshine Village's location on the Continental Divide, they can boast having the longest non-glacial ski season in North America! - which means you'll be skiing into May next spring!

Then, we're back to wildflower season again, and you could almost come up to the village every few weeks to see a new wave of flowers, starting with glacier lillies in June and ending with the purple fireweed that we saw in August.

September at Rock Isle Lake, Sunshine Meadows, Banff

Accessible Hiking for all Abilities (So bring the grandparents!)


My mother loves hiking, but I find it hard to choose a scenic day hike we'd all enjoy. If I choose something too steep or demanding, I'll end up having to choose between running after my fast-paced child, and sticking behind with my mom so that she's not all alone. Either way, somebody's hiking all by themselves because our paces never match.

Other friends have told me about similar predicaments, of trying to plan a beautiful day trip to the mountains with visiting relatives or friends, but of never knowing where to go so that the whole group will be able to enjoy the outing.

Sunshine Village has something for all abilities!

My mother and son at Sunshine Village on the Standish Viewing Deck, an easy hike for all abilities


Easy Itinerary: Ride the gondola up to Sunshine Village and then take the Standish Chairlift to the Standish Viewing Deck. You can complete a short 797 metre loop hike to a gorgeous viewpoint looking over Rock Isle Lake, Laryx Lake, and Grizzly Lake.

This loop is great for families with toddlers, seniors with limited mobility, or for those that just simply don't want to tackle a long hike.

And when you're done your short hike, you can return to the village for lunch, snacks, or drinks on the Mad Trapper's Smokehouse patio.

Time commitment: Allow for one hour including the hike to the viewing deck and chairlift ride. Allow extra time for the gondola ride and for lunch at the village.

Easy hiking from the top of the Standish Chair to the Viewing Platform

Intermediate Itinerary: Ride the gondola and chairlift, enjoy the short trail to the Standish Viewing Deck (as above) and then hike down to Rock Isle Lake. Enjoy the beautiful views before hiking back up to the village.

Total distance of hiking: Roughly 3.4 km with only 32 metres of height gain. You'll enjoy mostly flat or downhill hiking the entire time. Allow for two hours to complete the loop (with chairlift ride.)

Rock Isle Lake, the highlight of a hike in Sunshine Meadows

Intermediate 2 Itinerary: Combine the intermediate loop above with a hike around Grizzly and Laryx Lakes. This extends your outing by 3.6 km for a total of approximately 7 km of hiking with less than 200 metres of height gain.

Time commitment: Allow for 3 to 4 hours to hike all of the terrain in the two intermediate itineraries above.

View of Rock Isle, Grizzly, and Laryx Lakes from the Standish Viewpoint


Optional "off the beaten path" Itinerary: Ride the gondola and chairlift, and hike to the Standish Viewing Deck. Hike down to the Rock Isle Lake junction but take the Twin Cairns to Monarch Lookout Trail. Finish the outing on the Meadow Park Trail.

Total distance of hiking: Approximately 5 km of hiking with less than 50 metres of height gain! Most of your height is gained on the chairlift.  Allow for 3 hours with chairlift ride.

Hiking along the Twin Cairns Trail

Advanced Itinerary: Do it all! Take the chairlift up to the Standish Viewpoint, hike down to the Rock Isle Junction, take a quick jaunt over to look at Rock Isle Lake, and then complete the Grizzly/Laryx loop. Return to the village via the Twin Cairns to Monarch and Meadow Park Trails.

Total distance of hiking: Approximately 9.5 km of hiking. Allow for 4+ hours of hiking with chairlift ride.

No shortage of good views at Sunshine Village


The Ultimate Family Day Hiking Destination for Kids of all Ages


Hiking with toddlers or young children? Follow the easy itinerary above, or the first intermediate itinerary with the occasional piggy back ride. Bring a child carrier for your youngest tots, and you should even be able to complete the full Grizzly/Laryx Loop.

Surveying the beauty of Sunshine Meadows from the Standish Viewing Deck

Hiking with school aged kids? They'll love the full hike around Rock Isle, Grizzly, and Laryx Lakes. They'll also have no problems with the Twin Cairns to Monarch Lookout Trail.

Hiking with teens? Tackle the advanced itinerary above for a bit of a challenge. With less than 200 metres of height gain, it's still a very easy hiking day!

Great hiking at Sunshine Village for the whole family


Sightseeing and Tourism without the Crowds


I know that when you read or hear the words "sightseeing gondola," you are thinking "touristy or crowded."

I was pleasantly surprised on my recent visit to Sunshine Village that I never once felt like I was at a touristy location for even a second. I don't know if the large tour buses avoid Sunshine Village or if we just got lucky, but it felt like a "local secret" to be up hiking at Sunshine Meadows, surrounded by other families from the nearby area.

Friday morning at Sunshine Village and not a single other person in sight

The trails were never crowded, we saw very few people on the Twin Cairns to Monarch Lookout Trail, and we had no wait to get on the gondola or chairlift (even on the way down later in the day!)

Uncrowded Paradise at Sunshine Meadows


Sunshine Village is the ultimate sightseeing and hiking experience that a local such as myself can actually enjoy, without feeling like a tourist.

Uncrowded trails await you at Sunshine Village

Guaranteed Enjoyment for the Whole Family


The kids will love the gondola and chairlift rides, alpine lakes, the ground squirrels, and the flowers. Mom and dad will appreciate the smooth, well cared for trails, (guaranteeing you probably won't need band-aids,) and the gorgeous scenery. Grandma will be thrilled that there is a coffee shop and restaurant at the end of her hike (my mom was anyway,) and the whole group will enjoy snacks, lunch, and drinks at one of the village restaurants after your walk or hike.

We had lunch at the Chimney Corner Restaurant in the hotel but it would have been equally nice to sit outside on the patio of the Mad Trapper's Smokehouse.

Look mom, the flowers are as high as my chest!


And, Stay Overnight at the Sunshine Village Mountain Lodge



For those looking for something extra special, the Sunshine Village Mountain Lodge is open for overnight stays for the first time in summer! Stay overnight in winter for ski season but return in summer or fall for the hiking! (And it's just a short gondola ride back down to the base area if you want to go into the Town of Banff for the day.)

No better place to spend a weekend in Banff

For More Information...

 

For information on pricing, hours, shuttle service from Banff if you don't want to drive up to Sunshine Village, and for fall specials, please visit the Sunshine Village website.

Wildflowers under the Standish Sightseeing Chairlift

Special Thanks to Sunshine Village for allowing my family to come and spend a day at the resort. Our gondola and chairlift tickets were provided for us, but as always, all words and opinions are my own. 



Monday, August 28, 2017

Vacation Fun in the Okanagan at the ZipZone Peachland

Traveling to the Okanagan region of British Columbia has become an annual tradition for our family each August. We enjoy biking, visiting beaches, touring wineries, and trying out new adventure parks.

Summer is for Adventure! Vacation Fun at ZipZone Peachland, BC

Last summer on our Okanagan vacation, we had fun challenging ourselves on an aerial park outside of Kelowna.The park also had a zipline tour which my son absolutely loved! Because of my 8-year old's intense interest in ziplines, we decided this year that we'd look for the biggest, craziest, zipline park we could find in the Okanagan.

Searching for an epic zipline adventure in the Okanagan, brought us to the ZipZone in Peachland: Canada's highest freestyle zipline at 381 feet high.

This kid loves flying through the air on ziplines!

The ZipZone promises:

"Six of the highest, longest , fastest, epic-est zip lines in Canada, criss-crossing the breathtaking Deep Creek Gorge. Breathtaking views, maximum exhilaration!"

I figured that sounded crazy enough for us, and maybe, just maybe, they'd even let my son fly solo (his absolute dream!)

Vacation Fun at Zipzone Peachland

Our History with Ziplines



My husband and I first went on a zipline tour when we were in Costa Rica more than 10 years ago, and I still remember how exhilarating it was to be flying over a forest canopy after jumping off of wooden platforms high up in the trees. Since then, we've done zipline adventures across Mexico and Canada, and have introduced our son to this cool activity.

Our son Noah did his first zipline crossing in Mexico a few years ago and was quickly hooked! He would now list it as one of his favourite activities (up there with downhill skiing and mountain biking.) His dream has been to gain enough weight that he would finally be able to do his crossings solo without a guide having to go with him. Success!!

Big enough to finally fly solo!

What sets the ZipZone apart from other Ziplines 


If I'm going to be honest, let's just admit that zipline tours are not cheap. It's definitely an investment if you're going to choose to pursue this activity while traveling.

There are also ziplines everywhere across North America so it's not exactly a "rare opportunity" when you find a zipline tour to do as a family.

So, how do you go about choosing which tour you'll spend your precious money on?

For us, we look at tours that are unique and different from the rest. We want ziplines that are higher, faster, longer, crazier, more epic, and more beautiful than the rest. - All of which the ZipZone delivers on.

No Hands! Freestyle ziplining was a lot of fun!

 

Freestyle Ziplining


If you've ever done a zipline tour and had to hold on to a handle or if you had to follow a whole bunch of rules about how to slow down if coming in too fast, how to position your body, etc., that was probably not a freestyle tour.

The thrill with freestyle ziplining is that there are relatively few rules. You don't have to hold on to anything! You can lean back and pretend that you are actually flying. And on one crossing with the ZipZone, you can even fly upside down!! You only get to do that on a freestyle zipline tour.

We were given a few basic safety guidelines which included the best positions to be in for speed (if you were on the light side and didn't want to get stranded in the middle of the line,) Vs. control (if you were on the heavy side and needed to slow down.)  Other than that, we were mostly told to let go, to lean back, and to have fun.

I've done a lot of ziplines and I know that I'll be looking for freestyle ones from now on. And I might attempt to go upside down next time. Maybe...

Flying upside down at the Zipzone

How the ZipZone Exceeded our Expectations


The more you do of something, the higher the bar gets set by previous experiences. And let me tell you, starting off our zipline adventures in Costa Rica was a big mistake! The bar gets set pretty darned high and it's hard to find other experiences that compare.

The ZipZone was a refreshing surprise for our expectations. We honestly thought it would be another typical "Canadian zipline tour" and figured it would be pretty tame. We were quickly blown away on the first crossing though, the highest freestyle crossing in Canada, and knew we had found the real deal here!

My husband on the "Dangle-ator" crossing


The Eagle Six Line Tour


The ZipZone gives you three price options so that you can choose an adventure that works for your budget and family's comfort level. Everybody does two crossings, but then you build your tour from there to include four crossings, or the full six.

We chose to do the Eagle Six Line Tour so that we could try every crossing offered. I'm so glad that we did the full tour because we would have been disappointed having to hike back early after only completing a part of the tour.

Our group for our zipline tour with two guides to keep us safe


We enjoyed the following crossings at the Zipzone:

The Bucket Lister -  the highest freestyle crossing in Canada at 381 feet in the air. This was the first crossing and the one that quickly told us we were actually in for a major thrill!

The Speed Freak - The longest, fastest, zipline in the Okanagan (and remember I said I wanted the longest, fastest, highest...)

Step into Space - The crossing that starts at the edge of a canyon, dropping 250 feet below you

The Big Chill - A great freestyle line where we got to practice our layback position

 The Dangle-ator - The upside down crossing (if you dare!)

The Powerline - The grand finale, fast, long, and fun

Geared up and ready to go!

What to Expect from a Day at the ZipZone


  • It's recommended that you book ahead so that you don't arrive to a 4+ hour wait (or even worse, to find out that the company can't fit you on a tour at all.)

  • If possible, I recommend booking a morning tour. We did an afternoon tour and we got very hot hiking between each zipline.

  • Kids must be at least 4 years old to ride tandem with a guide as a Little Zipper, and must weigh 70 pounds to fly solo.  And note if you are traveling with friends, each tour can only accommodate two Little Zippers riding tandem with guides.

  • Wear comfortable athletic clothing and running shoes or other close toed shoes. I also recommend sun glasses (as long as they'll stay on during the crossings.)

  • If bringing a camera, make sure you have a pocket with a zipper or that you have some sort of system for strapping it around you. Do not attempt to take photos or videos with your cell phone while crossing.

  • You can rent a helmet mounted GoPro if you would like for your tour, taking the memory card home with you.

  • It takes roughly 2.5 hours to do all 6 lines. If you choose to do fewer lines, you'll still start out with a group doing all 6. There are exit points after the first two lines, and again after the next two lines for those only paying for two or four lines.

  • Hydrate before going! There are a couple of water stations along the way but you will get thirsty hiking along the dry slopes.

  • Leave all of your valuables in your car. You can leave your keys, phones, and any other personal belongings with the staff before your tour.

  • Arrive early, enjoy the grounds for a picnic, play some free games on site, visit the bathrooms, and then lock everything up in your vehicle right before your tour.
Free games and activities at the ZipZone

Other Rad Things to do in Peachland


The number one place to visit after your tour would have to be Swim Bay! Located down in the Town of Peachland, you'll find a diving platform with low and high diving boards, a zipline over the lake, and a rope swing.

Beaches are quite common in the Okanagan, but diving boards that allow you to jump into Okanagan Lake are much more rare. And what child wouldn't love swinging into the lake on a zipline or rope swing?!

We also had fun at the new Wibit Aqua Park in downtown Peachland, located further down the beach from Swim Bay. And I can't recommend highly enough the coffee shop across the street!

Playing on the zipline at Swim Bay, downtown Peachland

More Information and Resources


For more information on our Zipline tour (along with pricing and hours,) please visit the ZipZone Peachland's website.

For information on tourism in the Kelowna area, please visit the Tourism Kelowna website.

For additional inspiration, please check out this story that I wrote last year: The Importance of Summer Vacations (and the BEST of the Okanagan.)

Water Fun at the Peachland Wibit Aqua Park

Disclaimer: Apologies for the hazy photos in this story (not my best photography,) but there were forest fires all around us during our stay in the Okanagan so we didn't have clear skies during most of our visit. I promise that on a normal day, the views at the Zipzone would be incredible!


Special thanks to Tourism Kelowna and the ZipZone for allowing my family to come out and play. We received a complimentary zipline tour but as always, all opinion and words are my own. 


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Backcountry Cabin Camping with Kids - Stanley Mitchell Hut, BC

We've been using backcountry huts for our summer backpacking trips for several years now, and it's become a fun family tradition. We usually stay at several different backcountry huts or cabins each year, throughout summer and winter, and we book the entire cabin whenever we can.

Backcountry Cabin Camping at the Stanley Mitchell Hut, Yoho National Park (photo: Jess Curren)

This Year's Backcountry Cabin Trip in Yoho National Park 


This summer we decided to stay at the Stanley Mitchell Hut in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. A short drive over the BC border from Lake Louise, it's a great destination for a weekend trip from Calgary.  The outing starts from the 385 metre tall Takakkaw Falls (some of the tallest falls in Canada.) From here, we hiked up the Little Yoho Valley Trail to the hut, returning via the world-famous Iceline Trail for a classic loop that is one of the premier hiking trails in the Canadian Rockies.

We booked the full hut, which sleeps 22 people, and travelled with 5 other families. In order to book all of the beds in this popular hut, we had to make our reservation close to a year in advance. And because I didn't jump on it quick enough, we had to hike in on a Sunday night rather than over a full weekend.

We stayed at the hut for two nights and enjoyed a day hike up to Kiwetinok Pass where we got to see Canada's highest lake.

Hiking the Iceline Trail, Yoho National Park


Hiking from Takakkaw Falls to Laughing Falls


Distance from Takakkaw Falls to Laughing Falls - 4.4 km
Height gain - 91 metres

Our group about to head out on the Little Yoho Valley Trail

This was the easiest part of the whole trip, and we once backpacked to the Laughing Falls backcountry campground when our son was only 2 years old, pushing a chariot. The trail is generally wide, smooth, and easy to follow.

The exception comes with one short steep hill (less than 100 metres of height gain) where you'll probably take a break or two on the way up. (And if you're crazy enough to be pushing a chariot, as we were many years ago, you'll have to push it up empty and work as a team to get it up the steepest part of the hill.)

The trail to Laughing Falls begins with a very easy start

We stopped at Laughing Falls for lunch, took the requisite photos in front of the beautiful waterfall, and then continued on, up towards the Stanley Mitchell Hut.

Laughing Falls, Little Yoho Valley

Hiking from Laughing Falls to the Stanley Mitchell Hut 


Distance from Laughing Falls to the Stanley Mitchell Hut - 5.2 km
Height gain - 465 metres

Five out of the six families had all hiked together up to Laughing Falls on the easy trail, but we split into smaller groups for the steeper hike up to the hut. And one family started hiking up later in the day.

The trail is well maintained, easy to follow, and well switch-backed whenever it gets steep. There are no relentless climbs and the hike is quite doable with kids if you take frequent breaks.

There aren't many views on this section of trail, no waterfalls or river to distract, no cute bridges, or other sights of interest. It's a good section of trail for games of 20 questions, and for hiking with friends who can keep your mind occupied with chatter and talk.

A few bridges in the valley have seen better days. (This was right before the hut)

Hiking time from parking lot to the hut: 4.5 hours for our family at a moderate pace and a lunch stop at Laughing Falls

Trip surprises so far: It was less than 5 degrees Celsius out when we arrived at the hut! We'd been expecting a hot sunny weekend so this was a bit of a surprise and I realized quite quickly that I hadn't packed enough warm clothing.

It also rained lightly as we climbed up to the hut. I hadn't expected this either! We finally stopped to put on rain jackets after we began to accept that it wasn't just a quick shower.

We'd also timed our visit for the beginning of "forest fire season" and this would be the start of smoky days, constant haze, and sore lungs for over a month. Much of BC is still on fire and we had to deal with smoke on our entire two week August vacation across British Columbia.

Arriving at the Stanley Mitchell Hut

Staying at the Stanley Mitchell Hut


This hut is maintained and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and is one of the premier huts in their collection. It is easy to get to, family friendly, and set in a location where you can enjoy amazing day hikes. All of this combines to make the hut very popular in the summer months.

We arrived to find day hikers picnicking in the hut (a good reminder to make sure you lock both the main door and the kitchen door when leaving the hut for your hike out.) Fortunately, the group before us had also left us with several buckets of fresh water, so that redeemed the error in locking both doors quite quickly.

Group photo of all 6 families at the Stanley Mitchell Hut (photo: Jess Curren)


What to expect from a stay at an Alpine Club Hut:

 There is no water so you'll be taking frequent trips down to the creek to fill buckets of water to drink. All water must be boiled in large pots on the stove. We found it easier to bring a gravity filter for our family so that we didn't have to boil water for drinking. (a gravity filter is a bag that you fill with water. You hang it up high and then use the attached hose to fill your cups or water bottles. The water is filtered as it goes through the system so you don't have to sit at the river pumping.)

Most huts have a well equipped kitchen with propane stoves, dishes, basic cooking supplies, and propane lanterns for light. They do not have refrigerators so you still have to plan for backpacking-style meals. Some huts have ovens, but they are unreliable so make sure you don't bring something that must have an oven. (Baking cookies over the wood stove was tricky to say the least.)

Most huts have a wood stove which is great for chilly mornings, evenings, and surprise weather systems that leave the temperature in the low single digits.

Sleeping is communal and there are soft foam mattresses to sleep on. Some people bring sheets but we always just bring sleeping bags or down blankets.

Pit toilets are outside and you must bring your own toilet paper.

Morning at the Stanley Mitchell Hut

Why the Stanley Mitchell Hut is great for families:

Many huts require longer, more challenging hikes to access them. With roughly 500 metres of height gain over a 9.5 km hike, the trip to Stanley Mitchell is quite realistic for school aged kids.

Many of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) huts and cabins are better suited to adult groups pursuing mountaineering ascents or technical climbs. The Stanley Mitchell Hut is one of the few true "hiking huts" where you'll never have to cross a glacier or scramble up a steep trail to reach your cabin.

Hut life at the Stanley Mitchell Hut (photo: Sean Strang)

This hut is fairly large and has a separate sleeping area on the second floor above the main living space. This makes it easier for young children to go to sleep while adults stay downstairs playing games and chatting.  There is also a private room (with a door) one the main floor that sleeps two families comfortably.

Playing games in the main room of the Stanley Mitchell Hut

Day Hiking to Kiwetinok Pass


The day hike to Kiwetinok Pass is 2.8 km one way from the hut with a height gain of 381 metres.

More interesting bridge crossings (this one just beside the campground near the hut)

The hike to Kiwetinok Pass was awesome but honestly, it felt longer than 2.8 km one way. It also felt steeper than 381 metres of height gain. I'd done this hike years ago (without kids) and had completely forgotten how scrambly and steep the trail was. A cute little maintained trail, this was not. It was definitely a challenging day trip and took us most of the day to complete.

Stream crossings en route to Kiwetinok Pass

We had thought we'd also tackle Mt. Kerr from the pass but one look at the steep climb told us that we'd be crazy! (Apparently I've blocked all memories from scrambling Mt. Kerr from my memories because I don't remember it being so steep.)

Steep hiking up the trail to Kiwetinok Pass from the Stanley Mitchell Hut

We had to cross a couple of streams en route to the pass and scrambled up some loose rock sections. We were always able to follow a rough trail though and never worried about getting lost. It was definitely a "route" though and not an official hiking trail. (I'm pretty sure I never saw a single trail sign while we were out.)

Rugged backcountry hiking to Kiwetinok Pass

What the kids liked about this hike:

We found snow which is always fun for kids in the middle of summer. They threw snowballs, slid down steep slopes on their bums, and amused themselves playing in big snow piles.

We got to cross several snow slopes en route to the pass
Snow slopes above Kiwetinok Pass

The kids liked throwing rocks into Kiwetinok Lake, the highest lake in Canada.

Kiwetinok Lake, the highest lake in Canada
Tranquility at Kiwetinok Lake

And us adults thought the views were pretty spectacular!

Kiwetinok Pass Group Shot

Kiwetinok Pass and not a single other group of people in sight
Family shot at Kiwetinok Pass

The hike back to the hut was relatively straight forward, a slip here and there, and we were all searching for our scavenger hunt items at this point for the day's Backcountry Olympics.

Hiking down from Kiwetinok Pass

First Annual Backcountry Olympics


One of the dads in our group wanted to do something special for the kids and decided to plan a Backcountry Olympics competition.

Everybody had to collect certain items while out on our day hike (pine cones, leaves, rocks, and playing cards that had been left in strategic locations.) Later, we'd need these items for our Olympics.

Game Number One: Rock Toss (harder than it looks)

We were split into teams of four people (two adults and two children, with families mixed up.) We made team names, signs, and all received a metal bowl from the kitchen for our team.

The games were simple but a lot of fun. In one game, we had to blow leaves across a stump into our metal bowl. Points were earned per leaf that made it into the bowl.

Game number two: Leaf blowing

In another game, we had to squeeze a pine cone between our butt cheeks and walk a short distance to squat and drop it into our metal bowl. This one was hilarious!!

And in another game, we had to throw rocks at our metal bowl. Points were won based on how many rocks you got into your bowl.

The final game was a simple card game of War where you challenged other people, presenting them with one of your cards. Highest card kept both cards and won points.

Backcountry Olympics: The pine cone game (yes, that is a pine cone coming out of my butt!) - photo: Sean Strang

Points were given by the Olympics leader with stickers placed on our posters  per point earned. We had a medal ceremony at the end with lanyards that had been made out of ribbon and pine cones. Each team won a medal and received a fresh baked cookie (baked on the hut's wood stove.)

It was a very creative idea for entertainment at the hut and definitely a  highlight for the weekend. 

The winning team (cause I'm really good at rock throwing and squeezing pine cones between my butt cheeks!)


Hiking out on the Iceline Trail


Distance from the hut to the parking lot via the Iceline Trail - 11.8 km
Height gain - 122 metres
Height loss - 564 metres

Trip time - 6.5 hours

Hiking out via the scenic Iceline Trail

I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I honestly didn't think this hike would take 6.5 hours! 4 hours maybe, but not 6.5.

It was quite the challenging hike and I'm very happy that my son had friends to hike with, to chat with, and to play games with. I'm pretty sure I listened to two of the boys talk about Minecraft for 2 straight hours, but I was just happy they were entertained and happy.

Thank goodness for new friends!

We split into two groups for the hike out which worked well to keep paces together, and to make sure we were in tight groups with nobody left behind. (always safest when hiking in the mountains.)

My hiking crew on the Iceline Trail

What we liked most about the hike:

The views were amazing!! We hiked on this amazing highline trail below glaciers, beside alpine tarns, and through a rocky landscape that made us feel as if we were on the moon at times.

Hiking below a land of ice, snow, and glaciers

We got to hike up to one of the glaciers, touch it, walk on the ice and snow, and see a very deep crevasse.

Glacier on the Iceline Trail
Yep, this is a glacier! Hiking the Iceline Trail

This is one of the most famous hikes in the Canadian Rockies so we were thrilled to be able to hike it with our kids. As a day hike, it would be too long with kids (as it was nearly 12 km one way,) but it was perfect when combined with a stay at the Alpine Club Hut.

Dad and son hiking the Iceline Trail
Family shot on the Iceline Trail

Suggestions if you are going to do the Iceline Trail with your kids:

Hike it one way out from the Stanley Mitchell Hut. Don't hike it in to the hut. Hike in via the Little Yoho Valley for a more gradual ascent, and then hike out via the Iceline Trail with lighter packs. If you hike in via the Iceline Trail, you are in for a looooooong slog up from the trailhead. It's much better to do this steep section down at the end.

A surreal landscape on the Iceline Trail


The one part of the hike we do not want to repeat, ever!

The hike was great, but at one point near the high point, my son tripped on a rock, face planted, and gashed his head open. The trip ended with a visit to the hospital to get his forehead glued back together.

We are very grateful that we were hiking with a strong group of supportive families, that we all had excellent first aid kits on us (with steri-strips for closing the gash up temporarily,) and that one of our members had just completed his backcountry emergency first aid. We had Noah patched up and ready to hike out (in reasonable good spirits,) and the hospital commended us on the job we'd done with the wound.

And lest you worry about hiking this trail with your kids, my son was just having a clumsy moment, and tripped on a rock. It could have happened to anybody.  The trail is amazingly maintained, easy to follow, and very well marked. It is a classic Parks Canada trail and you won't find a better hiking trail out there.

My mighty trooper on the Iceline Trail


Resources


Follow this link for more information on the Stanley Mitchell Hut.

Visit the Alpine Club of Canada website for information on all of their huts.

And check out this recent story for links to all of my stories on previous backcountry hut trips: Family Backcountry Cabin Camping in the Canadian Rockies.  


Looking out at Takakkaw Falls from the Iceline Trail

A big thank you to the families who joined us this year and special thanks to Sean and Jessie for coordinating the Backcountry Olympics.


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