Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Vermilion Provincial Park - Campground Review (Northeastern Alberta)

Occasionally we venture away from our beloved Rockies and we head off to explore other parts of our amazing province. This was the case with the May long weekend where we ended up at Vermilion Provincial Park in Northern Alberta, 2 hours east of Edmonton.

Vermilion Provincial Park, Northeastern Alberta

Why Vermilion Provincial Park from Calgary


Camping in Vermilion Provincial Park
Northeastern Alberta would definitely seem like a strange location for a family from Calgary to head for a camping trip. After all, Vermilion Provincial Park is a 4.5 hour drive from Calgary (longer if towing a trailer.)

Consider though that it was a long weekend, that many of us would easily consider going north to Jasper (driving an equally long distance) and that many people have family in the Edmonton area, and it's not all that strange.

For us, we wanted to visit family in Cold Lake, Alberta and wanted to camp nearby. We didn't want to tow the trailer all the way to Cold Lake though, so decided to camp in Vermilion, 2 hours away. It seemed like a happy compromise, one that would allow us to travel further north on Saturday to visit the family as a day trip, and that would still allow us to explore around the provincial park on Sunday.

As a bonus to driving north to go camping, we got to spend two days playing in North-Central Alberta en route to and from camp. This included visiting two new mountain bike parks, one of our favourite playgrounds in the province with a great splash park, and an outdoor swimming pool with waterslides. (More on our road trip stops later in the story.)

A new park to explore in Northeastern Alberta

Would we Return to Vermilion Provincial Park


"Definitely" would be the short answer. This was one of those campgrounds we kind of hoped we wouldn't like because we knew what would be involved in a repeat trip (much driving again.)

Vermilion Provincial Park is a true hidden gem and if it were closer to Calgary, we'd  be camping here every year. We'd also be skiing here every winter! (My son is already begging for a return trip to try out the cross-country ski trails.)

Exploring the cross country ski trails of Vermilion PP on our bikes 



Camping in Vermilion Provincial Park 



Below is the campground description from the Alberta Parks website:

"This large campground has a range of sites, including unserviced, power, power/water, and sewer hookups, as well as pull-through sites. Some sites are separated by stands of trees, while others are open with trees for shade. All are suitable for RVs. Camp alongside the Vermilion River Reservoir to enjoy activities year-round. Walk, bike, or ski the trails, watch for birds and wildlife, or paddle in the reservoir."
Our tree lined campsite at the Vermilion PP Campground (backing onto the pathway)

We loved that the campground had 70 sites with power (20 that have full hookups with power/water/sewer) so we never heard a single generator the entire time we were at the campground.

We also loved how quiet the campground was. One never knows what to expect on the May long weekend, but it might as well have been mid-April for how quiet the campground was at night. And this wasn't because it was cold at night either. The temperatures were fantastic while we were at Vermilion and people were out enjoying campfires in the evenings ,but there was no partying! (None that we heard anyway.)

Large playground at the Vermilion PP Campground


Other things that we loved:


  • A fabulous playground, mini golf course, and splash park all located side by side in the campground. And while the splash park wasn't open while we were there, we definitely enjoyed the playground and mini golf course.

  •  Kids running around, biking in small groups, and moving around the campground on their own. The campground was small enough that kids could easily go to the playground on their own with siblings or friends. And since this wasn't a mountain campground, we really weren't worried about dangerous wildlife.

  • The campground is located on the Vermilion Reservoir where we saw beavers and several kinds of birds daily, enjoyed kayaking and stand up paddleboarding (bring your own boats,) and appreciated the views while biking and walking the ski trails through the park.

  • The campground takes advanced reservations and it's generally easy to get a site here. (I talked to one family who'd just booked their site, for the May long weekend, a few days earlier.)

A campground with a mini golf course right beside the playground

Biking around Vermilion Provincial Park


We explored nearly every trail in this park while we camped here. We hopped on our bikes and enjoyed hours of riding around the ski trails, along the lakeshore, and up to the backcountry group campground. And the ski trails are maintained for summer riding and hiking. They even mow the grass on them! 

The trails were all doubletrack (wide enough for double ski tracks in the winter) and relatively easy to bike (with some steep hills that could be walked by younger kids.) The only exception was the Cathedral Loop which I biked by myself one evening, and wow did I get a workout on the hills! (Though technically, it was still a wide ski trail and without any real challenges if you were fit enough to do the climbing.)

Biking the ski trails in Vermilion Provincial Park

There was also a nice paved trail that went from one end of the campground to the other, passing by and looping a small trout pond. This would be a great trail for families wanting a nice short bike ride.

Biking around the trout pond in Vermilion Provincial Park


Paddling on the Vermilion Reservoir


There are no official boat docks on the lake so plan to bring something small (a canoe, kayaks, or a stand up paddleboard) that you can easily launch from the shore.

We loved the absence of motor boats on this lake and found it very pleasant to paddle on.

The only word of caution I would provide is that the lake can get quite windy and you could easily find yourself casually paddling down the lake with the wind, and then discover a huge head wind for your return (one that would not be pleasant on a paddleboard.)

The reservoir quickly enters backcountry territory within 10 minutes of paddling towards the far end as well and there are no official roads between the campground and the end of the lake.

We got around the wind (and my son's short attention span for paddling) by arranging a shuttle and paddling one way down the lake. My husband was able to find a road down to the water on the far side of the lake by searching Google Maps. However, because I don't know if you can always drive this road or if we just got lucky, I'd suggest you do your own research if you want to try to set up a shuttle. Otherwise, go out for a short paddle and just don't try to reach the far end of the lake. 

Afternoon paddle on the Vermilion Reservoir

Road Trip Stops En Route to and from Vermilion 


Below are some of the suggested stops I have for you (based on experience from our previous road trips north from Calgary.)


Every trip north includes a stop here at the outdoor aquatic centre in Blackfalds


Broadmoor Lake Playground, Sherwood Park 

Please visit the Alberta Parks website for more information on Vermilion Provincial Park


Biking along the lakeshore in Vermilion Provincial Park

And please note that I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador. As such, I received complimentary camping in this park. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

5 Steps to Crushing Local Mountain Bike Trails as a Family

My son loves biking down mountains and is constantly trying to get air in our local bike parks. Like all kids though, he started at the beginning, learning to pedal his bike along our paved city pathways and building endurance for longer rides each season.

Mountain bike weekends put huge smiles on both of our faces!


My Family's Mountain Bike Journey 


We've been a biking family for 5 years now (longer if you count the time my son Noah spent on a balance bike first) and I've had a steep learning curve ahead of me as well after not riding a bike since I was a teenager.

Together as a family we're learning to ride progressively harder trails each summer and I've just made my fourth bike upgrade now (moving up to a bike with full suspension) in an effort to keep up to my son and husband.

My boys enjoying some flowy cross country mountain biking

My husband got into mountain biking after completing university, but Noah and I have had to slowly work our way up to singletrack trails, downhill riding, and feeling comfortable on dirt trails. You don't just hop on a bike and ride down a mountain!

Below are the steps that we've taken as a family on our mountain biking journey.

Every year the rides get more and more spectacular! 


5 Steps to Crushing Local Mountain Bike Trails as a Family



1. Start on Wide Gravel Pathways and Trails 


Most kids aren't going to feel comfortable starting out on a skinny dirt trail if they're used to wide paved pathways. Introduce them to dirt and gravel gently by sticking with wide doubletrack trails until they're used to the feeling of rocks rolling under their tires and the occasional root popping up underneath them.

And if you're not sure what exactly "doubletrack" refers to, the photo below is a classic example. It is the starting point for mountain bike trails before moving on to "singletrack" trails (skinny trails where you must ride single file.)

Biking the wide Watridge Lake Trail in Kananaskis, Alberta

Excellent Choices Near Calgary:



  • Watridge Lake, Kananaskis (3.7 km one way)

  • Troll Falls Loop, Kananaskis (approximately 3 km loop)

  • The trail to the meadow and back at the Canmore Nordic Centre (approximately 2 km one way)

  • Spray Lakes West Campground to Goat Creek on the High Rockies Trail (9.9 km one way, can be shortened)

Recommended Reading: The Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis, Alberta

Biking to the meadow at the Canmore Nordic Centre

  • The Canmore Town Trails along the river (many options for distance)

Recommended Reading: The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore

Biking along the river in Canmore 


  • Gravel trails through Nose Hill Park, Calgary

  • Gravel trails through Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary 

Recommended Trail Resource: Trail Forks (put the app on your phone and never get lost)

Easy gravel trails in Nose Hill Park, Calgary

  • The easy trail network around the Town of Jasper, AB (Great road trip destination for a summer camping trip)

Recommended Reading: The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper, AB
Jasper has a fabulous trail network of beginner to intermediate trails 



2. Look for Areas with a Variety of Trails


We still look for areas that have a wide variety of trails accessible from the same parking lot when we go out for a ride as a family. 

It's nice to have the option of being able to hop on and off of singletrack trails from a nice wide easy trail as your "base trail" for the day. Younger kids might not be able to do a long ride on real mountain bike trails either so it's nice if you have short options for playing off an easier trail you'll spend most of your time on. 

A good example would be the trails found in either Nose Hill Park or Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary. We start off on one of the paved pathways and then take a random mixture of gravel trails and narrower dirt trails as we explore the parks. And if we get on a trail that's too difficult, it's not a big deal because we know we'll be back on a wider easy trail shortly.

This is where having the Trail Forks app on your phone is super helpful as you seek out a variety of trails and try to create a loop out of your choices. 

Exploring some of the singletrack trails in Fish Creek Provincial Park, Calgary

Some of our Favourite Choices outside Calgary: 



  • Nipika Mountain Resort, BC - Start off on the wide ski trails and then explore some of the singletrack trails that you'll cross. You'll always be within a short distance from the ski trails if you end up on something that's too difficult. And there are cabins on site so you can spend the whole weekend here! 


Recommended Reading: Kids on Wheels: Nipika Mountain Resort 

Trying some of the easy singletrack options at Nipika Mountain Resort, BC 


  • The Tour de Banff Loop - 20 km loop made up of wide doubletrack riding on the Healy Creek Trail, paved riding on the Sundance Trail and through the Town of Banff, fun dirt riding on the Fenland Loop, and then paved riding again on Vermillion Lakes Drive and the Legacy Trail. (An adult finishes the final highway section to make the ride a loop.)

  • The Tunnel Bench Loop, Banff - We use the gravel Tunnel Campground Loop (6.2 km) as our base trail for this one, and then hop on and off the harder mountain bike trails around the Tunnel Bench Loop (5.7 km long.) Favourite trails include the Coastline Trail, Teddy Bear's Picnic, and the Bow Falls-Hoodoos Trail. 


Recommended Reading: The Best Family Bike Trails in Banff National Park

Recommended Reading: Tour de Banff - The Ultimate Family Bike Tour

Recommended Reading: Tour de Banff - the Ultimate Family Mountain Bike Loop 


Easy riding along the Healy Creek Trail, Banff 


  • Canmore Nordic Centre - Start off on the easy Banff Trail (doubletrack) and then explore other loops as you feel led. There's a short beginner singletrack loop that's only 2km so I'd start there and then move on to bigger/harder loops. And note, there are no trail fees to use the nordic centre in the summer.


And, check out the Trail Map for this Place! So many options for creating a loop.

Lunch in the meadow at the Canmore Nordic Centre 


3. Practice at your Local Bike Park 


Mountain bike parks and pump tracks are a great place to perfect skills before moving to the trails. In Calgary you won't have to go far to find an amazing bike park in Fish Creek Provincial Park. The park has a beginner pump track, a larger pump track with a variety of loop options, and then several practice trails with jumps, bumps, and banked corners. 

Practicing in the Fish Creek Bike Park 

Further afield, there is another great park in nearby Chestermere. Canmore also has a great beginner park where we first started on their easy pump track.

To read more about bike parks and pump tracks, check out this story I wrote: Kids on Wheels: Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Parks. I add to this story annually with every new park we visit across Alberta and BC. 

Large mountain bike park in Blackfalds, Alberta 

4. Look for Flowy Cross-Country Singletrack Trails 


Don't start the kids off in an area where they'll have to climb for an hour before they'll get any fun biking. This will only prove to be a frustrating experience for everybody!

I also don't recommend starting on your typical "Rocky Mountain Root Fest" trails. Choose something that's smooth with a hard dirt or sand base, few roots, and has a nice flow to it. In a nutshell, leave Calgary and head to BC for a weekend.

Easy flowy singletrack riding in Fairmont, BC 

Our favourite place to go mountain biking near Calgary is in the Columbia Valley outside Radium Hot Springs. We bike the trails around Invermere and Fairmont.

Read all about our favourite trails in the Columbia Valley in the story below and make sure you check out Deja View near Invermere along with Teen Spirit near Fairmont. They both have beautiful flow, a hard smooth dirt and sand base, and very few roots. And they are both located off wide doubletrack gravel roads so you can exit your singletrack ride anytime you want.

Recommended Reading: The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley, BC 

Scenic riding on Deja View, Columbia Valley, BC

5. Look for Downhill Flow Trails that you can Ride with a Vehicle Shuttle



We love biking in Fernie, British Columbia, because we can drive up gravel roads to access trailheads for amazing bike trails. We ride downhill into town on the Montane Trails, ending up at the bike park, and then play there while my husband bikes back up for the truck. There's even a swimming pool located beside the bike park if you know you'll be waiting a while after your ride.

Cruising down the Montane Trails in Fernie, BC

We also love the Lazy Lizard Trail in Fernie, definitely one of the best mountain bike trails we've ridden, in the downhill direction from Island Lake Lodge. We drive up to the lodge and then my son and I hang out there while my husband drives back down to the bottom, leaves the truck, and bikes back up to join us. Then we all get to enjoy the ride down together.

The trails we enjoy in Fernie are smooth, flowy, and have a hard dirt/sand base with few roots. They are a joy to ride and will spoil you for future biking.

Recommended Reading: The Best Family Bike Trails in Fernie, BC 

Boardwalks on the Lazy Lizard Trail, Fernie

And NEWLY DISCOVERED - The High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis has some great flowy downhill sections that you can shuttle for one-way riding.

I recommend the section from the Blackshale Creek Suspension Bridge down to the Peninsula Day Use Area.

Recommended Reading: Biking the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis with Kids 

Flowy downhill riding on the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis 

Bonus 6 - Register the Kids in a Mountain Bike Camp


If you aren't an accomplished rider yourself, this can be a great way of teaching the kids some basic skills from standing on their pedals to keeping those pedals flat. Our son has taken several mountain bike classes and camps at our local ski hill, Winsport's Canada Olympic Park. Here he learns the basic techniques to ride safely, but also gets to enjoy chairlift assisted downhill riding.

Recommended Reading: An Inside Look at Winsport Mountain Bike Camps at Canada Olympic Park

Mountain bike camp at Winsport's Canada Olympic Park 


Thursday, May 17, 2018

What do your Jeans say about you? (Review for the Outdoor Mom)

What do your jeans say about you? Are you a "take control" kind of girl who has to keep her life meticulously balanced and in order? Maybe you're creative and funny, always looking to try something new.

An outdoor gal needs a pair of jeans to fit her active lifestyle

I recently discovered a fun "Denim Personality Profile" and mine pretty much nailed it on the head:

"She likes her coffee black and doesn’t need an ‘extra hot, no foam, half sweet chai tea latte’ to start her day. This woman shamelessly binge watches quirky comedies on television on the weekends, but also enjoys her nights out with the girls. She has a great fashion sense but finds comfort a priority and doesn’t go out of her way to stray from her favourite pair of jeans." (Quote: Mark's Clothing Store)

And while I do actually put a bit of milk and honey in my coffee, comfort is always paramount to me! In fact most days I look like I'm off to a yoga class (even if I'm going out for dinner!)

Jeans designed for walking, playing, and exploring

Three Things that Matter to Me when Choosing new Denim



Priority 1: Stretchy Fabric 


Can your jeans do this?
I used to have a pair of capris length jeans that I loved, but I pretty much had to lie down on the bed to get the zipper done up. They had absolutely no stretch. And while they fit (once they were on,) I definitely wouldn't have done anything active in them. They finally met their end one day when I bent over - and as you can imagine with jeans that have no stretch to them - they ripped.

Fast forward a couple of years and I just received two fabulous pairs of jeans from Mark's Clothing Store. They are both from the Silver Jeans Co. and are incredibly stretchy. I have both the Suki Straight Jeans along with the Elyse Capris Jeans. (All photos in this story are of these two pairs of jeans)

I can put either pair of jeans on in the morning without worrying about what my day holds. If my son wants to go for a walk after school, to go play in the river, to play a round of disc golf (which involves a lot of bending over and running,) or even wants to go for a casual bike ride, I'm good. I can do all of these activities in either pair of jeans in total comfort. - Which is important to me because I don't have the time or energy for endless fashion changes through the day!

Jeans need to be able to go camping 

Priority 2: Soft Comfortable Fabric 


I used to have a pair of jeans that I referred to as my "I have to take off my yoga pants to go out for dinner, so I'm going to put on these super tight uncomfortable scratchy but fashionable jeans" 

Seriously, I hated putting on those jeans. The fabric wasn't soft (even after washing them dozens of times,) and they never became comfortable after a couple of years of wearing them.

Who cares about fashion if you're uncomfortable and are counting down the minutes till you can go home and rip off your clothes??

Fast forward to my new Silver brand jeans from Mark's Clothing Store, and it feels like they are made of silk. From the first time I put them on, it felt as if I'd been wearing them for years. They were already "broken in" and super comfy. - And that's what matters to me when I get a new pair of pants!

Jeans should be comfy enough to take camping 

Priority 3: The Right "Fit" 


The right fit matters with denim
At 5"5 I'm not exactly what you'd call "tall." Many pants that come in generic sizes (size 7, size 9, etc.) are either too long for me in the legs, or don't fit in the waist.

I appreciate that the jeans I just got from Mark's Clothing Store had separate waist and length sizing. I was able to choose a length that allows me to go for a walk (without my pants dragging on the ground,) and to choose a waist size that's comfortable.

Mark's sells 126 different pairs of jeans for women. Amongst this selection, you can choose your length, waist size, and style. Do you want long jeans or capris length ones for summer? Do you want them skinny, straight, cropped (slightly shorter in length - on purpose,) boot cut... - and the list goes on. (It was actually a little overwhelming when I was in the store shopping.) 

And then beyond style, you can choose how you want your jeans to fit in the waist. I personally like mine to ride a little higher (and not on my hips,)  but that's my choice. You might want your jeans fully over your belly button or you might want them lower. Mark's even has options for "curvy women."

The variety you'll find at Mark's is above and beyond anything you'll find at a generic women's clothing store. This is your "specialized" denim store with experts on hand to help you choose the perfect fit for your  body.

Jeans that fit my daily life 

Now, the only remaining question for you, my fellow outdoor loving women: Who's going shopping?


Disclaimer: I received two pairs of jeans from Mark's Clothing Store as part of their spring promotional campaign. As always, all words and opinions are my own. (You could never pay me to wear or endorse uncomfortable jeans.)


Thursday, May 10, 2018

5 Reasons to Love Camping at the Bow Valley Campground, Kananaskis

We just returned from another great camping weekend in Bow Valley Provincial Park, and once again were reminded how much we love the Bow Valley Campground. Thank goodness we're returning in less than a month!

My Little Adventure Man loves camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park 

While there are many reasons to love Bow Valley Provincial Park in general, we especially love camping at the large Bow Valley Campground and have found it to have absolutely everything we could need for a comfortable weekend away from home.

Our riverside campsite at the Bow Valley Campground 

Introduction to the Bow Valley Campground 



When you pull off the TransCanada Highway at the Exshaw turnoff (Highway 1X,) you'll quickly come to an intersection where you'll turn left to get to the Bow Valley Campground. Turn right and you'll enter the Willow Rock Campground. (See the map here.)

We've camped at Willow Rock before, but we prefer the main Bow Valley Campground because you can make reservations in advance (Willow Rock is first come first serve,) and because the power sites for trailers are much nicer at Bow Valley. The only sites with power at Willow Rock are up beside the highway in the middle of a very windy field. - If you're a tenter though who hates making reservations, you will definitely want to check out Willow Rock.

Camping at Willow Rock Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Once you've turned left off Hwy 1X, you'll pass by the Bow Valley Information Centre and the Middle Lake Day Use Area before turning right towards the main campground. Go straight instead and you'd head towards other day use areas and the Elk Flats Group Campground. (again, here is a map.)

Bow Valley Provincial Park covers a very large area and actually extends down Highway 40 towards Barrier Lake and Kananaskis Village as well. Within the Bow Valley Campground section of the park though you'll find multiple day use areas, hiking trails, a scenic walking path beside the Bow River, a paved bike path, and a beautiful little lake.

Biking past Middle Lake in Bow Valley Provincial Park


And now that you know "where" the Bow Valley Campground is, let me tell you "why" you'll want to find it and go camping here.



5 Reasons to Love Camping at the Bow Valley Campground



1. You can bike or hike all over the large campground and park


Within the Bow Valley Campground section of the provincial park you will find two day use areas (one with barbecue stoves,) 6 easy hiking trails, and 1 paved bike path. Cross the road into Willow Rock and you'll find another hiking trail (easily accessible from the campground by bike.)

There are hiking trails and walking paths close to every loop and campsite. Bring bikes and you could spend all day riding to the various trailheads without ever having to drive anywhere.

You can see a map of the hiking trails here or you can read about the trails here.

Hiking along the boardwalk on the Many Springs Trail 

Want to do a big loop around the campground? Try this combination of trails below:


  • Bike or walk to the Middle Lake Day Use Area and then complete the 2 km loop around the lake. (It's a very easy, flat walk) Make sure you lock your bikes up here if you rode over. The park does not allow bikes on their hiking trails.

  • From Middle Lake, leave bikes behind and  then continue on foot along the Elk Flats Trail (through the Elk Flats Group Campground) to the Many Springs Parking Lot. This is a 2 km trail with a few short rolling hills.

  • Walk around the Many Springs Loop, 1.3 km in distance, a highlight of the park's hiking trails. And if you time your visit right, you should be able to see a wide variety of wildflowers including several different kinds of orchids. (The flowers should be in bloom by late May to early June.) Look out for Western Wood Lilies as well through late June.

  • Back at the Many Springs Parking Lot, follow the trail down towards the river  and the Whitefish Day Use Area (the one with barbecue stoves.) Here you'll get on the Bow River Trail (2 km in distance.) This is a beautiful trail and we always try to get one of the riverside campsites you'll see on this section of your walk.

  • The Bow River Trail ends at the far end of the campground where you'll hop onto the Moraine Trail, 1 km in distance. This trail climbs back up to Middle Lake and we found a geocache on our last visit.

  • Back at Middle Lake, grab your bikes and head back to your campsite.In total, you will have done approximately 8.5 to 9 km of hiking (and the kids should be tired out.)

  • And if you don't want to start at Middle Lake, just hop onto the loop from the Bow River Trail in the campground and continue from there. You can start and end the loop anytime you want.

Resting at the Whitefish Day Use Area

And, here below is a map of the hiking trails mentioned for those who need a visual. I copied the map out of the book:  Popular Day Hikes in Kananaskis by Gillean Daffern - a fabulous book that I highly recommend if you plan on spending a lot of time in Kananaskis this summer.

And you can see the location of the campground (look for the black tent) in the image below as well.


Map of the trails around the Bow Valley Campground (photo: Gillean Daffern)

The trails above can be done individually as well or as point to point hikes (Middle Lake to Many Springs for example.) We especially like the Bow River Trail as an evening walk from our campsite (which was pretty much on top of the trail on our recent camping trip.)

One of our previous campsites beside the Bow River Trail 

And for families with little ones, most of the trails in the park are chariot-friendly. The Many Springs Loop is especially good (and wide) for chariots. Some of the trails have a lot of roots (the Bow River Trail for example) so the entire loop could be a bit rough at times, but would still be doable. And if you want a very smooth trail, there's always the paved bike/walking trail (see below.)

Early spring hiking on the Many Springs Trail (not normally this flooded)

And, looking for a good bike trail?

Make sure you head out for a ride on the paved bike path that starts from the camp store and heads down to the visitor centre. You'll climb to a beautiful viewpoint and then blast downhill to the visitor centre (where my husband sometimes meets us so that we don't have to bike back up to camp.)

The trail is just over 4 km one way, and kids will want gears on their bikes for the hill climbing (or will have to walk a few sections.)

The paved Bow Valley Bike Trail 


2. Many of the sites are very scenic with river views 


The photo below shows the site we've had for the last couple of camping trips to Bow Valley. Views aren't bad, are they!

Riverside camping at the Bow Valley Campground

We love the riverside sites with power, gorgeous views, and trees surrounding us. This is real camping here! No concrete RV park, no city noise, and plenty of space between neighbors.

The only noise you'll hear is from the trains that pass through the Bow Valley, so bring earplugs if you are sleeping in a tent. They don't bother us in our trailer.

Plenty of room for the trailer, a table and firepit, and the hammock


3. We love that we can reserve a campsite in the Bow Valley


Why is it such a big deal that we can reserve a site at the Bow Valley Campground?

Of the 5 front country campgrounds in Bow Valley Provincial Park, only two take reservations. And the other one that does, Lac Des Arcs, only guarantees you a site in the campground (not a specific site.) This would be frustrating for families wanting to book sites beside friends. And I like being able to choose which site I'll be in. (Not all sites are equal after all.)

Therefore, if you like to reserve your site, knowing you'll have a place to camp when you drive out Friday night, the Bow Valley Campground it is!

We like the peace of mind of knowing we have a campsite before we drive out

We also love that we can book a site with power at the Bow Valley Campground for our trailer. (And more importantly, there is less generator noise this way too!)

Of the campgrounds in the Bow Valley, there are 3 that have sites with power. The Bow River Campground doesn't take reservations though and Willow Rock, as already mentioned earlier, doesn't take reservations either - and only has power sites up by the highway.

So if you want a nice power site in a reservable campground, the Bow Valley Campground it is!

It's nice to have a campsite with power for early spring trips 

4. The Campground is a short drive from other areas and trails in Kananaskis


Below are just a few things you can do from your base camp at the Bow Valley Campground (if you're willing to go for a short little drive.)

  • Walk or drive across the road into the Willow Rock Campground and hike the Flowing Water Trail

  • Go for a hike on the Heart Creek Trail in the Bow Valley

  • Go rock climbing at nearby Heart Creek or at Wasootch Creek off Highway 40

  • Go for a hike at Barrier Lake off Highway 40 (the Prairie View Trail is beautiful in spring)

  • Hike up the lower slopes of Mount Yamnuska to a viewpoint called Raven's End

Prairie View Hiking Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park 

Visit the Alberta Parks website for information on all of these trails.

Information on the Raven's End hike can be found here.

Yamnuska Hiking Trail to Raven's End

And, if you'd like a good guide book for the area, consider one of the following books:

- Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (Volume 3) by Gillean Daffern

- Popular Day Hikes in Kananaskis by Gillean Daffern

Amazon Affiliate Links

Spring hike on the Flowing Water Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park

5. We love the close proximity to Canmore and Banff


If you want to explore the trails around Canmore, you'll most likely want to camp in Bow Valley Provincial Park. Otherwise, you'll be camping inside the town of Canmore itself (which I wouldn't exactly consider "nature camping."

Camp in the Bow Valley and spend your days exploring the trails around Canmore

We also love exploring around the Town of Banff from Bow Valley Provincial Park. Camp inside the national park itself and you'll have to make a reservation back in January (a little early for me,) and you'll also be camping on concrete if you want a power site near town.

Camp in the Bow Valley and drive to Banff for the day

Drive to Canmore or Banff and you can spend some time biking, hiking, playing at bike or skate parks, visiting the Banff hot springs or riding up the Banff gondola.

Personally, I like driving into one of the two mountain towns even just to have lunch or to grab a good cup of coffee.

Hiking in Canmore! Ha Ling Peak Summit


Bonus Reason 6. We love how close we are to Calgary 


Bow Valley Provincial Park is easy to get to Friday evening after work. We can even have dinner at camp.

Camp close to home and you can always call it quits early too if something goes wrong, somebody gets sick, or the weather turns bad. (Something that gives me peace of mind when we go camping early in spring.)

And, it's easy to get home early on Sunday in time to do some errands, get groceries for the week, or even tackle a bit of yard work.

You could even reserve your site for Sunday night as well and come home early Monday morning.

Camp close to home and spend more time exploring, and less time driving

Visit the Alberta Parks website for more information on camping in Bow Valley Provincial Park.

Campsites can be reserved at the Bow Valley Campground 90 days in advance of your first night camping. And if you don't want to reserve, there are several campgrounds that are first come first serve. (Good news for long weekends!)

Parting shot: Families exploring around the Bow Valley the Campground


Disclaimer: I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador. I received complimentary camping at the Bow Valley Campground. As always, all words and opinions are my own. 

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