Thursday, May 03, 2018

First Summits for Families in the Canadian Rockies (Updated 2024)

We've been climbing mountains as a family since my son was too young to walk. We started with hikeable peaks we could carry a baby up, moved on to toddler summits, and then slowly walked our way higher each year. Now our brave teenager pushes the limits on summits many adults wouldn't be comfortable doing and I'm officially the slowest member of the family.

First Summits for Families in the Canadian Rockies (Photo from Little Lougheed, Kananaskis)

This guide starts with the best first summits in the Canadian Rockies for toddlers and preschoolers walking on their own feet.

If you are carrying a baby or toddler, I'd suggest starting with these hikes as well to get your footing and balance established before moving on to other hikes featured in this story.

I also ask that you pay special attention to the final section of this guide (scroll to the bottom) on safety, disclaimers and recommended guide books.

Climbing the mighty Tunnel Mountain in Banff (age 4)


1. First Summits for Toddlers and Preschoolers

2. Chairlift, Gondola, and Tramway Accessible Summits 

3. Best Easy Summits for Hikers (300 - 500 metres height gain)

4. Best Intermediate Summits for Hikers (500 - 700 metres height gain)

5. Best Advanced Summits for Hikers (700 - 1000 metres height gain)

6. The Best Ridge Walks

7. The Real Deal! Best Easy Scrambles

8. Moving Up! Best Intermediate Scrambles

9. Beast Mode! Advanced Scrambles for Climbers

10. Summits Requiring Camping or Backpacking 

11. Safety, Disclaimers, and Recommended Guide Books 

There are many beautiful mountains to climb as a family (photo: Mt. Lady MacDonald platform)

1. First Summits for Toddlers and Preschoolers

I wrote a story for Calgary's Child Magazine that features many of the best "first summits" for families with young children.

The story can be found here:  Go Climb a Mountain! Family-friendly First Summits 

Banff Gondola hike to the summit of Sulphur Mountain

These are also great hikes for all families who might be new to hiking, new to scrambling mountains, and wanting to start small. They are great easy hikes if you have family in town visiting over the summer as well.

Bear's Hump Hike, Waterton Lakes National Park

Featured hikes include:

9 years of hiking up the Old Fort Point in Jasper 

2. Chairlift, Gondola, and Tramway Accessible Summits 

It's not easy to hike up a mountain with young kids, gaining 700 or more metres of height. Why not take a gondola or chairlift if you can to assist with the slog up the lower slopes. (where you'd be in the trees the whole time on endless switchbacks.)

Hiking to the Summit of Whistlers Mountain in Jasper after taking the Jasper Tramway

We love the alpine hike to the top of the Whistlers Mountain Summit in Jasper. You can reach the gorgeous summit with less than 250 metres of height gain, on a short 2.4 km round trip hike. And by taking the Sky Tram, you'll save 950 metres of climbing! That's right, without the tramway ride there is 1200 metres of height gain! So this is a real mountain summit you're reaching!

Read more about the hike to the summit of Whistlers Mountain here:  Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park 

There are spectacular views en route to the summit of Whistlers Mountain

Other Recommended Reading: 

Go Climb a Mountain! Family-friendly First Summits  (which includes the Banff Gondola)

First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort (Chairlift accessible hiking in Fernie, BC) 

Sunshine Village in Summer (lift accessed hiking and great view points in Banff )

Memorable Hiking and Sightseeing at the Lake Louise Gondola (lift accessed hiking and great viewpoints in Banff )

High on Adventure at Fernie and Kicking Horse Mountain Resort (lift accessed hiking, summits, and ridge walks)

Lift Accessed Hiking at the Lake Louise Ski Resort

And finally, you'll also find lift accessed hiking (and an alpine roller coaster!!!) at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in BC. Read more here: Summer Fun at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

One summer we rode every single gondola between Calgary and Revelstoke! 

Great views at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

3. Best Easy Summits for Hikers (300 - 500 metres height gain)

Leaving the gondolas and chairlifts behind, these are some of the first summits that you can try as a family. They are all very hikeable, hands in pockets, no scrambling involved, walks. 

Follow the links below to read the full story for each trip, complete with very detailed descriptions and photos.

This hike had been our list for a while, and we finally tackled it this summer. We checked off another family summit, and it was an easy one! This is the perfect "first summit" for families wanting to get that "we just climbed a mountain" feeling without a lot of effort or a huge time commitment.

You'll gain 415 metres of height in 6.5 km return. The ridge traverse is gorgeous when the flowers are in bloom and the summit is a lovely place to hang out on a calm day.

Jumpingpound Mountain Summit

Mockingbird Lookout - Family Hiking in Kananaskis 

The Mockingbird Lookout is an active fire lookout with a house perched at the top. This means you'll be rewarded with a great 360 view in all directions and you can expect easy hiking on the same road that the lookout attendant drives to reach his house.

You only gain 355 metres of height on this hike, making it a great option for young children or for the whole family to enjoy together.

Mockingbird Lookout, Kananaskis

This is a great hike near Elbow Falls starting from Powderface Creek where you'll ascend to the climbing cliffs of the White Buddha. From there, climb up to the top of the ridge where you'll be met with gorgeous views.

An optional descent allows you to connect the White Buddha climbing crag with the Prairie Creek climbing crag where you'll hike under giant cliffs before crossing the creek and returning on the Prairie Creek Trail.

Gorgeous scenery on Vents Ridge in the Elbow Valley 

4. Best Intermediate Summits for Hikers (500 - 700 metres height gain)

First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Most local kids will start with this one as their first real summit. With 700 metres of height gain, it's a workout, but there is no exposure and you're always on a good hiking trail.

Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis (First hiked at age 5)

First Summits - Yates Mountain / Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis 

This is an excellent hikeable summit where you'll be on a good trail the entire way. It is a great first choice for an easy lookout or peak with only 125 metres of height gain once you leave the Prairie View Hiking Trail (600 metres total.) 

Prairie View Trail and Barrier Mt. Fire Lookout (First hiked at age 6)

First Summits - Little Arethusa, Highwood Pass 

This was a great fall summit but would be much easier in summer. From Arethusa Cirque it's a short hike up to the summit of Little Arethusa with a narrow ridge walk at the end (so perhaps wait till the kids are a bit older.) 

There's 625 metres of height gain for this one and you'll need some route finding experience.

Little Arethusa late September (First hiked age 8)

First Summits - Junction Hill, Kananaskis

You'll gain just over 700 metres of height on this hike in Southern Kananaskis and don't be fooled by the name. You're hiking up a mountain (not a hill.) I recommend starting with Prairie Mountain above, and if you like this one, you should enjoy Junction Hill as well. The only main difference is that there is more route finding involved for Junction Hill.

I like that Junction hill can be done as a loop, ascending the east ridge, and descending the west ridge for a glorious traverse. The views are phenomenal and this is a great spring hike from early June onward.

Beautiful ridge walking on Junction Hill in South Kananaskis 

5. Best Advanced Summits for Hikers (700 - 1000 metres height gain)

First Summits - Mount Fairview and Saddle Mountain, Lake Louise 

You'll gain 1000 metres of height climbing Mount Fairview and then another 100 metres or so if you decide to tag Saddle Mountain as well from Saddleback Pass. 

We waited until our son was 7 years old for this one (and had several easier summits under his belt already.)

Mount Fairview Summit, Lake Louise (First hiked at age 7)

First Summits - Mount Saint Piran, Lake Louise

Mount Saint Piran was a fall hike and there was already a fair amount of snow. It would be much easier in summer! There is also less height gain for this one than for Mount Fairview, 900 metres total, and you'll be able to visit the Lake Agnes Tea House after your visit to the summit.

Mount St. Piran, Lake Louise (First hiked age 7)

First Summits - The South End of Mount Lawson, Kananaskis 

This summit had been on my list for a couple of years now so I'm thrilled that we finally completed the hike in 2018 (when my son was 9.) We discovered how beautiful it is, and it's now a new favourite hike for us in Kananaskis. It's also one of the easier summits we've reached as a family. 

Height gain for this one is just under 800 metres.

South End of Mount Lawson, Kananaskis (First hiked age 9)

First Summits - Pigeon Mountain, Kananaskis 

We've reached the top of another mountain as a family and this one was a great hike with no technical scrambling or extreme experience required. Pigeon Mountain will crush you though if you don't work up to it (So don't use it as your first training hike of the season!)

If you time your visit for early summer you'll be rewarded with an amazing display of wildflowers blooming in the meadow you'll climb to the summit (something I appreciated as a distraction from the steep hike.)

Note this one was 15 km round trip with 1000 metres of height gain. (hence why you'll want to work up to it.)

Pigeon Mountain, Kananaskis (age 10)

Mount Kidd Lookout - Family Hiking in Kananaskis 

I'd had this hike on my list for years after seeing some pretty photos of the lookout site. Once a fire lookout, the house has been removed, but the platform still remains high on the northeast shoulder of Mount Kidd.

The lookout site is incredibly beautiful!! You might even think you've entered a magical portal to the Swiss Alps. Chances of having the lookout site to yourself are high. This is not a popular hike, despite its beauty, and so you won't be sharing the trail with crowds or hordes of tourists. This is definitely a "locals secret."

Height gain for this one is just over 700 metres.

Mt. Kidd Lookout, Kananaskis (First hiked age 10) 

West Wind Pass is an easy day hike in Kananaskis with moderate height gain that most active families should be able to tackle. The reward for the effort is high, and an optional summit of the Windtower peak provides an ever greater vantage point over the Spray Lakes Reservoir.

Choose a sunny day because this is definitely one of the premier hikes in Kananaskis.

You'll gain 375 metres of height for West Wind Pass with an additional 616 metres to the summit of Windtower. Total height gain for Windtower is just under 1000 metres.

You'll get stunning views over the Spray Lakes as you hike to the summit of Windtower (Age 11)

Hiking to the summit of Mount Burke gave us the opportunity to visit the historic Cameron Fire Lookout in Southern Kananaskis, decommissioned in 1953 when the Raspberry Ridge lookout was built instead.

With 900 metres of height gain, you'll work to visit this fire lookout, but the best achievements always require a bit of work.

Mount Burke, Kananaskis (Age 12)

6. The Best Ridge Walks

We LOVE ridge walks and I think they're more fun than just climbing up and down a trail to a summit. Often you can make a loop or a one-way traverse with a car shuttle as well.

Awesome hiking on Tent Ridge, Kananaskis (First hiked age 7)

I've arranged the ridge walks below in order from easiest to hardest (not necessarily in the order that we hiked them.) Click on the links to read the full story and trip report with detailed instructions and photos.

Note: many ridge walks tend to be narrow, exposed in spots, and may require some hands on scrambling in sections - so read up on your hike before going and know what you're getting into! 

Also it's very important that ridges be clear of snow before you hike them, so save these hikes until 

Sarrail Ridge, Kananaskis (First hiked age 8)

Easy Ridge Walks (no scrambling)

Parker Ridge, Banff (Icefields Parkway)

When I look  at the photo below I feel like we're in the Himalayas of Nepal.  And I've been to Nepal so I'm not just basing this on photographs or movies I've seen.  We honestly could be on some remote pass in the Himalayas in this photo.  And we only had to drive a couple hours to get here! 

There is only 250 metres height gain for this ridge and it can be hiked in less than 3 km one way.

Magnificent hiking across Parker Ridge (first hiked age 5)

Of all the hikes we did this summer and autumn, Forget Me Not Ridge was definitely one of the favourites and we will be adding it to our annual summit list.

Distance is 9.2 km return to the north summit with 625 metres of height gain. There is a river crossing so wait until later in the season when you can rock hop.

Easy ridge walking on Forget Me Not Ridge (First hiked age 6)

There are very few hiking trails that I would repeat annually, but Powderface Ridge is one of them. We keep finding new and creative ways to hike this trail, and it never really gets old as a destination. It's the perfect first summit for families, and there are several options to make the trip as short or as long as you want it to be.

This hike requires a vehicle shuttle for optimum enjoyment but there are easy options for out and back traverses as well. This is very much a choose-your-own adventure trail with multiple trailheads available for starting/ending your hike.

Powderface Ridge is a fabulous spring hike! 

Intermediate Ridge Walks (Narrow sections with some scrambling / steep hiking)

Highwood Pass is a glorious place to hike in the fall when the larch trees are turning golden yellow. We timed our visit a little early before the trees had reached their colour peak, but it meant we could enjoy our 5 km ridge walk without snow or ice on the steep sections.

This hike requires a vehicle shuttle. Total hiking distance from Highwood Pass to Little Highwood Pass is 10 km (with 5 km on the ridge.) There is approx. 900 metres of height gain.

Pocaterra Ridge, Kananaskis (First hiked age 8)

We're usually busy climbing mountains and chasing summits, but Sarrail Ridge has been calling out to me for a few years with its stunning vantage point over Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes.  My son had also never hiked to Rawson Lake in summer before, easily one of the most popular hikes in Kananaskis Country.

This trip starts with a hike to Rawson Lake, 3.9 km one way. After that it is a quick scramble up the ridge at the end of the lake, an additional 1.4 km one way. Total height gain is approx. 700 metres.

Sarrail Ridge (first hiked age 8) 

Wind Ridge is one of the prettiest ridge walks in Kananaskis and I've added it to my "I'd happily do this hike every summer" list - which is actually a very short list because we have so many amazing hiking trails here.

Expect steep hiking, some optional scrambling near the summit, and beautiful views over the Wind Valley on this uncrowded trail near Canmore.

There is 14 km return distance on this hike with 950 metres height gain.

Wind Ridge is a great advanced hike in Kananaskis (first hiked age 12)

While the official Nihahi Ridge hiking trail was scenic, we didn't set out to do a hike.  We were out to reach a summit and to get as far along the actual ridge as possible.  We knew we wouldn't reach the official South Summit with a 6 year old, but we were curious to see how far we could get!  Turns out we got pretty far!!

Steep scrambling on Nihahi Ridge (first attempted age 6)

Climb the steep trail up King Creek Ridge in Kananaskis and you'll feel as if you've been magically whisked away to the Swiss Alps. This hike is so gorgeous I've actually done it twice now this season, once with a girlfriend and a second time as a family outing.

This hike is incredibly steep with 700 metres height gain over 3.5 km one way.

King Creek Ridge, Kananaskis (First hiked age 9)

I'm always looking for a good ridge walk, and Porcupine Ridge in Kananaskis doesn't disappoint. The initial ascent is steep, and you'll need some basic experience with off-trail hiking, but the ridge is never overly airy and the hike is generally free of any technical scrambling.  

Distance for this one is 10 km return with 700 metres height gain to the large rocky pinnacles that most people consider to be the ridge summit. (The true summit is about a kilometre further away and looks like a tree covered bump in the distance.) 

Porcupine Ridge is a great early spring hike (first hiked age 13)

Centennial Ridge is the highest maintained trail ever built in the Canadian Rockies and is one of the best ridge walks in all of Kananaskis. Strong hikers can continue to the summit of Mount Allan which looms high above the Nakiska Ski Area. 

This is a very long day hike but it should go on every local hiker's "someday" list. Families will appreciate that there are few technical challenges and it's largely just a long scenic hike on a well built trail.

Height gain for this one is 1300 metres over 16 km round trip distance.

Hiking Centennial Ridge to the summit of Mt. Allan (first hiked age 12)

Opal Ridge is a great spring hike in Kananaskis when the hillside is a vibrant shade of green and hopefully it's not too hot yet. Strong hikers will find no technical difficulties with this outing, and the ridge walk is very enjoyable as you traverse to the south summit.

This is a difficult hike. There's a fairly decent trail the whole time and there is very minimal loose rock or scree other than in the gully where I found the rock to be relatively stable. There is no exposure on the route.

There is some easy scrambling where you'll have to use your hands for brief sections as you climb up short cliff bands and slabs  before reaching the ridge. 

You will be gaining 1000 metres in 4 km, so it's mostly just a very very steep hike! Expect sore legs the next day if you haven't trained for this one.

Opal Ridge to the South Summit (First hiked age 13)

Advanced Ridge Walks (Exposed sections, scrambling, and route finding)

Last summer we tried to get to the south summit of Nihahi Ridge but we had to stop once we got on the ridge, perhaps a 20 minute walk short of the South Summit. We returned this year.

The ridge traverse was definitely the highlight of the whole trip and we were so happy to have reached the South Summit this year.

The hike to the South Summit is for families who can handle some exposure and narrow ridge walking. We used a rope. 

Hiking to the South Summit on Nihahi Ridge, Kananaskis (First hiked age 7 - with a rope)

Tent Ridge was one of our favourite family hikes that we did this past summer. It was challenging, it took us 7 hours, and we conquered three summits over the 10 km loop. The total height gain was 800+ metres once you took into account every summit you had to go up and over (losing height and regaining it with each one,) and the area was very remote (read: you likely won't meet a lot of other people  and will follow unofficial trails the whole time.)

Since we first hiked Tent Ridge, it has become very popular! It's still an amazing hike though and an annual favourite for us.

Beautiful Tent Ridge in autumn (first hiked age 7)

7. The Real Deal! Best Easy Scrambles

No gondolas, more than a hike with a lookout at the end, and moving up to official mountains that you'll climb by yourself, hopefully with the kids at your side.

Ha Ling Peak, Canmore

We climbed our first big mountain as a family, everybody walking, when my son was 5. We chose Ha Ling Peak in Canmore because it was a mountain my husband and I were very familiar with. We knew we could help our son every step of the way, and knew we were prepared for the loose rock and scrambling at the top.

Read more about our first ascent of Ha Ling Peak in Canmore here:  Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit

First summit of Ha Ling Peak in Canmore (First hiked age  5)

Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak (Double Summit Day,) Canmore 

Since then, we've moved on to tagging both Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak in the same day. And then we progressed to also tackling the Three Humps next to Miner's Peak (for a 5 summit day.)

Read about our bigger adventures on Ha Ling Peak here:

The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly) - Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak  

Ridge walking on Miner's Peak next to Ha Ling Peak 

Mount Lady Macdonald, Canmore 

And for another great easy summit, try Mount Lady Macdonald in Canmore to the platform. You'll gain 900 metres for this one but will be on a good trail for the majority of the time. It's really just a steep hike. Beyond this, it turns into a real scramble with a knife edge ridge walk to the summit (not a place for children.)

Read about our hike up to the platform on Mount Lady Macdonald in Canmore here:  First Summits - Mount Lady Macdonald Hike, Canmore 

2023 edit: The platform has been removed by Alberta Parks so unfortunately you won't get photos like the one below anymore.

Lady Macdonald Platform, Canmore (First hiked age 7)

Wasootch Peak, Kananaskis

Wasootch Peak is the unofficial name for a small mountain located near Kananaskis Village, and it is not connected to the popular Wasootch Ridge Trail. Wasootch Peak and Wasootch Ridge are different hikes starting from different trailheads.

Wasootch Peak is a fabulous early season training hike in spring and you'll get some serious height training completed on this very steep trail that finishes with a scrambly ending near the summit. Start with Prairie Mountain and a few other more "gradual" hikes before working your way up to Wasootch Peak. 

Wasootch Peak, Kananaskis (First hiked age 12) 

8. Moving Up! Best Intermediate Scrambles

You've done Prairie Mountain, Ha Ling Peak, and Lady Macdonald as a family. (Along with other hikes and ridge walks already mentioned in this guide.)

The kids are strong, with good stamina, have solid footing on loose scrambly terrain, and are not especially scared of heights.

You the parents have significant experience scrambling and climbing mountains! Let me stress that word again - "Significant!!!"

East End of Rundle Summit, Canmore (First hiked age 7)

You are prepared to bring a rope to "short rope" your kids on narrow sections, you will bring helmets if there is risk of rock fall or a serious tumble while scrambling cliff bands, and you are prepared to turn around if necessary at any point on your trip.

Your route finding skills are solid!!

You know who Alan Kane is and have spent hours reading through his book: Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. (Amazon affiliate link.)

Heart Mountain Summit, Bow Valley (age 8)

These are the "intermediate" scrambles that we have done so far as a family. (I define them as intermediate by family standards:)

Click on the links to read my story from each of our trips with full details, photos, and trail descriptions.

Mount Yamnuska, Kananaskis 

We first attempted this one when my son was 6 years old but we turned around at an exposed section with chains. My son was protected with a short length of rope on all narrow parts, and we really just wanted to get to the top of the ridge. 

While this is primarily a "hike" to the ridge, you still have to scramble up a short chimney at the end of the official hiking trail. 

Read about our first attempt here:  First Summits - The Mighty Yamnuska with a 6 Year Old (to the ridge top)

Hiking to the top of the ridge on Yamnuska (First hiked age 6)

We returned to complete Yamnuska when my son was a couple of years older and you can read that story below:

Note: Make sure the trail is open before you go. It is closed early spring when the trail is wet. 

True summit of Mt Yamnuska (first hiked age 9)

First Summits - East End of Mount Rundle Summit 

The East End of Rundle (EEOR) is an iconic peak near Canmore that is a first summit for many adults. It's considered "easy" if you are a strong hiker, but know that there is significant rockfall hazard near the top and that helmets should be worn! It's also very loose and scrambly at the top and we used a rope to protect our son when he first climbed this mountain at age 7.

Alan Kane's scramble book rates this as an easy scramble, but for families this is not an easy scramble and you'll want to make sure you, the adult, have done it first to make sure you're kids are ready for the challenge.

We also returned a second time when my son was 9 years old and we tagged both summits of the East End of Mount Rundle including the popular "hiking summit" and Alan Kane's "true summit."

Read about the hike to the "true summit of the East End of Mt. Rundle" below: 

Scrambling near the top of EEOR (first hiked age 7)

There is one cliff band that you'll have to use your hands to scramble up en route to the summit. Other than that, it's just steep hiking on an unofficial trail where route finding is required. We like to complete a loop called the Heart Mountain Horseshoe so that we don't have to descend the steeper scrambly side and so that we can enjoy a long ridge walk.

The loop reaches a second peak and then descends a more gradual trail.

It is recommended that you hike this without your kids before bringing them. It is rated as an easy scramble for competent adult hikers, but for families it upgrades to an intermediate scramble.

Hiking along the ridge of the Heart Mountain Horseshoe (first hiked age 8)

First Summits - Little Lougheed, Spray Valley Provincial Park 

This is a fabulous family scramble with no exposure or difficulties other than steep hiking, route finding, and some large boulders kids will enjoy climbing up. Attention is required on the narrow summit ridge though and those afraid of heights wouldn't do well at the top.

Little Lougheed summit ridge (first hiked age 8)

This is a challenging family scramble despite the "easy" rating in Alan Kane's scrambling guide book. There is steep loose scree, a couple of short cliff bands, and the summit ridge is extremely "airy." Don't try this one if you have a fear of heights or dislike scree.

Grizzly Peak, Kananaskis (First hiked age 8)

It is largely just a hike for this one until you reach the Big Beehive above the Lake Agnes Teahouse. After that however, the trail becomes more scrambly and some families will find sections to be narrow and exposed feeling along an airy ledge system. There are also a few very steep sections where rockfall danger could be present if there are other people on the trail.

The classic view from the top of the Devil's Thumb (first hiked age 11)

This trip starts from the popular West Wind Pass Trail after which you begin a very steep ascent up scree and either cliff bands or a loose gully. We chose to grovel our way up the safer gully. Once on the ridge, there are more cliff bands that you can not avoid, and a fall from the top of the ridge would be fatal. Be extremely cautious near the edge of the ridge and at the summit on this hike. 

This is a great intermediate scramble as long as you are careful near the ridge edge.

Mt. Rimwall summit ridge (first hiked age 12)

9. Beast Mode! Advanced Scrambles for Climbers (Bring a rope!)

You are a rock climber and so are your youth.

You have mountaineering experience and know how to "short rope" somebody, how to set up a body belay system if there is an exposed cliff band, and you will be able to protect your family from falling should somebody slip while scrambling.

You are easily able to complete intermediate or advanced scrambles from Alan Kane's scrambling guidebook.

You have done any of the trips below SOLO first and know your kids would love them.


Roped scrambling below the main summit of Mt. Baldy from the south

Mount Baldy Double Summit Traverse from Baldy Pass 

My husband and I did this trip solo before our son was born and remembered it being fun. It is scrambly, has airy ridge walking, and has a few solid cliff bands that are fun for hikers who like rock climbing.

Because my husband and son both love rock climbing, we decided to try this route as a family. Our son found it to be very long, too long, but he loved the scrambling and wasn't scared at all on the death fall section below Mt. Baldy from the south. It was actually me whimpering for a rope.

Our son was on a rope for much of the traverse from Baldy Pass to the main summit of Mt. Baldy, and both him and I were belayed up the biggest cliff band from the summit of South Baldy to the main summit of Mt. Baldy.

I can't really "encourage" families to do this trip, but we enjoyed it and so I wrote about our adventure. Families with teenagers who enjoy rock climbing may also enjoy this traverse.

Mt. Baldy main summit (first hiked age 9)

There are a few moderate scrambles in the Lake O'Hara area, but the one we decided to try as a family was the ascent of Mt. Schaffer from Lake McArthur.

A. We got to visit the beautiful Lake McArthur
B. It's a FUN scramble (not just gross scree and loose rock)
C. The views are gorgeous looking down on Lake McArthur

We did a LOT of research on this one and you'll need a healthy comfort level with exposure. It's not especially kid-friendly, but our son, at age 13, had the experience to pull it off (and for him, it was a piece of cake.)

The route for this one is described in my guide: The BEST of Lake O'Hara in a Day. (It's near the end of the guide, so scroll past the introductory parts and the hiking portion.)

Mt. Schaffer Summit, Lake O'Hara (first hiked age 13)

A good look at the moderate terrain on Mt. Schaffer

10. Summits Requiring Camping or Backpacking 

I couldn't write this guide without including our fabulous hike up to a lower summit on Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge in Banff.

We did it while staying at the lodge but you could do it from the campground as well.

Read about the adventure here: Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff 

Copper Mountain, Banff National Park (age 5)

Another amazing summit that we reached from an overnight stay is "the Onion" located above the Bow Hut along the Icefields Parkway.

The Onion is an amazingly fun scramble with only 300 metres of height gain once you reach the hut.

Read all about the trip here: Bow Hut Family Alpine Adventure, Banff National Park   

Climbing snow slopes to reach the Onion above the Bow Hut, Banff National Park (age 10)

11. Disclaimers, Safety, and Recommended Guide Books

Don't know what "scrambling" is? Want to join an experienced group to get started?

Please request to join my newly created Mighty Mountain Kids group on Facebook. This group is aimed at kids ages 6-15 and please answer the questions you'll see when you request to join.

Mighty Mountain Kids! (photo taken on the Miner's Peak saddle looking at Ha Ling Peak)

I also recommend getting some good guide books!

Recommended books:

- Amazon affiliate links 

Little Arethusa Cirque in September


  • Please don't take my son's age on our previous climbs as a "reference age." My son has been climbing mountains since he was 4 years old and is now able to do hikes that many adults would be terrified to do.

  • Start small and work your way up!! I always tell my son every spring that I won't take him up the bigger mountains until he does three practice hikes! This means he slogs his way up Prairie Mountain before he touches scree or loose rock. 

  • Hike with a group of friends you trust, that you can work together with as  team, and that you know will have your back. 

  • PLEASE read my previous story: Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits and scroll to the bottom of the guide where I've included very detailed sections on "useful tips if doing scrambles with kids," and "recommended gear for scrambling with kids."

I hope this has been helpful and I will be adding to this guide regularly so please pin or save it for your references.

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  1. Your posts are always so informational! My boys are a bit older, but we've never done a summit. This is the summer we're going to change that, it's just overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. Glad to help. I hope this story breaks it down to give you some good ones to start with. Ha Ling Peak, Lady Macdonald to the platform and East End of Rundle (even just to the viewpoint over Canmore) are three good ones to start with.