Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC

If you've been following me on Instagram lately, you might be wondering if we've moved to British Columbia, specifically Radium Hot Springs. And what can I say except that we really love the Columbia Valley, that the sun is almost always shining here, and that we spend many weekends here! (many, many...)

Active Family Guide to Radium Hot Springs, BC (Photo:  Redstreak Restoration Trail)

From Calgary (where honestly we do still live,) it is a 3 hour drive to the Village of Radium Hot Springs and the gateway to the Columbia Valley (aka "Heaven on Earth.") The drive is very doable for a 2-day weekend but you'll probably enjoy yourself more if you spend at least 3 nights here (especially if you're camping.)

Below are ten of the activities we personally enjoy when we visit Radium Hot Springs in the warm months from spring through autumn - and you definitely won't knock them all off in one visit so you'll have to plan several trips here in the coming months.

We've already spent 4 weekends in Radium Hot Springs since the end of March with another trip coming up in a few weeks.

Spring camping in Radium Hot Springs (Photo: Redstreak Campground)

Ten Fun Activities for Active Families in and near Radium Hot Springs 

1. Start with a Trip to the Visitor Information Centre

Start your visit to Radium Hot Springs at the Visitor Information Centre where you can spend some time looking at the educational exhibits on the animals of the valley and the landscape/environment that has shaped their home. Also take the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about tours or activities in the valley. You can get trail reports here as well along with maps and brochures to plan out your trip.

Read more about the services offered at the Visitor Information Centre here. - and you'll find the Information Centre on the main street of Radium Hot Springs right along Highway 95 beside the grocery store.

Checking out the wildlife display at the Radium Visitor Information Centre

2. Explore the Village on Foot and Explore the Town Trails 

Once you've learned all about the bighorn sheep, you're going to want to go explore the village (either on foot or on bikes.) We love riding and walking around the quiet streets looking for sheep and deer in the morning or evening. You'll also find a great playground on the corner of St. Joseph Street and Park Drive (conveniently located behind the Bighorn Cafe if you're walking around.)

Main Town Playground in Radium Hot Springs

If you're looking for a hike to enjoy with the kids while camping or spending a few days in Radium Hot Springs, I recommend the following options:

Sinclair Creek Hike or Bike 

You'll find the parking lot by driving through the sawmill located off Forsters Landing Road. See the trail on Trail Forks or read about it on the Village of Radium Hot Springs website here.

Trail length: under 3 km return

Biking the Sinclair Creek Trail in Radium 

Sinclair Canyon and Waterfall Hike

You can reach this trail from the Canyon RV Resort (park in visitor parking and walk through the new "Creekside in the Canyon" development beside the campground, following signs for the Sinclair Canyon hiking trail.)

Trail length: approximately 1 km return from the campground

Alternately, you can drop down into the canyon following a series of switchbacks from highway 93 just outside the west gate near the hot springs. (Download a map here

Sinclair Canyon Trail, Radium Hot Springs

Juniper Trail / Redstreak Campground Trail Loop Hike

This is a great option if you're camping at either Redstreak or at the Canyon RV Resort. The full loop is approximately 6.5 km but you can shorten the hike by doing just one of the trails. Download a map here to see the full loop.

Hiking the Redstreak Campground Trail

And best of all, you can follow these trails to reach the hot springs from either campground. Distance to the hot springs is 7.4 km return from Canyon or 5.4 km return from Redstreak.

Bridge on the Juniper Trail down at Sinclair Creek

Edge of the Rockies Trail, Redstreak Campground

This is a gorgeous trail that starts from the E loop in the Redstreak Campground. It climbs up to a viewpoint over the village in an easy 1 km return hike.

Read more about camping at Redstreak here:

Read: Why we LOVE Camping at Redstreak, Radium Hot Springs

Viewpoint at the top of the Edge of the Rockies Trail, Redstreak Campground 

Redstreak Restoration Trail Hike or Bike

We discovered this trail through Trail Forks where you can find it as the Pacemaker Trail and the Pacemaker Return Trail. Together they make for a short loop that's under 3 km long - and that starts right from the Redstreak Campground if you're camping here.

It's become a favourite evening bike ride for us when time is limited and we just want a bit of exercise before bed.

Biking the Redstreak Restoration Trail (Pacemaker Return on Trail Forks)

On the Parks Canada site, this area is called the Redstreak Restoration Trail, and it describes the hike as a walk through meadows reborn by a prescribed burn.

We love riding our bikes here as we look for bighorn sheep and pay a visit to the Narnia lamp (a lamp post straight out of the pages of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - sitting in the middle of the meadow.) And there's nothing strange about that at all??

The Narnia lamp post in the middle of the meadow on the Redstreak Restoration Trail

3. Relax at the Radium Hot Springs Pools (with a swimming pool for the kids)

This one is a given! If you're going to spend time in Radium Hot Springs, you have to visit the hot springs!

What we love most about these hot springs is that there are two separate pools, one for hot soaking, and one for swimming. And, the swimming pool has both a slide and a diving board!

I also recently discovered that capable swimmers can play in the cold pool alone if you want to soak in the hot pool while the kids play in the swimming pool. (Check the age requirement for this when you visit. My son was allowed to swim there alone but he is 10 years old.) For me, this has become a game changer because I love jumping off the diving board with my son, but after 20 minutes in the swimming pool I just want to retreat to the hot pool.

Visit the Radium Hot Springs website for more information.

Kids will love the swimming pool at the Radium Hot Springs pools

4. Hop on your Bikes to Explore the Valley Trails 

I've written a comprehensive guide to all of the bike trails in the Columbia Valley that I recommend for families.

Read: The Best Family Bike Trails in the Columbia Valley

Mountain biking near Radium Hot Springs

From Radium Hot Springs, I especially recommend the areas below for families:

Biking Sinclair Creek and Playing at the Radium Pump and Jump

There's a sweet little bike park and pump track located in Sinclair Creek just down off Forsters Landing Road in Radium Hot Springs.

Find directions to the Pump and Jump Bike Park on Trail Forks. 

Playing on the Radium Pump and Jump along the Sinclair Creek Trail

We also love riding our bikes along the easy Sinclair Creek Trail, a wide gravel trail that is popular with cyclists, hikers, and dog walkers. There is an official parking lot that you can find off Forsters Landing Road by driving through the sawmill.

Find directions to the parking lot for Sinclair Creek here on Trail Forks

Biking the Sinclair Creek Trail in Radium Hot Springs

Easy Mountain Biking on the Old Coach Trail, Dry Gulch to Radium

This was one of my son's first mountain bike trails back when he could barely start and stop on his own (and my husband had to run alongside him for the entire 9 km distance.)

The Old Coach Trail is an old gravel road without any technical challenges. There are some nice views though and it makes for a good family ride.

We always park at Dry Gulch (see the trail on Trail Forks here) and ride back to Radium. It is mostly a gradual downhill ride in this direction with a few long hills beginners may find challenging if they get going too fast.

Biking the Old Coach Trail

The crux of the ride comes at the end when you have to climb back up to Radium for the final kilometre. Honestly though, we just ride what we can and walk the rest. It's far easier to walk the ending than to return back to Dry Gulch (which would be uphill for a good 8 km.)

Intermediate mountain bikers will find other unofficial and unsigned trail options off the Old Coach Trail.

Shuttling tip: Send an adult back for the vehicle before you get to the uphill climb at the end. Make your way to Radium with the kids and hang out at the Bighorn Cafe on the main street while you wait. (They have great cinnamon buns and baking.) There's also an ice-cream store on the main street or you can bike to the town playground (a couple of blocks back behind the cafe.)

Easy mountain biking on the Old Coach Trail

Easy to Intermediate Mountain Biking at Lillian Lake, Invermere

Families will enjoy a quick spin around the Junior Johnson on the Lillian Lake Trail Network. It is a double track loop, 3 km in length, and a good opportunity to practice with brakes and gears on the short hills. (See the trail on Trail Forks here.

Easy riding on the Junior Johnson Trail, Lillian Lake

Once you've mastered that, or if you want a solo ride while the kids play at the lake (where there's a dock for jumping off of on a hot day,) I recommend the Kloosifier Loop, a gorgeous flowy 8 km intermediate mountain biking loop. My 10-year old just rode it but he is a strong rider. Alternately, check out the full Johnson Loop (slightly more technical than the Kloosifier.)

Beautiful flowy riding on the Kloosifier Trail, Lillian Lake 

Paved Pathway Riding on the Westside Legacy Trail, Invermere 

If it's pavement you're after, this is your best (and only) option near Radium Hot Springs. The Markin MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail will eventually connect Invermere and Fairmont in one long 25 km trail. As of spring 2019, the first 5 segments are open and ready for riding with beautiful new pavement.

Paved pathway riding on the Westside Legacy Trail, Invermere

And to find the trail, just drive out of Invermere on Westside Road (which parallels Highway 95 on the far side of Lake Windermere) and drive along until you see a paved bike trail beside the highway. There are a couple of parking lots so you can choose where to start and end (and shuttling is an option if the kids want to ride one way on the entire distance that's open so far, which is at least 10 km.

One big thing to know in advance about this trail is that it is not a beginner bike trail, even though it is paved. There are gigantic hills and climbs along the trail, and it doesn't matter which direction you ride because you'll be climbing up and screaming back down multiple times in either direction. There are always good switchbacks for climbing and descending (but they are steep.)

Gears and hand brakes are necessary for this trail.

Climbing a steep section of the Westside Legacy Trail

5. Spend a few hours at the Valley Zipline Adventures near Radium

We got to try a tour with the Valley Zipline Adventures this month and it was a LOT of fun.

While it's not the biggest zipline course, there were a few things we really liked about it including how hands-on the tour was. Read my full review below:

Read: Valley Zipline Adventures Tour, Radium Hot Springs 

Our family loves ziplining and it's great that we can enjoy it close to home

6. Take a day trip to Lake Windermere and Hit the Beach 

This one is easy to explain  - drive to Invermere for a day and hit the beach! Lake Windermere is a great spot on a hot day and kids will love the slides out in the water at Kinsmen Beach.

Trust my kid to go head first!

And, before you head to the beach, make sure you stop by Far Out Gear Rentals in Radium to pick up inflatable stand up paddleboards (including youth sized ones,) single kayaks (child, youth, and adult sizes available,) tandem kayaks, or canoes - with racks available for the kayaks and canoes.

Jumping docks on Lake Windermere 

7. Spend a day on the Colulmbia River floating from Invermere to Radium

We love paddling the Columbia River from Invermere back to Radium Hot Springs in the summer. We've done the trip a number of times and I always use a stand up paddleboard for the gentle float trip. My boys use a tandem kayak or my son paddles his own sit on top kayak.

Floating down the Columbia River is a great way to tour the wetlands

And if you need to rent boats or arrange for a shuttle service, you can either contact Far Out Gear Rentals in Radium Hot Springs or Columbia River Paddle in Invermere. Both companies offer guided or self-guided tours of the Columbia River wetlands, shuttle services, and a variety of boat rentals.

You can also save 10% on your next rental or tour with Columbia River Paddle with a special offer from the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website. (View the offer here.)

Want to try an overnight trip on the Columbia River?

Read: Paddling and Camping on the Columbia River with Kids

Gentle family-friendly floating down the Columbia River

8. Try Yurt Camping at Radius Retreat 

I never knew it was a dream of mine to camp on top of a mountain, until I did it. Now I've added the experience to my annual "summer cool list" - a very long list that grows by the year, and we look forward to discovering more unique places to camp.

I should clarify that we didn't exactly camp "on top of a mountain" but rather, we camped in a yurt on a scenic bench overlooking the Columbia Valley outside the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

Yurt camping at Radius Retreat, Radium Hot Springs

Mountain summit or not, it certainly felt like a mountain, AND, our nearest neighbors were a kilometre away! This was the most private campsite we've ever had, and we enjoyed sitting around our campfire without having to listen to drunken neighbors partying around us at a noisy campground.

Read the rest of the story here: Yurt Camping on top of a Mountain at Radius Retreat 

Camping on top of a mountain at Radius Retreat

9. Spend a day at Nipika Mountain Resort (biking, hiking, and disc golf)

Nipika Mountain Resort is an eco resort located approximately 45 minutes outside Radium Hot Springs. Spend a day here exploring the mountain bike trails, hiking along the Cross River and the Kootenay River, or playing a round of disc golf.

Families have their choice of single track mountain bike trails or double track ski trails (great if you're pulling younger children in a bike trailer) - or skip the bikes and explore on foot as you follow trails to the natural bridge or down to the river to throw rocks with the kids.

Biking across the Natural Bridge at Nipika Mountain Resort

You can also spend a couple of nights here in one of the cabins located on the Nipika property.

Read more about Nipika Mountain Resort on their website

Also, read one of my previous stories here: Kids on Wheels - Nipika Mountain Resort

Playing by the Kootenay River at Nipika Mountain Resort

10. Refuel at Local Restaurants, Pubs, and Coffee Shops

We have a few favourite places to eat when we're in Radium Hot Springs:

For a great family meal: We love the sunny patio at the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery in Radium. The place is family-friendly and the food is always good. Kids will enjoy the hamburgers with the "choose your burger style" option (including options for beef, chicken, or veggie, and several options for a side including classic french fries of course.)

When you need coffee, a quick breakfast, or a light lunch: We love the Bighorn Cafe and it's safe to say we would never pass through Radium without stopping here at least once (a day that is!) - and if you love cinnamon buns, you can always call ahead and get some set aside for your family (because they do sell out each day.)

At the end of a hike or bike ride when you need Ice-cream: You'll find Screamers right on the highway (just down from the Visitor Information Centre and the grocery store.) - It's also conveniently located across from the Bighorn Cafe in case there are conflicting interests in the family (as there always is in mine!)

When it has to be PIZZA: The Wildside Pizzeria is our go-to stop for lunch before driving home on a Sunday afternoon. They sell pizza by the slice and have a couple picnic tables outside. It's also located beside the Bighorn Cafe which is perfect for us so we can grab coffee afterwards for the drive.

More dining options can be found on the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website.

You'll always need an ice-cream store or a coffee shop (even when camping!)

Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs 

We usually camp if we're visiting Radium between May and Thanksgiving. Families looking for other options can visit the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website for ideas and some special offers.

You'll always see lots of bighorn sheep if you choose to camp at Redstreak up above the village

Return in Winter! 

Radium Hot Springs is magical in winter too. Read my newest guide here.

Read: Active Family Guide to Winter in Radium Hot Springs

Special thanks to Tourism Radium Hot Springs for their support and partnership.

Other businesses that have hosted us over the past few months include the Valley Zipline Adventures, the Horsethief Creek Pub and Eatery, and Radius Retreat. 

Thanks to Nipika Mountain Resort for their continued support as well over the years.

Disclaimer: As always, all opinions are my own and this story was not paid for or sponsored. All photos are my own.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Valley Zipline Adventures Tour, Radium Hot Springs

We got to try a tour with the Valley Zipline Adventure  just outside Radium Hot Springs this month and it was a LOT of fun. While it's not the biggest zipline course, there were a few things we really liked about it (and that made it stand out above some of the other zipline tours we've tried.

Valley Zipline Adventures, Radium Hot Springs, BC 

Brief Introduction and Overview

Radium Hot Springs is one of our favourite destinations for a quick weekend getaway from Calgary and the drive is only 3 hours (totally doable for Friday after work.)

The Valley Zipline Adventures Centre is located a short distance outside Radium Hot Springs at Dry Gulch, and you'll see it off the right hand side of the highway as you drive towards Invermere.

Of note for families curious about this adventure tour:

  • The parking lot is very large so you can park your trailer or RV here if you're passing through - something that was important for us because we did the tour on a Sunday morning before returning to Calgary

  • The tour only lasts a couple of hours so you can stop in for a rest break if you're driving through on your summer vacation

  • You'll get to enjoy 7 different ziplines on this course

  • Participants must be a minimum of 48 inches (4 feet) tall. Participants must also be a minimum weight of 65 lbs and a maximum weight of 250 lbs

  • Children under the age of 10 need a parent or guardian to accompany them on the tour. If you have kids older than this, you could drop them off without actually taking the tour yourself (great if you the parent has a fear of heights or you need to save money and can't afford for the whole family to participate)

  • You'll want to wear closed-toed shoes, sunblock, and comfortable clothing. Leave your hats behind because you'll be wearing helmets the whole time

  • Cameras are welcome as long as they are secure. My husband put my cell phone in a zipper pocket and I had a camera with a long strap secured to my harness
Ziplining is a fun activity for the whole family

What we loved about this zipline adventure:

It's awesome when you can go ziplining locally without having to go all the way to Mexico or Costa Rica! 

My son LOVES ziplines and we actually went ziplining every single day on our recent trip to Mexico. Radium Hot Springs is a whole lot closer though and more affordable!

A kid who could go ziplining every single day!

It's a family adventure and a great intro tour for those who've never tried ziplining before

I appreciated that this tour was not too scary or overly intimidating. The crossings weren't very high off the ground - The first 5 ziplines are on average 80 feet or 24 meters off the ground at the highest point. The 7th zipline is 120 feet or 36 meters at its highest point. (This isn't a jungle forest canopy you're crossing.)

Also, our speed was never overly crazy. - The 7th zipline was the only one that required a brake at the end.

I also appreciated that each landing was quite gentle. Each of the first 6 crossings brought us slowly to a stop (my son and I had to be pulled in with a rope a couple of times at the end so we definitely weren't going super fast.)

Kids often get pulled in with a rope at the end if they don't go fast enough

This is a full hands-on experience and you are in charge of your own gear the entire time!

You're not just a passenger along for the ride on this tour. You actually get to do all of your own "technical work" on this course, clipping in to the line for each crossing with your own carabiners, using a set of double carabiners to stay connected to a fixed line through the entire tour, and switching between the safety cable and the actual zipline cable before and after each crossing.

Most zipline guides on other tours do everything for you and you'll never even touch a carabiner or a pulley. This is not the case with the Valley Zipline Adventures Tour.

You'll get very comfortable with your carabiners and equipment on this tour

Our adventure felt like a combination between a zipline tour and an aerial park

If you've ever done a high ropes course or tried an aerial park adventure, you'll be familiar with the use of carabiners, fixed safety lines, and the constant clipping and unclipping from cables. I like this because it keeps me active and engaged the whole time, and I'm not just "babied" by guides who take care of all the equipment for me.

When you do a tour with Valley Zipline Adventures, you'll follow a course high up in the trees, climbing ladders, flying between platforms, and crossing high up between each tower. It was exhilarating and was a fun adventure for the whole family.

High up in the trees at the Valley Zipline Adventures Tour

And don't worry about falling to your death by doing something wrong!

The guides were amazing at making sure we all knew exactly what to do before we started out on our tour! There's a short practice course that you get to start on, and you won't progress beyond that until you're ready!

You'll also be using smart carabiners that talk to one another, so you'll always be attached to the cable with at least one carabiner (and it won't release or unlock until your second carabiner is locked to the cable.)

Practice course to learn the equipment 

Other Activities at the Valley Zipline Adventures

There is also a climbing wall and a freefall jump tower on site that you can add to your zipline package. We decided not to try the climbing wall because my son didn't want to switch to a different harness, but we did try the freefall jump and it was a LOT of fun. (and not that scary if you're a bit nervous of heights.) - the hardest part for me in fact was the climb up!

Climbing wall and free fall jump 

For more information, please visit the Valley Zipline Adventures website. On their website you'll find full details on the pricing and various packages offered. Our package included the climbing wall and jump tower on site.

And, receive a 10% discount when you book online using a promo code off the Tourism Radium Hot Springs website. (view the discount here.)

Freefall jump at the Valley Zipline Adventures Park 

Disclaimer: Our tour was hosted by the valley Zipline Adventures and partnered with Tourism Radium Hot Springs. As always, all opinions are my own.