Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Bike and Hike Closed Campgrounds near Calgary this Spring

You'll meet very few people if you go exploring around a closed campground near Calgary this spring. We love biking the quiet roads when they're closed to vehicles and many campgrounds also have great interpretive trails for hiking. You'll even find playgrounds in many of the featured campgrounds which you'll most likely have to yourself.

We love biking around the Bow Valley Campground in spring

I'm telling you about my favourite campgrounds to explore this spring in hopes that it inspires families to go beyond the usual trailheads. Trust me, there is life beyond Elbow Falls and Barrier Lake!

Hiking the Many Springs Trail is a spring classic in the Bow Valley Campground

Bow Valley Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park 

The Bow Valley Campground is closed to vehicles until April 30th allowing families to freely explore the park on foot or by bike.

Park at the Middle Lake day use area and bike around on the quiet paved campground roads. We like to bike to the Elk Flats Group Campground where you can have a picnic at the playground. 

We then continue on to the Many Springs Trailhead (bring a bike lock if you want to go for a short hike,) and then we head down to the river. From there we return through the empty campground (where you'll find at least two more playgrounds.)

Enjoying the playground in the Elk Flats Group Campground

You can also hike around the park, completing a loop with the Elk Flats, Bow River, and Moraine Trails. Add on the Middle Lake or Many Springs Loop to extend the distance. See the map here.

Hiking along the river in the Bow Valley Campground 

Finally there is a paved bike trail that connects the Visitor Centre near the Highway 1X with the camp store. We like to bike around the campground from Middle Lake and then hop on the bike trail at the end to extend our ride. We return to Middle Lake on the road. This can all be done in a big loop of 12km.

Note that the paved bike trail is not flat. Gears are required for this one unless you plan to push bikes up the steep hills. It is not beginner-friendly. With young riders I'd stick to the flat roads when they're closed to traffic.

The paved bike trail in the Bow Valley Campground is beautiful for a family ride!

Willow Rock Campground, Bow Valley Provincial Park 

The Willow Rock Campground is closed until April 30th. 

Park at the campground gate and hike down to the Flowing Waters Interpretive Trail

This hike is very short, 2 km in total, but it's quite pretty and kids always find it interesting as you hike along the river and explore beaver ponds.

When you're done your hike there is a playground in the campground as well.

The Flowing Water Trail is a great early season hiking option

Paddy's Flat Campground, Elbow Valley

The Paddy's Flat Campground is closed until May 15th. Until then, park at the campground gate and hike down through the empty campground to reach the river. 

Hike along the Paddy's Flat Interpretive Trail until it joins the Riverview Trail. The Paddy's Flat Trail is only 2 km in length but you should plan for a 5 km outing once you add in the distance you'll hike from the highway return down to the river.

The Riverview Trail can be added on as well for a longer hike with older children. Return the same way you came when you get tired of walking.

Hiking along the Paddy's Flat Trail by the Elbow River 

There is a playground in this campground as well which you'll likely pass as you head down to the river.

If you choose to bring bikes, make sure you bring locks so you can enjoy the hiking trails on foot. Also know that it's downhill to the river so you'll be climbing back up to the highway. The roads are also not paved in this campground so children must be able to ride on gravel.

Young children on balance bikes will enjoy bringing their bike for this outing and sand toys could be fun as well for playing down by the river. 

Playing in the sand down by the Elbow River in the Paddy's Flat Campground

Beaver Flats Campground, Elbow Valley 

The Beaver Flats Campground is a hike-in campground until Highway 66 opens on May 15th. Park at the winter gate by Elbow Falls and walk down the closed highway. (It's also a fabulous bike ride when the snow is gone!!) 

Either hike/bike all the way to the campground (30 minutes at most on a bike) or stop at the Beaver Lodge Day Use area (about a 5 minute walk from the winter gate) and hop on the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail.

Biking Highway 66 is a lot of fun before the road opens on May 15th 

The hiking trail takes you to the campground and is a great hike with kids as you meander along beaver ponds (which are super fun to play in.)

The hike is only 3 km return + a short distance on the highway. It is best enjoyed on foot so bring bike locks if you want to access the trail via the campground at the far end of the trail.

We often bring sand and water toys to play with at the beaver ponds. (And expect the kids to get wet!) 

Playing in the water along the Beaver Flats Trail in the Elbow Valley 

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