Tag Archives: kid-friendly Calgary hikes

Big Hill Springs: great family hike for fall colours

It had been exactly three years since we hiked the 2.3-kilomtre loop trail at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park near Cochrane. September is a wonderful month to hike here, as the foliage is changing colours and provides a beautiful golden backdrop to the main attraction: a series of waterfalls that cascade over rocky terraces.

Avery said, "Wow, look up!" Gorgeous.

During a rest stop along the trail Avery said, “Wow, look up!” Gorgeous.

We like to hike the loop backwards so we're rewarded with the waterfalls at the end of the trail.

We like to hike the loop backwards so we’re rewarded with (read: the kids can play in) the stream and waterfalls at the end of the trail.

Back then, the kids were six and four, and it took much longer for their little legs to tackle the trail. Now, at ages nine and seven, we seemed to effortlessly crest the hill and zoom through the groves of aspens and stands of spruce trees in no time, ending the hike at the spring-fed stream and falls for which the park is named.

Avery (then 6) and Bennett (then 4) at hike's end in 2011.

Avery (then 6) and Bennett (then 4) at hike’s end in 2011.

Avery, 9, and Bennett, 7, at hike's end.

Avery, 9, and Bennett, 7, at hike’s end this past weekend.

Really, this is the perfect hike for children: it’s close to Calgary, it’s not too long and the total elevation gain is only 20 metres. What’s more, there’s plenty to keep kids interested including giant tufa boulders to clamber upon, a couple of wood ‘tepees’ to explore midway along the trail and lots of opportunities for water play.

This wood fort 'tepee' was a new addition along the trail.

This wood fort ‘tepee’ was a new addition along the trail.

My favourite part of the hike was walking along the leaf-littered path through the aspens as new yellow leaves floated down to join the seasonal carpet, with Avery exclaiming, “It’s so pretty!” It’s seems amazing how much more the kids can do — and how much more they appreciate hiking — in three short years.

My how they've grown.

My how they’ve grown.


Hiking at Glenbow Ranch with kids

Last summer Blake and I went hiking at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. This new Alberta park near Cochrane sits on the site of the old Cochrane Ranch, Glenbow town and sandstone quarry. It features a visitor centre, picnic tables and washrooms, paved biking trails along with gravel hiking paths, all with interpretive signage. The trails meander over prairie and through aspen groves, and several parallel the Bow River, although a couple trails remained closed from the flooding that happened in June.

The views are pretty and the hiking is not difficult, so I took the kids for a hike there mid-week. We walked the Yodel Loop, a trail that park staff estimated was “a couple of kilometres.”

Looking down at the Bow River from a viewpoint at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

Looking down at the Bow River from a viewpoint at Glenbow Ranch.

We set out down the main paved pathway, then cut left onto a gravel trail that ascended up a switchback to a ridge overlooking the river, with fields of canola — and the Rocky Mountains — in the distance. This should’ve been my first clue to take it easy as the children were already guzzling water and walking slowly as if in a heat-induced trance. Indeed, that’s the problem with hiking on bald-ass prairie = no shade (we did wander through a small aspen grove half way through the hike and enjoyed respite from the sun).

The park would also benefit from identifying its trails, as well as marking exact distances — nowhere along the route did we see a sign that said “Yodel Loop” or any indication of how much farther we had to go. The hike was closer to three kilometres (or slightly more) and I may have reconsidered walking it with kids on such a hot day had I known the actual length beforehand. Fortunately I had taken a picture of the park trail system on my iPhone and referred to it periodically to figure out where we were:

Make sure you have a trail map to navigate the park, as paths are not marked.

Make sure you have a trail map to navigate the park, as paths are not marked.

Some hike highlights: Avery caught a grasshopper, I loved all the wildflowers adjacent to the path, and Bennett liked it when I poured the contents of my water bottle over his head to cool him down.

The low point? When Bennett declared, “I’m tired Mommy… and I’m hot,” then plopped down in the middle of the trail when we were still more than a kilometre from the car. After a bribe of apple slices and more cold water he rallied and completed the hike under his own power. Next time we’ll bring even more water and perhaps a parasol for shade.

Bennett forges ahead on the ridge path at Glenbow Ranch.

Bennett forges ahead on the Yodel Loop hike at Glenbow Ranch.

Cool activities for kids at Glenbow Park

If you’re looking for summer camps or even half day activities for children, the park has a full schedule of programs for kids. We live too far from Glenbow Ranch to consider them, but for families in Calgary’s northwest the Little Naturalists camp running July 22-26 for kids aged 7-9 sounds pretty awesome.