Tag Archives: kid-friendly hikes in Mt. Fernie Provincial Park

It’s not too late to tackle summer’s best hikes

The mountains are my happy place. I was fortunate to spend many hours seeking out views and breathing in the scent of pine-baked trails this summer.

In my happy place.

In my happy place.

We haven’t hiked this much since 2012, when Blake and I were training for our Kilimajaro trek. What a difference four years makes! The kids actually enjoy hiking now. What’s more, they can go for ever greater distances, which means we can actually do some interesting hikes with rewarding views.

This week and upcoming weekend are shaping up to be the nicest weather we’ve had in a while. So, if you need some hiking inspiration, here’s the highlight reel from our summer in the mountains.

Best hike for kids: The Old Growth Trail in Fernie, B.C. gently ascends from Mt. Fernie Provincial Park four kilometres to Island Lake Lodge. There are bridges across streams, logs to balance upon, giant Western red cedar trees to hug and a pretty mountain lake at the end.

Avery stands on a Western red cedar along the Old Growth Trail in Fernie, B.C.

Avery stands on a Western red cedar along the Old Growth Trail in Fernie, B.C.

Bag a peak with kids: Our children made it to the top of their first “mountain” this summer — Castle Rocks in Fernie. It’s not so much a peak as a rocky high point of the Flathead Range on the Elk Valley’s east side. Avery and Bennett loved finding and eating five kinds of berries on the hike up (thimble berries, Saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries and huckleberries). They also liked picking out landmarks at the top like Fernie Alpine Resort and the Lizard Range across the valley. I couldn’t believe they hiked almost eight kilometres round trip!

That moment when we reached Castle Rocks outcrop.

That moment when we reached Castle Rocks outcrop.

Most epic/Best variety: After 20 years of talking about it, Blake and I finally tackled the storied Crypt Lake hike in Waterton Lakes National Park. It’s been named Canada’s “best hike” and one of the “world’s 20 most thrilling trails.” That’s a lot of hype, but when a day hike packs in a boat ride to the trailhead, a 600-foot-high waterfall, a ladder climb, a 40-foot tunnel crawl, and a cable-assited cliff traverse, the thrills — and the stunning mountain cathedral views — are for real.

Behind that waterfall wall lies Crypt Lake.

Behind that waterfall wall lies Crypt Lake. I’d forgotten how much I love the mountain amphitheatres that make up this Alberta park.

Most surprising: The Chester Lake hike off of Spray Lakes Road in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Alta. is a busy thoroughfare on a summer day, and it’s easy to see why. At four kilometres one way and only 310 metres of elevation gain, it’s a no-sweat way to get your wildflower and alpine lake fix. But venture beyond the glassy lake and things get interesting. Another hiker staying at nearby Mount Engadine Lodge gave us that tip and we were thrilled to discover a giant limestone rock slide deposit called Elephant Rocks not 10 minutes past Chester Lake. They look like something out of The Lion King and make a great scramble up for a snack break. We will return with the kids!

This rock deposit left over from a rock slide looks more Serengheti than Canadian Rockies. It was out favourite part of the Chester Lake hike.

This rock deposit left over from a rock slide looks more Serengeti than Canadian Rockies. It was our favourite part of the Chester Lake hike.

Most challenging/Best views: Before our stay at Mount Engadine Lodge, I had never heard of Tent Ridge. In fact, it’s not even listed as a trail on either of our 20-year-old Gem Trek maps of the Kananaskis area (it is an option on more recent versions). Not only is this hike mostly a ridge walk — you’re up in the alpine with spectacular views of the Rockies and Spray Lake for about six of the 11 kilometres — it’s also a loop! It’s a bit of a scramble to get up to the ridge, with some light route finding, but those challenges made us appreciate the apres-hike beers on the lodge’s deck all the more.

The mountains seem to go on forever on this hike.

The mountains seem to go on forever on this hike.

We’re planning to hike with the kids this weekend. Any suggestions?

Extreme parenting: mud-hiking edition

Not ones to let a little rain put a damper on our Canada Day celebrations, my husband and I invented a new family-friendly activity in Fernie this past weekend: mud hiking. When the sky cleared late in the afternoon on July 1, we packed the children and Grammy into the car and drove five minutes into Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. Our intent was not to subject the youngest and eldest among us to a Burmese March; we merely wished to enjoy the mountain scenery on Canada Day. Besides, our kids had been pestering us to go on a hike.

The bridge: a portal into mud.

When it comes to kids and hiking, we try to keep it simple. Short, flat trails. Lots of rest stops. Snacks. Really, it’s hiking-lite. This trek, however, annointed Avery, Bennett and Grammy into the ranks of the hard-core.

Bennett and Blake pause in a mud puddle to take in the scenery.

Look Ma! Muddy hands!

The trail was beyond muddy. Mountain bikers had churned the wet path into a soupy, slippery, almost treacherous, mess. Rather than fret about the kids’ and Grammy’s safety, however, I worried about my shoes! I immediately knew I had worn the wrong pair (my fashion runners, not the sensible hiking boots). At that point I should have turned back to spare them (still talking about the shoes), but there was little to no elevation gain along the path, plus it was supposed to be a two-kilometre loop, and ultimately I guess we all thought the trail would become miraculously mud-free if we kept hiking. So we plodded on. I resolved to walk along the edges of the trail, where possible. Even so, my shoes couldn’t compete with the mud’s slippery suction.

The moment I knew my shoes were a lost cause.

Unaware of the imminent peril of slipping, falling and becoming filthy, the kids walked in giant, splashy strides down the middle of the trail, laughing and saying things like, “Look how muddy my shoes are! Look how muddy my legs are! Haha! We’re so dirty! Hahaha!!” On occasion, Blake had to portage Bennett to spare him a mud bath.

Blake portages a non-compliant Bennett while Avery scrambles up a muddy slope.

My mom, a.k.a. Grammy, relied on a hiking pole for balance while she tried to sidestep the peanut butter-like consistency of the trails and thus salvage her new $85 tennis shoes (yeah, we’re all about the shoes in my family). It was a losing battle. “But Mom,” I said, “That’s nothing compared with the memories you’ll have from mud-hiking with the grandkids: Priceless!”

And it was. Once I cleaned my shoes, and the kids, we had a great laugh about the hike. Family bonding is easy when there’s mud.