Explore easy hikes, water activities and ranch life a short drive from Calgary.
Summer is best spent playing outside. Family road trips, starlit campfires, impromptu picnics, sandy toes and skipping stones are some of the season’s simple pleasures that create unforgettable childhood memories. In Alberta, summer outdoor play is epic and effortlessly achieved. Take a short drive from most major cities, and you’ll find yourself in the pristine. On Calgary’s doorstep, Kananaskis Valley is the epitome of wild perfection and brimming with family-friendly fun. Sky-high peaks, towering forests, tumbling waterfalls and unimaginably blue lakes are just a few of its scenic hallmarks.
Beautifully rugged, Kananaskis offers families a faraway feel with all the creature comforts you could wish for. From gentle mountain trails boasting bold views to splash-worthy, picnic-perfect ponds, here are five of the region’s top activities to check off your family’s bucket list this summer.
Waterfall hike to Troll Falls
Located just outside the Nakiska Ski Area, Troll Falls is one of the most popular family – and dog–friendly hikes in Kananaskis. The easy 3.4 km (2.1 mi) roundtrip loop is primarily flat forested terrain with a spectacular waterfall that promises to impress. The falls’ cool mist is also a welcome surprise on warmer days, and the kids will love impromptu sightings of the tiny rainbow-hair toy trolls that previous kind-hearted adventurers have hidden along the route. Hike back the same way or take the short detour to Hay Meadows for a fantastic view of the Kananaskis River and the trio of soaring peaks: Old Baldy, Wassotch and Kananaskis.
Explore Black Shale Creek Suspension Bridge
A whimsical half-kilometre (0.3 mi) forested trek provides families with a thrilling, magical sight. The Black Shale Creek Suspension Bridge is a 250-metre (820 ft) engineering delight that stretches high above its namesake waterway that winds through the deep, dramatic canyon far below. Crossing the wobbly bridge is a thrilling, giggle-inducing adventure for kids of all ages. Think of it as a dangling treetop playground designed for intrepid mini-mountaineers. The trailhead is located about one kilometre (0.6 mi) past the Black Prince Day-Use Area, off the Smith Dorrien Trail.
Picnic at Wedge Pond
Pack your cooler, water toys and bathing suits for an afternoon at the beach. Located just past the Mount Kidd RV Park, off of Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40), Wedge Pond is a breathtaking hidden gem offering a host of family fun. Begin by exploring the one-kilometre (0.6 mi) tree-lined trail, which loops the pond, and charge the kids with finding the perfect picnic spot. Then slather on the sunscreen, lay back and soak in the views of Fortress Mountain, reflected in the calm, clear turquoise water. The shallows are great for splashing around and hunting for frogs, while paddleboarding, kayaking and fishing are favoured pastimes in the deeper parts of the pond.
Paddling on Barrier Lake
Barrier Lake, a picturesque man-made reservoir flanked by Mount Baldy, is one of Kananaskis Valley’s most iconic, show-stopping scenes. Easily sighted and accessed from Hwy 40, the lake’s day-use area tends to draw a crowd, especially in summer. However, given most visitors stick to the shoreline, you just need to get out on the water for a private family escape. Barrier Lake Boat Rentals, operated by the adventure tour company Kananaskis Outfitters, offers hourly canoe, paddleboard and tandem kayak rentals. You’ll want to bring a waterproof camera for family pictures amidst the lake’s wondrous backdrop.
Trail ride at Boundary Ranch
For a Canadian Rockies western adventure, take the kids to Boundary Ranch, located just up from Kananaskis Village, on the opposite side of Hwy 40. If you’re new to horseback riding, the Buffalo Loop tour is the best choice. The leisurely one-hour guided experience is a picturesque, introductory trail ride that’s a favourite among families. The ranch’s two-hour Ridge Ride offers double the fun and sweeping views of the Kananaskis Valley. Better yet, book this tour with the BBQ Steak Lunch add-on for a cowboy-style feast with all the fixings and ice-cream topped ranch-baked pie.