The following story about exploring Kananaskis Country by Bike is written by Tanya Koob, one of our regular contributors. She also blogs at www.rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
I’ve hiked most of the popular trails in Kananaskis along with many of the hidden gems as well. Biking some of these same trails though is a new activity for me and I owe my love for mountain biking to my six year old son. Until recently, I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was a child and I’m pretty sure that bike had brightly coloured tassels and a banana seat. Things changed quickly however when I discovered how much my son, three at the time, absolutely loved riding his little balance bike. He rode a bright orange Strider bike without pedals and could fly down hills faster than I could run. He was fearless on this little beginner bike and we soon started bringing it on our mountain hikes to lengthen how far we could go in a day. Suddenly the old gravel road into Watridge Lake became a sweet little bike ride and completely doable by a young child who would never have hiked 7 km on his own steam.
The Best Easy Bike Trails in Kananaskis for Families and Novice Riders
Watridge Lake – 7.5 km round trip from the Mount Shark Trailhead off Hwy 742 (the Smith Dorrien Trail out of Canmore.) Expect easy double track riding on a wide gravel road that serves as a cross-country ski trail in winter. What this trail lacks in excitement, it makes up for in destination. Watridge Lake is a beautiful spot for a lunch break after a fun family-friendly bike ride. Expect a few rough sections and a couple of steep hills but fit parents could pull tots in a bike trailer or Chariot on this trail. Extend the trip with an easy hike up to Karst Spring where you can see water shoot out of a hole in the rock. Complete round trip distance including the hike is 9 km and bikes should be left at the lake while you hike to the spring.
The Paved Bike Trails of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park – 12 km one way on the Lodgepole, Wheeler, and Lakeside trails of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park off of Hwy 40. The three trails above are paved with gradual hills that most children should have few problems with. The odd steep hill can be walked and there are good signs in place when approaching a big hill. We like to get on the bike trails at the Boulton Creek Campground and ride one way to the Canyon Campground (mostly downhill riding) with a second vehicle waiting at the end. There’s a playground at Canyon and a fun little interpretive hiking trail that can be done if you’re waiting for somebody to go back for the car. Both can be found in the B Loop which is accessed by riding down the campground road from the bike trail. These trails are all great for families using a bike trailer for young tots and kids could be motivated to bike uphill towards Boulton Creek with a reward of ice-cream from the Trading Post.
Troll Falls – 3.2 km loop from the Stoney Trailhead near Kananaskis Village off of Hwy 40. Expect easy double track riding on wide cross-country ski trails. While most people hike this trail, we have found it to be an amazing family bike ride with some fun hills, a scenic ride through Hay Meadow, and a great destination to a set of waterfalls. For a trip that feels more down than up, ride through Hay Meadow first and make your way over to Troll Falls (parking your bikes for the final 0.3 km hike to the falls). From the Troll Falls Junction, take the Troll Falls Trail back to the Stoney Trailhead parking lot. Young kids may have to walk one hill in the upward direction on the Troll Falls Trail but most of the ride is easy coasting downhill to the car. And if your family likes geocaching, don’t forget the GPS along with some fun trinkets to trade. This loop is full of caches. For families with young tots, you can also use a bike trailer or Chariot for this ride.
The Bill Milne Paved Bike Trail – 9.7 km one way from Kananaskis Village off of Hwy 40 to Wedge Pond further down the highway. You can avoid the big hill down from the Village by starting at the Kovach Day Use Area by the highway below. We rode the 17 km return distance between the Kovach Day Use Area and Wedge Pond at the far end in less than 2 hours at the pace of a 6 year old so it’s fair to say that it’s easy riding. The trail climbs very gradually from the Kovach Day Use Area to Wedge Pond with a big hill that can be walked near the pond. The return is fast and young kids would enjoy doing the trail one-way in the downhill direction with a shuttle. Since this trail is paved, it is ideal for families pulling bike trailers or even for children just learning to ride. And make sure you visit the Village after for some ice-cream or for coffee and pastries from the café in the Delta Lodge.
Banff Trail at the Canmore Nordic Centre– 6 km round trip to the meadow and back from the Canmore Nordic Centre Day Lodge located just outside of Canmore off Hwy 742 (the Smith Dorrien Trail). Expect easy double track riding with a few hills that can be walked by young children on this wide cross-country ski trail that parallels the paved Roller Skiing trail. Single track trails depart from the main Banff Trail for those wanting more excitement and the green loop is only 2 km in distance. We like biking to the meadow for a picnic before heading back to the day lodge. As with the other trails above, Banff Trail is Chariot or bike trailer-friendly.
The Canmore Town Trails – 13-15 km of riding on easy gravel trails around the town of Canmore. Pick up a map of the town trails from the Canmore Visitor Center on 7th Avenue and then head out to explore! We love the Blue Activity Loop (3.1 km) and my son loves riding over Engine Bridge. For a longer ride, we usually tackle the Green Activity Loop for another 4.4 km starting at Engine Bridge. Other highlights are the Millennium Park Pump Track and the West Canmore Playground. You can park at Millennium Park and ride to the playground in an easy 3 km round trip distance. All trails are gradual with minimum height gain as long as you stay down near the river. Trails are bike trailer-friendly and great for beginner riders.
Looking for More Challenge? The West Bragg Creek Trails are where it’s at for adults who want to explore Kananaskis by bike and can handle some challenging hills, single track riding, and rougher terrain. Contact the Elbow Valley Visitor Information Centre for maps and trail information.
Advanced riders will also find what they are looking for at the Canmore Nordic Centre once you get off of the main Banff Trail.
Bike Rentals – Bikes and bike trailers can be rented from Trail Sports at the Canmore Nordic Centre or from Kananaskis Outfitters at the Kananaskis Village Centre. There are also rental shops in Canmore if you want to transport your bike to another trailhead.
I can’t wait to meet you on the trails this summer! I’ll be pedalling like a mad woman trying to keep up to my soon-to-be 7 year old and you’ll hear us screaming as we fly down the hills and scare all the bears away for you.
By Tanya Koob