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hiking

In Explore, Rocky Mountains on
January 15, 2018

Free or Almost Free Winter Activities for your Family in Jasper

Heading out of town with the kids can be expensive but if you’re willing to get outside, there are lots of winter activities in Jasper for your family for free.

Hiking

Jasper has lots of hikes, but not all are great for kids. If you’re going in winter and you don’t already have ice grips for your shoes, rent some from a local sports store and that will help with the icy conditions (we rented ours from Jasper Source for Sports). 

Two quick hikes we’ve taken are the Athabasca Falls and the Maligne Canyon.  If you’ve been to Jasper in the summer, no doubt you’ve seen either of these falls but in winter, it’s a completely different experience. It was -30 the week before our trip so we assumed that all the water would be frozen, and the kids were blown away (I was too) to see the water flowing under the ice at Athabasca Falls.

The hike to the top of Athabasca Falls isn’t actually a hike but a walk from the parking lot, but once you’ve seen the falls from the top, you absolutely have to walk down to the bottom of the canyon and see what’s down there….it’s worth it.

The top of Athabasca Falls

 

Athabasca Falls

Maligne Canyon is a 5-10 minutes drive from the  Jasper Park Lodge, during the winter is used for ice climbing which is amazing for the kids to see, and the hike itself isn’t hard and is easy for bigger kids. For smaller kids you might want to make sure you’ve got a good eye on them, there are some really narrow parts of the path.

Maligne Canyon

We started at bridge 5, and hiked up, but you can also drive up to bridge 6 and hike down. There is lots to see and the views of the ice are beautiful. If you want to go ice climbing there are lots of companies that will guide you through the canyons,

If you’re planning on going hiking in Jasper with the kids, Parks Canada is a great resource with trail lengths and trail etiquettes.

Skating

Skating at Mildred Lake and Pyramid Lake is free! All you’ll need are your own skates, which are inexpensive to rent for the day if you don’t have them (we rented ours from Jasper Source for Sports  for $8/pair). Mildred Lake, although it looks like it’s part of the Jasper Park Lodge, is actually public property, skating on a lake with the mountains in the background is the ultimate Canadian thing to do and there’s even an area to play hockey on the ice.

Pyramid Lake

Just 5 minutes from downtown Jasper, Pyramid Lake has many activities hosted by Pyramid Lake Resorts. There are free skating and sleigh rides, but my favourite part is driving a little way down the road and stopping to see Pyramid Lake Island which is a tiny island that you can canoe to in the summer, but in the winter you can walk on the lake to get there (or use the bridge).  Pack yourself some hot chocolate and let the kids run around on this tiny island, there is lots to explore and you can easily see them if you’re having a seat to take in the views.

 

Need something a little more adventurous? Parks Canada has an amazing list of winter activities on their website including many different hikes that might be great for a trip to Jasper with older kids that can hike for longer than an hour. Jasper is amazing in the winter and there are lots to do if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spend like the Miette Hot Springs,  or skiing at Marmot Basin.

Top 10 Items to Encourage Risky Play This Summer

Risky play, adventure play, imaginative play or whatever you want to call it is a topic parents are talking about. Encouraging kids to take risks and test their abilities has become the new trend to counter the “helicopter parenting” we have seen in the past. Kids are now being encouraged to climb, use tools (see why I let my own 5 year old use real tools and knives instead of pretend ones HERE), and take more risks.

Summer is a perfect opportunity to encourage your children to go out and explore! The most important thing with risky play is to let the child lead and show you how they will use the items. Don’t tell them how to use the materials provided. I promise you will be amazed by what they come up with given the opportunity.

The List:

  1. Pocket knife – of course depending on their age you will have to supervise this one but take this opportunity to teach them about how to use it properly. Cut away from their body, fold it down properly, don’t walk or run with it open. This is your chance to teach them how to use a knife the right way to cut ropes, whittle a stick, or carve their name into firewood.
  2. Rope – This can be used for fort making, imagination play, and more.

    Building a fort in the forest is the best way to spend the afternoon.

  3. Containers – Various sizes of containers (save old yogurt ones, ice cream buckets or hit up the Dollar Store before you go) are great for stacking, collecting things, and carrying water.
  4. Magnifying Glass – What better way to see that bug’s antennae or look at a leaf up close. You can get great ones from Education Station that are bigger and perfect for little hands.
  5. Tarp – You can get these at the Dollar Store now! They will be very useful for making forts, putting on the ground to sit on and for collecting things they find in nature so it doesn’t have to come into your tent or trailer.
  6. Duct Tape – you never know when you could use some duct tape!
  7. Notebook – Whether it is used to write or draw what they find or it is used to make paper airplanes with secret spy codes written on them, paper is always useful in imaginative play.
  8. Paint – You are outside so this is a perfect time to get messy! Paint rocks, paper, leaves or whatever they find! The less direction the better.

    Bring out the paint and don’t worry about the mess!

  9. Elastics – Show them how to shoot them, make a sling shot, bunch things together, or wrap around twigs. You will be amazed at how often these will be used.

    Bunching sticks together. Not sure why but he sure loved it!

  10. A Net – Useful for catching bugs, scooping things out of the lake, or transporting things around the campsite.

You gave them the stuff now what?

These are just ideas to get them started! Use things you find to encourage risky play. Make an obstacle course using fallen trees and stumps while camping. Climb a tree. Look for interesting rocks and start a collection. Let them ride their bikes further than you would usually let them. Use sticks they find as a sword or to build a fort. By encouraging them to take risks they are gaining confidence that they can do it. The bonus for you is there will be no “Mom guilt” when you sit in your lawn chair and let them play. Maybe you can even get to that book you have been meaning to read since they were newborns.

What are your kids’ favourite “Risky Play” activity? We would love to hear and get some ideas from you!

Box Social Event Planning

 

In Explore, Rocky Mountains on
June 10, 2017

Hiking Braggin Rights in K-Country

by Sue Em, 
This year, we decided to kick off our 2017 hiking season in Kananaskis Country close to Bragg Creek. It is sometimes harder to know which hikes are appropriate for our family. We have an adventurous pre-teen and a six-year-old who is just gaining his hiking mojo. Getting a hike ‘just right’ in ability can be a little bit challenging. Sometimes we nail it, sometimes we don’t.
Our first hike this season, Braggin Rights was a challenging choice, to say the least! We chose to take Braggin Rights all the way up to Reconnect and down the loop via Long Distance. There were some fun switchbacks at the end of Long Distance, but they were largely downhill so, it kept the trail interesting enough for us.
Starting at the trailhead, there were already a large number of bicycles who were taking the same route, many families and adults use these trails so be aware of the bicycles coming down the hill above you.
The first part of the trail was largely between trees, and there wasn’t much of a view to be had. But as the trail twisted and turned, there were clearings and views to behold.
 
The spring flowers were already in full bloom so we had fun checking out some of the pretty purples and pinks that peeked out of the ground all around the trail.
When we finally got to the summit, it was a little disappointing only because we were still surrounded by trees all around us so the view, was only so-so. Everyone felt it was time to refresh with a quick snack before our descent.
Braggin’ Rights and Long Distance Trails were definitely a great workout for our winter feet, but I don’t think this would be a hike for us to repeat. The ‘payoff’ was not as big as a hike like Grassi Lakes or Grotto Canyon, but a good way to get to know the different parts of our hills here in Alberta’s K-Country.
After our hike, these hungry bears needed to eat something delicious – and Bragg Creek’s Italian Farmhouse was our first choice. We were looking forward to trying some good pasta and the restaurant did not disappoint!
Children enjoyed the Pizza and Meatballs pasta that were on the kids’ menu – and the grown-ups had a splendid time with some more pasta and chicken Caesar salad!

Sue Em writes because she loves words. Her blog missusemwrites.wordpress.com is where she writes about all sorts of interests including crafting, books, writing, hiking, and food. Sometimes it is an opportunity for her to write about herself in the third person. Sue is a mama originally from Singapore who now calls Calgary, Alberta home. She enjoys life as a busy person who loves wearing many ‘hats’ – educator, homemaker, chef, maker, artist, traveler, and mom. You can also find her on Instagram @missusemIn real life, you can sometimes find her in Calgary working as a presenter and facilitator at the Telus Spark Science Centre. Because yes, she loves science too.

In Explore, Rocky Mountains on
May 29, 2017

Hiking to Grassi Lakes

A fun way to explore with your kids when you’re in the Bow Valley region is through hiking. There are many trails in the region for beginner hikers and are suitable for families.

Grassi Lakes trail is rated a beginner hike by Tourism Canmore, so, with my kids in mind during a moms weekend away,  I decided to hike the Grassi Lakes trail to see if this would be something my kids would be interested in doing.

What you’ll need
  • Real Shoes. This is not the hike for flip flops! Sensible shoes are a must for this hike (sneakers or hiking boots) because the hike can be very steep and depending on the route you take, it can be precarious at times.
  • Sunscreen! I love the Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s natural sunscreen, it’s an SPF 31 and made with 100% natural ingredients. Plus Rocky Mountain Soap is a local company, and so when in Canmore…
  • Water. All the water. It’s a good hike, uphill on the side of the mountain, you’re going to need to keep hydrated.
  • Snacks. There are some really great spots at the top of the hike next to the turquoise lakes to settle in for a little picnic. Chances are, if your kids are like mine, they will be starving 5 mins into the trip. There are no garbage bins on the trail, so be prepared to bring whatever you brought up on the hike back down with you.
Getting There

Grassi Lakes trail is located 2 km past the Nordic Centre and gets very busy during the summer months and on weekends. There are two places to park, either on the Smith Dorien Spray Trail (Three Sisters Parkway) or down at the entrance of the hike at Ken Richie Way.

The Trail

The trail is divided into two routes, the “Easy”, and the “More Difficult.”  I’m not much of a hiker or adventurer, so I took the Easy route and left the “More Difficult” route to the pros on the way up. After 5 minutes on the Easy trail, I was starting to wonder at what point this was going to be easy. To be fair you’re essentially climbing up a mountain on a fairly steep slope, so if you’re a prairie dweller like me, stretch those muscles before you go walking up the path.

The “easy” trail going up

It’s not stroller friendly (it’s essentially a gravel path) so pack your little ones in the carrier or have them walk. There are boulders along the way if the kids (or you) need a little break for water.

Once you get to the top, the views are unreal! Beautiful panoramic views of Canmore as well as two turquoise lakes and lots of things for kids to climb on and explore. Perfect place for a picnic as well.

The views of Canmore!

Turquoise Lakes at Grassi Lakes

Bridges are always fun to walk over

Explore some small caves!

Getting Down

I decided on the way down to take the “More Difficult” route, you only live once right? Well, I wish I had taken this trail on the way up! So much more to see including a huge waterfall. It was just spectacular. Do not take this trail if you’re with littles though. It’s quite steep and stepping over roots and narrow walkways do not lend themselves to toddlers or parents carrying babies on their backs. If you have older kids, this is definitely the way to go. Lots more to see and feels more like a hike than climbing a (very) steep hill.

The road down the “difficult” path

Some of the stairs down are not for the faint of heart, but also… add to the adventure of the train down.

Beautiful views on the way down!

Lastly, although the trail is fairly busy, you should still be aware of wildlife. Wildsmart has lots of information on keeping safe while on your wilderness hikes this summer, from what to look for and wildlife corridors in the Rocky Mountains.

Enjoy!

In Explore, Rural Journeys on
April 29, 2017

Head East of YEG!

By Allison Hopkins

Take a day trip east of Edmonton to explore two unique Alberta treasures; Elk Island National Park and Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.

Stop at the visitor centre to pick up a map of Elk Island including a list of trails. With three trails under 4 km and a 300m living waters boardwalk the park offers family friendly hiking. Play at the sandy beach and playground of Astonin Lake, swimming is not recommended due to swimmer’s itch. Paddle in Astonin Lake by bringing your own canoe, kayak or paddle board or renting from Astonin Lake Recreation area. Don’t forget to drive down Bison Loop Road and stop to watch the Bison!

  • FREE park admission to Elk Island National Park to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.
  • Enjoy an ice cream at the Elk Island Golf Course or a picnic with fire pits at one of the four picnic areas (wood provided).
  • Pick up a discovery kit in July and August from the Astonin theatre located next to the playground including a geocache kit, pond discover kit and a backpack kit.
  • Check out a park program in July and August including Bison Backstage on Saturdays and Sunday 1 p.m. & 3 p.m. Pre-register at the visitor centre.
  • Haskin Canoe rents canoes, kayaks or standup paddlebaords; check webpage for operating hours.

After visiting Elk Island National Park take a short drive to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and walk around the open air museum. With thirty-five restored and relocated buildings including churches, a school house, grain elevator and blacksmith shop to explore.

  • Kids 6 and under are free admission! Family of four is forty dollars or FREE with Experience Alberta History Annual Pass.
  • Bring along rubber boots if it has rained lately as the paths can get muddy.
  • Pack a stroller or wagon to help those little feet explore the area.
  • Be aware only water is allowed in the village.
  • Picnic tables and fire pits (no wood provided) along with a food concession offering Ukrainian food (summer only) are located before the entrance to the village.
  • FREE wagon rides Thursday to Monday during summer months.
  • Opening day Saturday of the May long weekend.

Check out the webpage for special events like Ukrainian Day and Harvest of the Past Day. As the Ukrainian Village is a seasonal attraction and some services at Elk Island National Park are also seasonal, please always check their websites before heading out!

Allison Hopkins is a tea loving, wannabe blogger, passionate planner of adventures and crappy house cleaner of 2.