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Canadian Rockies Hiking: Great Hikes for Young Families

by K Gordon Schultz
Grassi Lakes, Banff National Park

Oh Dad, do we have to go hiking?

That was the common refrain we heard from our two kids as we started to introduce them to hiking in the Canadian Rockies so many years ago. But we were determined, that if we did it right, Cole and Morgan, would develop a love for mountain hiking much the same as their Mother and I had.

So what we chose to do was consider two factors whenever we were planning a family hike. The first was distance and elevation gain; no point in embarking on a 20 km hike or one that has 1500 meters in elevation gain. But the second became really the most important for the kids, and that was “pay-off”. We made sure that whatever hike we chose, it would have a fabulous pay-off in terms of view. It became an often repeated request that we get up as high as we could, as quickly as we could. It almost became a bragging right for them.

The following three hikes fit the big “pay-off” requirement in spades.

GRASSI LAKES – CANMORE: 2 km one-way, 244 m elevation gain

5.2 km west of Canmore’s Bow Bridge, turn left into when you see the signpost “Grassi Lakes”. The trail leads to two small but gorgeous turquoise lakes, and what kid can resist a lake! The first kilometre is an easy climb until you come to an intersection. Stay to the trail, not the fire road, as you will miss the waterfall and views of Canmore and the Bow Valley. Keep the kids close, as the steps can be tricky if wet!

STONY SQUAW – BANFF: 2.1 km, 182 m elevation gain

Head to the Mt. Norquay Ski Area above Banff and turn right into the first parking lot. The trail head is on the right of the parking lot entrance. This moderately graded but steady uphill trail is enclosed in a dense forest of lodgepole pine and spruce most of the way, but within 200 m of the top you begin to catch glimpses of Banff. The Bow Valley and the town of Banff lie immediately below, and Tunnel Mountain, Mount Rundle, and Sulphur Mountain are all visible beyond

BOOM LAKE – BANFF NATIONAL PARK: 5.1 km, 175 m elevation gain

Drive 7 km south on Highway #93 from Castle Junction on Highway #1 west of Banff to the Boom Lake picnic area. The trail starts at the rear of the picnic area across Boom Creek. The wide trail rises gently through Engelmann Spruce and alpine fir, crossing many small streams, where small feet will enjoy an occasional splash!! At the lake, terrific views of Boom Mountain, Mount Quadra and Bident Mountain rise at the far end. See if the kids can spot the log boom from which the lake gets its name!!

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