The Ultimate Car Camping Pack List

Includes our favorite gear!

The Best Short Hikes Near Calgary

1-4 km hikes less than 1 hour from Calgary!

10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary

10 family-friendly bike routes that include tasty snack spots!

3 Family Hikes in Northwest Calgary

Waterfall Valley, Douglas Fir Trail, Nose Hill Park

Exploring Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

Where to go, where to stay, and where to rent equipment!

Friday, August 26, 2016

6 Bear-Free Alberta Road Trips

If you don't want to worry about trail closures and bear advisories, head south-east to bear-free parks! Those who need their weekly dose of mountain time will be enjoy the Lake Louise road trip (trip #5 below).


  1. Kinbrook Island Provincial Park boasts a beautiful beach on the shores of Lake Newell. This park, with the largest and warmest manmade lake in Alberta, is only 2 hours from Calgary! Enjoy boating, fishing, beach time, and amazing birding on the 4.5 km interpretive wetland trail. If you'd like to stay for the weekend, there's a campground here too! Visit Alberta Parks for more information.
    Kinbrook Island Provincial Park
  2. Dinosaur Provincial Park is a land of hoodoos and dramatic badlands. Take advantage of the shorter days and get some out of this world dramatic sunset photos or go on a guided tour to see fossils in-situ that aren't accessible to the public. Go for the day, camp in the park, or stay in nearby Brooks. 220 km from Calgary. For more information, please see my post: Exploring Dinosaur Provincial Park
    Dinosaur Provincial Park
  3. Drumheller is home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, the World's Largest Dinosaur, and a rich history. Bike from downtown to the museum and check out mining relics in Midland Provincial Park en route, visit the hoodoos at Willow Creek Hoodoo Provincial Recreation Site, or tour the Atlas Coal Museum and climb the tipple, ride a train, or explore an underground tunnel. Allow a few hours for each museum. 135 km from Calgary. 
    Drumheller Badlands River Pathway
    Midland Provincial Park
    Exhibit at the Tyrrell Museum
    World's Largest Dinosaur
  4. Elkwater, Cypress Hills Provincial Park has a small, warm lake with sandy beaches, several campgrounds, a pleasant lakeside trail, and mountain biking trails. Come in winter for cross country skiing! For more details, please see Trip Report: Cypress Hills Provincial Park. 359 km from Calgary.
    Elkwater Lake, Alberta
    Elkwater Lake, Alberta
    Beach on Elkwater Lake
  5. The Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola takes you way up Whitehorn Mountain for phenomenal views of Mount Temple, Mount Fairview, and the Victoria Glacier. If you're lucky, you might see a grizzly from the gondola, but never fear, the area at the top of the gondola is fenced off with an electric bear-proof fence. Explore the Wildlife Interpretive Centre then enjoy a gourmet lunch at Whitehorn Lodge before heading down. There are some amazing hikes beyond the electric fence; group hiking and bear spray recommended. For more info, please see this post: Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola - Great For All Ages. 184 km from Calgary.
    View from Kicking Horse Viewpoint
    On the way to Kicking Horse Viewpoint
  6. Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is a magical land of hoodoos, First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings), and pictographs (rock paintings) in the beautiful Milk River Valley.  For the best experience, book a tour ($) in advance so you can see parts of the park not open to the public, and don't miss the free evening interpretive programs. 340 km from Calgary. Thank you Sonja from Sonja's Super Suggestions for YYC Families for the beautiful photos!!
Writing on Stone Provincial Park
Image Credit: Sonja Hayes-Powers
Petroglyphs at Writing on Stone Provincial Park
Image Credit: Sonja Hayes-Powers
Have the bear advisories/warnings and trail closures made you change your summer travel plans? We had to cancel our backcountry camping trip to the Point and Forks as the Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit was closed due to "multiple grizzlies feeding on berries along the trail". We went to the Crowsnest Pass instead!

More Great Road Trips

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This Doll Loves Banff and We Love Her! Maplelea Taryn Doll Review & Giveaway

Meet Taryn, the newest addition to our family. Hailing from beautiful Banff National Park, Taryn loves nature, camping, and the great outdoors. With her hiking boots, backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pj's, she's ready to go backpacking! Sound like someone you know? My girls can relate to her in a way they can't with other dolls and enjoy reading her journal and helping her add entries as they take new adventures together.


Designed by a Canadian mom for Canadian girls, Maplelea 18" dolls are beautifully made with silky hair, eyes that open and close, poseable arms and legs, a soft, huggable body, and no scary makeup or weird proportions.

Big POG and Taryn taking baby skunk for a walk
Taryn and her accessories are high quality. Over the past few months, my 5 year old and 7 year old have dressed and undressed her, dragged her around by one arm (apparently how you show love when you're almost in kindergarten, LOL), ripped the tent open umpteen times to shove more stuff in and "make it more comfy", and everything is still good as new. Don't forget lifting the skunk's tail a million times to spray people. If that's not thorough testing, I don't know what is!

Maplelea Taryn Collection
Image Credit: Maplelea
When I asked my girls what they love best about Taryn, they said:
  • It's cool that she's from Banff! (We frequently go to Banff; it's only an hour from home!)
    • We like the same things! (Taryn's favorite thing to do with her family is go camping and roast marshmallows.)
    • Her hair is really nice. It's like real hair! I like doing her hair!
    • I like her cute clothes and pajamas.
    • I love her because she came with animals and the animals can move! (The fox is fully adjustable, skunk has an adjustable tail, and the deer stands up on its own.)
    • I like her tent because it's like a real tent. Her backpack is cool too because it has buckles like a real one.
    • It's fun to read her journal and find out what she likes.
    Little POG loves Taryn!
    While I agree with my daughters 100%, I have to add a few points from a mother's perspective. If Taryn were a real person, she's the kind of girl I'd want my girls to play with. She won a Citizenship Award in school, is in the Environmental Club, would keep disrespectful tourists out of the park if she had superpowers, and loves skiing, camping, and skating. I read all this in her journal (shhhh, don't tell!) and her journal has inspired my 7 year old to start one of her own! The first entry was "My Raincation" since this summer has been the rainiest Alberta has seen in 89 years.

    I also love that Taryn dresses sensibly in clothes that cover her butt. With so many scary and skanky dolls on the shelves, it's great to have wholesome options. More outfits are available on the Maplelea website, but Taryn can wear any clothes for 18" dolls. Accessories may be stored in the beautiful keepsake box that comes with each Maplelea doll. If your kids are learning to tie their shoes, they'll get lots of practice with Taryn's boots!

    Tying Taryn's boots. Note the fasteners on the tent flaps and windows!
    Last but not least, Taryn's journal offers opportunities to learn more about Canada's heritage, culture, and geography. This is especially important to us as my husband is a teacher and I have a Geography degree. When you combine playtime with learning, lessons are retained better! We read through the information about Banff (it was accurate), Taryn's wish to end global warming, and talked about how the glaciers are shrinking and what we could do to slow that process. After seeing the Athabasca Glacier (just north of Banff National Park) this summer, the girls were very curious about what causes glaciers to shrink and how humans can reduce their impact on the environment.

    Taryn's Journal (comes with doll)
    Taryn would make a great gift for young adventurers as she's a positive role model, fun to play with (that hair!), high quality, and super cute. Built to last, she can be a part of the family for a long time.

    Maplelea Taryn Collection
    Do you know someone who would love a Taryn doll? Buy the complete Taryn collection online ($68 off for a limited time) or enter to win a Maplelea doll of your choice! Giveaway open to Canadian and US Residents only. Contest closes August 30, 2016.

    Disclosure: Maplelea generously provided us with a complete Taryn collection for review, but all words and opinions are my own. I take great pride in reviewing quality products and providing honest reviews.

    Giveaway

    Prize: ONE Maplelea Girls doll of winner's choosing. See complete choices here. Accessories (tent, backpack, animals) sold separately.
    Eligibility: Open to residents of Canada & the U.S. Entrants must complete the mandatory entries in the Rafflecopter form below.
    Contest closes August 30, 2016 at 11:59 pm MDT.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    How can we safely share nature with wildlife?

    In an effort to protect park users, local parks have implemented multiple wildlife advisories, trail closures, tenting bans, and even put down two wolves. Some recent incidents that triggered these measures include the following:
    Why is this happening and how can we reduce the number of human-wildlife conflicts? Large predators (bears, wolves, cougars) have always lived in our mountain parks, but this year we are dealing with a bumper berry crop after two years of drought, record numbers of park visitors, and hordes of ignorant campers/hikers who refuse to abide by the rules. While conservationists would remind us that habitat loss is an important part of the equation (and they would be right), the biggest thing we can do right now is change our behaviour so we are not part of the problem. The wolves that were recently killed in Banff and the bear killed at Mount Kidd Campground in Kananaskis in 2013 were habituated, essentially trained to eat human food.

    When we stayed at Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff last month (July 2016), one in three campers in our loop left food bins, coolers, garbage, barbecues, and/or dog food out at unattended campsites (all night or for several hours) despite tons of signage advising otherwise. It's no wonder that wolves were frequenting the campground (and the Two Jack campgrounds) for meals! Sadly, the wolves paid with their lives and careless campers continue to make the same mistakes. It's just as easy for this to happen with bears too.

    So how can we share natural spaces with wildlife safely? In a way that neither endangers humans nor wildlife?


    Here are 6 ways to share nature safely with wildlife.

    1. Respect Wildlife: One of the seven tenets of Leave No Trace is to respect wildlife. Keep your distance, don't touch them, never ever feed them, and don't leave food out for them. This goes for all creatures, large and small. If you've ever been in touristy areas overrun with problem ground squirrels stealing your food or going in your vehicle, you know what I'm talking about! If not, take my word for it. Besides, Cheetos aren't good for anyone. Wild animals need to eat wild food! Did you know the fine for feeding wildlife in the national parks is up to $25,000?
      Don't feed wildlife!

    2. Educate Others: Some people have never seen a bear and don't believe that one would come into a crowded campground. Of course, that is not the case. Do what you must - if you have to scare the bejeesus outta them to make them put their shit away, so be it. I like telling people that bears come around the campground every night after you go to sleep. Works like a charm! Likewise, many people don't seem to understand that very placid looking moose, elk, or bison can hurt you if you get too close, approach their babies, or are within 100 metres of them during rutting season (when males are extremely territorial). Keep your distance, please!


    Bison near our site in Yellowstone National Park

    3. Say No To Bear Jams: Stopping on the side of a twisty mountain road is not only dangerous from a traffic perspective, it accustoms bears to human company. As civilized as that sounds, you do not want to have tea with a bear (guess who will be doing all the eating?). Slow down and snap a photo from the car if you must, but please don't stop. If you're brave enough, you can lay on the horn as you drive by to break the bear jam up. When I spoke with WildSmart educators last month, they advised me this was a helpful thing to do (but to expect some ticked off people - one of their employees was tailed and harassed for doing so).



    4. Be Bear (and Wolf! and Cougar!) Aware:  By making noise and hiking in a group, it is very unlikely you will ever see a large predator on the trails. You should, however,  carry bear spray for insurance and know how to use it. For more bear safety tips, please see this post.


    See! Bears DO hang out near campgrounds!

    5. Respect Trail Closures: Trails are closed on a temporary or seasonal basis for a variety of reasons: prime wildlife habitat, environmentally sensitive area, caribou winter grounds, mountain sheep calving area, carnivores feeding on a carcass, mother bears with cubs. You may put yourself at risk entering these areas, or you may endanger wildlife. I heard a sad story this summer of how the caribou population near Maligne Lake was decimated. The Maligne Lake Road and winter backcountry users allowed wolves to get in to an area historically safe for the caribou in winter (caribou have big hooves to travel on snow, wolves cannot move through deep snow). It is unlikely that Maligne Lake herd will last long with only 3 individuals left. We need to think of the long term effects of our actions and choose another path.




    6. Keep a Bare Site: All food and attractants must be put away when you are not at your campsite or when you go to sleep at night. This includes coolers (bears can smell 100 times better than us and can smell food inside them!), garbage, empty bottles, toothpaste, bug spray, pet food, barbecues, and dishes. If you are backcountry camping, hang your food high in a tree at least 100 metres from your tent or utilize the campground's bearproof food lockers or bear wires for all food and attractants. It's safer for you and your campmates and ensures animals don't get rewarded for sniffing around camp.

    Are there any other ways we can help wildlife? I would love to hear them!



    Related Posts



    Wednesday, August 10, 2016

    William A. Switzer Provincial Park Recreation Guide

    William A. Switzer Provincial Park is a foothills oasis near Hinton, AB with five lakes to explore. The calm waters are inviting to paddlers of all levels and more experienced paddlers will enjoy tackling the Jarvis Creek Canoe Circuit. A network of hiking and bike trails connects the lakes, and the Hinton Nordic Centre has 35 kilometres of rolling trails that are groomed for cross country skiing in the winter! When it's time to relax, stretch out on the sand at Jarvis Lake's beach.

    We spent 4 days at Switzer Park in mid-July and found it a pleasant change of pace from the National Parks. Lake time without the crowds!


    Paddling

    Switzer's lakes are the main attraction. Calm, clear waters make for a great experience no matter your skill level. We enjoyed paddling to the northern end of Gregg Lake and visiting a small island, beaver dam, and bird houses near the private residences. We had to work a bit harder on the return as the water flows north out of the lake, but it was still an easy, beautiful paddle.

    Paddling on Gregg Lake, Switzer Park
    Kayaking on Gregg Lake, Switzer Park
    If you would like to try moving water, paddle the Jarvis Creek Interpretive Route (4 km one way). More experienced paddlers can paddle the entire Jarvis Creek circuit from Jarvis Lake to Gregg Lake, but must be able to navigate sweepers, beaver dams and strong currents. Portages are required on both routes during low water flow and a car shuttle is recommended unless you want to paddle both ways. A detailed brochure outlining the routes is available at Kelley's Bathtub Visitor Centre. More information is available from Alberta Parks.

    Jarvis Lake
    Canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available at Gregg Lake and Jarvis Lake boat launches from Switzer Park Paddleboard Rentals.

    Beaches

    Jarvis Lake has a sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and building sand castles as well as a playground!

    Picturesque Kelley's Bathtub has a small patch of sand (a few metres long) which is fun for the kids if you're hiking there or visiting the Visitor Centre. Hiking info follows.

    Kelley's Bathtub, Switzer Park

    Hiking

    Switzer's hikes have minimal elevation gain, so they're perfect for children!

    Kelley's Bathtub (1 km loop) was our favorite short hike in the area. Jokingly named for a local hunter and outdoorsman who fell in (before the boardwalk was built), the pool's calm waters make for perfect reflections and pretty pictures. Walk around the pond and across a short boardwalk that separates it from Jarvis Lake. Afterwards, grab an ice cream bar and check out the exhibits in the Visitor Centre! There are picnic tables and washrooms here too.
    Trailhead: Kelley's Bathtub Visitor Centre.

    Kelley's Bathtub Trail
    For a longer hike, try Friendly Vista (2.5 km loop). Bird watch, look for moose, and take a break at the various viewpoints along the lake. Insider tip: Be sure to pick up a Family Adventure Backpack from the information centre so you can solve clues at each interpretive stop.
    Trailhead: Kelley's Bathtub Visitor Centre.

    Viewpoint on Friendly Vista Trail
    Kettle (3.5 km) interpretive trail takes you on the path of ancient glaciers. Walk along an esker (winding gravel ridge deposited by glaciers) to a kettle lake left behind when the glaciers retreated. We didn't get a chance to do this hike, but it was highly recommended by parks staff.
    Trailhead: Behind the Gregg Lake campground shower building. 

    Athabasca Lookout (1.5 km) is a short climb to a viewpoint overlooking the Solomon Valley. From this vantage, you can see all the way to the Rockies! Head northwest across the ridge to leave the cell phone towers behind. The best part of the hike was all the wildflowers! 
    Trailhead: Luge Parking Lot, Hinton Nordic Centre.

    Athabasca Lookout
    Athabasca Lookout Trail

    Mountain Biking and Cross Country Skiing

    Bike or hike Jarvis Lake Trail (13.5 km) and Gregg Lake Trail (2.5 or 4 km). These gravel trails are rolly and suitable for kids on 20" bikes, but it's possible to bike and hike with younger kids as the hills are not too big. For forest, meadows and creeks, try the Jarvis Lake Trail. Gregg Lake's trail has mixed forest and some of the biggest aspens I've ever seen. We walked the Gregg Lake Trail as my mom didn't have a bike with her. Insider tip: Stop at the campground registration building for an ice cream treat!

    Gregg Lake Trail
    For more challenging trails, try the hilly, forested trails at the Hinton Nordic Centre. Mountain bike in the summer and cross country ski in the winter on 35+ km of maintained trails! (Day use/season's pass fees are in effect in winter.) 

    Fishing

    Jarvis Creek is stocked with brown trout and may be a good place to try. Locals also recommended Cache Lake and Petite Lake. Unfortunately the Trout Pond was already fished out, so we had no luck there and we got skunked at Gregg Lake (4 times), but heard that winter ice fishing for whitefish is pretty good.

    Trout Pond

    Camping

    There are several great campgrounds to choose from in Switzer Park.

    Gregg Lake Campground has the most amenities including showers, amphitheatre, playground, and power, power & water, or unserviced sites. Sites were well shaded. The only downside is that sites are quite close together. Reservable.

    We chose to stay at Gregg Lake Lakeside to be closer to the lake. While these unserviced sites were not directly lakeside, the day use playground and boat launch were a short walk away. There is a large cook shelter, swing set, water pumps, and pit toilets in this loop. Sites were close together, but the campground was quiet, so we slept well. All sites were partially shaded. Reservable.

    Gregg Lake Lakeside Campsite
    Gregg Lake Lakeside Cook Shelter
    Gregg Lake Lakeside Playground
    Jarvis Lake, Cache Lake, and Graveyard Lake campgrounds have unserviced sites. 
    • Jarvis Lake looked the most appealing as it has a boat launch, playground, and beach with many shaded sites and walk-in tent sites. Reservable.
    • Cache Lake is smaller (14 sites), but has treed sites and a playground. FCFS.
    • Graveyard Lake is the smallest campground with 7 sites in an open grassy area. FCFS.
    One of the best things about camping here is that there are no trains going by to wake you up in the night! It was quiet at night and we could see tons of stars.

    Other Activities

    Switzer Park has excellent programming throughout the week including:
    • Art in the Park at the Gregg Lake Boat Launch (so much fun!), 
    • Amphitheatre shows at Gregg Lake, 
    • Presentations at Gregg Lake Campground, and 
    • Family activities like pond dipping.  
    Art in the Park
    (Tables were set up on shore, but the girls wanted to dry their paintings on the dock.)


    Check at the Visitor Centre or your campground for upcoming events.

    Getting Here

    Switzer Park is located about 30 km north of Hinton, Alberta on Highway 40 (paved). From Calgary, it is a 5.5 hour drive on Hwy 2 & 16, or 6 hour drive via the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93N) or Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22).

    Conclusion

    I would recommend Switzer Park to families who like to get off the beaten path and spend lots of time on the water. This is a great place to paddle! 

    Disclosure: As an Alberta Parks Ambassador, I received free camping, but all words and opinions are my own.

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    Monday, August 8, 2016

    Vasque Breeze 2.0 Kids' Ultradry Hiking Boots Review

    I grew up hiking in runners, and it was mostly fine for hikes and easy scrambles. What wasn't cool, however, was having cold, wet feet... Or putting plastic bags in my shoes to keep my socks dry (Good luck getting a teenager to do that!). It worked for a while, but eventually my feet got hot, sweaty, and wet again (but from the inside, ugh). And then my feet turned into blister city (owie). So long story short, waterproof hikers make a world of a difference in wet conditions! Hiking boots also help in the traction, cushioning, and ankle support categories!

    Over the years I've had 3 pairs of the Vasque Breeze waterproof hikers and have loved how light, comfy and waterproof they are. Recently we discovered the kids' version and are happy to share our experience with them.

    Disclosure: All Out Kids Gear generously provided us with a pair of Vasque Breeze 2.0 Kids Ultradry Hiking Boots to test and review. All words and opinions are my own.


    Testing

    Little POG (5 years old) tested the Vasque Breeze Boots on several hikes over a 2-month period. From dirt trails to loose rock, the boots did well on all terrain. We put the waterproofing to a test on our raincation (11 days of tent camping and hiking in the rain) and Little POG's feet stayed dry! Hurrah!

    Vasque Breeze 2.0 Kids' Ultradry Hiking Boots

    What We Loved

    Light enough for dayhikes, but sturdy enough for backpacking, these waterproof boots are perfect for active, outdoorsy kids (because seriously, who buys their kid multiple pairs of hiking boots?)! Our favorite features are described below.

    Vasque Breeze at Edworthy Falls
    • Weighing in at 1 lb 8.75 oz (size 13), these boots are relatively lightweight - they weigh only ounces more than their lowtop cousins, but provide more support. 
    • High tops provide ankle support, a heel lock, and protection from debris (small rocks, pine needles). They provide more support than low hikers and are softer than leather backpacking boots, so they are quite comfortable. Another advantage of higher top boots is that you can buy the boots a bit big and use them longer because your child's heels won't lift! We got Little POG's boots one size bigger and she wears them with thick socks and finds them really comfortable.
      • Pro tip: Be sure to wear technical hiking socks that are higher than the boot tops to prevent chafing.
    • The Ultradry waterproof membrane allows heat and moisture to escape while keeping water out. Little POG wore these all day from morning 'til night and had dry feet at the end of the day several days in a row. In light rain, water actually beads off of the boots!  Time will tell how long the waterproofing lasts, but if they're made like the women's Breeze boots, they should be good for a few years.
    • Puddles? No problem!
      • Note: The only times Little POG had wet feet while wearing her Vasques was when water went in the tops of her boots (e.g. not wearing rain pants/gaiters in heavy rain, or walking into knee deep water).
    • Rubber caps on the toe and heel prevent abrasion and protect little toes and heels. Super useful when scrambling on loose rock!
    • Since the boots are made of abrasion resistant mesh and waterproof suede, no break-in period is required. The boots are good to go right out of the box!
    • The outsoles provide good traction on mud and loose rock. Little POG is really nimble in her Vasque Breeze boots whether we're on a dirt trail, gravel trail, loose rock, or scree.

    At the top of Mount Fairview, Lake Louise.
    It was steep and rocky, but Little POG did great!

    What We Would Like To See

    Our only beef with these boots is that the laces seem to come undone quite frequently despite double tying them. Different laces would be nice in future generations of the Vasque Breeze.


    Bottom Line

    would recommend the Vasque Breeze 2.0 Ultradry hiking boots for kids that hike a lot and are getting in to backpacking and scrambling.


    Where to Buy

    Vasque Boots can be found at quality outdoor gear stores, including All Out Kids Gear, the sponsor of this post.


    Based in Red Deer, Alberta, All Out Kids is a family business "committed to bringing in only top quality gear, and providing the very best possible customer service and shopping experience!" In addition to Vasque kids' boots, they have a sweet collection of Deuter packs and MSR products!

    To save 10% on your order of Vasque Breeze 2.0 kids' boots from All Out Kids, please use coupon code playoutside10 at checkout.


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    Wednesday, August 3, 2016

    Touring the Icefields Parkway with Kids

    Countless natural wonders and wildlife make the Icefields Parkway a must-see. Spanning 232 km (144 mi) from Lake Louise to Jasper, there are glaciers, turquoise lakes, waterfalls, and jagged peaks around every corner. It's easy to see why the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N) is one of the world's most scenic drives! For this epic driving tour, slow travel rules; embrace the journey and make lots of stops. There are amazing sights just minutes from the highway!


    The best family-friendly stops along the Icefields Parkway from south to north are...

    1. Peyto Lake (45 km from Lake Louise): Named for explorer, Bill Peyto, this lake is known for its impossible shade of blue (due to glacial rock flour). Save your sanity and skip the lower viewpoint crawling with tourists. Hike instead to a viewpoint near the southern end of the lake. You will likely have this splendid spot all to yourself, save for a few ground squirrels!
    • Directions: Take the Bow Summit turnoff. Walk up to the upper parking lot (about 600 m). Take the paved self-guided nature trail away from the lookout, PASS the turnoff to Peyto Glacier (it goes downhill, you want to go up for a view), then take the next signed turnoff on the right. Take the dirt path to a rock outcropping with panoramic views! Peyto Glacier looms to your left and Peyto Lake is to your right. Return to the interpretive trail and continue on the loop back to the lower parking lot. 
    • 2.2 km return, 50 m elevation gain. From turnoff to lookout is not stroller friendly. Outhouses at trailhead.
    • For a longer hike, hike to Bow Summit. 5.8 km return, 245 m elevation gain.
    Peyto Lake, Banff National Park
    Peyto Lake, Banff National Park
    2. Mistaya Canyon (75 km from Lake Louise): This easy walk takes you to a unique, sculpted, slot canyon. Observe how the Mistaya River has carved the stone over thousands of years.
    • Park at the Mistaya Canyon pullout on the west side of the highway.
    • 400 m one way, minimal elevation loss. Stroller friendly.
    Mistaya Canyon in March
    3. Saskatchewan River Crossing (80 km from Lake Louise): The Crossing Resort is your stop for ice cream, souvenirs, camping supplies, dining, and gas (no fuel for 153 km!).

    Saskatchewan River Crossing, Icefields Parkway
    4. Columbia Icefield (130 km from Lake Louise): You must not pass! This expansive icefield, mother to 8 glaciers, is the largest in the North American Rocky Mountains! You can hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier, take the Glacier Adventure tour to get a feet-on-the-glacier experience, or view the scenery from a glass walkway.
    • Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre: Parks Canada Information Centre and home to Brewster Tours. Also in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the building with the most women's bathrooms for its size (no joke!).
    • Toe of the Glacier Hike: Hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier and see a huge blue ice cave! 4 km return, short and steep climb to the top of the moraine. 
      • STAY OFF THE GLACIER! People have fallen into crevasses (deep cracks in the ice) and died of hypothermia. 
      • Ice cave is only accessible from late fall to spring as there is a river flowing from the toe of the glacier in warmer months. Enter the cave at your own risk. 
    • Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Tour: Ride a huge Icefield Explorer (all terrain vehicle designed specifically for glacier travel) right onto the Athabasca Glacier where you will have the chance to get out and walk on the glacier for about 15 minutes. It was amazing, but sad, to see how far the glacier has retreated since I was a kid. Allow 4-5 hours if you are planning on doing the Glacier Adventure and Skywalk. For more information, please visit Brewster Travel Canada
    • Skywalk: Grab a headset and enjoy the interpretive walk to a glass walkway 280 m (918 feet) above the Sunwapta Valley. It was pretty cool to see waterfalls and rapids rushing below our feet. For more information, please visit Brewster Travel Canada
    Athabasca Glacier Ice Cave
    Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Tour
    Skywalk
    5. Sunwapta Falls (178 km from Lake Louise): These beautiful falls may be viewed from the viewing bridge or the trail. The upper falls are less than 100 m from the parking lot and the lower falls are a 4 km return hike (80 m elevation loss to 2nd falls). I recommend skipping the lower falls and continuing down the road to Athabasca Falls.

    Sunwapta Falls in March - viewing bridge near top of photo
    Lower Sunwapta Falls in July
    6. Athabasca Falls (202 km from Lake Louise, 32 km south of Jasper): You will hear these powerful falls crashing before you see them. Observe them from the viewing bridges and then check out the blue lagoon on the other side of the upper viewing platform. The water is really that blue! 1 km interpretive trail; no elevation gain.

    Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park in March
    Downstream of Athabasca Falls

    Bonus:
    • Bow Lake is gorgeous.  Kids will enjoy throwing rocks in the lake while you take photos of the lake and Crowfoot Glacier. I've heard there's good fishing here too! Note that a National Parks Fishing Permit must be obtained in order to fish in the National Parks!
      • Bow Glacier Falls is a nice half-day hike. 9 km return, 155 m elevation gain.
    • For stunning views with not too much effort, hike to Parker Ridge. 2.7 km one way, 250 m elevation gain.

    Know Before You Go

    • A National Discovery Pass is required to drive the Icefield Parkway or stop anywhere in a National Park. If you buy a pass this year (2016), it will be good until 2018! AMA members get a discount if they buy directly from an AMA office.
    • Be prepared for sudden weather changes. 
      • From November to May, snow tires are recommended. 
      • Carry extra layers of clothing when hiking & don't forget a windproof, waterproof layer.
    • Fill up in Jasper or Lake Louise as there is only one gas station on the Icefields Parkway: Saskatchewan Crossing.
    • Do not stop in the middle of the road to view wildlife! If you must pull over, stay in your vehicle and do not feed the animals. There is a maximum $25,000 fine for feeding wildlife.
    • Reservations recommended for accommodation as this is a popular destination for travellers from all over the world.

    Fun Fact

    Did you know the Icefields Parkway is 76 years old?