The Best Spring Hikes in Kananaskis

Where to hike now!

Keeping Warm in Spring

The best spring gear plus proper fuel and hydration will keep you warm.

4 Great Spring Hikes in Banff

Try one of these family-friendly spring hikes in Banff!

The Top 5 Spring Things to Do in Kananaskis

Bike, hike, or go fishing in Kananaskis this spring!

5 Tips for Spring Hiking

Gaiters and microspikes for the win! Learn more.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Finding a Last Minute Campsite in Alberta

It's almost the weekend and you want to go camping, but haven't booked a campsite. Is it possible to still go? If you're flexible on location, and timing, absolutely! While we usually book campsites several months in advance, we have found nice campsites in Alberta last minute on several occasions.



Here's how to get a campsite in Alberta without booking months in advance!
  1. If you'd like to book at campsite at a reservable campground, check for campsites or cancellations 3 or 4 days before you want to travel. Alberta Parks allows cancellation up to 72 hours prior to 2 pm on your scheduled date of arrival and Parks Canada allows cancellations up to 3 days before arrival date, so this is one way to get a campsite at the last minute.
    • Find an Alberta Parks campsite here. Pro Tip: Enter your desired camping dates and type "all" in the 'Search for' box, then select "all campgrounds" to see what is available throughout the province. This will save you entering (or knowing) the name of each provincial park or campground that still has space. 
      AB Parks Camping Reservation Site
    • At time of writing, 3 days before the May long weekend, there were 61 spots available in Cypress Hill Provincial Park350 km from Calgary, has cell service, 11 reservable campgrounds, 1 equestrian campground, and 4 group campgrounds. Elkwater is a full service campground with 166 sites that is open year round. Firerock has 139 unserviced sites and power sites. Loop A is near the lake and shower building. 
    • Find a National Parks campsite here
      • The following reservable campgrounds in Banff are all open now: Tunnel Mountain Village 1, Tunnel Mountain Village 2, Tunnel Mountain Village 2 O'Tentik, Tunnel Mountain Trailer. Lake Louise Trailer campground is open now and reservable after June 20. The rest, including Two Jack Main and Two Jack Lakeside, open after May 25. 
      • Elk Island National Park reservable campground: Astotin Lake. More info here.
      • Jasper reservable campgrounds: Whistlers, Wapiti, Wabasso or Pocahontas.
      • Waterton reservable campground: Townsite Campground. (If you can't make it this weekend, go May 26-June 4 for the Waterton Food Festival!)
        Kinbrook Island Provincial Park's great beach
  2. Stay at a First Come First Served (FCFS) Campground. Pro Tip 1: Go midweek (Monday to Thursday). Pro Tip 2: Contact the Campground Operator at FCFS campgrounds to see when campgrounds typically fill up (e.g. Friday by 4 pm) to avoid disappointment. 
    • Alberta Parks FCFS Campgrounds: With FCFS campsites at 159 campgrounds, you are bound to find a campsite! We've had good luck short notice at the following campgrounds.
      • Sibbald Lake PRA, 70 km from Calgary, 134 unserviced sites, no showers. B Loop is a generator-free zone perfect for tent campers! Lots of easy hiking trails in the area. Sibbald Lake and nearby Sibbald Meadows Pond are stocked with rainbow trout.
      • Willow Rock (Bow Valley Provincial Park), 78 km from Calgary, cell service, showers, flush toilets. Hike the Flowing Waters Trail from camp!
      • Lundbreck Falls PRA, 207 km from Calgary, 56 sites including 8 walk-in sites, power sites and unserviced sites, great fishing, pretty 12 m waterfall. N showers.
      • Fish Lake, Goldeye or Two O'Clock Creek in the David Thompson Corridor. There are 12 more campgrounds to choose from plus 4 group camping areas! Approx. 300 km from Calgary on the Icefields Parkway or Cowboy Trail. Sites are unserviced, no showers.
      • More great last minute campgrounds with FCFS campsites: Tanya Schwarz recommends Paddy's Flats - 98 sites and Gooseberry PRA - 85 sites in the Bragg Creek area. Suzi Smart recommends Cataract Creek near Longview - 102 sites, Bleriot Ferry near Drumheller - 28 sites, and Chain Lakes near Nanton - 21 sites.
      • Lower Kananaskis Lake, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
    • Banff National Park FCFS Campgrounds: Castle Mountain and Protection Mountain are unserviced campgrounds on the Bow Valley Parkway with FCFS sites. Mosquito Creek, Rampart Creek, Silverhorn Creek, and Waterfowl Lakes are unserviced campgrounds on the Icefields Parkway with FCFS sites. These campgrounds open or or after May 25.
      Peyto Lake Lookout is a gorgeous hike along the Icefields Parkway
    • Jasper National Park has 7 FCFS campgrounds: Snaring - 66 sites, Kerkeslin - 42 sites, Honeymoon Lake - 35 sites, Jonas Creek - 25 sites, Icefield (tents only) - 33 sites, Wilcox - 46 sites, and Icefields Centre (RV & trailers only) - 100 sites. Wilcox opens May 31 and Kerkeslin opens June 21; the rest are open now! More info here.
      The Athabasca Glacier is a must-see when in Jasper!
    • Waterton Lakes National Park FCFS Campsites: Crandell Mountain Campground has 129 FCFS sites along the beautiful Red Rock Parkway with flush toilets and water (no showers). Belly River Campground has 24 unserviced FCFS sites; bring your own water. More info here.
      Red Rock Canyon
  3. Get off the beaten path. 
    • Smaller, rustic campgrounds tend to fill up slower than their full-service peers. What they lack in plumbing (no showers), they make up for with dark skies and a closer-to-nature experience. 
    • The David Thompson Corridor has 15 campgrounds (plus 4 group campgrounds) to choose from. We like Fish Lake, Goldeye, and Two O'Clock Creek best. Most, if not all, provide free firewood each night!
    • Lundbreck Falls was a fun find last summer with great fishing and proximity to Crowsnest Pass hikes and historical sites. 
    • Crescent Falls is a short drive off the David Thompson Highway
  4. Look for a spot at a private campground. While private campgrounds tend to be more expensive than national or provincial park campgrounds, they offer several amenities like tennis courts and wading pools.
    • Mount Kidd RV Park is a full service campground in the heart of Kananaskis with large, treed sites, laundry, showers, a concession.
    • Sundance Lodges, a short drive from Kananaskis Village, has tipis, trappers tents and unserviced campsites.
      Tent camping at Mount Kidd in February
  5. Be flexible. Everyone wants to go to Dinosaur Provincial Park this time of year, so if you don't luck out with cancellations, try nearby Tillebrook. Modest, but well maintained Tillebrook puts you 42 km from Dinosaur and only 21 km from Kinbrook Island's sandy beach. Can't get a spot at popular Crimson Lake? Try Heritage Camping at nearby Rocky Mountain National Historic Site instead and day trip to the lake!
    Dinosaur Provincial Park in spring
  6. Enlist the help of friends and family: If a friend or relative can leave town early or already has a reservation, ask him/her to take your tent and save you a FCFS site at their campground. Note that your tent must be set up - parks policy is that you must have a sleeping unit (trailer, tent, camper van) on the site - and your friend/relative must pay within 15 minutes to hold your spot. Bring extra marshmallows to thank them for the trouble! 
    Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Other Options

  1. Group campsites: This is a great option if you know a lot of outdoorsy families. Find an Alberta Parks Group Camping Area here.
  2. Walk-in camping: Walk-in campsites don't fill up as quickly as traditional "front country" campsites, but the walk in is usually short and the sites are often prettier too! Check out our tips for walk-in camping and where to stay near Calgary.
  3. Random camping is permitted in Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) and Wildland Provincial Parks with some restrictions. Note that random camping is NOT permitted in Alberta's Provincial Parks or Provincial Recreation Areas. For more information, see Alberta Parks - Random Camping.
Bike the Tunnel Mountain  Bench Loop from any of the Tunnel Mountain campgrounds!
CBC Radio's David Gray and I chatted about long weekend camping on The Eye Opener on May 17. Listen to the podcast here (fast forward to 24:34 for my segment) or view the CBC transcript here.

What is your secret to getting a last minute campsite?


Disclosure

I am an Alberta Parks Ambassador and have received free camping at many of the aforementioned campgrounds, but all words and opinions are my own.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring Fun in Waterton feat. the Waterton Food Festival

Waterton is an outdoor lovers' playground "where mountains meet the prairie" but it is fast becoming a foodie destination. The annual Waterton Food Festival celebrates culinary awesomeness each spring with special menus and family friendly events including a one-of-a-kind pie cruise.  This year's festivities run from May 26 until June 4, 2017 and promise to be tasty with most restaurants in town participating. While you're there, enjoy biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing. Our photo essay gives you a sneak peek of spring fun in Waterton and at the Waterton Food Festival.

For more information, please check out my story "Hikes, Surrey Bikes and Pie, Oh My! Family fun at the Waterton Food Festival" at Festival Seekers.



A hearty breakfast is key to a day of adventuring. For quick eats - bacon and eggs, eggs benedict - in a comfortable dining room, try Vimy's Bar and Grill. If you have a sweet tooth, head to Pearl's Cafe for their signature French Toast or Waffleton's for their famous Belgian waffles.

Pearl's Cafe Waterton
Apple Pie French Toast from Pearl's Cafe
Vimy's Pub Waterton
Vimy's Eggs Benedict
Whether you hike, bike or boat in Waterton, you are guaranteed great views and wildlife sightings. Hay Barn Road is a great place to see elk (we saw a huge herd there on our drive in), and mountain sheep and deer are commonly seen around town.

mountain sheep waterton
Mountain sheep chilling out beside our hotel
Some family friendly hiking trails are the Bear's Hump (2.8 km return), Red Rock Canyon (700 m loop), Blakiston Falls (2 km return) and Lower Bertha Falls (5.6 km return). Short on time? Check out Cameron Falls at the end of Cameron Falls Drive, and walk the Emerald Lake trail/shoreline for grand views including the iconic Prince of Wales Hotel.

bears hump waterton
View from the Bear's Hump
red rock canyon waterton
Red Rock Canyon
blakiston falls waterton
Blakiston Falls
Looking across Emerald Bay at the Prince of Wales Hotel
The rolling Kootenai-Brown trail is paved and suitable for biking with bigger kids, but the shoreline trail is flat and good for all ages. Rent a Surrey Bike from Pat's for a unique - and super fun - experience! We enjoyed riding to The Big Scoop for ice cream.

Pat's Surrey Bike
Favorite lunch spots include Wieners of Waterton (gourmet hot dogs), Trappers Mountain Grill (onsite smoked meat BBQ), 49 Degrees North Pizza, The Taco Bar, and Zum's.

Wieners of Waterton
Finally, you won't want to miss the Pie Cruise! Sail across the lake to Glacier National Park (no passport required) with Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company and enjoy a slice of homemade pie. The views are breathtaking and the guides are full of interesting stories.

Waterton Shoreline Cruise
The Lakeside Chophouse is a great dinner spot with AAA Alberta beef and wild game. It is kid-friendly too!

Perfect steak at the Lakeside Chophouse

Where is your favorite place to eat in Waterton?

For More Information

For more information on things to do at the Waterton Food Festival, see my story at Festival Seekers!
Check out the official festival page at My Waterton to purchase tickets or learn more.


Acknowledgements / Disclosure

A huge thank you to Festival Seekers and Chinook Country Tourism for making this trip happen! All words and opinions are my own.

More Fun Places to Go in Southern Alberta

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

10 Tips for First Time Kayak Camping

Today's story on first time kayak camping is a guest blog post by my friend Christina Scheuermann, "Camper Christina". Enjoy!


Kayak camping is awesome! Over the last few years, I have gone on several kayak camping trips, and it is now my favorite form of camping. Here are ten helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way that will help if you are just starting out:
  1. Pack everything in waterproof bags - absolutely everything, even if it goes in a dry hatch -because chances are, at some point, your dry hatch will not be dry. 
    Kayak Camping - Play Outside Guide
    Kayak Camping Setup
    Image Credit: Christina Scheuermann, Camper Christina
  2. Pack everything in small bags. Never use a 60L drybag for example, unless you are using a kayak with an open cockpit. You have little hatches that fit lots of little things but not many big things, so small bags make the most of the cargo space you have! 

  3. Bring big tote bags with you (Ikea bags work awesome). When you arrive at the boat launch and have to bring all those little bags to the boat, to the site from the shore, on a portage, or back to the car, those big bags hold all the little bags and make it easier to carry them. 

  4. Bring a few garbage bags. At some point, no matter how careful you are, your seat will most likely get wet. Having some form of plastic or something waterproof to put on your seat to sit on, will keep your bum dry and keep you comfortable while paddling. 

  5. Flip your boat over at night, to avoid having to use the garbage bag,… see last tip above. Also, pull it up way up from shore, along with the paddles. You never want to wake up to find your kayak missing from where you left it, or, not have a paddle to propel your boat with. 
    Kayak Camping - Play Outside Guide
    Pull your kayak and paddle way up on shore.
    Image Credit: Christina Scheuermann, Camper Christina
  6. Use carabiners and clips. Make sure if you put things like your water bottles in the deck bungees that you also carabiner it to the boat or tie it, clip it in, etc. I have many a time gone to grab something else, or bumped the bottle somehow and had it fall into the water. Everything should always be attached to the boat securely somehow just in case.

  7. Never underestimate the weather. Be prepared for anything and you will (usually) be okay. See "waterproof everything" above as well. ;)

  8. Get training. The best thing I ever did was go for my Level 1 Sea Kayaking Certification. It actually prompted me to get my level 2, but level 1 made a huge difference. The skills I learned gave me so much more confidence, and to me, that is priceless. 

  9. Always wear your PFD! I used to be one of the cool kids and paddle in my bikini top, not wanting to get tan lines from my life jacket. After Level 1 training, and seeing and hearing all the things that can go wrong, it just doesn’t make sense not to wear your life jacket. Wear a PFD and wear it properly. It could save your life, or the person you’re with if you need to help him/her. 

  10. Start small. Take your time and don’t do any crazy trips with portages and huge distances. Get used to what you are doing one step at a time and learn as you go. Read blogs, books, watch videos, get training and most importantly, have fun! 
Kayak Camping - Play Outside Guide
Always wear a PFD and lash everything down!
Image Credit: Christina Scheuermann, Camper Christina

About the Author

Christina, also known as Camper Christina, was born and raised in Southern Ontario, but moved to Muskoka to be closer to the places she adventures in. Her greatest passion is exploring new places and writing about them. Some of her favourite hobbies are hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, skating, photography and blogging.

Read more about Christina and her adventures at CamperChristina.com.

Find her on Twitter: @christinascheu, Instagram: @camperchristina, and Facebook: @camperchristina.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Outdoorsy Mother's Day Gift Guide + Giveaways

Breakfast in bed is always a treat, but if you really wanna knock Mom's socks off, listen to her. What does she really want for Mother's Day? Whether it's a hike and picnic, mountain biking camp, or sweet new gear for her next adventure, if you take hints, you can give your mom the best day ever. Here are my top Mother's Day gifts for outdoorsy moms (could you please send this to my husband?). 

I'm thrilled to announce THREE great prizes for Mother's Day from KEEN CanadaTerramar Sports, and Yukon Charlie's! Scroll down to enter to win 1 pair of KEEN shoes/boots (Canada only), 1 "Reflex" top and bottoms from Terramar Sports (US only), or 1 pair of blue Carbon Lite Trekking Poles from Yukon Charlie's (US only).


Quality Time

Nothing beats quality time with loved ones. While I am quite a foodie, there are times it's nice to keep meals simple, so you can spend more time doing stuff rather than cooking. When my mom turned 60, my sister and I had so many ideas on how to make it epic and in the end, we had an amazing meal in a beautiful park, but never got out on our snowshoes as it took forever to get the fire hot enough to cook (it was mid-December and -20). By the time we were done lunch, it was getting dark and we were frozen from sitting for so long (and had to rush to our dinner reservation). Probably should've stuck to the original plan of picnic, snowshoe, and dinner out! 

How do we manage to hike all day and eat well? We start our day with a hearty breakfast (waffles, fruit, sausages), pack a lunch, and plan for a barbecue dinner. If you marinate the steak the night before, put foil wrapped potatoes in the crockpot before you leave, and purchase a salad pack, a nice dinner is ready just minutes after you get home. It's so simple, the kids can make it!

For the easiest fancy picnic lunch ever, hit the deli section of your local supermarket. Olives, prosciutto, and cheese go perfectly with a baguette and grapes. Pack some San Pellegrino or sparkling apple juice, dark chocolate, toothpicks, and napkins, and you're set for a day outside!

Yum!
Here are some ideas of fun things to do on Mother's Day Weekend (besides slave in the kitchen):
My children have also made me sweet coupons for things we can do together: e.g. bike ride to the ice cream shop, go to the zoo, go geocaching. Most of the activities are free, but the time together is priceless (and it's super cute to see what they think I would like to do).

Adventures

The Banff Gondola is always fun! Try the Mother's Day chocolate tasting (reservations required), then hike to Sanson's Peak (1 km return) and take some family photos. Next, hit the hot springs and have dinner at the Maple Leaf Grill and Lounge.

Looking towards Sanson's Peak
Have a super adventurous mom? She will love riding the Mount Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift to the staging ground of the Via Ferrata where she will (guided and harnessed) climb ladders, cross airy, suspension bridges and enjoy epic views of Banff. After, grab lunch at the Cliffhouse Bistro. I recommend the charcuterie platter!

Norquay Sightseeing Chairlift
If the weather is frightful, go underground! Rat's Nest Cave, Canmore stays about the same temperature year round. Kids 10 & up can join mom on Canmore Cave Tours. Squeeze through the Laundry Chute, rappel into a large cavern, and explore the network of caves below Grotto Mountain. I would go again!

Gear

KEEN Gift Card: You can never have enough shoes, right? Or boots? I really liked my KEEN Durand boots, but the new women's specific KEEN Terradoras fit even better! If Mom needs new light hikers, give the Terradoras a try! They fit narrower across the toe than most KEENs, and are super light, so they are nimble and feel more like a trail runner than boot. The waterproofing on them is rad too - I've crossed streams and hiked in slush and stayed completely dry. Read my review of the Durands here and enter to win a pair of KEENs of your choice below (Canada only).

KEEN Terradora Waterproof Hiking Boots
If mom already has hiking boots, KEEN has lots of great shoes and sandals to choose from. I have these gorgeous Dauntless posted sandals on my wish list.

KEEN Dauntless Posted Sandals
Image Credit: KEEN Canada
Disclosure: I am a KEEN Brand Ambassador and receive free footwear to test and review, but all words and opinions are my own.

Terramar Sports technical base layers and active wear: In our climate, you can literally live in base layers for half the year and I do. I am in love with the Cloud Nine leggings (they come in several different funky patterns) and Thermawool top (wool blend never gets smelly), but as soon as it gets a bit warmer, I'll be back in Terramar's summer wear. The MicroCOOL tops actually feel cool to the touch and kept me from overheating in 30 degree (86 F) weather, so they're a top choice for working out in. I also love the Reflex Tank and Reflex Get Up & Go Pant for working out or hiking. Terramar makes more than base layers, so you can wear their stuff all year! Enter to win this outfit from Terramar below (US only)! More details at http://www.terramarsports.com/catalog/womens (filter: Reflex to see items you can choose from).

Reflex Tank and Get Up & Go Pants - ENTER TO WIN BELOW!
Disclosure: I am a Terramar Sports Brand Ambassador and receive free base layers and active wear to test and review, but all words and opinions are my own.

Aventura Clothing makes eco-friendly fashion that moves with you. Every piece is comfortable and pretty! I first discovered it on a road trip to Moab 10 years ago and am proud to now be a Brand Ambassador for this family-run company. Luxurious organic cotton that resists wrinkling and recycled polyester are just a few of the eco-friendly fabrics Aventura uses. I am in love with the Hartwell Hoodie and Jayla Vest. To see more of the Spring/Summer line, please see this post: Aventura Spring Styles - Cute, Comfortable, and Versatile.

If you'd like a 60% off coupon code to treat mom (or yourself) to a discounted shopping spree, please leave me a comment and I will email you (US only)!

Aventura Hartwell Hoodie and Midori Scarf
Disclosure: I am an Aventura Clothing Brand Ambassador and receive free base layers and active wear to test and review, but all words and opinions are my own.

Yukon Charlie's Carbon Lite Trekking and Snowshoeing Poles are amazingly light and easy to expand or collapse with their flip lock system. I have been testing these since last December and love them! Can't beat the price either! The poles come with removable snow baskets, so you can use these poles year round for hiking or snowshoeing! Get your own at Yukon Charlie's or Amazon.ca (affiliate link). Enter to win a pair of blue Carbon Lite Trekking Poles below (US only)!

Yukon Charlie's Carbon Lite Poles and Elite SPIN Snowshoes
See my snowshoe review here.
Disclosure: I am a Yukon Charlie's Brand Ambassador and receive free gear to test and review, but all words and opinions are my own.

The Bear Bowl is the perfect gift for the outdoorsy mom who has everything. This collapsible cooking pot/bowl fits in your pocket and can be used to boil water! It has a 32 oz capacity, is lighter than the lightest backpacking cook pot, and is simple to assemble. The bottom is metal to conduct heat and the rest if made of food grade plastic. Great to carry on day hikes in case of emergency, as well as on backpacking trips. Learn more and support Cory Santiago's project here.

The Bear Bowl
Image Credit: Bear Bowl
Disclosure: I received a free sample of the Bear Bowl to test and review, but all words and opinions are my own.

How To Lessons

Mom taught you everything you know about fishing, but now she wants to learn something new. Why not treat her to a fly fishing class at Bow River Troutfitters? Or mountain biking class at Winsport? There is terrain for all levels at Winsport and Eastlands, so it's a great place to up your skills!

If Mom needs to relax after a busy week, maybe she would enjoy outdoor yoga in a beautiful mountain setting! Walk With Ronna offers eco-yoga - a combination of hiking, yoga and meditation - in Banff. For a totally unique take on yoga, there is now Goat Yoga (who knew?) in Cochrane through FreeBird Adventures.  My friend at Beyond the Campsite said it was so much fun (and yoga's not her favorite, but she loves goats!).

Giveaway

Ok Moms, enter to win one of these great prizes by completing entries in the Rafflecopter widget below:
  • 1 pair of KEEN Boots/Shoes - Women's (Canada only)
  • 1 Terramar Sports "Reflex" Outfit - 1 Top & 1 Bottom (US only)
  • 1 pair of Yukon Charlie's Carbon Lite Trekking & Snowshoeing Poles - blue (US only)
Terms: Contest closes May 5, 2017 at 12 AM MST. Winners will be notified at the email address provided when they enter the contest. Each winner must claim her prize within 48 hrs of notification or a new winner will be selected.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

More Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Check out my friends' Mother's Day Gift Guides for more awesome gift ideas!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Front vs Rear Mount Child Bike Seats

Child bike seats are an affordable option for biking with your baby once she is 12 months old. Front mount and rear mount child bike seats are available, and each has different pros and cons to consider. Whichever child bike seat you choose, always wear a helmet and follow installation instructions and age/height/weight limits for the child bike seat.

Disclosure: This article contains Amazon Affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission on purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!


Front Mount Child Bike Seats

Front mount child bikes seats have long been used in Europe and are becoming more popular in North America. The main benefit is better passenger experience, and the main drawback of some models is awkward riding stance (riding bow legged to accommodate the seat) and awkward steering (particularly for shorter riders).

Special note re bike compatibility and installation: If the seat mounts on your stem (below the handlebars), you must have enough space for the mount. If the seat sits on your frame (on the cross bar), you need to ensure the frame is large enough frame to accommodate the child seat and allow you to safely get on and off your bike. We were not able to use a front mount seat with my XS bike. Try before you buy!



For the reasons above, I would recommend this type of seat to taller cyclists who want to easily converse with their little ones and keep an eye on them.

Front Mount Pros
  • Your child has an unobstructed view.
  • You can see and talk to your child more easily, and ensure she's not unbuckling herself (not a concern with babies, but could be with older children).
  • Your child has a safety hand/head rest pillow to learn forward on when she wants to sleep.

The WeeRide Kangaroo is a super comfortable, economical front carrier with pretty good reviews.
Works best if you have a bike with a large frame; not advised for small bikes.
Available at Amazon (affiliate link) , but cheaper at Walmart.
Front Mount Seat Cons
  • Most front mount seats can only be used safely until your child is around 2 years old (vs 5-7 yrs old with some rear mounted seats).
  • It is difficult to get on and off your bike with a front child seat on it.
  • Steering can be a challenge with your child in front of you if you are on the short side, or your child is quite tall (because it's hard to reach around the child). 
  • Your child is more exposed to wind.
  • Your child cannot recline to sleep (but may be able to lean forward on a hand/head rest depending on the model you choose).
  • Larger children may grab your handlebars or change gears at inopportune times.
  • Some higher seat backs can hit you in the chest on bumpy terrain or when leaning forward to go up hills.
Pro Tip: If you choose to get a front mounted seat, borrow/rent one first and test it out to ensure a) it can be installed on your bike, b) your legs, chest, arms, and vision are unobstructed, and c) you can turn properly. If buying online, be sure to confirm with the manufacturer that the seat is compatible with your bike.

We were unable to find an affordable front mount seat on Kijiji, so we bought a rear mount seat.

My friend, Coldbike, recommends the bobike Maxi and bobike Mini front mount seats. Available at Urkai.

Bobike Maxi

Rear Mount Child Bike Seats

For rear mounted seats, there are two kinds: rear frame mount and rear rack mount. Not all bike seats work with all bikes, so you will have to confirm whether the seat attaches to your seat post or bike rack.
    • For rear rack mount seats, your bike must have eyelets for a bike rack. You will also need to purchase a bike rack for the seat to attach to if you don't already have one, or if the seat does not come with one. *If you have disc brakes, you will require a different kind of rack.*
    • Rear frame mount seats typically attach to your seat post and need a few inches of clearance. Since my bike seat is as low as it can go, I was not able to attach a child bike seat to my bike. We ended up putting a rear frame mount seat on my husband's bike, while I towed our other child in a Chariot. **With some seats (like Thule RideAlong), you can purchase a low seat adapter to use the seat with minimal clearance.
Rear Mount Pros
  • It is easier to pedal and get on/off your bike with the child seat behind you than in front of you (especially if you're on the petite side). Petite riders will find it easier to steer with the seat behind them too (they don't have to reach around the child and seat).
  • Many rear mount seats recline to allow baby a more comfortable sleep.
  • Your child is less exposed to wind.
  • Most rear mount seats can be used a few years longer than front mount seats.


The Thule Ride Along Child Bike Seat is the Cadillac of Bike Seats
Good from 1 year to 21.8 kg. Available on Amazon (affiliate link)

Rear Mount Cons
  • It's harder to chat with your child when it's windy/noisy.
  • You cannot look at your child without turning around.
  • You child does not have a pillow to lean forward on (but if you get a reclining seat, you can lean her back).
  • Some people find it harder to balance with a rear mount seat (but my husband had no issue with ours). Again, try before you buy! 

The top rated hamax frame mount carrier can be attached to your bike rack or seat post.
Available on Amazon (affiliate link).

A less expensive option to the Thule or hamax is the Dieffe GP Baby Carrier with Rear Rack Mount (available at Walmart). 

We had the ubiquitous, inexpensive Bell Classic Cocoon Bicycle Child Carrier Seat. We bought it second hand and found it ok for short rides, but not for longer rides when our little one wanted to nap as the seat did not recline. 

What to Look For in a Child Bike Seat

Easy installation and compatibility with your bike is important. Other important features include a lock to prevent theft of the seat, and quick-release bracket for those times you're cycling kid free and don't want the additional weight.

While vents are nice to have on a hot day, the trade off is safety. If you fall, a seat with covered vents or fewer vents will provide more protection than an airy seat.

Other safety considerations... A 5-point harness is preferable to a 3-point harness that tiny kids could slide out of. Check reviews to ensure straps stay in place and make sure straps are done up properly every time! Many models also have child-proof buckles.

Height and weight maximums will affect how long you may use your bike seat. Most front or rear mount carriers are good until your child is 40 pounds, but there is variation between manufacturers. Adjustable footbeds that grow as your child grows will keep your child comfortable by preventing her feet from dangling.

Weight of the seat itself is also a consideration. The less the seat weighs, the less you have carry, but a really light seat may be less comfortable or have less impact resistance. Check what materials are used in the seat and ensure the cushions are comfy for your child.

Front Mount Seats Features/Accessories to Consider
  • hand rests on front mount seats will provide something for your child to hold other than your handlebars and shifters. Bonus points for padded hand rests that can double as a pillow when little one wants to sleep!
  • wind screen
  • rain cover
Rear Mount Seats Features/Accessories to Consider
  • A reclining rear mount seat makes for comfy nap time (otherwise little one's head will flop forward when she naps).
  • rain cover

Safety Moment

Child bike seats do not provide as much protection as a bike trailer, and falls from 3 feet can cause severe injury or death. If you choose to use a child bike seat, bike on designated bike paths and stay below the speed limit (20 km/hr in Calgary). And always wear a helmet!

Not comfortable putting your toddler in a bike seat? Consider a bike trailer. They provide protection from the elements, insects, and have a built in roll bar (the frame).

Conclusion

In the end, you have to choose a bike seat you can afford, that meets your needs, and and is compatible with your bike. Although we owned a bike trailer, we liked the child bike seat for short rides around the neighborhood. It made for one less thing to lock up and the seat was a lot lighter than our trailer! If we hadn't bought a bike trailer, we would've spent more on seats that recline since the kids always fell asleep on longer bike rides. Try before you buy to make your the seat fits your bike and that your child is comfortable. Not all seats are equal.

More information on bike trailers and tandem bike attachments coming soon!

What is your preferred way to bring the kids biking?

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Camping at Lundbreck Falls, Alberta

Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area is known for its picturesque falls and fantastic fishing, but it also makes a good base camp for exploring the Crowsnest Pass area. Situated near the junction of the Cowboy Trail and Highway 3, Lundbreck Falls campground is only 15 minutes from Frank Slide Interpretive Centre and Leitch Collieries. We enjoyed sightseeing and hiking during the day, fishing at dawn and dusk, watching the sunset at the falls, and getting to know our fellow campers. Most were locals who return year after year to fish the Crowsnest River which is teeming with trout.


The Campground

Lundbreck Falls campground has 56 first come first served campsites:
  • Upper Loop: suitable for large trailers and motorhomes; all sites have 15/30 Amp power, no shade
  • Lower Loop: suitable for tents and trailers; sites are of varying size, but many on the smaller size. Half the sites have 15/30 Amp power and there are a few riverside sites. Most sites are well shaded by large trees.
  • Walk-In Tent Sites: There are 8 walk-in sites near the lower loop and 4 near the upper loop. Sites are small with moderate privacy, but most of the walk-in sites near the lower loop are along the river.
See the campground map for more details.

Lundbreck Falls Campground
Lundbreck Falls PRA Upper Loop
Lundbreck Falls Campground
Lundbreck Falls Lower Loop Campsite

Amenities

  • Hand pump for water - water not recommended for drinking
  • Firewood available for sale from campground operator (makes rounds a few times a day)
  • Pit Toilets
  • No showers

Activities at Lundbreck Provincial Recreation Area

Lundbreck Falls: You can walk to beautiful Lundbreck Falls from the campground. Take the footpath along the river past the walk-in tent sites (go to the left if you are facing the river), about 400 metres. Falling 12 metres, Lundbreck Falls is best seen at sunrise or sunset.

Lundbreck Falls Trail
Trail to Lundbreck Falls
Lundbreck Falls
Lundreck Falls
Crowsnest River
Crowsnest River, Lundbreck Falls PRA
Fishing:  The Crowsnest River is a legendary trout stream and I witnessed first hand how amazing it was when I landed a beautiful rainbow trout on my first cast! I fished downstream from the falls, from shore, and caught many more rainbows during our stay. Supposedly there are whitefish and cutthroat trout in this section of the river also, but I didn't catch any. Note that you MUST RELEASE trout that are between 30 and 45 cm long! See Alberta Fishing Regulations for more information. Since dawn and dusk can get a bit congested along the shoreline near camp, walk downstream a couple minutes to get some space.

rainbow trout
Beautiful Crowsnest River trout
Wading / swimming: Once you get past the bridge downstream of the falls, the Crowsnest River is quite calm with a few deeper pools. Right in front of the campground, there is a small gravel beach for wading and swimming. Keep the kids close as the river is deep towards the middle.

Lundbreck Falls PRA beach

Nearby Things to Do

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre & Frank Slide Trail (1.5 km): The interpretive centre showcases Crowsnest Pass history and illustrates - through exhibits and videos - what the town looked like before, during and after Frank Slide, Canada's deadliest rock slide. Learn why the rockslide happened and if it will happen again. After, hike the Frank Slide Trail through rubble that fell from Turtle Mountain. There is an admission fee for the interpretive centre, but there is no charge to hike Frank Slide Trail.

Leitch Collieries is the site of an old coal mine. Take a self-guided tour of the ruins and learn what led to the mine's demise. Admission by donation.

Chinook Lake Provincial Recreation Area is a fun place to play on a hot day. The lake is calm for stand up paddling or canoeing and is stocked with trout for fishing. Not an ideal swimming beach for children as the shore slopes into the lake, but there was a small, flatter area at the east end that kids were playing in. 

Table Mountain Scramble is a popular early season summit as it has beautiful views and is snow free earlier than many other peaks.

Beauvais Lake Provincial Park has hiking and biking trails, great birding, fishing (lake is stocked), and a campground with 77 sites. 

Frank Slide Trail
Frank Slide Trail
Leitch Collieries
Leitch Collieries

Stops Along the Way

The Fort at Fort Macleod: The fort is home to the North West Mounted Police Museum, First Nations Interpretive Centre, and NWMP Musical Ride. We loved watching the musical ride, feeding the goats, and exploring the fort. $

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre: Learn about Blackfoot culture and how buffalo were hunted at this amazing facility. Allow time to walk to the buffalo jumps after checking out the indoor exhibits and videos. $

Fort Macleod NWMP Museum
The Fort at Fort Macleod

Know Before You Go

Sites are first come, first served and payment is by cash only. Firewood sales are also cash only. The nearest ATM is at O'Bies General Mercantile in Lundbreck if you need to withdraw cash.

Trains pass by quite close to the campground, so light sleepers should bring ear plugs.

There is no cell phone service in the park.

O'bies Store Lundbreck
O'bies Store, Lundbreck

Getting There

Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area is about 2 hrs south of Calgary via Hwy 2, or 2 hrs 20 minutes if you take scenic Hwy 22 (Cowboy Trail).

Conclusion

Lundbreck Falls is the perfect location for a fun fishing getaway. Be sure to check out nearby Frank Slide while you're in the area!

Lundbreck Falls

Disclosure

As Alberta Parks Ambassadors, I received free camping, but all words and opinions are my own.

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More areas to explore in southern Alberta!