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.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Prairie View Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Prairie View Trail is a popular spring/fall conditioner due to its proximity to Calgary and snow-free conditions early/late in hiking season. Hike up the old forestry road to McConnell Ridge for beautiful views of Barrier Lake, Mount Baldy and beyond. From here, you can scramble up a rock outcrop to a higher viewpoint or continue on to Barrier Lake Fire Lookout where you can look out over the Bow Valley.  After, stop at Chief Chiniki Village for a treat!


Trip Report

The wind was howling, as it often does at Barrier Lake, but the girls couldn't resist throwing rocks in the turquoise water. They asked, "Do you remember our beach day?" and made us promise to bring them back on a warmer day to play in the sand. With rosy cheeks and numb fingers, we said farewell to the lake and followed the beaten path up to the lookout.

Barrier Lake
Trembling aspens gave way to conifers as we wound our way ever upwards. We looked for lichens, mosses, and faces on the many trees we met and listened to the wind. At times it sounded like the ocean!

Take either fork - they rejoin a short ways down the trail
Take the left fork here
Right before the ridge, the trail gets quite steep, but the girls were motivated to reach the ridge and have a treat. As the trees cleared, we could see the lake below and all the surrounding peaks! Whiskeyjacks rode the thermals in the golden glow and dive bombed for crumbs (left by hikers); they were really fun to watch.

McConnell Ridge
We were losing daylight, so we decided to clamber up to the viewpoint for a quick look and save the Fire Lookout for another day. The short detour was well worth the extra couple minutes! 

Choose your own adventure: path on the right or scramble up the rocks at centre
Option 3 to get up to the lookout: harder scramble
(NOT the official trail)
View from McConnell Ridge Viewpoint
Looking towards Mount Baldy from McConnell Ridge Viewpoint
After more snacks (chocolate for the win!), the girls fairly flew down the mountain. It was a great half-day outing with gorgeous views from the top! 

Chasing the last light of day

Prairieview Trail at a Glance

Distance: 13.2 km return (Add on 0.7 km one way to the Fire Lookout).
Elevation Gain: 421 m elevation gain to McConnell Ridge (Add 100 m to the Fire Lookout)
Washrooms? Outhouses at parking lot
Stroller Friendly? No
Directions from Calgary: Head west on Highway 1. Take the Highway 40S/Kananaskis Trail exit. At the top of the ramp, turn left at the stop sign. Continue for 12 km. AFTER Barrier Lake Information Centre, turn right at Barrier Dam Day Use.
Parking: Barrier Dam Day Use Area
Trailhead: The trailhead is at the northwest corner of the parking lot.

Barrier Lake Fire Lookout

Know Before You Go

  • Ice cleats or microspikes are recommended from late fall to late spring. 
  • The trail is for hiking and mountain biking. Please share the trail.
  • As this trail is in a provincial park, dogs must be on leash at all times.
  • For a longer hike and chance to see a small waterfall, you can make a loop with Jewell Creek/Falls.
  • There are garbage cans at the trailhead only. Please pack out all trash.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN Snowshoes: Review And Giveaway

Over the years, I've tried several kinds of snowshoes from old school rawhide and wood (my grandfather's) to the most modern and innovative. This seemingly simple mode of transportation is constantly being reinvented with different shapes, bindings, and materials for convenience and comfort. The newest snowshoes are nothing like my grandfather's snowshoes and that's a good thing!

For mountain snowshoeing, I like backcountry snowshoes with aggressive traction, heel risers, and bindings that stay put. I also look for women-specific models which are narrower to allow for a natural gait. Narrower women's snowshoes are lighter too! Double bonus!! While most backcountry snowshoes will set you back about $300 or more, it is possible to get really good ones for around $200 as we've seen with the Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN snowshoes.

The Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN backcountry series snowshoes have rocker aluminum frames with attractive decking, Mountain Claw crampons, heel risers, and Northwave SPIN (dial) bindings all at an affordable price. In this gear review, we'll share our experience with them and what we love about them!

Spoiler Alert: The Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN are the most attractive snowshoes we own and their bindings are the bomb!


<<Scroll down to enter to win a pair of these snowshoes!>>

Testing 

My husband and I have been testing the Elite SPIN snowshoes (regular and women's versions respectively) for over two months. We've used them on packed snow with icy patches as well as deep powder on easy to moderate terrain. They have performed well and required no maintenance. 

Testing snowshoes is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it! ;)

What We Love 

Amazing Bindings

Our favorite thing about the Elite SPIN snowshoes is their Northwave SPIN bindings with toe boxes. Cyclists and snowboarders will recognize the Northwave name. If you're not familiar, I can tell you that these dial bindings are top notch and easy to use. Simply spin the dial to tighten the bindings (tighten the heel strap first). To remove the snowshoes, pull the toggle on the top of your snowshoe to instantly open the SPIN dial and free your toes, then loosen the heel strap. It's so easy, I can do it with thick mittens on!! This is a huge plus if you have Raynaud's like me, or have gotten cold hands fussing with your kids' hats, mitts, boots, and snowshoes in -15 (why can't they keep their stuff on?!?). Besides being incredibly easy to use, the SPIN dial also means you can make microadjustments for the perfect fit.

The bindings were extremely comfortable and stayed securely fastened in all conditions while the toe boxes and foot pads kept our feet properly positioned.

Side note: While it sounds like the snowshoes are simply doing what they should, it's important to note that other snowshoes we've tried had problematic or finicky bindings that did not stay fastened or were hard to fasten/unfasten. We really enjoyed how easy the SPIN bindings were to use!


Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN Snowshoes
Frame

Intended for backcountry use, the 6000 aluminum frame is the "strongest and most torsionally rigid frame" Yukon Charlie's has ever offered. Surprisingly, these rugged snowshoes weigh little more (4-5 oz) than backcountry snowshoes that cost over $100 more! (If you are looking for ultralight snowshoes to run in, check out Yukon Charlie's Race Ultra-Lite Snowshoes! Only 2.5 lbs per pair!)

The rocker shape (turned up tips and tails) and Free Flex axle system allows for a more natural gait, so you can walk comfortably and easily in your snowshoes. We could actually notice a difference between our other snowshoes which are quite flat in comparison and liked the momentum and agility the rocker shape provided! Although the tails are turned up, they do not collect and flip up snow as we expected, but I still recommend wearing shell/snow pants when snowshoeing so you can have fun in the snow without getting cold. Half the fun of snowshoeing is lying in the snow and making snow angels!

The integrated heel lift is easy to engage and reduces the burn in your calves when climbing uphill. Check out how in this quick 8 second video here!

Minimal snow kicked up after one hour of snowshoeing
(in packed snow and powder)

Crampons

The Mountain Claw crampons have lots of teeth to grip ice and snow. We found the traction to be great whether we were on packed snow or icy sections of the trail. We have yet to test the snowshoes on super steep inclines, but on moderate hills with packed snow/slush/powder/icy sections, I felt confident and sure footed.

Decking

The lightweight decking sheds snow so you don't carry extra weight and looks good too. My husband says these are the most attractive snowshoes he's ever had and I agree!

Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN Snowshoes
Women's on left; Men's on right (weird camera angle - the women's are narrower!)
Women's Version vs. Men's Version

The women's and men's Elite SPIN snowshoes have the same main features, but when it comes to size and shape, they are quite different. The women's snowshoes are narrower, more angular, and thereby lighter. At 120 pounds, I get good flotation from the 8x21" women's snowshoes. My husband is 150 pounds and found the men's 8x25" snowshoes to work well for him. When selecting your size, be sure to take into account your outer wear and pack weight so you get adequate flotation.

Women's Elite Spin Snowshoe Dimensions and Weight: 
  • The 8x21" are 3.8 pounds; for snowshoers up to 150 pounds.
  • The 8x25" are 4 pounds; for snowshoers up to 200 pounds.

Men's Elite Spin Snowshoe Dimensions and Weight: 
  • The 8x25" are 4.2 pounds; for snowshoers up to 200 pounds.
  • The 9x30" are 4.8 pounds; for snowshoers up to 250 pounds.
Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN Snowshoes - Women's

What could be better 

I'd love to see an ultralight version of these snowshoes with the Northwave spin bindings, but realize this would drive up the price.

Verdict 

The Yukon Charlie's Elite Spin Snowshoes are attractive, yet rugged, snowshoes with a rocker frame, integrated heel lifts, and innovative bindings that make for comfortable snowshoeing. At their price point, they offer an amazing value!

Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN - Women's Snowshoes with Carbon Trekking Poles

Where to Buy

Purchase from Yukon Charlie's, Amazon.ca (affiliate link - no extra charge to you - thanks for your support), or select retailers. You can often find certain Yukon Charlie's snowshoes at Costco for a great deal, so it's worth checking there first!

Disclosure

Yukon Charlie's generously provided my family with Elite SPIN and kids' snowshoes to test and review as part of our Brand Ambassador kit. As always, all words and opinions are my own.

These snowshoes make you wanna JUMP, JUMP!!

Giveaway

Now is your chance to win a pair of snowshoes! I have one pair of Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN for Women Snowshoes, size 8x25", color: blue for one lucky reader in Canada. Please complete the Rafflecopter form below. Shipping is within Canada only. Contest closes March 16, 2017 at 12 am MST.

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Safety moment: When snowshoeing, be sure to pack the 10 essential systems, avoid avalanche terrain, and check the thickness of natural ice before venturing on it. Read Why You Need Avalanche Skills Training and Pond and Lake Ice Safety for more information.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail, Kananaskis

Ribbon Creek Trail, near Kananaskis Village, is the perfect family snowshoe trail with views, bridges, and minimal elevation gain. Starting from Ribbon Creek parking lot, follow the orange snowshoe trail markers west. The trail winds along the creek, occasionally crossing it, affording great views of Ribbon Peak and Mount Allan. My girls' favorite thing was troll hunting at the numerous bridges (5 in the 1st kilometre!), going off trail, and shaking snow off the trees! And going for treats at Moose Family Kitchen in the Village! You don't have to do the whole trail to enjoy the beauty of the area as the whole trail is scenic.

Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail at a Glance

Distance: 3.3 km one way. Return the way you came.
Elevation Gain: 60 m
Washrooms? Pit toilets at parking lot
Chariot Friendly? Only if there is lots of snow. One bridge in the first kilometre has stairs leading up to it.
Distance from Calgary: 98 km
Parking: Ribbon Creek Day Use Area 
Trailhead: West end of Ribbon Creek Day Use Area 

Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail
Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail

Meadow View on Ribbon Creek Snowshoe Trail

Know Before You Go

  • There is avalanche danger beyond the 3.3 km mark. Please return the way you came!
  • This is a multi-use trail; please watch for cyclists. After 2 km, the cross country trail joins the snowshoe trail. Hikers, snowshoers, and cyclists should yield to skiers.
Shaking trees! Too fun!

Where to Stay

Delta Kananaskis Lodge and the HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel are your nearest options! See my review of the Delta Kananaskis Lodge here. To book a private room at the Kananaskis Hostel, call them at (403) 591-7333.
Delta Kananaskis Lodge

Where to Eat

We love Moose Family Kitchen, a cafe adjacent to the Delta Kananaskis Lodge, in the same building as Kananaskis Outfitters. They have ramen, authentic Japanese beef bowls, as well as sandwiches, coffee, ice cream, and baked goods. 

Moose Family Kitchen Ramen
At the Delta, try Market Cafe for a quick bite, Woody's Pub and Patio for a burger, or Forte Restaurant for tasty Italian fare.

Note: Bighorn Lounge at the Delta has been torn down as a part of renovations (as of February 2017). 

Related Posts

Where to Snowshoe Near Calgary
10 Tips for Fun Family Snowshoeing
Yukon Charlie's Elite SPIN Snowshoes Review
Surviving Winter With Raynaud's
Keeping Kids Warm in Winter
Winter Activity Guide for Calgary, Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis, and Lake Louise

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

KEEN Durand Mid WP Hiking Boots Review & Giveaway

When you hike in the mountains, high quality waterproof hiking boots are essential. You cannot afford to get wet, cold feet when it drops below zero at night (typical in the Canadian Rockies in summer)! My preference is for textile and leather boots that are lightweight, comfortable, and don't require breaking in or TLC.

Of the several hiking boots I've tried, the KEEN Durands really shine. After 14 months of hikes, scrambles and backpacking trips, my Durands are still comfortable and waterproof! Read on to see what I love about them!

---SCROLL DOWN TO WIN A PAIR OF KEEN BOOTS / SHOES!---

Disclosure: KEEN Canada generously provided me with these boots and sponsored the giveaway, but all words and opinions are my own.




What I Like

The Durand Mid WP Hiking Boots are comfortable, waterproof, low maintenance, and can be worn right out of the box (no break in period). These are the main advantages of mesh and leather boots. While this type of boot isn't as durable as all leather, in my opinion, the advantages make up for the shorter lifespan. Hiking is so much more fun when you have comfortable, breathable, waterproof footwear that doesn't give you blisters!

KEEN's proprietary waterproof breathable membrane (KEEN.Dry), works extremely well to let feet breathe while keeping water out. My feet have stayed dry on creek crossings, in slush and snow, as well as in thunderstorms on multi-day trips. This means feet stay dry and you don't get blisters. They have performed as well as my boots with Gore-tex booties! Further, the waterproofing has lasted longer than a year despite me not taking good care of my boots (ideally you should clean mud/dirt off the uppers but with kids, I've gotten lazy)! KEEN actually guarantees the waterproofing for two years!

My KEEN Durands in the snow at Mount Yamnuska
The mid rise (slightly above the ankle) is perfect for hiking and short backpacking trips. Being a little taller means the boots provide ankle support and better protection from scree and pine needles, though I usually wear gaiters if I know there will be a lot of mud or scree.

The outsole made of dual compound rubber and KEEN PU "resists breakdown and compression, while preserving its shock-absorbing qualities no matter how many miles you put on them." After the all the miles I've put on mine, the soles haven't worn away at all! The flexibility of the soles is perfect for day hiking and short backpacking trips.

KEEN Durands at Lake Agnes
Best of all, when I wear these boots, my feet don't hurt. I have a bunch of issues with my feet (developing bunions, plantar fasciitis) and pronate, so I need to choose footwear that provides support and ample cushioning. The contoured heel lock and metatomical footbed help keep my feet in place to avoid hot spots and blisters, though the width of the toebox means I have to be diligent in lacing them up tight; more on that below. These boots were true to size for me (my feet are slightly wider than average), but according to the KEEN website, many people had to order a half size bigger.

Quality construction means the boots are very durable. Despite heavy use, the uppers and soles are still like new (if you look past the facade of dirt). The waterproof-breathable mesh layer is well protected by all the leather on the uppers. I foresee a few more years of adventuring in these boots!

KEEN Durands at Grassi Lakes

What I'd Like to See

I'd love to see the KEEN Durand Mid WP Boots offered in different widths, as the toe box is a bit wide for me. I was able to avoid blisters by doing the laces up tight (except for that one backpacking trip where we did 2 passes in one day and I forgot to tighten them on the descents), but feel clumsy downclimbing in them. A narrower toe box would make for better footholds when scrambling.

Features/Specifications

For a complete list of features and specs, visit KEEN Canada.

Final Verdict

The KEEN Durand Mid WP Hiking Boots are great for dayhikes and short backpacking trips in moderate terrain (for folks with average to wider feet). The rugged design and dependable waterproofing of the KEEN Durands means you will be ready for anything on your adventures!

KEEN Durands at Floe Lake Campground

Where to Buy

Buy at KEEN Canadaselect retailers, and Amazon (affiliate link).

KEEN Durand Mid WP Hiking Boots
Available on Amazon (affiliate link)

Giveaway

Now's your chance to enter to win a pair of KEEN boots or shoes from KEEN Canada!

*To be eligible, you must be a resident of Canada and complete the mandatory entries in the Rafflecopter form below. Contest closes March 8, 2017 at 12 am MST.*

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Good luck!

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