Time spent in the Canadian Rockies is magical, pure and simple. The possibilities for exploration are endless with all the surrounding mountains, rivers and lakes. For this reason, Banff National Park is the perfect family summer holiday destination.
For all ages and abilities, Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise offer a seemingly endless assortment of mountain experiences; not everyone needs to be a hard-core mountaineer intent on ‘bagging a peak’. Adventure, in one form or another, is what every family member wants. Deciding upon which type of adventure, or adventures, makes for lively conversations around the kitchen table before leaving home.
When looking for an authentic Rocky Mountain adventure, consider the following ‘Must Do’ items:
Over the past decade, rock climbing has exploded in popularity. Enthusiasts of all ages are checking out this exhilarating sport. Yamnuska’s Experiential Rock Climbing is perfectly suited for those who have never climbed before, offering professional instruction and guidance. Families with children as young as 5 years old can have fun climbing. When done properly, beginner pitches will be similar to climbing a ladder; and, just about everyone can climb a ladder! Both full-day and half-day programs are available, with climbing locations in Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise.
Family fun can also be found on the river. Rafting and kids go together, well, like peanut butter and jam; they are made for each other! River rafting with Wild Water Adventures, on the Kicking Horse River, is sure to put a smile on everyone’s faces. Families enjoy the Gentle trip which offers an ideal introduction to whitewater rafting with Class 2 & 3 waves and rapids. Rafters need only be at least 8 years old. For families with older teenage children, bigger waves can be found on the Whitewater Exciter and Tradition trips. Daily departures help make trip planning easy.
Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
For easily accessible views of the Rocky Mountains, hop aboard a gondola and be whisked to higher elevations. At the top (nearly 7,000 feet above sea level), take your time to breathe in the stunning vistas and jagged, ice-covered mountain tops. Be sure to check out the interpretive centre to learn about the local flora and fauna, and even grab a bite to eat before heading back down the mountain. Remember to keep an eye out for wildlife roaming the grassy slopes below. Let gondola staff know if you spot a grizzly!
Exploring the Rocky Mountains on foot is yet another amazing, and easy, way to appreciate the surrounding natural beauty. All anyone needs to do is put one foot in front of the other! A highly rewarding, and family-friendly hike is Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots. A well-maintained pathway first wanders through canyons and past waterfalls. A single-track trail leads further through the forest, breaking out to spectacular alpine meadows and turquoise-hued ponds (the Ink Pots). Pack along some lunch and water to really kick back and enjoy the views (the wraps at the Trailhead Café in Lake Louise are highly recommended!).
Pedal, play and enjoy the mountain scenery together while cycling the Banff Legacy Trail. Stretching between the towns of Canmore and Banff is a paved walking and biking route, dotted with magnificent scenery and conveniently located rest stops. Start in either town, winding your way through the Bow Valley. Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy en route, or sit back at one of the many tantalizing eateries at either end of the trail. If some of the family is too pooped to cycle back, hop aboard the local ROAM bus instead. Whether cycling one way or two, be sure to pack lots of water to drink! Daily bike rentals are easily arranged from a variety of shops in both towns.
Nothing is finer than playing and laughing together as a family. Cherished life-long memories are forged during such times of togetherness. The Rocky Mountains, in all its beauty, offers an exciting and diverse playground for families of all ages. Adventure abounds, whether it be rock climbing, rafting, hiking or biking. This summer, fill your family holiday with such adventures and reflect fondly on the memories for years to come.
Everyone wants adventure in one form or another.
by Deborah Wade