Small kid-friendly hikes and visits nearby Canmore

When staying in Canmore, we searched for several small hikes or trips in the nature that were feasible with the children. Each of them were just a few kms long and moderate climbs. 

Grassi Lakes Trail
This trail is one of the most popular trails in Canmore. In 4 km you can climb up via a moderate upper trail through the woods to the turquoise lake  or you can take the more challenging lower route (where you'd see the waterfall??).

We chose the easier upper trail because it was easier and because all people returning from their hike confirmed us that there was a mom bear and baby cups roaming around along the lower trail. 
At the tourist info center we had also been warned by the presence of many bears in the area and we had followed the recommendation to carry bear spray (sort of tear gas) on us when hiking.  Fortunately in Canmore there's stores that rent it out per day so you are not obliged to buy it and then toss it at the end of your vacation (since you cannot take this back on a plane!!). Pricewise however buying would make more sense if you need it more than a couple of days.

We start climbing bravely along the wide and busy stone trail with the spray, our bear bell and the children well instructed not to leave our side (so nu running ahead and no trailing behind).  After a while Beertje does not want to walk anymore  and once transferred in the backpack he drifts off sound asleep.

And then some descending people just a few meters ahead of us, point out next to them "There's a bear here!"  and walk on and pass us.  We stopped, look in the bushes and see indeed a black mass moving.  Hand in hand while talking we step backwards to give the bear the recommended safe minimum distance of 100 meters.  We stand and wait and talk a bit nervous while the bear's face surfaces on the trail. She looks around and has spotted us and is aware of our presence. That's a good thing as we definetely do not wish to surprise her or spook her suddenly.  Yet she seems very calm and undisturbed at this moment.

Mommy bear who clearly didn't feel like hanging out around the lower trail anymore, crosses our trail with 2 very cute little cubs behind her. She goes and sit above the trail way to close for our safety to pass. We wait and observe. Kabouter wants to know when we'll use the bear spray as he's very confused that we got it, hike with it but hope to never need to use it.   "When are we going to spray??", he asks. 

More hikers descend the hill and approach the bear who sends her cups with a light growl up in the tree...we back up further and wait. The other walkers pass by without issue. We wait more time and then finally the bear family decides continue to climb up the steep hill after which we feel they are at a safe distance to continue our walk on the trail.  We give out a warning to the first groups of walkers descending the hill. Nobody seems surprised that the bear is closeby. Many praise us though for walking with a bear bell tingling non stop to give our presence to the wildlife. 

On top of the hill we are rerwarded with nice views on the valley, the lake and the town of Canmore. We also admire the grassi lake but our chosen road keeps the waterfalls out of our sight.  From there we return and descend via the same trail...the bear was no more around. 

Back at the parking lot, we started to check out the gravel road starting to climb up int he mountains and connecting to Peter Loughleed Provincial Park much further away in the Kanakansis Valley. We drove up up to the first dammed lake but the we didn't trust the steep turning gravel road too much and didn't dare to continue it much further. It would connect to highway 40 close to the pass that would only open up after June 15th.  It was too late in the afternoon already anyhow. 

My colleague staying in Canmore one month after us, did take this gravel road which took them a full day. They did spot very much wildlife though among other a mother Moose and baby moose up close next to the road. Wow!!

Grotto Canyon Trail
A few kms northeast of Canmore along Highway 1A, you can find the trailhead of the Grotto Canyon nearby the Maybag industrial plant. 

From the official parking lot nearby a small lake, you first cross the woods in a straight line , passing by the industrial plant  but soon after you turn off and head into the nature. A bit further you cross the Grotto Creek which was a small little stream at the moment in a large dry creek bed full of rocks.

In early spring when the waters are high you can follow the upper trail in the woods that will give a view on the canyon from above now and then, but now we could simply walk into the creek bed.  You walk over the stones and the little creek winds through the bed so often you have to jump from one side of the creek to the other side. Usually there are big enough stones that help you step across but some were a bit deeper so wear footwear that are allowed to get a bit wet. The children needed sometimes some assistence to get from one side from the creek to the other and then again and again but that was part of all the fun. 

Soon enough the rocks start rising up next to you and you are walking in the gorges of the canyon, which makes this trail so different from other walks and quite a lot of fun. 

Deeper in the canyon we got more shade and almost at the end we all of a sudden still reached big patches of ice/snow!! It was a windy alley so we put back our sweaters on.  Those last meters were a bit slippery and in the far end you can see the creek's waterfall at the right. The wind was strong there and Kabouter was afraid as he kept sliding down the rocks there so after posing for a picture we returned on our steps.   The end of this canyon, ending up at majestic rocks gives entrance to back country trails but that was not our cup of tea with these 2 little monsters. 

Slowly we headed back on our steps. While we were the first ones to head into the canyon, we now crossed many more families on their way.  In the mean time rock climbers had also started to make their way up the rocks so we sat and observed their climbing for a bit. 

This was one of our coolest and most original walks we did on vacation. 

After the Grotto Canyon hike we drove to Banff to have lunch there. Despite all our driving around in the National Parks we had not been in Banff so far.   So we made it up with lunch and a short walk downtown. 

We wanted to go to the hot springs but it turned out to be roadworks and no parking spots etc.  So we drove up Mount Norquay instead to go and see the deserted ski area....we love deserted ski area's since it's good bear spotting area's in our experience.

Well we didn't spot any bears but there were big herds of mountain sheep out on the road and parking lots, all licking those stones like madness to get some minerals they love. From that point onwards we imitated a lot of these silly mountain sheep with silly voices and characters in a lot of phantasy stories in our car, which cracked us up and gave us a new favourite passtime in the car.

We also stopped at the viewpoint on the way up to the ski resort and it was the best viewpoints we've been at on our trip!  Marvellous spot to find some official Canada Park's red chairs , sit down and marvel at the view on Banff and its valley.

After that we returned to our hotel to swim in the outdoor pool and to hear other guests complain about the traffic jams and waiting times to visit Lake Louise. Once again we were glad about our decision not to visit this popular destination.

Meet "Harry", the confused mountain sheep that finds itself locked up on the other side of the road side


Jenn said…
Great post and beautiful pictures. They’ve since closed Gradsi lakes and mist of the area around it for the bears.
Goofball said…
@Jenn: really? My colleague did the hike mid July at Grassi Lakes? I would think by now the bears start climbing to higher area's ?
Le petit requin said…
Waw, wat een machtige ervaring met die moederbeer en kleintjes! Wij zagen er indertijd ook eentje, maar die was heel snel weer verdwenen (wat jammer en een opluchting tegelijk was natuurlijk :) ).
Handig wel dat jullie die bear spray cans huurden; ik wist niet dat dat kon! Nu ja, wij hadden er gedurende drie weken heel regelmatig nodig, dus de aankoop was sowieso wel handig (en we hebben ze gelukkig op het einde aan een gids kunnen geven, die ze ging doorgeven aan andere bezoekers, zodat ze zeker niet verloren zouden gaan).

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