Hiking with Kids – The Fenland Trail

fenland trail

My son’s first hiking experience was the Fenland Trail in Banff at the age of 2. I had decided that I wanted to get Matthew out there, knowing that starting early with kids was the key to getting them to know and enjoy things. When introduced at a young age, it becomes natural and what they know.

fenland trailThere is also value in getting kids outdoors and nurturing their innate curiosity about nature and their connection with the environment. The Fenland Trail, which is just on the outskirts of the Banff town site, was the perfect introduction to hiking as it is a short 2 km self interpretive loop trail, that is mostly flat. There is a self guided pamphlet available at the trailhead that highlights 8 markers along the loop that teach you about the lifecycle of the montane forest. Not only does this help keep kids engaged as they are often looking ahead for the next post, but it teaches them about nature and about the environment of the trail that they are on.

fenland trailPlus the trail itself is beautiful. It winds through a white spruce forest along the eastern edge of the Vermillion Lakes marshland; and part of the trail also runs along the Echo & Forty Mile Creek. And I don’t know about you but I always love a trail that has some kind of water along the hike. It just adds something to it listening to the trickling water as you’re hiking along.

There is also the opportunity to view wildlife on this trail, as you may catch a glimpse of a muskrat or busy beaver in the creek. Elk and deer in the open fields and a plethora of songbirds chirping in the background, such as the black capped chickadee and gray jay.

fenland trailI love this trail for young kids and toddlers because even though it is about a 30- 40 minute hike, you can go at a nice leisurely pace, allowing the kids to stop and pause along the way, exploring and checking things out. Playing by the creek or sitting at one of the benches along the trail for a break or a snack. You don’t have to rush, you can take an hour or more if you want. I think the first time we went it took us 2 hours! but that was fine, Matthew finished the hike having enjoyed it and feeling successful (and yes he still had energy to burn).

fenland trailOne thing that you do need to keep in mind is because it is close to both the creek and the marshlands the mosquitoes can be abundant. So make sure you take your bug spray or natural bug repellent, so you can enjoy the trail without swatting at the bugs! (If you do get bitten you can use Lavender and Peppermint essential oils on the bites to reduce the inflammation and itchiness).

There are many benefits of taking your kids out hiking and the Fenland Trail is an excellent place to start! Once you have captured their desire to hike more and nurtured their curiosity, it will be easy to move on to longer hikes with maybe even a little bit of elevation gain.

As you do progress the kids on their hikes, remember to keep these tips in mind when hiking with kids and most of all have a good time!

fenland trail

Cool fact: Fenland refers to a wetland that is nourished by nutrient-wet groundwater

Check out other great Alberta hiking trails for kids, like the Alder Trail near Bragg Creek.

Tips for Hiking with Kids

hiking with kids

Hiking is one of my favorite past times, especially in the summer. It takes you to areas in nature that you would not be able to explore otherwise.

This is one of the many reasons I love sharing this experience with my children, as not only is it important to expose children to these kinds of experiences at a young age, it is another way to nurture their natural curiousity and love of the outdoors.

Hiking with children can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience, if you plan your hike well and ensure you have what is needed than your experience will be successful overall, and the kids will want to go again (Now this does not totally prevent melt downs or life mishaps but it greatly reduces them).

Tips for Hiking with Kids

Getting Started

When taking kids on a hike there are a few things to consider:

hiking with kidsPick a hike that is suitable for the child and their hiking level – so if this is their first hike ever you do not want to take them on a 10 km hike regardless of their age. You also need to consider their age. Children who are young, like 2 or 3 could probably manage a short hike of a kilometer or two with breaks and things to look at along the way. While a child who is 8 might be able to do 5 km. You also want to consider the child, how active they are and how much walking they do in a regular day.

Pick a hike that they can finish successfully. Which means they can get to the end without feeling tired or grumpy, with some energy left over, and they would like to go further. This will also help eliminate breakdowns, you having to drag them to the end or a refusal to go on another hike. For example, if you think they can do 5 km, start with 3km so that they feel successful when they are done and work up to 5 km for the next hike.

What to Bring:

Water – make sure you bring at least a full water bottle per person, more if it’s a hot day. Hydration is key to keeping energy up and fatigue down. It also helps moderate mood.

Food – bring kid friendly high energy snacks and lunch (depending on the length of your hike). When children are fed and feeling full they are happy. This also keeps their energy up.

Clothing – even if it is a hot sunny day always pack rain coat and rain pants, an extra sweater, long pants and a few extra layers. The weather can change quickly, especially if you are hiking in the mountains, and when kids are cold and wet they are not happy, and neither are you!

hiking with kidsProper footwear – now you don’t have to run out and buy the kids fancy hiking boots, especially when you are just starting out, but ensure that the kids have good sturdy footwear – so sneakers, not sandals, and socks in their runners (this helps wick away moisture and prevent blisters). You want something with a good tread and closed toes. As you go hiking more often and start doing more challenging or longer trails, then would be a good time to look at a hiking shoe that is more sturdy and supports and protects the ankle.

Backpack – it is very important that each child have their own backpack and carry their own stuff. Depending on their age this could be as simple as a backpack and their light jacket inside or their lunch (and you carry the rest). If you start teaching them from the beginning that when you hike you all have your own backpack and carry your own gear, they will just accept that that’s how it works. Then as they grow, they can start carrying more in their packs, until they are carrying all their gear. It is also important that the backpack fits them properly, so snug and close to the back, not the straps hanging loose and the pack dragging at their bum. If their pack is not comfortable that is not going to make for a happy experience.

Sunscreen – another element in protecting the skin and avoiding heat exhaustion is using sunscreen. Burning the skin can dehydrate you faster and zap your energy. It is also very uncomfortable and can make anyone grumpy. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 60 for children. You can also use an after sun spray or natural cooling mist to help keep the skin cool.

Bug Spray – protect the skin from mosquitoes and more with an effective bug repellent. No one enjoys being eaten alive or feeling red and itchy after bugs! And children seem to be especially yummy for some reason. Spray all uncovered areas prior to going on your hike and reapply as needed. If you’d prefer a natural repellent instead of those chemical mixes try out this DIY recipe using essential oils.

First Aid Kit – be prepared for bumps and bruises, small cuts and scrapes by carrying a first aid kit. Include things like bands aids, tea tree essential oil (for cleansing), lavender for soothing, mole skin for preventing blisters, correct x for bumps and bruises, tweezers, safety pins, etc.

On the Hike:

essential oils for hikersSet realistic expectations – like mentioned above pick a hike that the kids can complete successfully and enjoy. Don’t push for that big long hike, uphill the first time out.

Start early – kids are freshest in the morning (as are you) so take advantage of that and hit the trail early in the day as opposed to the afternoon, even if it is a short hike that you’ll be done by noon.

Take regular breaks – even though you may be able to go for longer periods, allow breaks for the kids. Encourage them to take a sip of water on the breaks, and at some, not all, maybe a snack. Now don’t dilly dally and stop every 5 minutes or you’ll never get to the end, but allow them time to stop a moment and let their body rest periodically. Remember they are getting used to it!

Allow time to explore – Kids naturally love to explore so allow some time for that on your hike. This could be in the form of an activity you do with them or simply stopping and looking around an area for a few minutes. It is important to be mindful though about staying on the trail as well as staying safe. Teaching them good trail etiquette is part of the experience so set boundaries and guidelines for their exploration.

hiking with kidsTeach them about plants and flowers – there is a lot along the hiking trail that kids wouldn’t normally see in the city. Learn about a few plants and flowers and show them those along the way. Take a guide book as well for both yourself and the kids to look at if they wish. Tell them what they are by the proper name, encourage them not to pick them (and share with them why – that if you pick them in some instances it kills the plant altogether, and no one else can enjoy them). Only point out 2 or 3 on a hike (unless they ask about a specific one), that way it’s unique and fun for them, plus they may be more apt to remember what you told them. It’s ok if they don’t remember the name when you ask them later, they may the next time.

Benefits of Hiking with Kids

Hiking with kids provides many benefits not only for them but for yourself as well. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy some time technology free and to bond with your child. You’ll connect with them in a way that you can’t at home cause there are too many distractions. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with my kids while hiking that I would not have at home.

It gets them out in nature. The benefits of being out in nature for children (and adults too) are numerous; such as boosts your energy and immune system, elevates mood, reduces stress and improves physical health. It is also important for us as human beings to simply connect with nature.

It nurtures their natural curiosity. Children are born with a natural curiosity to figure out how the world works. Nurturing their curiosity, fosters their desire to learn and helps them to become life long learners.

It creates positive memories. I was pleasantly surprised when recently my oldest son rhymed off all the hikes we’ve been on and what the highlights were of each (he’s now 14). He even remembered some things that I had not. We have great pictures, great stories and lots of smiles. And he’ll still go hiking with me, which at almost 15 and finding it challenging to find things to do together, I totally love and appreciate.

Keeping these tips in mind and some pre-planning will help create a very positive hiking experience for kids, as well as for you! It will create wonderful memories and an activity that you can continue to do together as they get older.

hiking with kids

Stay tuned for some of our favorite hikes for kids in Alberta that will be featured over the next few weeks…starting with the Fenland Trail

Exploring the Alder Trail

IMG_4171One of the things I love about Thanksgiving weekend (and Fall in general) is that it is usually a beautiful sunny weekend, with crisp mornings, blue skies and warm afternoons, surrounded by the gorgeous colors of leaves turning. This is the time of year when I really enjoy getting out hiking, or for short walks in nature. With or without kids, I love to explore the forests, park, mountain or whatever location it is that we decided to go and check out during this beautiful season.

This weekend we went out to Bragg Creek, which is only a 30 minute drive from our house, to the provincial park. It is a beautiful spot with picnic tables and fire pits, just up from the river with lots of lovely walking trails, of various lengths.

The kids were excited to pack up and go for a picnic and have a fire. In fact, I have not seen Luke and Chloe get ready so fast and out to the car, chomping at the bit to go! I was still packing things up and they were already in the car!

IMG_4178Once we got out there and claimed our spot we went for a short walk before enjoying our picnic (which would be roasted hot dogs and banana boats). A few weeks earlier I had been out there and came across the alder trail, which is a 1.6 km loop. At the time I wasn’t sure how long the trail actually was so decided not to complete the loop that particular day due to time constraints. I was looking forward to discovering this trail and what it was all about.

It turned out to be a beautiful trail, through moss covered floors and old growth forest. The trees were tall and covered in old man’s beard, which I pointed out to Luke and Chloe. They looked on in amazement and giggled as I asked them if they would like a beard of lichen.

IMG_4182The trail is fairly flat and great for kids, with interpretive signs along the way describing the life of the forest. With information on everything from the animals that live there to why we experience chinooks and the effect they have on our environment. Both Luke and Chloe asked me to read every sign and listened attentively as I read. Matthew even stopped at each sign and read what it had to say before moseying on.

Luke was often stopping at trees and knocking on them or giving them hugs, Chloe and Matthew (my more adventurous ones) attempting to climb the trees. Our pace was not rushed but not too slow and everyone enjoyed exploring the trail. All in all our hike took us about an hour (which I thought was pretty good with two 4 year olds) and we returned to the picnic area ready to roast hot dogs and enjoy the fire.

We rounded out the afternoon with some soccer and frisbee, yes it felt like the perfect family scene, tacky but nice; and a short trip down to the river. Exploring along the river bed and tossing rocks into the stream.

IMG_4203Exhausted, satisfied and happy we hopped back into the car for the short drive home. I feel blessed living so close to such a beautiful area that we can enjoy and explore. To me getting out in nature with kids is so important, and not just going out for a picnic but going for a walk or hike of some kind. I had to pry my oldest away from his iPad, but will do so again (and again) as we all need to get outside more and enjoy our natural environment. Cause each time you go out there, it’s different. You find something new to share, learn about and appreciate that you may not have before.

The Skunk Cabbage Trail

Often times on road trips I look for a nice little place to stop along the way. I feel that the journey along the way can be just as much fun as the destination. In fact we often find/ discover little treasures or places to explore that we might not otherwise.

The road between Calgary and Oliver is full of these little places and many a time I have driven thru making a mental list of all the places I would like to stop. Completing this list often takes a while as there are so many, and we typically only make one stop (or it would take forever for us to get to Oliver). We also tend to stop at some places more than once because they are favorites of the kids. (I have been to the Enchanted Forest so many times now I have lost count! but I do love it there)

This was the case on our way back from Oliver this summer as it was about that time to stop and stretch our legs, as I always like to make sure we do so at least once. It not only breaks up the drive but gives everyone a nice break to look forward to.

We were coming up to the Skunk Cabbage Trail which is in Mount Revelstoke National Park. I was starting to feel tired and Luke and Chloe who had been sitting so well for the whole trip, needed to get out and move a bit.

When I told them that we were going to stop and go for a walk on the Skunk Cabbage trail they got very excited and chatted about it excitedly until we got there. I had been on this trail before with my oldest son Matthew when he was about 3 years old and this was one of my favorite trails. Luke and Chloe had never been and I knew that it was a short loop they could easily handle.

The 1.2 km loop is a valley bottom wetland – one of the rarest environments found in the Columbia Wetlands and is full of Skunk Cabbage, a plant that is found in wetland areas and has a beautiful yellow flower in the spring. It is called Skunk Cabbage because of the distinctive ‘skunky’ odor it emits.

We set off along the trail, crossing a wooden bridge over a rushing creek. Luke and Chloe stopped to check out the sight leaning through the rail, saying “Mommy look water!”. We could have stayed there watching the water for awhile, going no further and Luke and Chloe would have been totally satisified. But me, being a typical mother wanted to move on as I not only wanted to walk the trail but was concerned about them falling over the railing into the water – ha ha.

On the other side of the bridge we entered into a cool old growth forest making our way to the beginning of the boardwalk itself. Interpretive signs highlighting the rich diversity of the plants and animals found in this area were spaced out along the loop. We would stop at each sign and I would ask Luke and Chloe if they wanted me to read it to them and they always said yes. So we learned about the bird migration project they were doing, that black bears like to eat Skunk Cabbage and other plants and animals such as Devils’ Club and frogs.

It was a hot afternoon and I was glad that it was only a short walk. The kids had their water cups with them while I had left mine in the car. We took our time, stopped to rest and enjoyed the trail. Luke kept asking where the skunks were, as that is what he thought we were looking for. I explained to him that it was a skunk plant and not an actual skunk and kept pointing them out along the trail. Chloe caught on quickly and started to point out the plants as well. Luke was still asking about the skunks by the time we got back to the car but enjoyed his walk none the less.

I always enjoy doing little walks like that with my kids and this trail was the perfect size for what we needed that day. There are other short walks along that stretch of highway like the Giant Cedars and the Rock Garden trail, which are fairly easy and just the right size for a little breather (and a bit of an education too!)

Though we did this walk in the summer, you could still easily do it in the Fall and if you have the chance I would definitely recommend it in the spring; as that is when the Skunk Cabbage flowers and it is a very cool sight to see – these huge plants with big yellow flowers in the middle.

Luke and Chloe’s First Hike

Giant Cedars Trail

One of the great things about children is that if you introduce things to them when they are little they usually just accept it. They approach everything with wonder and delight, curiousity and a willingness to try.

When you introduce it at a young age they do not have the fears or hang ups that we do as adults, the beliefs that we can’t or shouldn’t, or the stubborness to refuse what you are suggesting because they ‘don’t want to’. This is one of the beautys of being a child and spending time with a child. They remind us to try it all and to move forward fearlessly because you never know what joys you are going to experience.

We have introduced things early on with all of our children, in many things, but specifically in introducing camping and hiking to them; all at around the age of 2. Matthew’s first hike was the Fenland Trail in Banff, a 2 km loop through a lush forested area. He completed it easily and then we did another short hike after lunch that day. I think he did 5 km total that day and he was only 2 or 3.

Luke and Chloe’s first hike was a few weeks ago on our way to visit my parents in Oliver, BC. We had stopped for lunch at the Giant Cedars trail in Mt. Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia. There was a picnic area and washrooms to use and after our tummies were full, we went for a walk along the trail.

The Giant Cedars trail is an easy, self guided, 500 m loop with some of the oldest trees in the Columbia Mountains. Featuring the largest western red cedars and dark brown western hemlocks, this boardwalk trail is lush, green and alive. As soon as you enter the trail you can feel the warmth and comfort of a such an old forest.

Chloe taking the stairs at the beginning of the trail

It is a great trail for kids with lots to discover and explore. There are benches along the way so you can sit and relax, enjoying the serene atmosphere and the magic of an old growth forest. Both Chloe and Luke effortlessly went up the stairs that start the trail. Chloe was delighted by the little brook flowing by and would stop every time she saw water. She would scream in delight, “water!” and then bend over, hands on her thighs to take a closer look.

Devil's Club

We meandered along the trail checking things out, the Giant Devil’s Club, the nurse logs and fungi. We read the interpretive signs at different points along the trail describing the age of the trees (over 500 years old), the animals who live there, such as bats, bears and caribou; and how they all make up an important and healthy functioning ecosystem.

Luke was very excited about the fairies which he shared were in their houses; which he told me were the splits in the trees or under the lush underbrush. Both Luke and Chloe walked the whole way, with Chloe stopping to hug and kiss trees and Luke checking out the flowers. Matthew of course ran the trail, cause as usual he had energy to burn. It took us half an hour to do the trail, but is typically done in 15-20 minutes, depending on how fast you move along the trail and if you stop to linger.

Fairy Houses

It is a great place to relax and unplug for a while, to just sit and soak up the atmosphere. It is also a super easy hike for kids and will be a great first or early experience for them.

Hugging a tree

The key to hiking with kids to make their first experiences easy (short enough that they can walk it without feeling tired or have to be carried), achievable (something that they can do all by themselves without feeling discouraged at the end), interesting (lots of things to see, check out and explore) and in proper footwear. Now I would not run out and buy hiking boots for my 2 year old, but it is a good idea to ensure that they have sturdy, closed toed shoes, like runners. If you make their first experiences enjoyable and memorable than they will quickly and easily develop a love for hiking (and an appreciation for their natural environment) as they grow up.

Wapta Falls

Wapta Falls

On the weekend that Matthew and I did the Burgess Shale hike (read more in earlier post) we also did a few shorter hikes the following day. We did this for a few reasons, one was that Matthew was up bouncing around and had some energy to burn (yes after 22 km the previous day, he was neither tired, nor sore) and I also felt it was a good idea to move a little and do a short hike so we wouldn’t stiffen up. Not that Matthew would.

Plus I love going and exploring. We’re often driving through Yoho National Park on our way to somewhere else and don’t make any stops to check things out. So as I’m driving through I mentally make a list of places/ hikes I would like to go and see for the time that we do stop and stay awhile.

Spiderweb in a Tree

Wapta Falls is an easy 5 km return hike in Yoho National Park in British Columbia, along a treed path to a beautiful waterfall at the end. Though fairly flat, the trail ends in a slight incline to get to the falls but is a great trail for beginner hikers and for kids. There are lots of things to explore and discover along the way; we found a beautiful spider web between the branches of a tree and an interesting bump on another tree.  Of course there is the anticipation of the falls at the end, which as you are hiking along the path, can hear before you actually see it. Drawing you, beckoning you.

MEC Happy Trails Baby Carrier

Though the trail is suitable for children, it is not suitable for strollers. There are bumps and tree roots along the way that make it quite difficult to navigate a stroller on it. If the children are not walking on their own then I would recommend one of those backpack carriers for small children. There are many different styles and brands out there, we have one from Mountain Equipment Coop we really like, as well as one from Baby Trend.

Matthew practically ran down the trail and we had to ask him a few times to slow down, or pause to take a break. The rush of the waterfall was drawing him in and he was getting excited!

There are 3 spots where you can look at the falls. It is a bit deceiving when you first come to the falls as it looks like that is where the trail ends. There is a fenced area overlooking the falls with a bench to sit and relax. A lot of people assume that this is where the trail ends but if you continue down the trail, you can go off to the left for a different view or continue all the way to the bottom.

Matthew at the bottom of Wapta Falls

If you go all the way to the bottom, the trail ends by coming out onto a beach along the river at the bottom of the falls. It is a great place to sit and just be, soaking up the beauty and absorbing yourself in this calm, peaceful environment. The kids will love playing in the sand or throwing rocks into the water, or you can even move down along the shore a little ways and continue to explore. It’s a lovely spot to sit and have a snack or enjoy your lunch as you gaze at the waterfalls.

After spending some time at the falls we hiked out, Matthew again running – oh to have the energy of a child, and enjoyed some nice relaxing quiet time back at the campsite. Well I did, Matthew on the other hand was busy as usual, chopping wood.

 

The Burgess Shale – Walcott Quarry

For the past 2 summers I have taken Matthew for a mother and son camping trip. It is a great opportunity to spend some one on one time with him doing something we both love. We try and change it up each year, choosing different sites to camp at and different things to do. This past weekend, Matthew and I went to Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies. We did the Burgess Shale Hike to Walcott Quarry, a 22 km guided hike up through the mountains, to view the famous fossils.

Matthew and I at Walcott Quarry

A World Heritage Site, the Burgess Shale is considered the world’s most important fossil site that preserves one of the world’s first complex marine ecosystems. It has also been shown that 95% of the world’s species have evolved from these fossils; the origin of all life.

Discovered by Charles Walcott in 1909, this is the world’s most significant fossil discovery because of their age (500 million years old), diversity and the incredible detail of the preservation of the fossils. It is truly a wonder to be discovered and enjoyed.

This fascinating find attracts researchers from all over the world, as well as hikers. As a protected site, the only way to access the site is on one of the guided hikes provided through Yoho National Park or the Geoscience Foundation in Field, BC. This is to preserve and protect the site from misuse and vandalism and continue to utilize it for research.

A Trilobite

You can choose one of 2 hikes, the Mount Stephen Fossil Bed or Walcott Quarry. Both hikes can be challenging and it is best to go to the National Park website to determine which hike is most suitable for you. Though Mount Stephen is shorter in distance it is strenuous and steep, while Walcott Quarry is longer in distance, it is less steep.

I have wanted to go on this hike for many years, every time I drove through Field I thought maybe this year I will go. One of the reasons I had not gone yet was that I did not have anyone that was interested in going with me. And though I do many things by myself, this was something I wished to share with a friend or family member.

I was very pleased and excited when I suggested to Matthew that we go. He seemed keen and interested and though the 22 km hike was more than he had hiked before (he had done up to 14 km), he was willing to do it.

We choose the Walcott hike because it was a less strenuous and difficult hike, as well as the fact that there are a variety of fossils found at this site, such as trilobites, marrella, anomlocaris; compared to Mount Stephen, which is mainly trilobites. We felt that even though the distance was longer that this hike overall would be a more satisfying and exciting experience.

Takakkaw Falls

After waking up at 6 am and a quick breakfast, we met at the trailhead at Takakkaw Falls at 7:15 ready to start our day. It was going to be a beautiful day, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. We met our Parks Canada Guide Kristi and fellow hikers and after going through a few ligistics we were off!

Matthew was the youngest in the group and I could tell that some of our fellow hikers were a little shocked/ concerned that he was coming along. I admit I was a little nervous for him but I knew in my heart that he could do it. He is a strong resilient kid and we had already hiked many trails and terrains over the last year. Though he might be tired at the end of the day, I knew he would do it.

Learning about the fossils

By 1 pm we were up at the fossil site with a stunning mountain view of Mount Burgess and overlooking Emerald Lake. We got to spend a full hour here, exploring and discovering fossils. It was amazing!

Mount Burgess

We had to wear helmets to protect ourselves from possible rock fall overhead and were literally standing on the slope of a mountain. Our guide provided us with fact sheets to help us identify what we found, as well as little eye magnifying pieces to get a better, or sharpened look at the fossils. We were also able to do fossil rubbings, with good old fashioned paper and crayon. It was awesome and so fascinating!

Matthew studying a trilobite

Matthew loved it. He loves that kind of sciency stuff and gadgets to check it all out with. And he was pretty excited and proud of himself for completing the hike as well. Yes he was very tired by the time we got back to the parking lot, but he did it, and he did it without whining or complaining. He’s an amazing kid! And once we fed him dinner and got back to the campsite, he was up running around and zooming off on his bike. Where does he find the energy?

Of course the next day I was a little sore and stiff, not my 8 year old. Bouncing around ready for another day. So I took him on another hike 🙂

The Burgess Shale is a fascinating hike and once in a lifetime experience; even if you are not a science geek, the fossils are fascinating to see and the scenery alone is worth the hike. It is also very cool to see and be a part of these fossils and to understand that we evolved from these guys. To see them preserved is something I can’t really describe, it’s one of those things that you’ve got to do to understand the awe and wonder of it.

I did it! 22 km and still alive! It was awesome!

Note: This hike is not suitable for young children, even if taken in a baby carrier. 8 years old and up is what is recommended on the website and not many 8 year olds actually do it. Please ensure that your child has hiked distance before and has the stamina, determination and interest in doing it. This is not only for their safety but for the safety of everyone on the hike as well.

Fact sheets and fossils

Want to know more about the Burgess Shale? Check out these great websites for more information

www.pc.gc.ca/burgessshale

www.burgess-shale.rom.on.ca

www.tyrrellmuseum.com/exhibits/burgess_shale.htm

Discovering the Rockgarden Trail

I’m always on the lookout for new trails to hike and explore with the kids. I love the outdoors and it is one of my greatest joys to share this passion and excitement with my children.

For years we have been driving up and down the #1 highway west on our way to visit family or on some kind of adventure. I love this drive, it is a beautiful, lush and full of places to discover and explore. Often though we are pushing through to our destination or have another ‘planned stop’ and don’t always have the opportunity to stop at the trails and sites that I would like to see.

There are 4 National Parks along this route, Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Mount Revelstoke. All are unique and beautiful in their own way with so much to do and explore.

Ever since Matthew was little I have wanted to go on the Rockgarden trail. It is a short 20 minute hike on the east side of the Rogers Pass, in Glacier National Park. We discovered it one time when we stopped for a bathroom break and pulled into the parking lot for the outhouse.

Entering the Rockgarden Trail

This trail though short is not meant for strollers or young children. If you have young children you will need a baby carrier to take them with you.  It is a steep, rocky trail with high drops in some places. It has rock stairs and winds through boulders and lush forest. It is considered a miniature landscape all it’s own, rich in lichens and mosses that are more than 2000 years old.

Lichens and Mosses

For one reason or another we have always passed it by, timing not working out with the kids, weather or the desire to push through and get to our destination. But this weekend we went! I was driving Matthew out to my parents for the week, and I had already decided before we left that this would be our planned stop. I was very excited that we were finally going! I kept my fingers crossed that the weather would be decent, as it was a little rainy.

When Matthew and I entered the trail we were in awe of what we saw. Piles of rocks/ boulders settled along the trail, part of the trail. It was truly entering a rock garden.

At the beginning of the trail be sure to pick up a brochure that describes different areas of the trail by matching the symbols in the brochure. This provides you with more insight into what is/ has happened in the area and you can appreciate the wonder and life of the area. It is also a great educational tool for the kids! When I was little I always loved reading the signs and learning more. My parents would read the signs to us and as we grew we would read them on our own. Sometimes we would even set up a scavenger hunt using the signs and information and that was fun too!

As we meandered and explored the rock garden we noticed the faces in the rocks and the energy of the forest. It is a magical place, one where you could sit and rest awhile before carrying on on your journey.

So next time you’re heading down the #1 and need a break, or a chance to stretch your legs, I would highly recommend this beautiful and magical place tucked within the Canadian Rockies. Stop a while and take a breath, enjoy and discover a place you may not have noticed before.

Matthew conquering the Rockgarden Trail