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Spring Family Biking Adventures in Alberta

My family loves going for bike rides, and we try to make each outing a fun adventure. A successful family biking day might include a stop for ice-cream, a stop at a coffee shop to keep the adults’ energy levels high, and a stop at one playground, at least (bonus points if it has a wading pool or spray park), as well as a stop at interesting terrain (bridges, riverside pathways, a mixture of paved and natural surfaces, etc.). Here are three of my family’s favorite family biking adventures we enjoy each year in May and June.

1. Calgary downtown playground-hopping tour. Bike along the paved Bow River Pathway through downtown and visit the three playgrounds at Prince’s Island Park, East Village and then bike on to St. Patrick’s Island. The playgrounds are clustered along the river within a 3-kilometre distance of one another between the two islands.

Other highlights of this biking tour include stopping for a splash at the Eau Claire Market wading pool (great on a warm day in late June, and where you’ll also find ice-cream for purchase), visiting the ducks on Prince’s Island, and stopping in for coffee and fresh pastries at the Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters located in the Simmons Building in East Village. My family also loves playing in the pond at St. Patrick’s Island (even if it’s just stomping around the pond in our rubber boots).

Parking - We usually find free two- to three-hour street parking in Bridgeland near Murdoch Park (off Centre Avenue) and bike from there, crossing over Memorial Drive at the Bridgeland C-Train station. Alternatively, there’s a large paid lot at the Calgary Curling Club by Prince’s Island Park or there is free two-hour parking on the streets off Memorial Drive.

For families with older children, consider starting your bike ride at Edworthy Park for a return distance of 14 kilometres to Prince’s Island Park along the Bow River Pathway.

2. Drumheller Ghost Town bike tour. This is a fun outing for children who are old enough to bike on a shared road with traffic. Bike to the ghost town of Wayne and cross 11 one-lane bridges on a scenic country road through the Alberta badlands. When you arrive in Wayne, make sure you stop in at the Last Chance Saloon (family-friendly) and enjoy some drinks or snacks on their sunny patio.

Directions - Drive through Drumheller and turn right onto Highway 56 toward the town of Rosedale. Turn right onto Highway 10X and pull over on the side of the road when you come to your first one-lane bridge. This is where you begin your ride to Wayne, approximately a 10-kilometre return.

You will be sharing the road with vehicles and motorbikes. We find most vehicles and bikers to be very respectful, and most let us cross the bridges first before passing. The motorbikes can be a bit scary at times, though, when they come up behind you in larger groups. Children with sensitivities to loud noise or who scare easily might not enjoy this bike tour.

Also, if you choose to visit the Last Chance Saloon, you’ll feel like you are visiting a ‘biker bar.’ Most visitors to Wayne arrive on motorbike and you will most likely be the only guests on pedal bikes. There is also a very good chance that you will be the only people with children in the bar. My family doesn’t really find this to be a big problem, but I would suggest going early in the day before the saloon gets too busy or pack a sacked lunch for the family instead.

A Ghost Town bike tour not your thing? Other Spring activities to enjoy around the badlands:

  • Play a round of disc golf while in Wayne (bring discs with you and pick up a course map from the saloon). It’s our favorite disc golf course in Alberta and very challenging.

  • Visit the Drumheller skate park, located beside the world’s largest dinosaur. Kids can use bikes, scooters, or skateboards in the park.

  • Bike the paved pathway from the skate park in Drumheller out to the Royal Tyrrell Museum and back (stopping to visit the museum and play at the awesome outdoor playground there). The ride is just over 6 kilometres one way (an adult can always ride back for the vehicle if kids can’t do the return trip).

Take a hike in one of the canyons (you’ll pass right by Horseshoe Canyon on your drive out from Calgary). For more information, visit the Drumheller Tourism Info Centre beside the skate park and large dinosaur (you can’t miss it!).

3. Bike a closed highway to a set of waterfalls in southern Kananaskis country. Highway 40 in Kananaskis is closed over Highwood Pass until June 15, creating an amazing place for families to bike with no traffic on the road. Start south of Calgary near Longview and turn onto Highway 40 heading west into the mountains. You’ll drive approximately 30 minutes until you reach Highwood Junction where Highway 940 goes south. Park on the side of the highway and start biking along the hilly highway (young children may need to walk the occasional hill).

Our family bikes as far as the Cat Creek Day-Use Area in a round trip distance of approximately 9 kilometres. From the Day-Use Area, lock your bikes up to a tree, and proceed on foot along the hiking trail until you reach the Cat Creek Falls, 1.3 kilometres one way. The official trail starts on the far side of the road bridge and climbs up the bank immediately after crossing the bridge, dropping down to access the creek and the falls.

You can also bike part of the way to the falls if you want a little more adventure. Before crossing the road bridge at the Day-Use Area, you’ll see an old grass/gravel road heading off to your right. Bike along this old road until you come to a good spot to cross the creek. Leave bikes here (nobody’s going to come steal them at this point), hop across the creek on logs or rocks, and follow the path on the far side of the creek to the falls. For more information on the hike, visit the Alberta Parks website and search for the ‘Cat Creek Interpretive Trail.’

Happy Spring biking!

Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to a spunky boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com

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