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The 2019 Ford Expedition is a roomy, full size SUV equipped with an amazing array of safety features, and great towing capacity. See how we made the most of it on a Banff and Kananaskis road trip.
2019 Ford Expedition Platinum
Disclosure: Ford Canada generously loaned us a 2019 Ford Expedition for testing and review purposes. All words and opinions are my own.
First Impressions of the 2019 Ford ExpeditionThe Bow Valley Parkway is covered in snow, but it's no sweat for our 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum. We deploy the terrain management system's snow mode and continue down the winding mountain road to the Johnston Canyon trailhead. The Expedition handles well even where snowdrifts are a few inches deep.
2019 Ford Expedition Platinum cabin
In the back seat, the girls are comfy watching movies. With TONS of space in the second and third rows, even adult passengers would have ample legroom. Up front in the roomy cabin, we enjoy a comedy program on SiriusXM Radio; good thing the kids have headphones on! Before we know it we're at the trailhead.
Mirrors fold in and running board lifts up when you park
Power-deployed running boards fold down when we open our doors making it easy to step out. We grab our backpacks from the trunk then realize the food bag is stuffed way in the back, behind the suitcases. No worries, I can access it from the second row. I tip and slide my daughter's captain's seat forward (no need to remove the booster seat) and voila, trail snacks. We're ready to hike!
Day 1: Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park
Lower Falls at Johnston Canyon, Banff
It's a short, but scenic 1.2 km walk to Lower Falls, through forest and over a lofty catwalk that hugs the canyon wall. We take our time looking at ice flows and waterfalls, before making our way down to Lower Falls where jagged shards of ice extend into a turquoise plunge pool. Next, we go in the little tunnel that leads to a viewing platform and listen to the water rushing behind the ice.
From Lower Falls, it's another 1.3 km to Upper Falls. Upper Falls has 30-metre high curtains of ice perfect for ice climbing if you have the gear and know-how. We watch the ice climbers for a while then return the way we came.
Extension: Continue 2.2 km (5.7 km from parking lot) to the Ink Pots, five blue-green, spring-fed pools in a meadow.
Castle Mountain, Banff National Park
Castle Mountain, Banff
We pull over by the bridge just south of Castle Junction and walk down to the river for a beautiful view of Castle Mountain. Known as Miistukskoowa to the Siksika, and formerly known as Mount Eisenhower (from 1946 to 1979), Castle Mountain is super photogenic and best visited at sunset. Ambitious hikers can hike to the summit via Rockbound Lake. For a shorter, but also rewarding hike, try Castle Lookout.
On the Highway: 2019 Ford Expedition Engine & Safety Features
2019 Ford Expedition Platinum
We return to Canmore via the TransCanada Highway (Highway 1). Although the Expedition is built on the F-150 platform, it handles better than I expected and accelerates quickly when you hit the gas. With a 3.5 L twin-turbocharged V6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission that makes 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque (@2,250 rpm), climbing hills and towing are no problem for the Expedition! In fact, the Expedition can tow more than other SUVs in its class: a whopping 9,200 pounds (4173 kg)!
The Expedition has lots of passing power too, plus technology to help do it safer. The Blind Spot Information System lets me know when someone's in my blind spot - with an indicator (orange light) on my mirror. After I've passed someone, the Expedition resumes cruising speed thanks to the adaptive cruise control; no need to hit "resume". I set the adaptive cruise control to keep the furthest distance between me and the next car, and found it helped a lot whether I caught up to a slow moving RV or it was stop and go through a construction zone.
Day 2: Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park
Sulphur Mountain, Banff
After a good night's sleep and big breakfast, we're ready to climb a mountain! There are over two dozen switchbacks to the top of Sulphur Mountain, but they're not too steep, so it only takes a couple hours to reach the Upper Terminal. We explore the interpretive centre, have a snack, then walk the boardwalk to Sanson's Peak, the site of an old weather station (still standing) and cosmic ray station (dismantled). Spring is a quiet time to explore the summit, so we hang out longer than usual - and even go to the theatre to see the short video about Banff - before enjoying the free gondola ride down (from after Thanksgiving to before May long weekend, or after 7 pm in summer). Read more about the hike and Upper Terminal in our story: Hiking Sulphur Mountain and Sanson's Peak, Banff.
We love Canmore Nordic Centre because we can cross country ski, toboggan, skate, and snowshoe here. Fortunately the Ford Expedition and our roofbox can accommodate all our gear for a multi-sport, multi-day trip: cross country skis, downhills skis, snowshoes, ice skates, helmets, sleds, microspikes, goggles, boots, ski poles, cooler, groceries, backpacks, and luggage for four. We ski to the Meadow Hut, play games in the training grid (What time is it Mr. Wolf and tag), and skate on the rink next to the Day Lodge.
Quarry Lake Park is a great sunset spot if you don't want to drive far from Canmore. The lake loop is 1.8 km and dog friendly (offleash area except for the lake itself).
Day 4: Troll FallsTroll Falls is a fun, short hike you can do year-round! Ice cleats or microspikes are required from late fall through spring as the trail gets quite icy. 1.7 km one way.
Troll Falls, Kananaskis
View from Mount Allan Drive Bridge
For a great view of the Wedge, pull over just before the bridge (on your way back to Calgary). We love stopping here when we ski or bike the Bill Milne Trail.
2019 Ford Expedition Platinum Review
2019 Ford Expedition at Nakiska
Our favorite features of the 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum are how roomy and comfortable it is, the safety features, connectivity, and conveniences like hands-free tailgate and voice-activated navigation. It looks really sharp too!
Seating and Cargo Space
The 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum has lots of legroom! Image Credit: Ford Canada
From the cabin to the third row, seating is spacious and comfortable. The Expedition is one of the few large SUVs that actually has a usable third row (not just for kids)! With the standard second row bench seat, the Expedition seats 8, but the model we tested seats 7 with split captain's chairs in the second row. My kids preferred the captain's seats and my husband and I liked being able to easily move the seats (without removing the booster seats!) when we needed to access items in the trunk. Since we're short and the trunk is long and high, we often had to go in the back seat to get stuff, but it wasn't too bad.
Large doors make getting in and out easier for folks in the back, and for passenger convenience, every row has its own USB ports and climate control. All told, the Expedition has 6 USB ports and 15 cupholders. Available heated second row seats are a nice add-on for cold climates.
When you fold the third row of seats folded down, you get an impressive 63.6 cubic feet of cargo space. This is plenty of space for a big Costco run (with room to spare), or weekend getaway. We easily fit ski gear for the four of us in the Expedition. For multi-day, multi-sport trips, however, a roofbox is required. Both rows of seats fold down flat if you need to transport big boxes from Ikea.
2019 Ford Expedition trunk
The 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum comes with a ton of safety features: Blind Spot Information System, rear cross-traffic alert (handy when backing up), adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, curve control, lane-keeping assist, and lane departure warning. Curve control reduces rollover risk (an issue with large SUVs) by slowing down the vehicle up to 16 km/hr (10 miles per hour) in 1 second if you go into a turn too fast. Enhanced parking assist makes parking a big vehicle easier.
2019 Ford Expedition Cabin with 8-inch Sync 3 touch screen infotainment system Image credit: Ford Canada
The Ford Expedition Platinum comes with an 8-inch Sync 3 touchscreen with a voice-activated navigation system, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, and 4G LTE mobile hotspot. Taking the time to sync my phone and set up voice commands (took all of two minutes) was totally worth it to be hands-free and keep my eyes on the road. We enjoyed SiriusXM radio and having wifi onboard too!
Other fun gadgets include a wireless charger in the cabin, dual headrest rear seat entertainment system, and surround-view camera system to help you when backing up or parallel parking. While the kids loved watching movies in the back, they didn't like the top loading DVD players. Disc changing would be easier if the DVD slot were on the side instead of the top.
Under the HoodAs mentioned above, the 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum has a 3.5 L twin-turbocharged V6 engine with 10-speed automatic transmission that makes 400 hp and 480 lb-ft of torque (@2,250 rpm). It offers best-in-class towing, and is capable of towing a boat or trailer weighing up to 9,200 lbs. (4173 kg)! The 2019 Ford Expedition's mileage wasn't bad on the highway (10.6 L /100 km), in the city, it averages 14.1 L / 100 km. If you want to save on gas and can wait until later this year, you'll have the option of getting a 2020 Ford Expedition with a diesel engine - or a hybrid engine (to be confirmed)!
2019 Ford Expedition Platinum exterior
The Expedition boasts attractive lines, huge power moonroof, LED lights, rain sensing windshield wipers, and a collection of sensors that offer excellent visibility when backing up or parking. A hands-free liftgate makes it easy to load stuff in the back without putting it down first to open the trunk, mirrors fold in when you park (handy since the vehicle is so big), and running boards fold in when you close the doors offering better clearance. The Platinum trim also comes with 22" polished aluminum wheels for better handling.
Check out that moonroof!!
Is the Ford Expedition our next Play Outside Ride?
Although the Ford Expedition is roomy, powerful, and kitted out with lots of safety features that we love, we would opt for the Ford Explorer as it is more affordable and uses less gas. The Ford Expedition Platinum starts at $80,899. A smaller vehicle is also easier to park (I'm only 5'3"), though the parking assist helps a lot. Since we bring so much gear, we needed a roofbox whether we drove the Explorer or Expedition (hence our preference for the smaller SUV), but if we had a trailer, we would consider the Expedition. To read more about the Play Outside Ride project, please read: Help us choose our next adventure car. Check out our review of the 2018 Ford Explorer.
2019 Ford Expedition Platinum
We really enjoyed the 2019 Ford Expedition Platinum and highly recommend it if you have a big family and/or tow a trailer or boat. With higher clearance than smaller SUVs, you can also access more rugged terrain. This full-size SUV has three rows with enough room for adults to sit in the back! Bring your parents on your next trip! The safety features are easy to use and make for a better, safer driving experience. We also loved the infotainment system; being able to operate it hands-free and keep my eyes on the road keeps me and my family safe.
Go underground at Atlas Coal Mine, drive 10 bridges to a rockin' saloon (and haunted hotel), or bike through the badlands to the renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum. The experiences you can have in Drumheller are varied and unique - perfect for history buffs, dinosaur lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Drumheller Driving Route
Drumheller Road Trip Map Image Credit: Google Maps
This 50-kilometre driving route takes you from Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site to The Little Church near the Royal Tyrrell Museum. We recommend starting in East Coulee and visiting the Royal Tyrrell Museum in late afternoon. The museum is open until 9 pm in the summer months, so you have plenty of time to explore without crowds (peak hours are from 10 am to 3 pm). If you'd like to stay for the weekend, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails, theatre performances, and other attractions to explore.
1. Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
Train Tour at Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site is Canada's most complete historic coal mine. For the best experience, sign up for a tour (or three) to learn about coal mining and East Coulee life in the 1930s.
Tunnel Tour at Atlas Coal Mine, East Coulee, Alberta
You get a discount if you sign up for the Train Tour, Tipple Tour, and Tunnel Tour. I wasn't sure the kids would make it through that many tours one after another, but our guides were engaging and energetic, so we had a great time and learned a lot. At the end of the day, when I asked the girls what their favorite part was, they said "Everything!" Open May 11-October 14, 2019. Read more about our awesome day in this story: Journey back in time at Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site.
2. East Coulee School Museum
East Coulee School Museum
East Coulee School Museum is a small museum featuring local artifacts, some fossils, and special programs. If you plan ahead, you can book the Recess and Class Tour to see what school was like in the 1930s. Watch out for that strict School Marm! Our kids also enjoyed doing the scavenger hunt to earn a prize. Afterwards, have homemade pie in the Willow Tea Room, then hit the retro playground outside. Open May to September 10 am to 5 pm.
3. Hoodoos / Hoodoo Trail, Drumheller
Drumheller Hoodoos at sunset
Hoodoos are a striking natural phenomenon that define the Badlands. The best accessible examples near Drumheller are 15 minutes east of town on Highway 10. An interpretive trail, hoodoo trail, has viewing platforms and signs that explain how and when the hoodoos formed. Please do not climb on the hoodoos! These ancient structures are easily damaged. The best time to visit is sunrise or sunset when the light accentuates the different colors in the rock. Note that the trail has stairs so it is not stroller friendly. Click here for the Google Maps location of Hoodoo Trail.
The 117 metre long Star Mine Suspension Bridge, also known as Rosedale Suspension Bridge, was built in 1931 so miners could walk from town to Star Mine (closed in 1957). Bounce your way across, explore the badlands on the north side of the Red Deer River, do some fishing, then get an ice cream at Asteroid. There is no charge to visit the bridge.
5. Wayne & The 11 Bridges
Rosedeer Hotel, Wayne, Alberta
Drive or bike the 11 bridges to the hamlet of Wayne! Once home to 2,490 people when the mines were open, only 31 live there now. Have lunch at Last Chance Saloon (check the schedule to see when they have live music!), get ice cream or a quirky souvenir at Jojo’s Haberdashery, camp at 11 Bridges Campground, or stay at The Rosedeer Hotel if you dare (the third floor is rumored to be haunted). Built in 1913, the Rosedeer is the only original building still standing in Wayne.
The first bridge en route to Wayne, Alberta
Fun fact: The 6 kilometre stretch to Wayne is in the Guiness Book of World Records for having the most bridges per distance. There are 11 single-lane metal bridges in total; the 11th is just past the Rosedeer Hotel.
To get there, turn off Hwy 10 onto the 10X.
6. Drumheller Visitor Information Centre, World's Biggest Dinosaur, and Rotary Spray Park
World's Biggest Dinosaur, Drumheller, Alberta
Let the friendly staff at the Drumheller Visitor Information Centre help you plan your trip, climb up inside the world's biggest dinosaur for a unique view of Drumheller (small admission fee), then cool off at the Rotary Spray Park. The info centre is a good starting place for the city bike paths too! For a fun, family-friendly bike ride, check out our story Biking from Downtown Drumheller to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
7. Royal Tyrrell Museum
Black Beauty T-Rex at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller
The Royal Tyrrell Museum is Canada's pre-eminent dinosaur museum with one of the world's largest displays of dinosaurs. Allow at least two hours to see all the galleries; you will need more time if you plan on attending special programs. The museum also has a cafeteria, gift shop, amphitheatre, and awesome dino-themed playground.
Open 7 days a week from May 15 - September 30. Open Tuesday-Sunday from October 1 - May 14.
8. The Little Church
The Little Church, Drumheller, Alberta
The Little Church is a tiny white chapel that seats thousands, six at a time. Located west of the Royal Tyrrell Museum on North Dinosaur Trail. Free admission.
Biking and Walking Trails The Downtown DinoWalk is a family favorite! Find 20 dinosaur sculptures while you explore downtown Drumheller. Check out the online map with information about each dinosaur here.
Biking in Midland Provincial Park, Drumheller
Bike from the world’s biggest dinosaur (26 metres tall) to the Royal Tyrrell Museum via McMullen Island Park and Midland Provincial Park. Don’t miss Midland Coal Mine (free to visit); it's a short detour off the main bike path. 7 km one way. Details in Biking from Downtown Drumheller to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Lookout near Royal Tyrrell Museum
Trails near Royal Tyrrell Museum: Take the stairs next to the museum to a panoramic lookout, or hike the Badlands Interpretive Trail, a scenic 1.4 km loop. Learn how the badlands were formed and why so many fossils have been found around Drumheller.
Save with the Experience Alberta's History PassGet unlimited admission for one year to historic sites, interpretive centres and museums operated by the Government of Alberta with Experience Alberta's History Pass. Attractions include: Royal Tyrrell Museum, Frank Slide interpretive Centre, Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump and many more. $120 family pass, $50 adult, $40 senior, $30 youth, FREE for kids 7 & under.
Horseshoe Canyon, Alberta
Drumheller is located 1.5 hours northeast of Calgary. Horseshoe Canyon is a nice stopping spot en route.
Where to StayQuality Hotel Drumhelleris conveniently located near Downtown Drumheller, Reptile World, and New Castle Beach. They offer free continental breakfast, pet-friendly rooms, an exercise room, and business centre.
Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area has a basic campground 24 km from Drumheller, just off the highway. Sites are available on a first come, first served basis. For a fun excursion, take the three minute ferry ride (free!) across the Red Deer River, then drive south Dinosaur Trail to Orkney Viewpoint.
There are also several private campgrounds to choose from. One of the most popular is River Grove Campground and Cabins which has nice shaded sites by the river, close to the Drumheller Visitor Information Centre and Rotary Spray Park.
Special EventsOne of the top 10 Gran Fondos in Canada, the Gran Fondo Badlands boasts several courses with dramatic scenery for road riders (50/75/100/140/160 km) and mountain bikers (92 km Gravel Grinder). June 22, 2019. Mine and Dine at Atlas Coal Mine and East Coulee School Museum: Go back to 1937 and be a miner for the day. You will dress like a miner, make a brass tag, light your own carbide lamp, then go to work in the mine. After getting paid, head to East Coulee School Museum to make noodles from scratch and have a Hungarian family-style meal! Limited dates and availability. Learn more here.
Badlands Amphitheatre, Canada’s largest outdoor stage, hosts the amazing Canadian Badlands Passion Play (July 5-21, 2019) each year. This summer, you can also catch Jann Arden (August 10, 2019), and Walk Off the Earth (August 24, 2019).
Rosebud Theatre puts on several shows per season. Check out their calendar and book tickets here.
This Mother's Day, treat Mom to great gear for her favorite outdoor activity, or sign up for the Sport Chek Mother's Day Run, Walk & Ride in support of Calgary Health Trust NICU and Canadian Tire's Jumpstart Charities.
Mother's Day Gifts for Active Moms
This story was sponsored by Sport Chek, but all words and opinions are my own.
Mother's Day Gift Guide for Active MomsWe have carefully curated our favorite items for running, biking, and hiking that would make great Mother's Day gifts. All items are under $150* and can be found at Sport Chek (*Please note that prices are current at time of writing and are subject to change.). If you'd like to do something fun with Mom and support a great cause, consider signing up for the Sport Chek Mother's Day Run, Walk & Ride (details below).
For the Runner
The Fitbit Inspire HR Fitness Tracker is a compact and affordable fitness tracker that boasts five days of battery life and is waterproof (swimproof actually!). Available in Lilac, Black, White/Black. $129.95. Buy Now.
Fitbit Inspire HR Fitness Tracker - Lilac
The Under Armour Women's Fly By Av Run Cap is a lightweight, stretchy breathable cap with an adjustable strap and reflectors (extra safety for night running). It's also great for hiking! Available in Black, White, or Black/White/Silver. $29.99. Buy Now.
Under Armour Women's Fly By Av Run Cap
For flattering weather protection, try the Under Armour Women's Outrun The Storm Running Jacket. Water-resistant 4-way stretch fabric and thoughtful features like a large hood, thumbholes, interior media pocket, and reflective details, will make this Mom's favorite jacket. Available in Black and Radio Red/Black. $109.99. Buy Now.
Under Armour Women's Outrun The Storm Running Jacket
The North Face Women's Perfect Core High-Rise Tights
For the Cyclist
The relaxed fit Sugoi RPM Women's Cycling Jersey has a 1/4 zip for temperature control and is perfect for all types of riding. Back pockets are just the right size for protein bars or gels. Available in Raspberry Sorbet or Light Jade. $38.97. Buy Now.
With room for 2.5 L of water, extra clothes, and emergency gear, the Osprey Women's Skimmer 16 Hydration Pack is the ideal size for mountain biking and only weighs 460 grams. Its suspension system distributes weight across your back and mesh fabric keeps you from getting too sweaty. $89.97. Buy Now.
If you want a daypack that fits well and has features of a big backpacking pack, try the Gregory Women's Jade 28L Day Pack. CrossFlo Suspension distributes the weight and keeps it off your back, hiking pole loops and pockets make for easy packing (the stuff pocket provides easy access to remove/add layers), and the rain cover means your stuff stays safe when the weather turns nasty. Available in Dark Charcoal for $134.97 or Mayan Teal for $194.99. Buy Now.
Gregory Women's Jade 28L Day Pack - Dark Charcoal
Go green and stay cool with the Marmot Women's Caligata T Shirt. Made of recycled water bottles and cotton, this tee has a fun mountain outline and cheeky marmot on it that will appeal to all mountain lovers. Available in Flamingo Heather and Charcoal Heather. $34.99. Buy Now.
Marmot Women's Caligata T Shirt - Flamingo Heather
The North Face Women's Venture 2 Shell 2.5L Jacket is a compact, ultralight, waterproof, windproof jacket with pit zips for temperature control. Stuff the jacket into its pocket, toss it in your pack, and you're ready for a storm. A relaxed fit and generous hood means you can comfortably wear this shell over layers. Available in 16 colours! $149.99. Buy Now.
The North Face Women's Venture 2 Shell 2.5L Jacket
TheAdventure Medical Kit Ultralight 0.7 First Aid Kit comes in an ultralight bag with rugged waterproof liners and all the first aid supplies you need for a dayhike or weekend trip. Includes moleskin, butterfly closures, bandaids, wraps, common medications, and a mini roll of duct tape. We have purchased several Adventure Medical Kits in different sizes, but this is our favorite. $27.99. Buy Now.
Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight 0.7 First Aid Kit
For Every Day Exploring
When you need traction and a bit of foot protection, but don't want to wear athletic looking sports sandals, Keen Women's Rose Sandalsare just what you need. Available in Gargoyle/Raven or Blue Opal/Blue. $109.99. Buy Now.
Keen Women's Rose Sandals - Gargoyle/Raven
Mother's Day Fun: Sport Chek Mother's Day Run, Walk & Ride Spend quality time together while supporting a good cause. This year the Sport Chek Mother's Day Run, Walk & Ride will be held on May 12, 2019 in southwest Calgary, Alberta. Proceeds go to Calgary Health Trust NICU and Canadian Tire's Jumpstart Charities. Jumpstart gets more kids involved in sports by helping families in financial need.
Courses include: Little Legs Race for 2-4 year olds, 5 km walk, 5 km & 10 km run, 5 km & 10 km handcycle, and 5 km & 10 km wheelchair.
For more information, or to register, please visit https://www.mdrunwalkride.com. Please note that all participants must register and pick up race packages by May 11, 2019.
How will you surprise Mom on Mother's Day?
Read more at www.playoutsideguide.com
"Outdoor adventure travel in Western Canada & beyond!"
Breathtaking views, fine dining, an amazing interpretive centre, and scenic boardwalk to Sanson's Peak await at the summit of Sulphur Mountain. In the off season, hike up and ride the Banff Gondola down for free!
At the top of Sulphur Mountain / Banff Gondola
We promised the kids hot chocolate at the top of Sulphur Mountain, but ten minutes into the hike, we're hot! After shedding a layer, we decide lemonade would be oh-so-refreshing, and make guesses on how long it will take to reach the Upper Terminal. In November, we hiked up in an hour and 45 minutes, but spring conditions will make for a slower hike, especially since the girls keep stopping to play in the snow.
Sulphur Mountain Trail (East Side), Banff
Although the trail is mostly in the trees (making it a good trail for a hot and sunny day), the panoramic views from the top totally make up for it! As we hike beneath the gondola, the girls holler and wave. My oldest mutters that the passengers are "lazy" while my youngest insists they're "smart" and asks if we're almost there. Gazing down at the Lower Terminal, we guess-timate we're more than halfway up the mountain. Since the switchbacks are fairly forgiving (no section is overly steep), we make good time and pass a few hikers that don't have microspikes.
Northern Lights Cafe, Sulphur Mountain, Banff
Our first stop at the top is Northern Lights Cafe. After an ice cold beverage, we explore the interpretive centre, watch a short movie in the theatre, then head up to the Observation Deck for panoramic views of six mountains ranges. Next, we hit the Sulphur Mountain Interpretive Boardwalk and walk 500 metres to the old weather station on Sanson's Peak (2,256 metres / 7,402 feet). Named for Norman Bethune Sanson, who tended the Banff Weather Station for 30 years, the peak is also the site of Canada's highest elevation Cosmic Ray Station (removed in 1981 and marked by a plaque).
Above Banff Interpretive Centre, Sulphur Mountain
Banff Gondola Upper Terminal Observation Deck
Sulphur Mountain Interpretive Boardwalk, Banff
Sanson's Peak Weather Station, Banff
Although we've been here countless times, we never tire of the view. We gaze across the Bow Valley pointing out mountains we've hiked or want to hike, look down on the Banff Springs Hotel tiny in the distance, then turn westward and admire the Sundance Range. As the sun dips lower in the sky, we make our way to the terminal for a free ride down (only available in the off season from after Thanksgiving to just before May long weekend). The 8-minute ride is scenic and fun - we can't wait to do it again!
Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk, Banff
Heading down in the Banff Gondola
Sulphur Mountain Trail (East Side) at a Glance
The Sulphur Mountain (East Side) Trail begins at the northwest corner of the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. You gain elevation immediately as you hike through the trees on moderately graded switchbacks with occasional views of Mount Rundle and Banff. Allow 1.5-2.5 hours to reach the summit of Sulphur Mountain at 2,281 metres (7,486 feet) above sea level. Distance: 5.5 km one way Elevation gain: 655 metres Nearest washrooms: Banff Gondola Lower Terminal, Banff Gondola Upper Terminal (at the summit) Sports stroller friendly? Yes Restrictions: Dogs must be kept on a leash. Bikes are not permitted. Directions: Google "Banff Upper Hot Springs" and park in the Upper Hot Springs parking lot. The Sulphur Mountain trailhead is at the northwest end of the parking lot (look for it on the left as you walk towards the hot springs).
For a prettier, but longer route, start at Cave and Basin and hike up the west side of the mountain via Sundance Trail and the old fire road (Sanson Road). Note: As of April 4, 2019, Sulphur Mountain Westside Trail is temporarily closed.
Know Before You GoIce cleats / microspikes are recommended from November to April as the trail gets packed down and icy.
Sign re download fare at Banff Gondola Upper Terminal
If you plan to hike up and ride the gondola down, you must purchase a ticket during the summer months. You can ride the Banff Gondola down only for free in the offseason (after Thanksgiving until Victoria Day weekend) or after 7 pm. Dogs are not permitted on the gondola or in the interpretive centre.
Amenities at the Upper Terminal include Northern Lights Cafe (casual dining), Sky Bistro (fine dining), gift shop, interpretive centre, theatre, observation deck, and washrooms.
Spring in Canmore can be sunny or snowy, but you can count on spectacular views and fantastic dining no matter the weather. Here are 15 fun things to do in Canmore this spring.
Waterfall along the Grassi Lakes "difficult" trail, Canmore
Chase waterfalls: Have you ever taken the time to visit the waterfalls along Grassi Lakes Trail? They're pretty photogenic, especially in spring when the snow melts. Take the "difficult" trail (check the Alberta Parks trail report to make sure it's open), then step off the trail just before the stairs, to get closer to the falls. Watch your step as the rocks are slippery! Rain jacket recommended; umbrella optional. ;) Return to the main trail to visit two turquoise ponds, and check out the pictographs past the second pond before heading back on the "easy" trail. 3.2 kilometres round trip.
Waterfall near Grassi Lakes "hard" trail, Canmore
Explore a Cold War Bunker: Some say the The Heart Creek Bunker aka Bow Valley Bunker or Diefenbunker was built to house politicians, but it was actually constructed at the height of the Cold War to house sensitive documents. While the bunker was never used, large (80 foot x 25 foot) caverns remain in the side of Mount McGillivray, near Heart Creek. For directions, please read my story: The Bow Valley Bunker. Note that the cavern entrance is on an avalanche slope, so you should NOT do this hike when there is snow on the mountain. Bring a headlamp or flashlight.
Bow Valley Bunker, Kananaskis
Play outside at Canmore Nordic Centre. Cross country ski and fatbike until April (it's where Canada's National Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Teams train so you can count on impeccable grooming). Read Cross Country Skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre for more information. After the trails dry out, return to CNC for orienteering, disc golf, and mountain biking. There's a fun bike skills park too and awesome Day Lodge with showers and concession.
Mountain biking at Canmore Nordic Centre
Swim, climb, and work out at Elevation Place. Kids of all ages love the large aquatic park with its pools, lazy river, waterslide, steam room, and hot tub. After a swim, challenge yourself in the climbing gym with routes of varying difficulty. Climbing lessons are available if you'd like to up your skills in a safe environment.
Climbing gym at Elevation Place, Canmore
Complete the Canmore Triple Crown of Canmoreby hikingHa Ling Peak, Mount Lady MacDonald (to the teahouse platform), and East End of Rundle to earn a commemorative beer mug from the Georgetown Inn. Start with Lady MacDonald (8.7 km return, 1015 m elevation gain) as its southern aspect makes for good early season conditions. Save Ha Ling (6 km return, 732 m elevation gain) and EEOR (5.8 km round trip, 870 m elevation gain) for later in the season when the trails are dry. *Note that Ha Ling Peak is closed until further notice.*
Ha Ling Peak - almost at the top!
Bike the beautiful Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff (26.8 km one way). This paved trail doesn't have many big hills and has several access points (Travel Alberta Visitor Information Centre, Valleyview Picnic Area, Cascade Ponds), so you can ride as long or little as you like. On the return trip, let the prevailing winds push you back to Canmore or return via ROAM bus; equipped with bike racks for your convenience. The Legacy Trail is best biked from mid April to mid October.
Biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail, Banff
Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre is home to hands-on exhibits, artifacts, videos, and displays relating to Canmore's history, geology, and geography.Our kids loved completing thescavenger hunt to win a prize. To learn more about the museum, check out our story: Exploring Canmore Museum & Geoscience Centre. Don't miss the nearby NWMP Barracks, "the oldest NWMP site in Western Canada to still stand on its original location".
Miner selfie at Canmore Museum!
Swing into the sky on the Canmore rope swing. The view of the Three Sisters from the rope swing is pretty sweet, making it one of Canmore's most instagrammable spots. How to get there: From Cougar Creek/Mount Lady MacDonald parking lot, cross the creek on Elk Run Blvd, take your first left on Canyon Road, then first right on Ridge Road. Just past the small playground, take the path on the left up the hill. At the junction, turn right and in a few hundred metres, you will see the swing hanging from a tree. Use at your own risk! It's a 500 metre walk to the playground and about a 3 minute walk to the swing.
Canmore Rope Swing
Explore Grotto Mountain's Rat's Nest Cave with Canmore Cave Tours. Walk along narrow ledges to caverns adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, rappel into the depths, and squeeze through the Laundry Chute. There are several tours to choose from depending on how long you'd like to stay in the cave and how adventurous you are. Recommended for ages 10 & up.
Deep within Rat's Nest Cave Image credit: Canmore Cave Tours
Look for wildflowers in Bow Valley Provincial Park (May & June). A short drive east of Canmore, Bow Valley Provincial Park boasts several family-friendly interpretive trails with lots of wildflowers including lady's slipper orchids and tiger lilies. Please leave the flowers for others to enjoy! For more information on hiking trails and other activities in the park, please read our Bow Valley Provincial Park Camping & Recreation Guide.
Yellow lady's slipper orchids along Flowing Waters Trail
Learn to stand up paddleboard (SUP) at Canmore Reservoir aka Rundle Forebay. The water is typically pretty calm and the views are lovely. For details on Rundle Forebay, read Where to Stand Up Paddleboard Near Calgary.
Rundle Forebay is a good place to learn to SUP in Canmore
Cool off at Quarry Park, a popular spot for sand and water play as well as SUP yoga!
Hike West Wind Pass, one of the best short hikes in Kananaskis, to a spectacular viewpoint of the Spray Valley. 4.2 km return, 380 m elevation gain. For details, see West Wind Pass Trail, Kananaskis.
West Wind Pass, Kananaskis
Canmore Uncorked Food & Drink Festival celebrates Canmore's fantastic dining scene with tasting menus at select restaurants and special events including a Long Table Dinner, Grande Big Brunch, Drink Festivals, and Progressive Dinner Tour (by bike! with an Olympian guide!) from April 25 to May 5, 2019.
Canmore Mountain Market is where you can pick up local treats or handcrafted items. Open Thursdays from May long weekend to October; located beside Canmore Civic Centre Plaza.
Basecamp Resorts - Canmoreoffers modern, spacious suites accommodating 2-16 people (studio, 1, 2, 3, and 5-6 bedroom suites available). Conveniently located on Bow Valley Trail, a short walk from downtown Canmore, Basecamp has everything you need to feel at home from a full kitchen and high speed internet to blackout blinds and wonderful Rocky Mountain soap products (love the lemongrass soap!). Virtual check-in is easy; simply punch in the keycode that is emailed/texted on your arrival date. The same code gets you in to the hot tub area.
We had to fight the girls for the master bedroom. Love the round window and view of Mount Lady MacDonald!
Whether you decide to make your own meals or dine out, everything you need is close by. Over the long weekend, we cooked most meals at our suite (Safeway is less than 1 km away so getting extra groceries was a breeze), but we enjoyed breakfast from Rocky Mountain Bagel Company (next door), a latte from Rave Coffee Roasters (at the end of the block) on our way back from Elevation Place, and lunch at Blake (kitty corner from Basecamp). Blake is my kids' favorite because they can build their own bento boxes there.
Breakfast is served.
In the evening, watch the sunset from Basecamp's amazing rooftop hot tub, then relax in your home away from home and plan tomorrow's mountain adventures.
Basecamp Resorts Canmore's amazing rooftop hot tub
Canada's sunniest city, Medicine Hat, is your one stop shop for outdoor fun, history, culture, and awesome brews (choose from several indie coffee roasteries and craft breweries).
Experience outdoor recreation, history, and culture in Medicine Hat, Alberta!
We drive into Medicine Hat under blue skies. With 330 days of sunshine per year, beautiful weather is par for the course. Our weekend goals are to explore the riverside parks, historic downtown, and museums - and pick up some locally roasted coffee (okay, I confess, the latter is just for me). At the Visitor Centre near the World's Tallest Teepee, I'm told the Medicine Hat Coffee Crawl is the best way to experience six independent coffee shops. There's also a Breweries Tour for the 18 & over crowd. Note to self: Bring Grandma to babysit the kids next time.
Saamis Teepee, Medicine Hat
Whether you sign up for a tour or not, everything is close in Medicine Hat, so it's easy to see and do a lot in a short time. Here are our top recommendations for a fun weekend in Medicine Hat with your family.
Drool-worthy eats at Skinny's Smoke House Image Credit: Skinny's Smoke House
According to Medicine Hat local, Abby Czibere, Skinny's Smoke House is "a must"! "I love their poutine - they put bbq sauce on it as well as braised beef and it's amazing!" she gushes. Their burgers are also highly recommended: "They really take them to the next level, and they are super delicious." Skinny's is located at the north end of the Medicine Hat so you can grab a bite on your way in to town.
After dinner, head over to Mr. E’s Solve-it-toriumand see if you can solve the riddles and puzzles to escape from one of three escape rooms. 4-6 players recommended. Allow 45 minutes per room.
Saturday Saturday is a good day to visit a museum, as MedAlta and The Esplanade are closed Sundays in the off season (note: MedAlta is open Sundays May long weekend until Labor Day long weekend). Allow 1-2 hours to visit each museum.
About to check out a beehive kiln at Medalta Museum, Medicine Hat
MedAltais a one-of-a-kind ceramics factory turned museum. Exhibits, artifacts, and videos in the original factory buildings show visitors how ceramic products were made and demonstrate the historic significance of the pottery industry to Medicine Hat. Start by punching your time card and checking how many items you need to make on your shift. We were amazed to learn that plates were produced in seconds, and were fascinated by the stories, equipment, and beehive kilns. Whether you've made something our of clay before or not, it is interesting to see how common household items are made on a large scale. In summer, check the calendar for special tours and events including the Thursday evening Market @ MedAlta.
Part of the Medicine Hat exhibit at The Esplanade
The Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre is a museum, art gallery, and theatre in the heart of downtown Medicine Hat. Check out the permanent Medicine Hat exhibit to learn about the city's history, explore the art gallery and traveling exhibits, then attend a concert or performance. The building itself is a work of art which has received several awards; climb the spiral staircase to the rooftop terrace and enjoy the view.
Heartwood Cafe is the place to go for "wholesome, simple food" in a cozy, retro environment. They have lots of delicious, gluten-free options too!
Police Point Park, Medicine Hat
Walk among huge, ancient cottonwood trees (300-400 years old!) at Police Point Park, do some birding (lots of birds nest here, near the river), and visit the Nature Centre. Check the Events Calendarfor special events. We loved building birdhouses with the Medicine Hat Kinsmen Club on Family Day Long Weekend. Open Tuesday to Sunday.
Steak lettuce wrap (sandwich made gluten free for me) at Rustic Kitchen and Bar
Rustic Kitchen and Bar is one of Medicine Hat's top rated restaurants and it's easy to see why. Every dish is lovingly made with locally sourced ingredients. We were lucky to get in without a reservation on Saturday night and loved everything we ordered.
Head to Panorama Lanesfor funglow bowling on Friday and Saturday nights!
Madhatter Roasterie, Medicine Hat: good vibes and good coffee
If you're like me and morning equals coffee time, you should start your day at Mad Hatter Coffee Roasterie. Hint: If you buy coffee beans, you get a free medium coffee! They also give out samples if you can't decide which beans are best.
Medicine Hat Visitor Centre Loaner Bikes
Borrow bikes from the Medicine Hat Visitor Centre and go biking in the Saskatchewan River Valley. You won't run out of places to explore with 115 kilometers of biking and hiking trails! Kin Coulee Park and Strathcona Island Park have nice picnic areas and playgrounds, Police Point Park is a large natural area with good opportunities for birding, Lion's Park (next to Strathcona Island Park) and Saamis Rotary Park have great playgrounds, Riverside Veterans' Memorial Park (downtown) has a Cenotaph, two CPR locomotives, mural, and a World War II tank. For more information on city parks and trails, visit City of Medicine Hat.
In the historic downtown, look for murals, do a self-guided Art Walk, and visit historic sites.
When it heats up in the afternoon, have a beach and boating day at Echo Dale Regional Park. The park boasts a paddling pond, fishing pond, sandy beach, concession, and shaded picnic areas. Canoe and paddle boat rentals are available for your convenience. Experienced paddlers can paddle the South Saskatchewan River from Echo Dale to Strathcona Island Park (2-4 hours depending on water levels and paddling experience).
More Fun Things to Do in Medicine Hat & Area
Medicine Hat Family Leisure Centre Aquatic Centre
Medicine Hat Family Leisure Centreis fun any time of year! Enjoy the aquatic park's pools, lazy river, waterslide, hot tub, and steam room; join a drop-in class at the Fitness Centre; or enjoy free public skating (sponsored by theThe Kinsmen Club of Medicine Hat). Check the skating schedule for details.
Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park, only 45 minutes away, is Medicine Hat's playground. Mountain bike, paddle, and enjoy Elkwater's sandy beaches in summer; or ski (alpine and nordic), snowshoe, skate, and kicksled in winter. Check out our stories on Summer Fun in Cypress Hills and Winter Fun in Cypress Hills.
Where to Stay
Medicine Hat Hamptons Inn and Suites
Hamptons Inn & Suites, located in north Medicine Hat, offers spacious, well appointed rooms and free breakfast. Kids will love the pool and waterslide! There's also a fitness room if you didn't get enough exercise during the day.
Know Before You GoMedalta is closed Sundays and Mondays in the winter. The Esplanade is closed Sundays and holidays year-round. Plan accordingly.
Getting HereMedicine Hat is located three hours southeast of Calgary on the TransCanada Highway.
DisclosureMedAlta and The Esplanade generously hosted me and my family for review purposes, but all words and opinions are my own.
Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre offers visitors the chance to learn about Canmore's history, geography, and geology. Kids will enjoy the scavenger hunt too!
Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre
"Look at us! We're on the Three Sisters!" my youngest shrieks. To clarify, my daughters' Lego characters are on a photo of the Three Sisters while doing Canmore Museum's photo scavenger hunt. They have been tasked with photographing their Lego characters with various items in the museum's collection. Some are easy to find; others are tricky. It takes us over an hour to complete the hunt, but we have fun and learn a lot in the process. Back at the front desk, Christian gives the girls their reward for finding everything: a polished rock! Younger kids can do a simplified scavenger hunt where they look at pictures and try to find them in the gallery.
Canmore Museum Scavenger Hunt
Established in 1984, the Canmore Museum is definitely worth a visit. Although it is a small museum, it boasts over 10,000 artifacts, several hands-on exhibits and videos, and a fun miner selfie station where you can dress up like a miner, headlamp and all. We learn about Canmore's mining history and who some of Canmore's notable people are from explorers to athletes, look at fossils, make mountains, and examine rocks under a lightscope. Did you know there was mining activity in Canmore until 1979?
Miner selfie at Canmore Museum (don't mind the missing boots)
Canmore Museum At a GlanceAddress: 902b 7th Avenue, Canmore, Alberta (inside the Canmore Civic Centre) Hours: Canmore Museum is open 7 days a week. Check their website for hours. Admission: Adult - $7, Child (Under 12) - Free, Student /Senior /Local -$5, Family - $15, Museum Member - Free Parking: Free street parking and in the parking lot across the street.
Examining coal under a light scope at Canmore Museum
To learn more about Canmore's history, ask for the downtown historic site walking tour brochure and enjoy a self-guided walking tour. Don't miss one of Canmore’s oldest buildings, the North West Mounted Police Barracks at 609 Main Street. The NWMP Barracks are free to visit.
Canmore NWMP Barracks - built in 1893 Image Credit: Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre
Have fun at Canmore Museum and let me know what you liked best!
Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to Canmore Museum for review purposes, but all words and opinions are my own.
Basic first aid skills are essential whether you are on a day hike or through hike. Here are nine first aid tips every hiker should know.
Play outside but be prepared! Image Credit: Oziel Gómez
By: Sarah Wilssen
Everyone prefers an optimist over a pessimist. Usually, we’re apt to avoid generalizations but this one is pretty hard to argue. Nothing can drag down morale like negativity, and that’s the last thing you want as you’re about to channel your inner explorer and get closer to nature.
When it comes to hiking, though, considering the worst case scenario is a necessary evil. In the event everything is not hunky dory, hikers need to be ready to act to continue on, adjust course or even save a life. Here are nine first aid tips every hiker needs to know. Pass it along to your hiking buddies, too, so there’s plenty of folks on the trails who know how to react in a bind.
1. Carry a First Aid Kit with the Essentials As you load your hiking poles, personalized pom beanie, socks, gloves, and snacks into your pack, be sure to leave room for a well-stocked first aid kit. Bandages, dressing pads, gauze roll, athletic or adhesive tape, a multi-use tool or knife, scissors, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment and pain relievers are some of the must-have products you need on hand. A Wilderness First Aid booklet, included in many prepackaged first aid kits, is also handy to have on hand. The pocket guide supplies tips on how to make do with what you have when tough circumstances arise.
Adventure Medical Kits are ultralight and watertight.
2. Take Wilderness First Aid and/or Get ACLS, BLS or PALS Certification
First aid and life support are valuable skills in any arena, but the stakes grow even higher when you’re out in the wild. As a result, true outdoor enthusiasts would be well-served to take Wilderness First Aid Training or get certification (or re-certify) in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support, Basic Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.
Many options exist at the national, regional and local level, with some courses perfect for hikers. Once you have the knowledge, empower others and pass it along.
3. Close a Gaping Wound If a wound is super serious, cut your hike short and seek medical attention as expediently as possible. Until help arrives, clean and close the wound to prevent infection.
First, thoroughly wash the skin around the cut, using only water that is safe to drink. Then, employ dressing or gauze lathered in antibiotic ointment to apply pressure and stop bleeding. You may need to use skin closure strips or medical tape and dressing to close a wound. If the victim is in shock, keep him/her warm and offer a warm beverage. For more thorough instructions, take wilderness first aid training.
Don't forget your hat! Image credit: Headsweats
4. Control Bleeding First off, pack a few pairs of gloves in that first aid kit to be ready to adequately handle bleeding. Although it can be a scary situation, fortunately most forms of bleeding can be stopped with a combination of direct pressure and elevation of the wound above the heart. Put gauze onto the wound and wrap it with an ace wrap, bandanna, towel or similar item. Avoid making a tourniquet, as ideally you should be able to insert two fingers under the wrap. If the patient has tingling or loss of feeling in their extremities, you’ve wrapped it too tightly.
5. Treat Burns Hiking trips that include overnight stays are likely to feature fire at some point, as you sit around the campfire to refuel and hydrate, recap the day that was, and plan out your future itinerary. Mishaps come easily, though, so know how to act if someone in your party suffers a burn.
Step number one in the process is stopping the burning by cooling the area with cold, clean water. From there, clean the area and cover with antibiotic ointment and gauze or clothing with the primary goal of preventing infection.
6. Coping with Knee and Ankle Injuries Soft tissue issues are some of the more common injuries that require rescue. That process is arduous and often involves a long wait, so knowing how to treat knee and ankle injuries that can allow you to continue your course on your own is important.
Determining the usable vs. unusable extent of the injury is key to figuring out whether soldiering on is possible. In the former event, wrap with athletic tape or an ace bandage and take your time with ample breaks. If you’re able to rest for a few hours or even a day, depending on the length of your trip, it may be best to do so. The latter type of injury is obviously significantly more serious and requires padding and a splint, whether makeshift or otherwise. Depending on the severity and the injured party’s pain tolerance, try your best to hike out on your own and avoid a harrowing rescue.
7. Treat Nagging Blisters Lower on the serious scale but high on the annoying scale are blisters. It’s hard to savor the sights and keep your desired pace if you can’t rid yourself of blisters. Your best option is to slowly drain it and then treat like a small wound, which will ideally relieve pressure and pain so you can carry on.
8. Remove Ticks Tick bites are not only annoying, they can lead to infection or Lyme disease. If you find an embedded tick on you, use tweezers or a tick key to grasp the tick near its mouth and tug gently but steadily straight up to remove it (do not twist!). Afterwards, rub the bite site with an antibiotic ointment, iodine swab, or alcohol pad. Finally, take a photo of the tick for identification purposes and kill it. For more information, read Karen Ung's story: 5 myths about ticks and 10 tick safety tips.
The Tick Key is small and easy to use.
9. Pack Extra Medication in Case Hike Runs Longer than Expected In addition to ibuprofen and other pain relievers, if you or anyone else in your group takes prescription medication, be sure to bring extra doses in the event your trip goes longer than anticipated (due to injury, getting lost, weather/trail conditions).
Wishing you safe and happy hiking!
About the AuthorAs a marketing and social media guru, Sarah Wilssen, has been working her way through the marketing world for the past 10 years. Currently, Sarah is the Director of Marketing for Headsweats, where she leads her team to be the best marketers they can be. When she’s not in the office, Sarah loves hiking, running, coffee, and her doofy but loving golden retriever Jax.
Read more at www.playoutsideguide.com
"Outdoor adventure travel in Western Canada & beyond!"
Hidden Valley Ski Resort is a fun and affordable ski hill in south-east Alberta's Cypress Hills Provincial Park.
Hidden Valley Ski Resort, Cypress Hills Provincial Park
The JourneyA herd of pronghorns graze near the Highway 41 south turnoff. I've seen them here before, guarding the gateway to Cypress Hills Provincial Park. North America's fastest land animals are too busy to cross the road, so I resume speed and head up into the sculpted hills.
Even with a blanket of snow, it's easy to see how water has shaped the land. Countless coulees adorn the hillsides. The effect is moonlike, but the hills are very much alive. We spot deer, cattle, and a coyote. To the south, the hills are taller and treed; home to elk, moose, and cougars.
Over the next half hour, we will climb 600 metres above the prairies to Elkwater, Alberta, the activity hub of Cypress Hills Provincial Park. At the same elevation as Banff, the park gets plenty of snow for winter sports, but is often warmer than nearby Medicine Hat thanks to inversions. We happily watch the temperature rise from -18 to -10 Celsius as we get closer to our destination: Hidden Valley Ski Resort.
Skiing at Hidden Valley Ski Resort
Hidden Valley Ski Resort Base Area
Hidden Valley Ski Resort, formerly known as Mile High Ski Hill (elevation: 1400 metres / 4594 feet), isn't too hidden; it's only three kilometres from the village of Elkwater. We find parking near the Day Lodge and are surprised to see the hill has a quad chair lift! The cherry on top is that there's hardly anyone in line despite the amazing conditions. Although the hill can accommodate 2,400 skiers per day, it usually maxes out at 500-600/day over Christmas, so you can count on short lift lines. When I remark on the conditions, Mike Ractliffe, Head of Visitor Services for Cypress Hills Provincial Park, tells us they "make a lot of snow to make that happen" (snowmaking covers 95% of the terrain).
Hidden Valley Ski Resort Map
The hill is bigger than we expected with 200 metres of vertical (compare to 120 metres vertical at Winsport), an all-terrain park, freestyle run, mini park, small gladed section, and learning area. While most of the runs are green runs, there are a few more challenging ones that are a lot of fun - see the resort map above. Our daughters enjoy skiing in the trees and riding the rollers. To keep things interesting, the terrain park is re-modelled a few times per season. I notice the difference between my January and February visits.
After lunch at Mountain Side Cafe, we ski for a couple more hours then head into Elkwater for sledding and ice skating. It's so convenient having everything so close. There are also cross country ski trails and snowshoe trails nearby! For more ideas on winter activities around Elkwater, read our story 10 Things to Do in Cypress Hills Provincial Park this Winter.
HoursHidden Valley Ski Resort is open Wednesday to Sunday 9:30 am to 4 pm with extended hours during vacation times. The typical season is from December to late March.
LiftsHidden Valley has a Quad chair lift, T-Bar, Handle Tow, and Magic Carpet in the learning area.
Hidden Valley Ski Resort Base Area
Day Lodge with Ticket Office, Mountain Side Cafe, Snowflake Lounge (licensed - no minors), Brown Bag Lunch Areas, washrooms, and lockers.
Rentals: ski equipment, snowboard equipment, and helmets.
Pro Shop has clothing and accessories for sale.
Snow School: read on for details.
Hidden Valley's Snow School offers ski and snowboarding lessons for levels 1-3. Check out their group lessons, private lessons, lesson packages (rentals, lift ticket, lesson), day camps, and 6-week ski school (one day camp per week).
Private lessons available for age 2 & up: 1 hour lessons for 2-5 year olds, 1.5 hour lessons for 6 & up. For only $30, add a second person to a private lesson!
Group lessons: 1.5 hour lessons available for 6-12 year olds (ski), 8-12 year olds (snowboard), and 13+.
Lessons are provided by certified ski and snowboard instructors. CADS (Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing) trained staff are also available.
Skiing above the prairies - with trees! - at Hidden Valley Ski Resort
Ski all day for $40, get a 5-pack of lift tickets for $180, or get a Family Season's Pass for only $699. Discounted Child and Youth/Senior/Student rates also available. Kids 5 & under ski free. Season's passes are on sale until December 24th each year.
"Skinning" is permitted on backcountry or splitboard equipment. Sign in and out at the ticket office.
Getting HereHidden Valley Ski Resort is located 3.5 hours southeast of Calgary, or 45 minutes from Medicine Hat.
Take the Ski Bus to/from Medicine Hat Lodge. Free for season's passholders or $15 return (limited availability - first come, first served).
Winter is the perfect time to see more sunrises and sunsets, play in the snow, and explore Alberta. Here are five destinations around the province that offer tons of winter fun.
Snowshoeing at West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis
1. Cold Lake
Cold Lake is a vibrant town of 15,000 people in northeast Alberta. Where boreal forest meets parkland, you can fish for monster lake trout, ski and tube at Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort, cross country ski at Cold Lake Provincial Park or the Golf and Winter Club, and snowmobile the Iron Horse Trail.
Kinosoo Ridge Snow Resort is a friendly ski hill 15 minutes from town. It has 13 runs - mostly green and blue - and a terrain park, tube park, and skating rink on 60 acres. The hill is well serviced with a Quad Chair,Triple Chair, 3 Carpet Lifts and 13,000 sq ft lodge. The vertical drop is 107 m (similar to Winsport in Calgary). Open Wednesday to Sunday with night skiing and tubing on Saturdays. Rentals available onsite. Affordable: Your whole family can ski for $99. Mark your calendars - Winter Festival is on February 16. For more information, visit www.kinosoo.ca/.
Kinosoo, Cold Lake's original Dene name, means "Big Fish," and to this day, fishing is pretty epic here. Plan for 12-20 pound lake trout. There are also pike, perch, walleye and burbot. Cold Lake is Alberta's fifth largest lake and is almost 400 feet deep, so it is one of the last to freeze. The ice is 2-3 feet deep by late January most years, but check the ice thickness every time you venture on it. For ice safety tips, please read Pond and Lake Ice Safety.
Cross country ski and snowshoe at Cold Lake Provincial Park. There are 10 kilometres of groomed cross country ski trails. Snowshoeing is permitted throughout the park (except on ski trails).
Cold Lake Golf and Winter Club also has groomed cross country country ski trails, snowshoeing, six curling sheets, tobogganing hills making it a mini winter village!
The paved Millenium Trail, running from the base to the marina, is maintained year round for walking and biking.
For a nature escape, ride the Iron Horse Trail through boreal forest, hills, and prairie. This 300-kilometre section of the Trans Canada Trail is an old rail trail that is steeped in history. Learn more at the 20 rest stops along the way. Hiking, biking, snowmobiling, cross country skiing or horseback riding permitted.
When the temperature dips, retreat to The Energy Centre, Cold Lake's state-of-the-art sports and fitness facility, for skating, fitness classes, concerts, and more.
2. Crimson Lake Provincial ParkCrimson Lake is a short drive from Rocky Mountain House and is only 230 km from Calgary and Edmonton. In winter, enjoy ice fishing, a maintained skating rink and lakeside skateway; groomed cross-country ski trails, snowshoeing, and fat biking at this popular park. If you'd like to make it a weekend, the winter rate for power sites is only $20 per night!
Upcoming Events in Crimson Lake Provincial Park
Snowy Saturdays start January 19, 2019. Attend an interpretive Learn to Snowshoe program (rentals available), roast marshmallows, or buy a coffee or treats. The store is open Saturdays from 11 am - 4 pm.
Winterfest on Family Day Long Weekend (February 16) promises to be a ton of fun with: Snowshoe and ice fishing demonstrations, Freezin’ for a Reason Polar Plunge, Pioneer Winterfest Maker's Market, kids' crafts, games, sleigh rides, skating, concession, and more. FREE!
3. Castle Provincial ParkCastle Provincial Park offers wild adventures on the path less traveled. Get away from it all in Alberta's newest mountain park. Snowshoe or ice fish at Beaver Mines Lake; cross-country ski, fat bike, or snowshoe the Syncline Trail System (20 kilometres of groomed trails); ski at Castle Mountain Resort; or go snowmobiling.
Snowshoeing at Beaver Mines Lake, Castle Provincial Park
Alberta Parks offers some great guided programs like Friday night Starshoeing - only $30 for a family, $40 including snowshoe rental. Enjoy a fire and cocoa, then hit the trails with a red headlight (provided) so you can enjoy stargazing in this quiet corner of the Rockies. Learn to Ice Fish, Learn to Ski, and Winter Survival programs are coming soon.
Guided fatbike tours, and private tours for small groups are also available. For more information, contact 403-627-1152 or email Swparks@gov.ab.ca.
Stay at Castle River Bridge Campground (rustic, bring your own firewood), Castle Mountain Resort (Castle Mountain Hostel and vacation rentals), B&Bs in Beaver Mines, or Pincher Creek.
Castle Mountain Provincial Park is located half an hour southwest of Pincher Creek, 1.5 hours from Lethbridge, and 2.5 hours from Calgary.
Ski at Pass Powderkeg, a hidden gem in Blairmore. This small ski hill has 24 runs, a terrain park, great ski school, and several special events all season long such as Ladies Guided Snowshoeing and Youth Nights.
5. Cypress Hills Provincial Park
Cypress Hills Provincial Park in Winter
As soon as snow falls at Cypress Hills Provincial Park, it's transformed into a winter village. Last season, we skied at Hidden Valley Ski Resort, snowshoed in to a backcountry hut at Reesor Lake, made an igloo, skated the skating track through Old Baldy Campground, cross country skied at Spring Creek, did some stargazing, slid down the "backyard luge" track, and went kicksledding along Elkwater Lake. It was hard to believe we were in southeast Alberta!
Cypress Hills is super family friendly with lots of warming huts, a nice Visitor Centre, Learning Centre, and several free and affordable programs. Equipment rentals are also available at the Visitor Centre. Escape the ordinary and enjoy a fun and relaxing getaway to Cypress Hills this winter!
Kicksledding at Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Provincial Park Image Credit: Chris Wheeler
Read about our awesome snowshoe trip to Reesor Lake Backcountry Hut here.
6. Kananaskis CountryKananaskis Country is an awesome winter playground that encompasses several Alberta Parks. Here are a few things to do in Kananaskis in the snowy season.
Cross-country ski at: Canmore Nordic Centre, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, West Bragg Creek, Kananaskis Valley, Smith-Dorrien Trails, or Mount Shark. If you want to xc ski with your dog, try West Bragg Creek (some offleash areas but for your safety, it is recommended that dogs be kept on a leash) or Mount Shark (dogs must be on leash).
Canmore Nordic Centre is groomed daily so the ski trails are always in great shape! They have a large daylodge with concession and warming hut in the meadow. For more information, please read Cross Country Skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre.
When there's enough snow, the Bill Milne Trail (Ribbon Creek to Mount Kidd Campground) is perfect for beginners.
Mountain Road at West Bragg Creek is another good one for beginners as the elevation gain is gentle and gradual for the first couple kilometres.
Experienced skiers will love Blueberry Hill and Lookout in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.
Cross country skiing at Canmore Nordic Centre
Hike / Snowshoe to ice falls: Troll Falls is a family favorite. Chantilly Falls is a hidden gem with three sets of 100 m high ice falls (first set is 3.1 km down Evan Thomas Creek Trail; two more falls 800 m further). Ice cleats recommended. Near Exshaw, hike Grotto Canyon's frozen creek bed to pictographs and ice falls.
Grotto Canyon Ice Walk, Kananaskis
For more fun things to do in Kananaskis Valley (Kananaskis Village / Nakiska area), check out our Kananaskis Valley Winter Activity Guide which includes skiing, tubing, guided fatbiking, and more!
Winter backcountry camping: The Point (3.4 km hike) has outhouses, bear lockers, and firepits. Rummel Lake (5 km snowshoe in) is more rustic and only has outhouses, no fires permitted.
Upcoming Events in KananaskisAvalanche Awareness Day
January 20, 2019 11 am - 2:30 pm Burstall Pass Day Use, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Kananaskis Speaker and Discovery Series: Nature Inspired Art, Winter Survival Skills, Winter Ecology (one session per month)