5 Best Family-Friendly Hikes in the Bow Valley

Written by
Staff Writer
June 26, 2024
Last Update
First Published on

There is so much to explore during a summer in the Canadian Rockies. Alberta boasts some of Western Canada’s most scenic and epic natural wonders, from the Bow Valley Parkway in Canmore to Banff National Park. Whether you're planning a week-long trip or just a day visit, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best family-friendly hikes to maximize your outdoor adventures. Pick one or try them all! The Bow Valley is brimming with endless trails, breathtaking scenery, and countless natural wonders waiting to be discovered.

From Easy to Challenging: Navigating Family Friendly Hikes

Grotto Canyon Trail

5.3km (3.2mi) | 177m (580ft) | 2-3h | Out and Back | Easy

The Grotto Creek Trail, a year-round, family-friendly hike near Exshaw on Highway 1A, lies about 45 minutes from Calgary. With two starting points—one at the Grotto Pond Parking Lot, offering amenities like toilets and picnic tables, and the other past Grotto Pond in a gravel lot on the highway's right-hand side. The relatively easy trail leads through trees toward the canyon, marked by clear signage to prevent getting lost. As you reach what seems like the end of the canyon, glance to the west: the creek keeps going, and the canyon widens. Just before this, you'll spot a series of ancient drawings (pictographs) on a smooth limestone wall. Those inclined to continue along the trail can proceed past a sign and follow the canyon, eventually reaching the 'inukshuk garden,' adorned with numerous inukshuks crafted by fellow hikers.

Photo Credit: Seeing the Elephant

West Wind Pass Trail

4.5km (2.8mi) | 350m (1,148ft) | 2h | Out and Back | Moderate

West Wind Pass offers a family-friendly day hike in Kananaskis, with a moderate elevation gain suitable for most active groups. The view at the end of the hike is what makes this trail special. For those seeking even more breathtaking views, an optional climb to Windtower peak awaits, providing an impressive vista overlooking the Spray Lakes Reservoir. While the ascent to West Wind Pass is moderately steep and lacks an official parking area, once you locate the trail, navigation remains relatively straightforward, especially with the aid of the All Trails app. 

Tunnel Mountain

4.3km (2.7mi) | 262m (860ft) | Out and Back | Moderate

Tunnel Mountain is an excellent hiking trail conveniently situated near downtown Banff. The hike to Tunnel Mountain is ideal for families and typically takes between 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. As Banff's shortest summit, hikers will ascend approximately 260 meters in elevation to reach the top, where they can enjoy panoramic views of Banff town, Mount Rundle, the Bow River, and the surrounding terrain. On the trail, hikers will navigate through the forest for approximately 2 kilometers until they reach the summit of the mountain. As they approach, stunning vistas of the Bow Valley unfold, offering picturesque views of Mount Rundle towering above the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course. Resting spots featuring the two iconic Parks Canada Adirondack red chairs are located just past this.

Photo Credit: Seeing the Elephant 

Sulphur Mountain

10.8km (6.7mi) | 755m (2447ft) | Out and Back | Hard

The Sulphur Mountain hike treats adventurers to views of the Cascade Mountain and the peaks of the Sundance Range. The trail commences with a gradual ascent through the forest, leading hikers along a series of gentle switchbacks. While the climb may feel relentless at times, hikers are rewarded with glimpses of Goat Valley below and the western face of Mount Rundle. The Sulphur Mountain hike, while relatively straightforward, typically requires about 1-2 hours to reach the Banff Gondola station atop the mountain. While not technically challenging, the steady incline and numerous switchbacks make for a continuous ascent with minimal flat sections.

Photo Credit: Brewster Tours

Jewell Pass via Prairie View

15.4km (9.6mi) | 740m (2428ft) | Loop | Challenging

Jewel Pass via Prairie View Trail offers an early-season hike with views of Barrier Lake. Prairie View Trail consists of switchbacks through the trees, revealing no views until reaching the ridgeline. The initial lookout provides a stunning panorama of Barrier Lake and the Kananaskis Valley. While many hikers pause here, continuing to the rocky outcrop is recommended. From this point, options include venturing higher to McConnell Ridge's summit or looping back via Jewell Pass. Jewell Pass offers a quieter trail with a small waterfall known as Jewell Falls, located 2 km from the pass. Upon descending to the lake from Jewell Pass, hikers have the option to join the Stoney Trail network or follow the lakeshore.

Stroller-Friendly Trails to Check Out in the Bow Valley

Exploring the Bow Valley with your little ones is a breeze with these stroller-friendly trails. Enjoy easy, scenic walks perfect for the whole family.

Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk Trail

This easy, picturesque trail starts in downtown Canmore and follows Policeman Creek through forested areas and alongside small ponds. It's a perfect outing for families with young children.

  • Length: 4.2 km (2.61 mi)
  • Type: Out and back
Photo Credit: Victoria Wakefield

Bow River Loop

Accessible from the Canmore Nordic Centre, this paved loop offers stunning views from start to finish. It's ideal for a leisurely stroll with a stroller.

  • Length: 2 km (1.24 mi)
  • Type: Loop

Rundle Forebay Road

Enjoy a serene walk around the Canmore Reservoir on the Rundle Forebay Road, with beautiful water views and gentle terrain. This trail is great for families and strollers alike.

  • Length: Varies
  • Type: Out and back

Grassi Lakes

Grassi Lakes Trail offers two routes: one more challenging and one easy. The easier route is suitable for strollers and takes you to two stunning turquoise lakes.

  • Length: 4 km (2.5 mi)
  • Type: Out and back
Photo Credit: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Best Places to Stay in Canmore

To explore these fantastic hikes in the Bow Valley, you’ll want a convenient and comfortable place to stay. We recommend checking into one of our Basecamp properties located throughout Canmore. Each property offers a unique experience, unlike your typical hotel, with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains—some even feature rooftop hot tubs and full-size kitchens and living areas.

For a downtown experience in Canmore, Lamphouse Hotel on Main Street offers modern accommodations and a new grab-and-go cafe, Electric Wolf Cafe. Electric Wolf Cafe is not only a convenient stop but also a great place to fuel up with a delicious coffee and meal before hitting the trails.

If you’re looking for a home-away-home with full kitchens, bedrooms and legendary hot tub views, consider Basecamp Resorts or Suites. For savvy travellers in search of a more traditional hotel style, Northwinds Hotel or Basecamp Lodge Canmore are excellent choices. 

For those looking to indulge in luxury and an exceptional experience, MTN House is the perfect destination. Home to Rhythm & Howl, Canmore’s culinary gem, guests can enjoy daily Happy Hour from 3pm to 6pm. At MTN House, e-bike rentals and a town shuttle are also available for guests' convenience.

Book your stay today at Basecamp Resorts - Where Your Adventures Begin.

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