Monday, 4 June 2012

Hiking with Kids in Kananaskis: Little Lougheed (The Tale of No Trail)

Bushwhacking is one of those things you either hate or tolerate, but I've only met a few people who truly enjoy it. My 7-year-old son seems to be one of them.

On a recent kids hike we bushwhacked to the boulder field mid-way up way up Little Lougheed in Kananaskis. The week before, I'd literally stumbled across the boulder field while descending Little Lougheed with a bunch of grownups. On that trip, everyone was okay with bushwhacking, but I've seen some people go stark raving mad at the thought of stepping off trail. In their minds, no trail = lost. Once, we had to bushwhack up and around a small waterfall on the way from Sherbrooke Lake to Niles Meadow in Yoho. That short bushwhack put a couple people on edge. Having to cross the stream--repeatedly--without a bridge (rock hopping and log walking were the only ways across) pushed them waaaaaaay beyond their comfort zone. We were forced to turn around far, far short of our objective. Enough said.

Click here for more kids hikes in Banff, Kananaskis, Kootenay and other areas of the Canadian Rockies.

But kids seem to love bushwhacking. They love the freedom of not having to do as they're told, even by a path. Instead of hiking in single file, they can explore, check out brooks bubbling straight from the moss, step wherever they want. I knew Michael, Mack and the other kids on the hike were having fun, but I didn't realize that the bushwhacking was the high-point of the trip until we got home, when Michael told his mom, "There was no trail, and we were, like, is this the way? Is that the way? Are we lost?"

The smile on his face made it clear he hadn't been afraid he was lost, or if he thought he was lost fear wasn't the emotion it had elicited. So what happens between the ages of 7 and 27 that transforms bushwhacking from a grand adventure to something to be tolerated at best, an experience in shear, abject fear at worst? I guess it has something to do with whether you think walking on an invisible path that you must choose is liberating or life threatening.

Distance: About 4 km round trip
Elevation gain: About 200 m
Hiking/Exploring Time: 3 to 5 hours
Directions: Take the Smith Dorrien/Spray Lakes Trail (Highway 742) south from Canmore. At the start of that highway, set your odometer to 0. In about 22.2 kilometers you'll come to a small creek that passes under the highway in a culvert. Stop by the side of the road, and hike towards the mountain (stay on the north side of the creek). A minute or two after you enter the trees, leave the trail and bushwhack slightly to the left. Eventually you'll come to the boulder field.

Click here for a driving map.


  1. you lost me at bushwhacking. I think my son would find it an adventure. I'd be the one in tears. Hate bushwhacking. I don't even like the trail to Tent Ridge.

    1. Bushwhacking definitely isn't for everyone. On an "adult" hike to Niles Meadows I had to cut things short when a British couple went over the edge. The bushwhacking above Sherbrooke Lake set them on edge, but repeatedly crossing the creek on logs was just too, too much.


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