Sunday, 15 July 2012

Hiking with Kids near Canmore: Stoneworks Canyon (Extreme is a matter of perspective)

Stoneworks Canyon
I stumbled across Stoneworks Canyon while researching a scramble up Squaw's Tit (seriously, that's what it's called, probably due to the nipple on top), the high point on a ridge that leads to Mount Charles Stewart. Although the route to Squaw's Tit doesn't pass through Stoneworks Canyon, the route to the summit of Mount Charles Stewart does. One website led to another, and I found myself looking at photos of a canyon that narrows to a few meters across, lots of rocks to climb on and short approach up a dry creek bed.

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

Stoneworks Canyon, or the Stone Works as rock and sport climbers call it, looked like the perfect place for a kids hike. It didn't disappoint. On the north side of the Trans-Canada and across from Canmore, it was less than an hour's drive from Calgary. Although "Jimmy's Trail" leads to Stoneworks, our group, a dozen or so parents and kids, hiked up the rocky creek bed, which is dry except during the spring run off. Within an hour we were at the entrance to the canyon.

After dropping our packs and eating a bite, we spent an hour exploring the canyon beyond. A narrow opening led directly to an even narrower twisty slot carved by thousands of years of water cutting through the limestone. Above, the rock seemed to close over us like a convoluted roof. In the imaginations of the kids we were on another planet. Although still on earth, we were indeed a world away from the iPods and cell phones back in the cars.

One mom, who'd joined our group while on vacation from Illinois, asked if I'd been to Stoneworks Canyon before. When I told her it was my first time, she seemed amazed. How did I know about it? The answer is easy: I always keep an eye out for places that I think would look fun and "extreme" to my seven-year-old and 12-year-old boys. Sometimes I come across those places while hiking or scrambling (that's how I found the boulder field on Little Lougheed and the fossils on Burns Ridge), and sometimes I find them while researching other hikes and scrambles.

While not every parent can do this, if only because they don't go on as many hikes as I do or they don't know what websites have trip reports of likely trails, often it comes down to remembering to stop, clear your mind and look at your surroundings from the perspective of your kids. This true whether you're at the off-leash park with your dog, walking through a park or driving along the river on the way to work. Even just looking at the ground under your feet or the rocks in your backyard with the eyes of a child can reveal a hidden natural playground.

Distance: 5 or 6 km round trip
Elevation gain: A couple hundred meters
Hiking/Exploring Time: 3 to 5 hours
Directions: Take the Trans-Canada west to Canmore. Take the second exit. Rather than staying on Benchlands Trail, turn left onto Palliser Trail. Approximately 2km from the Trans-Canada turn-off, on the right, there is a gated entrance to Stoneworks Canyon (Johnny's Trail). Go through the gate and either proceed straight ahead to the creek bed or watch for the trail entrance on the left at the end of the gravel pit.

Click here for a driving map

Heading back to the car on the dry creek bed.

1 comment:

  1. I was sad to have missed out on this one, I'm thinking of taking a group from Single Parents out here in 2 weeks.


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