Friday, 18 January 2013

Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: River View Trail

The campground road to the trail head.

Examining animal tracks.
The River View trail in Kananaskis, although not a designated snowshoe trail, is a fun little path through the trees when you only have an afternoon and don't want to spend most of it in the car driving deeper into the mountains.

Located on the east side of the Rockies, southwest of Bragg Creek, River View trail doesn't always have a lot of snow so save it for the weekend after a big dump. Because it's not one of the designated snowshoe trails in Kananaskis, once you turn off the campground road you'll usually be following someone else's tracks, but the snow isn't always so packed down that you don't need snowshoes. Along the way you'll wind through evergreens, along the frozen Elbow River, and have options to wander off trail and make the snowshoe longer or shorter than usual 4 km round trip.

However, on this kids snowshoeing trip to River View trail, we didn't actually do the River View trail. We had too much fun on the snowshoe from where we'd parked on the highway outside the locked Paddy Flat's campground gates to the trail head, which is also the start of the Paddy's Flat interpretive trail. What should only take five minutes took us an hour.

Extreme snowshoeing
 Almost straight out of the car (after we'd gotten unstuck. NOTE: park on the side of the highway, not in front of the gate. Even if the snow doesn't look that deep), the boys were alternately stopping to examine animal tracks and chasing our dog through the half-meter deep fresh snow. Most of the tracks along the campground road were obliterated by snowshoe track, but Mack and Michael were able to follow what was probably a lynx the entire way to the start of the interpretive trail.

A closed campground in winter takes on an entirely different feel than when it's open in the summer. What is usually an orderly arrangement of roads, cars, campsites, and campers becomes a wide-open playground. Suddenly, the normal rules don't apply and you're free to roam. The signs are no longer in effect. We cut through campsites, wandered through the trees and slid down the hill between two of the campground's "loops". Even the playground took on a different vibe, and the boys spent a half-hour extreme snowshoeing down the slides.

Unfortunately, the sun starts getting low in the sky early in January. We could see the trail head from the playground, but we didn't have time to go any further. So when the mitts were soaked and ice frozen all the way around the tops of boots we headed back to the car and home. With a stop at Bragg Creek for a post snowshoe ice cream cone, of course.

Distance: 4 km return
Elevation gain: Negligible
Hiking/Exploring Time: 2 to 4 hours
Driving Directions: Heading south on Highway 22 from the Trans-Canada, go straight through the traffic circle. At Bragg Creek, turn left at the four-way stop. You'll come to a T-intersection. Turn right onto Highway 66. Follow this to the entrance to Paddy's Flat campground and park on the side of the highway.


Wondering how to get started? Read these posts:
Kids Snowshoeing Gear: Picking out Kids Snowshoes

Wondering where else to go snowshoeing with kids? Read these posts:

Snowshoeing with Kids in Banff: Lake Minnewanka
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Hogarth Lakes
Heli-snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: Canyon Creek
Snowshoeing with Kids in Kananaskis: West Bragg Creek 

The trail head

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