Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Hiking with Kids in Kananaskis: The Canyon of Jura Creek

There's something about tight canyons with tall, curvy sides that captures the imaginations of kids. Sure enough, within minutes of entering the canyon section of Jura Creek in Kananaskis, there were yells of "This is awesome!"

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

The dry creek bed before the canyon
I'd been saving Jura Creek for a late summer kids hike, but on the advice of fellow blogger Tanya Koob I decided to do it while there was still ice on the canyon floor and before the spring runoff made it impassible. I was glad I did, and so were the four kids and two dogs who went with me.

From the parking spot on the side of Highway 1A, across from the Graymont plant sign, we headed up the ditch and bushwhacked a bit to the dry, boulder-strewn bed of Jura Creek. If there's no snow, you can follow a well-worn path to the creek bed. Otherwise just stay
The canyon entrance
slightly left and you can't miss it.

We reached the canyon entrance within a couple minutes of hitting the creek bed, and that's when the real fun began. Much of the canyon floor is covered in ice, which can make just walking an adventure. Where the walls turned into smooth curved ramps, the kids took turns seeing how far up they could get before they lost their grip and slid down. Where the creek had frozen into ice slides, they slid down on their butts. And when one heard gurgling throw a hole in the ice beneath them, they all stopped to examine the trickle of water beneath the ice they were standing on.

Not long after we entered the canyon, I found large paw prints frozen into the ice. At least a couple days old, a cougar had walked the length of the canyon in the afternoon when the days warmth had softened the ice. As soon as the canyon opened into a broader valley, the tracks turned abruptly and headed up into the trees.

When the canyon opened into a broader valley, we kept hiking for another hour, stopping occasionally so the kids could scramble up the rocks on either side. Our lunch spot was on what would be an island of trees when the creek was in full flow in a couple months. I'd hoped to get another kilometer or so up the creek, but after eating on of the kids noted that it was the perfect place to play camouflage, and my plans were set aside. After camouflage came hide and seek tag. Then regular tag. Then the five minute warning that it was time to leave, which of course
stretched to 10 or 15.

On the return trip, the ice had soften noticeably. What had been slippery on the way in was mushy on the way out. Try as they might, the kids couldn't seem to slide down the ice ramp, which was quickly becoming the consistency of a Slurpee. That's when Michael asked a question I've pondered for years: "How come the hike back always seems faster than the hike in?"

Good question. Maybe we'll find the answer on the next hike.
Investigating a hole in the ice
Distance: About 7 km return
Time on the trail: 4 hours or so
Height gain: About 200 meters

Driving Directions: Head west on the Trans-Canada. Take exit 114 (the one after the Kananaskis Exit). Follow that to Highway 1A and turn left (west). In about 5.5 km you'll come to a sign at the entrance of the Graymont plant. The sign says "Graymont". Park on the side of the road across from the sign.

Click here for a map and driving directions.


  1. There are lots of beautiful places to hike around the world. However there are hardly as many articles devoted to trails that young children can manage easily.

    I think that adults also do forget that the things we find interesting may not be as much fun for a toddler. if we look back we will be able to recognize many of the things that were interesting features for us when we were younger. I always enjoyed being able to interact with challenges that were ideal for that stage. These were things that an older person would have taken for granted.

  2. I agree completely! I get as much as the kids do from taking them hiking by being able to see things again for the first time through their eyes.


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