Monday, 29 July 2013

Hiking with Kids in Kananaskis: Sparrowhawk Tarns

These days when I go on a hike or scramble for me, I'm always on the lookout for something along the trail that would catch the interest of my boys. On the trail to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Kananaskis, I came across a boulder field complete with marmots that would be a perfect hike for kids.

The full trail to Sparrowhawk Tarns is 10 km round-trip with an elevation gain of 680 m. This is well within the ability of my older son (then 11), but too much for my younger son (then 7). And let's face it, kids don't really care about pretty little lakes surrounded by cirques. The boulder field is just 6 km round-trip with a modest 300 m of elevation gain. Enough to challenge an 11-year-old, but not too much for his little brother.

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

The trail starts across Highway 742 from the Sparrowhawk day use area. A well-defined trail leads up to tree line and continues up hill until you pop out of the trees on small plateau. A couple minutes further brings you to small stand of trees behind which you'll find the boulder field. The boulders, or big grey rocks as I like to call them, range in size from beach balls to houses, providing plenty of climbing options for big and small kids alike. You're also almost guaranteed to see
and hear the resident marmots.

After an hour or so of hiking, followed by another hour of playing around on boulders and chasing marmots, we took a short side trail on the left and headed down. It met up with the main trail after a couple hundred metres, but gave the kids a chance to rock hop across a small stream. I could easily step across it, but for the kids it added a bit of extreme adventure.

I'd thought the boulders and marmots would be the high points of the day, but I was wrong. Back at the highway, one of the kids found a patch of alpine
strawberries. Tiny but bursting with flavor, both my kids said they were the best strawberries they'd ever had. This past weekend I scrambled Mount Shark, and noticed literally thousands of alpine strawberries along the approach trail...guess where we're going this weekend?

Distance: About 6 km round-trip
Elevation gain: About 300 m
Hiking Time: 4 or 5 hours
Driving Directions: Take the Trans-Canada to Canmore. Drive through downtown, and when you get to the end of the main street (8 Street), turn left. Follow that up and around until you reach the right turn onto Spray Lakes Road (which turns into Highway 742/Smith Dorrien Spray Trail). Continue for about 24.5 km and turn into the Sparrowhawk day use area.  Click here to see a driving map.

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