Monday, 15 July 2013

Hiking with Kids in Kootenay National Park: Stanley Glacier

Stanley Glacier is one of those trails I've wanted to hike for a while, but that never made it far enough up the list to actually do it. But after I realized that my two sons (then 6 and 11) were more than ready for a bigger challenge, it was a natural pick for a kid's hike.

Click here for more kids hikes in Banff, Kananaskis, Kootenay and other areas of the Canadian Rockies.
A few kilometers west of the Alberta/British Columbia and Banff/Kootenay border on Highway 93, the trail starts uphill almost immediately. You cross a small bridge and suddenly you're switch-backing through a forest in the process of regeneration after forest fires in 1968 and 2003. Depending on your mood, the scene can seem surreal: At your feet the forest floor is lush, green and flowing; above the ground, charred tree trunks sway in the breeze.

After initially quickly gaining elevation, in three quarters of an hour (at kid speed) or so the trail
starts to ease and you find yourself at the mouth of a valley sided with sheer rock on either side. This gradually narrows as the plants covering the ground and the trees thin until you find yourself above the treeline. Shortly after passing the last tree, you're greeted by a sign announcing that you've reached the end of the trail. Although the option exists to continue hiking further and see the glacier close up, we decided to stop, have lunch and explore. Although the kids would have been game to keep going, the puppy we'd brought along was pooped. Any further and she'd have had to ride along in a pack. As it was, we thought we'd lost her until we found her sleeping under one (see photo below).
Distance: About 8.5 km return
Roundtrip Time: 3 to 5 hours
Elevation gain: About 400 m

Driving Directions: Take the Trans-Canada west from Calgary to the turn off for Highway 93 to Radium. Head towards Radium for about 12.8 km and turn into the Stanley Glacier parking area.  Click here to see a driving map.

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