Monday, 19 August 2013

Hiking with Kids in Kananaskis: Watridge Lake, Karst Springs & Wild Strawberry Fields Forever

There's nothing like eating a wild strawberry that you just picked on the side of a mountain trail to ground you. And yesterday I needed some grounding.

The trail to Watridge Lake and Karst Springs in Kananaskis isn't what I'd typically pick for a kids hike. An old logging road for the first TK kilometers to the lake, it lacks the rocks, stream hopping and other things I look for to add some adventure and fun for the kids. Only from the lake to the springs does it turn into a "real" trail, with half-log boardwalks across a boggy area and water falls so beautiful that even kids think they're cool. But three weeks before I'd scrambled up Mt. Shark, the approach to which is the trail to Watridge Lake and Karst Springs. I'd never seen so many wild
strawberries in one place. They lined the sides of the old logging road for almost its entire length. And the tiny strawberries packed the most intense strawberry flavor I'd ever tasted.

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

I expected the 3.7 km hike to the lake to take about an hour. It took almost twice that long. A few minutes after leaving the Mt. Shark parking lot I pointed out one of the wild strawberry bushes beside the trail, and the kids were engrossed. So we
shuffled along in a half crouch on the edge of path, eating the tiny red bursts of flavor as we went. Besides being a grounding experience, it was also a great bonding experience for Mack, Michael and myself. We shared strawberries that we picked, compared the flavor of one with that of another, and truly connected.

It was after 1 p.m. when we finally stopped for lunch beside Watridge Lake. Maybe they were full from the strawberries or maybe they'd found the experience grounding and energizing like I had, but Mack, Michael and the
two other kids in the group barely ate anything before they were off. From the lake, a narrow boardwalk made of a single line of logs that have been cut in half leads over a small boggy area for a couple hundred meters. At the end of the boardwalk, you find yourself in the cool shade of the forest, with the roaring of the falls somewhere ahead of you. In a couple minutes we'd reached the falls. Ten minutes after that, we were at Karst Springs, where the water literally appears from nowhere out of the side of the mountain.

Barely10 minutes later we were off again and headed back to the cars. Mack said the strawberries had made it his favorite hike yet. For me, the strawberries were definitely tasty, but more importantly they brought all three of us closer together at a time when we really needed it.

Oh yeah, the grizzly that walked across the road in front of us on the drive home was pretty cool too. And thanks to Shulamit for the "Wild Strawberry Fields Forever" line!

Distance: 7.4 km return to the lake, 9 km return to the springs
Time on the trail: 4-5 hours
Height gain: 60 m to the lake, 150 m to the springs
Driving Directions: From Canmore, take Spray Trail south to Mt. Engadine Lodge. Turn right on Mt. Shark road, continue past the lodge, keeping right at all intersections, until you reach the Mt. Shark parking lot. The trailhead is behind the information board near the parking lot entrance.


  1. Melissa, I just admire what you are achieving with your children. This is awesome.

  2. Thanks for this. My wife and I took our kids out on the 2014 August long weekend, and they had a blast picking strawberries all along the trail, to say nothing of the beautiful views!

    1. Glad the strawberries were still in season! I was at the Burstall Pass trailhead a couple weeks ago and they were ready to be picked.


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