Have you ever chosen a trail and then began cursing your choice within the first few kilometres? We’ve all done it before! Trails that seem easy or moderate at first can quickly become the slog of your summer, and that’s not an experience any of us would wish upon anyone else, especially family. We’ve done the legwork to find the best kid-friendly backpacking options for you and your family so that you don’t have to regret a thing.
We want our 10Adventures community to be able to head out on the stunning trails that the Canadian Rockies offer without worrying if their kids will be able to make it. All of the destinations selected for this comprehensive guide are under 10km in distance and 984ft of elevation gain per day. Most of the destinations selected in this guide are easily accessed in one day, however we do have some multi-site options if you would like to try out a longer trip with your little ones. We love choosing a simple destination with some fun natural features nearby and staying put for two nights to explore the area without moving camp. If your kids are ready for a little bit more of an adventure, we’ve selected a few routes that move campsites day-to-day while still staying under 6.2mi and 984ft. Get out your pen and paper because we’re sure you’ll find something for your family here!
- Family Backpacking in Kananaskis Country
- Family Backpacking in Banff National Park
- Family Backpacking in Kootenay National Park
- Family Backpacking in Yoho National Park
- Family Backpacking in Jasper National Park
- Family Backpacking in Mount Robson Provincial Park
- Family Backpacking in Waterton Lakes National Park
- Tips for Backpacking With Kids
- Trail Tips
Family Backpacking in Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country is one of our favourite destinations for backpacking with kids. This Canadian Rockies hot spot has seen plenty of upgraded trails and campgrounds since the 2013 floods. This makes for fun and accessible destinations that have all the amenities you might need when hiking with the family. K-Country is easily accessed from both Calgary and Banff, and generally has more availability than the nearby national parks. You can book online, on the phone, or in person at one of the visitor centres, however, we recommend planning ahead by reserving far in advance. We have our favourite family-friendly backpacking trips in Kananaskis listed here, and we’re sure you’ll be able to find one perfect for your family’s age and ability. Please note that distances are one-way from trailhead to campsite.
The Jewell Bay Campground might be one of the most popular family-friendly destinations in Kananaskis Country. This beautiful campground is accessed from the Barrier Lake day-use area and follows a wide bike path around the lake to the campsite. This trail is accessible for chariots or durable wagons if you are planning to camp with very young children. It is a great route for families that require lots of extra food and gear, and the bear lockers are large enough to fit full camp stoves and soft coolers. The bay itself is a great place to play while admiring towering peaks across the lake. The campground is equipped with a fire pit, benches, picnic tables, and comfortable tent pads.
The Quaite Valley Campground is a large site that can be accessed from two different points. This is a great option for a variety of abilities and ages. The campground has 20 sites which can be a make-or-break factor for some groups. If you are looking for a lively campground, this is an excellent option. The trail is wide from both directions and easy to navigate as it travels through the Quaite Valley to the campground. If you are interested in a multi-site adventure, we recommend hiking from Quaite Valley to Jewell Bay for a second night and ending your trip at Barrier Lake.
Day 1: 2.5mi/154ft, Day 2: 3.0mi/804ft, Day 3: 2.7mi/305ft
Hiking the point-to-point route from Jewell Bay to Quaite Valley is an excellent choice for families of all abilities. You will stay at two campgrounds offering different views and a variety of play options, and you won’t repeat any part of the trail. This can be done from either direction and requires a shuttle or a second vehicle. Starting at Barrier Lake, you’ll make your way to Jewell Bay, where you will be treated with stunning lakeside campsites and plenty of amenities. From here, you will travel to Quaite Valley on your second day, which is a creekside campground in the middle of Quaite Valley. Hike to the Heart Creek trailhead on your final day. Moderate distance and elevation each day make this trail manageable for all sorts of families. This is a bike, horse, and hiking route, so the trails are wide enough for a chariot or rugged wagon.
Elbow Lake is the best choice for first-time family backpackers, and it wins by a landslide! At 0.9mi from the trailhead, this campsite allows families the option to head home if any major mishap occurs. If you haven’t hit the backcountry with your family yet, you might be struck with a newfound fear, illness, or unpredictable episode. We like to believe our kids can handle the wilderness and embrace backcountry camping, but sometimes reality strikes, and it just won’t work out. Elbow Lake Campground is equipped with 15 sites along the lake and is an incredibly scenic spot to set up with your family. The trail is wide enough for chariots or durable wagons to haul your extra gear in.
The Tombstone Campground is a stunning destination that requires a bit more distance while maintaining a manageable amount of elevation gain. This is an excellent family backpacking option for kids who have a bit of experience and are comfortable carrying some of their own gear and hiking for moderate distances. We recommend booking this site for two nights and spending day two hiking to Upper Tombstone Lake. From camp, this day-hike is 3.1mi and 574ft elevation gain. Your kids will love playing by the lake and watching for fish. Plan to hike up to the lake for a lunch picnic before heading back to camp for an evening fire and, of course, some s’mores.
Day 1: 0.9mi/459ft, Day 2: 3.7mi/108ft, Day 3: 4.5mi/456ft
Making the trip from Elbow Lake to Tombstone Backcountry is a great way to test out how the family dynamics will function on a multi-site trip. Spending one night at Elbow Lake reduces the distance and elevation to Tombstone and makes for a nice flat trip on day two. This trip is possible to complete in two nights and three days by hiking out 4.8mi and descending 568ft on day three. If this is too big of a day for your family, try returning to Elbow Lake for night three. We recommend completing this in two nights and three days to reduce any redundancy at Elbow Lake since it is so close to the trailhead. This is a great first family multi-site camping trip!
The Point Campground is a unique family-friendly backcountry option as it can be accessed on foot, bike, or boat. This is a popular site for beginner canoe campers, as well as families. This undeniable kid-friendly campground is almost completely flat and located only 2.2mi from the trailhead. This is a particularly special campground because it boasts views of both mountains and water. If you can snag a campsite early, you’ll be able to stay at one of the sites at the water’s edge and be treated to unforgettable sunrise views. Secure food storage lockers are large enough for bigger camp stoves and soft coolers if needed, and there is plenty of space around the firepit. Extend your trip by spending a second night at nearby Forks Campground.
Forks Campground is a step up from many of the other family-friendly backcountry campsites in the Kananaskis region. At 4.8mi and 745ft of elevation gain, this might be reserved for kids who have a bit of experience and are comfortable hiking slightly longer distances. This creekside campground makes for a fun family experience. There are plenty of places for kids to play in this area and the mid-sized campground is generally filled with other families.
Day 1: 2.2mi/285ft, Day 2: 4.3mi/627ft, Day 3: 4.8mi/495ft
The three-day trip option to Forks Backcountry makes this destination a lot more family-friendly. The trip starts with an easy to moderate day to Point Backcountry followed by two tougher days. This is a longer and more difficult trip for young kids but makes for a memorable family adventure in Kananaskis if your group is ready for the challenge.
Family Backpacking in Banff National Park
Banff National Park is well-known for its world-renowned backpacking destinations. It sees alarming numbers of annual visitors flocking to the famed landmarks for the wilderness experience they’ve always dreamed of. But with such saturated images of these famous destinations, how can you narrow down what works best for you and your family? We’ve got it covered, and our list below will take you and your family to the turquoise lakes, towering peaks, and ancient glaciers you’ve been dreaming of. Banff is home to many kid-friendly campsites that make the lengthier destinations attainable for families on the move. Most of the trails are single track and reserved for foot traffic only, so you won’t be able to bring a chariot or wagon on these trails.
The trip to Howard Douglas Lake is a wonderful family trip. This route begins at Sunshine Meadows, passing by wildflower meadows and Rock Isle Lake. You can add a short circuit to explore the Sunshine Meadows area before leaving the ski resort boundary. The trail descends down to Howard Douglas Lake where five sites rest in the woods. A small cooking area with food storage and an outhouse is just beyond the tent pads. This is a great open area and the perfect distance for families. Note that you will need to reserve a shuttle bus or gondola ride to access the ski resort. You can do this through Sunshine Village’s website.
Big Springs is the gateway to the Mount Assiniboine region. If you are planning a long route through Mount Assiniboine region, this is a great test piece. The trail begins at the Mount Shark trail centre and travels over some rolling terrain on a wide road. This trail travels through the forest on a busy stretch of trail. The campground is right beside the trail and nearby the beautiful Big Springs Creek. A small side trail leads up to a waterfall upstream of the spring. The trail remains in the forest for the duration of the trip, which can be a bit too long for young children.
Day 1: 6.1mi/515ft, Day 2: 4.3mi/627ft, Day 3: 8.0mi/564ft
This route can be done as a three or four day trip. If your group is capable and energetic, you’ll be able to make it to the trailhead from McBride’s camp. If 8.0mi is too much for your group, book a third night at Big Springs to minimize your daily distance. The route sticks to moderate elevation gain and gives hikers an option to take side trips to both Marvel Lake and Owl Lake. You’ll be at the cusp of the Assiniboine region here, so if you’d like to plan a big trip, check out our Wonder Pass route that can be easily modified by adding extra nights at other campgrounds.
The Healy Creek campsite is an exciting trip and also a great stop on the way to Egypt Lake. It begins at the Sunshine Village gondola base and travels on a wide path adjacent to the ski resort access road. The trail passes a few clearings with excellent views and some small creeks. There are five sites here and a large cook with food storage lockers. Note that the campsite is located low in the valley near the creek and can get very buggy in the middle of summer, so bring bug spray. A short walk from the camp will take hikers to the meadows below Healy Pass. This stunning open meadow is a wildflower hotspot in the summer and gives a great view of the surrounding peaks.
Larry’s Camp can be accessed from two different trailheads. One is at Johnston Canyon and one is just down the road at Moose Meadows. Moose Meadows is a much quieter route that isn’t travelled by many ,however, Johnston Canyon is an exciting route in its own right. Both trails meet a junction next to the upper falls, so whichever route you choose will join with the main trail. Once on the main trail, follow signs to the Ink Pots, which is an excellent rest stop just before camp. There is an expansive meadow here below the peaks of the Sawback Range. The camp is located 1.1mi beyond the Ink Pots and has one of the most desirable food prep areas in the park. Large food lockers and picnic tables sit along the creek in an open area away from camp.
Larry’s Camp to Luellen Lake
Day 1: 4.8mi/1302ft, Day 2: 5.3mi/246ft, Day 3: 4.8mi/492ft
Out-and-back trips can sometimes seem redundant and stopping at the same campgrounds takes the fun out of the trip. The trip to Luellen Lake has some different route options and is an incredibly rewarding trip. While many family-friendly backpacking trails travel through the valley bottom, stopping at forested sites with no views, this one is surprisingly full of natural features. Day one begins in the famed Johnston Canyon and leads to the remarkable Ink Pots, which are seated in a vast subalpine meadow. Larry’s Camp is nestled in a forested grove near a lively creek. The next 5.3mi to Luellen Lake follow Johnston Creek where wildflowers are aplenty. You’ll branch off the trail and be greeted by one of Banff’s most spectacular lakeside campgrounds. Repeat on the way home, heading out through Moose Meadows instead of Johnston Canyon to mix things up.
The Mount Rundle Campground is located along the Goat Creek trail and exists as part of the Spray Loop. These are common day trips for hikers and bikers, which makes the campground a top pick for a first family trip. The trail is close to town and features access to the Spray River. A nearby bridge and trail junction has great beach areas perfect for play. This trail is accessible by bike, meaning you can also cart in a chariot or rugged wagon to this site if you have particularly young kids hiking with you. This is a must-do from the town of Banff and the perfect first trip for a family.
The Cascade Bridge campsite is one of the few hike and bike sites in the Banff region. If you are a family of cyclists, this is a fun trip for all ages. The trail follows a wide decommissioned road that is well-maintained and relatively smooth. You may encounter hikers and horseback riders on this trail, and whether you travel in on foot or by bike, you’ll be sure to have a great time. The campground is located immediately after a large steel bridge and has access to the Cascade River. There is some wide-open space at the campground perfect for games!
Day 1: 4.1mi/584ft, Day 2: 5.3mi/614ft, Day 3: 5.3mi/233ft, Day 4: 4.1mi/302ft
The trip to Stoney Creek can range from 3-4 days depending on your method of travel. Some groups choose to bike this trail to cut their time down, yet it does make for an amazing four-day trip. The access to rivers and views here are plentiful. The out-and-back route can be a bit repetitive, but both Cascade Bridge and Stoney Creek campgrounds have plenty to do and see. You’ll have no problem exploring the area with your family on this kid-friendly backpacking route.
The classic out-and-back trip to Glacier Lake is an unforgettable family trip. Many hikers choose to do this trail in the early season as it melts relatively quickly. It is commonly noted as an easy backpacking route, yet there is one steep incline of roughly 656ft that can be difficult for children. The campground features incredible tent pads that are close to the water and if you arrive early, you’ll be able to snag one with the best views.
Aylmer Pass Junction is known as a popular family destination. It is one of the many Lake Minnewanka area backcountry campgrounds and makes for a perfect family adventure. The trail sees a seasonal closure July 10-September 15. This closure requires all users to travel in a group of four (adults), carry bear spray, and restricts access for dogs and bikes. There are many berries along the route, so be bear aware when travelling here. The trail is simple and leads to a beautiful campsite with lake access. We love to hang out on the beach here and take in the views. The campground has fire pits, benches, and large food storage lockers.
Aylmer Canyon is the next step from Aylmer Junction. Another family-friendly campground along Lake Minnewanka’s shore, this site has all the same amenities as Aylmer Junction and is located only 0.7mi further up the trail. This site sees less foot traffic as there are no day hiking trails nearby. The trail is mostly rolling terrain with one notable climb on the way back. If your group is comfortable hiking 5.8mi one way, this route has a spectacular beach area with great views and lots of room to play.
Day 1: 5.1mi/614ft, Day 2: 2.1mi/210ft, Day 3: 6.8mi/663ft
If you are looking for a great family backpacking trip that changes sites, this might be the one you want to start with. The second day is short and sweet, leaving lots of time to enjoy your morning while you take down camp, and still leaving time to relax at your next campsite. The Lake Minnewanka campsites are all stunning, and each have their own unique features and beaches. If hiking all the way to the trailhead from Mount Inglismaldie (LM11) is too far, head back to Aylmer Pass Junction (LM8) for a third night.
Located just outside of Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway, Hector Lake is a hidden oasis, perfect for your family backpacking trip. There is one difficult factor here, a water crossing. The wide ford can become extremely difficult and dangerous in the spring when the snowmelt is flowing. This trail is best reserved for August when water levels will be significantly lower. Pack water shoes and be prepared to carry small children. The water should be calf-height late in the summer, but this might be too high for some children. Once you have crossed the water, you’ll come to the campsite and beautiful Hector Lake. The sites are close to the water.
Family Backpacking in Kootenay National Park
Kootenay is a little pocket of land nestled between Banff and Yoho. It is chock-full of must-see natural features including high passes, waterfalls, canyons, and rushing rivers. Kootenay National Park is most recognized for its landmark trail, The Rockwall. The Rockwall isn’t exactly kid-friendly as it traverses 34.2mi while gaining substantial elevation. We chose some small segments of the longer trail that are perfectly appropriate for your next family adventure!
The kid-friendly trail to Helmet-Ochre campground travels through the exciting Paint Pots site almost immediately. You’ll pass through ochre-coloured sections to the multi-coloured pools of the Paint Pots. This is an important heritage site for the Ktunaxa people who used the ochre clay to create paint before settlers arrived in the area. The rest of the trail travels through the forest to the campground which is located at a great water source with an exciting bridge.
Day 1: 3.9mi/636ft, Day 2: 5.1mi/1293ft, Day 3: 5.1mi/446ft, Day 4: 3.9mi, 404ft
This trip breaches our family-friendly requirements slightly but is worth the effort if your family can make it. Hiking to Helmet Falls is best for families who have some backpacking experience together with kids who are comfortable hiking up to 10km. Day one is simple and travels past the incredible Paint Pots before reaching camp. The route on day two follows the creek and opens up to some amazing views. There is a steep section with switchbacks, but otherwise the terrain is gentle and rolling. The campground is well-equipped and has incredible views of Helmet Falls. We recommend hiking to the base of the falls after setting up camp. This is an out-and-back trip that is well worth it for the views and diverse landscapes.
Numa Creek (closed)
The trail to Numa Creek campground is a beautiful family trip through the forest to a quaint campground. Starting at Numa Creek trailhead, the route crosses the water before travelling through the valley to the stunning campground. The campground is split along both sides of the creek making for plenty of family-friendly options. There are some bridges, boardwalks and streams here that make for great family play in the area. The campground is unfortunately closed until further notice while Parks Canada replaces the bridge.
Family Backpacking in Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park- another gem of the Rockies. This small park is adjacent to Banff and is replete with some of the most incredible alpine lakes in the region. It straddles the Great Divide and is named after the Cree expression for awe and wonder. You won’t need to travel far to find wonder in Yoho National Park, which is why we love taking family-friendly backpacking trips here.
Laughing Falls is located in the heart of the Yoho Valley area near Takakkaw Falls and makes for a memorable family adventure. This family backpacking route begins at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot and travels along the Little Yoho River to the picturesque campground. Unlike other forested campgrounds hidden in a valley, this site is located right alongside the river in a beautiful clearing. You’ll be able to see the falls from camp and fall asleep to the roar of the crashing water.
If Laughing Falls seems too simple for your family, add on a few more kilometres and make your way to Twin Falls. You’ll pass right by Laughing Falls on your way, giving you plenty of time to take a break and admire the impressive feature. 1.4mi down the trail you will reach your destination at the Twin Falls campground. The trail is mostly rolling terrain with no major hills but some steeper inclines. Twin Falls is a unique set of falls that cascade into the same pool. Be sure to check out the historic Twin Falls Chalet, just a short walk from the campground.
Laughing Falls to Twin Falls
Day 1: 2.6mi/446ft, Day 2: 1.4mi/282ft, Day 3: 4.0mi/233ft
This route is an ideal family adventure for all ages. Featuring three waterfalls and plenty of space for exploring, this route is sure to please. The elevation gain is minimal and the campgrounds are world-class. The route begins at the astonishing Takakkaw Falls and travels to Laughing Falls for the first night. This site is directly between the river and the falls which means there is plenty to explore. Day two is an incredibly easy hike which allows you to enjoy your morning relaxing over breakfast and packing up for your next move. Twin Falls is another stunning site and is located close in proximity to the historic Twin Falls Chalet, which is worth a look. Make your way all the way back to the trailhead on day three for a longer trip, but easy nonetheless.
The designation of backcountry campground is a bit suspect at Lake O’Hara since you won’t have to hike in. This site is sought-after by families far and wide and usually sells out within minutes. It is located at Yoho’s pride and joy, Lake O’Hara. Lake O’Hara is a world-class hiking region that is made up of a sensitive alpine environment with plenty of wildlife activity. Due to the sensitive nature of the area, visitors are required to take a shuttle bus for both day hiking and overnights. When you book the campground, your bus is reserved at the same time. This prevents over-trafficking of the area in an effort to protect and conserve the region. The campground has large group firepits, picnic tables, covered cook shelters, and beautiful forested sites directly linked to the trail system. The pit toilets, dish sinks, and food storage are of utmost quality and seem a bit glampy. The Lake O’Hara backcountry is a special place for families to create traditions and memories to last a lifetime, and if you can click reserve fast enough, we can’t recommend it enough.
Family Backpacking in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is full of excellent family-friendly backpacking routes. There are some incredible loops available as well as simple out-and-back trips that are perfect for young hikers. Just three hours north of the town of Banff, Jasper is a great family getaway. The town is quaint and generally less busy than Banff, and the park has some prominent regions that each feature their own stunning natural features and trails.
Starting at the famed landmark of Sunwapta Falls, the hike to Big Bend is an excellent choice for families seeking adventure. The falls themselves are an exhilarating starting point and will keep spirits high from the beginning. This trail is a flat and easy route that leads to a gorgeous campsite along the river. This trail is accessible by bike as well, so if your family is more interested in riding to a campsite, this is a great choice!
If you are looking for a family-friendly backpacking route from the townsite of Jasper, Saturday Night Lake is our top pick. This route leaves right from town and passes by other landmark lakes on the way. This is perfect for children with a bit of experience and a few overnights under their belt. The trail features rolling terrain with a moderate amount of elevation gain. Although our kid-friendly parameters have been keeping below 984ft gain, we wanted to include Saturday Night Lake for the ambitious families. This campsite is a staggering spot to spend a night with your family, so if your kids have experience it’s well worth it!
Day 1: 4.4mi/1132ft, Day 2: 5.8mi/784ft, Day 3: 6.8mi/495ft
The full Saturday Night Lake loop is a popular Jasper backpacking route for all abilities. This trail is ideal for families with some experience, however, the trail remains gentle with no major ascents. The greater trail system that connects with this kid-friendly backpacking trip sees many hikers and bikers, so watch out for traffic. Both campsites on this loop are coveted lakeside locations that require advanced reservations.
Finding utopia on the Fiddle River trail is easily accomplished when booking a night at Utopia. This campsite is often the first site backpackers stay when hiking the difficult Fiddle River route. The trail begins at Miette Hot Springs and passes an old hot spring building before gaining over Utopia Pass and descending to Utopia campground. This is a great option for older children with a bit of experience. You’ll be blown away by the panoramic views atop the pass before descending to your camp. Don’t forget to soak in the Miette Hot Springs on your return!
Head out of town beyond the Snaring River to the Celestine Lake Road for a remote wilderness experience at Celestine Lake campground. This trip is a true wilderness experience that sees much less traffic than the town central camping options. Celestine Lake lies along the North Boundary trail that connects Jasper National Park with Mount Robson Provincial Park. This campground is accessible by bike which makes it a bit easier for some families. If you prefer to hike, note that you can cart in a chariot to this campground. The trail narrows just before the campsite, yet the main route is wide and open.
For those looking to get a taste of the Tonquin Valley, spending a night at Astoria campground is a must-do. The winding descent from Edith Cavell Road might be difficult for little ones, especially on the way back up, but if your family is comfortable in rough terrain, heading to Astoria for the night makes for a memorable family getaway. Experienced families might choose to continue on and complete the entire Tonquin Valley route.
Boulder Creek lies on the edge of the Brazeau Loop, pushing our limits for what qualifies as family-friendly. This is a bit of a tough route for children, but experienced and strong families will enjoy it. Starting along the Icefields Parkway, this route descends to Nigel Creek before gaining over Nigel Pass to meet Boulder Creek Campground at the upper reaches of the Brazeau River. The Brazeau Loop is a difficult trail, and Boulder Creek is a great way to get a taste of the area. The scenic route to the first campground on the loop is excellent for families with collective backcountry experience who are comfortable with elevation gain.
Boulder Creek to Four Point
Day 1: 6.2mi/1073ft, Day 2: 1.9mi/46ft, Day 3: 8.1mi/1102ft
Adding an extra day to your Boulder Creek trip can be simple and easy if you are willing to hike the 8.1mi out. If not, another day can be added by returning to Boulder Creek for an extra night on day three before hiking out on day four. The trail climbs Nigel Pass before descending to Boulder Creek and on day two, it simply descends further to Four Point. You may choose to push all the way out and avoid another 1.9mi day, but if that is too much for your group, booking another night at Boulder Creek is ideal.
Evelyn Creek Campground rests in a splendid pocket of forest along the renowned Skyline trail. Starting at Maligne Lake, the trail to Evelyn Creek is easy to follow and has almost no elevation gain. The terrain is rolling and extremely gradual to the campground. There is a small footbridge over the creek at the campground and the campsites are scattered in the woods with excellent views. This easy out-and-back is popular with families who have young children and will make a memorable family trip in the Jasper area.
Family Backpacking in Mount Robson Provincial Park
Established in 1913 and one of BC’s oldest parks, Mount Robson Provincial Park is Jasper’s sought-after western neighbor. The crown jewel of the park, Mount Robson rises to 12972ft, making it the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The small park is home to the Berg Lake Trail, which is well-known by backpackers looking to explore the Rockies. There are few family-friendly backpacking trips in Mount Robson Provincial Park, however our top choices both exist along the incredible Berg Lake Trail.
The trip to Kinney Lake is a must-do when visiting Mount Robson. The first campsite along the Berg Lake Trail is popular for day hikers and is also accessible by bike. The trail climbs through an old growth forest on a decommissioned road along the Robson River. The staggering turquoise waters shine through the old cedars as you make your way to the lake. You’ll cross a bridge at the outflow of Kinney Lake, where you will be greeted with more pristine turquoise waters. Make your way onto single track trail as you gain some elevation before descending to the flats. There is a large, covered cook area at the lake and some coveted lakeside campsites might be available if you arrive early.
Day 1: 5.0mi/768ft, Day 2: 2.4mi/719ft, Day 3: 6.5mi/505ft
One of the prominent climbs on the Berg Lake trail lies between Kinney Lake and Whitehorn campgrounds. The short 2.4mi trail leaves Kinney Lake and travels through the woods next to the Kinney Flats runoff. Cross a bridge and a flat section before gearing up for some steep switchbacks. The trail evens out along the top and descends to an exhilarating suspension bridge that leads to Whitehorn Campground. The campground sits in the midst of the Valley of 1000 Falls, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a magical fantasy world when you set up camp here. The final day will have you pushing all the way to the trailhead on mostly flat and downhill trails. This three-day trip is one to remember in Mount Robson Provincial Park, and the perfect buildup to completing the entire Berg Lake Trail.
Family Backpacking in Waterton Lakes National Park
Bordering Glacier National Park in the United States, Waterton Lakes National Park is one of the smaller parks in the Canadian Rockies, but this tiny park is packed with grand views. The feature lakes lie in the centre of the park surrounded by alpine lakes, incredible waterfalls, rushing creeks, and panoramic vistas in all directions. This small park is perfect for easy family backpacking as it is host to a handful of stunning campsites along simple trails. Before you choose any of these trails, please check if the trails are open on Parks Canada website, as some might be still closed due to the Kenow Wildfire in 2017.
Hiking to Bertha Bay is an excellent kid-friendly option at only 1.6mi and 410ft of elevation gain. This beautiful campsite rests on a small bay right on Upper Waterton Lake. The cook area and firepit provide excellent views of the water with a small trail to the shore. The simple trail follows the edge of Upper Waterton Lake directly from town to the campground.
If your family has a little bit of backcountry experience and your kids are keen for an overnight, the Boundary Bay Campground in Waterton is a great option. You’ll take the boundary trail and pass by Bertha Bay Campground on your way. This trail follows the Great Divide Trail to its southern terminus. You might see some thru hikers heading down to Boundary Bay to tag the terminus before beginning their northbound hike. The camp is extra special as it rests on the international boundary with the United States and Glacier National Park.
Crandell Lake can be accessed from both the Akamina Parkway and the Red Rock Parkway. We recommend starting at the Red Rock Parkway from the Crandell frontcountry campground. This short and easy hike is a must-do for families with young children and is one of our favourites in Waterton. The forested trail leads to a stunning lake where the campground is located. There is plenty to do here for young ones, and the views are pretty spectacular as well!
Tips for Backpacking With Kids
Here are 9 great tips for backpacking with your kids that come from 10Adventures founder Richard’s personal experience.
- Get them involved in planning: Let the kids learn about the area, help with planning and allow them to make some decisions, so they are bought into the trip from the start.
- Keep Kids packs light: For young kids, expect that they will only carry their stuffed animal in their pack. As they age they can slowly take on more weight, but expect yourself as a parent to carry most of your kids’ gear until they are 9-10 years old. This leads to the next suggestion.
- Start Easy: Choose a backpacking route that has a short distance to the campground. Then on each trip find routes that lengthen out that daily hiking distance. This short distance also helps parents, who are likely carrying the biggest packs of their lives!
- Minimize Elevation: Kids struggle with elevation gain, especially with backpacks. Do your best to start with backpacks with minimal elevation gain.
- Stay several nights in one location: Rather than moving every day to a new site, at the start, hike into one backcountry campground and be based there.
- Talk and have fun: Talk to any parent and they’ll tell you the key to getting their kids to enjoy hiking or backpacking is to keep them entertained. One of the best ways is to tell stories or get your kids talking about subjects that interest them, which are usually toys.
- Lots of snack breaks: Kids need a snack and a break at least every hour, so build that into your plan. Bring lots of fun snacks the kids like to eat so they want to keep eating. We like pepperoni sticks, nuts and fruit gummi bears. Oh yeah, and M&M’s, mmm…
- Have a good first aid kit: Kids get into scrapes, and you need to be sure you’re prepared. The key for us is antihistamine, as bites from new bugs have the chance to cause a lot of swelling.
- Bring camp fun: For us, we bring two things, a lightweight set of coloured balls that we play with, a bit like petanque. We also bring an ultralight mini-speaker and download a kids book. We listen to the book at night, as the sun sets and forever have shared memories of these books and great family backpacking trips.
Now that you have everything you need to know about our favourite family-friendly backpacking routes in the Canadian Rockies, you’ll need to make sure you plan accordingly. Booking can require extensive attention to logistics and when backpacking with your family. Here are some of our tips to ensure you make backpacking with your family as smooth as possible:
- Plan a night before and after at a nearby frontcountry campground. This will give your family enough time to explore the area, get prepared, and wind down when you finish up your overnight trip. Many backpacking routes are close to popular frontcountry campgrounds full of amenities to make your trip as comfortable as possible.
- Bring bear spray and invest in secure stuff sacks for your food. These trails are in bear country and require bear awareness. All campgrounds listed here are equipped with food storage lockers or hangs, so having an appropriate food bag to hang or store is necessary for these trips.
- Plan ahead! Backcountry visitorship has been growing rapidly in the Rockies and these campsites require advanced bookings. Check your park-specific reservation system to secure registration dates and be prepared to plan for a backup.