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Family Fun in Bow Valley Provincial Park

By Karen Ung

Bow Valley Provincial Park is the perfect family-friendly mountain destination. With panoramic views and scenic trails, there is fun for all ages. Whether you hike the interpretive trails and do some geocaching, go fishing, have a picnic, bike the Bow Valley bike path or paddle the Kananaskis River, you will have a great day.

Parents of young children will appreciate the short trails with minimal elevation gain, benches along the trails for snack breaks and washrooms at every parking lot.

Over two separate visits we explored five trails in the area and liked them all. Join us on a mini tour of Bow Valley Provincial Park!

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Montane Interpretive Trail (1.5-km loop, minimal elevation)

This hiking trail departs from the Bow Valley Park Visitor Centre. On this loop, you will pass through meadow and forest and learn about the ecosystem, and local plants and animals. There are also a couple of geocaches on the trail – one in the forest and one in the meadow – see if you can find both! If you’re bringing a stroller, be sure to bring a sports stroller as there are rooty and rocky sections.

Bow Valley Bike Path (8.6 km return, 85 m elevation)

This is a gently rolling ride with views of the Bow Valley and Mount Yamnuska. The trail connects the Visitor Centre with Bow Valley Campground.

Middle Lake Day Use Area and Interpretive Trail (2.5-km loop)

Middle Lake is our favorite part of the park! There is a lovely picnic area and interpretive trail with benches along the lakeshore where you can enjoy beautiful views of Mount Yamnuska. We picnicked in this beautiful spot and had a lot of fun geocaching.

Tips:

  • Print off the trail brochure from home or pick one up at the Visitor Centre in case the kiosk has run
    out.
  • If you’re short on time, walk the lakeshore (1-km loop) instead of doing the forest loop.

Many Springs Trail (1.9-km loop)

This is a fun one because it has structures (a bridge and boardwalk), bubbling springs and a micro geocache.

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Whitefish Day Use Area and Bow River Trail (1.6 km to Bow Valley Campground)

Stop at Whitefish Day Use Area for fishing or a picnic. The current is a little quick for swimming, but there are patches of sand for kids to play in along the Bow River Trail.

Bow Valley Provincial Park Amenities

  • Visitor Centres (Bow Valley, Barrier Lake)
  • Cell phone service
  • Campgrounds (Bow Valley Campground, Willow Rock Campground, Elk Flats Group
    Campground)
  • Pit toilets
  • Small general store at Bow Valley Campground

Activities

  • Hiking: see a listing of the park’s trails here.
  • Fishing: in Gap Lake, Bow River, or Grotto Pond.
  • Geocaching: at publication time, there were more than eight geocaches in the north part of the
    park (near Bow Valley Campground).
  • Biking: the Bow Valley Bike Path (8.6 km return) is paved and has gentle, rolling hills that most
    kids 6 & up would have no trouble with.
  • Camping: find a full listing of campgrounds here.

Directions

Head west on the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 1), until you get to the Exshaw / Bow Valley Provincial Park exit. Take your first left into the park. It’s just under an hour from Calgary!

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For More Information

  • Check out my Bow Valley Campground trip report here.
  • Learn how to geocache with your smart phone here.
  • Visit the Bow Valley Provincial Park page on the Alberta Parks site.

Have you ever been to Bow Valley Provincial Park? What do you like to do there? Tell us on social media with the hashtag #whererockies.

About the Author

Karen Ung is married to her backpacking sweetheart and is a mother and lover of maps, mountains and mochas.

With her geography degree and experience leading hikes and backpacking trips in the Rockies, she is full of ideas on where to go and what to do. The mission of her blog, Play Outside Guide, is to provide “everything families need to know to play outside and have fun.”

Connect with Karen: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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