There are so many wonderful hikes to be done yet so many of them require a good fitness level, hiking experience and the ability to cover distances that can be challenging for the young, injured and elderly. Ultimately, fewer older and younger individuals feel that they cannot approach hiking as a recreation and end up not doing it at all. In reality there are many great hikes that cover shorter distances and lead to great vistas, making them good choices for inclusive family hiking. Here are our top 5 family friendly hikes in the Columbia Valley, Canada.
The Old Coach Trail – Deja Vu
This should be the immediate `go to` for toddlers, young children or those that have distance as a limiting factor for hiking. Relatively flat throughout and just 1km each way, this trail winds you through beautiful arid pathways with the Rocky Mountains at your back and The Purcell Mountain range in-front. As you reach the apex of the loop you find yourself standing at the top of a gentle viewpoint that opens up to showcase the wetlands, bench lands, Columbia River and Purcell Mountains, with their dramatic and rugged appearance. In the spring and the fall you can enjoy the progression of colour from the inky blue wetland waters to the crisp snowy peaks above, while summer time offers every hue of green from the glacial mineral waters of the Columbia river to the vast array of shrubs and forests all around. This view point is the perfect place for a picnic and a rest before circling back to the parking lot.
2. The Hoodoos
This is a great choice for younger children breaking into the hiking scene and learning about elevation gains and the rewards that they so often reap. An overall short hike – just 1 hour return and a small elevation gain – this repays your efforts during the climb with several impressive look outs on top of the Hoodoo rock formations at the top. Looking directly across to Fairmont Hot Springs, south to the Columbia Lake, west to the Purcells, and North to Lake Windermere – there are opportunities to gain 360 degree views of your surroundings. Do be sure to keep children close by at the top as the Hoodoos themselves are notorious for crumbling, and the edges themselves are steep. The access with the parking lot being 5 minutes from Fairmont Hot Springs.
3. Lilian Lake
This has gained popularity in recent years for good reason. Predominately flat with some ups and downs this network of trails gives you lots of walking options from 1kms loops to much longer. The more impressive ones follow the cliff edge overlooking Toby Creek, with Mount Nelson and other larger peaks in the background. The access from the carpark is easy, and many of the trails interconnect giving you `easy outs` if you decide that you have bitten off more than you can chew. The trails are well maintained and do give the edge a wide birth – but do exercise caution with small children by holding their hands or keeping them close by. The views from here are unlike others in the valley as they are South / South-West facing which lends to a particularly magical sky in the evening time.
4. Mount Swansea
Though you can hike Mount Swansea in its entirety, the section I am referring to is at the very top – after you have snaked your way up the mountain in a 4X4 and parked at the peak parking lot. From there, it is a short and sweet hike to the summit. It is worth noting that it is a steep (but short) ascent, so for those with injuries or that struggle with ups, downs and stepping movements, it may not be the hike for them. For small children or those new to hiking however, it the perfect trail full of wonderful scenery, forest and vegetation – with the true highlight being the summit view. On a clear day you can see mountain peaks 360 degrees in every direction, with the ancient Columbia Valley carved out below, decorated with lakes and rivers. Conveniently there are picnic tables and even an outhouse at the top, and the space is big enough that you could spend a while there taking it all in. If you’re lucky, you may even see a paraglider take off or a glider do a fly by.
5. Pedley Pass
At just 2kms from the parking lot to the alpine pass and spread over 300 meters of elevation gain, this hike has everything that a much larger alpine adventure would have – including the amazing vistas. After winding through a quaint forest and up a rocky section of trail, Bumpy Meadows offers the perfect rest plateau or lunch spot before you tackle the second half. Once at the top, the flowers, views and alpine tarn are breathtaking as you look into the heart of the Rockys. It is unusual to reach such a dramatic vista without an enormous hike to get there, and the variety of the trail itself is sure to keep younger ones motivated. It is ideal for a young family finding their hiking feet, or those that want to enjoy alpine views but are unable to do very big climbs or cover lots of kilometres. You do need a high clearance vehicle to access the trail head however, but once you are there the trail itself is well marked.
While it is important to acknowledge our physical limitations, it is equally important to not give them more credit than they deserve, and to stop doing the things that we enjoy entirely. Whatever the location, there is sure to be a good number of approachable, scaleable hikes waiting to be enjoyed.
Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.