Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail – Hiking with Kids

With this week’s poor air quality rating and the repaving related traffic snarls on Scott Lake Hill we chose to avoid getting stuck in traffic on Hwy 1 went to Bragg Creek instead.

It’s always a challenge finding a the right trail that will suit the kids and adults alike. My criteria are:

  • The location must be in the mountains or as wild as possible
  • The return distance should be 2-3km; maybe up to 5km but then we’re getting in carrying and whining
  • If possible it should end in something interesting that will give the kids a reason to keep going. Waterfalls, lakes, viewpoints, etc are all “interesting”
  • The ratio of outdoor time to driving time must be greater than one. Example: if it’s a 1 hr drive to get somewhere we have to be outdoors for at least 2 hours to make it worthwhile. With our current nap schedule it’s challenging to reach more distant places.

We took the kids out for a nice easy hike along the Beaver Flats Interpretive Trail. The trailhead is a small paved pull-off just past the Elbow Falls parking lot. From there the well built trail drops down towards the river and follows along a marshy fenland near the Elbow river.

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The trail is well maintained and critical bridges have been rebuilt after the 2013 flooding that wiped out a huge amount of infrastructure in this region. Like our trip to Upper Kananaskis Lakes we brought the Chariot again and pressed it into service as pack-mule and rescue-vehicle for tired kids. The Upper Kan trail was challenging for the Chariot with roots and narrow sections, and by comparison the Beaver Flats trail was easy terrain for our mule.

The best part for the kids was the series of beaver dams along the way. They enjoyed looking for beavers (we only saw a frog and some ducks), standing a beaver’s house, and throwing rocks in the water.

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The trail ends at the Beaver Flats campground, conveniently right near some outhouses too. We turned around there and followed the trail back all the way back to the first bridge where we ate lunch.

In the end Logan (3.9 yrs) and Riley (2.5 yrs) both hiked the whole distance and there was no need to use the Chariot for them. Emily (5mo) rode happily in the Ergo for half the trip then in the Chariot for the other half. Total distance according my Gem Trek map is 1.3km one-way, however measured on Google Maps it shows only 950m. Either way, the kids did 2 km or more without whining or crying and it was a fun morning.

One of the best parts of this hike is that it was very low stress. It doesn’t take long to get there, you don’t need anything in particular for it, and it isn’t a committing trail. Another important aspect is that I had already lowered my expectations for the day and wasn’t anticipating a summit or a lot of distance. This really helped frame the day as a chance to be outside, to play in the mountains, and to create a positive experience for everyone.

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