canmore with kids | rocky mountains | road trips | family travel | canmore alberta

Mountain Road Trip – Frugal Fun in Canmore With Kids

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Are you going to be traveling to Canmore with kids?  If you are lucky to be visiting (or live in) this gorgeous town right in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, check out this post for frugal activities you can do with the family.

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The Rocky Mountains are a mecca for the adventurous traveler or outdoor enthusiast family.  The towns that sit nestled among the snow-capped peaks are gorgeous and full of exciting activities to cross off your bucket list, but they are not known for being cheap places to visit or live.

My husband and I recently came back from a Rocky Mountain road trip with our toddler to Canmore, Alberta, right in the heart of the beautiful Canadian Rocky Mountains.  We were determined to do this trip frugal-style.  I had been to Canmore many times (and my husband has many more) but we had never been to Canmore with kids.

Although pre-kid I preferred to wing it when traveling, post-kid this doesn’t work as well, especially if you are trying to save money.   After much research, here is a list of five outdoor activities and five indoor activities to do with your family in and around Canmore that will keep your budget intact.  There are so many things to do in Canmore in winter, spring, summer, or fall – it’s gorgeous in every season.

For us to drive there took more than 28 hours round-trip from where we live.  In case you missed the post, check out all our tips and tricks for surviving a long road trip with kids.  Also this post on your survival guide to long road trips with toddlers.

Outside adventures in Canmore with kids:

As great as the restaurants and cafes might be, cold brew pour overs are not why people flock to the Rocky Mountains.  Hiking and exploring outside in such a gorgeous place are wonderful family activities with built-in frugality.  If you are like my husband and I, you might only know the Rockies from an adult perspective, with hikes and climbs that work well with adult legs and stamina.  The hikes below are of shorter duration and less elevation gain.  This will help your little companions or yourself if you end up carrying your child for part of the hike.

For the hikes that are suggested, only you know what your family is comfortable with.  What might be considered an easy hike to some families could be more challenging to others who might not be as used to hiking or the outdoors.  Proper gear can make a big difference to your comfort level on the hike, and even more importantly to your kids comfort level (and therefore everyone’s happiness!)

If the littlest ones aren’t happy, it’s going to be hard for anyone to enjoy the day out.  Even on a short hike, with kids it is extra important to make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks.  Heck, I bring both those things when we walk three blocks away from our house to the neighbourhood playground.

Related content:

rocks are free to play with

Helpful gear for hikes with kids

This is similar to the hat my toddler is wearing above – I love Outdoor Research hats!  My husband and I have them too.  It has UPF of 50+ and you can smoosh it in your bag and it pops back to its shape when you take it back out.  The best part is that my daughter will tolerate (and actually likes) wearing it.  Usually she rips hats right off her head but not this one.

For hydration needs on a hike, I don’t mind if water gets a bit warm in a bottle on a hot day.  But my toddler still sometimes prefers to drink milk, and I don’t want that to heat up as we’re hiking.  I use this kids insulated thermos with a straw all the time, not just on trips and I absolutely love it.  We have it in that exact colour.  It keeps cold drinks cold for up to 10 hours (!!!) and is very sturdy.  It has held up to a toddler dropping it multiple times and still works well.  I love that I could fill it with milk in the morning and not worry about freshness throughout the day.

Related content: 5 tips for van camping road trips with a toddler 

When you are out exploring, remember that forests and peaks and valleys are not just for us and our tiny hiking companions.  Bears and marmots and everything in between call these beautiful spaces their home and we need to be aware.  My daughter saw her first bear on a very busy and easy trail so be alert in your surroundings (more on that below!)

Centennial Park fitness circuit

This is a fun option if your kids are older.  It’s not recommended for kids under age 12 and teens from 12-15 can only use the equipment if they are with an adult.   There are nine different fitness stations and it’s akin to getting a gym workout outdoors and with much better views.

Playgrounds

There are 28 playgrounds in Canmore for children aged 18 months to 12 years. Let your kids run around and play in some of the prettiest playgrounds they will ever explore.  A couple of particularly interesting choices are the Canmore train playground and the West Canmore park playground.

Quarry Lake Park

Quarry Lake is a day use area in Canmore. There are several short trails ranging from 1km to 3km (~3/4 mile to 2 miles) which are great for families with young kids.  Picnic areas, swimming, and an off-leash dog park are other features of Quarry Lake.

Seeing as it currently takes forty minutes to walk two blocks to the grocery store and back with my toddler, a short hike seemed like a good idea.  I picked the Quarry Lake hike to do with my toddler on our day alone when my husband had meetings.  When I told one of his colleagues we were doing that trail, his words were “Great!  It’s so populated you won’t need to worry about bears at all!”

With a parking lot that was packed and tons of kids loudly speeding along the trail on bikes, I assumed he was right.  We were coming to the farthest point of this very short hike when I noticed something large moving around in the bushes.  This was no dog.  I told my daughter it was a bear as we retreated and gave it a lot of space.  She asked me to “go see it?”  I went over a toddler version of bear safety as we were walking away and we finished up the hike, my breathing a little faster from the adrenaline of the bear siting.

An easy hike around the lake

Grassi Lakes Trail Canmore

Grassi Lakes trail is a popular family-friendly hike. The ~3km (2mile) hike leads to views of beautiful turquoise mountain lakes and a waterfall.  There is an easier option and a more difficult option which is steeper but both are considered beginner hikes.

If you have any fear of exposure though (my hand is up over here), I would recommend the easier option.  It is well marked so you won’t miss it.  Dogs are allowed on the trail if they are leashed up.  Our daughter loved seeing all the dogs on this hike, definitely a highlight for her.

Grotto Canyon Hike

This is an out-and-back hike that is approximately 4 km (2.5 miles). The trail meanders through a narrow creek bed with views of a waterfall, a cave, ancient Hopi pictographs, and hoodoos.  Once you get to the canyon there are uneven rocks, so make sure everyone is wearing proper shoes, and some hikers might like a walking stick.

Grotto Canyon hike is good with older kids, or families that are more experienced outdoors and may not be the best for people with mobility challenges.  The canyon walls are popular with rock climbers in the summer and ice climbers in the winter.

Related: 6 best tips for air travel with a baby 

A running toddler is a happy toddler

Inside adventures in Canmore with kids:

A list of indoor places you can take the kids is important in any city or town.  It is especially essential in a mountain town that might have more inclement weather.  The five ideas below offer a variety of ideas, including food, reading, arts and crafts, and sport.  They are all either free or inexpensive and sure to be appeal to your kids when you have to take an indoor day.

Rocky Mountain Bagel Co

Get your carb on at this spot that is loved by locals and visitors alike. If you didn’t pack food ahead for the day and are eating out, an inexpensive lunch is a bagel and cream cheese – which is kid-friendly food too.

Canmore Public Library

Weather can be notoriously fickle in the mountains. If you need a rainy day activity with kids that won’t cost any money, take the family to the library.  You can browse and read right there with the kids, even if you don’t have a library card for the town.  There are drop-in reading programs for babies and kids that are free and no sign-up ahead of time necessary.  This is a cozy spot to hang out if you are waiting for the sun to come out again (or at least for it to stop snowing in June).

canmore with kids | frugal family travel | frugal travel
You would look wary too if you just saw your first bear IRL

artsPlay!

artsPlace hosts a weekly drop-in called artsPlay!  This is a free event for the family, every Sunday from 11:15am to noon.  The art centre provides arts and crafts materials and messiness is welcomed.

Food and Friends

Michael’s Anglican Church hosts a free community dinner called Food and Friends on Monday nights from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. You do not need to be a member of this church, or of the Anglican (or any!) faith to participate.  This is a non-denominational healthy and free supper.

Pickleball

Play Pickleball Saturdays at the Cougar Creek arena from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. If you have never heard of pickleball, you aren’t alone.  I had to Google “what is pickleball” for this list.  What I found out is it is a paddle game that is a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong.  Players hit a Wiffle Ball over a net.  It is a good game for all ages and skill levels, and is easy for a beginner to pick up. Equipment for the game can be signed out at Elevation Place.  The hours are drop-in, no signing up ahead of time is necessary.

If you are visiting the Rocky Mountains, you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money on excursions.  With a little planning, you can have frugal family adventures in one of the most beautiful environments in the world!

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rocky mountains | family travel | travel with kids | road trip

Have you ever been to the Rockies or Canmore with kids?


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23 thoughts on “Mountain Road Trip – Frugal Fun in Canmore With Kids”

  1. Looks like an amazing trip and the mountains are beautiful!

  2. Great tips. So cool that they offer things for all ages, wouldn’t have expected playgrounds or a library!

    1. Their train playground is so cute 🙂 And even though people go to the Rockies for the outdoors, it’s great to have some indoor ideas for Canmore with kids like the free library programs or the arts center for kids.

  3. Joanne

    Sounds like you had a great trip and there seems to be a great range of activities to keep the kids amused too!

    1. It was a great trip! Even places that are not known for being cheap you can always find ways to save money 🙂

  4. Looks like a great place to vacation. My wife and I took a few days off last week and vacationed on Ashville, NC.

    It is always fun to get away and unplug.

    1. It is a great place to vacation, so relaxing and fun at the same time (slightly less relaxing with a toddler-haha). I foresee many more trips there in our future! 🙂 Your vacation sounds amazing. I had a work conference years ago in Ashville – it’s so gorgeous there!

  5. Great pictures! We have been to Canmore once with our first kid…he was around 2 years then. To summarize, we did not get the most out of it…kid did not want to be out a lot or maybe we were not just well prepared. Definitely, future trips will be well planned out….that area is just so gorgeous!

    1. That’s too bad it didn’t work out well your first time out there. Sometimes you do everything you can, and luck is just not on your side when traveling with kids! They’re full of surprises 🙂

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  14. Samantha

    We love the pump track/mountain bike development park. Our toddler used it with his balance bike, and we look forward to riding their again now that he’s pedalling! Elevation place is also a great place to pop in for a swim especially if you are camping or not staying at a hotel with a pool!

    1. LOVE the idea to try the mountain bike park with a balance bike! Miss O loves her balance bike, we’ll have to try this next time we’re there.

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