1. Bow River Trail and Fenland Trail, Banff
This family-friendly pair of trails is in the heart of Banff. Start at Central Park, where you can have a picnic or play on the very cool rock playground (rocks with footholds and handholds to scramble around on). Then head out on the quiet, mostly paved, flat 2.3-kilometre Bow River Trail, which twists along the Bow River. At the end, you can join the Fenland Trail, a wide dirt path that circles for two kilometres around the white spruce forest along the shores of 40 Mile Creek, and then head back to Central Park for a total of 6.6 kilometres.
Central Park parking lot, near Banff Avenue, Banff
2. Banff Trail, Canmore
A great trail for mountain biking beginners, the Banff Trail is easy to access at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. The mostly single-track trail begins to the left of the biathlon range and makes an easy two-kilometre circle, with some gentle but fun ups and downs through the woodlands. Tip: Ride in a counter-clockwise direction.
Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, 4.7 km south of Canmore on Smith-Dorrien-Spray Lakes Road (Highway 742)
3. Jasper Discovery Trail, Jasper
Part of Jasper’s Easy Trails System, the wide, level, multi-use 8.3-kilometre Discovery Trail goes right around the town of Jasper. It can be accessed at multiple points—just look for the bear head symbol. There are plenty of signs, markers and maps, so you can’t get lost, as well as information on the area’s history and ecology. For a gentle paved section (and, ahem, Bear’s Paw Bakery on Pyramid Road, by Connaught Drive), stick to the south side by the main street; for moderate hills with views of the town, mountain peaks and river valleys, pedal to the north side.
Jasper (multiple entry points)
4. River Valley, Edmonton
Edmonton’s vast River Valley, following the North Saskatchewan River, has 22 parks and more than 150 kilometres of trails to explore. Try this kid-size route, about four kilometres (one way) on hard-packed multi-use trails: Begin at Kinsmen Park on the south side of the river, known for a great spray park and ice cream trucks. Go northeast toward the river to Walterdale Park and the John Walter Museum, where you can travel back in time to pioneer days (check out the Discovery Room to play with toys that kids would have used more than 100 years ago). Then bike along the river and enjoy the views, heading northeast (away from the river) to your last stop, Muttart Conservatory and its four glass pyramids, which are home to a huge variety of indoor plants and a cascading waterfall. Relax and wander the gardens or snack on fresh local fare at the Culina café.
Kinsmen Park, 9100 Walterdale Hill NW
Free for trail; donation welcome at museum; fee for Conservatory
5. Kootenai Brown Trail, Waterton
This hard-packed trail runs nearly seven kilometres (one-way) between the park gates and the Visitor Centre at the Waterton townsite. It offers a safe way to get from point A to B without going on the highway and still get plenty of views of the area’s famously scenic mountain peaks, green valleys, wildflowers and lake. Once you’re in Waterton, you can grab a bite and bike along the Townsite Loop Trail to check out kid-approved options like the splash pad and playground in the centre of town.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Hwy 6
$19.60 per family
6. Confederation Park Trail, Calgary
This four-kilometre trail in Calgary’s pretty Confederation Park is great for families with younger kids. Bike over bridges, see ducks and geese in the natural wetland area, watch dragonflies zip over the spring-fed creek and take breaks to play on the large swaths of well-tended lawn. Make a day of it: There are two playgrounds, public washrooms, tennis courts, a golf course and lots of benches and picnic tables (fun tip: each picnic site is named after a different province).
Confederation Park, 24th Avenue & 14th Street NW to 30th Avenue & 10th Street NW