Home Destinations Your Weekend Planner: Beat the Heat at these Beaches Near Calgary (May 6-8, 2016)

Your Weekend Planner: Beat the Heat at these Beaches Near Calgary (May 6-8, 2016)

by Karen Ung

This edition of Your Weekend Planner is (mostly) about beating the heat, but wouldn’t be complete without Mother’s Day gift and brunch venue recommendations. Read on to discover how you can keep cool and treat Mom to an unforgettable day! 


Beat the Heat

The best ways to beat the heat are to find water/shade, get to higher elevations, or bike fast enough to make your own breeze. Bookmark these fun itineraries for hot days!

Beach Day Trips

Calgary: The best beaches in town are at private lakes, but there are several pebble beaches worth checking out along the Bow and Elbow Rivers as well as Fish Creek.

2019 update: Note that there have been e-coli advisories on the Elbow River for the past few years, so swim here at your own risk! We have floated the Elbow, but refrain from swimming in it.

We like playing at:

  • Edworthy Park across the bridge from Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream. Grab an ice cream or coffee, then hike the forested Douglas Fir Trail to the lookout (2.2 km return) or bike the Bow River Pathway (east to downtown or west to Shouldice Park). There are several picnic areas in the park, but reservations are recommended on the weekend. Dial 311 to reserve (for a fee). Update: The Douglas Fir Trail reopened November 2017.
    Edworthy Park
  • Mission/Roxboro near 25 Ave SW and Erlton Street. Pick up coffee at Phil & Sebastian on 4th Street or try the amazing pastries at Yann Haute Patisserie at 329 23 Ave SW. There is a lot of great dining on 4th Street and nearby 17th Avenue.
    Mission/Roxboro Beach
  • Bebo Grove, Fish Creek Provincial Park – head SW from the parking lot for river access. Explore as far as you wish! There is a great network of trails, a picnic area, and plenty of shade. Shannon Terrace also has beach access and a picnic area (see the Fish Creek map here). Try Pattiserie du Soleil Bakery & Cafe in Woodbine for delectable treats, breakfast and lunch! (Thanks Jacqueline H. for the recommendation!)
  • Sikome Lake for its public, sandy beach – open June 20-August 30. Bike from Sikome Lake to Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Centre or go for afternoon tea at Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant! Annie’s Bakery is also a favorite stop. For more info on the Bow Valley Ranch area of Fish Creek Park, please see this post. Note that fees will be in effect from 2016 on.
  • River Park/Sandy Beach is fun to explore on a hot day. Nearby Brown’s Socialhouse Brittania is highly recommended for elegant pubfare.
  • Stanley Park’s outdoor pool will open mid June. Swim then play at the playground! Stanley Park to Mission is a nice bike ride along the Elbow River Pathway. Brown’s Socialhouse Brittania is highly recommended for elegant pubfare.
  • Parks with lagoons:
    • St Patrick’s Island – bike here from East Village, Calgary Curling Club or the Calgary Zoo; visit the Bloom Art Installation and George C. King Bridge; let the kids burn off stome steam at the St Patrick’s Island or East Village playgrounds; dine at the Simmon’s Building (Phil & Sebastian Coffee, Sidewalk Citizen Artisan Bakery, or Charbar boutique eatery). You could also bike to Chinatown for dimsum!
    • Prince’s Island –  Lounge by the lagoon and watch the birds, splash in the spray park (across the bridge, in front of Eau Claire Market (spray park opens mid June), throw a frisbee in the field, or bike the Bow River Pathway. River Cafe, located on the island, is a romantic spot for a meal.
    • Bowness Park will be the place to be this summer! The train ride will be back, paddleboat and canoe rentals will be available starting June 2nd, and its spray park will open mid-summer (check here for updates). Seasons of Bowness Teahouse will also open later this year.  For an unforgettable meal, dine at nearby NOtaBLE.
    • To explore bike routes near these parks, check out 10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary.
    • City spray parks, wading pools, and outdoor pools are scheduled to open in mid-June. For opening dates, please check here.
St Patrick’s Island Lagoon in March
East Village Playground
Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant, Fish Creek Provincial Park
Douglas Fir Trail, Edworthy Park
Yann Haute Patisserie’s Creations
Near Calgary (~1 hr drive)
  • Quarry Lake, Canmore: This popular spot is packed on the weekend, but there is a small sandy beach for the kids and great mountain views. Nearby hikes include Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak. There’s lots of good mountain biking at Canmore Nordic Centre. After some outdoor fun, get a coffee at Mountain Mercato or dinner at Habitat, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, The Trough, or Crazy Weed. Tapas is wonderful too, but not suitable for families with little kids.
  • Barrier Lake Day Use (NOT Barrier Dam), Kananaskis: Enjoy the sandy beach! Nearby hikes include Mount Lorette Ponds, Troll Falls, Prairie View, Flowing Waters and several short, interpretive trails in Bow Valley Provincial Park. The closest picnic sites are available at Barrier Dam, Canoe Meadows and Mount Lorette Ponds.
  • Johnson Lake, Banff: A local’s favorite! Play, paddle or hike around this picturesque little lake. Search for the old hermit cabin built in 1910 if you have time. No picnic tables, but there are Red Chairs overlooking the lake (north side). Bring a picnic blanket!
Johnson Lake, Banff
Flowing Water Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park
Barrier Lake, Bow Valley Provincial Park
  • While not exactly a beach, Big Hill Springs Provincial Park has shade and a small creek and falls to splash in as well as a 3 km shaded hike. Only 20 minutes from NW Calgary, this is a great option when you want a quick getaway.

Going Further (~2 hrs or more)

The following provincial parks have swimming lakes with sandy beaches.
  • Aspen Beach Provincial Park (180 km north of Calgary) – Alberta’s oldest provincial park, near Lacombe, has a long sandy beach and warm, shallow water in the “swimming” area at Ebeling Day Use (too shallow for swimming but fun for splashing/wading!). The new beach – Sandy Point – is a great alternative and can be less busy. Be sure to checkout nearby Kraay Family Farm and Lacombe Corn Maze while you’re there!
Aspen Beach Provincial Park
    • Sylvan Provincial Park (160 km N of Calgary) – Camp at Jarvis Bay Provincial Park so you can stay longer! Dana has a great writeup on Water Fun in Red Deer here.
    • Little Bow Provincial Park (166 km SE of Calgary) – Camp at the park so you can stay longer! Boating and paddling permitted. See our trip report here.
      Little Bow Provincial Park Beach
    • Kinbrook Island Provincial Park (207 km SE of Calgary) – camp at the park so you can stay longer! Kinbrook Island is a nice beach destination or stopping spot on the way to Cypress Hills or Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park. Enjoy boating, paddling, and the 4.5 km wetland interpretive trail.
Kinbrook Island Provincial Park
  • Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park (360 km SE of Calgary) has lovely sandy beaches, warm water, paddling, and free mini golf! There are also hiking and mountain biking trails in the park.
Elkwater Lake, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park

Hike (& Ski?)

While a hike near the water is amazing when the mercury climbs, you can also escape the heat by climbing higher. Scroll down for brunch options!

In Banff, hike up Tunnel Mountain or take the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain! During peak season, take the complimentary shuttle from downtown to the gondola! (Leaves from Banff International Hotel and Evelyn’s Coffee Bar every 15 minutes from 10am-6pm. Last shuttle leaves the gondola at 6:15 pm.)
Sulphur Mountain
Near Canmore, Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak are great, but to avoid the crowds, take Spray Lakes Road to West Wind Pass instead – 4.2 km return, 380 m elevation gain. Afterwards, play at Driftwood Day Use Area on the shores of Spray Lake, then head into Canmore for ice cream or a meal. The Old School Bus Ice Cream is a favorite for all ages!
West Wind Pass
Prairie View (near Barrier Lake) is a great spring hike if you’re looking for a longer one to try that isn’t too far!
Prairieview Lookout, Bow Valley Provincial Park
In Bragg Creek, hike Prairie Mountain. Elbow Falls is worth a quick stop before heading back.
Prairie Mountain in March (snow is gone now!)
It’s hard to believe, but Sunshine Village is still open! On May 8th, Moms Ski For Free at Sunshine Village with purchase of child day lift ticket; child must be 6-17 years old). For more events at Sunshine including live music and wine and oyster bar, please go here.


If you bike fast enough, you can make your own breeze to keep cool! Bill Milne bike trail is my favorite paved bike trail. Bike from Kovach Day Use / Ribbon Creek to Wedge Pond. Mount Kidd RV Park/campground makes the perfect ice cream stop!

For mountain bikers, the best spots right now are West Bragg Creek or Canmore Nordic Centre’s trails, but look out for wet sections at ski trail junctions at CNC).

Bike Highway 66 to Forget-Me-Not Pond

The Hwy 66 winter gate is closed between Elbow Falls and Little Elbow Campground until May 15, so have a quiet ride and private picnic before the hordes descend on this lovely spot. 20 kilometres return with a couple BIG hills so I do not recommend biking this with younger children. More info here: Biking Highway 66 from Elbow Falls to Forget-me-not Pond, Bragg Creek.

Hwy 66
Forget-Me-Not Pond, Bragg Creek

Bike the Bow Valley Paved Bike Path

13 km return on rolling terrain with amazing views of Yamnuska. Details here. Have a picnic at Middle Lake and try some of the nearby interpretive trails if you have time.

Bow Valley Paved Bike Path, Bow Valley Provincial Park
Middle Lake, Bow Valley Provincial Park

Mother’s Day Brunch

You could make Mom breakfast (I prefer breakfast at home in my jammies), but brunch out is such a treat! The following restaurants will be serving Mother’s Day Brunch. Call ahead for reservations.

Banff: Banff Springs, The Bison, The Rimrock, Buffalo Mountain Lodge
Bragg Creek: Bavarian Inn, Powderhorn Saloon, Italian Farmhouse, Creekers Bistro
Calgary: Heritage Park, Winsport (Canada Olympic Park), Calgary Zoo, The Lake House, Ox and Angela, River Cafe, Carriage House Inn
Canmore: Chez Francois (rated #1 breakfast in Canmore on TripAdvisor), Habitat
Kananaskis: Mount Engadine Lodge
Lake Louise: Chateau Lake Louise, Deer Lodge

Gifts of Adventure

Making memories is better than any gift. For Mother’s Day, birthdays, graduation, or Christmas, consider gifting an adventure! Go together for even more fun.
  • Brewster Attractions: Banff Gondola (May 1-Dec 31), Banff Lake Cruise (May 6-Oct 9), Maligne Lake Cruise (will open May 14 weather permitting), Glacier Adventure (Apr 15-Oct 16), or Glacier Skywalk (Apr 15-Oct 16). Until May 31, Alberta residents may buy the Epic Summer Pass that includes all 5 attractions for a discounted rate (available until May 31).
  • Boundary Ranch Trail Rides – Rides of different lengths available. Minimum age 6 years and 40 pounds, but pony rides are available for children under 6.
  • Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola – opens May 13
  • Mount Norquay Via Ferrata – opens June 10
  • Canmore Cave Tours Rat’s Nest Cave – year round, age 10+. Squeeze through the Laundry Chute, rappel down into a large cavern, and explore the network of caves below Grotto Mountain. I loved it!
  • Whitewater Rafting  – Inside Out Experience, Chinook RaftingDiscover Banff ToursCanadian Rockies Rafting, and Kananaskis White Water Rafting offer rafting trips down the Kananaskis River that are suitable for beginners and families. Most rafting companies operate from mid-May to mid-September. Minimum age 5 years old and minimum weight 40 pounds for Kananaskis White Water Rafting.
  • Snowy Owl Dogsledding (Canmore) – I know you can’t do this until winter, but it is so.much.fun!! Fun for all ages!
Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola
Dogsledding at West Spray Lakes

Events This Weekend

Calgary: Be sure to check out a local Jane’s Walk! Jane Jacobs, an urban activist, wanted individuals to experience their communities on foot or by bike and connect with their community. There will be walks all over the city from May 6-8, 2016. See the Calgary Jane’s Walk page for more information.

What will you do this weekend?? Let me know if I missed a favorite eatery or beach!

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Playoutsidegal May 6, 2016 - 6:25 AM

Thank you, Jacqueline! I just checked out their website and the menu looks amazing! 🙂 Hopefully we can go there together some time!

Jacqueline May 6, 2016 - 3:56 AM

There is a great bakery Cafe in woodbine area called Pattisorie du soleil. Good Brunch type of food. One to add for Bebo grove write up.

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