👋We're back! (And so is the amazing Bow Valley Parkway bike ride)
We've missed you.
Hello! It’s sure nice to be back.
After a nearly year-long break from our little pandemic project, we’ve decided to revive Go Outside. We’ll be back in your inbox weekly-ish with advice, stories, trip reports, interviews and other outdoorsy goodness. (Think ⛰️🥾️🌲🎿🚲🏕️ + more.)
Why? We’ve heard time and time again over the last 12 months that you’ve missed us! And we’ve missed you. Going outside continues to bring both of us so much joy and we want to share that with you.
So, let’s jump in! Today we have a quick housekeeping item, a brief update on our lives, and then some intel about the Bow Valley Parkway, which you should absolutely visit before it re-opens to cars on October 1. Annalise biked the route on Sunday and then hung out in Banff and was reminded how lucky we are to live a 70-minute drive from such a stunning area that people travel from around the world to see.
Some important housekeeping: We’ve turned on paid subscriptions. This is something our community asked repeatedly about in 2021. Reader contributions will support our writing while keeping our content free for everyone to read. We know there are enough barriers to going outside already and we don’t want to create another one by putting our writing behind a subscriber-only paywall.
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Update time! Annalise here. I had a baby in November. The first few months were a whirlwind but included many, many walks, which were so recharging after such a tough pregnancy. I tried to go outside every day (even if it was just a meander around the block), which is something I would highly recommend to anyone, and especially anyone with a newborn. Baby’s first visit to the mountains occurred at eight-days old with a simple walk to Silverton Falls and he’s been back to the mountains many times since.
I returned to work in April (my partner is loving his parental leave) and my flexible work schedule has meant time for some solid family adventures, including a couple backpacking trips this summer (such as the one pictured above). I can confirm everything parents say about time flying by is true (how is he already 10-months old?!) and while going outside certainly looks different with a little one, it’s (somehow) even more enjoyable.
Cailynn here. My son is now 17-months-old (like Annalise said, time really flies!) It’s amazing watching the world through his eyes and experiencing nature in a slower way. I had a lot of fun taking him cross-country skiing this past winter (he got to enjoy the scenery from a baby carrier backpack), and even tried a few hikes, which is not an activity I normally do in the winter.
I returned to full-time work in the spring, writing about everything from what the heck is a national urban park to why Banff and Canmore are holding on to pandemic-era pedestrian zones. I am getting outside in different ways, like a cherished commute to daycare by bike, and a lot of time spent at playgrounds and wading pools. Turns out once you have a kid of a certain age, you gain a whole new appreciation for Calgary because of its many, many parks.
Bow Valley Parkway
If you’re looking for something to do this September, we can not stress this enough: Go bike or rollerblade or scoot the Bow Valley Parkway (also known as Highway 1A, the scenic secondary highway between Banff and Lake Louise.)
The route was first closed to cars during the early days of COVID-19 and this summer, Parks Canada launched a three-year pilot program that closes the road to cars (thus opening it up to people!) in May and most of June, and again in September. We’ve both biked the Parkway several times since 2020 and loved it.
This year, there’s no parking at the East Gate, so Annalise recommends parking at the free Train Station Public Parking in Banff. Then, cross the crosswalk by Fenlands Rec Centre/the Banff sign and you’re on the trail to Vermillion Lakes. Continue to follow Vermillion Lakes Road (note there are a few cars on this portion) for about 7 km and you’ll eventually hit the East Gate welcome signs for the Parkway.
Johnston Canyon is 17 km from the East Gate, meaning if you park in Banff, bike to Johnston Canyon and bike back, you’re looking at about a 48 km trip. It took Annalise’s group of four adults plus baby in a bike trailer about two hours to get to Johnston Canyon (going at a fairly leisurely pace, stopping for a long snack break after the big hill) and then about 80 minutes to get back to the parking lot in Banff. (It’s more downhill on the return trip.)
At Johnston Canyon, there’s a cafe (ice cream!) and a restaurant, and you can hike to the Lower Falls. Do note the trail between the Lower Falls and Upper Falls is currently closed.
It’s truly a beautiful route and it’s refreshing to see so many people of different ages and abilities enjoying the stunning scenery. E-bikes can be rented right in Banff (meaning no need for a vehicle bike rack) and are very popular on the trail.
If you do go, give our Bow Valley Parkway Bingo card a try, share it with your pals and let us know how you fare!
⛰️🥾️ Go Outside is written by Annalise & Cailynn — writers, outdoor enthusiasts and sisters who’ve been hiking, biking and skiing near Calgary since childhood and continue to be happiest outside.
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