THINGS TO DO:
Zoos, Sanctuaries & Wildlife Parks
We want our kids to have the same respect for their wild neighbours as they have for their human ones, so we take them out in nature whenever we can. We are always on the lookout for fresh places to go on our next family nature walk in central Alberta.
Tips for Hiking in Alberta with Kids
We find it’s best to go early morning – getting there by 9 – while everyone is fresh and the park is just waking up. Wear closed-toed shoes. Pack snacks and drinks, hats, bug spray and sunscreen, a blanket for your picnic, your camera and binocs. And each little guy can bring his very own bucket to collect sticks, pebbles, pinecones, leaves and those cool twirly helicopter seeds.
Here are a couple of our favourite side by side spots.
Follow the Leader into the Ministik
Ministik Lake Bird Sanctuary is the oldest of its kind in Canada – more than 100 years – and part of Beaver Hills/Cooking Lake moraine just 45 minutes southeast of Edmonton near the hamlet of New Sarepta.
Retreating glaciers left behind this unique knob and kettle terrain and a very diverse ecosystem of upland forest, pothole lakes, low meadows and shallow marshes. With more than 80 species of birds here year round and another 150 species migrating through, it’s the perfect place for your budding birder to start a lifer list. In spring and fall watch for tundra swans, American white pelicans and double-crested cormorants.
We like to take turns as leader to climb the rising hummocks through the long grasses. Ministik has only one marked trail, so you’ll mostly follow game trails smack in the middle of untouched nature. Listen for songbirds, woodpeckers and loons. Search small ponds for skinny-legged water striders skating across the surface. Keep an eye out for lynx, deer, elk and moose. Last trip, we stopped by the cattails at the edge of a wetland and explained to the kids how it acts like a great big water filter. We also learned you need to spray cattails with a fixative if you take any home for decoration. Trust me on this one.
Picnic with the Swans
Afterward, drive to the nearby day-use Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Recreation Area for your picnic lunch. Once you’ve refuelled and refreshed, take the short Swan Trail from Waskehegan staging area (0.7 km) to look for the very large and very rare pairs of trumpeter swans that nest by Running Dog Lake. Or walk 2 km from the Blackfoot staging area to Heron Hollow to see a colony of blue herons wading in the lake. Magic.