We’re pretty spoiled for choice in Alberta, especially if you live around Calgary. If you’re into outdoor adventure there’s so many things to do. Trouble is, everyone is doing the same things in the same places. I guess they don’t know about Sundre, a sweet, small town situated a mere hour north of Calgary and east of the Banff National Park boundary. Forget Banff, Bragg Creek and Canmore! There are loads of things to do in Sundre for both families and outdoor adventurers, but without the crowds those other destinations are plagued by.
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Things to do in Sundre
A lot of my friends beg me not to give away their secret spots for fear of tourists. Too bad! Sundre is an under the radar gem more people need to know about. There were so many things to do in Sundre, you’ll have a hard time fitting it all in over a weekend. Here’s a game plan to get you started.
Biking in Sundre
The big deal in Sundre is their mountain biking scene. There’s a wide variety of both technical and beginner trails, and you can park and ride to everything. Best is, hardly anyone is on these trails that range from 1-2 km or up 10 km in length. (Plus there’s 15 km of trails just north of town.)
The Sundre Bike and Ski Club has developed two to three km of trails on the Red Deer River Valley system. There’s single and double track, plus a wide gravel track you can ride five abreast. It’s a multi-use trail so watch out for hikers. And moose! Tip: There’s a trailhead and plenty of parking at Alder Close.
Now if you head north on the River Valley trails, you can veer left onto 12th Avenue, connecting with the town’s paved trail systems that takes you to Snake Hill Recreation Area. What’s nice about this region is you get the total feel of mountain biking without exposing yourself to the risk. There’s nine km of biking trails at Snake Hill, and it actually feels pretty remote on these single track trails, even though you’re never more than 40 ft away from the main, well travelled trails.
Contact the Bike and Ski Club for advice at: firstname.lastname@example.org or join their Tuesday night ride.
World of Wildlife
If your kid loves critters as much as mine, you’ll want to hightail it to the World of Wildlife at the Sundre Museum. Here, you’ll find 170 mounts from around the world. No lie, that’s a lot of taxidermy! It’s fun though, and you’ll learn a ton, especially if you visit Thursday through Sunday in summer, when Daniel is guiding. This dude knows so much about the animal kingdom your kids will be enthralled, trust.
Be sure to head outside before departing. There’s an old ranger station to wander through, plus other heritage buildings that people can explore at length. It’s so laid back, kids can ring the school bell, write all over the one-room school chalkboard and burn off energy running around the grounds.
Wild Horses Alberta
You’ve likely seen these majestic creatures from the highway. There’s approximately 2,000 wild horses in Alberta. When their numbers get too high, the government culls them. This is where the Wild Horses of Alberta Society (WHOAS), comes in. This society rescues the horses and resettles them into loving stables.
There’s no formal program, but visitors are welcome to tour the outdoor facility for an up close and personal experience with wild horses. Currently there’s a herd of six, plus two colts. There’s no charge to visit, but donations greatly appreciated. You’ll need to set up your visit in advance by emailing: WHOASalberta@gmail.com.
Horseback riding near Calgary
Further equine experiences can be had on trail rides with Sunset Guiding and Outfitting. Situated an hour’s drive west of Sundre, this outfitter takes children as young as four years old for hour-long trail rides. Older peeps can go longer rides – up to a full day from May until Thanksgiving.
We opted for a two-hour trail ride that delivered sweeping views of the Rockies, Kline Lake and the Panther River Valley. I’ve been on a lot of trail rides in my day and these horses were well cared for and super gentle. It was truly a delight to mosey though an area as pretty as you’d find anywhere in the Rockies.
White water rafting
If outdoor adventure is what you’re after, look no further than barreling down the Upper Red Deer River with Mukwah Rafting Tours. Fun fact: The Red Deer River is a natural river, not dammed up like the Kananaskis. This means more rapids and more excitement. There’s a sampler 17 km tour, but most tend to go for the Full Jaunty – a four-hour, 25 km paddle. If they offer to stop in an eddy so you can do 10-ft. cliff jump, leap at this opportunity!
They provide wetsuits, water boots, helmets and life jackets, plus you’ll get lunch before you raft, chowing down on homemade soup, sandwiches, fruit, veg and dessert. Rafting is surprisingly tiring, so think about adding on a steak BBQ at the end of your tour.
As refreshing as cooling off on a hot summer day is, I was most jazzed to hear about their midnight float trips! Yes, on the three to four days on either side of a full moon you can float down the river by the light of it. Kids as young as four-years-old can join this excursion, as you bob down a tamer, rapid-free section of the river. The moon floats don’t start until after midnight, so think carefully about bringing tired kids. Check Mukwah’s website to see when this is next offered.
Sundre golf course
Admittedly, I don’t know much about golf, but I do know a beautiful course when I see one. Ten years ago the Sundre Golf Club went from a small town country course to a legitimate challenge that’s hosted the Alberta open. You can play 18-holes for $79 on weekends – probably one of the reasons it was recently voted the best value course in Alberta.
Good to know
Before you go, download the Town’s mobile App which has an interactive trails maps and other helpful tips.
If you plan on staying overnight (worth it) consider these camping and hotel options.