Treks in the city: Where to walk in Calgary

small river in the Weaselhead Natural Area, CalgaryWhen in need of a nature fix, we Calgarians have a bountiful selection parks and trails to satisfy our need for green. Here are my favourite areas for escaping the city without ever leaving it.

Weaselhead Flats

I just enjoyed a gorgeous walk here with a friend. It was an unusually warm autumn Saturday. The receding waters of the Glenmore Reservoir reflected mirror images of the shoreline foliage. The air carried that earthy aroma of damp leaves that tells your senses the time for hibernation is near, but not quite here yet. Chickadees chirped and ground squirrels scurried in the rustling leaves.

Much of the area is marshy, with all of the wetlands wildlife you’d expect. Ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl are common. Beavers and muskrats love this area too. In summer, hummingbirds also enjoy hanging out in the flats.

pathway, trail sign and waterway in Weaselhead Flats Natural Area, a great place to walk in Calgary

Weaselhead Flats

Some interesting history: the area was once used by the Canadian military for training and they left some un-exploded ordinance behind. It had all been cleared, but floods in 2013 churned up some new risky bits. The park was closed for months while crews cleared the area, and it’s now deemed safe again.

Nose Hill Park

This 11-acre grasslands preserve in the middle of Calgary bestows views of the city and the Rocky Mountains from its highest points. The paved trails are popular with cyclists and dog owners, but there are less-traveled footpaths where walkers can find solitude.

Gophers, squirrels, rabbits and birds are common sights; deer and coyotes also make appearances. Look out for historical artifacts like tipi rings and stone cairns, remnants of the indigenous people who once camped in the area. A new stone medicine wheel was recently created by a Blackfoot elder as a tribute to his people’s spirits and ancestors.

grasslands and foliage in Nose Hill Park, where you'll find lots of trails to walk in Calgary

Nose Hill Park

At first glance the park looks like one big hill, taking the shape of a nose from some directions. But off the main paths you’ll discover dips, gullies and bushy patches in which getting temporarily lost is a real possibility. If you do get turned around, just head for higher ground and you’ll soon have your bearings. This trail map might help too. It shows the main trails, usage zones, parking areas and entrances to the park.

Douglas Fir Trail

This park runs along the north side of the Bow River. The main trails are part of the official Bow River Pathway network and they do see a lot of cycle traffic. Again, the narrower footpaths are better for walkers seeking solitude.

You’ll find lots of elevation change here, since the trails crisscross the steep escarpment of the Bow River. I’m partial to the lesser-used east end of the park accessed from Cedar Crescent. It’s dense with Douglas Fir trees, poplars, shrubs and wildflowers in season.

Be warned: one of my past walks ended with me accidentally bursting onto the adjoining golf course while a foursome was in mid-putt. Confusion and then laughter ensued.

douglasfirtrail

Douglas Fir Trail

Like the other parks, this one has a history. Thomas Edworthy established a sandstone quarry in the area in the late 1800’s. His neighbour John Lawrey planted fruits and vegetables on his sizeable homestead along the railway tracks. It was a profitable garden market serving both his neighbours and the railway crews passing through regularly.

More walker’s paradises

Two more parks within the city offering good walking trails:

  • Fish Creek – a massive 19 km-wide provincial park within the city limits.
  • Inglewood Bird Sanctuary – a haven for migratory birds, this area will soon become part of a larger regional park. Best visited in summer for the greatest concentration of feathered friends.
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park near Calgary

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

And a couple more within 30 minutes drive of Calgary:

  • Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park – recently gifted to the province by the ranching family who raised cattle on the land for decades.
  • Bragg Creek – Another provincial park, this one has a number of summer trails. You might encounter bears or cougars here – read up on wildlife safety before heading out!

Happy trails,

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