According to The City of Calgary’s website, Calgary has the most extensive urban pathway network in North America, with 984 kilometres of regional pathways and 96 kilometres of trails that connect communities, parks, and natural areas across the city. Whether you want to take your toddler for their first tricycle ride, cruise a safe pathway with your six- to 10-year-old, or rack up the kilometres with your experienced teen, there’s a path out there for you.
1. Beginner (for ages three to seven) Prince’s Island Park - 3 kilometres
This downtown urban oasis is a wonderful choice for cycling with small children. On sunny weekdays, the paths are generally easy to navigate and there are not many hills. The added attraction of watching the ducks and geese on the river make it a great place to bring small children for an afternoon of fun with bikes in tow. Feel free to ride the paved circular paths around the almost 50-acre park or cut into the island’s middle.
If you would like to add a little history and education into your trip, cycle the Chevron Learning Pathway, an environmental educational pathway on the east end of Prince’s Island Park. The pathway winds around a constructed wetland designed to treat stormwater before entering back into the Bow River.
Interesting interpretive signage explains how a wetland works and presents meaningful information about wildlife, habitat, and water quality. It is an environmental, educational, and recreational resource that connects people with nature in an interactive way.
2. Intermediate (for ages eight to 12) Eau Claire to Edworthy Park - 14 kilometres
Eau Claire Park is a great place to start another somewhat more challenging ride, perfect for families with older children.
This ride is busier, longer, and contains more hills but the payoff is huge! If you cycle west and continue until you reach Edworthy Park, you will enjoy one of the most gorgeous rides in the city. Edworthy Park covers 418 acres, and the ride along its lengthy and wooded river edge is truly breathtaking. The path gets busy on weekdays and weekends, so it is important that your children know the bike path safety rules (see sidebar), are able to stay in their own lane, and use appropriate hand signals.
Another attraction on this ride is the Harry Boothman Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in the city. If you are up for it after your break, continue heading east along the north side of the Bow River. You’ll soon reach Poppy Plaza, an impactful war memorial inscribed with quotes from people of all walks of life.
As you near downtown, you’ll cross the pedestrian and cyclists’ Peace Bridge back into Eau Claire Park where you started.
3. Expert (for ages 12 and older) Nose Hill Park - Up to 40 kilometres
At 2,800 acres, Nose Hill is one of the largest urban parks in North America. There are 32 trails of pathways to explore. This is a difficult pathway with many steep hills and twists and turns and is better suited for older children. Most of it is paved, but there are some gravel and dirt sections, too. If you are up for a challenge, make the climb to Plateau Trail where you’ll get views of the Rocky Mountains, Bow River Valley, and plains to the east.
Although the park’s 11 square kilometres is surrounded by 12 communities, you will feel like you are far outside the city, deep in the wilderness. Nose Hill Park is home to many creatures, so don’t be surprised if you and the kids run into a number of animals ranging from mice to gophers to deer to coyotes. If you look up, you might even see a Swainson’s hawk, a bird species that frequents the area.
For up-to-date pathway notices and trail closures, visit calgary.ca. The website includes a detailed network map in three formats: mobile app, online, and paper copy.
Wherever you choose to cycle with your family, the benefits will be the same and include:
What better way to get your children their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day (which one-third of children don’t currently achieve)? In addition to longer rides like the ones listed in this article, cycling with your kids in your own neighborhood can help them explore their surroundings, get to know their neighbors, identify important landmarks (including fire and police stations), and learn about their community to prevent them from getting lost.
Cycling offers a certain kind of freedom to kids (something they don’t often get a lot of these days). Cycling builds kids’ confidence, independence, they learn new skills, interact with their surroundings, and depend less on you for rides to school, friends’ houses, and other local attractions (post-pandemic).
As with all positive behaviors you want your kids to pick up, they will be more likely to do it if they see you doing it, so hop on your bike and be a model for them.
Cycling is a free activity that anyone with access to a bike and helmet can do.
Cycling is a healthy life skill that your kids will have forever, so take advantage of Calgary’s impressive pathway system and create some memories!
Bicycle safety tips
Stacie is a writer, editor, and mother of a delightful daughter, five, and silly son, three.
Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2020 Calgary’s Child