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Try a Walk on the Wild Side!

Read on for five fun suggestions for things to do with the kids this summer as you seek to entertain the troops.

1. Introduce your children to geocaching in Calgary’s parks and natural areas. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure-hunting activity using GPS-enabled devices, such as smartphones. Families guide themselves to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

There are several geocaching apps for iPhone and android phones. I like the Groundspeak Inc. app, which syncs with your geocaching account created through geocaching.com. You can either download the free version or you can upgrade to the premium version, which gives you access to a larger number of geocaches.

Once you have an account and a mobile app, head out to your nearest natural area or park, and guaranteed, there will be a handful of geocaches to find nearby. Start with the easy ones that are larger and work your way down in size as you get more experienced. Don’t forget to bring along small treasures or toys to leave in each cache if you want to trade for something that you’ll find inside.

2. Discover a new favorite City park or natural area. The City of Calgary has almost 800 kilometres of pathways with over 5,000 public park spaces! That’s a lot of green space to get out and play in.

Here are some hidden gems that you might not be familiar with:

Bowmont Natural Area, NW - Look for the natural swimming hole under the train trestle bridges in the community of Silver Springs. The closest parking lot is at the off-leash parking area beside the 85 Street Bridge bordering Bowness Park. From this parking lot, follow the paved pathway down to the river and walk east. (Note: The pond is also located in an off-leash area and the river gets quite deep in the summer. My family takes life jackets with us on hot days when we anticipate swimming.)

Nose Hill Park, NW - Everybody knows about Nose Hill, but every walk up here is different, depending on which parking lot you start from. There are some awesome geocaches to find, and my family loves biking or hiking into the quarry to play in the pond. To find the quarry, take the paved trail up to the top of the hill from the Brisebois and John Laurie Boulevard parking lot. At the top of the hill, follow old wagon trails and dirt paths farther north into the park and you’ll find the large gravel quarry and pond.

Start from the Sarcee and Edgemont parking lot if you want to access the flattest section of trails for biking or from 14 Street, you can go in search of the First Nations Medicine Wheel or a beautiful labyrinth created out of stones.

Griffith Woods, SW - This park is hidden in the community of Discovery Woods and is worth exploring to find the little pond with the stepping stones bridge. Follow the natural trails on the north side of the power lines from the west parking lot to find the pond. This park also has a beautiful paved pathway for biking.

Weaselhead Flats, SW - The Weaselhead Flats natural environment park is situated between the North and South Glenmore Parks. It’s located at 66 Avenue and 37 Street SW and has its own parking lot labeled ‘Weaselhead.’ It’s one of my family’s favorite areas to hike in Calgary and once you leave the regional paved pathway, you’d never know you were still in the city. The trail follows the Elbow River and there are many areas to stop and play in the mud or sand bordering the river. Note: There are no bikes allowed in this natural park so head out on foot to explore.

Confluence Park, NE - This gorgeous natural area is located along West Nose Creek off Beddington Trail. Either walk or bike along the paved pathway or drop down to the creek and follow natural trails. The highlight of this park is a giant glacial erratic called the Split Rock. It’s a short walk to the rock from the parking lot. The kids will also love the numerous bridges found in this park.

Carburn Park and Beaverdam Flats, SE - Park by the lagoon at Carburn Park and then head north, following the paved regional pathway to Beaverdam Flats, a natural environment park located along the eastern bank of the Bow River. Keep your eyes out for pelicans, ducks, and even bald eagles while you explore the natural trails through the park.

Information on each park can be found on The City’s website: calgary.ca/CSPS/Parks/Pages/Locations/All-city-parks.aspx.

3. Explore the city on bikes. My family loves biking the paved Bow River Pathway from Shouldice Park in the northwest to the city centre. Highlights along the way include stopping for ice cream at Edworthy Park, looking for ducks at Prince’s Island Park, and playing in the pond at St. Patrick’s Island.

For a ‘week on bikes,’ I also recommend checking out the trails in Fish Creek Provincial Park, exploring the paved trails along the Elbow River Pathway, biking the Bowness/Baker Park Loop in the northwest or riding around the Glenmore Reservoir between North and South Glenmore Parks.

Information on biking routes can be found on The City’s website: calgary.ca/SitePages/cocis/SubCategory-Cycling.aspx.

You’ll also find great inspiration and suggestions on Calgary Tourism’s website: visitcalgary.com/things-to-do/stories-from-calgary/10-epic-bike-pathways-in-calgary.

4. Learn to play disc golf. Disc golf is played like regular golf except instead of using golf balls and clubs, you use flying discs similar to a frisbee. This version of golf is also free in City parks, and you don’t need to make a reservation to get on the course - you can show up whenever you want to play a game!

There are several disc golf courses around the city, but my family loves the 18-hole Baker Park course in the northwest because of how it blends nature and golf in a beautiful forest setting. To get started with disc golf, use a regular frisbee until you decide if you like the sport or not.

If you decide to purchase real discs, there are several stores around town that sell them or purchase online (you can get by with one mid-range disc per person at first).

The basic rules are simple to learn, and you don’t need to worry about keeping score when you’re starting out. Each hole begins at the tee (usually a concrete pad you throw from) and ends at the target (usually a basket). After each player has thrown from the tee, each following throw is made from where the previous throw finished. On completing a hole, carry on to the next tee until you’ve finished either 9 or 18 holes.

5. Explore one of our neighboring provincial parks. My family’s favorite provincial parks near Calgary is Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, located 20 minutes away from the northwest city limits as you follow Highway 1A toward Cochrane. A small loop hiking trail takes you to waterfalls, natural springs, and swimming ponds; refreshing on a hot day.

Off Highway 1A toward Cochrane is Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, created on 1,314 hectares of ranch land. My family likes to hike the short Tiger Lily Trail or bike down to the Bow River on the paved trail.

Finally, Fish Creek Provincial Park is located in the south part of the city where you’ll find more than 80 kilometres of pathways for biking, hiking, and walking. This park is truly a gem within city limits and you’ll feel like you’ve left the city far behind as you explore.

Tanya is a freelance writer and mom to an energetic 11-year-old boy. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain- related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.

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