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3 superb suburban walks through Calgary

Shawnessy- Somerset - Bridlewood Creek Wetland

Neighborhood families walking and biking along interconnected pathways is a common sight in this suburban walkabout. Founded in 1981, Shawnessy was built with walking in mind. Paved pathways meander through green spaces, in between homes to the Bridlewood Creek Wetlands, where birdlife thrives. 

Shawnessy was named after Samuel and Helen Shaw who arrived from England in 1883. They brought with them the parts for a woolen mill and then opened Shaw’s Woolen Mill in 1889 along the banks of Fish Creek. The mill was the first industry in the province, and could produce 300lbs of wool each day. 

Helen Shaw sold woolen goods at her store, Midnapore Woolen Mills, on Stephen Avenue in downtown Calgary. The store sold skirts, blankets, flannels, tweed, and stocking yarn. Many prospectors seeking out for the Yukon Gold Rush were outfitted in her shop. The mill operated until 1917 when it was destroyed by fire. 

The area’s history lives on through the over 100-year-old big red barn that is now home to the Shawnessy Community Centre. The former vernacular-style barn that was built in 1915 by homesteader John McInnes has been transformed into a rustic venue for weddings and events. 

Continue past the barn and keep an eye out for community gardens and little free libraries. Grab a book and continue onward back to your starting point.

Start: Shawnessy Library, 333 Shawville Boulevard SE.

LRT: Somerset-Bridlewood station.

Tasty pit stop: Kin Café in the Shawnessy YMCA

  

Dover, Forest Lawn, and International Avenue, SE

Impressive Rocky Mountain, Bow River and downtown views mark the start of this Dover walkabout. Walk south on the paved path overlooking the Irrigation Canal before tucking into Valleyview Regional Park. If you are walking with your kids, then plan to take a break here to enjoy the pond, playground, and spray park in the summer. 

Dover has a unique kid-friendly design where front yards flow into shared tree-canopied green space and the back lanes serve as the streets. Follow a mix of paved paths and side streets while walking east towards 48 Street. Walk north to 17 Avenue, also known as International Avenue, at any time. 

Dubbed the city’s culinary and cultural capital for its diverse and eclectic shopping and eating options, International Avenue has 425 merchants that offer food and services from around the world. Whatever type of food or ingredient you are looking for, you will find it along International Avenue. Follow the wide multi-use sidewalk to access all the shops. Stop for some of the best ramen in the city at Pho Dau Bo, or just keep walking and you’ll find another tasty pit stop. I also love the Hong Kong Supermarket at the far west end of 17 Avenue. 

Grab lunch and then continue east to Elliston Park for a stroll and a picnic while perched on the rolling hills that surround Elliston Lake.

Start: Parking lot at 26 Street and 22 Avenue, SE.

Bus: Take the MAX Purple bus to 17 Avenue

Tasty pit stops: All along International Avenue

 

Twelve Mile Coulee

Wild walkabouts tucked into suburban neighborhoods are always a pleasant surprise. Tuscany’s Twelve-Mile Coulee Park got its name in the early days because it is approximately twelve miles (19km) from Fort Calgary and was a convenient mileage marker on the stagecoach run from the Fort Calgary main post office to the mission church at Morleyville, a missionary outpost. 

The Métis used the term coulée, which means “small valley” or “gully,” to describe the type of landscape in the park. It comes from the French verb couler, meaning “to flow,” which is appropriate since the spring snow-melt leads to a rise in creek water level. The route begins on high ground and descends into the treed coulee where a few trail options make for a varied walk. You can walk above the creek, on the slope-side trail, or along the coulee bottom. 

Adventurous creekhoppers will enjoy using their creative navigating skills since the trail diverges in many areas and, depending on how much water is in the creek, you may have to backtrack and choose a higher route. This is the kind of exploring that kids love! Those who choose to stay high and dry will walk through shrubs of willows, red-osier dogwoods, and American silverberry, as well as stands of trembling aspen, balsam poplar, and white spruce while on the north-facing slopes. The south-facing slopes are drier and host native prairie plants: rough fescue, Perry oat grass, and spear grasses thrive here. If you’re a rockhound, check out the large, bedrock, sandstone outcroppings at the south end of the park. This is Calgary’s best and most accessible example of the Porcupine Hills Formation that underlies the entire city. 

You can easily adjust your walk length by taking any one of the many trails that climb out of the coulee, all of them unmarked, but well-used. Just be aware that some of these trails may be closed for rehabilitation as the park is being redeveloped. Too many informal trails may lead to erosion and the loss of a valuable park space. 

Walk to the end of the coulee, near Nose Hill Drive, and begin the long gradual climb to the community of Tuscany and to views of the Rocky Mountains, Canada Olympic Park, and the downtown core. Continue along the paved path at the top of the coulee or pick a trail and descend back into the wilderness. Creekhop back to your starting point.

Start: Park in the official parking lot off Tuscany Boulevard, just north of Scenic Acres Link.

LRT: Tuscany LRT, with a 1 km walk to access the ravine.

Lori is the author of Calgary’s Best Walks, the owner of Fit Frog Adventures and a CTV Morning Live segment host. Watch for her new book, Calgary’s Best Bike Rides, 50 Urban Cycle Tours and Pathway Pedals. She leads walks, hikes, and snowshoe days with her company Fit Frog. Connect with her and get a signed copy of her books on Instagram & Facebook @lorifitfrog and at fitfrog.ca

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