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Calgary's Best Walks

Read on for Lori's best springtime family walkabouts!

For Glacial Erratics, Coulees, Big Nature, and Views, head to Nose Hill Park in northwest Calgary. 

Pack a picnic and head to Nose Hill Park for a big nature outing that is all running and climbing and exploring. Soak up the views of downtown and Calgary’s Northeast as you climb to the top of the plateau. Once on top, take a look around and you will see that Broadcast Hill (the hill where Canada Olympic Park was built) is also flat and at the same elevation as Nose Hill.

When the glaciers carved their way across Nose Hill, they left behind many large boulders known as glacial erratics, which bear no compositional resemblance to local rocks. 100 years ago, buffalo roamed Nose Hill. In the Spring, the buffalo would rub against these stones as they began to molt, trying to remove irritating hairs. You can see the evidence in the form of deep, smooth depressions and shiny spots that remain on the stones today.

Hills south of the city near Priddis are the same. These plateaus are the remnants of a 60-million-year-old swampy, forested landscape into which the Bow and Elbow rivers, and the glaciers that followed their valleys, have incised by 175m. That is something to think about while you catch your breath.

Continue along single-track trails that dip into coulees and watch for the resident deer that call the park home. Pull up a bench or settle into a grassy spot and enjoy your lunch on the top of the world.

Starting point: Nose Hill parking lot (64 Avenue and 14 Street SW).
Public washrooms: Port-a-potties at the parking lot.
Navigating Nose Hill 101: Navigating Nose Hill is challenging. If you are new to the hill, pay attention to the landmarks and do not attempt to walk the hill in poor visibility (snowstorms, fog, or darkness). The power lines at the far north end of the hill extend from the Berkley Gate parking lot to the Edgemont parking lot. If you can see the airport, you are on the 14th Street side of the hill. There is an antenna visible on the hill, which is close to the Calgary Winter Club parking lot, off 14th Street.

Indulge in ice cream, puddles, and pat some pooches in Bridgeland and St. Patrick’s Island. 

Start your walk on Tom Campbell’s Hill, an off-leash natural park with spectacular views. The hill’s name originates from a large sign that stood for many years advertising Tom Campbell’s Hats. Bridgeland is a perfect example of a ‘biophilic community’ or ‘green streets’ where nature is integrated into the community from the ground up. Urban forests canopy streets and pocket-sized green spaces are scattered throughout. This nature integration is the norm in Calgary’s older neighborhoods thanks to William Pearce and William Reader, two of Calgary’s early parks superintendents. William Pearce envisioned a city of trees, and he devoted a lot of time and effort to develop the early boulevard plantings and parks that make the inner-city neighborhoods great places to walk.

Pat a few pooches in the off-leash natural park before continuing on your trek. Make your way down the hill to 1 Avenue followed by the Bridgeland LRT pedestrian overpass. Cross Memorial Drive and turn left to walk to St. Patrick’s Island. The perfect family spot, St. Patrick’s Island, evexperience.com/st-patricks-island, is built for outdoor fun with its natural water park that fills from the Bow River. Sit near Trout Beach to enjoy downtown views while enjoying your snack.

Continue west along the Bow River pathway and walk north across Memorial Drive at Edmonton Trail and continue to Flyover Park, parksfdn.com/flyoverpark. Make your way back through neighborhood streets toward Murdoch Park. Keep watch for the ultimate kid’s dream house; an old fire hall turned private home on 6A Street at Centre Avenue. Grab your ice cream, coffee, or slice of pizza and roll down the hill (without spilling anything!) into Murdoch Park.

Starting point: Bridgeland LRT or Tom Campbell’s Hill Parking lot at Child Avenue and Centre Avenue NE.
Public washrooms: St. Patrick’s Island near the playground.
Picnic supplies: Bridgeland Market (1104, 1 Avenue NE).
Ice cream stop: Lukes Drug Mart (Edmonton Trail South and 1 Avenue), Village Ice Cream (69, 7A Street NE), or Made by Marcus (1105, 1 Avenue NE).
Café stop: Sidewalk Citizen and Phil & Sebastian Coffee at the Simmons Building on the River Walk (618 Confluence Way SE) or in Bridgeland at Lukes Drug Mart, Phil & Sebastian, Baya Rica Café, Bridgeland Market.

Catch a glimpse of deer, pelicans, ducks, and bald eagles at Carburn Park, Beaverdam Flats, and Lynnview Ridge in southeast Calgary. 

If you’re looking for a post-dinner stroll to relax or to allow the kids to burn off some energy, your family will enjoy a visit to Carburn Park. This trek is perfect for all ages with its water features, wildlife, and mostly paved pathways. And when the trees are full, this extensive suburban green space becomes a refreshing nature getaway. Balsam poplars offer shade while shrubs like Saskatoon, chokecherry, American silverberry, and Canada buffaloberry provide textures and colors along the trail. Pelicans, double-breasted cormorants, and bald eagles all frequent this area, and many deer call the park home.

Start the walk at Carburn Park or at Sue Higgins off-leash park for a longer walkabout. From Sue Higgins off-leash park, cross over the Bow River and walk north along the pathway to Carburn Park. Continue along the forested trails on the west side of the lake while keeping watch for the resident deer. Walking along the Bow River is where you’ll see pelicans in the springtime, as well as bald eagles and so many ducks, year-round. For a longer walk, continue south under Glenmore Trail and up the escarpment to Lynnwood and views of the Rocky Mountains. Continue walking north along the escarpment before descending along a narrow pathway through prairie grasses to the water’s edge. Cross the bridge and take a side trip into Beaverdam Flats Park to experience the power of Mother Nature. The park was destroyed by floodwaters in 2013. The shape of the park is constantly changing as some areas are washed away and others built up.

Continue your walk along the river trail, then climb the escarpment toward the big prairie sky. Head south and retrace your steps all the way back to your starting point or, if you have just got your walking pace, keep on trekking along the Bow River Pathway all the way to Fish Creek Park.

Starting point: Official Carburn Park parking lot at the end of Riverview Drive SE or Sue Higgins Off-Leash Park at Deerfoot Trail and Southland Drive SE.
Public washrooms: At the parking lot.

Lori’s new guidebook, Calgary’s Best Walks Expanded, has 45 walks with maps and 40 suggested detours (all perfect for families!). She leads city walks and mountain hikes with her company, Fit Frog Adventures. Grab a copy of her book or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook @lorifitfrog and fitfrog.ca.

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