25+ Walking Trails in Calgary & Nearby

It took me over a decade of living in Calgary to get out of the rut of doing the same walking trails in Calgary. I have no problem going to Kananaskis or Banff National Park and hiking a different mountain every weekend, but somehow in my naïveté, I discounted what Calgary might have to offer. One look at a map of Calgary and you can see that it’s laced with parks. Some of these parks – like Nose Hill and Fish Creek offer many days worth of glorious hikes, but there are countless other walking trails in Calgary that merit a visit.

My personal preference are the wilder walking trails in Calgary. I’d rather not see houses or hear any street noise, but that unfortunately is unrealistic. Still, there are many trails that are an absolute delight that I plan to visit in all seasons. Read on for some hiking inspiration in Calgary. I hope you have as much fun discovering the city on two feet as I did.

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Beautiful views when hiking in Bowmont Park West
Beautiful views when hiking in Bowmont Park West

What to take on the walking trails in Calgary

I haven’t provided detailed hiking descriptions, so I’d suggest downloading an app like Organic Maps so you can see where you are. Most of the walking trails in Calgary are straightforward – but when you get into neighbourhoods you’ve never visited before, it’s easy to get turned around.

Dress in layers, especially when it’s cold. You’ll heat up quickly on some of these hikes, but also cool down just as fast in the face of biting winds. I’d recommend a neck warmer or a buff.

Almost all of the walking trails in Calgary can be hiked year-round. Exceptions are after a big snowstorm. In winter and during the spring thaw I highly recommend carrying microspikes and a pair of collapsible hiking poles. If it’s snowy, a pair of leg gaiters is also helpful. 

I found some trails in Calgary, particularly in the west, were very clay-like underfoot. On wet days I found myself with an inch or more of clay clinging to my hiking boots. You might want to bring another pair of shoes for the drive home.

If you’re the type you likes to learn about what you’re seeing, pick up a pocket guide to Edible Wild Plants

For even more ideas, especially for neighbourhood walks, pick up a copy of Lori Beattie’s Calgary’s Best Walks – 45 Urban Jaunts and Nature Strolls.

If you’re a solo walker, you might feel safer with a Garmin InReach. Most of the time you’ll have cell service, but occasionally you won’t.

Location map of the walking trails in Calgary

                                                 

  • Click on the dots in the righthand corner of the map to email a copy.

Safety on the walking trails in Calgary

It’s always a good idea to let someone know where you are hiking – and when you plan to be out. Accidents can happen even on easy Calgary walking trails. I always recommend carrying the hiking essentials, just in case. 

Wildlife

Most of the wildlife I see on the walking trails in Calgary is non-threatening – like the squirrels and beavers along the Bow and Elbow Rivers. I have come across a bobcat – which was a thrill, but it didn’t hang around. The moose pictured below was seen on the Twelve Mile Coulee Trail. While their eyesight is terrible, their hearing and speed is first rate. Give them space. (It suddenly appeared about 40 feet away from us!) 

Up in Nose Hill Park I regularly see coyotes. One time my husband and I were followed by a pack of five coyotes (at some distance), so we didn’t waste any time changing course, especially as we had two dogs with us. Deer are also a common sight on the wilder trails – and very occasionally you might see a bear. I’d recommend carrying bear spray for peace of mind.

A lone moose seen on the Twelve Mile Coulee Trail
It was a thrill to see this lone moose seen on the Twelve Mile Coulee Trail
On the walking trails in Calgary keep pay attention when you see signs warning of coyotes
On the walking trails in Calgary keep pay attention when you see signs warning of coyotes

Walking Trails in Calgary – Southwest

1. Sandy Beach, River and Riverdale Parks

Starting point/parking: Sandy Beach Park, Riverdale Avenue off leash park, or along 14A Street.

Facilities: Seasonal bathrooms.

Distance: Minimum 4 km but highly variable depending on where you park and if you head into Britannia for coffee. If you do the walk as a loop that includes a neighbourhood walk along Sifton Blvd., up 8th St and then to 29th Ave by the Glencoe Club it could be closer to 8 km.

Difficulty: Easy.

Season: Year round. Wear icers in winter and spring as the trails down to Sandy Beach Park get very slippery.

Stroller friendly: Yes 

Cafes: Mongram Cafe in Britannia and at 4814 16th Street SW in Altadore.

Dogs: Yes, on a leash except for the off-leash part of River Park and Riverdale Park.

Highlights: This is one of my favourite urban walking trails in Calgary. Often I’ll park in the Riverdale Avenue off leash park and start by heading towards Sandy Beach. On a hot summer’s day this is a good place to dip your toes in the water.

Look for a set of earthen stairs and climb them to reach the River Park escarpment. Enjoy excellent views of the Elbow River and Calgary’s downtown skyline. You can also see the trail heading up to Britannia – if you choose to end with a coffee shop stop. River Park is about a kilometre long, so if you do and out and back, and retrace your steps with a stop in Britannia, you’ll be at the 4 km mark.

To lengthen the walk pick up Sifton Boulevard and take it to Elbow Park School. Go north on any street to reach 29th Avenue and the Glencoe Club. Weave back through the neighbourhood, crossing the Riverdale Bridge, continuing past beautiful homes on Riverdale Avenue to reach your car.

View of the walking trail up to Britannia from Sandy Beach on the Elbow River
View of the walking trail up to Britannia from Sandy Beach on the Elbow River

2. Elbow River Pathway

Starting point/parking: Good parking at Stanley Park, Lindsay Park, and on streets in neighbourhoods near the Riverdale Avenue Footbridge.

Facilities: Seasonal washrooms, picnic tables, benches.

Distance: Approximately 17.2 km return from the Elbow River Traverse to the bridge at Sandy Beach but easy to do an out and back section.

Difficulty: Moderate, only because of the length if you do the whole thing.

Season: Year-round. Can get icy in winter, so microspikes can come in handy.

Stroller friendly: Yes

Cafes: Gravity Cafe in Inglewood and Bells Cafe at 1515 34 Ave SW.

Dogs: Yes, on a leash but beware of cyclists.

Highlights: The Elbow River Pathway is a pretty urban trail that follows the Elbow River from the confluence of the Bow River to Sandy Park. Along the route you’ll encounter footbridges, parks, a section of high-end homes along Riverdale Avenue, and some stellar views of the Saddledome. I often see beavers swimming in the Elbow River – and there’s usually lots of birdlife along the route. 

You have to share the Elbow River Pathway with bicycles
You have to share the Elbow River Pathway with bicycles

3. Douglas Fir Trail, Edworthy Park

Starting point/parking: Edworthy Park South parking lot.

Facilities: Washrooms at the trailhead, picnic tables, benches, fire pits, playground.

Distance: 5.8 km round trip

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Best in spring, summer and fall. Closed in winter because of hazards.

Cafe: Angels Cafe – enjoy their patio by the Bow River.

Stroller friendly: No

Dogs: Yes, on a leash.

Highlights: If you want to hike in the presence of 400-year-old trees, head for the Douglas Fir trail, home to one of the most easterly stands of Douglas Firs. Pick up the Douglas Fir trail from the parking lot, stopping to read interpretive signage along the way. You may need a breather once you reach the Douglas Fir Trail Platform – so it’s a good time to snap a few pictures. The trail continues to undulate through steep terrain, featuring frequently crossing over tree roots and offering numerous stair-climbing sections.

A chilly walk in November on the Douglas Fir Trail in Edworthy Park
John enjoying the view on a chilly day in November from the Douglas Fir Trail in Edworthy Park

4. Weaselhead Flats Park – North Glenmore Park

Starting point/parking: Weaselhead parking lot at 66th Avenue and 37th Street SW in North Glenmore Park.

Facilities: Porta Potty at the Weaselhead parking lot.

Distance: Approximately 6.5 km return.

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year round, but can be slippery and muddy from November to late April. After a rain there are lots of large puddles.

Stroller friendly: Doable in a pinch but wouldn’t recommend.

Cafes: None close by.

Dogs: Not permitted on any of the Weaselhead Trails.

Highlights: To reach Weaselhead Flats Park you must walk to it via North Glenmore Park or the Jackrabbit Trail, described below. No matter how you get there, you’re in for a treat. It’s one of the top walking trails in Calgary for nature lovers.

Enter the Weaselhead Flats area after crossing the bridge over the Elbow River. You’ll find signage with a map of the trails – along with interpretive signs once you get walking. I’d recommend the Oxbow Trail that follows a section of the Elbow River. It’s peaceful and full of bird song. Look for paddlers on the river as well as fisherman. 

This is one of the walking trails in Calgary where there’s a high probability of seeing wildlife, especially at dawn and dusk. Bears, coyotes, moose, and deer are occasionally seen, so stay alert. The one animal we saw was a muskrat – which was still a thrill.

We were surprised at the size of the trees in the Weaselhead Area
We were surprised at the size of the trees in the Weaselhead Flats Natural Area

5. Jackrabbit Trail, South Glenmore Park

Starting point/parking: South Glenmore Park at the intersection of 90th Avenue and 24th Street SW

Facilities: Seasonal bathrooms and a playground by the parking lot.

Distance: 7.2 km

Difficulty: Easy to moderate depending how you handle hills

Season: Year round but take icers in the colder months as it can get slippery.

Stroller friendly: No

Dogs: Not permitted!!!

Cafes: The closest one is Good Earth Coffeehouse at Glenmore Landing.

Highlights: Interestingly, you won’t find any signage in fall 2023, that you are on the Jackrabbit Trail until you reach Weaselhead Flats – and then you’ll see signage with maps. If you like to know exactly where you are download Organic Maps – an app I like – and it shows the Jackrabbit Trail.

There are  a maze of trails parallel and north of the Glenmore Pathway. John and I elected to walk beside the Glenmore Reservoir on a trail that was very good for about a kilometre. When it died, we headed into the woods and picked up the formal Jackrabbit Trail. It weaves up and down hills through the trees between the Glenmore Pathway and the Glenmore Reservoir. As you approach Weaselhead Natural Environmental Park, the trail gets wider. ‘

There is an upper and lower Jackrabbit Trail, so you can do the walk as a loop. You can also cross the paved Rotary Mattamy Greenway and continue onto either the Oxbow Trail or the Weaselhead Trail, if you’re looking for a longer walk.

Loved this section of the Jackrabbit Trail through the grasses and trees
Loved this section of the Jackrabbit Trail through the grasses and trees
Walking beside the Glenmore Reservoir on the Jack Rabbit trail
Walking beside the Glenmore Reservoir just below the Jackrabbit Trail until it deteriorated

6. Griffiths Woods, Discovery Ridge

Starting point/parking: The end of Discover Ridge Link SW.

Facilities: Bathrooms available year-round at the trailhead.

Distance: Variable but up to 6.9 km on the Perimeter Loop Trail.

Difficulty: Easy and flat.

Season: Year round.

Stroller friendly: Yes, if you stick to the main trails.

Dogs: Yes, on a leash.

Cafe: Wonder Donuts

Highlights: The best way to explore the park is on the 6.9 km Perimeter Loop Trail but this is also a park where you can just follow your nose and see where it takes you. There are a mix of paved and unpaved walking trails throughout the park. A couple of hours will be enough for most people. You will find trail maps at major intersections.

In the summer, I always head for the Elbow River – as there are rocky beaches where the dogs can jump in and cool off. Humans too by the look of things. Don’t forget your binoculars as there is also lots of bird life, especially in the spring.

There are loads of side trails to explore in Griffith Woods Park
There are loads of side trails to explore in Griffith Woods Park

7. RiverWalk: Peace Bridge Loop to George C. King Bridge

Starting point/parking: Paid parking at the Eau Claire Market and street parking in the area – but free on Sundays.

Facilities: Bathrooms in the Simmons Building. 

Distance: Approximately 4.8 km return.

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year round. Can be lovely in the evening.

Stroller friendly: Yes

Dogs: Yes on a leash but not a great idea on a busy weekend because of the number of people.

Cafe: Sidewalk Citizen Bakery – for breakfast, lunch, and pastries.

Highlights: The western part of Calgary’s RiverWalk is a delight. Start walking anywhere along the route, stopping to admire art installations, birds gathered on the Bow River, and your fellow walkers. Don’t miss a stop at the photogenic Peace Bridge (lovely at night) or at Sidewalk Citizen Cafe for their decadent sticky buns. 

View of the Peace Bridge from Princess Island Park
View of the Peace Bridge from Princess Island Park

8. Prince’s Island Park

Starting point/parking: There are parking lots and parking meters on Eau Clair Street and between 2nd Avenue SW and Eau Claire Avenue SW from 4th Street SW to 7th Street SW.

Facilities: Seasonal water fountains, washrooms, picnic areas and outdoor skating on the lagoon.

Distance: Variable. The island is about 1 km long so count on 2 km and more if you do loops plus additional for walking to a parking spot.

Difficulty: Easy.

Season: Year-round.

Dogs: Allowed on leash. 

Restaurant: The River Cafe is located on Prince’s Island. The ambiance is wonderful and the food delicious. A great spot for weekend brunch.

Highlights: For a short stroll in downtown Calgary, Prince’s Island Park ticks off all the boxes. It’s location on the Bow River is a beauty – with  access via the Bow River Pathway and bridges at either end of the island. Downtown Calgary is a short walk away, so its perfect for out of towners. 

While you won’t likely get your heart rate up as you stroll the tree-lined paths of Prince’s Island Park, you will enjoy a car free outing. Learn a few things too, thanks to some interpretive signage at the east end of the park. Stop to admire the ponds and the Calgary Skyline. Go for a skate on the lagoon if you visit in winter.

Don't miss a stop at Prince's Island Pond, especially in winter
Don’t miss a stop at Prince’s Island Pond, especially in winter

9. Glenmore Reservoir Trail

Starting point/parking: Numerous parking lots, especially along North Glenmore Park Road. 

Facilities: Seasonal and year round bathrooms in North and South Glenmore Park.

Distance: 15 km on the short route and 16.5 km if you include the loop around Glenmore Dam. You could also do and out and back loop.

Difficulty: Easy for regular walkers. Moderate for those not used to the distance.

Season: Year round though shaded sections can get icy in winter so I’d recommend microspikes.

Stroller friendly: Yes

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Cafe: Good Earth Coffeehouse in Glenmore Landing.

Highlights: Over the length of the Glenmore Reservoir trail you’ll find lots to love. You can walk it in any direction – and you can choose between the multi-use paved trail or some of the dirt trails like the Jack Rabbit Trail that get close to the water.

Starting from North Glenmore  Park, where you can enjoy mountain views from the top of the bluffs, head counterclockwise, descending a steep hill towards the  Weaselhead Flats area.  Cross the bridge – looking for kayakers in summer, and head around what was once a large beaver pond. Climb a steep hill 

One of the long walking trails in Calgary is the circumnavigation of Glenmore Reservoir
One of the long walking trails in Calgary is the circumnavigation of Glenmore Reservoir – but you must share it with cyclists

10. Bow Valley Ranch Loop, Fish Creek Provincial Park 

Starting point/parking: Bow Valley Ranch 

Facilities: Bathrooms at the trailhead and benches. 

Distance: 8 km loop

Difficulty: Easy, save for the one climb up from Annie’s Cafe.

Season: Year round.

Stroller friendly: Yes

Dogs: Yes, on leash.

Cafe: Annie’s Cafe is at the beginning and end of the walk.

Highlights: From Annie’s Cafe climb the hill on the paved path towards the escarpment. Continue along the escarpment, enjoying views over Fish Creek Park, until you reach Canyon Meadows Drive. Descend the hill, crossing Bridge #9, and continue south back towards the cafe on a mix of paved and dirt trails.

Beautiful views of Fish Creek Provincial Park from the escarpment trail above Annie's Cafe
Beautiful views of Fish Creek Provincial Park from the escarpment trail above Annie’s Cafe

11.Votier Flats, Fish Creek Provincial Park

Starting point/parking: South end of Elbow Drive in the Votier Flats parking lot or the parking lots for Bebo Grove, and Shannon Terrace.

Facilities: Washrooms, picnic tables, benches.

Distance: 6.2 km return to Bebo Grove or 12 km if you do and out and back loop heading west to Shannon Terrace. 

Difficulty: Easy.

Season: Year round but can be icy in the winter. Pack microspikes.

Cafe: Annie’s Cafe in Fish Creek Provincial Park

Stroller friendly: Yes.

Dogs: Yes, on a leash.

Highlights: From Votier Flats head east, crossing four bridges through a forest of balsam and poplar on the way towards Bebo Grove.

I like to mix it up by walking on a mix of paved and dirt trails. I find the dirt trails are quieter and you don’t have to watch out as much for cyclists. I love the trail that takes you down along the river and the sandstone cliffs, nesting spots for peregrine and prairie falcons. Between the 5th and 6th bridge there’s a set of stairs leading to a trail with a view. Take them up – if just for the view and return to the paved trail – though you can continue on this narrow dirt trail all the way to the Marshall Springs area. 

Walk around the storm pond at Bebo Grove and retrace your steps to return or continue along Fish Creek to reach Shannon Terrace. Keep an eye out for beavers in the creek and deer making unexpected appearances along the trail.

The view from a side trail in the Votier Flats area of Fish Creek Provincial Park
The view from a side trail in the Votier Flats area of Fish Creek Provincial Park (note the paved bridges to the right and left)

12. Strathcona & Aspen Ravines

Starting point/parking: Free parking on Christie Park Manor SW

Facilities: None on the trails.

Distance: 6.5 km round trip as an out and back walk

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year-round.

Stroller friendly: Yes, though it might be bumpy along the boardwalk and there will be a short section of gravely trail at the end of it.

Dogs: Allowed on a leash.

Cafe: Good Earth Coffeehouse, 555 Strathcona Blvd. SW. It’s a two block detour from Strathcona Ravine to get here.

Highlights: Within the communities of Strathcona and Aspen you’ll find Strathcona Ravines Park, a narrow ribbon of green that makes you feel far removed from a city, especially when you see deer within minutes of starting a hike. Most of the hike is on asphalt save for the odd-side trail and the wooden boardwalk at the western end of the Strathcona Ravine. It crosses a seasonal stream, so be prepared for muddy dogs in the spring.

To continue into the Aspen Ravine you have to climb up a small hill at the end of the boardwalk to reach Strathcona Boulevard. Go right and then left, crossing a major intersection to stay on Strathcona Drive. Walk down the equivalent of one large block, past a couple of cul de sacs and look for a trail leading into the ravine. This part of the hike doesn’t feel as wild as you pass a lot of backyards. Follow it to the end and retrace your steps to the parking lot.

The Strathcona Ravine is one of the easy walking trails in Calgary
The Strathcona Ravine is one of the easy walking trails in Calgary – with a lovely section of boardwalk

Walking Trails in Calgary – Southeast

13. Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Starting point/parking: 2425 9th Avenue SE, Calgary

Facilities: Bathrooms

Distance: Approximately 2.5 km of trails within the bird sanctuary.

Difficulty: Easy and no hills

Season: Year-round but best for birds during the spring and fall migration. In spring expect to see songbirds and shorebirds along the Bow River and in fall the warblers come through.

Cafe: Post walk, check out one of the cafes along 9th or 17th Avenue SE like Good News Coffee or head to the Blackfoot Truckstop Diner – a Calgary classic.

Stroller-friendly: There is a pathway that is both wheelchair and stroller friendly.

Dogs: Not permitted.

Highlights: The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary offers some of the finest walking trails in Calgary – and though close to downtown, it feels a world away. The Inglewood Bird Sanctuary became a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary in 1929. Since then over 270 species have been sighted, with 53 types nesting on site. In addition, 21 types of mammals call the sanctuary home. Visit the Nature Centre (check their hours before you visit) to learn what’s recently been sighted.

Even though the Nature Centre may not be open, you can walk the trails here from sunrise to sunset year round. Meander through the woods, up and down sloughs and along a section of the Bow River. It’s a wonderful place to commune with nature, picnic, and get a little exercise. Kids will love the place.

A beautiful nature filled walk at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary -close to downtown Calgary
A beautiful nature filled walk at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary -close to downtown Calgary

14. Carburn Park and Beaverdam Flats

Starting point/parking: 67 Riverview Drive SE

Facilities: Year round washrooms at Carburn Park in addition to benches and picnic tables.

Distance: 2.4 km loop around the ponds with an option to make it into an 8.5 km out and back walk to Beaverdam Flats. 

Difficulty: Easy and flat.

Season: Year round. In winter you can skate on the ponds in Carburn Park.

Stroller friendly: Yes

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

Cafe: None nearby.

Highlights: For an easy walk do the 2.4 km loop around two man-made ponds in Carburn Park. They’re in a pretty setting surrounded by trees and shrubs including chokecherry and buffaloberry. Keep an eye out for white pelicans and bald eagles on your walk.

To continue to Beaverdam Flats, simply walk north towards Glenmore Trail – and then up the escarpment to the Lynwood neighbourhood. Find a bench, sit back and enjoy both Rocky Mountain and downtown Calgary views. To continue to Beaverdam Flats, keep walking to reach a trail that descends to the Bow River. Explore side trails in the Beaverdam Flats area before retracing your steps to Carburn Park.

From Carburn Park, it’s less than a kilometre to reach Sue Higgins Park on foot via the Eric Harvie Bridge. It sports a giant off-leash area for dogs along the Bow River and a series of interconnected walking trails on the west side of the Bow River. 

The walking trails in Carburn Park are very pretty in fall
The walking trails in Carburn Park are very pretty in fall

15. Elliston Park

Starting point/parking: 17th Ave SE and 60th St. SE

Facilities: Seasonal washrooms (mid-May to mid-October), playground, water fountains

Stroller friendly: Yes

Distance: 3.4 km loop

Difficulty: Easy and good for families – a bit rough for strollers.

Season: Year-round.

Stroller friendly: Yes

Dogs: Yes – and part of the trail is off-leash.

Cafe: Head to nearby 17h Ave SE – a hotbed of international eateries and shops. Sign up for the Around the World Food Tour that’s been going for over 20 years and spans 35 blocks. 

Highlights: Enjoy a easy walk around the circumference of Elliston Lake, a storm water drainage lake – and not one you’d want to dip a body part in. There are plenty of dirt paths that weave through the park amongst the trees planted on hillsides. There is some road noise, but it’s still an easy place to get lost in your thoughts as you watch the birds in action. Kids will love the playground post walk. 

One of the easy walking trails in Calgary takes you around a lake in Elliston Park
One of the easy walking trails in Calgary takes you around a lake in Elliston Park

16. Pearce Estate Park – Bow River Pathway – Inglewood Neighbourhood 

Starting point/parking: Look for a large parking lot at the north end of 17A Street SE.

Facilities: Seasonal washrooms, playground, picnic tables, barbecue grills, Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery, Bow Habitat Visitor Centre, A catch and release kids (no bait) from May 1 – September 30th.

Distance: About 4.6 km from the Pearce Estate parking lot, around the wetlands, past Harvie Passage Lookout, along the Bow River Trail, detour to Good News Coffee and back.

Difficulty: Easy.

Season: Year round.

Stroller friendly: Yes though trails are a mix of paved and gravel.

Dogs: Permitted on a leash.

Cafes: Lots of choice in the Inglewood neighbourhood along 9th Ave. SE like Analog Coffee Inglewood at 1139 9th Ave. SE. 

Highlights: The constructed wetlands area and the trails running through the park are beautiful and ideal for kids. There is interpretive signage around the ponds and the walking here is fun and easy.

Wander down to the Bow River, admiring the kayakers in summer as they paddle through Harvie Passage. Continue walking beside the Bow River, going under the CPR Train Bridge and then turning south on 15th Street SE – if you’re after some coffee. After a break, either retrace your steps or walk through the Inglewood neighbourhood back to the Bow River Trail and into Pearce Estate Park.

Don't miss a walk around the wetlands in Pearce Estate Park
Don’t miss a walk around the wetlands in Pearce Estate Park

Walking Trails in Calgary – Northeast

17. RiverWalk East – St. Patrick’s Island Park Loop

Starting point/parking: New Street SE or along 15th Street SE

Facilities: Washrooms on St. Patrick’s Island, playground, fire pit, benches, picnic tables, colourful cafe tables.

Distance: 3.0 km loop with options to increase the distance by continuing on the RiverWalk west or taking the Bow River Trail east.

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year-round.

Cafes: Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters in the Simmons building

Stroller friendly: Yes

Dogs: Yes, on a leash.

Highlights: One of the top walking trails in Calgary starts in the Inglewood neighbourhood and leads you on a paved pathway across the Elbow River and then alongside the Bow River to St. Patrick’s Island. Look out for interesting urban art installations before stopping in for coffee in the Simmons Building – or continue across the George C. King Bridge to walk the trails on St. Patrick’s Island.

The island, located at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers is a delight. Wander 1.6 km of trails, check out their architecturally interesting benches, stop by the beach for a superb view of downtown Calgary, and check out the fire pit at the top of a steep set of stairs. 

If you like loop walks, continue to the eastern end of the island and pick up the pathway that leads over the Zoo Bridge back to where you parked your car in the Inglewood neighbourhood.

Look for Interesting art work and great landscape design as you walk St. Patrick's Island
You can’t miss “Bloom” – a wonderful piece of at the west entrance to St. Patrick’s Island

Walking Trails in Calgary – Northwest

18. Confederation Park – Capitol Hill 

Starting point/parking: There are a couple of parking areas in the park plus easy access from surrounding neighbourhoods. I started at the 30th Avenue and 7th St NW parking lot. There is also one at 3009 10th Street NW and another across the street on the west side of 10th Street NW.

Facilities: Year round washrooms close to the parking area, drinking fountains, playgrounds, and picnic spots.

Distance: Up to 7.8 km as a loop.

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year round.

Dogs: Permitted on a leash.

Cafe: Weeds Cafe, 1903 20th Ave. NW

Highlights: Confederation Park is one of Calgary’s urban parks. Multi-use paved trails generally run east west in a crescent shape with 10th Avenue bisecting the park. The park borders four neighbourhoods – Mount Pleasant, Capitol Hill, Collingwood and Highland Park.

You can start walking from anywhere that’s convenient for you, whether it be on a neighbourhood street or a formal parking lot. I particularly love the open feel and the big trees as the eastern end of the park, so that’s where I started. Walk west (there are tunnels under 10th Street and 14th Street) past duck-filled ponds to the southern boundary of the Confederation Park Gold Course. Continue, crossing 19th Street to reach Canmore Park, a small but wilder feeling park with signs warning of coyotes.

Then either retrace your steps to your starting point or explore the neighbourhoods south of Confederation Park and the golf course. If you get to the corner of 18th Street and 21st Avenue, you’ll only be two blocks away from Weeds Cafe.

Enjoy beautiful big trees when you go for a walk in Confederation Park
Enjoy beautiful big trees when you go for a walk in Confederation Park

19. Nose Hill Park North

Starting point/parking: The parking lot at the corner of Shaganappi Trail and Edgemont Blvd. NW.

Facilities: Washrooms

Distance: Highly variable but up to 7.5 km.

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year round.

Stroller friendly: No

Dogs: Yes – and there are off leash areas on the walk.

Cafes: Friends Cafe, 45 Edenwold Dr NW #104

Highlights: Nose Hill Park, the highest point in Calgary, is huge. It’s easy to get turned around even with all the signage, so pay attention to landmarks.

This hike starts near the high point of Nose Hill Park. Follow trails high on the plateau, walking across the width of the park in one direction, and returning on the most northerly of trails in the other. You’ll walk through the bottom of coulees, a good place to be on a windy day, and then back up on the plateau, where you get mountain views to the west and airport views to the east.

There are countless permutations to the walk – if you take some of the lesser trails. I like to walk where the wind blows me, but I also love a good loop walk. This one accomplishes that. I highly recommend taking a photo of the trails at the start of your hike, so you can follow your progress, and adjust the walk accordingly.

I love the copse of trees you find all over Nose Hill Park
I love the copse of trees you find all over Nose Hill Park

20. South Nose Hill Park 

Starting point/parking: Parking lot at 14th Street and 64th Avenue

Facilities: None, save for some benches along the trails. Carry lots of water in summer – and extra for dogs.

Distance:  Up to 10 km

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year round.

Cafes: The Bullet Coffee House

Stroller friendly: No

Dogs: Yes – and there are off leash areas on the walk.

Highlights: I frequently hike the southern section of Nose Hill Park, and while I have a loop I like to do, I change it up according to the conditions. On the south side of the park you always start with a climb – but on top you’re rewarded with great views.

If you want a 10 km walk, climb to the top of the plateau, walk east across the park towards the junction of John Laurie Blvd. and Shaganappi Trail. Descend into a coulee, climb back up to the plateau and walk across the middle section of the park. There are lots of smaller trails through here I like to take.

In spring and early summer, look for the intermittent pond especially if you have a dog. They’ll love it. Don’t miss a walk past the Nose Hill Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel or the Big Rocks Viewpoint. From up here there are particularly good views of Calgary’s downtown.

Bundle up if you go for a walk in Nose Hill Park in winter as the wind can be bitingly cold
Bundle up if you go for a walk in Nose Hill Park in winter as the wind can be bitingly cold
Download the IndigiTRAILS app to witness historical events in Nosehill Park
Download the IndigiTRAILS app to witness historical events in Nosehill Park

21. Edgmont Hills and Ravines

Starting point/parking: At the Edgemont Playground parking on Edgemont Drive NW.

Facilities: None.

Distance: Up to 10.6 km if you walk the Egmont Hills and Egmont Park Ravine to the wetland and back.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on how much you hike.

Season: Year round. 

Stroller friendly: No.

Dogs: Allowed. Lots of off-leash opportunities.

Cafe: Friends Cafe at 45 Edenwold Drive NW, for sandwiches, soups, and homemade baked goods.

Highlights: Walk up Edgemont Hill NW to a paved trail on your left. Walk past 12 houses, turn right and in half a block reach the open space. You can pick up a trail almost immediately that will crisscross the hill. This is very much an urban walk as you’ll see lots of houses at the edges of the open space. You’ll get great

Stay high, continuing on the trail as it heads northeast behind some homes. Descend to and cross Edgemont Boulevard and continue on the path into the Edgemont Park Ravines. This is a multi-use park with paved trails and playground’s. Most of the walking is flat, so you can make good time heading for the wetlands beside Edgebrook Boulevard. After looking for birds, retrace your steps to the parking lot. 

Near the high point in the Edgemont Hills
Near the high point in the Edgemont Hills

22. Dale Hodges Park and Bowmont Natural Environmental Park

Starting point/parking: Parking lot on 52nd Street (one way going west) just west of Home Road. 

Facilities: Porta potty at the trailhead. Lots of benches, picnic tables and garbage cans along the walk.

Distance: 7.3 km

Difficulty: Easy to moderate if you opt to hike the hills.

Season: Year round.

Stroller friendly: Only on the section beside the Bow River and the boardwalks in Dale Hodges Park.

Dogs: Yes – and part of the walk is off leash.

Cafe: Fringe Coffee on Bowness Road.

Highlights: One of the top walking trails in Calgary has to be the Bowmont Park – Dale Hodges Park loop. I can’t believe it took me over a decade of living here to do it. Put this one at the top of your list. In Dale Hodges Park, old gravel pits have been converted into a wetland area with ponds connected by boardwalks. During the spring migration this would be a magical place to visit with all the bird life. 

From the parking lot start out on a paved multi-use trail. In no time reach Dale Hodges Park. Meander on the boardwalks before picking up the trail closest to the Bow River. It ultimately connects to the trails around the Waterfall Valley south of the Silver Springs neighbourhood but to do the loop turn right passing Nautilus Pond. Climb up the escarpment, enjoying wonderful views of the area as the trail dips and rises. Descend the slope to return to the parking lot.

Looking out to the ponds and boardwalks in Dale Hodges Park
Looking out to the ponds and boardwalks in Dale Hodges Park

23. Bowmont Park West – Waterfall Valley

Starting point/parking: The parking lot is at the corner of 85th Street NW and 51 Avenue Northwest.

Facilities: There are benches and viewpoints with benches along the escarpment.

Distance: Approximately 5 km. Head out on the dirt trails to Waterfall Valley and back on the paved multi-use trail for a beautiful loop walk.

Difficulty: Moderate, especially on the dirt trails. Many are steep and are full of clay – so very slippery when wet. The clay clumps onto your shoes as well.

Season: Year-round. Look for wildflowers in spring and summer, gorgeous fall colours on the hillsides in autumn and frozen waterfalls in Waterfall Valley in winter. Don’t forget icers and poles in winter. 

Restaurants: No cafes but Angel’s Drive In at 8607 43rd Ave. NW offers burgers, shakes and fries.

Dogs: Allowed on and off leash. Look for signage showing location of off-leash areas.

Highlights: This is one of my new favourite hikes – because of the ponds, Bow River views, varying vantage points from woods to walking high on the escarpment, and also down by the Bow River. The Waterfall Valley makes a great destination – but it’s also easy to add mileage and continue east along the trails beside the Bow River.

There are lots of trails in the area, some on wooden boardwalks, so get into explore mode and see where they take you. When you’re up high, it’s easy to pick out trails you want to take.

Great Bow River views from Bowmont Park West near Waterfall Valley - note the stairs on the right hand side
Great Bow River views from Bowmont Park West near Waterfall Valley – note the stairs on the right hand side

24. Twelve-Mile Coulee Natural Environmental Park

Starting point/parking: The official parking lot (see map) off Tuscany Blvd. NW, near the Scenic Acres Link.

Facilities: None though there are garbage cans. 

Cafes/Restaurants: The closest ones are Angel’s Drive In and Cadence Coffee.

Distance: 5.5 km return

Difficulty: Moderate. Slippery pea gravel underfoot at times and some hills.

Season: Late March until November. When the trail is wet, it’s very slick. Take icers and poles if you choose to hike it in winter.

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Highlights: Twelve-Mile Coulee, located about 12 miles from Fort Calgary (and hence it’s name from Calgary’s stagecoach days) offers a beautiful wooded walk in a coulee, paralleling the suburban neighbourhood of Tuscany. There will be times you see homes, so don’t expect to be completely immersed in nature here.

Sometimes there are options to hike a trail near the top of the coulee – in which case you’ll enjoy great vistas over to Calgary Olympic Park. Or you can creek hop down at the bottom of the coulee, looking for deer – and even moose. There is some interesting plant life along the trail including red-osier dogwood, trembling aspens and numerous native plants of the prairies. In fall, Twelve Mile Coulee puts on a magnificent display of colour.

Twelve Mile Coulee is a delight to walk in the fall
Twelve Mile Coulee is a delight to walk in the fall

25. Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs

Starting point/parking: 37 Silver Springs Drive NW

Facilities: Water fountains in season and lots of benches.

Distance: 2.8 km out and back but can be lengthened to include the walking trails in Bowmont Park

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year round. Each season has its beauty – even in winter when the garden is decorated.

Dogs: There are off leash dog walking areas throughout the gardens.

Highlights: Explore over a kilometre of individual gardens, created by volunteers beginning in 2006. Gardens are linked by easy walking trails through the woods, past sports fields and along a walled garden separating a busy road from the walking trail. Dogs (under control) are able to run freely for a long stretch. On the fall day I visited the trail was busy with friendly locals and their dogs.

The highlight for me was the colourful Wall Garden – a long narrow stretch at the north end  of the botanical gardens that has been beautified – and now instead of looking simply at an ugly wall, there are masses of colourful flowers and shrubs including dahlias, Joe Pye Weed, hollyhocks, Sedum Autumn Joy, asters, hydrangeas any way more. 

I think the Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs are a great place to get ideas for your own garden. Look for Rose, Edible Fruit, Peony, LoH2O, Shakespeare, Half Moon, Sunflower Gardens and more. I found the Labyrinth Garden near the end of my walk – and could see the appeal as a place for quiet contemplation while walking the circular paths. 

There are gardens scattered from the entrance at Silver Springs Way to the parking area by the soccer field
There are gardens scattered from the entrance at Silver Springs Way to the parking area by the soccer field

Walking trails close to Calgary

There are walking trails close to Calgary I thought should be included. If you live in South Calgary, the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation area is very close by. And for those of you in North Calgary, it’s a short drive to both Glenbow Ranch and Big Hill Springs Provincial Park.

26. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Starting point/parking: At the end of Glenbow Road, accessed from Highway 1A. It’s just under 3 km from the highway.

Facilities: Visitor centre and bathroom at the trailhead.

Distance: Highly variable but there are 30 km of paved and dirt trails.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on how many hills you hike.

Season: Year-round. In winter take microspikes if it’s been warm and snowshoes after a fresh snow. Winds can be fierce.

Dogs: Allowed on leash.

Cafe/Ice Cream: On hot days head for Mackay’s Ice Cream in Cochrane. If it’s a caffeine fix you need, visit Cochrane Coffee Traders.

Highlights: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is a wonderful destination to experience the beauty of the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. The park is home to lots of wildlife including deer, coyotes, elk, badgers, weasels and even cougars. In the summer months there are swaths of wildflowers and great bird life. Cattle still roam here too as it’s a working ranch.

Most people start out on the Glenbow Trail, with its pretty Rocky Mountain views. I think the Tiger Lily Loop is a great one to start on – because there are usually fewer people and it takes you down through a beautiful forested section to the Bowbend Junction. From there you can head west and pass a pretty pond that often has a lot of duck action. Keep going west and you eventually get some exceptional foothill and mountain views.

I also love the Bow River loop as there’s a lovely section along the Bow River. There is no right or wrong way to hike in the park. Go where the wind blows you. Duck into the aspen-filled coulees on cold or windy days and enjoy expansive views from the rolling grasslands.

Glenbow Ranch is a very green place to go for a walk in the spring and summer
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is a very green place to go for a walk in the spring and summer

27. Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Starting point/parking: From Highway AB-1A west of Calgary look for signage. It’s about 16.5 km from Highway 1A via Highway 766N, west on 567 and south on Big Hills Springs Trail/Range Road 34A.

Facilities: Pit toilets, garbage cans and picnic tables.

Distance: 2.4 km 

Difficulty: Easy

Season: Year-round but very busy on weekends. Muddy trails in spring especially.

Stroller-friendly: No – too many stairs.

Dogs: Yes, on a leash. 

Cafe: See Glenbow Ranch information above.

Highlights: This is a kid-friendly hike with its waterfalls, springs, and tufa formations. Enjoy multiple trails through a forest of aspens with only one main hill to climb. 

Waterfalls in Big Hill Springs Provincial Park
Waterfalls in Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

28. Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area

Starting point/parking: 20 – 194001 160 St W, Foothills 

Cost: $10 for parking. Annual passes area are $120. All proceeds support habitat conservation and help maintain the trails.

Facilities: Bathrooms at the trailhead and at a few locations along the trails. Bicycles are not permitted.

Distance: Variable depending on what trails you hike.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate depending on what trails you do. There are hills.

Season: Year round. There’s good snowshoeing in winter, but cross-country skiing is not permitted.

Stroller friendly: No – not permitted.

Dogs: Not permitted.

Cafes: Priddis View & Brew Bistro – closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Highlights: Approximately 20 km of trails weave through the conservation area on five main trails ranging from the 2.2 km Mountain Lookout trail to the 8.6 km Paradise Trail with five hills. Download a map on their website.

The property is truly beautiful. Some of the property was farmed and ranched but there are still large areas of native fescue grassland, primarily on the untouched rolling hills. Aspen stands cover almost 50% of the property – so the land is a study in lime green in spring, and yellow in fall. Most of the rest of the land is pastures of introduced Brome grasses from the days it was farmed. Over 400 types of plants have been recorded here.

The 4.6 km Fescue Trail is a great choice. It offers superb views of the Rockies front range, and the skyline of downtown Calgary. In spring and early summer, the rolling hills are dotted with wildflowers.

For all hikes bring water as none is available on the trails. There are no garbage cans, so plan to pack out what you pack in. There is wildlife in the conservation area, so carry bear spray and look for elk, deer and even cougars.

Lime green foliage seen from the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area in May
Lime green foliage seen from the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area in May

Final thought on the walking trails in Calgary

I will continue to add to this blog – mostly because I’m having so much fun exploring my city – and discovering new walking trails. My dog loves it too – and what a bonus that the majority of the walking trails in Calgary and nearby are dog-friendly!

Interested in what else you can do in Calgary?

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Here’s a guide on how to have fun outside in Calgary in winter.

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Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

25+ walking trails in Calgary & nearby you can do year round

 

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