Whether you're into pumpkin spice lattes or not, you have to admit that autumn is awesome around here! Groves of Aspens, Balsam Poplars, and Larches glow with golden foliage. Sweaty weather is replaced with sweater weather, and the bugs have all but disappeared. It's the perfect time of year to explore a new trail!
Here are my family’s favorite Fall walks, hikes, and bike rides in and around Calgary:
Awesome Autumn Walks
Douglas Fir Trail - The Douglas Fir Trail in Edworthy Park is one of my favorite nature escapes in the city. While this trail is known for its namesake, Mountain Ash and Balsam Poplars steal the show each Fall. Enjoy colorful foliage on the lower slopes and a grand view from the escarpment lookout. After your walk, visit one of the park’s four playgrounds, skip stones on the river, and have an après-hike treat at Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream.
Getting here - Park near Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream, cross the bridge, and follow the paved path through the park and across the railway tracks. Turn left. After 250 metres, you will see the trailhead sign on your right. Take the trail over bridges and up the stairs to the lookout. Return the way you came for a total distance of 2.2 kilometres. Fun fact: Some of these Douglas Fir trees are over 500 years old!
Bow Valley Ranch, Fish Creek Provincial Park - The ultimate natural playground. Kids will love crawling in small caves, climbing over logs, frolicking amongst towering poplars, and splashing in the creek near the falls. Be sure to check out the exhibits at the Visitor Centre and the sculptures in the Artisan Gardens. After working up an appetite, enjoy delectable Afternoon Tea at Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant. Return in late autumn to see beautiful ice falls near Bridge 11.
Getting here - From Bow Valley Ranch parking lot, cross Bridge 11 (see Fish Creek Provincial Park map: albertaparks.ca/media/738464/fcpp-map.pdf) and turn right. At the next turnoff, turn right to make a small detour to a cave. Return to the main trail and keep right to continue going around the loop. Look for small caves set in the hillside on your right.
Jackrabbit Trail - Take a walk on the wild side! The forested Jackrabbit Trail hugs the southern shoreline of Glenmore Reservoir and offers splendid views of the water. As you travel through mixed forest on rolling single track, enjoy spectacular Fall colors, cheerful chickadee songs, and the occasional glimpse of wildlife. With playgrounds at the trailhead and pretty picnic spots, this trail will soon become a family favorite! Afterward, indulge in a treat at the Good Earth Café or McDonald’s at Glenmore Landing.
Getting here - To access the Jackrabbit Trail from South Glenmore Park, cross the paved bike path, and go left on the lakeshore trail. The trail is about 3.5 kilometres one way with several opportunities for extension.
Tiger Lily Loop, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park - One of the best places to see beautiful autumn leaves. The trail weaves through aspen forest and climbs to a spectacular mountain-view lookout. At only 1.4 kilometres, it’s the perfect autumn walk for all ages. Afterward, treat yourself to MacKay’s Ice Cream or Tim’s Gourmet Pizza in Cochrane.
Luring Larch Hikes
Larches are the stars of the mountains in the Fall with their soft, amber needles.
Larch hikes suitable for families include:
Kicking Horse Viewpoint Trail - This trail is only a 1.7-kilometre return from the top of the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola and is absolutely incredible. Take in views of Mount Temple and Victoria Glacier, then hike through larches to a stunning and peaceful lookout (few visitors venture beyond the gondola). Bring a tripod for family photos and allow time to dine at Whitehorn Bistro; the charcuterie platter and fondue are out of this world! Longer hikes from the top of the gondola include Pika Trail (2.5 kilometres) and Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint (3.4 kilometres).
Ptarmigan Cirque, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park - Gets you high into the alpine quickly as it starts from the highest paved pass in Canada, and is fairly steep. The sculpted cirque is dramatic on its own, but larches, falls, and fossils make the interpretive trail even more amazing. Approximately a 6-kilometre return.
Lake Agnes Teahouse - This teahouse is a favorite with tourists and locals for its splendid scenery. Start at world famous Lake Louise, ascend to Mirror Lake, then continue onward and upward to jewel-like Lake Agnes. 7 kilometres. Enjoy hot cocoa and cookies at the teahouse or save your appetite for a bite at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery & Delicatessen in the Village.
Favorite Fall bike rides
Baker Park to Bowness Park - A fantastic bike ride any time of year, but is best in early Fall with flowers in the Sun Bowl and yellow poplars along the river. Play disc golf at Baker Park, then cross the Bow River to play at two great playgrounds in Bowness Park. Seasons of Bowness, near the lagoon, will tempt your tummy with fresh-baked goods. A 5.6-kilometre return.
Nose Hill Park - This park isn’t known for its trees, but has several mini forests to explore! From the Edgemont Boulevard Northwest entrance, ride the paved trail near the washrooms. Continue on single track to a picnic table and double back to find stick tipis (1.1-kilometre return). If the kids still have energy, descend into the ravine north of the forest. Refuel at Friends Cappuccino Bar and Bake Shop.
To see Fall colors, an intermittent pond, and the Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel, start at the Nose Hill Park parking lot off 14 Street NW (second entrance north of the Winter Club) and bike on the old road to the old quarry. Continue straight to the pond at the northeastern end of the quarry, then return via single track southwest of the old radio tower to see the Medicine Wheel. For extra fun, do some geocaching! 1.6-kilometre return. Note: This route has a big hill.
Karen is married to her backpacking sweetheart, and is a mother and a lover of maps, mountains, and mochas. With her geography degree and experience leading hikes and backpacking trips in the Rockies, she is full of ideas on where to go and what to do. The mission of her blog, Play Outside Guide, playoutsideguide.com, is to provide everything families need to know to get outside and have fun.
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