1. Calgary Zoo to St. Patrick’s Island (5/6.7- kilometres). With a lagoon for wading, an amazing playground, a grassy hill to climb and roll down, a funky art installation (Bloom), and a pretty bridge to cross, your kids won’t want to leave! My kids call this the “bridge route” as it goes along the river and passes under several bridges and overpasses. You only have to cross the street once, at Baines Bridge, and the path is not as heavily used as other sections of the Bow River Pathway, so it is quite safe and pleasant.
5-kilometre route - Starting from the zoo, get onto the Nose Creek Pathway and turn right (south). Follow the path under Memorial Drive and around the south side of the zoo. You will go under two zoo bridges. At Baines Bridge (the only crosswalk), cross to the other side of the bridge and turn left. As soon as you get off the bridge, St. Patrick’s Island Park is on your right. There is a covered picnic area near the parking lot, washrooms are to the right, and the playground and hill are just past the washrooms on the path to the right. Continue west to see Bloom and the George C. King Bridge. Come back the way you came.
6.7-kilometre loop - Cross George C. King Bridge and return to the zoo via River Walk (left turn after the bridge) - Bow River Pathway - 12 Street SE - Zoo Road NE - Baines Bridge - Bow River Pathway - Nose Creek Pathway. Be sure to check out the playground on the south side of George C. King Bridge!
Worthwhile detour - Get a coffee at Phil & Sebastian or a treat at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery in the nearby Simmons Building.
2. Pearce Estate Park to Nellie Breen Park (2.4 kilometres). Experience wetlands, train watching, birding, a river ride, a major art installation, and playgrounds. Combine routes 2 and 3 for a longer ride!
Route - Explore Pearce Estate Park, then get onto the Bow River Pathway. You will pass Bow Habitat Station on the left (otherwise, you’re going the wrong way!). Continue on the pathway until you reach a residential area. Turn left onto 15 Street SE. Take your second left and Nellie Breen Park will be two blocks ahead on the left. Although not the biggest playground, this is one of my kids’ favorite places to play. The only thing missing is washrooms, so be sure to visit the washrooms at Pearce Estate Park before you leave! River Passage at Harvie Passage is a worthwhile detour on your way there or back. Just be sure to keep kids well back from the rapids!
3. Pearce Estate Park to Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (3 kilometres). Experience wetlands, train watching, birding, a river ride, a major art installation (River Passage), and playgrounds. Combine routes 2 and 3 for a longer ride!
Route - Head in the opposite direction on the Bow River Pathway (south) until you reach 9 Avenue SE. Turn left and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary will be a short distance ahead on the right. There are several paths to explore (on foot, so bring a bike lock) and beautiful heritage buildings. Bring binoculars so you can bird-watch! For extra fun, download a birding app so you can easily identify the birds and talk about them. There are washrooms at Pearce Estate Park and Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (seasonal hours).
4. Baker Park to Bowness Park (5.6 kilometres). Enjoy flowers at the Sun Bowl, disc golf, picnicking*, wading, paddling, and playgrounds! Kids will enjoy the bear sculptures and big bridge, too.
5.6-kilometre route - Park in the main parking lot and head toward the Sun Bowl. Turn right onto the Bow River Pathway** and follow the path across the Stoney Trail Bridge. Turn left and take the paved path on the left or the dirt path on the right. The second playground is usually our turnaround point and we come back the way we came. To make a loop and reduce the distance a bit, stay left on the paved path, then turn left on 85 Street (bridge), but you will have to ride on the side of the road across the bridge.
In the summer, continue past the playground (east) on the right fork of the paved path to the:
There is also great skating on the lagoon in winter.
*Bowness Park has several picnic sites and shelters, which you can reserve through Calgary Parks. Reservations recommended on weekends. **There is a fun disc golf course to the right of the Sun Bowl! Bring your own discs.
5. Calgary Curling Club to 10 Street NW (4.5 kilometres). Visit several Calgary landmarks including the Peace Bridge, Poppy Plaza (war memorial), Eau Claire Market, and Prince’s Island Park. In my opinion, the playground at Prince’s Island Park is one of the best in the city and the splash park/wading pool at Eau Claire is a lot of fun, too!
Route - From the public pay lot east of the Calgary Curling Club, take the overpass over Memorial Drive and turn right onto the Bow River Pathway. Stay on the north side of the river. At 10 Street, take the underpass and explore Poppy Plaza on the other side. Come back the way you came and cross the Peace Bridge. Be sure to stay in the middle lane (bike lane) on the bridge! Stay left when you get off the bridge and continue on the paved path until you reach Eau Claire Market (shopping, dining, washrooms, splash park/wading pool); it will be on your right. Turn left and cross the bridge to Prince’s Island. Here you have many options: play Frisbee, go to the playground, watch the ducks, throw rocks in the river, walk an interpretive trail, go to River Cafe - but if you must head back, continue straight and you will be back on the Memorial Drive overpass next to the parking lot.
Public washrooms are available at Eau Claire Market (outside by the windmill and inside by the food court), and below River Cafe.
6. Confederation Park (1.3 to 2.8 kilometres). Confederation Park is a favorite for its beautiful setting and landscaping. In the summer, you can count on several parties taking wedding photos here. Large towering trees in the coulee, a meandering path, and cute bridge over the pond outlet make for a scenic stroll or bike ride.
Starting from Rosemont Community Centre, you have a couple of options:
1.5-kilometre return to the playground - Take the 10 Street underpass and follow the path to the northeast. Stay left to access the washrooms in the parks building (seasonal hours). Stay to the right to get to the playground.
1.3-kilometre-return to the far end of the pond - Go straight. At the first fork in the path, stay right. Continue around the pond to reach a good duck-viewing spot. Kids will enjoy biking ‘round and ‘round the pond. (Note: There is a “Please do not feed waterfowl” sign at the pond.) Combine both loops for a longer outing!
7. Edworthy Park to Shouldice Playground (5.2 kilometres). This river ride takes you from a park full of playgrounds to another playground. Stop in at Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream for a coffee or ice cream and take time to play in the river on a warm day! We park at Edworthy as it’s close to Grandma’s house, but Tanya Koob of Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com, recommends starting from Shouldice as there’s more parking. Note: This route requires riding on the road for about 500 metres each way (but two blocks can be bypassed on a walking trail and 350 metres is on a quiet gravel road).
5.2-kilometre route - Starting from Angel’s Cappuccino and Ice Cream at Edworthy Park, go west on the Bow River Pathway. After you pass a clinic and some condos, you’ll have to ride on the side of the road or sidewalk for a couple of blocks, but if I’m with the kids and it’s midweek and quiet, I usually just continue on the walking path for two blocks where it rejoins with the bike path. You’ll pass several football/soccer fields. At the gravel road (13 Avenue), turn left. Continue straight for 350 metres. Rejoin the path on the right and go under Highway 1. The playground is 250 metres beyond the underpass and on your right.
8. Confluence Park (aka West Nose Creek Park; 4.5 kilometres). Take your picture with Split Rock, a large glacial erratic, and see native prairie plants in a rich riparian zone on this short loop. There are opportunities for a longer ride along the Nose Creek Pathway, but the trail is hilly to the north and northwest, so it’s not ideal for beginner riders.
Route - Whether you take the paved trail or the gravel trail, you will arrive at Split Rock after 500 metres. The lower dirt trail is prettier and allows you to cross several small bridges over the meandering creek, but it may be mucky in the Spring. In the summer, enjoy the unique vegetation along the creek. Fall colors are pretty here, too.
9. South Glenmore Park to Weaselhead. South Glenmore Park to Weaselhead Natural Area, like much of the area around the Glenmore reservoir, is a nature escape in the city. Enjoy playground time at South Glenmore Park (it has two playgrounds and a splash park), then take in the reservoir and forest views.
Bring a bike lock so you can lock up your bikes and explore Weaselhead or the popular Jackrabbit Trail (parallel to the bike path) on foot, but stay on the trail at all times and be on the lookout for wildlife and undetonated explosives. When the kids are strong bikers, try biking around the reservoir (14 kilometres) for a longer ride!
10. Lindsay Park to Roxboro Park and Elbow River Beach (2.8 kilometres). With a playground at either end and a beach in the middle, this ride is a summer favorite! Worthwhile detours include grabbing coffee at Phil & Seb’s on 4 Street or picking up pastries at Yann Haute Patisserie (329, 23 Avenue SW).
Route - Take the Elbow River path south. Go under Scollen Bridge at 25 Avenue SW. Continue south on the left (east) side of the river until you reach the playgrounds and tennis courts of Roxboro Park. Return the way you came, but when you get to the bridge, turn left (don’t cross the street!), and then take your first left onto the pathway. Keep an eye out on your left for river access and enjoy some beach time on this pebble beach.
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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