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5 scenic cycles through Calgary for the whole family

I love moving through Calgary by bike – the freedom, fresh air and sunshine makes me happy. Calgary’s extensive pathway and cycle track network makes navigating the city a breeze and a pleasure whether you are keen to pedal uninterrupted along pathways or embark on a multi-tasking cycle tour. And there is nothing like outdoor activity under Calgary’s big blue skies to help clear your head and shake up your routine. 

Let’s connect Calgary by bike!

Ride 1: Dalhousie–Edgemont–Nose Hill–University District–Bowness–Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs

Grab a coffee or some snacks at Euphoria Café before heading up and over Crowchild Trail and along the paved ravine pathway through Dalhousie. Continue northward along Edgemont’s side streets to a paved pathway that travels alongside homes and gardens at the base of a massive green space where wildflowers bloom from April through August and dogs run happy and free. 

An uphill ride leads to Nose Hill Park, where expansive views and a perfect picnic spot are your reward. Soak up the colors from a kaleidoscope of flowering plants that call the park home. Nose Hill is Calgary’s highest point and you’ll enjoy panoramic views that stretch from the downtown core west to the Rockies. 

Coast downhill and into the neighborhood of Brentwood, where you follow an on-road bike lane downhill past the University of Calgary and into the up-and-coming University District, a community built for all ages and stages of life. 

Continue side street pedaling through Montgomery and into Bowness. Follow the 52 Street cycle track past Batman’s Lair, across the Bow River and along tree-lined Bow Crescent. 

Cross pedestrian bridges into Bowmont Park and follow the Bow River Pathway past wetlands, followed by a steep climb to spectacular Bow River and Rockies views. Bowmont Park is a mix of wildflower-covered grasslands, valleys fed by permanent sources of spring water, and a shrub-filled offshore island. 

Park your bike and walk the boardwalk trail into Waterfall Valley before continuing along the bikeway into Silver Springs and the Botanical Garden. Stroll the gardens before finishing the ride along the quiet side streets in Varsity.

Start: Euphoria Café, 8 Varsity Estates Circle NW

LRT: Dalhousie Station

Facilities: Bathroom at Nose Hill parking lot

Distance and difficulty: 29km (hilly, paved pathways, bike lane, cycle track, neighborhood)

Detours, destinations, and suggestions: Find a waterfall in Bowmont Park; take a break in the Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs.

Mountain bike option: See the Bowmont Park trail maps at trailforks.com and on the Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance website (cmbalink.com).

 

Rides 2 and 3: Western Headworks Canal Pathway–Dover–52 Street–Elliston Park- International Avenue

Flat, fast, and steady – that is the paved Canal Pathway that travels 25km from southeast Calgary past the CP Rail yards and Calgary’s industrial heartland, alongside wetlands with abundant birdlife, through the Heatherglen Golf Course, and into wide-open farmland before ending at Lake Chestermere. The Bow River Pathway connects to the Canal Pathway, so if you are looking for a longer ride, start anywhere in the city and navigate to the closest Bow River Pathway access point.

The ride begins on the Southview escarpment with big views of the city before dropping down to connect to the canal pathway. Be sure to make note of the prevailing winds as many a cyclist has cheerfully pedaled fast and free eastward only to return into chinook winds coming up and over the Rockies. There may not be any hills on this ride, but a strong chinook headwind is just as challenging. 

You have the option to detour along 52 Street on the return from Chestermere. This fast, direct route follows a paved pathway along busy 52 Street. It is not the scenic choice, but it offers safe, fast cycling directly to International Avenue and to Elliston Park. 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. 

Grab lunch and continue east to Elliston Park for a paved pathway cruise and a picnic while perched on the rolling hills that surround Elliston Lake. From Elliston Park, follow the signed bikeway on neighborhood side streets back to the Southview escarpment or explore the shops and tasty put stops along 17 Avenue SE. 

Start: Ride 2 at 22 Avenue and 26 Street SE or the Glenmore Inn, 1000 Glenmore Court SE; Ride 3 at Elliston Park, 1827, 68 Street SE

LRT: Max Bell and Zoo stations

Facilities: There are bathrooms at the TELUS Spark Science Centre, on St. Patrick’s Island, and in Elliston Park (May to October).

Distance and difficulty: Western Headworks Canal Pathway is 50km (few hills, paved pathways), Glenmore Inn start is 32km (mostly flat, paved pathways), Elliston Park is 3.5km (paved pathways, mostly flat)

Detours, destinations, and suggestions: Valleyview Spray Park; inclusive playground at Elliston Park; Esker Gallery of Contemporary Art (free); International Avenue for lunch, dinner, or cool finds.

 

Rides 4 and 5: Elbow River Pathway: Sandy Beach–RiverWalk–Scotsman’s Hill–Elbow Park

Wheels start to roll along the paved Elbow River Pathway past picnic areas, an impressive playground, and, in the summer, rafters launching their boats and swimmers playing in the shallow Elbow River. The ride connects to Riverdale Avenue, where riders enjoy a picturesque pedal past stunning riverside homes before dropping back onto the paved pathway under Elbow Drive. 

The entire length of the Elbow River Pathway is a wonderful mix of nature and neighborhoods as you cycle past Stanley Park and through Rideau, where a stunning private garden marks the turnoff for Ride 5. 

Ride 4 continues along quiet side streets into Roxboro before crossing into Roxboro Park in search of the hidden connector gravel trail at the entrance to Erlton Park, where a set of stairs leads walkers to phenomenal views. The ride continues through Erlton and Lindsay Park, where bunnies that have been let loose and multiplied are your cycling companions. 

Onward along the pathway, travel under Macleod Trail towards Stampede Park and climb to Scotsman’s Hill. Stop for photos at this landmark spot where Calgarians flock to watch the Stampede fireworks. The high point offers a bird’s-eye view of Stampede Park, where Calgary’s annual party takes place each July and the skyscrapers that drive Calgary’s economic success provide the backdrop. 

Look beyond the hard-working core to the Rocky Mountain peaks before continuing along Ramsay side streets, home to old-fashioned corner stores, historic homes, and buildings from the early 1900s – some renovated and fantastic, some handyman delights.

Pedal past little-free libraries, folk art and colorful homes and gardens before you connect to the 11 Street cycle track. Stop for a cold drink at one of the many craft breweries along the route, or grab a bite to eat at a café along 9 Avenue. 

Back on the Elbow River Pathway, it’s a beautiful riverside ride all the way to Rideau, where the route crosses the river on the Rideau pedestrian bridge. Rides 4 and 5 follow the same neighborhood route through Elbow Park, one of Calgary’s oldest communities. Considered a suburb shortly before the First World War, it is now in the heart of the inner city. Rolling along here in May and June is a palette of purple, pink, and white: blossoming lilac, apple, crab apple, and cherry trees. 

Continue to the paved pathway along Sifton Boulevard and across River Park to 14A Street before coasting downhill along the paved pathway to your starting point.

Start: Sandy Beach Park, 4500 14A Street SW

LRT: Erlton Station

Facilities: Bathrooms at Sandy Beach Park and Stanley Park (May to October), MNP Community & Sport Centre in Lindsay Park.

Distance and difficulty: Ride 4 is 20km (few hills, paved pathways, neighborhood streets, cycle track), Ride 5 is 7.5km (few hills, paved pathways, neighborhood streets)

Detours, destinations, and suggestions: Sandy Beach inclusive playground; picnic and swimming at Sandy Beach Park and Stanley Park; Stanley Park outdoor pool (summer).

Lori Beattie is the author of the NEW guidebook Calgary’s Best Bike Rides, 50 urban cycle tours and pathway pedals and the best-selling Calgary’s Best Walks, the owner of Fit Frog and the CTV Walks segment host. 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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