Want to see waterfalls, wetlands, wildlife, and wild Christmas trees; musical gardens, garage art, murals, Christmas lights, chickadees that land on your hand, and cafes where hot chocolate and tasty treats await? Let’s walk!
Colorful murals & Christmas lights – Sunnyside, McHugh Bluffs in Crescent Heights, and Prince’s Island Park
Named after Felix McHugh, who homesteaded this property and was a prominent early entrepreneur, the bluff hosts views extending downtown west to the mountains. On a winter evening, the sights are dramatic and impressive and in December the Christmas Lights displays are spectacular. With every step up the hillside, the downtown skyscrapers rise into view, bright, compact, and towering. Walk the length of Crescent Road for the light shows and loop north into the neighborhood to enjoy a festive feel or drop down into Sunnyside where daytime walking becomes a treasure hunt for murals and folk art. Watch for gargoyles, a bike on a roof, little libraries and more than 20 colorful garage door murals. This outdoor art gallery is the perfect treasure hunt walk before you pick a Kensington Road or 10 Street cafe for a hot chocolate pit stop or cross into Prince’s Island Park for a playground picnic spot.
Starting point: Crescent Road, NW. Park anywhere in Crescent Heights or the Sunnyside LRT.
Cool spots: Christmas Lights displays along Crescent Road and the garage art and murals in Sunnyside back alleys.
Tasty Pit Stop: Kensington Road has many cafes where a hot drink and treat awaits.
Cheery chickadees, wild Christmas trees and musical gardens – Jackrabbit Trail and the Glenmore Reservoir
This single-track wilderness gem is hidden below the very popular paved Glenmore Pathway. From South Glenmore Park playground, walk east along the paved Glenmore Pathway. The kids will want to make some music at the Quinterra Legacy Garden, an interactive musical park, before dropping down to the treed single track Jackrabbit Trail. Chickadees are your constant companions on this wilderness trail that dips and climbs through the forest just below the popular paved Glenmore Pathway. All along the pathway, you’ll enjoy intermittent views of the Glenmore Reservoir. Bring a decoration for the wild Christmas tree that takes center stage in December. If you brought birdseed, then the fun begins if you stand still and wait for the chickadees to land on your hands. Continue all the way to the paved pathway at the end of the trail for a 7km round trip walk, or backtrack along the single-track trails and then drop down to the trail that skirts the reservoir to get the big water views.
Starting point: South Glenmore Park, 24 Street and 90 Avenue, SW
Cool spots: The Quinterra Musical Garden, chickadees along the Jackrabbit trail, decorating the wild Christmas tree
Tasty Pit Stop: Stop at Good Earth Cafe at Glenmore Landing for snacks and drinks! Grab a dozen of the best bagels in Calgary at Montreal Bagels (cash only) on Heritage Drive and Elbow Drive.
Glacial erratics, Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel, coulees & wildlife – Nose Hill Park
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 is built) is also flat and at the same elevation as Nose Hill. 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!
Make your way to the Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel in the southeast end of the park. Centuries ago, First Nations people used Nose Hill as a lookout spot to keep watch over the rolling land below. The wheel was built as part of a conference of the Blackfoot Confederacy and recognizes the area as traditional Blackfoot territory. In 2022, a new interpretive sign was placed near the Medicine Wheel so park users can learn more about the history of the site and the significance of the wheel. Walk further north and you’ll find a massive boulder that makes for great climbing near the 64 Avenue parking lot. 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. One hundred 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.
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 an earthy spot and enjoy some snacks on Calgary’s highest point.
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 14 Street side of the hill. There is an antenna visible on the hill, which is close to the Calgary Winter Club parking lot, off 14 Street.
Starting points: Nose Hill parking lots: 14 Street and John Laurie Boulevard, behind the Winter Club or any of the southern parking lots along 14 Street up to 64 Avenue.
Cool spots: Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel and a glacial erratic
Lori is the author of the best-selling guidebooks Calgary’s Best Walks and Calgary’s Best Bike Rides. She is the owner of Fit Frog and the CTV Morning Live segment host. She leads walks, hikes, and snowshoe days with her company Fit Frog and presents to groups on the pleasures of exploring Calgary on foot and by bike. Connect with her and get a signed copy of her books on Instagram & Facebook @lorifitfrog and at fitfrog.ca. Find her books at bookstores and cool shops throughout Calgary.
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