Ride 1: Playgrounds, parks and picnics
Crowfoot LRT, Arbour Lake, Bowness Park, Edworthy Park, Sunnyside, Sunnyside LRT
Ride the train to this high elevation linear ride that begins at the Crowfoot LRT Station. Navigate some busier roads past the Crowfoot Crossing Shopping Centre before connecting to Arbour Lake’s side streets and a paved pathway up and over Stoney Trail to the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway paved pathway.
A coast downhill hosts big mountain views and leads you past the Royal Oak wetlands. You can’t miss the unique and impressive Mormon temple that dominates the skyline in Rocky Ridge. Continue on the pathway past Twelve Mile Coulee, a popular mountain bike area, under Stoney Trail and into Bowness Park. Stop for a people-watching picnic lunch, if you like, at the lagoon. Then continue eastward on a mix of paved Bow River Pathway and quiet Bowness side streets, like the tree-lined Bow Crescent, a 3km side street that hosts a mix of modern and heritage homes sitting on expansive properties along the Bow River.
Get back on the paved pathway and ride past Shouldice and Edworthy parks, enjoy river views and perhaps stop for an ice cream, coffee, or lunch. The Bow River Pathway is one of Calgary’s most popular multi-use routes, so be prepared for busy trails on sunny afternoons from April through October as you get closer to the downtown core.
Continue east to the Peace Bridge. This architectural masterpiece has become an icon and popular selfie and graduation photo spot. Cross Memorial Drive into vibrant, mural-intensive Sunnyside. A community with character! Slow your pace to enjoy homes painted in primary colors, garage art in many back alleys, and folk art throughout. Navigate to 10 Street and Kensington Road for a bite to eat or some shopping before heading to the Sunnyside LRT Station and riding the rails uphill to your starting point.
Start: Crowfoot Crossing Shopping Centre (Nose Hill Drive and Arbour Lake Road NW)
LRT Start: Crowfoot or Tuscany LRT Stations
Facilities: Bathrooms in cafes, public washrooms in Bowness and Edworthy Parks
Distance & Difficulty: 26km (mostly downhill or flat, paved pathways, neighborhood streets)
Detours, Destinations & Suggestions: Picnicking and playgrounds at Bowness Park, Shouldice Park and Edworthy Park, Bowness Park water park and mini train (summer) and canoeing (canoe rental on site in the summer). Cafe in Bowness Park and Edworthy Park, ice cream at Abbey’s Creations on Bowness Road or Lic’s Ice Cream on Parkdale Crescent. Lots of delicious options in Kensington.
Ride 2: Big sky, wildlife and wildflowers
Nose Hill Park NW
Views begin immediately as you follow the paved pathway onto the Nose Hill plateau, the highest point in Calgary in one of the largest municipal parks in Canada. Ride the mostly gravel pathways trails on top of the plateau, or choose a more physically challenging route that descends to John Laurie Boulevard and then climbs back up. There are many options to choose from that offer a mix of paved and gravel pathways and aspen-filled coulees.
Get the lay of the land and soak up some Rocky Mountain views while considering your ride. For navigational purposes, it is helpful to pay attention to the landmarks on the hill, such as the mountain ranges in the west, the airport in the east, the power line that crosses the hill in the north, the antenna that stands near the quarry, and the downtown office towers. Using landmarks also helps you make sense of the trailside maps, since grasses can cover trails and deer and coyotes can create new ones.
At 11 square kilometres, Nose Hill Park is one of the largest municipal parks in Canada. From afar, Nose Hill seems plain, a bump on the horizon. It is only when you are on the hill that the abundance and variety of vegetation is visible. Over 200 flowering plants color the hill’s landscape throughout the summer and into the fall. Among the prairie grasses that dominate Nose Hill you’ll also find mushrooms, mosses, and many animals. In the fall, shrubs and grasses become a kaleidoscope of rich red, burnt-orange, and golden yellow. Learn more about all plants on Nose Hill from the Alberta Native Plant Council, @albertaplants on Instagram or anpc.ab.ca.
Wildlife is abundant on the hill, and I often see groups of white-tailed deer and the occasional waddling porcupine at dusk. Dogs love the extensive off-leash areas, and birders should be excited to hear that 91 bird species have been seen on Nose Hill – bring your binoculars!
As you circle around the east side of Nose Hill, be sure to stop, reflect, and enjoy spectacular views from the Siksikaitsitapi Medicine Wheel. Built in 2015 by members of the Blood Tribe/Káínai, this modern landmark is a tribute to the historical and spiritual connection between people and the land, and it marks Nose Hill as part of the traditional Blackfoot territory. This new circle was arranged beside a half-buried circle of stones that was left behind by Indigenous scouts thousands of years ago. An important cultural site, everyone is welcome in the circle to reflect, meditate, or pray. It is suggested that you enter from the east side and leave to the west.
Start: Official Nose Hill Parking lot at Shaganappi Drive and Edgemont Boulevard
Facilities: Bathrooms at the parking lot
Distance & Difficulty: Various loop options from 2km to 16km. Stay on the top of the plateau for any easier, less hilly ride.
Detours, Destinations & Suggestions: Grab a picnic lunch at Friends Cappuccino Bar & Bake Shop in Edgemont and sit atop Nose Hill for a mid-ride lunch. Visit the glacial erratic for a bit of bouldering near the 14 Street and 64 Avenue parking lot. Enjoy the single-track mountain bike trails on Nose Hill (info at Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance website (cmbalink.com) or visit the Medicine Wheel.
Ride 3: Blossoms, bakeries, playgrounds and murals
The Elbow River, Bow River & St Patrick’s Island
Wheels start to roll along the paved Elbow River Pathway past picnic areas and an impressive playground. The ride connects to Riverdale Avenue, where riders enjoy a picturesque pedal past stunning riverside homes with blossoming fruit and lilac trees in the springtime. 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 a shorter ride option by crossing the Rideau Park pedestrian bridge and looping back through Elbow Park.
A longer ride to the RiverWalk along the Bow River in the East Village continues along quiet side streets into Roxboro before crossing into Roxboro off-leash park in search of the hidden connector gravel trail at the base of the escarpment that leads to Erlton Street. Jump off your bike at the entrance to Roxboro Natural Park and climb the set of stairs to phenomenal views. The ride continues through Erlton and Lindsay Park, under Macleod Trail towards Stampede Park and below Scotsman’s Hill.
Continue along wide pathways to the MacDonald Avenue bridge where you cross to the west side of Elbow River and head north past Fort Calgary and the East Village playground to your potential bakery, coffee or lunch stop at the Simmons Building. Cross the Bow River to St. Patrick’s Island and visit another fantastic playground and the water feature at Trout Beach. Stop and look up into the trees to watch for nesting Great Horned Owls in the treetops in the spring.
You can backtrack along the Elbow River Pathway for your return or take a shortcut through the East Village, past the Central Library and the back alley balloon mural on 8 Avenue and along the 4 Street SE cycle track. Continue under the train tracks past my favorite mural in the city, the Corridor of Connection. Follow the 12 Avenue cycle tracks west and turn south on the 2 Street SW cycle tracks through Mission.
Take the quiet side streets through Elbow Park for some route variety or head back to the Elbow River Pathway. Elbow Park is 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 Start: Erlton Station
Facilities: Bathrooms at the parking lot, in Lindsay Park at MNP Community and Sport Centre, at the East Village Simmons Building, and on St. Patrick’s Island.
Distance & Difficulty: The short ride to Rideau Bridge is 7.5km (few hills, paved pathways, quiet side streets). The long ride to the East Village RiverWalk is 20km (few hills, paved pathways, cycle track return option).
Detours, Destinations & Suggestions: Sandy Beach inclusive playground, Stanley Park picnic, bakeries, and cafes along 4 Street in Mission and at the Simmons Building on the RiverWalk along the Bow River. St. Patrick’s Island picnic, Trout Beach natural water park and playground; the Central Library and many murals on the cycle track return.
Lori is the author of Calgary’s Best Bike Rides: 50 Urban Cycle Tours and Pathway Pedals and the best-selling guidebook Calgary’s Best Walks: 45 Urban Jaunts and Nature Strolls. She is the owner of Fit Frog Adventures where she leads walks, hikes, and snowshoe days. Lori partners with the Calgary Library to offer free guided urban walks every month. Connect with her, see upcoming events, and get signed copies of her books on Instagram & Facebook @lorifitfrog and at fitfrog.ca.
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