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Calgary’s best fall walks to tasty spots


There is nothing better in the fall than some urban exploring followed by a tasty treat and hot drink in a cozy cafe. Let’s walk!

Dale Hodges Wetlands & Bowmont Park Waterfall Valley – NW

Waterfalls, Rockies & Bow River views, off-leash, paved and single-track trails

Tucked in between the community of Silver Springs and the Bow River, Bowmont Natural Environment Park offers a nature break. Start the walk on the paved Bow River Pathway and watch for silly signage on park benches, like “humans first invented fire right here in 1903”. Someone with a sense of humor has placed placards on benches throughout the park!

Connect to Dale Hodges Park and walk the boardwalks and trails past polishing marshes, wet meadows and the Nautilus Pond and learn about the stormwater treatment process as it flows to the Bow River. This process is estimated to reduce sediment in stormwater by 50 percent, helping to protect our river system. Continue past the Nautilus Pond and onto the roller-coaster grassland pathways. 

A climb from the ponds on one of many single-track trails leads to stunning Rockies and Bow River views as walkers dip and climb, working up an appetite for the post-walk treat. The high points on the trail offer a bird’s-eye view of some of the vast and impressive properties along the river in Bowness. Follow the boardwalk trail and descend into Waterfall Valley where 3m cascading falls flow over a spongy-looking deposit of tufa. The tufa is composed of mineral deposits that result when spring water precipitates calcium carbonate over algae-covered rocks. 

On a very cold day when the falls are frozen and the spring water is warmer than the air, you are immersed in a glacial steam bath. Climb the escarpment staircase out of Waterfall Valley and decide if you will continue west, connecting across the Bow River on pedestrian bridges into Bowness for a longer walk or if you will loop back. Both options have tasty post-walk pit stops!

Starting Point: Park at the official parking area on 52 Street (one-way) just off Home Road OR park in Silver Springs on Silver Springs Boulevard at 54 Avenue for immediate access to Waterfall Valley.

Tasty spots to warm up: Cadence Coffee, 6407 Bowness Road NW, is a local Bowness hot spot. Cafe Le Matin, Unit 1 5720 Silver Springs Boulevard NW, is the perfect stop just a few steps from Waterfall Valley. Both spots are popular for big breakfasts, lunches or a cup of coffee and freshly baked treat.


Sandy Beach, Britannia, Stanley Park, Elbow River Pathway – SW

Hidden stairways, escarpment nature paths, off-leash parks, Elbow River and Rocky Mountain views

Connecting neighborhoods on foot is my favorite way to get to know a city. This route travels across pedestrian bridges, along regional pathways, and then detours on short-cut community pathways and stairways tucked in between houses. Start at Sandy Beach Park and walk along the Elbow River River pathway to the Sandy Beach bridge. Cross the river and take one of the two paths up Britannia Slopes to an off-leash area with big mountain views. Keep watch for bald eagles at eye level as they soar along the river valley. 

Continue north along the escarpment before taking the stairs down to the fenced Riverdale off-leash park. Walk east along Riverdale Drive to connect to Stanley Park before climbing through the woods to Parkhill. Skirt the escarpment to soak up the views of the Rockies and some expansive Elbow Park properties below. Follow a paved path back down to Rideau Road and continue to the pedestrian bridge to Elbow Drive. 

Navigate the neighborhood of Elbow Park to Christ Church and a hidden stairway that gets you closer to Bell’s Cafe and the best (and biggest!) freshly made muffins in Calgary. Or continue into Altadore to visit Neighbour Coffee. The two cafes have tasty food – Bell’s has more traditional baked goods and sandwiches, while Neighbour Coffee offers unique items like brown rice bowls and interesting toasts. Both spots have inviting patios with Bell’s patio facing north and Neighbour’s patio facing south, making it the perfect spot to soak up some afternoon sunshine. 

Post-cafe, continue to River Park and make your way to the escarpment edge to enjoy views of the Elbow River below. Take the treed stairway back down to Sandy Beach Park or continue to the paved pathway at the far south end of the park.

Starting Point: By transit, Stanley Park, 4011 1a Street SW (close to the 39 Avenue LRT station) or Sandy Beach Park official parking lot, 4500 14a Street SW

Tasty spots to warm up: Bell’s Cafe, 1515 34 Avenue SW and Neighbour Coffee, 4038 16 Street SW

Facilities: Seasonal bathrooms at Sandy Beach and River Park; check before you go.


Bridgeland, Renfrew, the Bow River, Nose Creek Pathway, NE

Rocky Mountain and downtown views, neighborhood exploring, off-leash parks, hidden stairways

Start your walk with big views of the Rockies and Calgary’s downtown core atop Tom Campbell’s Hill, an off-leash park. The hill’s name originates from a large sign that stood for many years advertising Tom Campbell’s Hats. Soak up the views and pat a few pooches before continuing to the Bow River Pathway below. Follow the Bow River Pathway east, past the Canadian Wilds enclosure at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, which is visible from the main pathway. As you pass by, keep an eye out for the moose and grizzly bears that live in the enclosure. 

The pathway turns north and becomes the quieter Nose Creek Pathway. At the science centre (TELUS Spark), follow the paved pathway west up the slope into Renfrew. A pathway along the edge of the escarpment offers a bird’s-eye view of the leafy streets of Bridgeland. From the escarpment trail above Bridgeland, it is hard to see the streets and houses for all the trees. Researchers call this a “biophilic community” or “green streets,” where nature is integrated into the community from the ground up. Urban forests that canopy streets and include pocket-sized green spaces are the norm in Calgary’s older neighborhoods and this makes for wonderful walks. 

Continue west to the landmark, copper-domed, Ukrainian Catholic Church. The church marks the set of stairs that you’ll climb to the next viewpoint. Decide what kind of tasty treat you feel like as there are many options along First Avenue and Edmonton Trail. Grab a freshly roasted coffee or a picnic supper and soak up the sights in this wonderful inner-city neighborhood. 

Starting Point: Anywhere in Bridgeland Transit: Bridgeland LRT or Parking: Tom Campbell’s Hill official parking, Child Avenue and Centre Avenue or anywhere in Bridgeland

Tasty spots to warm up: Baya Rica Cafe, 204 7a Street NW; Phil & Sebastian, 69 7a Street NE; or Bono Coffee Roasters, 737 1 Avenue NE. There are also many ice cream spots (Village Ice Cream, Made by Marcus and Lukes Drug Mart soft serve) in Bridgeland in case the need arises!


Lori is the author of Calgary’s Best Bike Rides: 50 urban cycle tours and pathway pedals and Calgary’s Best Walks: 45 urban jaunts and nature strolls. She is the owner of Fit Frog Adventures where she leads year-round urban walks, hikes, and snowshoe days. Lori presents about all things walks and biking and she 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 @lorifitfrog and at and at bookstores and cool shops throughout Calgary.


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