Walkabouts in Calgary host awe-inspiring river valleys, an extensive trail network through urban wilds, serenading birdsong, and those trademark big Alberta skies. But there’s more - much, much more! Waterfalls, wildlife, musical gardens, garage art and murals, chickadees that land on your hand, and cafés where hot chocolate and tasty treats await. Let’s walk!
Walk 1: The Wandering Island and Roxboro Natural Park, SW. Elbow Island Park, Roxboro, and Erlton.
Walk the quiet side streets of Roxboro to the entrance to The Wandering Island (wanderingisland.ca), off Mission Bridge. In late 2020, this collaborative art park opened with a mandate to create slow art for the audience of birds, bats, beaver, fish, and the occasional curious wanderer. Ideal for little ones, the single-track trail skirts the periphery and ends in the perfect picnic spot. There’s lots of seating along the trail and ample opportunity for kids to explore some urban nature, throw a few rocks, and perhaps see a beaver! Once off the Island, continue north across the Mission Bridge and then east on the Elbow River pathway along 26 Avenue. Cross the Elbow River at 25 Avenue and take your next right onto Erlton Street. Walk north and watch for the pathway turnoff at 27 Avenue that leads back to Roxboro Park, or climb to the top of the hill and enter St. Mary’s Cemetery. Keep your eyes open for rabbits as they are everywhere in Erlton! Follow the cemetery road to the large cross and a path that leads to the escarpment trail in Roxboro/Erlton Natural Park. Enjoy spectacular downtown views as you follow the trail north and then downhill into the trees and back to your starting point.
Starting point: Roxboro Park Off-Leash at Roxboro Road and Roxboro Glen Road, SW.
Tasty pitstop: Stop at one of these 4 Street, SW spots: Yann Haute Patisserie, Phil & Sebastian Coffee, La Boulangerie Bakery Café.
Walk 2: Cheeky chickadees and musical gardens. Jackrabbit Trail, Glenmore Reservoir, SW.
There is no Wi-Fi in the forest but trust me, you’ll find a better connection. This secret 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 you enjoy intermittent views of the Glenmore Reservoir. Bring birdseed, stand still, and wait for the chickadees to land on your hands. Continue all the way to the Beaver Pond at the end for a 7-kilometre round trip walk or drop down to the reservoir at any time to skip rocks or have a snack while soaking up big nature.
Starting point: South Glenmore Park, 24 Street and 90 Avenue, SW.
Tasty pitstop: Stop at Good Earth Café 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.
Walk 3: Murals and folk art! Riley Park to Sunnyside, NW.
Start at Riley Park and walk east into Sunnyside, a community with character. Older, renovated homes painted in primary colors line the side streets. Zig-zag Sunnyside’s streets and back lanes and 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. Travel along Kensington Road, and pick your hot chocolate pitstop. Grab a mid-walk treat and then walk to the impressive Poppy Plaza war memorial at the intersection of 10 Street and Memorial Drive. A dynamic public space, the plaza is the perfect place at which to sit, reflect, and watch the river flow by. Loop back through side streets to Riley Park.
Starting point: Riley Park official parking lot at the end of 8 Avenue just east of 12 Street. Here is the Google map from my blog for the Sunnyside Mural Walk.
Tasty pitstop: Vendome Café in Sunnyside is a favorite with its outdoor patio and tasty food. There are also many tasty spots along Kensington Road and 10 Street.
Walk 4: Waterfalls and boardwalks! Bowmont Park and Waterfall Valley, NW.
Little rockhounds will love racing down the boardwalk trail into Waterfall Valley where a 3-metre cascading fall flows over a spongy-looking deposit of tufa. Geologists-in-training will be excited to learn that the tufa is composed of mineral deposits that result when spring water precipitates calcium carbonate over algae-covered rocks. On a very cold winter day, when the falls are frozen and the spring water is warmer than the air, you are immersed in a glacial steam bath. Climb out of the valley and walk east or west following single-track trails to the perfect picnic spot with a view.
Starting point: Parking lot at Silver Springs Boulevard NW and 54 Avenue NW.
Tasty pitstop: Café Matin is just around the corner from the starting point.
Lori’s new guidebook, Calgary’s Best Walks Expanded, has 45 walks with maps and 40 suggested detours (all perfect for families!). She leads walks, hikes, and snowshoe days with her company, Fit Frog. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook @lorifitfrog, and on her website, fitfrog.ca.
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