Top Trails to Explore This Summer
The weather is getting warmer and the days are growing longer, which means now is the perfect time get outside and explore some of the many pathways in and around Calgary and Airdrie.
While both cities are known as gateways to the trail-based adventures that await in the Rockies, there are plenty of great trail options closer to home. After all, Calgary boasts North America’s most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network, with roughly 1,000 kilometres of paved walkways and 96 kilometres of unpaved trails all within the city limits. Airdrie, meanwhile, has around 140 kilometres of paved pathways that allow for lovely walks and rides with a view.
Whether you’re hiking or biking, there’s a route nearby for you. Here are some of our favourites to explore on a sunny summer day.
FOR EASY WALKS IN NATURE:
Big Hill Springs Trail
Just beyond the northwest edge of Calgary (and a 25-minute drive from Airdrie), you’ll find a lovely, mellow walking route in Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. The 1.6-kilometre loop treats visitors of all ages to forested scenery and mini waterfalls that flow right alongside the path.
Budget about 30 minutes for your stroll, as the route is a short but sweet adventure. Another tip: Big Hill Springs Trail is extremely popular, so consider visiting mid-week or early in the morning to secure a parking spot and avoid crowds.
12 Mile Coulee
Take on this scenic out-and-back trail in Calgary’s northwest for an escape within the city. Over the course of 4.2 km, you’ll walk along stretches of native grassland and wildflowers while also encountering shady sections of aspen, poplar and spruce trees. Keep your eyes peeled for resident wildlife, including deer, coyotes, porcupines and the odd red fox.
The full trail takes roughly an hour to complete, though the out-and-back format means you can call it a day and turn back wherever is right for you — it’s all about finding your perfect fix of the great outdoors.
FOR LONGER TREKS WITH PLENTY OF SCENERY:
East Nose Hill Loop
Nose Hill is one of Calgary’s most iconic urban parks — an 11-square-kilometre oasis of hills, trails and wildlife situated between 12 northwest communities. Whether hiking or biking, there’s no shortage of trails to explore on Nose Hill, but for a full afternoon of outdoor adventure, the East Nose Hill Loop is your best bet.
Be prepared to take on a variety of hills on this 12.7-km hike, which departs from the Edgemont Boulevard parking lot and features stellar views of both the mountains and the Calgary skyline. On average, the loop takes just over three hours to complete, with minimal shade along the way. Be sure to pack plenty of water to keep you hydrated as you stroll.
Glenbow Ranch Outer Loop Trails
Take a day-trip toward Cochrane for this 9.7-km trail that features rolling hills, mountain views, wildlife-spotting and even some surviving structures from early European settlers. Alberta’s diverse scenery is on full display in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, where you’ll find yourself walking through forested areas, past far-reaching prairies and along the Bow River.
While the loop often takes about two and a half hours to complete, the low elevation gain makes it easy to navigate, even for less-experienced hikers. Plus, as the whole route consists of two separate trails, you can choose your own adventure and shorten the trip whenever you’re feeling ready for your well-deserved, post-walk beverage or ice cream cone.
FOR BIRDWATCHERS OF ALL LEVELS:
Home to playgrounds, a golf course and toboggan hills in the winter, Confederation Park in Calgary’s northwest is also a favourite spot among local birdwatchers. Warbling vireos, yellow warblers and red-winged blackbirds are commonly spotted near the park’s large pond, along with dabbling ducks like blue-winged teals and mallards.
Visit during the passerine migration season (late May and late August into September) for the potential to spot a variety of songbirds settling in or taking off between 10 Street N.W. and 14 Street N.W. This stretch of Confederation Park is also where you’ll find a paved loop circling the pond.
East Lake Loop
In Airdrie, seasoned birdwatchers and first-timers alike flock to spot birds of all feathers in and around East Lake. Encircled by a 1.9-km fully paved pathway, the lake and the surrounding East Lake Park are commonly occupied by Canada geese, American coots, blackbirds, sparrows and several other species.
You may also happen upon other small wildlife, including muskrats, as you make your way around the water — about a 30-minute trek in total.
FOR LEISURELY FAMILY BIKE RIDES:
Bowness Park/Baker Park Loop
Split by the Bow River in northwest Calgary, Bowness Park and Baker Park offer a perfect area to explore with younger kids in tow. The riverside scenery and family-friendly atmosphere is fantastic, and there’s plenty to do when the kids inevitably get tired of pedaling.
From boat rentals and picnic sites to playgrounds and spray parks, a summer day exploring Bowness Park and Baker Park is a must.
West Airdrie Loop
Stretching for 8.4 km through much of West Airdrie (including the Genesis Land communities of Bayside and Bayview), this calm, flat route runs alongside the area’s extensive canal system, providing lovely views of the local waterways.
Popular with Bayside- and Bayview-based residents, the West Airdrie Loop inspires leisurely rides that are sure to include plenty of friendly stops along to the way to say hello to neighbours.
FOR URBAN MOUNTAIN BIKING ADVENTURES:
Nestled just east of WinSport Canada Olympic Park, the Paskapoo Slopes offer up a range of beginner and intermediate trails to tackle by mountain bike or e-bike. Consisting largely of green- and blue-rated single tracks, the collection of climbs, loops and downhill routes feature sweeping city views as well as quiet, isolated wooded areas.
Whether you’re a budding biker or a seasoned rider, you’re sure to enjoy a day of exploring these slopes.
Sideshow Bob in Bowmont Park
Sideshow Bob is an enduring favourite among Calgary mountain bikers. Featuring a downhill descent that runs more than 1.3 kilometres, the single-track trail carves along the cliffside before dipping in and out of trees toward a pathway in the middle of northwest Calgary’s Bowmont Park, where other biking and hiking trails await.
While the Sideshow Bob trail is definitely not for first-timers, it’s also fairly non-technical, allowing intermediate riders to take it on without much issue. Just stick to the trail and enjoy the super-fast, rolling ride.