3 Family Hikes in NW Calgary

by - Sunday, October 18, 2015

If you need your daily dose of nature but don't have time to drive to the mountains, try a local park! There are several natural areas in Calgary that offer great views, a workout, and an escape from pavement. Here are some of our favorite family-friendly trails in northwest Calgary.

1. Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park - A short, but sweet favorite with the younger set complete with stairs, boardwalk and a small waterfall. The view from the lookout is quite nice! See our trip writeup here.
  • Distance: 1 km round trip to the falls with options to go further (there's a large network of trails, but the slope uphill from the lookout is very steep and there is a large dropoff from the escarpment. Use caution.). 
  • Geocaching: Yes - one cache and one earthcache.
  • Sports Stroller Friendly: No.
Waterfall Valley Boardwalk
Waterfall Valley Lookout
View from the Lookout
2. Douglas Fir Trail, Edworthy Park - This is one of our favorite urban hikes as you can walk through old growth forest (some trees are 500 years old!) and it's feels like you're far from town. The trail is shaded, but pretty (especially in fall!) and the lookout offers fantastic views of the river. Children will love the racing to the lookout! UPDATE: As of November 2017, the Douglas Fir Trail has reopened!
  • Distance: 2.2 km roundtrip from Angel's Cafe in Edworthy Park (Bowness Road parking lot) to the lookout.
  • The route: From Angel's Cafe, cross the bridge and follow the paved path. When you cross the railway tracks, keep left on the paved path. The trailhead will be on your right hand side shortly. Take the trail to the lookout! (Note that the trail continues for a few kilometres but due to slope instability, travel beyond the lookout is not recommended until trail repairs are made.) 
  • Geocaching: Yes - various caches in Edworthy Park, and one earthcache.
  • Sports Stroller friendly: The first 750 metres through Edworthy Park is stroller friendly, but the actual Douglas Fir Trail is not (narrow and has stairs).
The trail has a microclimate that allows different plants to thrive.
Beautiful fall colors on the Douglas Fir Trail
View from the Lookout
3. Nose Hill Park (14 St NW Parking Lot Entrance)

Nose Hill Park, one of the largest parks in Calgary, offers endless options for exploring, but our favorite places to take the kids are the 1) teepees*, 2) intermittent pond, 3) boulders and cliffs, and 4) medicine wheel. The latter three are all easily accessed from the 14th Street Parking Lot. See them all in one day or plan to see one feature each visit and do a little geocaching while you're there. Nose Hill Park has over 50 geocaches! (*The teepees are accessed from the Edgemont Blvd NW entrance.)

Map by Google, Landmarks added by Karen Ung
The Medicine Wheel is the newest feature in Nose Hill Park and has cultural significance to Aboriginal Peoples. Visitors are encouraged to leave an offering to the Creator and be blessed. I love the sentiment and how this landmark fits with the natural landscape. For more information on the Medicine Wheel, please see the City of Calgary Blog - New Cultural Landmark in Nose Hill Park.

Want to know more about medicine wheels? Check out my story Here We Go 'Round The Medicine Wheel

To get to the Medicine Wheel, head northwest of the parking lot approximately 500 metres. If you can see the ham radio tower, aim for it; the medicine wheel is just south of it. GPS coordinates: 51 06.073, -114 05.923.

Nose Hill Park Medicine Wheel
Radio Tower
The intermittent pond is different every time we see it. Sometimes it's completely dry, other times it's quite large, and occasionally it's the biggest mud puddle in the world. We enjoy checking it out and talking about why it looks different from last time. About 850 metres from the gate or 1 km from the parking lot, it can be a little tricky to find. See the map above, or enter 51 06.324, -114 04.594 into your GPS.

The pond in April
If you have airplane fans in your family or would just like a pretty vantage of Calgary, head over to the cliffs and big rocks. It's the perfect spot to watch planes land and take off or capture a sunset shot of downtown. The big rocks and cliffs are 650 metres from the gate. Go around the gate and walk straight up the access road, then turn right onto the first major path.  GPS coordinates: 51 06.324, -114 04.594.
Plane watching from the big rocks
Cliffs & Boulders
Parking: If heading south on 14 St NW, the 14 St entrance is on your right, just past North Haven Drive NW. Depending on your destination, you may turn in and park on the side of the road (just be sure not to block the gate or you might get towed!), or follow the road around to the official parking lot.

Geocaching: Yes, various.

Sports Stroller Friendly: Yes, but be prepared to start your walk with a big (up)hill!

What are your favorite urban hikes in Calgary?

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2 comments

  1. Great description of the trails! I've done Waterfall Valley but will have to check out those in Nosehill over the shoulder season. It's always fun to find new hidden gems in the city :)

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  2. Thanks Sarah! Nose Hill doesn't look like much from the road, but is huge and fun to explore!! :) Hope we can go there together sometime!

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