10 Fun Family Bike Rides in Calgary

by - Thursday, March 31, 2016

The secret to success with biking with kids is finding fairly flat paths that lead somewhere fun. Fortunately, in Calgary, we have several great options for family bike rides! These shorter distance bike rides are perfect for new cyclists, have minimal elevation gain, and little to no road riding. Please note that all distances are round-trip unless otherwise specified. Enjoy and please let me know which is your favorite!

1. Calgary Zoo to St. Patrick's Island - 5/6.7 km

With a lagoon for wading, an amazing playground, grassy hill to climb and roll down, funky art installation ("Bloom"), and pretty bridge to cross, your kids won't want to leave!  

My kids call this the "bridge route" as it goes along the river and passes under several bridges and overpasses. You only have to cross the street once, at Baines Bridge, and the path is not as heavily used as other sections of the Bow River Pathway, so it is quite safe and pleasant. 
  • 5 km Route: Starting from the zoo, get onto the Nose Creek Pathway and turn right (south). Follow the path under Memorial Drive and around the south side of the zoo. You will go under 2 zoo bridges. At Baines Bridge (the only crosswalk), cross to the other side of the bridge, and turn left. As soon as you get off the bridge, St Patrick's Island Park is on your right. There is a covered picnic area near the parking lot, washrooms are to the right, and the playground and hill are just past the washrooms on the path to the right. Continue west to see Bloom and the George C. King Bridge. Come back the way you came.
  • For a 6.7 km loop, cross George C. King bridge and return to the zoo via River Walk (left turn after the bridge)-Bow River Pathway-12 St SE-Zoo Rd NE-Baines Bridge-Bow River Pathway-Nose Creek Pathway. Be sure to check out the new playground on the south side of George C. King Bridge!
Worthwhile detour: Get a coffee at Phil & Sebastian or a treat at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery in the nearby Simmon's Building. Thanks to Sonja of Sonja's Super Suggestions for YYC Families for the tip!
George C. King Bridge and Bloom Art Installation
St. Patrick's Island Playground
6 St & 7 Ave SE Playground 
St. Patrick's Island Path

2. Pearce Estate Park to Nellie Breen Park - 2.4 km

Experience wetlands, train watching, birding, a river ride, major art installation, and playgrounds. Combine routes 2 & 3 (below) for a longer ride!
  • Route: Explore Pearce Estate Park, then get on to the Bow River Pathway. You will pass Bow Habitat Station on the left (otherwise you're going the wrong way!). Continue on the pathway until you reach a residential area. Turn left onto 15 St SE. Take your 2nd left and Nellie Breen Park will be 2 blocks ahead on the left. Although not the biggest playground, this is one of my kids' favorite places to play. The only thing missing is washrooms, so be sure to visit the washrooms at Pearce Park before you leave! "River Passage" at Harvie Rapids is a worthwhile detour on your way there or back. Just be sure to keep kids well back from the rapids.
Pearce Estate Park
River Passage
Nellie Breen Park

For more information on exploring Inglewood by Bike, please see this post. 

3. Pearce Estate Park to Inglewood Bird Sanctuary - 3 km

Experience wetlands, train watching, birding, a river ride, major art installation ("River Passage), and playgrounds. Combine routes 2 (above) & 3 for a longer ride!
  • Route: Head in the opposite direction on the Bow River Pathway (south) until you reach 9 Ave SE. Turn left and the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary will be a short ways ahead on the right. There are several paths to explore (on foot, bring a bike lock) and beautiful heritage buildings. Bring binoculars so you can birdwatch! For extra fun, download a birding app so you can easily identify the birds and "talk" to them. Detailed instructions on using the Merlin Bird ID app (free from Cornell University) are here.
Washrooms at Pearce Estate Park and Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (seasonal hours).

For more information on exploring Inglewood by Bike, please see this post. 

4. Baker Park to Bowness Park - 5.6 km

Enjoy flowers at the Sun Bowl, disc golf, picnicking*, wading, paddling, and playgrounds! Kids will enjoy the bear sculptures and big bridge too.

5.6 km Route: Park in the main parking lot and head towards the Sun Bowl. Turn right onto the Bow River Pathway** and follow the path across the Stoney Trail Bridge. Turn left and take the paved path on the left or the dirt path on the right. The second (newer) playground is usually our turnaround point and we come back the way we came. To make a loop and reduce the distance a bit, stay left on the paved path then turn left on 85 St (bridge), but note that you will have to ride on the side of the road across the bridge.

In summer, continue past the playground (east) on the right fork of the paved path to the:
  • Lagoon - boat rentals available at the Boat House (no private boats may be launched here). There is also great skating on the lagoon in winter.
  • Seasons of Bowness Park cafe - As of May 31, 2016 the market is open with a limited menu. The restaurant will open later this summer.
  • Wading pool - scheduled to open Summer 2016. Stay tuned to Calgary Parks for updates! 
*Bowness Park has several picnic sites and shelters which are reservable through Calgary Parks. Reservations recommended on weekends. 
**There is a fun disc golf course to the right of the Sun Bowl! Bring your own discs.
Baker Park Sun Bowl 
Baker Park
Stoney Trail Bridge
Baker Park Bear Sculptures "Playful Cubs"

5. Calgary Curling Club to 10th St NW - 4.5 km

Visit several Calgary Landmarks including the Peace Bridge, Poppy Plaza (war memorial), Eau Claire Market & Prince's Island Park. The playground at Prince's Island Park is one of the best in the city & the splash park/wading pool at Eau Claire is a lot of fun too!

Route: From the public pay lot east of the Calgary Curling Club, take the overpass over Memorial Drive and turn right onto the Bow River Pathway. Stay on the north side of the river. At 10th Street, take the underpass and explore Poppy Plaza on the other side. Come back the way you came, and cross the Peace Bridge. Be sure to stay in the middle lane (bike lane) on the bridge! Stay left when you get off the bridge and continue on the paved path until you reach Eau Claire Market (shopping, dining, washrooms, splash park/wading pool); it will be on your right. Turn left and cross the bridge to Prince's Island. Here you have many options - play frisbee, go to the playground, watch the ducks, throw rocks in the river, walk an interpretive trail, go to River Cafe - but if you must head back, continue straight and you will be back on the Memorial Dr overpass next to the parking lot.

Public washrooms are available at Eau Claire Market (outside by the windmill and inside by the food court), and below River Cafe.

Peace Bridge
Poppy Plaza
Prince's Island Playground (part of it - it's big!)

6. Confederation Park - 1.3-2.8 km

Confederation Park is a favorite for its beautiful setting and landscaping. In summer, you can count on several parties taking wedding photos here. Large towering trees in the coulee, a meandering path, and cute bridge over the pond outlet make for a scenic stroll or bike ride. 

Starting from Rosemont Community Centre, you have a couple options:
  • 1.5 km return to the playground: Take the 10 St underpass and follow the path to the northeast. Stay left to access the washrooms in the parks building (seasonal hours). Stay to the right to get to the playground. 
  • 1.3 km return to far end of the pond: Go straight. At the first fork in the path, stay right. Continue around the pond to reach a good duck viewing spot. Kids will enjoy biking 'round and 'round the pond. (Note: There is a new "Please do not feed waterfowl" sign at the pond.)
Combine both loops for a longer outing!

Confederation Park Pond

7. Edworthy Park to Shouldice Playground - 5.2 km

This river ride takes you from a park full of playgrounds to another playground. Stop in at Angel's for a coffee or ice cream and take time to play in the river on a warm day! We park at Edworthy as it's close to Grandma's house, but Tanya Koob of Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies recommends starting from Shouldice as there's more parking. 

Note: This route requires riding on the road for about 500 metres each way (but 2 blocks can be bypassed on a walking trail and 350 m is on a quiet gravel road).

5.2 km Route: Starting from Angel's Cappuccino and Ice Cream at Edworthy Park, go west on the Bow River Pathway. After you pass a clinic and some condos, you'll have to ride on the side of the road or sidewalk for a couple blocks, but if I'm with the kids and it's midweek and quiet, I usually just continue on the walking path for 2 blocks where it rejoins with the bike path. You'll pass several football/soccer fields. At the gravel road (13 Ave), turn left. Continue straight for 350 metres. Rejoin the path on the right and go under Hwy 1. The playground is 250 m beyond the underpass and on your right.

Bow River Pathway
Shouldice Playground
For more information on Shouldice Park and Playground, see this post by Calgary Playground Review.

Off trail exploring in Edworthy Park

8. Confluence Park (aka West Nose Creek Park) - 4.5 km

Take your picture with Split Rock, a large glacial erratic, and see native prairie plants in a rich riparian zone on this short loop. There are opportunities for a longer ride along the Nose Creek Pathway, but the trail is hilly to the north and northwest, so it's not ideal for beginning riders.

Route: Whether you take the paved trail or the gravel trail, you will arrive at Split Rock after 500 metres. The lower dirt trail is prettier and allows you to cross several small bridges over the meandering creek, but it may be mucky in the spring. In summer, enjoy the unique vegetation along the creek. Fall colors are pretty here too. For more details, please see this post.

Confluence Park Unpaved Trail
Split Rock (it's hard to tell how big it is, but it's over 7 feet tall!)

9. South Glenmore Park to Weaselhead

South Glenmore Park to Weaselhead Natural Area, like much of the area around the Glenmore reservoir, is a nature escape in the city. Enjoy playground time at South Glenmore Park (it has 2 playgrounds and a splash park), then take in reservoir and forest views. Bring a bike lock so you can lock up your bikes and explore Weaselhead or the popular Jackrabbit trail (parallel to the bike path) on foot, but stay on the trail at all times and be on the lookout for wildlife and undetonated explosives. When the kids are strong bikers, try biking around the reservoir (~14 km) for a longer ride!

South Glenmore Park Playground and Splash Park
Our turnaround spot - the signs indicate steep hill ahead and possible undetonated explosives!
Beautiful views of Glenmore Reservoir

10. Lindsay Park to Roxboro Park & Elbow River Beach - 2.8 km

With a playground at either end and a beach in the middle, this ride is a summer favorite! Worthwhile detours include grabbing coffee at Phil & Seb's on 4th Street or picking up pastries at Yann's Haute Patisserie (329 23 Ave SW). 

Route: Take the Elbow River path south. Go under Scollen Bridge at 25 Ave SW. Continue south on the left (east) side of the river until you reach the playgrounds and tennis courts of Roxboro Park. Return the way you came, but when you get to the bridge, turn left (don't cross the street!), and then take your first left onto the pathway. Keep an eye out on your left for river access and enjoy some beach time on this pebble beach.

Playing along the river behind St. Mary's Highschool
Elbow River Beach
Roxboro Park Playground
Yann's Haute Patisserie
Yann's pastries
There is also great biking in Nose Hill Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park, and other parks around town. Stay tuned for the second installment of family biking in Calgary!

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  1. Thank you for figuring out the distance between Baker and Bowness. I used to have all these distances written down somewhere...

  2. This is so awesome! Thanks Karen :) We will use this story a lot this summer!

  3. Thanks Ladies! The geographer in me needs to get numbers. LOL. Hope it helps!


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