Thursday, April 22, 2021

Biking around Calgary with Kids - The Best Family Pathways and Trails

We love spring biking in Calgary when the mountain trails are still icy and snow covered. You can go skiing in the morning, return to Calgary and go for a great bike ride - all in the same day.

In this guide I've featured our favourite pathways and trails around Calgary. I've started with pathways in the north, continued to our favourite pathways in the south, and ended with a couple of destinations just outside Calgary.

Calgary has many amazing bike paths and trails across the city! (Photo: Nose Hill Park)

Biking around Bowness, Baker Park, and Bowmont, NW Calgary 

We live in the NW so this is our go to area for biking in Calgary. There are beautiful flat paved trails in Bowness Park and you can connect to the Bow River Regional Pathway to make a loop with Baker Park on the other side of the river. - and if you like disc golf, bring a bike lock and a few discs because there's a great course in Baker Park! And this is a great loop for novice riders with only a couple hills as you go up and down off the bridges at either end.

Other attractions here in Bowness Park include a wading pool in summer, geocaches to find, a playground, nature trails to walk, boat rentals on the pond, and miniature train rides around the park.

Biking the paved regional pathway from Baker Park into Bowmont

From Bowness Park or Baker Park we also like to bike into the Bowmont Natural Area along the Bow River Pathway. In Bowmont you'll find a great mixture of paved pathways, dirt trails for mountain biking, and fun places to play near the river. There's a pond as well that we've enjoyed swimming in on hot days.

Further along in Bowmont, we love exploring the gravel trails around Dale Hodges Park (a brand new wetlands area) and there's a fun "unofficial" jump park here too at the back of the park near the cliffs. To access this area, it's easier to park at the far end either at Shouldice Park or from the parking lot off Home Road and 52nd Street.

Note the paved pathway is flat as you leave Baker Park but then there is a big climb up to Silver Springs. Once on top, the path is more "rolling" until it drops steeply down to the river again near Dale Hodges Park. It is not a beginner pathway ride. (This is one of the only sections of the Bow River regional pathway with steep hills in Calgary.)

Biking the gravel pathways around Dale Hodges Park 

Recommended Rides:

Bowness - Baker Park Loop (All Trails) - 4.3 km paved loop 

Baker Park - Bowmont Loop (All Trails) - This map is just to give you a general look at the area. You can choose dirt or paved trails. You can also turn around at any point, or you can jump onto the Bowmont Trails from several different parking lots (just look for the P symbols.)

Bowmont Traverse (All Trails) - This shortens your ride a bit and we've often started at the parking lot off 85th Street.

Mountain Biking the Bowmont Singletrack Trail

Bowmont Singletrack mountain bike traverse through Bowmont
(Trail Forks) - This is one of our favourite mountain bike rides in the city. The first bit of the trail has some steep climbing, so we often climb up the paved trail into Silver Springs and then hop on at the top to ride the trail heading east. If you ride the whole thing, you'll end up at Dale Hodges Park. Or you can connect onto the paved pathway at any time. Return on the singletrack trail or the paved trail. 

Note Trail Forks rates this trail as "beginner" but it is by no means a "novice ride." Kids will need experience riding narrow trails - and the trail feels a tad exposed in spots if you're new to mountain biking.

The unofficial Dale Hodges Jump Park 

Biking across Nose Hill Park, NW Calgary 

Nose Hill is one of my favourite places to bike in Calgary! It has some beautiful paved pathways across the park and it is a great place to get some experience with easy dirt/gravel riding. Most of the trails are nice and wide, many of them old grass covered roads, and the City of Calgary has created gravel pathways across much of the park.

For the easiest biking, start at the parking lot off Shaganappi Trail. This is the only starting spot for "relatively flat" riding across the middle of Nose Hill. Start anywhere else and you'll have to climb up first. 

You'll feel far away from the city when you start biking across Nose Hill Park 

One of the teepees on Nose Hill Park that you can find while biking 

And if you're into geocaching, this park is a gold mine for them! Try to find the following locations on Nose Hill (they all show up on the geocaching app by Groundspeak) and if you purchase a premium subscription you'll be able to find more caches as well. 

- The Nose Hill Glacial Erratic (NE side of the park)

- The Seasonal Pond (SE side the park) -  located near the geocache in this link

- The Nose Hill Medicine Wheel (SE side of the park)

- The Nose Hill Labyrinth (SE side of the park)  

- The large teepee (NW side of the park) - located near the geocache in this link

You can also go to Google Maps to find the erratic, the medicine wheel, and the labyrinth (stone maze.)

Playing around on the glacial erratic on Nose Hill 

The Nose Hill Labyrinth or Stone Maze 

Maps and Routes:

Trails across Nose Hill Park  (All Trails) - the South Loop goes to the seasonal pond.

Nose Hill pathway map  (Trail Forks) - The network of trails on Nose Hill can be very confusing! I usually have the Trail Forks app open on my phone to keep track of where we are. Note you can use Trail Forks for free on your computer but you'll have to pay if you want to use the app. I have a yearly membership.

The Nose Hill Medicine Wheel 

Country riding across the middle of Nose Hill Park 

Bow River Regional Pathway Rides 

The Bow River Pathway starts in the far NW near Bowness and Baker Park and ends way down south in Fish Creek Park. 

The pathway is paved and relatively flat most of the time (other than the section through Bowmont.) To skip the section through Bowmont, you can take Bow Crescent through Bowness which will take you to Shouldice Park - where you can hop on the regional pathway again. 

You'll be sharing Bow Crescent with vehicles, but it's a quiet road and very popular with cyclists who don't want to climb up to Silver Springs, just to drop back down to the river. The rest of the time, this pathway is almost always down near the river. Here is a link to the bridges where you leave the pathway to hop on to Bow Crescent. Once on Bow Crescent just follow it all the way to the end.

One of the train bridges you'll pass by in Bowmont as you ride downtown 

For maps and route finding, I always find the City of Calgary Pathway Map difficult to use, but it's better than nothing. And there is an app you can put on your phone. Alternately, look up the regional pathways on Trail Forks (they're broken down into segments and show up as purple trails,) or even use Google Maps and select "walking" if you want the regional pathway to show up rather than roads. 

Easy riding along the Bow River Pathway in Calgary 

Some of our favourite Bow River Regional Pathway rides include:

  • Shouldice Park to Edworthy Park, NW - 7 km return (Bike from the Shouldice Playground to Angel's CafĂ© for ice-cream.)

  • Edworthy Park, NW to downtown - 20 km return to the East Village and St. Patrick's Island playgrounds. (We like to stop at Prince's Island too so there's several stops for playgrounds!)

  • Downtown traverse from St. Patrick's Island to the Peace Bridge and Prince's Island Park - 6 km return (We park at the West Zoo parking lot which offers free parking for zoo members.) - And I highly recommend visiting the new Flyover Playground along Memorial Drive under Edmonton Trail.
The new Flyover Playground under Edmonton Trail downtown 

Everybody loves riding across the Peace Bridge downtown Calgary 

  • Pearce Estate Park, SE to downtown - 6 km return to the St. Patrick's Island playground (and you pass right by the Nellie Breen Playground which is a great park.) - And there's a big parking lot at Pearce Estate Park!

  • Pearce Estate Park to Carburn Park, SE - 20 km return (and this is a quiet section of the pathway if you're trying to find somewhere to ride on the weekend when the city is busy.)

  • Carburn Park to the Chinook Rotary Nature Park (Fish Creek Park,) SE - 24 km return (Along this ride you'll pass through Fish Creek Park past Mallard Point, across the Highway 22X, ending at a beautiful wetlands area below the neighborhood of Cranston.) - And you can stop at the Fish Creek Bike Park (more info below under the Fish Creek section.)

I love biking through SE Calgary where the regional pathway is nice and quiet 

And as of 2022 you can also stop at the new Inglewood asphalt pump track in the East Village which is located just off the paved pathway south of Pearce Estate Park.

The asphalt pump track in Inglewood is a great stop while biking along the Bow River pathway

Nose Creek and Elbow River Regional Pathway Rides, NE and SE Calgary

The Elbow River Pathway is another paved regional pathway that starts downtown at Fort Calgary and ends at the Glenmore Reservoir in the south. 

Last summer we started at West Nose Creek Park (Confluence Park) in the NE and we followed the Nose Creek Pathway (also paved and easy riding when heading north to south) to the Calgary Zoo. From the zoo we followed the regional pathway to Fort Calgary. Then we continued south to Sandy Beach Park on the Elbow River Pathway - where we phoned home for a ride to get back to our car. Our ride was just over 20 km one way (all flat or downhill.)

We like to start at Confluence Park and bike the Nose Creek Pathway

The Nose Creek Pathway isn't my personal "favourite" trail as it parallels Deerfoot Trail much of the time, but it's a fabulous way to extend a pathway ride along the Elbow River Pathway. And if you have time, make sure you go check out the Split Rock in Confluence Park before starting your ride south. 

Biking downtown on the Nose Creek Pathway 

For an easier Elbow River ride (without a shuttle,) start at Fort Calgary and ride to Sandy Beach Park and back (roughly 20 km return.) Along the way you'll pass through Stampede Park and you'll find playgrounds along your ride as well.

Note the Elbow River Pathway detours through several communities and we always find ourselves getting lost. If you choose to bike the Elbow, make sure you're good at reading maps and follow your route on Trail Forks or Google Maps.

Arriving at Sandy Beach after riding along the Elbow River Pathway

For a shorter outing you can also also bike around Confluence Park on the paved and gravel trails. We did this last spring and it was a lot of fun meandering along the creek. 

For route finding, you can either use the Trail Forks App, the City of Calgary pathways map mentioned above, or look up your route on Google Maps.

Fun biking through Confluence Park along natural creek side trails 

Glenmore Reservoir Loop, SW Calgary 

This paved trail loops the Glenmore Reservoir in a 15 km ride. We always start from North Glenmore Park, bike down the steep hill to the Weaselhead, crossing the Elbow River, and then climb up to South Glenmore Park. 

In South Glenmore Park we usually stop at the playground and bring swim suits for the spray park in summer. We also like to stop at the asphalt pump track located right beside the paved path.

From South Glenmore we continue our ride around the reservoir passing by a McDonalds where we like to stop for ice-cream, Heritage Park, the Rockyview General Hospital and the Lakeview Golf Course. The ride finishes with a traverse across North Glenmore Park where there are a few playgrounds. 

Riding around the Glenmore Reservoir 

While this loop is paved, I would not consider it a beginner ride. The hills down and back up between North Glenmore and South Glenmore Park are very big and you will want gears on the kids' bikes (or else plan to walk up the hill to South Glenmore.) The rest of the loop is much easier with rolling hills but it's always a good cardio workout.

Biking around the asphalt pump track at South Glenmore Park 

Western Headworks Canal Pathway (SE Calgary to Chestermere)

This paved bike trail is generally flat, and great for novice riders. We rode it last spring and started on the outskirts of Calgary, riding to Chestermere and back. 

You can see the bike trail on All Trails here. It is 25 km in length (one way) but much shorter if you start from the edge of Calgary. 

Last year we started just east of Stony Trail (around 84th Street SE) parking on the side of the road, and it was approximately 18 km round trip.

Easy biking on the Western Headworks Canal Pathway

You can also see it on Trail Forks (where I find it easy to figure out a starting spot.) - note you have to pay for Trail Forks if you want to use the app on your phone. I have a yearly subscription.

In summer, you could extend your ride with a visit to the beach in Chestermere but you'll add another 3 km to your ride (one way) and have to ride along West Chestermere Drive to the far end of the lake. There is no pathway connecting the canal to the beach.

Riding along the Canal Pathway from Chestermere to SE Calgary 

 Fish Creek Traverse from Bow Valley Ranch to Shannon Terrace, South Calgary

We biked from the Bow Valley Ranch to Shannon Terrace last spring and it was 20 km round trip. It only took us 2 hours and we could have made a day out of it with geocaching or stops to play in the creek. We definitely stopped for ice-cream at the end at Annie's.

To extend your ride by a few kilometres, start at the Burmsmead parking lot where you'll be able to play at the Fish Creek Bike Park before or after your traverse. 

Riding the paved pathways across Fish Creek is great for families!

See a map of the park and the trail system here. You'll also find the paved pathway on Trail Forks (all paved trails are purple on  the app.)

For another great option in Fish Creek, bike from Mallard Point to the Highway 22X and back in a 12 km loop. You can continue further south as well through the Chinook Rotary Nature Park (a short out and back ride between Fish Creek and the neighborhood of Cranston.)

Stopping for a rest in the Chinook Rotary Nature Park in Fish Creek Park

The beautiful thing about Fish Creek is that you can customize your ride to make it as short or as long as you want. 

Choose a distance that you want to ride and plan out a route that will work for your family. Most of the Bow Valley Pathway is relatively flat with gradual hills.

The Fish Creek Bike Park is one of our favourite starting spots in the park for bike rides

There are also many singletrack trails (ranging in varying levels of difficulty,) wider gravel travels, and easy non-paved pathways throughout the park. To find trails for your family I recommend using the Trail Forks app where you can see all of the trails with their difficulty level. 

Riding the singletrack through Fish Creek Provincial Park

Cochrane Pathway Rides 

We started exploring the pathways along the river in Cochrane last spring and now it's one of our favourite places to go for a bike ride.

There are a few places to start your bike ride:

Biking around Riverfront Park - Park at Riverfront Park and head east along the paved pathway to the River Avenue Bridge which is approximately 5 km return and relatively flat. 

We also like to make a short detour to the tunnel under Griffin Road (look for the wide dirt pathway heading north from the paved trail near the disc golf course.) - and if you like disc golf bring some discs with you.

Riding through the tunnel under Griffin Road 

The awesome Riverfront Park Tunnel 

And guaranteed, your children will enjoy a stop to play down by the river where there's a fun creek as well. There's also a small nature playground in Riverfront Park.

Playing in the creek in Riverfront Park

To extend your ride, climb up to the Cochrane Skate Park or continue climbing up to Mitford Park and beyond heading west.

The Cochrane Skate Park is always a fun place to stop 

Riverfront Park Map (the yellow square is the tunnel)

Mitford Park to West Pointe on the Glen Boles Trail - Park at Mitford Park and head west on the paved path. The path stops at the far end of the West Pointe neighborhood and this is a very beautiful section of pathway. The return ride is no more than 5 km in length. 

You can also start at the skate park or at Riverfront Park. Know that there is a very large hill climbing up from the river, and another hill from the skate park. For the flattest ride, start at Mitford Park.

Beautiful riding between Mitford Pond and West Pointe, Cochrane

Between Mitford Park and the end of West Pointe the trail is relatively flat other than one large hill down heading west (and then a climb back up heading east.) Walk it if you have to. 

Leave the city behind and go biking in Cochrane!

Biking towards West Pointe, Cochrane

Spray Lakes Sawmill Recreation Centre to Riverfront Park - Last spring we parked at the recreation centre (where there's a very large parking lot) and we rode through the off leash dog park on a paved trail heading west. Alternately if you don't want to go through the off leash dog park, start by the River Avenue Bridge. 

From the recreation centre we rode to Riverfront Park and then we continued all the way to the end of West Pointe before turning around when the pathway ended. 

For a great map of the entire area:

Follow this link to the Bow River Trail on All Trails. It starts from River Avenue Bridge and goes to West Pointe. It also shows the trail following Big Hill Creek and crossing under Griffin Road (through the tunnel.)

Easy biking across Riverfont Park 

I recommend riding east to west because you'll do "most" of your climbing on the way out, and enjoy an easy ride heading back.

Our complete traverse was only 13 km in distance return (all the way to the end of the pathway at West Pointe.) For a shorter ride, just bike from the recreation Centre to Riverfront Park and loop the pathways there.

Biking down towards the Riverfront Avenue Bridge on a side trail

And while you're in Cochrane, make sure you stop in at the new Launch Pad bike park! You can check to see if it's dry and open first on the Bike Cochrane Society Facebook Page. 

The Launch Pad in Cochrane 

Other places to explore in Cochrane:

From Riverfront Park, cross the river on the bridge (there's a sidewalk) and bike along the south side of the river on a paved trail to Jumpingpound Creek. Then there's a fun dirt trail that takes you along the creek. See the Jumpingpound Creek loop on All Trails

From Jumpingpound Creek you can also ride over into the next community on the south side of the river and loop around the Bow Ridge Loop. We just biked around this area and didn't do the full loop, but rode to the end of the path along the edge of the ridge and then returned the same way. It was paved the entire time. 

Jumpingpound Creek is a fun place to explore on bikes

Biking around Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park 

Glenbow Ranch is another place we like to explore near Calgary on our bikes. There's a fairly large parking lot, but if it's full please have a backup plan in mind because you are not allowed to park on the access road. 

The Glenbow Trail (the starting point for every ride in the park) 

From the parking lot there's a very large hill that you'll have to ride down to the river on the main Glenbow Trail. Fortunately it's paved, but it means you will have to climb it at the end of your ride. The hill is less than 0.5 km in length though so just walk it if you have to.

Once you're at the bottom of the hill, head east on the paved Glenbow Trail where the riding is relatively flat with a few short hills as you head towards the Narrows. 

See the Glenbow Trail on All Trails here. The entire trail is paved. All Trails lists the trail as 13 km return but ride as far as you want and turn around.

Easy paved biking on the Glenbow Trail through Glenbow Ranch 

Glenbow Ranch River Loop

From the Glenbow Trail, this is a fun riverside loop to try with the kids. It's not paved, but it's a relatively flat gravel trail and easy to ride. We like it for an add on to the Glenbow Trail either on the way out or on the way back.

Biking on the Glenbow Ranch River Loop 

Bow Bend/Badger Bowl Loop 

From the bottom of the big hill, ride west and you'll be on the Bow Bend Trail. This is another paved trail. It has gorgeous views but also more climbing the further west you go. It climbs up to the junction with the Badger Bowl where you can get on a dirt/gravel trail for some easy mountain biking. Riding through the Badger Bowl is mostly downhill at this point and you'll end up back on the Bow Bend Trail lower down. 

Biking through the Badger Bowl in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

See all of the trails in Glenbow Ranch on either Trail Forks or on All Trails. 

Note that the Tiger Lilly Loop is not open to bikes nor is the Yodel Loop.

Biking the paved Bow Bend Trail through Glenbow Ranch

Haskayne Legacy Park to Glenbow Ranch - new for 2023

As of fall 2023, the Haskayne Legacy Park is open in Bearspaw just west of Calgary off Highway 1A. From this park you can connect to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park without having to ride down the big hill from the ranch main parking lot.

Haskayne Legacy Park isn't on Google Maps yet, so find directions on the City of Calgary website. 

The paved trail through Haskayne Legacy Park follows the Bearspaw Reservoir

You'll drive down a big hill to reach the Haskayne parking lot. From here, hop on the paved trail and you'll connect to Glenbow Ranch within 10 minutes of biking. The ride is beautiful as you follow the Bearspaw Reservoir until it becomes the Bow River in the provincial park.

Ride from Haskayne to the far end of Glenbow Ranch in approximately 23 km round trip, all on pavement. There are a few short climbs around the Narrows and then the trail climbs a lot at the far end of the ranch. Turn around whenever you get tired.

We did the full traverse + added on the Bow River Loop and the Badger Bowl Loop within the ranch. Everything was paved except for the two loops that we added on (which are gravel.) Our ride was 26 km total.

Biking through Glenbow Ranch back to Haskayne Legacy Park

Other Fun Places to Visit with Bikes

Kids love bike parks and below are a few that aren't already mentioned above.

SE Flint Park Pump Track -This is an asphalt pump track and a lot of fun! There's no parking beside the park but you can bike over from one of the nearby streets in the community. Do not park in the alley beside the park. The link takes you to the Google Maps location.

Chestermere Bike Park - This park has a large jump section, a smaller pump track, and a skills loop. The link takes you to the website to see if the park is dry and open. For location, go to Google Maps.

The Chestermere Bike Park is a lot of fun for an adventure near Calgary

Livingston Bike Park, NW Calgary - This is a large dirt pump track. It's been generally quiet whenever we've visited the park. The link takes you to the Google Maps location.

Montgomery Bike Park, NW Calgary - This small bike park has some wooden features, practice trails, and a small pump track. The park is growing though and there is a brand new asphalt pump track as of 2023. The link takes you to the Google Maps location.

Confederation Park Pump Track, NW Calgary - New for 2023, there is a beautiful asphalt pump track in West Confederation Park.

For a full list of bike parks near Calgary, check out the guide below:

Read: Pump Tracks and Mountain Bike Skills Parks, Alberta and British Columbia 

The Flint Park pump track, SE Calgary 

Other Recommended Reading 

Epic Family Bike Rides: Johnston Canyon via the 1A Highway

The Best Spring Bike Rides in Kananaskis 

The Best Family Bike Trails in Kananaskis 

The Best Family Bike Trails in Canmore 

Biking the High Rockies Trail in Kananaskis 

Spring Road Trip to Drumheller (and bike to a ghost town!)

Bike and Hike Closed Campgrounds near Calgary this Spring

The Best Family Bike Trails in Banff National Park 

5 Steps to Crushing Local Mountain Bike Trails as a Family

Hello Wheels! Success Strategies for Pedaling into another Bike Season

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