Biking the Trans-Canada Trail in Glenbow Ranch

Biking the Glenbow Ranch trails
Biking the Glenbow Ranch trails in summer

If you’re looking for a stunning section of the Trans-Canada Trail (TCT) in Alberta to cycle, visit Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, an oasis of rolling green hills on the banks of the Bow River. The Trans-Canada Trail is completed in Glenbow Ranch though there is a plan to connect Cochrane to Calgary. The only thing missing is a small strip of land near the Calgary city limits.

Important for those of you who love biking the Trans-Canada Trail in Glenbow Ranch

There is an ongoing assessment of dam options on the Bow River including one west of Glenbow Ranch. Some of the issues that the Glenbow Park Ranch Foundation has determined include the following:

  • Cochrane will not be protected from a future flood with a downstream dam and parts of the town will have to be flooded by this project.
  • The entirety of Haskayne Legacy Park will be destroyed.
  • About a third of Glenbow Ranch would be flooded including historic grasslands.
  • It is thought that air pollution will be a problem after completion of the dam because of dust and silt carried by wind over the dry beds of new mud flats.
  • The Canada Pacific rail line would have to be moved at great expense with more parkland destroyed. It will be permanently disruptive to the communities of Glen Eagles, Bearspaw Village, and Watermark.
  • It will be impossible to have a Calgary to Cochrane trail connection.

If you are interested in learning more or commenting on the project you can do so until May 6, 2024.

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Visit Glenbow Ranch late in the day when you get the park and the trails to yourself
Visit Glenbow Ranch late in the day when you get the park and the trails to yourself
A mountain bike comes in handy on the dirt trails
A mountain bike comes in handy on the dirt trails

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park location

For now the best way to get to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is to drive. Take Highway 1A from either Calgary or Cochrane and turn south onto Glenbow Road. Follow it for a couple of kilometres to reach a large parking area.

Cycle a short distance on the Glenbow Trail to reach the volunteer staffed information centre and a large scale map so you can plan your bike ride. This map of the park will make planning easy.

Trails are both paved and gravel so consider a mountain or hybrid bike if you’re going to cycle the gravel sections. Also note that there are approximately 30 km of trails in total, so there is the option to explore more than the Trans-Canada Trail.

 Mind the curves - beautiful biking on the Glenbow Ranch trails
Mind the curves – beautiful biking on the Glenbow Ranch trails
Hills are bigger than I expected so small children may need to walk their bikes in places
Hills are bigger than I expected so small children may need to walk their bikes in places
Go for a bike ride in the evening and take along a picnic dinner
Go for a bike ride in the evening and take along a picnic dinner

Biking in Glenbow Ranch

To cycle the Trans-Canada Trail, start at the Glenbow Ranch information centre with its beautiful views extending all the way to the Rocky Mountains.

After a steep descent on Glenbow Trail you’ll reach an intersection. To explore the eastern section of the park continue east on the Glenbow Trail to the Narrows and ultimately the Bearspaw Trail.

A good portion of this section parallels the Bow River and the railway line so trains are frequently sighted.

There’s an option to do the quieter Bow River Loop where bald eagles can sometimes be seen nesting but it’s not on the TCT.

Biking the Glenbow Ranch Section of the Trans-Canada Trail
Beautiful Bow River views from the ranch

The western section of the Trans-Canada Trail in Glenbow Ranch

The western section of the Trans-Canada Trail is rolling and strenuous, but for short bursts only.

Follow the Bowbend Trail west, past wetlands habitat where you might see American coots or horned grebes to the ruins of the Waverly Chimney, remnants from one of Glenbow’s historic ranches.

In short order the Trans-Canada Trail turns to gravel as it heads for Cochrane.

While the trail eventually ends in Gleneagles, one of Cochrane’s neighbourhoods, the last section requires that you lift your bike over a cattle guard so for many people this is a good turn around point.

Ruins of an old homestead
Ruins of an old homestead
Cycle far enough and you'll hit the neighbourhoods in Cochrane
Cycle far enough and you’ll hit the neighbourhoods in Cochrane
Looking for the western section of the Trans Canada Trail – but off-course

Nature lovers are going to love biking the Trans-Canada Trail through the ranch. With native rough fescue grasslands, along with forested sections and wetlands there’s great diversity of not just plants and birds but wildlife too.

At dawn or dusk keep an eye out for deer, elk, coyotes as well as badgers and weasels.

And if you’re lucky and sharp eyed you might see a tiger salamander in the morning, particularly if it has rained at night.

Biking the Glenbow Ranch Section of the Trans-Canada Trail
Look for birds around the ponds

Biking the Haskayne Legacy Trail to and from Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

In 2023 the Haskayne Legacy Trail opened. It seamlessly connects to the scenic pathways in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. You can park at the pavilion and hop on your bike (or walk) on a trail that crosses the railroad track and heads west to meet up with the Bearspaw Trail. From there you can cycle the rest of the trails in Glenbow Ranch.

We did have a problem when we visited early in April. The Bow River was running higher than normal and flooded part of the Bearspaw Trail, so it was closed. Before you go check the Glenbow Ranch park website for any advisories.

There is excellent parking and a washroom by the pavilion in Haskayne Legacy Park. The exact location is here. You do need to drive a dirt road to get to the start – and there’s one heck of a big hill to descend on the way.

The multi-use trail that connects to the Glenbow Ranch trails is the one heading west on the map
The multi-use trail that connects to the Glenbow Ranch trails is the one heading west on the map
Cycling the trail Haskayne Legacy Park in early April
Cycling the trail Haskayne Legacy Park in early April
There are benches with a view of the Bow River in Haskayne Legacy Park
There are benches with a view of the Bow River in Haskayne Legacy Park

Tips for biking the Trans Canada Trail through Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Keep an eye out for cattle as it’s a working ranch.

Excellent trail maps can be found at major intersections. Take a photo of one.

Visit Alberta TrailNet for more information.

Don’t forget to check out the provincial park website.

Go prepared with a patch kit, lots of water and warm clothing in case the winds blow up.

Biking
Thoroughly enjoying the beauty on a summer evening

A few more things to take on your Glenbow Ranch bike ride

  • Don’t forget to packa bike pumpin case you get a flat. 
  • Apatch kitis a necessity,.
  • I like to carry ahandlebar bagwith my raincoat and bike tools rather than having something on my back.
  • Bike lightsare one of those things you should always have – just in case you’re out later than expected.
  • Throw in someenergy bars– so you don’t hit a wall. 
  • I also highly recommend taking a15-in-1 folding bike tool.

Further reading on biking in Alberta

Click on the photo below to bookmark to Pinterest.

Biking the Glenbow Ranch section of the Trans-Canada Trail

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