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Another View Of Downtown Calgary

Calgary’s Nose Hill Park – A Year Round Destination

Calgary is a city of parks. The City of Calgary website suggests that there are 5,600 park sites within the city boundaries. I’ll have to take their word for it. It’s Nose Hill Park in Calgary, established in 1980, that is the biggest and my favourite. (Fish Creek Park to the south is a provincial park and not a city park.)

Boasting an area of over 11 square kilometres, Nose Hill Park feels quite wild, especially down in the coulees, despite being surrounded by a dozen neighbourhoods. It offers 60 kilometres of designated trails and pathways.

On the slopes of Nose Hill there are sections of Foothills fescue grassland – considered to be one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. It’s particularly important to stay on trails to preserve the grasslands.

The park is Calgary’s largest natural environmental park, a landmark that has been used over the years by Native people’s, farmers and at one point a gravel operation.

I always feel such a sense of space in Nose Hill Park
I always feel such a sense of space in Nose Hill Park

Nose Hill Park is no Central Park

Apart from washrooms in a few places, there are no services. The park is full of hiking paths on a variety of surfaces – from asphalt to dirt to grass – and off-leash dog areas. Parts of the park contain native grasslands, one of the few examples left on the prairies.

I love Nose Hill Park for the sense of space it gives me in a big city. And I love the expansive views you get as this park sits at a height of land in northwest Calgary. From the top, not only do you get a superb overview of downtown Calgary but of the Rocky Mountains, the Bow River Valley and the Calgary Airport.

I love the light and the dramatic skies you get up here. And it’s always a bonus when there’s a wildlife sighting. Deer, coyotes, porcupines, Richardson’s ground squirrels and northern pocket gophers all call the park home.

You can go to the park for an hour or the better part of a day. I usually end up doing a giant loop that takes me a couple of hours to hike. There is some signage about, but I find it just as easy to get my bearings by taking stock of where I am in relation to various city landmarks.

An all season park for visiting

I visit the park in all seasons, and at all times of the day but it’s the early morning and evenings that I like best in spring. (The park is officially open between 5 AM and 11 PM so no camping is allowed.)

In winter, it can be bitterly cold if you catch the wind in your face up on the plateau. Bundle up and keep to the trees and coulees wherever possible. If there’s a big dump of snow, the snowshoeing is good too. I find the wind scours the park pretty quickly and icers are the best defense for staying upright for several months of the year.

Beautiful views of downtown Calgary from Nose Hill Park
Beautiful views of downtown Calgary from Nose Hill Park
Paths wind through Nose Hill Park
Paths wind through Nose Hill Park
Love a spring hike in the park when the flowers are out
Love a spring hike in the park when the flowers are out
The trails are often empty in Nosehill Park
The trails are often empty
Another view of downtown Calgary
Another view of downtown Calgary from Nose Hill
There's a small intermittent lake in the park
There’s a small intermittent lake in the park
Trees are standing in water but it doesn't seem to affect them as it happens every year
Trees are standing in water but it doesn’t seem to affect them as it happens every year
Amazing clouds can regularly be seen in Nose Hill Park
Amazing clouds can regularly be seen in Nose Hill Park

Mountain biking in the park

Nose Hill Park is also ideal for mountain biking. The trails are multi-use so you will find a lot of mountain bikers around from spring until fall. You can include some riding in this park as part of a bigger circuit in the city. Or bring your bike, park and explore the vast network of trails.

Wonderful mountain biking in Nose Hill Park
Wonderful mountain biking in Nose Hill Park
Mountain biking through the flowers in the park
Mountain biking through the flowers in the park

Parkrun in Nose Hill

Every Saturday at 9 AM there is a parkrun at Nose Hill. It’s free and it’s you against the clock. Register online so you can get your time. It’s considered a friendly run so after it’s over people head to the Friends Cafe on Edenwold Drive. (Check the schedule now that we have COVID-19 in our midst.)

Lots of access points to the park

There are numerous entrances to the park and ample free parking. Check out this map for the location of the parking spots. They are all free. There are garbage cans in the parking lot, should you need to get rid of dog poop bags.

Nose Hill Park in the dead of winter
Nose Hill Park in the dead of winter – you can see why it can get windy in places

Further reading on things to do in Calgary

What’s your favourite city park to visit in Calgary? 

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Nose Hill Park in Calgary, Alberta - a great year round destination for hiking, biking & nature

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. What a beautiful place to hike! It looks peaceful, like somewhere you could go and really get lost in the scenery and in your thoughts.

    I’m not sure where my favorite hiking trail would be. I think it would be a trail my family took in Skagway, Alaska. It was a short trail, not far from the cruise ship port but it was so beautiful. I remember as we walked on the trail, the ground was almost springy. I don’t really know how else to describe it. When we walked to the end of the trail, we found seats on a large rock outcropping and stared out at the water as a mist rolled in across the water with the tide. It was beautiful and we sat as long as we could just taking in the view.

  2. Your photos illustrated the park’s spaciousness – love these kind that have such a close proximity to the high-rise core but offer such a refreshing release from it. Reminds me of some we’ve walked in Victoria BC.

    1. @Jackie Even though we usually see a fair number of cars in the parking lots, we rarely see more than a handful of people at a time. I do love it for that and for the views. Part of the park is actually a great place to watch the planes coming and going from the Calgary airport too.

  3. Hi Leigh, what a beautiul city park! I love my Central Park but I Ilike that your park is so open and really expansive and doesn’t get too crowded. You’re so lucky to be in a city with so many beautiful parks. Love you photos; the skies are so stunning.

  4. I love cities that have a green space to escape to. Your first photo expressed it all for me. How beautiful to have such a wild and natural place in a city. Walking the dog or laying on a blanket on the grass on a day such as in that photo would be wonderful. I feel like having a picnic 🙂

    1. @Jan Although I always seem to find myself living in a city, it does make a real difference when you can get to places that make you feel like you’re surrounded by nature. And my dog loves the place.

  5. What a beautiful and peaceful looking park. That is a lot of park sites for one city but this one really looks worth exploring. I love the fact that it has such wide open spaces and is a great place for those views. I think my favorite city parks are Central Park, Balboa Park here in SD and Stanley Park.

    1. @Mary I think most Canadians that have never been to Calgary have a very negative view of the city but it’s a very livable city because of the parks. There are also hundreds of kilometers of bike paths – more than any other city in North America I believe.

  6. Gorgeous park, Leigh! It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Calgary. I had no idea this park even existed. I still love Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. As you know, it was devastated by Hurricane Juan. However, making a great comeback. When I’m home I do an early morning or evening walk a few time a week.

  7. From some of these photos, I would have thought that you were far away from the big city. Then, it seems like you turn around, and see a metropolis so close by. Calgary is lucky to have such a natural space near it. Wonderful photos!

  8. I live right at the bottom of this park, and obviously take it for granted because there is so much of it I haven’t explored! My kids and I like to take our bikes there sometimes, and while my dog is too old for walks there now, she did enjoy it before. Thanks for reminding me I don’t always have to get in my car and drive to spend time in the wilderness!

  9. Thanks for posting this. Is there a parking lot that is best situated to get access to the bike trails? It appears from the map that you could do a big long loop on the bike trails?

    Thanks
    James

    1. @James you can do a huge loop in the park – and I think from every entrance. I always go in off of 14th ST NW – lots of parking but it;s such a network that I really think you could start anywhere.

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