Home Destinations Three Urban Hikes in NW Calgary: Waterfall Valley, Douglas Fir Trail, Nose Hill Park

Three Urban Hikes in NW Calgary: Waterfall Valley, Douglas Fir Trail, Nose Hill Park

by Karen Ung

Discover a new-to-you urban hiking trail in northwest Calgary: Waterfall Valley, Douglas Fir Trail, or Nose Hill Park.

Discover three family hikes in northwest Calgary (from top clockwise) in these beautiful parks: Nose Hill Park, Edworthy Park, Bowmont Park

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 urban hiking trails in northwest Calgary.

Waterfall Valley, Bowmont Park

Waterfall Valley is a short, but sweet favorite for families with little kids. The trail’s noteworthy features include stairs, a boardwalk, small waterfall, and river lookout. 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.
  • Stroller Friendly: No.

Douglas Fir Trail, Edworthy Park

The Douglas Fir Trail 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. Kids will love the bridges, and boulders near the lookout.

  • 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).

Nose Hill Park: Medicine Wheel, Intermittent Pond, Boulders and Cliffs

Map by Google Maps, landmarks added by Karen Ung

Nose Hill Park, one of the largest urban parks in Canada, offers endless options for exploring, but our favorite places to explore with kids are the 1) Medicine Wheel, 2) intermittent pond, and 3) boulders and cliffs. You can make a loop to see all of these features from the 14th Street Parking Lot. If you have time, do a little geocaching while you’re there. Nose Hill Park has over 50 geocaches!

The Medicine Wheel is the newest feature in Nose Hill Park (2015) 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. 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. 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.  

There is also a cool stone labyrinth between the radio tower and the intermittent pond (see map – go down the hill and turn left to find it).

Nose Hill Park Intermittent Pond in April

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. See the map to get there, or enter 51 06.324, -114 04.594 into your GPS.

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.

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 hill!

What are your favorite urban hikes in Calgary?

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Playoutsidegal November 2, 2015 - 5:50 AM

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!

Anonymous October 24, 2015 - 3:38 AM

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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