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Hiking in Calgary’s Nose Hill Park

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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 Calgary’s Nose Hill Park, established in 1980, that is the biggest. (Fish Creek Park to the south is a provincial, not a city park.) Boasting an area of over 11 square kilometers, it feels quite wild, especially down in the coulees, despite being surrounded by a dozen neighbourhoods.

"I always fell such a sense of space in Nose Hill Park"

I always feel such a sense of space in this park

Nose Hill Park is no Central Park. Apart from washrooms in a few places, there are no services. It’s 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. 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 great views of downtown Calgary but of the Rocky Mountains and the Bow River Valley. 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.

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

"Beautiful views of downtown Calgary from Nose Hill Park"

Beautiful views of downtown Calgary from Nose Hill Park

"Winding paths in Nose Hill Park, Calgary"

Paths wind through the park

"Love the drama of the sky on an evening hike in Nose Hill Park, Calgary"

Love the drama of the sky on an evening hike

"This view of lone trees on the horizon reminded me of Italy somehow"

This view of lone trees on the horizon reminded me of Italy somehow

"The trails are often empty in Calgary's Nose Hill Park"

The trails are often empty

"Another view of downtown Calgary from Nosehill Park"

Another view of downtown Calgary

"There's a small intermittent lake in Nose Hill Park, Calgary"

There’s a small intermittent lake in the park

"trees standing in water"

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

There are numerous entrances to the park and ample free parking. Check out this map for the location of the parking spots.

What’s your favourite city park to visit – anywhere in the world? What makes is special?

Leigh McAdam

HikeBikeTravel
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Author Hike Bike Travel

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • Lauren says:

    It looks like a really peaceful place to go for a hike close enough to the city! A great find!

  • 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.

  • Muza-chan says:

    Great photos, Leigh, as usual…

  • Marcia says:

    I can see what you love about this park, Leigh. The views are spectacular and there is such variety in the landscape. Beautiful!

  • Jackie Smith says:

    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.

    • @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.

  • 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.

  • budget jan says:

    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 :)

    • @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.

  • Andrew says:

    Looks beautiful from your photo series, Leigh. My favorites are the first and last ones.

  • 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.

    • @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.

  • Nancie says:

    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.

  • Corinne says:

    Leigh, What a treasure…I love the solitude and the vistas…just gorgeous.

  • 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!

  • Muza-chan says:

    Beautiful photos…

  • Jennifer Morris says:

    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!

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