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.
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.)
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?