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The Beauty of a Visit to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park

Calgary was the place to be this past weekend boasting temperatures in the double digits for the first time in over six months and beautiful blue skies. In fact I saw shirtless rafters floating down the river (the ice has just left) and enough picnic baskets to make Yogi Bear happy.

I also discovered one of Alberta’s newest provincial parks – Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park – between Calgary and Cochrane, no more than a forty minute drive from my house. Actually I have to give credit to Barry at Hiking With Barry for putting me onto it. I first read about it on his blog.

Here are some photos showcasing the beauty of my visit to the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

"Bald eagle spying down from its monster nest"

Bald eagle spying down from its monster nest

There are over 25 kilometres of trails accessible to hikers and most of the trails are open to mountain bikers too. Trails are a combination of asphalt and dirt. You can do and out and back type of hike but there are plenty of loops do hike/bike too.

"Mountain bikers enjoying the trails too"

Mountain bikers enjoying the trails too

We started off on the Glenbow Trail with gorgeous views of the snow covered Rocky Mountains.

"View of the Rockies from the park"

View of the Rockies from the park

This is primarily ranch country and in fact Glenbow Ranch continues to be a working ranch. Expect to see cows and horses.

"Horse on the working ranch"

Horse on the working ranch

"Old farm workings"

Old farm workings

Along the hike (or bike ride) look for signs detailing the history of the Glenbow Townsite, school and quarry. Fascinating reading. Really.

Outcrops of the Porcupine Hills Formation sandstone are still visible on the cliffs (above the trains in the photo). This is the rock that was used in the construction of many downtown Calgary buildings including the Calgary Courthouse building.

"Trains that seem to stretch forever"

Trains that seem to stretch forever

Part of our hike took us on the Bow River Loop – a 4.9 kilometre circuit that takes you across the railway tracks. If you’re into trains, park yourself on the nearby bench and count away. These trains are like long snakes and in the three plus hours we were there, we saw four of them.

The Bow River Loop parallels the Bow River for several kilometres. As my husband and I walked along I noticed a monster sized nest in a tree beside the Bow River. My first thoughts were it must be a squirrels nest.

But no – it was a bald eagle’s nest with not one but two bald eagles in it. 

"Two bald eagles in this nest"

Two bald eagles in this nest

I’d have to say the eagles’ nest sighting was the highlight of our eleven kilometer hike.

"Looking west along the Bow River"

Looking west along the Bow River

But the sighting of the first flower of the year in bloom was also a delight.

"The first of the Pasque flowers"

The first of the Pasque flowers

And the scenery on the rest of the hike wasn’t too shabby either.

"Beautiful deep blue skies"

Beautiful deep blue skies

"Abandoned ranch buildings"

Abandoned ranch buildings

"Look for ducks on this small pond"

Look for ducks on this small pond

"On the Tiger Lily Loop"

On the Tiger Lily Loop

The beauty of the Glenbow Ranch hike is its proximity to Calgary and Cochrane and the fact that it’s one you can do year round. It doesn’t offer the jaw dropping vistas you get in the mountains but prairie skies have their own charm. And it’s hard to beat a sighting of a bald eagle in a nest.

Getting to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park from Calgary

  • Take Crowchild Trail North from the downtown core.
  • Stay on it as it becomes Highway 1A west for 24.1 kilometres.
  • Turn left onto Glenbow Road (look for highway signs too)  – a dirt road, and follow it 1.1 kilometres to the parking lot.
  • Parking is free as is entrance to the park.

More useful Glenbow Ranch information

  • Dogs are allowed on a leash
  • Bring water especially as it warms up.
  • This park will be a hot one on a summer day. I’d recommend hiking either early or late in the day.
  • Camping is not allowed. It’s a day use park only.
  • There are two washrooms, one in the parking lot and one in the park along, I believe along Glenbow Trail.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

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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