Discovering Calgary’s greenspaces: tips from Kelsey Woods, founder of Parks of Calgary
Date Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Calling all Calgary nature enthusiasts and city explorers, we have the inside scoop on the city’s best nature spots from Kelsey Woods, local copywriter, outdoor enthusiast and founder of Parks of Calgary.
Kelsey’s passion for the outdoors started in childhood. She grew up on a farm in rural Alberta, camped and hiked with her family and played soccer her whole way through grade school. In 2019, she started the @parksofcalgary Instagram account as a passion project to discover what Calgary had to offer in terms of nature spots, rugged pathways and cool art installations. Today, @parksofcalgary is a growing small business and an excellent resource to connect like-minded people with Calgary’s urban wilderness.
Wondering where should you head next? Explore Calgary’s must-see spots with advice from our go-to Parks of Calgary guide, featuring photos and reels from the ever-growing @parksofcalgary Instagram page!
One of the most exciting things about spending time outdoors is the chance to see local fauna. Luckily, Calgary has plenty of vast parks full of natural animal habitats including Carburn Park, Weaselhead Flats, Griffith Woods Park and Fish Creek Provincial Park. Kelsey’s visits to Carburn Park have led to the largest amount of her wildlife sightings, including deer, beavers and muskrats, while her community following has shared captivating photos of bobcats, owls, porcupines, mink and moose from countless spots around the city.
For bird watchers, the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary provides a safe haven for 270 species of birds -- or maybe you’ll get lucky and spot some mammals too!
YYC hidden gems
Discover these unique wonders of nature and local art pieces all across the city!
Nostalgia alert: Someone painted a service door in Calgary to look like the door from Monster’s Inc, and Kelsey found it. Check out her reel for the exact location and travel back in time.
One of her favourite local discoveries is the Christmas Tree Trail in Edworthy Park, a quiet wood-chip covered trail lined with pine trees as you stroll along just above the river’s edge.
It’s not only Vancouver that has gorgeous spring blossoms. Murdoch Park in Bridgeland has stunning crab apple blossoms each spring -- bring your camera and spot these, brilliant pink hues!
If you want to visit a notable local art installation, Convergence shows two halves of a moon in the northwest community of Rocky Ridge.
Take a stroll down the Silver Springs Boardwalk for some solitude and a mini waterfall – Kelsey says this location is amazing all times of year, but particularly in fall.
Calling All Hikers
Whether you’re planning an all-day outing or want to squeeze in your nature fix before dinner, Kelsey has trail suggestions for everyone:
Half day paths
Griffith Woods Park, the Douglas Fir Trail inside Edworthy Park, the Glenmore Reservoir and the nearby Weaselhead Flats are all excellent options. Don’t forget about Nose Hill Park for wide open spaces and a mountain view.
Full day paths
Fish Creek Provincial Park is the second-largest urban park in Canada, and it’s located right here in Calgary. Outdoor enthusiasts can surround themselves in the woodsy wonderland while they spend the day (or multiple) exploring all 80km of provincial park pathways. These trails, home to Shannon Terrace, Bebo Grove and countless other trails are for perfect for walking, hiking and biking.
Kelsey also shares hikes and experiences found outside of the city for those seeking longer adventures. Check out this frozen waterfall in Banff National Park and top spots to eat in Banff.
Spend the day outside and record some shareable content for your social feeds or photography hobby!
Looking to capture a view of the city skyline? Check out Tom Campbell Hill. Rotary Park also has a beautiful vantage point from the hill north of Memorial Drive. East Village has several murals throughout the community which decorate bridges, containers and small structures.
Pearce Estate Park is a wetland along the Bow River with plenty of chances to spice up your feed with beautiful trails and the Bow Habitat Station. Summer bonus – you can learn to kayak here too. You can also opt to explore all the 33km along the Bow River Pathway.
Strathcona Ravine has picturesque views from the stream flowing through the ravine — people went crazy when Kelsey shared this hidden gem. We hear the view is absolutely magical in the fall and you may even see some local moose or coyotes.
Fun for the whole family
Take your entire family to one of Calgary’s family-friendly outdoor spaces!
Bowness Park has picnic tables, a playground, boat rentals, a wading pool and other amenities. Ralph Klein Park has a picnic area and community orchard with pear and apple trees. Sandy Beach Park is a great spot for summer parties with its picnic areas, fire pits and BBQ stands.
Take a dip at Sikome Lake, a man-made sandy beach popular with swimmers in the summer (admission is required).
Your furry friends will love running around the off-leash areas of Sue Higgins Dog Park, Nose Hill, Carburn Park, Edworthy Dog Park and River Park Off-Leash Dog Park!
Yes, you read that right! Kelsey’s goal over the past year was to discover more beaches within or around city limits. Head over to Sandy Beach Park, Carburn Park or Sikome Lake.
Here’s where you can lounge by the water or pick up a watersport this summer without booking a plane ticket to a coastal city.
Bowness Park is a favourite spot for paddleboarding at the stream behind the shallow lagoon and for renting canoes and kayaks. Griffiths Woods Park has shallow waters, making the water warmer for swimmers.
A short 30 minutes from the city centre is Chestermere Lake, full of public beach areas where you can bring your paddleboards and floaties or take your kids to the playground.
If you’re looking to raft down the Bow, Kelsey highly recommends Lazy Day Raft Rentals to rent some floating equipment for the day!
Let’s Gather Outside
Goodbye winter boots, hello summer shorts! There’s no denying the bliss of gathering outdoors with your family, friends and loved ones especially after sitting inside during a long winter. Check out these parks to add some fresh air and natural scenery to your next party, celebration or get-together.
Next to the Calgary Zoo is St. Patrick’s Island Park, a park with a vantage point overlooking views of the Bow River and downtown Calgary. The park includes a children’s play area, hiking and biking trails, public plaza with seating areas, and a wetland with a chance to spot some local birds.
Your kids will love the wading pool, spray park and playground at Prairie Winds Park. This park also features soccer fields, tennis courts and baseball diamonds for all sports lovers.
Bowness Park also has lots of picnic tables, firepits and parking space. Across the street, Baker Park has plenty of sitting spots and, fun fact, this park is the most popular spot in Calgary for outdoor weddings!
More secluded gatherings
Riley Park near the Kensington neighbourhood has plenty of space to put down your picnic blanket, play a game of Spikeball, walk through the Senator Patrick Burns Memorial Rock Garden and take a peek at the rainbow bridge in Sunnyside.
Shouldice Athletic Park is in the northwest area of Calgary along the river with picnic tables in a private atmosphere.
Bring your bike
Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or enjoy a light bike ride on a sunny day, there are some great bike trails to try no matter your biking level.
Fish Creek Provincial Park has many bike trails for all levels, including the Bebo Grove Loop. The Bow River Pathway Loop is paved and has great city views offering a good mix of sun and shade with plenty of places to sit and rest during your ride.
The Nose Creek Pathway is a longer all-levels 27.4-km bike path on the north side of the city, also with city views and spots for birdwatching.
Mountain bikers can stay within city limits and head out to Paskapoo Slopes from Cougar Ridge.
According to Kelsey, adventure seekers should check out Twelve Mile Coulee Natural Environment Park or Bowmont Park if they’re interested in non-paved trails and off-roading.
With all the countless physical and mental health benefits to being outside, we hope that you have the chance to soak up some sunshine at one of Calgary’s amazingly well-maintained City parks, pathways and trails, no matter your favourite park or outdoor activity!
Make sure to follow Kelsey’s adventures @parksofcalgary on Instagram as she continues to explore and share the many greenspaces within and close to Calgary.
We have the inside scoop on Calgary’s best nature spots.