Join us for this urban hike where we circle the Glenmore Reservoir. It’s an approximately 16km loop, a path with many personalities. We’ll travel through dense wooded areas and pleasant green spaces. We’ll at times be on roads or beside roads (one very busy and noisy) and we’ll pass by businesses, a living history museum and a hospital. There will be high bluffs and beaver ponds. Spring is on the air and it’ll be busy. We’ll share the route with walkers, joggers and bikers and at other times, we’ll be the only ones on the pathway. It’s urban and at other times you’d think you are anywhere but the big city.
Glenmore Park, which surrounds the reservoir (the city’s water supply), is a huge green space in the southwest. The city flanks it on three sides and the Tsuu T’ina First Nations does so on the forth. It’s a popular place, especially so on a warm spring day like this. In fact this was the first nice day in weeks and many people, like us, were looking to the outdoors for fun.
There are all manner of activities that can be done in the park. You can picnic, there are playgrounds, there is fishing, sailing, horseback riding and countless other things to do. You can also hike the paved pathway, like we did, or explore more remote single track trails. Wildlife seen in Glenmore Park includes moose, bears, coyotes, and all manner of birds, hawks included, of which we saw many. The reservoir is fed by the Elbow River which enters the park at its western edge.
The reservoir loop can be done in either direction and you can start from any number of possible entry points. In this case, we’ll travel clockwise and will begin our adventure at the southwest corner of the Lakeview community.
Heading out, we almost immediately drop down to river level. This section of the park is the most wild and is known as the Weaselhead. It’s a flat and sometimes boggy wooded area that is bisected by the Elbow River, which has a pedestrian bridge spanning it. The pathway along here is not plowed in the winter but the snow was well packed down and given the warm conditions, was melting fast.
For many decades the Weaselhead was used by the Armed Forces (who had a base nearby) for manoeuvres and the like. There are warnings signs in the area in reference to unexploded ordinance. I understand that some were exposed after the 2013 floods. Yikes!
Making good time, we come to a large beaver pond, where we turn left and quickly head up and out of the Elbow River valley. This will be the only hill of note the whole trip. It was, by the way, iced over and was super slippery. Along here I found an old bike in a tree (?!).
Many Chickadees were spotted in this area, which is well wooded, and some horses could be seen off in a field. Are we really in the city? The illusion is good.
The pathway at this point is on a bluff well above the lake, but it can’t been seen because of a wall of trees. Soon however they’ll thin out and we’ll greeted with some nice views of the reservoir and the park in general. We come to a small flooded area here which required some bushwhacking to get past.
Out in the open now, a few of the tallest towers from downtown can bee seen in the distance as can some of the old buildings in Heritage Park, directly across the lake.
Continuing on, we pass a playground and the Calgary Yacht Club. Sailing is a popular sport on the lake, but since it’s still covered with a sheet of ice, it’ll be a while before the boats hit the water. I bet those who enjoy that activity are just itching to get out.
The pathway here meanders a bit and before long we are on the back side of the Glenmore Landing shopping centre. This section of the trail is the busiest. Looking west, we have a good view of the snow capped mountains in the distance. We hope to visit them soon, once winter releases them from its icy grip. It’s spring in Calgary but no so in the hills.
Soon we’re at Heritage Park, that living history museum we spoke of earlier. It’s a great place if you like old buildings and the like (and trains!). Only a limited number of displays are open during the winter. Yes, April in Calgary is still considered winter.
Moving on, we enter a quiet residential area, a neighbourhood called Eagle Ridge, and along here we walk on the side of the road. A few hundred metres beyond we find ourselves approaching the back side of the Glenmore Hospital, a huge medical complex.
A few hundred metres later we plunge back into the trees, temporarily, and we can hear and will soon see busy Glenmore Trail (you see a “Glenmore” pattern here). We’ll have to walk beside it for a time – I am afraid the layout of the reservoir forces the pathway and that highway together. It’s noisy and is the only unpleasant section of the trail. You can bypass it, via the Glenmore Dam, but that adds a couple kilometres to the trip.
Ducking behind a sound wall, we’re in a residential area. We pass a flooded out playground and then head south under a power line right of way followed by another section that travels between a road and golf course.
Back in the park proper, we pass the Calgary Rowing club and come to a point of land with good view. The reservoir spreads out below us and Heritage Park can be seen on the opposite bank. We turn west now and for the next couple kilometres are walking near the edge of a bluff overlooking the reservoir. This section of the park is the most park-like (meaning open green spaces, picnic areas, etc). It’s also quite busy.
Before long, we are back at the car. The parking lot is now so crowded there are few spaces left. Everyone had the same idea as us – after weeks and weeks of cold and snow, it was time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
Most of the day we we’re blessed with blue skies and the air was still and warm. At one point, the wind was whipped up and the clouds moved in – we thought winter had returned. It snowed for a minute or two and it turned bitterly cold, then as quickly as it came, it was gone.
Calling this an urban adventure maybe a stretch. While surrounded by the city, it was often very un-urban like in nature. We do a lot of these in-the-city hikes in the winter and enjoy them but for the most park they are more to keep us fit for the summer than anything else. However, places like Glenmore Park are interesting enough that we can actually do a report on them. Most winter walks are too mundane to do that.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: April, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Distance: 16km loop.
Height gain maximum: 60m
Height gain cumulative: 100m
Technical bits: Watch for bikes.
NOTE: all heights and distances are approximate.