Calgary has an extensive pathway system, covering all corners of the city. It’s one heck of a great resource which we use a lot, especially so in winter, when we can’t always make it to the mountains. These paved lanes head here, there and everywhere, most of them passing through parks, green spaces and the like, affording the urban trekker a huge variety of choices where they can go and what they can see. One rarely has to see the same section twice, keeping it interesting and fresh. Many are plowed if snow should fall.
For this urban adventure, we’ll hike up the Elbow River from where it joins the Bow, to the Glenmore Dam, and back down again, a nice 19km “stroll” that you can do too. Some of this route we leave the pathways and take to the streets. To mix it up a bit.
To start, head to the historic community of Inglewood just east of downtown. There is public non-permit parking by the old Alexandria School. Pause for a moment and take in all the near century old houses in the area.
Head west towards the Elbow River and intercept the paved pathway. Turn left, almost immediately hit the 9th Avenue Bridge, a fine old structure that’s over a hundred years old and under threat of being replaced soon (charming Inglewood is being killed by gentrification). Cross the road and get back on the pathway. pass under the CPR tracks, then soon after the MacDonald Avenue Bridge (another historic span) and then enter the Stampede grounds. Look for anglers in the river – yes even in downtown Calgary the fishin’ is good.
Paralleling the river, Scotsman’s Hill rises steeply above to the left, the top a good (free, hence the name) viewpoint for Stampede events, especially fireworks. That name’s perhaps a wee bit insensitive, no?
Notice the Saddledome Stadium and the Stampeded Grandstand right across the river. Squeeze past some livestock pens and soon after trend right. Continue on through the Stampede First Nations Village site, duck under busy MacLeod Trail and enter Lindsay Park, the former site of a railway yard (the old CNR station still exists). Bend left with the river, cross over it (westbound) on a pedestrian span.
For the next few blocks we’ll leave the path and take to the sidewalks. Continue past the old Holy Cross Hospital (we said Grace before, our boo-boo, thanks Mike), which we wanted to see, and coming to the Elbow again, rejoin the path. Turn right and enter a park. Notice all the nice old houses across Elbow Trail. Back on a sidewalk, hit Sifton Boulevard. To the left, in that neighbourhood, is the former site of one of the first buildings in the area, a trading posted operating in the 1870s. That’s even before Calgary was Calgary.
Turn right and soon on, come to the Elbow Park School. Damaged by 2013 floods the fine old structure, save for one wall, which will be incorporated into a new building, is being demolished. Sad.
Cross the Elbow on a foot bridge (a new one, the original was washed away in that same flood), and turn right on Riverdale Avenue. Pass many palatial homes and enter Riverdale Park. Another footbridge over the Elbow (again a replacement for one destroyed by high waters). Head up, the only elevation to be gained this day, to the top of the river valley. At the dog park (bark, bark, lots of friendly pooches about) and behind a small school, turn left.
Heading south, enjoy the views of the river far below. Come to the Glenmore Dam and a water treatment plant. Explore the former, you can cross over it if you like. Built in the 1930s, the reservoir behind is the city’s water supply. A small park to the right makes for a good lunch stop.
Assuming you follow our route to the letter, and there is no need – change it as you like – retrace your steps, dropping back down to river level, sticking with Riverdale Avenue where the one footbridge (by Elbow Park School) comes in from the left. Don’t turn here and instead stick this side of Elbow River. Pass by many more old homes, drop under Elbow Drive, more old homes and enter Stanley Park.
Bending north, follow the river at the bottom of a bluff. More nice old houses on the opposite bank, many of which suffered damage from those nasty floods a couple years back. Remediation work is still ongoing with some.
Enter the Rideau Park neighbourhood, another well-to-do community with many nice old residences. There’s a 1930 built brick school to the right, down a short side street. It’s worth checking out if you like old buildings (and come on, who doesn’t?).
Come to the 4th Street Bridge and turn left (north). At the far side hit the pathway and turn right. Still close to the river, bend left with it and cross over, eastbound, on the 25th Avenue bridge. Cross MacLeod Trail, and the LRT tracks (at a tunnel exiting “cemetery hill”), meet up with the Elbow River pathway again and retrace your steps back to your ride.
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: December, 2015.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Height gain maximum: 80m.
Height gain cumulative: 100m.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.