This hike takes one around Cochrane Alberta, making a nice moderate length loop using a series of paved and shale pathways and some city sidewalks. About half the time you’ll be paralleling the scenic Bow River while other sections take the urban-trekker through parks, green spaces and wooded areas, beside train tracks (ooh, now you’re talking), and even through the historic downtown core. This trek has many varied settings and enough good scenery to keep it interesting.
Most of the route is plowed in winter, with a few sections that are not, but even they seem to get well trampled down making the going pretty easy overall. Of course, if you visit in warmer months, this will means little.
A good start is at the dog park, just south of the big sawmill. Heading west, beside the Bow, oddly pretty ice free in late December, pass an old narrow bridge (Parker Truss design – 1910s or 1920s). This was once the only way into town from that direction, but today the structure is little used. The pathway runs between the river and rows of houses, the going always nice and pleasant. Take time to admire the high treed bluffs on the opposite bank. Not bad nature here, given were in an urban environment.
Sometimes at near river level, sometimes higher above it, continue west. Dipping down, cross a small stream and immediately turn right (left, the path continues on beside the river). In the trees, turn left at the next junction (right: many stairs leading up). Come to a large culvert. Normally, one would use it to cross under the road high above. It was being worked when we visited however, necessitating we enter the neighbourhood on the left (the way is obvious), cross the busy road (look both ways – crazy drivers here sometimes) and then double back to the trail on the opposite side. No big deal.
Still following that small stream, meander through wooded areas separating two residential neighbourhoods. Deer congregate here. Enter a park, cross a road, enter another park/green space, cross another road, and soon on dip under the CPR tracks and right after the busy highway. We hoped a passing freight would show, and even waited for a time (well over an hour) for one, but none did. We oftentimes train spot on urban hikes but more times than not come up empty handed. Damn no-show trains.
Enter another park, the former site of Matthew Henry’s Cochrane Ranche established in the 1880s. Take time to explore the original town hospital, dating from well over a century ago, moved to the site here recently. On top of a hill, and seen from a nearby highway, is a huge bronze statute of a cowboy, called “Men of Vision” placed here in the 1970s. From a nice vantage point, the horse and rider look toward the west. This is a good lunch spot.
Retrace your steps, and turn left at the first road. Follow it into and then through downtown. Take in all the historic buildings here. We took lots of photos of them, but none seemed to turn out that good. Oh well, you’ll have to see those buildings for yourself.
Join up with the CPR tracks and follow next to them for a time. At a pathway, cross over the railway (we waited here for a time, but damn, still no trains) and turn hard left. Jammed between the railway line and storm spillway on one side, and industry on the other continue east. Pass a firm that makes log-buildings (interesting), then zig-zag down to the river at a storage yard.
Soon after come to a farm. Notice the fine old barn and an ancient boxcar turned into a shed (old rail cars were often reused this way). The river runs to your left but is sometimes obscured by huge cottonwood trees. In openings between them look for anglers practising their craft. The Bow offers some good fishing.
So far the last couple clicks have been quiet, but that will soon end. Enter a doggie park where things get a little noisier. All those happy pooches barking and yelping and scurrying about, sniffing each others bums, chasing balls or simply running for the sake of it. It’s crazy and chaotic at times and you’re sure to meet lots of new friends along this section. Hi doggie! Hi doggie! Hi doggie!
Trending west, pass behind a sports facility, a huge campground and then a gravel pit. Soon after arrive at the parking lot where you left your car, an enjoyable romp now behind you. Twelve clicks? That went fast!
If you wish more information on this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: December, 2015.
Location: Cochrane, AB.
Height gain maximum: 50m.
Height gain cumulative: 100m.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.