One of the least demanding bike rides ever, the route we’ll show you follows a meandering irrigation canal all the way from Calgary to Chestermere. Thirty or so clicks of pleasant and enjoyable fun, it’s paved for ease of ride, flat the whole way so peddling is near effortless, and overall is not that terribly busy. There are many entry points allowing one to lengthen the outing if they wish. It’s not a short ride, but is nothing close to hard.
Park somewhere close to Glenmore Trail and Ogden Road. The back lot of the shopping complex is good and out of the way. I doubt anyone would care if you left your auto there. Head south, cross at the lights (notice the all the road construction here), turn left, go over the tracks then right away the canal, and intercept the pathway. Turn south.
For the next couple kilometres, the path parallels the CPR mainline on the opposite side of the canal. Engage in a little trainspotting if you like. Got my first flat of the day here (and year). Another, on the back wheel, would happen on the return trip. Call me Mr Flat. Get them with amazing frequency. It’s a curse, a sad running joke. Tried different tires/tubes/liners/rim tape/you name it; and put many bikes techs on it, and still they come. It’s not route specific, so don’t worry about going where I did.
I resist the temptation to toss the bike in the canal followed by an angry stomp back to the car, cursing and swearing the whole way, by God, that it’ll be the last time I ride. But I tough it out and continue on, fingers crossed it won’t happen again…a futile exercise as it turned out.
Trending east, the going is quick. Pass under some road bridges. For the first half of this trip you’ll travel through industrial parks. Some might find this sort of gritty backdrop aesthetically displeasing. I rather like it. All those trucks, machinery, scrap yards and factories are special to me for some reason. Pretty sure I’m alone in thinking that.
Bending left again, leave the train tracks behind. Cross under more road bridges, including noisy Stoney Trail (Calgary Ring Road). Notice the portage here, for those travelling by canoe and kayak along the canal, bypassing a dangerous weir. Cross over a road at grade then bend left. Soon on duck under Glenmore Trail (remember it?). Not much head room here!
Factories and warehouses transition to farmland, acreages and other agricultural oriented businesses. Ride though the very centre Heatherglen Golf Course. Sometimes, but not this day, you can find a beer cart stationed (conveniently) on the course but right beside the pathway you’re on. Damn, I was thirsty!
Pass some tree farms, cross more roads and soon on come to train bridge crossing the canal, just below another weir. The line seen here once ran all the way from Calgary to Saskatoon Saskatchewan (with many off-shoot branches) and dates from around a century ago, but today, on this side, is cut back to a massive grain elevator just east of Chestermere. Don’t expect to catch a train here, they don’t run too often. Too bad, as the old bridge makes for a nice backdrop should one show. Maybe you’ll get lucky…
A line of newly built homes, backing on to the pathway, announces your arrival in Chestermere, a Calgary bedroom community. At a pedestrian bridge come to Chestermere Lake. It was actually built as a storage reservoir for the canal system and is surrounded completely by houses. Other canals, by the way, leave the lake at various spots on their way east. The pathway ends here making this a nice turn around point. Take in the lake before you go. It was oddly quiet the day of our visit. More often than not, it’s jam packed with power boats and the like.
The canal network and reservoir date from the early part of the 1900s. Without the life giving waters it supplies, much of the land east of Calgary would be too dry to farm. It was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Under the trees here, or further back by the train bridge, make decent lunch spots. When done, return the way your came. Our trip was mostly uneventful, save for that second flat. I’m sure they heard me cursing and swearing all the way back in Calgary.
A passing rider, no doubt sensing my frustration, insisted he repair the tube for me. He did it so expertly and efficiently, fully explaining each step and the reasons for it as he went (as thought teaching a class), while I stood there dumbfounded and in awe realizing just how sloppy I was in comparison. He refused any offer for payment.
Thus far no one has found a reason why they happen. The punctures shows up in random places with no pattern to them at all. I keep two spare tubes and a repair kit on hand all the time. Connie has never had a flat.
Make sure to bring lots of water if you travel this route. It can get mighty hot on that pavement. There are few trees, so little shade along the way. You can take refuge under bridges if needed however. There are no biffies along the pathway.
If you want this to be a longer trip, you can start downtown or east of downtown, like at the Pierce Estate Park or Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, or any at many other places. It’s up to you.
It’s not a terribly busy route most of the time, but expect the occasional traffic jam, more so near the Chestermere Lake end. Most of the traffic is bikes.
If you wish more information on this route, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: May, 2016.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Distance: 33km return.
Height gain maximum: Negligible.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.