This hike is a breeze, barely a workout, and takes in the eastern section of Fish Creek Provincial Park in the south end of Calgary. The wide flat valley travelled has a very rural feel, belying the fact that it’s deep within the city. Interesting illusion! The going is super easy, the pathway taken level, paved and in winter plowed. St Mary’s University, with their historic water tower, is the turn around point. There’s a short climb up out of the valley to get to it, but otherwise the “trail” is completely flat.
Start at the historic Bow Valley Ranche at the end of Bow Bottom Trail. These buildings date back to the late 1800s and were part of a large cattle operation what once operated here in the Fish Creek area. Back then the city of Calgary was far in north but has since grown to surround the ranch and park.
Take some time to explore the many old buildings here – there’s a number of them. Think back to when it was working ranch, long ago, with cowboys milling about, the smell of wood smoke, horse and cattle wandering valley here. Imagine! The house, since the 1990s, has been a fine restaurant. Would love to eat there some time, but we’re poor broke writers, the worst paying job in the world.
Take the obvious pathway heading west. It meanders a bit, crossing tiny Fish Creek (frozen on our visit) for which the park is named, only once. The terrain is mostly open grassland, with a few scattered tree groves here and there. A number of ponds are passed, no doubt good bird watching spots come nicer weather where there’s no frozen stuff about.
The trail makes a line for the south side of the valley and stays there for most of the trek. Junctions are passed, each marked in some way, a few with full maps. Even without, it’d be hard get lost here. Keep on the paved pathway (the rest are gravel, or on our visit covered in ice), keep hoofing it west and keep it flat and you’ll do fine. At random times, it’ll strike you…there’s no real signs of civilization down here. This is the middle of nowhere! Then a plane flies overhead…
Expect to see deer in Fish Creek Park. They often congregate in the trees and travel in fair sized groups (one male, several females and perhaps some young). We’re told the odd bear or even cougar shows up in the park from time to time, following Fish Creek in from the foothills to the west. Strange how this can happen in the city. These visitors are quickly rounded up, their bags packed and sent “home”.
Fish Creek Park, oddly is not city owned as mighty be expected, but belongs to the province and dates back to the 1970s when the ranch operation finally closed down. In times past, the valley was often used by first nation’s groups.
At a four way junction, head south and up, the only elevation gained this day. And it’s not much…it’s a cake walk. Bend right and hit 146th Ave in the community of Midnapore on the same heading.
Historic St Mary’s University is a good spot to end the trek. Take a look at the facility’s old water tower which has been on our radar for a time as a subject we want to document. The place, in the old days was a home for the downtrodden and also functioned as a convent. There’s also an old carriage house on the property. Entry into the grounds is by permission only.
Down in the west see the tiny form of St Paul’s Anglican, Calgary oldest church (when built it wasn’t even in the city) dating from the 1880s. Its little cemetery is home to one of the oldest graves in the city.
Some interesting tidbits…when St Paul’s was built Alberta wasn’t even a province…when built the entire population of what would become Alberta was less than that within walking distance of the place today…when built the community of Midnapore, where it stands, was its own town…it may well be the smallest church in Calgary…we could go on and on.
The place looks so humble and meek here in the bustling city. There’s a busy multi-lane road running out front, LRT trains passing and development all around, yet standing on the grounds, it’s this strange sea of calm.
Turn around here and retrace your steps back to your car.
If you wish more information about this trail, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: January, 2017.
Location: Calgary, AB.
Distance: an easy 9km there and back.
Height gain maximum: 40m-ish.
Height gain cumulative: 40m-ish.
NOTE: all distances and heights are approximate.