When the weather is ugly and it keeps you out of the mountains or if you’re not feeling terribly ambitious but want to get out of the city, the Friendship Trail is a nice choice. It’s a short little paved path that connects the small towns of Turner Valley and Black Diamond and is both fun and easy.
We often choose to travel it at times of bad weather (as it was this day) and the snow added an interesting blue/grey tone to everything. Drab to some perhaps, but I think it was starkly beautiful.
We prefer to start in Turner Valley but instead of beginning downtown at the official trail head, we drive into town a bit so we can add a couple more kilometres to the overall distance travelled. The paved path starts at Millennium Park at the four way stop, which is easy to spot with it’s little oil derrick and gazebo. There is parking at the community centre.
Be careful when in the area as here you are not far from the Chuckwagon restaurant and you’ll probably catch the wonderful aromas wafting up from the place. They cook the most decadent and amazing breakfasts and we stop in once or twice a year. Walking the trail is a good idea after eating here – maybe do it twice!
Initially the trail parallels the highway and while the cars passing can be a bit noisy, it’s not a big deal. To the left is a field where deer can often be seen. One thing you notice while passing this section are the warning signs for the pipelines that are buried beneath you. There are so many of them, some of them marked as abandoned. These lead to the old Tuner Valley gas plant which is off to your right but at the time of our visit could not be seen due to the snow. It’s a historical site that you can visit and the area you are in was home to the first oil boom in Alberta. This is the place that started it all. Now however most of the oil has been tapped out, although you’ll still occasionally see working pumps in the area.
After a dip you’ll notice an interpretative sign on the hill above you and this marks the site of the famous “Hell’s Half Acre”. In the late 1920s countless rigs and derricks were crowded into the area you are standing and it was a beehive of activity. It earned this devilish name as sulphurous gas was flared off during drilling giving an eerie glow to the whole place, day or night. And it stank. What is odd is that homes have been built here recently – there are likely a lot of bad things left underground from the early wells. Old pipes, contaminated soil, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t want that under my home.
From here we join a little used gravel road and we share the route with it for a few hundred metres before rejoining the paved path again. For the next little bit it’s clear the trail was built over a section of the old highway, now realigned and sitting to the south, far enough way that it’s out of mind.
This is the nicest section of the trail and it skirts below a number of small hills and next to a forested section with a pond to the right. Sometimes we climb the rocky spines to get a good view, but not today as it was a bit too slippery. There are some picnic tables here and it’s a pleasant spot to stop.
Before long however you are back near the highway and you’ll parallel it for the last kilometre. After crossing the Sheep River you are in Black Diamond and the trail turns into sidewalk. You can turn back here, although you might like to go into town a bit like we do. Today we head for The Stop to have a coffee. At other times we may head into Marv’s Soda Shop for a hamburger and milkshake or we might take a break at the Black Diamond Hotel to have a steak sandwich and wobbly pop. In any case there are lots of places to have lunch or to relax.
There are a couple steep sections on the trail and care should be taken when it’s been snowing. The path is plowed so it can we enjoyed nearly any time of year, but caution is still advised. You know, ice and all. Any times we’ve been on the trail it’s rarely busy. I listed the trail as an Urban Adventure and under Misc Outdoors since I could not decide which category it fit in best.
While there was a population in the area before the oil boom, it was this event that gave birth to Turner Valley and Black Diamond and put them on the map. Most of the old buildings in either town date from this period. Black Diamond was so named for the coal found in the area.
To see some other paved pathways we’ve visited, follow these links…
Calgary to Chestermere (and back) canal pathway cycle.
Cochrane River path.
‘Round the Glenmore Reservoir.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: December 2012.
Location: Between Turner Valley and Black Diamond AB.
Distance: 6km on the trail, more if you head into each town.
Technical bits: A few short steep sections may be slippery when it snows.