Social Distancing in the Great Outdoors: How to Enjoy the Mountains Right Now

Finding solitude in nature is the original social distancing. Here are some ideas for things you can do in and near the mountains in the upcoming weeks that are good for body and soul.

With recreation facilities closed right now, the mountains are calling. Even if you don't have the means to leave the city, there are still ways to enjoy mountain views and get a taste of the great outdoors. Photo by Beijingstory/iStock

Check Out the View

Sometimes, just seeing the mountains is what you need to feel renewed. The big prairie sky and clear air out here means that if you’re up on any kind of a rise and looking west you can see straight out to the Rockies in the distance. The most famous mountain sightseeing spots in the city are probably the top of the McHugh Bluff in Crescent Heights and the top of Scotsman’s Hill in Ramsay, but those are just two of many. Dress warm, wear gloves, find a bench and sit for awhile.

Walk the Douglas Fir Trail

If you want to feel like you’re in an alpine wonderland but don’t have the means to actually get to the mountains, the Douglas Fir trail in Edworthy Park is the next best thing. The 2.5-kilometre path winds through forested areas that could easily pass for Banff or Canmore. Best of all, there’s that lovely forest smell that gets even lovelier right after it rains.

Head for Wide Open Spaces

Nose Hill Park was made for social distance. The expansive prairie preserve that sprawls across Calgary’s northwest guarantees users their personal space. With hardly any trees, the park provides sight lines of both the distant mountains and others using the park, so you can easily keep to yourself. For another sprawling natural space check out Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park near Cochrane.

Go Forest Bathing

Forest bathing is often mistaken for the act of swimming in a mountain stream. But in fact, forest bathing is a growing practice that involves going out into nature, finding a spot away from others and meditating. The woo-woo take is that being amidst the trees can heal your ailments. But even the most dedicated pragmatists among us can admit that meditating in nature leaves you feeling refreshed, reinvigorated and renewed. If you can’t get out to the mountains, head for Fish Creek Provincial Park and bathe away.

Hike Hike Hike

If you’ve resisted getting into hiking to this point, it’s time to give in. If you can’t go to the gym, or fitness studio or even go on group runs with your running group, then hiking is going to be how you get your endorphins during the time of COVID. That being said, popular hiking trails can draw crowds, especially on lovely days. So head for trails in less frequented areas, such as the those off the Smith Dorrien Trail that joins Canmore with Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in K-Country. If you are hitting a popular hiking trail then try to go on a week day and try to get going bright and early. The flip side of practicing social distancing in hiking areas is that you have to be more concerned about bear activity. Carry bear spray and know how to use it and if you see signs of bear activity be prepared to turn back. As writer Thomas Bogda put it in our Scaredy Cat’s Guide to the Mountains: “It’s better to be safe than stubborn.” And remember to bring snacks with you, too!

Go Nordic Skiing

This time of year can be iffy for cross-country ski trails. Though the recent snowstorms were certainly helpful, a week or so of warm spring sun and they can go downhill pretty quickly. If the snow sticks around the XC trails at West Bragg Creek recreation area are your best bet. Aim to go mid-week to avoid weekend crowds.

An earlier version of this story contained information about Banff and Jasper National Parks that is no longer accurate following the announcement that all Parks Canada facilities will be temporarily closed as of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19. For the most up-to-date information on access and services in the National Parks, visit pc.gc.ca.

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