You don’t need to venture far outside of the Calgary city limits for a day trip that’s packed with nature walks and history. Spend some time exploring Bearspaw, Glenbow and Springbank and you’ll be rewarded with two provincial parks, a farmers’ market, a historical society and an amusement park. Be sure to bring along a picnic so you can spend the whole day in these areas. (If you didn’t pack a lunch for a picnic in one of the provincial parks you’ll be stopping at, make a quick stop for lunch in Cochrane.)
West on Hwy 1A | 128 kilometres round trip from the Calgary Tower
Things to Do
This area may be just two kilometres outside of Calgary city limits, but it’s well worth a trip to learn a little more about the area’s history. While this destination isn’t open to the public like a museum, you can receive a tour if you book in advance. Book a tour to see the historic, one-room school from 1920, the teacherage and horse barn.
253253 Bearspaw Rd., 403-208-2599, bearspawhistoricalsociety.ca
You’re only 15 kilometres east of Cochrane and 30 kilometres west of Airdrie, but hiking through Big Hill Springs Provincial Park can feel like you’re way, way further from these towns. The loop through this park is short and sweet — it’s barely over two kilometres in distance, so you can do it all leisurely in under one hour. You’ll see running streams, waterfalls and plenty of tufa rock formations while walking this loop. The ambience here is serene and the views are very different from those you get in Calgary parks. For the perfect spot to have that lunch you bought along with you, find the picnic tables at the entrance of the trail loop.
Make sure you budget several hours to explore this provincial park. There are nine trails and more than 25 kilometres of paved and unpaved pathway here, perfect for walking, running or cycling. Along the paved paths there are plenty of interpretive signs that will provide you with information on the park’s history as well as the plants and animals that call the park home. Get a trail map from the park office and hike or bike your way to one of the many viewpoints or picnic tables.
After spending some time in the provincial parks, stop at Calaway Park on your way to Springbank or back into the city. Out of all of the rides, be sure to ride the bright green roller coaster you always see from the highway as you drive to the mountains. (If it’s hot, it’s worth waiting in line for the bumper boats or the log ride, Timber Falls.) There is also a ton carnival games and several places to buy traditional fair treats like snow cones. The park is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until August 31.
245033 Range Rd. 33, 403-240-822, calawaypark.com
Visiting two provincial parks might be enough to convince you to bring nature back home with you. If so, stop at Springbank’s Bow Point Nursery. This tree farm sells plants, trees and vines that are native to Alberta, like Balsam Poplar, Common Juniper and Hoary Willow, and provides careful details on how to properly care for your plants. The nursery also provides landscape consultation, custom contract growing and more.
244034 Range Rd. 32, 403-686-4434, bowpointnursery.com
Sundays until October 4
This seasonal farmers’ market is located just outside of Calgary city limits at the Lions Club of Bearspaw. Every Sunday until October 2, you can shop at this seasonal market and get great mountain views at the same time. Know that there are close to 100 vendors selling fresh products here and 80 per cent of the products sold here are made, baked or grown in Alberta.
Things to Keep in Mind
Bike to Bearspaw or Springbank from Calgary
Since the weather is still nice, you might want to try exploring these areas on two wheels instead of four. Bearspaw, Springbank and Glenbow are all very bikeable from Calgary, if you’re up for a bit of a longer ride. To explore the country roads in Springbank, you can ride through Edworthy Park, past Sarcee Trail, along the bike path and to Old Banff Coach Road. The shoulders are wide and there generally isn’t too much traffic, making this route popular for cyclists.
To ride to Glenbow and Bearspaw, take the paths through Tuscany or Rocky Ridge until Highway 1A crosses 12 Mile Coulee Road N.W. Then you can ride the shoulder on Highway 1A. This ride is a little busier with traffic, but worth it for the views — and it’s easy to get onto the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park pathways from here too. And, if you turn onto Bearspaw Road, you’ll be able to explore some quieter country roads by bike.
Artists and art lovers will want to have this centre on their radar. The Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre (KOAC) is a non-profit public arts centre in Springbank that, in a nutshell, is intended to celebrate contemporary art. It is the brainchild of two prominent Calgary artists, Harry Kiyooka and Kate Ohe. When complete, the KOAC will house a contemporary art collection, the area’s only sculpture park, an art and research library and be a place for artists to study and complete artistic residencies. Stay tuned for more news on the opening of the sculpture park soon.