Where to Try Trail Running (Or Walking) In the City

So you want to try trail running, but you’re not ready quite yet for those intense, mountain trails. Try the trails in these five parks instead.

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If you’re looking to add a little adventure into your fitness regimen this spring, trail running will get those endorphins flowing, but not in a “this-could-be-life-or-death” kind of way.

If you’re new to trail running, heading to the mountains to try the trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre or to run up Ha Ling Peak probably isn’t wise. You can start smaller and get the same benefits, all without leaving the city.

This weekend, get off the pavement and try the trails at one of these five parks. (We’ve ranked them, where one star is easiest and three is more difficult. But despite the ranking, all of these trails are doable for total beginners.)

Fish Creek Park

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If you’re entirely new to trail running, Fish Creek Park is a good place to start. Start your run at the Sikome Beach area and run along the river, past the Bow Valley Ranch Visitor Centre and along the trails parallel to the community of Deer Ridge. There is less than 200 metres of total elevation gain – the route is mostly flat but there are a few good hills to challenge you, too. If you get tired, the paved pathway is close by and easy to find.

After the run:

Treat yourself to a coffee and a baked good, sandwich or ice cream cone from Annie’s Bakery and Caf. (You can park in the lot by the Friends Of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society if you’re too tired to walk all that way back.)

Annie’s Bakery and Caf, Bow Bottom Tr. S.E., 403-476-1308, bvrrestaurant.com

Cochrane Ranche Historic Site

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So this isn’t technically in Calgary, but it’s not that far outside the city limits. The elevation in this park is gentle and the trail network is extensive, meaning you could run for as long as two hours if you wanted. Stick to the creek-side trail and you’ll run through open grasslands and forest, and you can even run all the way to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park and back.

After the run:

If you’re up for breakfast, visit Guy’s Caf and Bakery. If you just need something to elevate your blood sugar a little for the drive home, make a pit stop at MacKay’s Ice Cream.

Guy’s Caf and Bakery, 6, 201 Grand Blvd., 403-851-9955, guyscafebakeryinc.com; MacKay’s Ice Cream, 220 1 St. W., 403-932-2455, mackaysicecream.com

South Glenmore Park

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Explore South Glenmore Park’s Jackrabbit Trail. You’ll begin your run on the paved paths, but once you hit the pond, you’ll make a turn to get onto a single-track dirt trail. It’s an undulating trail and you’ll need to watch your footing – rocks, roots and fallen trees are obstacles here. (And they make things more fun.) Keep going and take the trails all the way to the Weaselhead Flats trail system.

After the run:

If you don’t feel like waiting in line with a bunch of other runners at the Good Earth at Glenmore Landing, and you need some post-run carbs, it’s well worth making the drive to Montreal Bagels. The bagels here are made just like the ones in Montreal – they’re shaped by hand, boiled in honeyed water and then baked.

Montreal Bagels, 8408 Elbow Dr. S.W., 403-212-4060

Nose Hill Park

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Running at Nose Hill Park can be as easy or as difficult as you make it. After you’ve made the climb to the top of the hill, you can choose to stick to the wide, gravel path that traverses the park. (You’ll get from North Haven over to Edgemont if you go from west to east.) This trail at the top of the hill is largely flat, and a good way to recover after the initial climb. And be sure to bring sunscreen. There’s not much shade on the top.

Or once you’re at the top of the hill, you can take one of the many single-track, dirt trails that extends out from this main path – there’s a network of these smaller trails that covers almost all of the 11-square-kilometres the park takes up. Know that these are significantly steeper and more challenging.

Even though you’re in the middle of the city, there are areas where you’ll feel somewhat isolated. And, you’ll get great views of the city.

After the run:

You’ll be hungry. You deserve a treat. After leaving the park, drive through C.B. Drive Inn and treat yourself to a burger and milkshake.

C.B. Drive Inn, 789 Northmount Dr. N.W., 403-282-8188, cb-driveinn.com

Bowmont Park

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Park in the lot right off of Home Road and take the paved pathway down into the park until you see an opening in the trees on your right. This will take you up to the park’s ridge and onto the trails. This is a narrow, single-track trail that isn’t for the faint of heart. The Sideshow Bob trail is about 8 kilometres but there are plenty of short, steep climbs and descents. And at the beginning of the run, as you follow along the ridge, there’s a steep drop (but you get great views of the Bow River). And there’s the chance you could encounter a mountain biker or two.

After the run:

Drive back down Home Road and over the river via Bowness Road to Cadence Coffee. Order a baked good, like the apple cheddar muffin or ginger burger – it’s two ginger cookies with icing in the middle – to pair with your post-run coffee.

Cadence Coffee, 6407 Bowness Rd. N.W., 403-247-9955, cadencecoffee.com

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