Calgary: City Of Parks & Pathways

By Richard White, Community Strategist, Ground3 Landscape Architects, March 24, 2013

Top 10 reasons why Calgary is the City of Parks & Pathways:

  1. Calgary has two of the largest urban parks in world - Nose Hill Park and Fish Creek Park. 
  2. Shaw Millennium Park is one of the biggest and best free outdoor skate parks in the world.
  3. The Douglas Fir Trail along the south banks of the Bow River is the furthest east that these trees grow.
  4. Calgary has over 700 km of walking and cycling pathways linking over 100 different communities across the city.
  5. Downtown 's +15 system is the world's largest elevated walkway system with over 60 bridges connecting over 100 office, hotel, retail and entertainment buildings.  The system is 18 km long.
  6. Prince's Island is the city's festival park and home to the Calgary International Folk Festival.  The Island has been called one of the best urban festival sites by international media and performers.
  7. Stampede Park is home to Calgary's signature festival the Calgary Stampede "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."  
  8. Calgary has some of the most spectacular dog parks in the world.  Many with commanding views of the Downtown skyline or the river valleys. 
  9. RiverWalk our newest pathway has become the unofficial home of our Food Truck culture and will soon be the gateway to the revitalized St. Patrick's Island Park.
  10. The Calgary Greenway currently under construction will circle the city creating a 138 km walking and cycling path that will link over 40 communities with 300,000+ people. 


Nose Hill Park is 3 times the size of New York City's Central Park.  The park offers amazing views of city skyline and Rocky Mountains.  The  natural grassland is home to deer, coyotes and other wildlife.  Today it is popular dog and walking park, in the past it was a popular camping spot for First Nation tribes (there are many teepee rings in the park).   

Calgary's parks and pathways can be enjoyed year-round as many of the paths are cleared and warm Chinook winds can result in +10C temperatures even in winter.  The City becomes magical when there is a hoar frost on the trees turning them into a surreal fantasy landscape. 

Fish Creek Park is a provincial park inside the city of Calgary boundaries. It is 3 times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver.  Pathways are open year round.  It is home to bear, moose, deer, eagles, owls and other wide life. 

Downtown Calgary is home to one of the largest collection of corporate head offices in North America. One adaptation to winter is to create skybridges to connect offices, hotels, retail, cultural and convention centre buildings.  Currently there are 63 bridges, connecting over 100 buildings, creating a maze that is over 20 km long. It is on par with Montreal's famous underground system.  It is called the +15 system, as the skybridges are 15 feet off the ground, connecting buildings at the second floor level. 

+15 and +30 bridge connecting The Core shopping centre which stretches over three blocks along  Stephen Ave Walk pedestrian mall. 

The original +15 bridges were simple rectangles without much thought given to the design; however they are gradually being retrofitted to become more visually appealing.  One of the advantages of an elevated bridge walkway vs. underground is that pedestrians get to enjoy the sunlight and vistas the elevated glass bridges provide.

+15 bridge connecting the Municipal Building and Museum of Contemporary Art / Calgary with the EPCOR Performing Arts Centre.  

Looking down 7th Avenue Transit Corridor, you can see there are bridges on every block. Transit riders can get from the bus or train into the system quickly.

One of the more recent park projects was to create the Ralph Klein Park which includes the world's largest engineered wetland (30 acres) as part of a major sewage treatment plant at the southern edge of the city.  Calgary's boasts being one of the greenest cities in the world with respect to water treatment.  

Ralph Klein Park wetlands and education centre. 

Education Centre for Ralph Klein Park wetlands

One of gems of Calgary's park system is Prince's Island, one of three islands in the Bow River, on the edge of the Downtown core.  It is home every July to the Calgary Folk Festival, which has been called by many performers as a magical place to perform.  There is a festival on the island every second weekend in the summer.  

Calgary Folk Festival audience chilling out.

The Eau Claire Pathway is the transitional area from the Downtown office core to Prince's Island.  It is a very active cycling commuter route weekdays and enjoyed by thousands weekdays at noon hour and on weekends. it is the hub of the City's 700km pathway system. 

Crescent Heights stairway links the north side community to Prince's Island and downtown. These stairs are a popular training area for athletes, as well as recreational walkers.  The river escarpment offers spectacular views of the downtown skyline and Rocky mountains. 

Typical pathway in Calgary being enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. No Calgarian is more than a 5 minute walk from a park or the pathway system. 

In the middle of the southside of the City is the Glenmore Reservoir and Weaslehead Flats created by  a dam on Calgary's other river - the Elbow River. While no power boats are allowed, it is poplar sailing, canoeing and rowing amenity.  

Glenmore Reservoir located only 10 minutes from Downtown. 

Weaslehead Flats is  natural area full of wild life. There are pathways throughout the park that allow Calgarians to enjoy nature in their own backyard. 

Shaw Millennium Park was one of the first major skate parks in the world.  It is located at the western edge of downtown. This is a old picture, today there is an elevated LRT line that goes above the park giving it a even more urban and edgy sense of place. 

The skate park is divided into three zone - beginner, intermediate and expert. 

Eilliston Park on the eastern edge of the city is home to Calgary's annual Global Fest, which is a celebration of all the different ethnic groups that call Calgary Home.  Part of the event is an international fireworks competition. 

Families enjoying the newly renovated Memorial Park with its kid friendly fountains in the heart of the downtown's Beltline community. The park also includes numerous war monuments, an upscale restaurant and Calgary's first library built in 1912 - it still functions as a neighbourhood library. 

Calgary has many outdoor skating rinks across the city from Olympic Plaza to Prince's Island.  Perhaps the most popular one is at Bowness Park.   

Bowness Park's lagoon becomes a large skating rink in the winter for people of all ages and skating abilities.  in the summer, there are canoes and boats for rent.  

Pathway to the Douglas Fir Trail in Edworthy Park just west of downtown. This is the furthest east the Douglas Fir trees grow.

The Douglas Fir trail climbs up the escarpment created by the Bow River, offering spectacular views of the river valley west. 

View of Downtown Calgary from the Douglas Fir Trail. 

Calgary was home to the 1988 Winter Olympics.  One of the legacies of the Olympics is Canada Olympic Park with winter skiing and snowboarding and summer mountain biking. The Park is home to many of Canada's winter athletes. 

Calgary's green beach along the Bow River.  Calgarians love their rivers. 

Calgary's iconic Stampede Park is the most fun you can have with your boots on.  It consists of a Midway, Agricultural Show, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, evening Grandstand Show and numerous concerts by international recording artists. It is six festivals in one. 

Calgary's iconic Stampede Park is the most fun you can have with your boots on.  It consists of a Midway, Agricultural Show, Rodeo, Chuckwagon Races, evening Grandstand Show and numerous concerts by international recording artists. It is six festivals in one. 

This is just a glimpse at the over 5,300 parks and soon to be 1,000 km of pathways taht exist in Calgary: The City of Parks & Pathways!  

Calgarians enjoying pebble beach at Edworthy Park.

Rent a raft and be a local