Explore a Forested and Tranquil Park Within City Limits

Calgary is home to more than 10,000 hectares of natural area, including the 93 hectare Griffith Woods Park

Calgary’s proximity to the mountains is near the top of both of our ‘what we love about Calgary’ lists. With world-renowned vistas (and so much amazing hiking and skiing) a 90-minute drive away, it’s easy to overlook the fact Calgary also has hundreds of stunning outdoor spaces within city limits.

This week, we’re staying in the city and taking you on a visit to Griffith Woods Park, which lies along the banks of the Elbow River, in the southwest community of Discovery Ridge.

While we specifically chose to visit Griffith Woods because neither of us had ever been, it turns out that was wrong. Annalise had major déjà vu as she pulled into the East Parking Lot, and eventually recalled she’d visited several years ago while working as a reporter and writing an interesting little story about the challenges of beavers and humans co-existing.

While we didn’t see any beavers on our visit, we did see a stunning heron (we’re pretty sure that’s what it was), and bird-loving Cailynn regretted not bringing her binoculars.

Washrooms and an interpretative sign greet visitors at the parking lot. Griffith Woods used to be a popular horseback riding area until it was donated to the city by Wilbur and Betty Griffith in 1998. The area boasts white spruce trees, rose bushes and fern moss, which are all unusual for the area. “Only one other forest like this has been found in Alberta, in Jasper National Park,” states the interpretative sign.

We spent about 90 minutes exploring the park with a friend on Saturday morning and were struck at how “not in Calgary” the adventure felt. Located just a 20-minute drive from Calgary’s inner city, the park feels like you’re walking through forests in Kananaskis Country or Jasper.

Also striking was how flat the park is. Unlike many other natural spaces in Calgary (such as Nose Hill, Britannia Slopes or Fish Creek), trails in Griffith Woods have no elevation gains. This makes it great for little legs and those with mobility challenges. We saw many families on our wander.

There are both paved and unpaved trails to explore. We followed the main paved path that runs the length of the park east to west for some time before branching out onto unpaved trails along the banks of the Elbow River and meandering back to the parking lot. And there’s some COVID-friendly parts to this park, including a decent-sized parking lot (for those forgoing carpooling like us) and wide main trails.

Studies show spending time in natural environments can significantly improve your physical and mental health. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise here in Alberta and we head into a long pandemic winter, it’s important to remember walking in the woods doesn’t need to involve a long car ride. For us, it felt refreshing to wander beneath towering trees, listen to the river and take in lovely new views. We’re lucky that Calgary is home to so many easy-to-access outdoor spaces and we look forward to visiting more this winter.

Our very first giveaway! Thanks to local children's book illustrator and author Carolyn Fisher, we’re giving away one copy of Carolyn’s picture book THE SNOW SHOW. Online reviews say it’s a beautiful, clever book that’s overflowing with snow facts.

Subscribers to this newsletter can enter to win a copy by following Carolyn Fisher on Instagram or Twitter, then commenting below with a park you plan to visit this winter. Carolyn will make a random draw on Nov. 24 and mail the winner a signed copy of the book (Alberta addresses only). A reminder that books from local authors make wonderful gifts!

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COVID-19 restrictions have led more Albertans than ever before to explore their own backyards. We’ve been hiking, biking and skiing near Calgary since childhood, and we want to help more people Go Outside. Subscribe to get our newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.