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The Perfect Place for a Winter Walk Near Calgary
Why we love Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
We’ve gushed before about the hundreds of stunning wild spaces within Calgary’s city limits, including Griffith Woods Park in the southwest and Dale Hodges Park in the northwest. There’s also some gems close to the city, including Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, situated just outside Cochrane, about a 30-minute drive northwest from central Calgary.
Located on the lands of Treaty 7 territory, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park officially opened to visitors a decade ago, in 2011. We headed there on a recent sunny afternoon, looking for some fresh air and a change of scenery. The park is easy to find, consisting of just one turn off of Highway 1A then three kilometres of driving down a gravel road that passes by private properties. There’s a couple of small parking lots when you reach the park. When we visited on a Saturday afternoon, the lots were full and vehicles were lined up on the side of the road.
Rocky Mountain views, rolling hills, the Bow River, wide open sky… Glenbow Ranch has it all.
There’s a reason Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park gets busy! It boasts nearly 40 kilometres of paved and shale pathways (here’s a map and you can find trail descriptions on the last page here) and wonderful views of both the distant Calgary skyline and the Rocky Mountains.
The paved pathways are great for many users, whether you’re on a bike, walking, with a stroller, or using a walker or wheelchair. While the park is quite hilly, when we visited the paved pathway was nearly clear of ice and snow, and was being used by people of many ages and abilities (including quite a few families with young kids, who were eager to pet all the dogs being walked on leash). We saw cyclists and joggers, and a lot of walkers, though the size of the park makes social distancing easy.
There is one main paved trail that weaves throughout the park.
You’ll also find interpretive signs along the pathways that share stories of the park's rich history, which includes ranching, a Canadian Pacific Railway station (a railway line still runs through the park), a sandstone quarry and a brick plant. The signs also provide lessons about flora and fauna, and geology in action. Glenbow Ranch lives up to its name today and still operates as an active cattle ranch.
Keep your eyes peeled for animals, including cows and coyotes.
This area was a private ranch until 2006, when the land was sold to the Alberta Government by the Harvie Family for half its market value. Today, Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation (GRPF) is a not-for-profit organization that preserves, protects and promotes the provincial park via “engagement, education, collaboration and conservation.” Amenities include a visitor center, washrooms and picnic tables.
The park has a rich history, some of which is still visible today.
We walked for a little over two hours total, following the main, paved Bowbend Trail to the Waverley Chimney and Windmill Lookout (check out the view below). You can also head far on a paved trail in the opposite direction, where you’ll see Glenbow Village and follow a trail closer to the Bow River.
The view from Windmill Lookout on a clear day.
If you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors without spending too much time getting there in a vehicle, we highly recommend exploring Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.
Have you embraced going outside during this long, lonely, bizarre COVID winter?! Bought or rented gear and tried a new activity? Visited a park for the first time?
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