Bike-friendly Calgary Will Connect you to Nature and Urban Adventures
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This summer, ZenSeekers has teamed up with Destination Canada to help you find your path to new adventures, connecting urban and outdoor experiences by bike!
With the Rockies visible on the horizon, Calgary is famous for its proximity to big natural spaces but you don’t have to leave the city to find connections to nature. Jump on a bike, start pedaling and you can ride from the city’s hip urban core to wild natural spaces and back easily through the course of a day.
Over the last decade Calgary has prioritized cycling infrastructure, becoming one of North America’s most bikeable cities. With 1,000 kilometres of regional pathways and 96 kilometres of trails, cyclists can safely dive right into the action, experiencing history, music, culture and even the antics of surfers and kayakers on the Bow River’s rapids.
Calgary is so bike-friendly, many residents have even given up their cars. One is Naheed Gilani, a business owner who has found that he can access any part of the city he wants to via cycling.
“After nearly four years without a vehicle, I’ve discovered this city has so many ways to get around,” says Gilani. “Everything is well connected and new pathways are quickly being added.”
For visitors (and locals on staycation) a great way to start your own adventure is with a stay at Hotel Arts, which provides bicycles to guests at no charge. Positioned right on a downtown bike route with close access to everything, Hotel Arts also features a property-wide gallery of Calgary and Alberta art and two excellent restaurants right in the hotel.
From there it’s a short ride to the eye-popping star of the city’s four downtown bridges spanning the Bow River—the Peace Bridge. Designed by world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, the pedestrian and bike-friendly span gives pedestrians and cyclists easy access from downtown to neighbouring communities to the north.
Just east of the bridge is the peaceful Prince’s Island Park, home to a summer full of theatre and music. There, you can pick up a pre-ordered packed lunch at River Café and spread out on the 20 hectares of green space just minutes from the hustle and bustle.
Nearby, paths lead to St. Patrick’s Island Park and then continue east on the Bow River Pathway past the Moh’kinsstis (Blackfoot for meeting of the Bow and Elbow rivers) to the historic Inglewood area.
Before you leave the East Village area make sure to stop at the Bell Studio National Music Centre. The visually stunning architectural landmark acts as the gateway to Inglewood, Calgary’s oldest neighbourhood.
Melding contemporary architecture with the historic King Eddy live music venue, the NMC houses 2,000 musical artifacts, going back five centuries. The NMC is also home of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. By the way, the King Eddy houses some serious rock ‘n’ roll history in the Rolling Stone’s Mobile Recording Studio. If those walls could talk, they’d rock.
As you cross into Inglewood, you’ll find a wide variety of unique shopping opportunities, including the one-of-a-kind Indigenous-owned Moonstone Creation at 12th Street and 10th Avenue. The two women who run the shop, Yvonne Jobin and Kim Brothers, are Cree. They sell authentic Canadian-made Indigenous crafts, jewelry and clothing and are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about Indigenous traditions.
Nearby, two pet-friendly open-air craft breweries—Cold Garden and Ol’ Beautiful—invite you to park your bike and enjoy a cool draught in the afternoon shade.
Just a stone’s throw away, at the Bow River’s Harvie Passage, surfers and kayakers play in the enticing rapids rebuilt and upgraded by the city after the 2013 flood. It’s one of the most challenging whitewater courses to be found in Canada, and a source of ongoing entertainment for the hundreds of spectators who gather on the shore daily to witness the daring antics.
Head west on the Bow River Pathway and there are yet more striking natural areas and parks to explore. Cruise by the football game at Shouldice Athletic Park, and within minutes you’ll arrive at Bowmont and Bowness Parks. There, you can rent a boat or kayak to paddle in its still waters, take the kids on a mini-train ride or grab a delicious snack at Seasons restaurant.
Across the river to the south is the unique Douglas Fir trail whose lookout offers an unparalleled view of the west side of the city. It’s a bit of a hike to the viewpoint, but reaching that lookout is the perfect place to gaze at a picture-book sunset after a day of exploring Calgary by bike.
WHEN YOU VELO
- Explore the highlights with Destination Canada's top 10 Calgary attractions
- Try this #YYC biking itinerary by ConnecTour co-founder (and author of this story) Lisa Monforton
Lisa Monforton is a writer, editor and co-founder of ConnecTour, engaging Canadians to explore the nation by bike.