Five cool ways to explore the river valley of Lethbridge


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Matthew Bailey

Even though I attended the University of Lethbridge many years ago, I never took the time get to know the city’s natural areas. I always loved the look of the coulees, whether I was driving through them or seeing them from the school, but I hadn't really explored them. 

But on this visit, my friends and I had a few days to see have a deeper look at Lethbridge and we decided to take a whole day to explore the coulees that dominate the landscape.

Check out ZenSeekers' story on exploring Lethbridge on the water.

Check into Tourism Lethbridge to start planning your trip activities.

Watch Explore the River Valley of Lethbridge #BucketlistAB on YouTube.

You might be wondering what a coulee is. They’re basically an unusual land formation that results in a series of small hills that create a ravine. Here, the Oldman River winds through the coulees, but you’ll also find a golf course, ponds, a nature centre, parks, walking trails and biking trails. It's an oasis within the city, and the best way to experience the eco-side of Lethbridge.

1. Helen Schuler Nature Centre

Photo: Matthew Bailey

View from the rooftop patio of the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge.

To begin our eco-adventure, we visited the Helen Schuler Nature Centre. Housed inside a LEED-Gold certified building, we learned about the local ecology, including the animals and insects that can be found here. With free admission, this is a great place to visit before heading out on your hike. There's also a number of trails that start from the centre, but before doing that, we went up to the rooftop garden to admire the views and check out the local flora and fauna.

2. Walking trails

Photo: Matthew Bailey

Enjoying one of the many nature trails around the dramatic High Level Bridge. 

There are all sorts of trails in the coulees, and some of them are just for walking. This allows people to take in the place slowly, without having to worry about bikes zooming by. One of our favourite places were the trails that snake their way around the Lethbridge Viaduct, which is the highest and longest trestle bridge in the world. The bridge is such a dramatic feature in Lethbridge and being able to view it from the bottom was so cool sight. Another surprising feature of the area is the cactus; you don’t see those everyday in Canada. This is one of the few desert areas in the country, which makes Lethbridge unique.

3. Biking trails

Photo: Matthew Bailey

One of the best places to practice your mountain biking skills is at the Mountain Bike Park near Indian Battle Park.

There's also an extensive network of trails for bikes. They wind their way through the coulees and past Fort Whoop-Up, a local historical site. There's also nearby Botterill Bottom Park with a mountain bike park featuring jumps, moguls, and trick stunt areas. None of us are pro-bikers, but we had to try it. It was a lot of fun tackling the ups and downs of the moguls and trying to catch some air with the bikes, adding some thrills to our otherwise peaceful day.

4. Elizabeth Hall Wetlands

Photo: Matthew Bailey

The Elizabeth Hall Wetlands is home to a variety of animals, including western painted turtles.

By now, we knew that Lethbridge was home to rattlesnakes and cactus, but we didn’t think it would be home to turtles, too. This preservation area, located on the west side of the river, is a popular spot for bird-watching, attracting geese, ducks, songbirds, raptors, and shoreline birds. It's also home to beavers, muskrats, and the western painted turtles. On hot sunny days, dozens of them can be seen lounging on logs in the water. The day wasn't sunny, but we still saw three or four poke their heads out. There's also a floating dock that extends out onto the water, so you can get a more closeup look at the wetlands' wildlife.

5. Enjoy a picnic

To cap off our day, we had a picnic in Indian Battle Park. This is such a great area to bring family and friends. There are plenty of picnic tables, barbecue pits, and even an area to play horseshoes. Once we found a nice grassy area with views of the trestle bridge, we laid out our blanket, opened up our basket of goodies, and had a feast on cheese, meats, and crackers, proving that from dawn until dusk, Lethbridge is a wonderful place to get in touch with nature.

If You Go

Lethbridge is about a two-hour drive south of Calgary.

Learn more about BucketlistAB here.

Grab an awesome itinerary and start your Southern Alberta adventure.

Check Tourism Lethbridge to start planning your trip and find other activities in the area.

Travel Alberta also has lots of great information about things to do and places to see in the Lethbridge area.

Matthew Bailey is a Canadian travel writer, photographer, and video host with Follow his travels on Instagram and Twitter @MatthewGBailey and @MustDoCanada.

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