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paskapoo slopes has some of the best mountain biking in Calgary
Trails,  Travel

Tell Me About the 3 Best Places to Mountain Bike in Calgary

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re a mountain biker. It’s also likely then, as the name would suggest, that you prefer to ride your bike in the mountains over anywhere else. But, as we all know, there are times when that just isn’t possible or convenient. It’s springtime, the mountain trails are wet and muddy, and you don’t want to cause damage. You live in the city and are tight on time, but want to try and get a ride in. Or, maybe you’re visiting Calgary for a few days and just need a place to go for a ride that has a short commute and easy access.

If this sounds like you, you’re in luck. Great mountain biking can be found within the city limits. To save you the hassle of doing research when you could be out riding, I’ve compiled a detailed list of what I consider to be the three best places to mountain bike in Calgary.

The best places to ride in Calgary have a few things in common

The three areas that I would suggest are:

    1. The Paskapoo Slopes (Eastlands)
    2. Bowmont Park
    3. Fish Creek Provincial Park

All of these areas have their own unique characteristics, but they also have a few things in common.

First, the terrain consists mainly of short climbs and descents. Calgary is home to a lot of hills, but no mountains, so you won’t find the grades particularly long or drawn out.

Second, the trails are short and numerous. This isn’t to say that you can’t get out for a long ride, but to do that you will need to link a number of smaller trails together. Be aware that most trail intersections are unmarked and so linking them together can get confusing at times.

And finally, please be aware that none of the trails in these three areas are exclusive to mountain bike use. On the trails you may encounter hikers, runners, and dogs, among other trail users.

Trailforks is king

Trailforks has become the trusty companion for mountain bikers all over the world. And because Calgary trails are short, numerous and unmarked, I would suggest that taking the Trailforks app with you on your smartphone is almost a necessity. Trailforks will greatly improve your ability to navigate all three of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary, and avoid getting lost.

If you’re not familiar with Trailforks, it’s a website that compiles mountain bike trail information from all over the world and makes it available to users for free. In addition to a website, there is an app for your smartphone. In the app you’ll be able to see your current location as well as what trail you’re on. It also displays the difficulty ratings for all trails. Trail ratings can be subjective, and so when I mention trail difficulty below, I’ll refer to the Trailforks rating in order to keep things consistent.

Top Pick # 1 – Paskapoo Slopes (Eastlands)

The Paskapoo Slopes, also known as Eastlands, riding area is located east of Canada Olympic Park (COP) and south of Highway 1 – the Trans-Canada Highway.

The Slopes, as they exist today, are part of a larger area historically known as the Paskapoo Slopes. Over time, parts of this area have been developed, shrinking the undeveloped area to what is described in this post. The developments include Canada Olympic Park (COP) to the west and the Trinity Hills residential/commercial development to the north. At the time of this writing, the remaining area is slated to remain parkland accessible to mountain bikers.

See the Paskapoo Slopes Trailforks trail map below.

Paskapoo Slopes on Trailforks.com

For more detailed information on the Paskapoo Slopes, visit the City of Calgary website and/or Wikipedia page.

What’s the riding like?

If you’re looking for steeper terrain the Paskapoo Slopes are the place to go. While the climbs and descents are still short, they are generally steeper than they are in either Fish Creek Provincial Park or Bowmont Park. This can make for fun, and sometimes challenging descents, as well as climbs suited for testing a rider’s strength.

Trail difficulty ratings in this area range from beginner (green) to advanced (black), but most of the trails are rated intermediate (blue). As such, this makes the area great for intermediate riders looking to test their skills on the limited advanced trails.

” The Paskapoo Slopes riding area contains no pavement whatsoever.”

This isn’t to say that advanced and beginner riders won’t have fun in this area. There are some trails suited to beginners, and having some easier intermediate trails nearby provides the opportunity for beginners to test their skills. For advanced riders, there are advanced trail options as well, and the steepness of much of the intermediate terrain should make for a fun ride no matter your skill level.

And, last but not least, the Paskapoo Slopes riding area contains no pavement whatsoever. This on its own makes the area one of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary!

The highlight reel!

Grunty

Grunty is a short, steep and moderately technical trail located at the top of the Slopes near the east side. If you like a bit of a challenge don’t miss out on this trail. It’s got some good rooty sections, and some nice flowy corners. To me, the name Grunty would suggest that this is meant to be a climb, but I would avoid riding up it unless you’re really looking to test yourself! The top of Grunty can be accessed from the Traverse Trail near the top of the slopes.

Pat’s Trail

Pat’s Trail is a short loop on the east side of the Paskapoo Slopes. At less than 1km long it’s over almost before you know it, but it packs a lot of fun into a short loop. There are a couple of bridges over a creek, open stretches and tight tree sections all within this short loop. For me, the varied terrain makes it worth riding multiple times as you’re unlikely to get bored.

Pat's Trail mountain bike trail on paskapoo slopes
A narrow treed section on Pat’s Trail. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

The scenery

If you’re looking for a view of the city, the Paskapoo Slopes have the best of the three areas. The top of the slopes are heavily treed, but as you descend, the trees open up into grassland overlooking the city. For a great view try the hill just above the start/finish to the Pat’s Trail loop. There you can get a good panoramic view of northwest Calgary and even see the downtown skyscrapers off in the distance.

view from paskapoo slopes from one of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary,
The view from the Paskapoo Slopes near the beginning/end of Pat’s Trail. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

How do I get there?

Access to the Paskapoo Slopes can be a bit tricky. As of this writing, there are no designated parking areas for access, and the north and east sides of the Slopes are bordered by freeways. However, there are several access points on the south and west sides. From the south, access can be gained from the residential neighbourhood of Cougar Ridge, and on the west side from Canada Olympic Park. Don’t get discouraged by the access, or you really will miss out on one of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary.

See Trailforks map above for access point locations.

Top Pick #2 – Bowmont Park

The Bowmont Park riding area is located on the north side of the Bow River in northwest Calgary. Being on the north side of the river means that many of the area’s trails are located on the south-facing riverbank. As such, the Bowmont Park trails are some of the first to dry out when the snow melts, and this makes the area one of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary in the spring.

Created in the 1980s, Bowmont Park is considered a ‘Natural Environment Area’ by the City of Calgary and is currently undergoing significant changes meant to improve and protect the park.

See the Bowmont Park Trailforks trail map below.

Bowmont Park on Trailforks.com

For more detailed information about the Park visit the City of Calgary website and/or Wikipedia page.

What’s the riding like?

When it comes to terrain, Bowmont Park is quite varied. In it you’ll find rolling hills, short steep climbs and descents, smooth singletrack and short, moderately technical sections of trail. In addition to singletrack you will also find large stretches of paved pathway and doubletrack.

According to Trailforks, the difficulty ratings for trails in the park range from beginner (green) to intermediate (blue), with most of the trails being green. Such a large percentage of green trails make Bowmont a great place for beginners to give mountain biking a try, or to hone their skills in a non-threatening environment.

“Any level of rider can find something to enjoy on this area’s trails.”

Bowmont is probably one of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary if you are a beginner. A lack of any advanced (black) level trails means that Bowmont may not be the ideal place for advanced riders to practice their skills, but in my opinion, any level of rider can find something to enjoy on this area’s trails.

The highlight reel!

Sideshow Bob

Sideshow Bob is a stretch of singletrack trail located near the east end of the park. It’s rated intermediate (blue) for difficulty and is carved into the side of a steep embankment. Being on the embankment makes it one of the more unusual trails in the area as there is exposure to one side. The exposure means that this trail may not be for the faint of heart but it is certainly rewarding if given a try. The trail itself is rolling, winding and non-technical making for a fast, fun ride with great views. The trail can be ridden in either direction. Several of the corners are blind, so be aware that you could encounter other riders at any time.

sideshow bob trail is a highlight of the mountain biking found in Bowmont Park
Sideshow Bob Trail running along the embankment on the north side of the Bow River in Bowmont Park. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

River views

As with the Paskapoo Slopes, the views in Bowmont Park are worth noting. Many of the trails either overlook the Bow River or run right along the side of it. There are very few trees or other things to obstruct a rider’s view, so great views of the river are possible from many of the trails.

How do I get there?

Of the three areas covered in this post, Bowmont Park stands out for its easy access.

There are two parking lots servicing the park – one at the east end and one at the west end. If you prefer to access the area by bike, there are options for that as well.

The City of Calgary’s river pathway system runs right through the park. This is a large paved path that extends from Bowmont Park east to downtown Calgary and beyond. The path also continues west from Bowmont to other parks upriver.

The area can also be can accessed through several points from the residential communities of Silver Springs and Varsity.

See the interactive Trailforks map above for access points and parking lot locations.

Top Pick # 3 – Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek Provincial Park is unique among this list of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary because it is a provincial park. In fact, it is the second largest urban provincial park in Canada. As such, it will likely come as no surprise that it is also the largest of the three riding areas outlined in this post.

The park was established in 1975 and is bordered by the Tsuu T’ina Nation to the west and by numerous residential neighbourhoods on all other sides. While the provincial park as a whole is quite large, most of the mountain bike trails are found on its west side. This is west of where McLeod Trail SE bisects the park.

See the Fish Creek Provincial Park Trailforks trail map below.

Fish Creek Provincial Park on Trailforks.com

For more detailed information about the Park visit the Alberta Parks website and/or Wikipedia page.

What’s the riding like?

The mountain biking terrain in the park is mostly made up of flats and rolling hills. The singletrack in Fish Creek Park runs through forest, open grasslands and smaller brush. In addition to singletrack, there are paved and double track pathways that are open for use to mountain bikers.

” The riding is largely non-technical, but technical features can be found if that’s what you’re looking for.”

According to Trailforks, the trail difficulty ratings in the park range from beginner (green) to advanced (black). There is a good mix of beginner and intermediate trails, but only a couple of very short advanced trails to choose from. The riding is largely non-technical, but technical features can be found if that’s what you’re looking for. This mix makes the park a good place to ride for people with various skill levels.

Please note that some of the trails and trail features have been damaged by flooding, so keep an eye out for things like the odd missing bridge, trail washout or closed-off area.

The highlight reel

Forest riding

Of the three areas described in this post, Fish Creek Provincial Park is the most forested. With trails running through large areas of spruce and pine forest, this park is one of the best places to mountain bike in Calgary if you want to feel like you’re riding in the mountains near Calgary (minus the mountains of course).

Fish Creek

As the name suggests, Fish Creek runs the length of Fish Creek Provincial Park. Trails cross the creek in numerous places, making for an interesting and picturesque riding experience. These crossings make for good photo opportunities, or good places to rest and listen to the creek rush past.

mountain bike trail beside fish creek
Singletrack running along the side of Fish Creek in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Luke Marshall/RideSphere)

Some tech

For those looking for some technical trail fun I would suggest linking three short trails at the far west edge of the park: Anthill Bluff, Lower 37th and Fuzzy Groover. Linking these together into one trail makes for a fun, winding, technical, and in parts, steep ride. Even with the three trails linked together, the section is still short, but it is well worth the effort.

How do I get there?

Access to Fish Creek Provincial Park for mountain biking is good.

The main riding area west of McLeod Trail is accessible from three parking lots. One at the west end, one at the east end, and one roughly in the middle.

The park can also be accessed via the City of Calgary pathway network. On the west side, the area is accessible on this pathway system from the direction of the Glenmore Reservoir, and on the east side it is accessible from the Bow River pathway system.

Access to the park from the surrounding residential neighbourhoods is somewhat limited, but if this is your preferred way to get to the trails, check Trailforks for access points. Trailforks also has location information for the parking lots noted above, as well as city pathway access.

See the interactive Trailforks map above for access points and parking lot locations.

Help keep the trails fun and accessible for everyone!

The trails in all three of these areas are supported by the Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance (CMBA). It relies on donations to advocate for trail access and to keep these trails in great riding shape. If you can, please donate to the CMBA, or volunteer to help with trail building/maintenance so they can continue to maintain these trails as the best places to mountain bike in Calgary.

I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below, or you can contact me directly from our Contact page.

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