Glenbow Ranch Park Has Everything
The town of Cochrane, Alberta is just outside of Calgary to the city's west. This town has a couple of trails of note.
Firstly, I liked the Cochrane Ranch trails a little. There was a really nice and accessible viewpoint that wasn't too hard to get to from the parking lot. But the main trail network that I liked near Cochrane was the Glenbow Ranch Trails just outside of town a little ways.
The Glenbow Ranch Trails are among my favorites for all of western Canada. I feel like that says something about them given that I have gone trail hiking what I would estimate to be a couple of thousand times in my life.
What makes these trails stand out is a wonderful blend of everything you might look for when hiking or walking in a park: there are challenging stretches and easy stretches, there are historical buildings and lots of informational placards, the scenery is beautiful from the elevated areas, it's a park that appears to have the attention of park staff, and there was even a spot for swimming in the summer heat.
Getting to Glenbow Ranch Park
This trail network is not difficult to find. If you are in Cochrane, then you would head east on Highway 1A. If you are in Calgary, then you would head west on the same highway. The park is signed from the highway and is only about two kilometers from Cochrane.
In the following video, I will show you the parking lot area and the trailhead area as it was when I visited in August 2020. The park is a working ranch so it's possible that you could come across some cattle during your hiking or walking. I did not personally have that experience, however, I did come across what looked like very fresh bear poop. There was also a warning that one had been spotted in the area a few weeks before my visit. Honestly, I don't usually bring my bear spray on prairie trails but this trail is kind of in between the prairies and mountains in what is a nice blended area of farmland and elevation.
Parking Lot Area of Glenbow Ranch Park
Paved Nature Trails That Aren't Shaded
In all objectivity, I should mention a couple of criticisms that I have of the park. Firstly, the trails were almost all paved. I don't actually like paved trails because I prefer softer ground for walking. I feel like it's easier on the lower body.
Secondly, there wasn't a lot of shade in this park. You spend a lot of time underneath the wide-open sky. On a hot summer day, the sun can be cruel.
Accordingly, this is certainly a park that you will want to visit in the early evening or with a fair share of sunscreen lotion and a hat if you come during the afternoon. In the following video, I should one of the impressive viewpoints that you can access near the parking lot. Note all of the informational placards that you can read as this is clearly a park with a strong educational component.
Glenbow Ranch Park Trails Viewpoint
Old Ranch Buildings at Glenbow Ranch Park
When it comes to looking at the old buildings that are still kind of standing in the Glenbow Ranch Park, you aren't able to get too close. No doubt, that's a conservation effort on the part of park management.
I'm sure that if you could walk freely that members of the public would be 'decorating' the attractions with graffiti, something you see in parks here and there. In the following video, I show the ranch and a chance encounter with a deer. I also explain why I like coming across deer while I hike in natural areas.
Old Ranch Buildings in Glenbow Ranch Park
The Bow River Runs Through Glenbow Ranch Park
The swimming spot that I found was on the Bow River. This was an east-flowing river to the west of Calgary. If you go into any river, then try to do that BEFORE the river enters a major city. Afterward, I don't think the water will be as pure.
This river was shallow on the day that I visited the area. It was also a very hot day and that compelled me to get in the water, dunk my hat, and cool off. The day was so hot that I was actually completely dry about an hour later. However, be very careful if you enter any river because of the strong currents.
This trail network, the river setting, and the scenery made for what was a very memorable day in the summer of 2020. I would go so far as to say that this is the best park in the Calgary area, so long as you are not including parks in the Rockies. No trip to the area is complete for trail enthusiasts unless they get out to Glenbow Ranch Park.
Bow River at Glenbow Ranch Park
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Shane Lambert (author) from Edmonton, Alberta on September 03, 2021:
Come out and hike some of them.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 03, 2021:
I am appreciating the collection of different trails that I visit through your eyes. I get your point about the concrete paths. Softer ground is easier on the knees and ankles. You are careful to give safety tips about entering the river.