Paradise Trail is a scenic hike through diverse terrain at the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area.
The entrance to the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area is southwest of Calgary, Alberta, at the 160 Street turnoff from Hwy 22x. The entrance kiosk is at the end of a 2 KM drive through stately mansions in the rolling foothills. At parking, the interpretive kiosk hosts a registration book, a metal donation post and a map to borrow for path navigation. The trail head is a short stroll past the entrance kiosk to the Belvedere Pavilion.
Paradise Trail is accessed via the Aspen Trail or the Fescue Trail. Today, the Mountain Lookout Trail (1.0 KM) will provide outstanding views over surrounding terrain, and spectacular mountain vistas to the west, on the hike to the intersection of the Aspen Trail with the Paradise Trail.
The short jaunt south on a portion of the Fescue Trail leads to a downhill curve on the Aspen Trail past a thicket of trees where a deer is grazing just prior to the clearly signed intersection with the Paradise Trail for a counter clockwise hike around the 3.0 KM trail.
Initially a short, platform bridge crosses a small, wetland section before the trail meanders through the new Spring foliage of surrounding forest. It is caterpillar season and a hiking pole is handy to sweep forward progress clear of the tiny grubs suspended by invisible, silken threads from the branches above.
Terrain is hilly and varied with occasional open areas before exit from forest at the West Side Lookout where rustic log benches provide the opportunity to rest and absorb the sweeping vistas over surrounding farmland to cloud-enshrouded mountains beyond.
Following a pleasant section through expansive grass fields, the hiking trail enters forest again. This transition will reoccur many times over the course of the next hour.
Forest canopies create recurring entry passages to sweeping prairie views over foothills. Livestock grazes in the distance. Brilliant green land is interrupted by the occasional aspen stand or glacial erratic. Full field of vision is captured by the magnificent expanse. A gentle breeze moderates the warmth of intermittent sun.
Along the south side of the Fescue Trail a picnic pavilion and a classy outhouse are separated by an excellent, busy and densely-populated ant colony. The spacious outhouse is meticulously clean and sports a broom, tissue sealed in a coffee can, and hand sanitizer. A cattle guard surrounding the biffy prevent cows from tipping it over.
The next section of trail is an extended, light descent to old corrals. In one short section of forest tunnel there are two crows making an audible fuss' perched in tree branches high above me .
When passing through the forest tunnel, about 40 more crows swoop in, and join the pair to create a sizable murder. Their cold, steely eyes are clearly focused on my biscuit. If the murder attacks with synchronized precision, it will be like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Quickly finishing the biscuit, and picking up the pace, averts any potential crisis.
The derelict corrals at the bottom of the valley stand sentinel near the east intersection of the Fescue Trail with the Rancher's Trail. A camouflage outhouse at the trail junction raises the question, 'Why is the outhouse painted green?'.
The remainder of the hike is a sustained ascent on the east side of the Fescue Trail. A small, cattle pond is picturesque on the left but not occupied today.
At the top of the hill the Fescue Trail joins the Mountain Lookout Trail near Belvedere House. The short hike back to the car completes an excellent hiking experience.
The following map from the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area website will provide better visual perspective than words can do. They are many options here for hikes of different length and physical endeavor in an incredibly beautiful and peaceful place.
The Ann and Sandy Cross Conservation Area is an excellent resource for local folk to begin hiking with short, easy access to a variety of trail experiences. Many interpretive plaques can make the visit an educational experience about this important wilderness resource.
In 1854 it was Chief Seattle who said,
"All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life: we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves."