The Douglas Fir Trail can be accessed from Edworthy Park in Calgary, Alberta.
Along the south shoreline on steep banks above the Bow River rests a stand of magnificent Douglas Fir Trees. Part of this forest is home to the 2.5 KM (1½ mile) Douglas Fir Trail which travels through dense forest between parking at Edworthy Park and Cedar Crescent SW in Calgary, Alberta.
Easy access to the Douglas Fir Trail is available from parking areas for Edworthy Park. North side parking is larger and requires crossing the bridge over the Bow River. South side parking is more challenging to access but more convenient to the trail head on the paved Bow River Pathway on the south side of the railway tracks.
The trail begins at an obvious spot on the right side of the paved Bow River Pathway at the metal gate before proceeding past a bicycle rack and a large boulder with brass plaques onto relatively level dirt path through inviting forest which curls gracefully east to soon rise a short distance above the Bow River Pathway with an increase in trail complexity which creates the wilderness experience.
Bridge 5122B crosses the first drainage and wooden fortified trail features add safety and comfort along and through the dense forest on the escarpment. Periodically there are brief views of the Bow River Pathway a deceivingly short distance beneath.
Stairs gain elevation aggressively through massive trees and sandstone features for horizontal traverse much higher on the hill.
The relentless ascent on wooden beam and dirt stairs is an aerobic opportunity rewarded by leading to a pair of benches that provide spectacular views over west Calgary. A short climb further leads to the short lateral traverse prior to descent on stairs past wooden bridges over major drainages. Care is required at the tangled remains of Bridge 5122D. Since repaired.
There is substantial flood damage along the trail and shifting ground has created areas where caution is sensible. Level trail passes through a meadow beneath a fenced slide area to a fenced barrier which has obviously been breached many times. The breach leads onto mangled trail into and through damaged forest on unstable ground and is best avoided in favor of the short descent to the paved Bow River Pathway where a gravel path detour along the south side of the railway tracks continues along the bottom of the damaged portion of the escarpment.
The gravel trail adjacent to the south side of the railway tracks passes a small, pristine marsh and continues east on a fairly flat true path past the junction with the other side of the trail interruption. A short distance further the trail curls right to gain altitude on good wide path past one signed junction to continue on narrow, more rustic trail through dense, aromatic forest.
This short section leads to another open, three-way junction where old, historic Quarry Road heads uphill and the Douglas Fir Trail continues east on wide, good quality, gravel road. Periodically, grand views across the Bow River towards Calgary Downtown remind this forest walk camouflages nearby urban density.
On the return via the same route, a left turn north on high quality trail along Quarry Road swings uphill past the golf course and past the east entrance for the Douglas Fir Trail to communities at the top of the hill. Evidence of the ancient sandstone quarry appears to be gone and little is known about it's existence beyond the fact that stone from the quarry was used around 1885 to construct government buildings in Regina, Saskatchewan.
On the return descent from the top of the hill, there is scant evidence the quarry may have been active near the junction of Quarry Road with the top of the East Entrance to the Douglas Fir Trail. The East Entrance trail provides spectacular views over the Calgary skyline before aggressive descent to rejoin the Douglas Fir Trail and the continuing return hike west to Edworthy Park.
Back at the junction with the Douglas Fir Trail the same route skirts west on gravel trail along the bottom of the damaged section to the entrance near the Bow River Pathway railroad crossing for the short ramp up stairs and west over the stairs and bridges past the viewpoint to the south parking area for Edworthy Park.
The Douglas Fir Trail is an inner-city oasis through old growth forest which provides a relaxing interlude from urban commotion. This short section of trail should not be confused with the Douglas Fir Sanctuary Trail in Bowness near the base of the Stoney Trail Bridge over the Bow River Valley. The entire Douglas Fir Forest, which is believed to be the most easterly grove in Canada, stretches along and above the south shore of the Bow River for several kilometers. Some of the magnificent trees are in excess of 500 years old. Although specific trails service specific sections of the forest, it is likely there are unofficial link trails which span the entire length of the grove.
Photographs for this post were captured on Tuesday, May 17, 2016.