Nose Hill needs time to grow on a person but eventually captures the soul.
To be honest, Nose Hill Natural Environment Park, in northwest Calgary, does not look like much from it's peripheries, or from a distance for that matter. The first time setting foot on this big grassy hill, prominently rising above the City of Calgary, may quite possibly be underwhelming.
If blindfolded, and dropped by helicopter into the middle of Nose Hill, being in a Saskatchewan prairie when your sight is restored would be a valid assumption.
Nose Hill Park is a mysterious place which gradually captures the heart over time. The magic is in the detail. Nose Hill deserves to be featured as an outstanding urban hiking or biking location in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The short drive from Bowness culminates in the large parking area of the Edgemont entrance off Shaganappi Trail south of Country Hills Boulevard. The busy parking area features a shelter, public washrooms and posted trail maps to help get started. There are two trail entry points on either side of parking.
There are several other formal entry points to the Nose Hill Park. Different beginning points can provide substantially different experiences.
Hiking will limit coverage in a single trip whereas riding a bicycle will be far more efficient. This large hill has hosted human habitation for thousands of years and many significant archeological discoveries have been discovered on this land.
Nose Hill has a fascinating history and is important to first habitation and the establishment of Fort Calgary.
Fields of wildflowers stretch as far as the eye can see at Nose Hill Park. Memorial benches are placed throughout the park to remind us of dearly departed.
Many wandered this park. Some, far too young to leave are loved and remembered by family and friends. We are honored to be reminded of their presence.
There are major paved trails, many good gravel trails and old roads from previous years when cars were able to drive onto the hill.
The trail intersections provide a virtually infinite number of hiking variations and distance but today's plan will hike predominantly south and central to views over Calgary's downtown core.
From high points near the edges of Nose Hill, there are expansive views of Calgary which stretch for many kilometers, even on this hot and hazy day.
As the hike proceeds east along the south side of Nose Hill, more city views open up and on the turn north, there is a clear view to the Calgary International Airport which currently hosts the longest runway in Canada.
There are many birds and lots of small wildlife on Nose Hill. It is uncommon to see coyotes on the hill, where attention to detail can be very rewarding.
On the return loop, random, less traveled path is chosen in the general direction that will return, in a large, sweeping loop to the beginning point.
Mixed in with endless visions of wildflowers are many curious features on the hill which fire the imagination.
Eventually, familiar scenery suggests the route decision may have stumbled onto a moderately efficient return route on a very large loop around the top of Nose Hill. There are fascinating features on the northeast quadrant of Nose Hill Park, which are beyond reasonable reach on this day which creates an excellent reason to return, perhaps on the bicycle for extended range. The magic is in the detail.
On the final stretch the hike proceeds through a depression containing old growth forest on well established, wide trail hosting adjacent picnic benches and a makeshift tipi-style shelter. From the far side it is a short climb to the parking area a short distance past the top of the hill. An urban cell phone tower has been my guide for much of the return hike.
Nose Hill Park is an excellent place to wander away a morning or afternoon without the longer drive to the mountains. This natural park is a popular place for people to bring their dogs for exercise. There are several off leash areas. Most people are practicing thoughtful etiquette and due diligence.
The city currently has an initiative underway to formalize the trail structure on Nose Hill. Whatever they do will upset someone. No doubt, new off trail travel should be discouraged but, in my experience, some of the less traveled path is the most naturally intimate and interesting.
There are different kinds of people. Some people need or prefer paved path. Others, not so much. If the path is sufficiently worn to suggest frequent use, logic might suggest it is a good idea to leave it alone. From a hiking perspective, more options are good.
Photographs for this hike at Nose Hill Park in northwest Calgary, Alberta, Canada are captured on August 3, 2014.