12 Mile Coulee is a picturesque, urban valley 12 miles northwest from Fort Calgary.
12 Mile Coulee was named many decades ago when the picturesque valley was 12 miles distant from Fort Calgary. The coulee is not 12 miles (19.2 KM) long. The short section being hiked today is about 2 KM (1¼ miles) in length.
The drive from Bowness is over the Bow River on the 85th Street bridge and west on Bearspaw Road, past the sprawling Bearspaw Water Treatment Plant (BWTP) to a right turn via a temporary road for Stoney Trail construction to a temporary traffic circle which ascends Tuscany Hill.
Continuing new development within Tuscany can be a challenge. Nearly every Internet reference suggests a different start point so a bit of specific planning is wise.
Get to the east side of Tuscany in the northwest quadrant of Calgary, Alberta, Canada and drive around until a potential entry point reveals itself. It is important to maintain a positive attitude at all times.
12 Mile Coulee is a city park which is currently under development. There is no formal parking at this time, other than street parking at multiple entry points along the valley.
From the chosen entry point, a short walk to a rest stop hosting a huge boulder and two park benches contained by cement pillars supports a wrought iron barrier, along the bike path. The coulee is directly behind the rest stop.
A left turn on the bike path has me hiking north past the fenced back yards of upper end homes to a formidable and architecturally-pleasing, Tuscany Boulevard bridge over 12 mile Coulee.
There is no obvious entry on the north side of the bridge but a gravel path descends into the valley from the southeast corner of the bridge. Recent rain has rendered the path muddy. The gentle grade descends quickly into dense forest harboring a small, picturesque creek babbling its way south through the valley bottom.
The trail meanders along and above the creek with frequent crossings along the way. There is usually a way to keep feet relatively dry on stepping stones or creek shoreline with the occasional boardwalk crossing. Certainly June 2013 flooding had some impact along the creek.
There are exposed sandstone outcroppings along the east bank and trail becomes more heavily laden with roots. Without warning the hike ends at an impasse where 12 Mile Coulee intersects a rocky-bottom drainage beneath Stoney Trail.
Where the culvert prevents further progress, a trail junction crosses the creek and trail proceeds north on the other side. The alternative loop along the east side tracks higher in grassy terrain above the forest and creek. Although this section is less isolated, the view is made up of prairie and urban development, above to the right, with wilderness forest and stream beneath, to the left for an interesting composition.
The trail passes though zones of diversity which create an interesting hike within a short distance. The return route perspective shares some common moments but overall offers a unique visual experience in a small range of elevation.
About ¾ of the way back there is a well established side trail, on the other side of the creek, which offers an alternative and shorter return route up to and along the top of 12 Mile Coulee.
The moderately steep climb up the side of the valley, on gravel trail, offers a number of lateral trail branches but ascent continues on the most traveled trail to the paved bicycle path along the top west side of 12 Mile Coulee. A right turn heading north passes fenced yards as the trail winds it way along the top to the familiar rest stop which greeted me on the way in.
Along the way there is a an excellent long-lens look back at Canada Olympic Park in the south. Following the short walk to the car, a quick drive to Angel's Drive-in celebrates the hiking day.
12 Mile Coulee is a very pleasant location to enjoy a short, easy, wilderness hike within Calgary city limits. The little park remains very rustic and there is considerable room for improvement, or change, or not, depending on how you look at it. Perhaps the construction of Stoney Trail has been a major factor affecting park development.
Images for this hike in 12 Mile Coulee, near Tuscany in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, were taken on August 4, 2014.