Are you a runner just visiting Calgary and wanting to know what Calgary and Banff has to offer for runners?
Or a Calgarian just getting into running?
Well, have we got a running scene for you. From trails to pathways, big events to wild remote places, running groups to solitude, flat long runs to epic peaks to conquer. This place is amazing for runners.
Where to run
Calgary is full of great running spots. The valleys along the Bow River and the Elbow River offer countless opportunities to experience the trails, and pathway systems which seem to go on forever. Lots of people start downtown and run along the beautiful rivers. Morning, lunchtime and evenings, it is packed with runners, in both summer and winter. And don’t discount actual real hard core trails inside the city limits.
The big parks also have great running opportunities – notably Nose Hill Park (big open prairie type park in the NW), Fish Creek Park (linear park along a creek valley in the SW), and Glenmore Reservoir (18km loop around a small lake in the SW). Or you could try Edworthy Park which is along the Bow River in the NW.
If you’re looking for more trails and more of a challenge or just better scenery, then head to the mountains – the Canadian Rocky Mountains, that is.
Kananaskis – The closest and most accessible part of the Rockies is called Kananaskis Country. This is outside Banff National Park (don’t need a park pass) but the peaks are just as big and the wildlife is just as wild. You can access this area either through Bragg Creek, Kananaskis Village, or Canmore.
Heading to Bragg Creek and then about 20 minutes past, it is packed with trails in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The mountains are not quite as big but it is only 40 minutes from downtown. A good intro run would be to park at Station Flats and run along Elbow Trail.
Or you can drive toward Kananaskis Village, Highway 40, and then pick any one of the many, many pullouts to park and run from. The hikes only get more beautiful as you go further past the Village. Try Galatea Creek about 10 minutes past the Village.
Canmore (60 minutes from Calgary) is a mecca for everything outdoorsy, from mountain biking, bouldering, peak bagging, skiing and of course trail running. The pathways along the river running through Canmore is a good starter run to get a feel of the area. From there you can head to the cross country ski trails at the Nordic Center. Or you can try a miriad of backcountry trails with names like Goat Creek Trail, Ha Ling Peak, Highline Trail, and Upper Kananaskis Lake.
Once you get into Banff National Park, the trails might be harder to find, more remote, and definitely quieter, but the ones you do find are amazing. There are long tough ones like Stanley Glacier, Floe Lake, Sulphur Mountain. Or tamer ones like Johnston Canyon, Tunnel Mountain, or Lake Minnewanka. Exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains would take a lifetime to explore it all. And don’t forget Jasper, but that’s another whole chapter. Here’s my rundown of the trails in the Rockies that I’ve run.
Running in Winter? For Real?
No doubt about it, running in the winter is alive and well in Calgary. Sure there are fewer people on the streets running, especially when the wind picks up and the temperatures drop, but winter doesn’t have to slow you down that much.
Wear layers. Get good gloves A toque is a must. And make sure the traction on your shoes is fairly good. You might need a face mask, but in those extreme temperatures, you really only see the real hard core runners outside. Everyone else is taking a few days off or has found a treadmill somewhere. But not me, I learn the hard way. Here are some of my lesson’s learned at -15C on a trail run.
Calgary Trail Runners Meetup
I’ve joined the Calgary Trail Runners Meetup a bunch of times and they are an awesome group. Lots of crazy people who love the outdoors, lots of varied trails, and definitely hard core when it comes to trails. Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff trails mostly, but some trails in the city. They are all-weather folks who can’t get enough of the trails. Not all the trails are really hard or long, but you can’t see the city or highway from most of them. Check ’em out.
Calgary Road Runners
These guys have weekly training runs for people who have 5k, 10k, half and marathon training goals. These friendly groups usually run with a goal race in mind. They also have a monthly club night for drinks and a run. And they organize a wild and never cancelled-for-the-weather Winter Cross Country Race Series.
Weekly Group Runs
There’s lots of amazing races in Calgary and throughout Alberta. Even in the cold winter months there are some hard core runners who can’t get enough and race directors who want to oblige this passion.
Some of the big ones are: Calgary Marathon (early June), Stampede Road Race (early July), Mother’s Day Race (May), Last Chance Half (October), St. Patrick’s Day 10k (March)
Here’s a unique set of events for the hardcore winter runners: Winter XC Race Series
Where to get gear
- Gord’s Running Store. Everything for the serious runner and staffed by serious runners. These guys know their stuff for trails, ultras, marathons and anything epic. They are all well experienced. Located centrally on Centre Street just north of the Bow River.
- Strides. Located in two locations in the SW, this niche store has everything you want. Friendly staff and lots of energy.
- MEC. I am surprised at MEC’s lineup of running stuff, especially their trail running shoes and gear. They know everything “outdoorsy” and can outfit you with the bear spray and trekking poles you might need too. Located downtown.
- Tech Shop. Located in the NW near Nosehill Park, these guys have been around a while and can answer all your questions.
- Running Room. Lots of locations, and very active with running groups and organizing events.
So, stop reading, join in the fun, and get out there.
P.S. I’d love you to follow my running journey on this blog while I continue to explore more of Calgary and the Rockies. Click the FOLLOW link on the sidebar (or at the bottom)