During a recent trip to Calgary for work, I ended up having a few hours to spare before my flight, but not enough time to drive to the mountains. After a quick search of nearby hiking options, my colleagues and I decided to explore Nose Hill Park in the north of the city.
I was not expecting much (after all, Nose Hill Park is an urban park surrounded by residential neighborhoods), but I was finally amazed by the scenery that made me feel like I was kilometres away from the city.
Calgary’s Nose Hill Park is an 11-square-kilometre park (the fourth-largest urban park in Canada) with several hiking and biking trails. It is primarily an important example of a grassland ecosystem. Nose Hill is one of the last remaining examples of the high plains that once covered the area.
The vegetation found in the park is therefore typical of that which once covered the Canadian Prairies. High grass, crocuses, wildflowers, sage. The park also hosts some species of animals including coyotes and deer (we actually saw some grazing quietly in the grassland).
For me, who has never had a chance to explore the Canadian Prairies, the landscape was striking. The hues of green, the grasshoppers leaping before us, the grass dancing under the wind, the smell of wildflowers and the immense sky … I could have stayed there for hours. In addition, the park offers beautiful views of downtown Calgary and of the Rockies in the distance.
And why is the park called Nose Hill? Apparently, the hill that gives it its name kind of look like a nose if you look at it from a certain angle (it reminded me of Cave Hill in Belfast, another hill whose shape is reminiscent of a nose). The hill was considered sacred by the First Nations, of which there are some archaeological traces in the park.
We were not able to hike all the trails in the park (we had a plane to catch after all), but I promised myself to come back on my next trip in Calgary.
Nose Hill Park is located in the north of Calgary, about fifteen minutes from the airport. There are several access points and parking lots, and entry to the park is free. It should be noted that as there are only a few trees in the park, hiking can be a bit grueling under the sun. It is therefore important not to forget to bring water (we learned it at our expense!).