When the days get hot and the kids get cranky, it’s time to pack some snacks, grab the towels, and find some water. There are wading pools and spray parks in the city, but sometimes you need to reconnect to the natural world. Find places to go ‘wild swimming’ at beaches on rivers and lakes in and around Calgary.

Of course, always keep safety in mind. Rivers have currents and many of the lakes are very cold, making it dangerous for swimming. But even if the water is too cold to swim long, you can still find an adventure and rejuvenate your soul, just by getting back to nature. From sandy beaches to rocky shores, find some water on rivers and lakes around Calgary.

Before heading out, be sure to check for any water advisories from Alberta Health, particularly the Cyanobacteria (green-blue algae) advisories. Swim at your own risk.

Direction Banner Calgary (Family Fun Calgary)

Bowness Park | Bow River

Where: Bowness Park
Cost: Free
Features: While the Bow River is not necessarily a place to swim, you will often see people wading in the river around Bowness Park. (There are also a few protected areas on the other side of the river, just east of Baker Park, where people swim.) If you choose this, exercise caution and stay in areas protected from the river’s current.

Edworthy Park | Bow River

Where: Edworthy Park
Cost: Free
Features: Similar to Bowness Park, there are places at Edworthy Park to enjoy a rocky ‘beach’ and access the water to wade or swim. Of course, exercise caution and stay in areas protected from the river’s current.

Harvie Passage | Bow River

Where: Access is through Pearce Estates on the east end of Inglewood
Cost: Free
Features: The south channel of Harvie Passage, on the Bow River, offers a chance to get wet on a hot day and there is a good map onsite to help you determine which areas are best for you. You can park at the Bow Habitat Station and head to the river.

Sandy Beach | Elbow River

Where: Along the Elbow River below River Park
Cost: Free
Features: Sandy Beach is a rocky beach with a wading area and you’ll find playgrounds and picnic sites, too.

Sikome Lake | Fish Creek Provincial Park

Where: Fish Creek Provincial Park — Sikome Lake can be accessed by Bow Bottom Trail SE or Sun Valley Boulevard SE
Cost: $19 Family Pass
Features: The most well-known of lakes in Calgary (most of the Calgary lakes are for community members only), this man-made lake is located in Fish Creek Provincial Park. The lake is shallow and warm with a sandy bottom and a beach, plus you’ll find shade, washrooms, a concession, and a playground.

Trout Beach | St Patrick’s Island

Where: St Patrick’s Island — you can access it from East Village
Cost: Free
Features: St Patrick’s Island is a lovely place to enjoy a summer’s day and Trout Beach is a small, sheltered area to play along the river, perfect for wading.

Direction Banner East (Family Fun Calgary)

Chestermere Lake | Chestermere

Where: Chestermere
Distance:
28 minutes from downtown Calgary 
Cost:
Free (but if you park at the Rec Centre, there is a fee)
Features: Chestermere Lake has a couple of beaches and parks along its shores. Try Anniversary Park & Beach at 208 West Chestermere Drive, which has a sand beach, a lakeside promenade, green spaces, and a bathroom. Or there’s Cove Park & Beach at 259 Cove Road on the northeast end of the Lake. It’s a smaller, peaceful beach with a walking path along the peninsula and a brand-new pirate ship playground.

Lake Newell | Brooks Region

Where: 14 kms south of Brooks
Distance: 2 hours 20 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free
Features: Lake Newell is one of southern Alberta’s largest and warmest man-made lakes. The clear warm waters are perfect for swimming and recreational sports. There is a public beach at Kinbrook Island Provincial Park (where you can also camp). While you’re in the area, you can also check out Dinosaur Provincial Park.

Direction Banner North (Family Fun Calgary)

Discovery Canyon | Red Deer

Where: Discovery Canyon on the Red Deer River; 3.5 km north of 30 Avenue and 67 Street roundabout in the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area
Distance: 1 hour 40 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free, although it costs $6 to rent a tube
Features: Discovery Canyon is a natural river-fed playground, with a lazy river and a beach area. There’s a playground and a concession, and if you can beat the crowds, it’s a magical place to cool off.

South Dyke Campground | Gleniffer Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area

Where: East of Innisfail
Distance: 1 hour 30 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free
Features: With a sandy beach and warm water, this no-frills beach is a fun day trip that’s not too far from Calgary.

Gull Lake | Lacombe County

Where: Near Lacombe
Distance: 1 hour 50 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free
Features: Gull Lake, in Lacombe County, is most well-known for Aspen Beach Provincial Park, but boasts a number of other beaches, as well, such as Gull Lake Public Beach. The lake has a sandy bottom and Aspen Beach Provincial Park has picnic areas, a playground, and a concession. You can find other fun things in the area here.

Sylvan Lake | Town of Sylvan Lake

Where: Sylvan Lake
Distance: 1 hour 45 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free
Features: The town of Sylvan Lake is on the southeast edge of Sylvan Lake, a freshwater lake that is a favourite destination for water recreation. There are two beach areas known informally, as the “big” and “little” beaches. The little beach is located on Lakeview and the big beach is on Ferndale at the park area. There is also an Aqua Splash (for a fee) that kids will love.

Direction Banner South (Family Fun Calgary)

Chain Lakes Provincial Park | SW of Nanton

Where: 38 km southwest of Nanton
Distance: 1 hour 20 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free
Features: Chain Lakes Provincial Park has been described as an oasis on the prairie. It has a small sandy/rocky beach surrounded by a grassy area and is more suited to wading than swimming.

Direction Banner West (Family Fun Calgary)

Barrier Lake | Bow Valley Provincial Park

Where: Bow Valley Provincial Park
Distance: 1 hour from downtown Calgary
Cost: A $15 Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park your vehicle
Features: Barrier Lake has a small sandy beach, and although it’s more well-known for hiking and picnics, the hardy swimmers can cool off here.

Ghost Lake | Rocky Mountain Foothills

Where: West of Cochrane
Distance: 50 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: Free
Features: Generally considered great for water sports and too cold for swimming, Ghost Lake is a beautiful location just west of Calgary with a rocky beach.

Johnson Lake | Banff National Park

Where: The end of Johnson Lake Road
Distance: 1 hour, 30 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: A Banff National Park pass is required for $22/family
Features: We’ve heard Johnson Lake called ‘Banff’s only beach’ but don’t be fooled, it’s still very cold! It’s a calm area, more sheltered from the wind than other lakes in the area and surrounded by mountains.

Quarry Lake | Canmore

Where: Canmore
Distance: 1 hour 15 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: A $20 fee is required to park your vehicle
Features: Mountain lakes aren’t known for warm swimming, so keep that in mind when we say that Quarry Lake is considered one of the warmest mountain lakes! There are washrooms and a few trails.

Sibbald Lake | Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area

Where: Between Calgary and Canmore
Distance: 55 minutes from downtown Calgary
Cost: A $15 Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to park your vehicle
Features: Sibbald Lake is a calm lake with a sandy/rocky beach area. There are picnic areas and great opportunities for water play, but the water is cold.

You can also check out this website for swimming in Alberta. What are your best picks for the places to swim around Calgary? Let us know by emailing calgary@familyfuncanada.com!