Like so many kids their age, mine find the call of large bodies of water hard to resist. Such was the case on an epic bike ride we recently took. We were three-quarters of the way through the trip when we came upon the Glenmore Reservoir. We walked to the very edge of the boat launch, just off the parking lot at Heritage Drive. The kids peeled off their sweaty socks and kept inching their toes closer to the water. After a couple hours of pedaling, they were (literally) aching to jump in and go for a swim on that gorgeous 22-degree Sunday.
Every summer when I was a kid, I would bike to this very same spot with friends and family. It had been ten years since I had last biked this route and I’d been waiting until my kids were old enough to last the distance on their bikes.
The Glenmore Reservoir is a huge man-made lake in Calgary that supplies mountain-sourced drinking water, aids in flood control, and provides recreational and non-motorized boating. In my personal opinion, the best use for it is to bike around, admiring stunning views of the mountains, downtown, and everything in between, while you try to burn off as many calories as you can take in at the many respites located along the way. There is no one specific trail-head or starting point, so we began our ride the same place I did growing up; the Weaselhead parking lot in North Glenmore Park.
Weaselhead Flats is a 237-hectare natural park, whose stunning beauty sets a great tone for the ride. We stopped for a few minutes to admire the view from the bridge at the bottom of the hill. There are quite a few trails currently closed here. Many bridges and access points are still closed for repairs, leftover damage from last spring’s floods. That doesn’t faze all the kids in the area, who are just as happy skipping rocks and playing at the water’s edge. A lesson for all us grown-ups, I think.
One of the best things about biking the reservoir are the number of kid-friendly places to stop and take a break. There are several playgrounds along the loop, and if we had stopped at each one as the kids begged to, we would have taken a half-dozen play breaks during the trip. If you only have time for one stop, save it for roughly the halfway point, and cool off at the South Glenmore Variety Spray Park. You can’t miss it, as it is located right beside the pathway, and features three more playgrounds. It’s a great spot to grab a snack or have a picnic.
The Glenmore Sailing Club and boat launch is here as well, and we had the chance to see a few sailboats take off as we took a breather at this rest point.
One of my favourite childhood memories of my treks on this particular trail was stopping for a 25 cent ice cream cone at McDonald’s in Glenmore Landing. It is the halfway point of the loop, and the perfect place to stop for a refreshment. In addition to McDonald’s, you’ll find Starbucks, 1600 Bier Haus if you’d like a light lunch, Cobbs Bread, a grocery store and gourmet ice cream at Marble Slab Creamery. My tastes have upgraded from ice cream to iced coffee, but my kids still enjoyed a cone to cool off.
Just past Glenmore Landing you’ll find the prettiest view of the sparkling lake, shimmering against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. The scenery wasn’t lost on my four-year old. She kept pointing out butterflies, ducks gliding on the water, vibrant colours of purple lilacs and yellow honeysuckles, and sighing contentedly at the scent of greenery enveloping us as we cycled under canopies of trees.
When arrived at the boat launch where my kids were begging to go into the water, I had to explain that the reservoir is where we get our drinking water and no swimming is allowed; only boats and (literal) lucky ducks.
For a few minutes, we sat at the edge of the dock and were enthralled by a cluster of tiny sailboats being raced by the Calgary Model Sailing Association. My kids reluctantly left the pier and got back on the bikes to finish the ride and end our day with some pre-packed snacks and a play at the park.
The 15 km loop can be biked in about an hour if you go fast. We chose to make a morning of it and took over three hours to enjoy stops and breaks along the way. You never need to worry about getting lost in the residential area, as long as you keep looking for the Elbow River Pathway signs. And if you do get slightly off-track, there are always lots of friendly people in the area to point you in the right direction.
Even though they didn’t get to dive in the way they wanted to, the kids loved our time around the reservoir, and I loved enjoying a caramel macchiato while taking them on one of my favourite childhood adventures. A win-win excursion all around.