The spring shoulder season can be a challenging time in the mountains. When the Elf lived in Vancouver he would typically have been camping several times before late April rolled around. The Rockies near Calgary are different. It may surprise you, but typically the mountain winter snow pack is at its peak in early/mid May (before rapidly melting). This can make hiking in the mountains a challenge as trails are either snowbound, icy or muddy. Wet flow avelanches (the most dangerous) become more common. Many highways remain closed until May or June making some trailhaeads harder to access. At the same time, backcountry reservations are open (Banff and Kananaskis take reservations 90 days in advance), turning our minds to the upcoming trips of summer.
How does one get out and keep ones hiking legs in shape? Look no further than your local city parks. While perhaps not as epic as the high alpine or untouched beach, you may be surprised what can be found near you. I’m lucky to live 5 minutes a way from Nose Hill Park in Calgary with its 60km of trails.
Similar parks are scattered around the city like Weaselhead Flats and Fish Creek (among many many others). Calgary is not unique in this regard, with most cities host to a wide variety of parks and trails (you may drive by one every day and not even know i)t. A little research on your local Parks and Recreation site (City of Calgary Parks) can uncover all sorts of hidden gems. These places can be a great place to explore, maintain your fitness level and get your daily dose of vitamin N, even if you only have an hour or two after work. Just this morning my kids and I went for a 6km hike, taking us less than 2 hours door to door.
These nearby hikes can be a great place to test out new gear at low risk if things don’t work out (such as boots, packs, clothing). As well, if you’re unsure about hiking in inclement weather, what better way to develop your experience by taking a neighborhood hike in the rain. Fitting a hike into a busy schedule can be easier than you think.
One suggestion however, go-early, during peak hours these parks can become pretty crowded particularly on a nice day.