Take the Whitemud to 122 St, then turn onto Rainbow Valley Drive NW. Stop at the first parking lot you will see.
I am on the coaching staff of a u11 girls’ soccer team, and our head coach decided it would be a really great team-bonding exercise for our players to get together and go for a great nature hike, in a spot that wasn’t too far from any of their front doors. I elected to be at the end of the walking pack, to make sure the group stayed together and, more importantly, cover for my lack of physical fitness. Nothing covers for not being able to keep up like saying “I’m just hanging at the back.”
We chose the Aspen trail route. There are a number of branches that cross the meandering Whitemud Creek, but the Aspen trail goes uphill, probably more than 150 metres, till you meet up with the backyards of those who have the privilege of living in homes on Aspen Drive West. Before you hit that uphill hike through the woods, with lots of birdsong to cheer on your every step, you cross the creek several times. There are plenty of photo ops, ducks and geese to see. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from being right next to the highway, to being plunged into the woods where you (thankfully) lose all perspective of being in the city. There is plenty of signage along the path that help you identify the different birds and trees you will see as you go. Slow it down, and you can make this a true outdoor classroom.
After you make it up the Aspen incline, you will spill out onto Aspen Drive for a short walk in the neighbourhood, and there are plenty of openings to go back into the park and head back down to where you started. The girls chose to take a steep incline down, the kind that made my twice-broken ankle scream (anyone with ankle issues will tell you that downhill walks are far tougher than uphill walks). I only slipped once, so there’s that. I would not rate this loop as an easy one, and definitely a no-no for those with strollers, carts or any sort of impediments to mobility. It’s a good test of your ability to be part human, part mountain goat.
Of course, you can simply enjoy the first half of this hike, then turn back before you hit the Aspen rise. This will still give you a good 30-to 45-minute walk with plenty of Instagram-worthy nature shots. The kids still use Instagram, right?
Rainbow Valley Rd NW at 122 Street NW