One of only two remaining examples of the high plains that once covered the Calgary area, Nose Hill Park is the second largest urban park in Canada covering 11 square kilometres. Criss-crossed by 300km of hiking and biking trails, including off-leash areas for dog-walkers, it is the perfect place to go for a walk or a mountain bike ride and enjoy the flora and fauna of the park's grasslands and coulees (box-shaped valleys).
Encompassing seven types of native habitat, Nose Hill's ecosystem supports more than 60 varieties of plant and almost 200 species of wildlife. If you're lucky you may catch a glimpse of deer or coyotes or even porcupines, although you are more likely to see gophers, ground squirrels, mice, vole and many different types of bird. In the summer the wild flowers are in full bloom and the park's dominant tree species, the Trembling Aspen, can be seen in abundance with its distinctive smooth, light-coloured bark.
Once the wintering grounds for herds of bison, drawn there by the warming Chinook winds, Nose Hill Park contains a number of archaeological sites, including stone circles, marking the former habitations of humans, attracted to the area by the bison herds.
According to legend a European explorer asked an aboriginal the name of the hill and he called it Nose Hill because it resembled the nose of his chief.
Despite the proliferation of paths in the park, it is easy to find your way round as there are maps at almost every junction indicating where you are. There are also useful landmarks, like the skyscrapers of Calgary to the south, which can help you find your bearings – all important when you're ready to go home and want to return to your car.
Located about 7km north of Calgary, Nose Hill Park is bordered by three main roads – Shaganappi Trail NW to the west, 14th Street NW to the east and John Laurie Boulevard NW to the south – and there is at least one car park off each of these roads from where you can access the Park.
Apart from a washroom in each car park, there are no facilities in the Park itself, so take plenty of water with you on a hot day as well as your own food if you're likely to feel hungry.
You can spend an entire day at Nose Hill Park, exploring the valleys and grasslands, or enjoy a short stroll along one of its gravelled pathways. There are some fantastic views of Calgary to the south and on a clear day, the Rocky Mountains to the west. For the more adventurous mountain bikers there are also some more challenging routes off the main pathways.