Some of the best mountain biking near Calgary is actually found IN Calgary. The trails on Paskapoo Slopes, the area just to the east of Canada Olympic Park, comprises dozens of kilometres with terrain perfect for every skill level. The black diamond adrenaline junkie will find creek spanning jumps, the family looking for an escape into the wilderness will find wider trails on Paskapoo Slopes with gentler grades.
But with development planned for the bottom of the slopes, and many claiming this pristine area would be lost forever, I went deeper down the slope to explore and look for the famed ‘big rock.’
There are 5 access points to Paskapoo Slopes, 2 at the top of the ridge, and 3 along the bottom. Most people access via the lot at Sarcee Trail (3) or the lot next to COP (1).
We hit the trails from the top. Zacharie and I rode in from just east of access point 4, to find an easier slope down the hill, and then made our way towards Lemon Orchard.
In the little field before the run officially begins, we found the foundation of an old house. The Gerbrandt Homestead was home to a Mennonite family of 10 between 1943 and 1956. There’s a narrow attachment next to the house foundation where pop placed an old boxcar that they used for a kitchen.
We continued down the trail passing many tiny streams from springs on the slope. Eventually we came to an old pond with two rusted out car frames. While the old foundation has a history behind it, the explanation for how these two 1940s era cars ended up in a pond near the top of the hill remains a mystery.
We continued down Lemon Orchard enjoying all the hill karma we could. Hill karma, a phrase coined by my friend Ted Schredd.
In the early 90s he rode his bike around North America (wrote a book about it) and knows that if you get a great downhill, you’ll be followed with an uphill. If you go up, you’re rewarded with down. That’s hill karma. Our hill karma was the former. We were riding all the way down Lemon Orchard to the parking lot just below the Highland Shoppe at access point 1. Once we got there, the plan was to turn and ride back on Ridge Run until we ran into the big rock.
I have to admit, the uphill from the lot to the rock wasn’t too bad. There were some points where we walked our bikes through some steep hills or thick mud, but these sections wouldn’t be daunting at all for a more experienced cyclist.
The trails on the East Lands of Paskapoo Slopes are very well marked at intersections. My experiences at the top of the hill had few maps, but get into the area that’s defined at the top of this post, and you’ll find maps with identifiers at major trail intersections pointing you in the right direction.
After a few minutes we arrived at our goal, the big rock. It’s a glacial erratic, similar to the big rock found in Okotoks that gives Big Rock beer its name. Millions of years ago, ice dragged this big boulder down from the Rockies and just didn’t feel like bringing it back. Now it makes for a great place to rest.
This is where the return trip to the top of the ridge got interesting for Zacharie and I. The trail to take us directly to our starting spot was very steep. I didn’t feel like tackling it, so I wandered us further east into the uncharted area of the slope. There are still trails here, but they’re not on the formal map.
These trails were serious. Huge jumps over creeks and gaps in the hillside and steep, slick, mud-covered trails. Zacharie wasn’t impressed.
I would push my bike up the hill, slide back down, negotiate him up, slide back down, and then portage his bike up.
I guess there was, but I wasn’t interested in chasing hill karma for a second time.
It took a while, but we got to the top and while Zacharie isn’t fully keen to return to the slopes just yet, I am.
Here’s the best part: all of the riding we did is going to be preserved. Zacharie and I did the light blue route on this map, the big rock is the pink star.
The Trinity Development at the bottom of the hill was the subject of much discussion. Eventually, the City of Calgary approved the plan, and in return for developing the bottom of the slope, the upper slope is going to be turned in to a park for all Calgarians.
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