Oh! The good ol’ Canadian Prairie – If your dog runs away you can watch it go for three days before it’s actually lost and the Mosquitoes are so big that they might as well be the provincial bird. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Mantiboa with its capital city often referred to as Winterpeg. Not much to look forward to right? Maybe that might be the case for the outer flatlands, but I have a hard time lumping Alberta in with the classic definition of “prairie”. Let me explain.
Believe it or not, Alberta is not entirely made up of the flatlands, it’s actually not much of a prairie at all. It is largely boreal forest with the Rocky Mountains to the west and the remainder divided between the foothills and grassland (AKA prairie) the stuff that’s really flat is along a small southeastern section.
So go ahead and skip Lethbridge and Medicine Hat but be sure to check out the (Badlands) and national treasures such as Kananaskis (My Favourite), Banff, and Jasper. Calgary is also home to a network of bike paths more than 1,000 kilometers long — often cited as the largest urban pathway network in the world.
But if you are just looking for a great Alberta hike for a few hours in the afternoon that’s good for the whole family – there is this little known but awesome area just a few minutes outside the Calgary city limits. It’s called the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area.
Directions: Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation & hiking area is approximately a 30-minute drive from downtown Calgary.
- From Calgary Head west on 22X and then turn left on Range Rd. 24 (160th ST)
- Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation area – 20 194001 160 Street W, Foothills County, AB T1S 4K9
The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area (ASCCA) is a 4,800-acre day-use nature preserve. That is dedicated to protecting habitat and providing space for native species of wildlife.
Having this area so close to Calgary is unbelievably awesome. You can read more about Ann & Sandy cross and their incredible donation here.
All visitors are required to register at the welcome kiosk before entering (ASCCA). The kids love signing trail books. IMO there should be more of these out there.
“We wish the land to be disturbed as little as possible. It is also our desire that the land provide an educational tool for school children, university students, and the public.”
Little L is ready to go. Hiking trails this way. BTW this was the first hike that L completed solo without assistance (no shoulder rides) and a full 5K – not bad for a 5-year-old.
It appears at one time there was a registration fee. This has been taped over and been replaced with donations welcome (Fee not required). Not sure what prompted the change on this one. But thanks to the sponsors that currently support the ASCCA. You’re awesome!
In memory of Sandy Cross “He loved this land and all the animals and birds that live on it.”
We took the Fescue Trail -> Mountain Loop for a total of 5K. Interesting enough they use black diamond to indicate difficulty but in this case, it’s more for distance only and relative to the other ASCCA trail lengths.
A ton of spots to take short breaks and read the interpretive signage. Take the time and read these interpretive signs. It really helps bring a more complete understanding of the area. Workout for the mind as well as the body.
The ASCCA has to be home to what seemed like a dozen or more varieties of wildflowers. The boys loved searching for all the different types. We saw Alberta Wild Rose, Red paintbrush, Canada Anemone, Smooth blue aster and many more. Don’t pick em’ – take a picture it lasts longer.
About halfway you will arrive at the rancher’s trail turn off. Here you will also see what I assume is some old ranch fencing. It would be interesting to know more about the history of this location.
Continue along Fescue Trail past more interpertive signage.
Try to avoid becoming compost and stay on the marked trails. ASCCA is a wildlife preserve. This includes Bears and Cougars. Just around this area, we had the pleasure of seeing a few deer in the distance.
Continue passed the paradise trail turn off and continue on the fescue trail.
You will shortly arrive at a shelter. Time to take a break. Or run around and be crazy. Your choice.
Remnants of yesteryear. L couldn’t resist striking a pose.
You can really get a sense of scale with L in the foreground among the long grasses of the rolling foothills.
Coming around to the parking area to check out the giant Tee-pee.
ASCCA is a great place for a family hike that can include all ages. The ASCCA is a wildlife preserve so there is a good chance you will see wildlife including deer, bears, and cougars. Come prepared to hike but also to learn. Stop at the many interpretive signs to help bring the trail alive, learn more about the story of this wonderful area that was so graciously donated by Ann & Sandy Cross. The kids had a blast hiking this one! Easy and fun for the whole family.
Not so Random Fact O’ The Day: In 1987, Ann and Sandy donated nearly 2,000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history. Sandy wanted the land to be preserved the way it was for future generations to enjoy. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) operated the area to ensure it was managed according to Sandy’s vision.