Paskapoo Slopes

[twitter]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.

I’ve lived in Cougar Ridge, the community at the top of Paskapoo, for nearly 6 years, and never explored more than the top of the ridge.  Here we’ve run into a Buddhist stupa and the old cars, and we’ve cleaned the area of geocaches.

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 Slopes2 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.

lemon orchard trail
The start of Lemon Orchard trail at the top of Paskapoo Slopes

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.

Paskapoo Slopes Foundation
Zacharie overlooking the old foundation

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.

old cars on paskapoo
One of 2 old cars along Lemon Orchard on Paskapoo Slopes

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.

The start of the Ridge Run trail on Paskapoo Slope
The start of the Ridge Run trail on Paskapoo Slope

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.

Boardwalk on Paskapoo Slopes trail - TBAB
The Ridge Run Trail on Paskapoo makes its way up to the big rock.

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.

paskapoo slopes trail map
Maps like this can be found at most major trail junctions across Paskapoo Slopes

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.

big rock on Paskapoo Slopes
The big rock found on Paskapoo Slopes makes for a great spot to have lunch.

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.

ridge run trail on Paskapoo
Steep and serious on Paskapoo Slope

These trails were serious. Huge jumps over creeks and gaps in the hillside and steep, slick, mud-covered trails. Zacharie wasn’t impressed.

paskapoo slopes mountain bike jumps
One of the creek crossing jumps on the uncharted east side of Paskapoo.

I would push my bike up the hill, slide back down, negotiate him up, slide back down, and then portage his bike up.

We did this about 8 or 9 times, landing soakers in creeks, hearts pounding from the exercise, and wishing there was an easier way to get back from whence we came.

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.

trinity development map of paskapoo
Our mountain biking route on Paskapoo mashed up with the Trinity Development

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.

It was our first epic day exploring the mountain bike trails on Paskapoo Slopes, and I’m proud it won’t be our last and this great treasure will be protected.

Like this post? Share this pin!

Mountain Biking in Calgary at Paskapoo Slopes - TBAB

(Visited 4,824 times, 1 visits today)


  1. Pingback: Why I Run

  2. Pingback: Summer Camps For Kids In Calgary: Winsport

Leave a Reply