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Derek’s Five Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits and Cool Coffee Cafés

I do love exploring Calgary on my bicycle.  I think the enjoyment of it was enhanced by my days working in the Beltline as an engineer when I would do my 20km cycle from home in the northwest to work.  It was always such a thrill as I commuted along the cycle path, parallel to Deerfoot Trail, passing by the Telus Spark Science Centre, veering west at the Bow River, meandering past the Zoo and onward into downtown.  I was a little less eager about the cycle home, but that’s the nature of cycling a circuit: “what goes up must come down”, right?  What was easy in one direction will require more effort on the return journey.

www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY YYC Pathway Commute 20140916
Early morning southbound work commute to downtown, parallel to Deerfoot Trail

With that in mind, here is a list of some of my best-loved downtown cycle routes that I enjoy doing with Christa or with friends when they visit us in Calgary.  Please take a moment to share with us which of these routes you like best.  Or share with us your favourite Calgary cycle circuits so we can explore and discover more for ourselves.

My Favourite Downtown Cycle Circuits and Cafes

All cycle circuits begin and end in Calgary’s East Village at the city parking lot CPA Lot 74. There is ample long-term paid parking in the area.  For convenient payment, download and use the City of Calgary Parking App.  Remember that parking on the weekends carries a flat rate of only $2.

The George C. King pedestrian bridge near St Patrick’s Island Park is an easily identifiable East Village landmark near the start of all of our cycle circuits

1. 🚴🏻Westbound Bow River Pathway (northwest & southwest quadrant)

Cycle distance: ~12.4km
Elevation change:~28 metres
Cycle time (without stops):~45 minutes
Difficulty:Easy
Cycle terrain:Dedicated cycle pathways; some street cycling and intersection / crosswalk crossings required
Recommended snack stops:Sidewalk Citizen Café /
Higher Ground Café /
Made By Marcus Ice Cream /
Alforno Bakery & Café
Circuit highlights and attractions: Bow River pathway;
George C. King pedestrian bridge at St Patrick’s Island Park;
Memorial Drive;
Centre Street Bridge;
Prince’s Island Park;
Peace Bridge;
Poppy Plaza;
Kensington neighbourhood;
Eau Claire Market;
Chinatown
Riverfront Avenue
Downloadable map:https://goo.gl/maps/bd83ATP6AmkGiHV76
Additional comments:For a slightly longer ride (3.6km one way), continue westbound along the Bow River pathway from the Crowchild Trail intersection, parallel to Memorial Drive to the Edworthy Park pedestrian bridge. 
Explore the Park. 
Enjoy a refreshment break at the newly face-lifted Angel’s Café
A downloadable map of this segment is available here.
Downloadable westbound circuit map starting from the East Village Parking lot CPA Lot 74
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway westbound - optional
Downloadable westbound optional circuit map starting from the Crowchild Trail SW
Prince’s Island Park pedestrian suspension bridge will take you from Memorial Drive into the park
Calgary’s iconic Peace Bridge
Pause and reflect at Poppy Plaza at the intersection of Memorial Drive and 10th Street west.
The Bow River Pathway views of downtown from beneath the Crowchild Trail / Memorial Drive bridges
www.iamcalgary.ca Chinese Cultural Centre Chinatown
Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown
The River Walk runs parallel to Riverside Avenue on the south bank of the Bow River and is a fantastic arterial route for pedestrians, runners and cyclists.

2. 🚴🏻 Eastbound Bow River Pathway through Inglewood (southeast quadrant)

Cycle distance:~11.4km
Elevation change:~25 metres
Cycle time (without stops):~39 minutes
Difficulty:Easy
Cycle terrain:Dedicated cycle pathways; some street cycling and intersection / crosswalk crossings required
Recommended snack stops:Rosso Coffee Roasters /
Spolumbo’s /
Scarpetta Italian Eatery
Circuit highlights and attractions:Bow River pathway;
Elbow River;
Inglewood (residential);
discover more at the Sam Livingstone Fish Hatchery;
Pearce Estate Park;
visit the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (no cycling inside the sanctuary but bicycles can be securely locked at the interpretive centre);
check out the river surfing at Harvie Passage viewing site;
south perimeter of Calgary Zoo;
explore St Patrick’s Island Park;
George C. King pedestrian bridge
Downloadable map:https://goo.gl/maps/19eDTFBHFaBm7U949
Additional comments: For a slightly longer ride (1.3km one way), continue from Zoo Road to the neighbourhood of Bridgeland.
Enjoy a snack at the Bridgeland Market or any of numerous trendy snack locations in the area. 
A downloadable map of this segment is available here.
Downloadable westbound circuit map starting from the East Village Parking lot CPA Lot 74
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Eastbound - optional
Downloadable eastbound optional circuit map starting from the Zoo Road NE
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Eastbound
The Bow River Pathway eastbound near Fort Calgary
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Eastbound Pearce Estate Park
Pearce Estate Park pathways
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Eastbound Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary is expansive and diverse and is home to numerous birds, deer and beaver
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Eastbound Harvie Passage
Sport activities at the newly-upgraded and enhanced Harvie Passage facilities are captivating to watch as kayakers, swimmers and even surfers test the turbulent waters
The Rise at St Patrick’s Island Park

3. 🚴🏻 Southbound beyond Stampede Park including city skyline views (southeast quadrant)

Cycle distance: ~7.4km
Elevation change:~63 metres
Cycle time (without stops):~30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
Cycle terrain: Dedicated cycle pathways; street cycling and intersection / crosswalk crossings required
Recommended snack stops:Reader’s Garden Café /
Rosso Coffee Roasters – Ramsay /
Red’s Diner in Ramsay
Circuit highlights and attractions:Bow River pathway;
Elbow River;
Reader’s Rock Garden;
Scotsman’s Hill city skyline viewing site;
Scotia Bank Saddledome;
Stampede Park
Downloadable map:https://goo.gl/maps/T4uGSzR8c2ThX5zv9
Additional comments: For a slightly longer ride (1.7km one way), continue eastbound along 9th Ave SE from Fort Calgary to the National Music Centre (Studio Bell). 
Turn south and continue along 4th Street SE. 
You will arrive at the entrance to Stampede Park
Here you can explore the grounds of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth – the Calgary Stampede
Swing by the beloved Village Ice Cream for a treat as you return to your vehicle and the start of this cycle circuit. 
A downloadable map of this segment is available here.
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Southbound
Downloadable southbound circuit map starting from the East Village Parking lot CPA Lot 74
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Southbound - optional
Downloadable southbound optional circuit map starting from Fort Calgary
www.iamcalgary.ca IAmCalgary Scotsman's Hill Panorama
Cycle southbound along the Elbow River and catch glimpses of the expansive Stampede Park grounds, home of the Calgary Stampede
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Southbound Readers Rock Garden
Enjoy a saunter around Reader’s Rock Garden and include a snack at the Cafe
www.iamcalgary.ca IAmCalgary Scotsman's Hill Downtown Storm
Enjoy captivating and iconic city skyline views from Scotsman’s Hill in the neighbourhood of Ramsay
Marvel at the impressive structure that is Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre
www.iamcalgary.ca I Am Calgary Village Ice Cream
Go on! Reward your cycle efforts with a decadent treat from Village Ice Cream

4. 🚴🏻 Bow River Pathway eastbound to TELUS Spark Science Centre (northeast quadrant)

Cycle distance:~8.4km
Elevation change:~54 metres
Cycle time (without stops):~30 minutes
Difficulty:Easy / Moderate
Cycle terrain:Dedicated cycle pathways; street cycling and intersection / crosswalk crossings required
Recommended snack stops:Bridgeland Market /
OEB Breakfast Co.
Circuit highlights and attractions:Bow River pathway;
George C. King pedestrian bridge;
St Patrick’s Island Park;
Calgary Zoo perimeter;
Tom Campbell’s Hill Natural Park and city skyline viewing site;
Bridgeland neighbourhood
Downloadable map:https://goo.gl/maps/ULrbLNWjnbEXxqWX9
Additional comments:For a slightly longer ride (3.4km one way), follow the downloadable map here that will take you to the ice cream “heaven” and coffee shop at fabulous Fiasco Gelato
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Telus
Downloadable northeast-bound circuit map starting from the East Village Parking lot CPA Lot 74
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Bow River Pathway Telus - optional
Downloadable northeast-bound optional circuit map starting from TELUS Spark
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY YYC Pathway Commute 20141029
Enjoying the early morning sunlight on the pathway near the Zoo
www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits northeast Telus Spark
Main car park entrance to Telus Spark | Filming I Am Calgary stop motion – see the video here
www.iamcalgary.ca IAmCalgary Tom Campbell Hill Natural Park Tower through the trees
Views of downtown from Tom Campbell Hill Natural Park

5. 🚴🏻 I AM CALGARY’s “Four-by-Four” Circuit

For the more ambitious cyclist and tourist, try our recommended Four-by-Four circuit.  This circuit will allow you to touch on all four quadrants of the city in this uniquely configured route for the slightly more cycle-savvy.

Cycle distance:~10.3km
Elevation change:~96 metres
Cycle time (without stops):~43 minutes
Difficulty:Moderate
Cycle terrain:Dedicated cycle pathways; street cycling and intersection / crosswalk crossings required
Recommended snack stops:Cyclist-friendly with an outdoor patio and free air for pumping bicycle tires at Alforno Bakery & Cafe
Circuit highlights and attractions:Bow River pathway;
George C. King pedestrian bridge;
Rotary Park and city skyline views;
McHugh Bluff / Crescent Road NW city skyline views;
Peace Bridge;
Prince’s Island Park;
Eau Claire Market;
Chinatown;
Riverfront Avenue
Downloadable map:https://goo.gl/maps/kV5j1Ja5nnkbV69AA
Additional comments:Watch a YouTube video on our channel of this similar route
20190507 www.iamcalgary.ca I AM CALGARY Best-Loved Downtown Calgary Cycle Circuits Four-By-Four
Downloadable Four-By-Four circuit map starting from the East Village Parking lot CPA Lot 74
Unhindered views of downtown Calgary, the Bow River, and Centre Street Bridge await you from Rotary Park.
Unhindered views of downtown Calgary, the Bow River, and Centre Street Bridge await you from Rotary Park.
City skyline, mountain vistas, parks and bridges – the views from McHugh Bluff / Crescent Road NW are some of the best vantage points on offer in Calgary
www.iamcalgary.ca I Am Calgary Alforno Bakery and Cafe
We love the atmosphere, location and – of course – the menu selection that Alforno Bakery & Cafe has to offer. It’s great that they’re intentionally welcoming of cyclists, too!
www.iamcalgary.ca I Am Calgary Alforno Bakery and Cafe
Need air? Alforno has it free for cyclists!

✅ Checklist: what to bring along

  • Cycle helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera
  • Water bottle
  • Sun screen
  • Cycle-friendly footwear
  • Small backpack
  • Bicycle pump
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Downloaded maps

Optional:

  • Puncture repair kit
  • Binoculars
  • Downtown tourist city map (paper version)

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