When you lace up your running shoes and step out your door in Edmonton, you are not far from a trail. We are lucky to have one of North America’s largest green spaces. There are over 20 major parks along with over 150 km of trails linking them together inside our Ribbon of Green. You can feel at one with nature, feeling miles away from the urban sprawl, while being in the core of our city.
You have probably run the gravel pathways along the river before. These are well maintained nature pathways. My favourite trails in the city are the lesser known single track trails that are woven among the main pathways along the river and throughout the ravines. That narrow trail, wide enough for one person, that shoots out from the main path is a single track trail.
Single track are technical trails. They have climbs and dives. They dip and weave. They do not stay straight and flat for very long. These trails are exciting and challenging for runners looking to switch things up from the old routine. These are not as well maintained as the wide gravel trails; they are uneven, and there are rocks and roots to consider with every step. A good pair of trail running shoes is recommended as the traction they offer is necessary.
Here are some of my favourite single track trail segments in Edmonton.
1. Hawrelak Park to Whitemud Park (Easy)
For the double track, it is one of my favourites. From Hawrelak to Whitemud the trail undulates and leads to a long climb up to the popular End of the World look out (this is however now designated as a no trespassing area). To hit the single track, take the double track path from Hawrelak park. After the first quick descent the trail will climb back up, here on your right you will see an obvious single track trail. You can follow this all the way to Quesnell Bridge better known for the Silver Balls sculpture. This trail gives a different perspective to the End of the World look out from below. Another advantage to this trail is that you can shoot out of the trail to the paved pathway and have a chance to pet some horses at the Equestrian Park! It is also a good excuse to catch your breath!
2. Forest Heights (Easy/Challenging)
This area is lush with trails to explore. Park at the Mcnally High School and from here you will make your way to the lookout directly East from the school. You can follow a paved path to the benches. Take in a breathtaking view of our city and the valley and then drop into the trail! There are many options of trail; you can go all the way down to the river and take the flatter single track by the water, or you can stay a little high and take in a few up and downs. These trails go up river towards the city and can take you all the way to the Accidental Beach!
3. Masters Degree (Challenging)
Masters Degree is in Emily Murphy Park. This trail is above the double track trail that lines the river below the University. The best way to find this trail is to begin at the Emily Murphy Parking lot. As you make your way East towards Kinsmen along the double track trail, you will pass the yellow gate and the path will dip down to the left. Just here is where you will see a narrow single track to the right. This path will follow a fence until you come to a fork and a break in the fence to your right. The trail begins with an old tree stump and a quick climb. You are now on Masters Degree! There are a lot of ups and downs along with many switch backs to keep things interesting!
My best tips for hitting trail in our city is to stay hydrated. Wear trail running shoes, you will be thankful for the traction! Be mindful of other trail users, keep an ear out for other runners and cyclists that may come up behind you to pass. Always move to the right (so long as the trail permits) to allow others to go by. Share the trail, it is for everyone!
Most importantly, it is okay to stop for a moment to take in the nature. We are lucky to have such a large green space in the core of our city. There is always something new to explore in the river valley.
By Andre Lessard