Even though Alberta is a landlocked province, you can still kick back by the water at Calgary beaches. Beaches don’t have to be anchoring an ocean, and you’ll find several picturesque river and lake beach options both in and outside of the city.
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Most Calgary beaches aren’t sand beaches. Some are, but the majority are pebbly. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a full on beach experience. (Loads of beaches on Canada’s coasts are pebble beaches, too.) Here’s a look at all your best options for whiling away a sun drenched summer day.
Sikome Lake is the only true sandy public beach and lake within the city limits. The lake is located in Fish Creek Park in the southwest of Calgary. Here, there’s sweeps of sand to spread out upon and the lake can be quite warm.
There’s change rooms on-site, playgrounds and picnic areas, as well as a concession stand. There’s no lifeguard on duty, so you’ll need to watch children playing near the water.
Unfortunately, lake access isn’t free. Fees are approximately $10/family, $5/adult, $4/senior, and $3/children and youth. Sikome can get quite busy, especially on bluebird days, so show up early to snag your space on the sand.
Note: Due to COVID-19, Sikome Lake will not be open in 2020.
Edworthy Park beach is a small, pebble beach under the pedestrian bridge. It’s got plenty of space for you to sit, wade in the water and enjoy the cool breeze wafting off the Bow River.
The park also sports a playground and picnic tables with shelters. Edworthy is probably one of Calgary’s best beaches situated along the Bow River.
Note: Be aware of rushing water when wading in or playing near the river. Waters can be high, fast and cold, especially in spring and the beginning of the summer.
Another pretty park along the Bow River, Bowness Park is situated not far away from Edworthy Park. Bowness Park itself is great for walking, picnics and cooling off under canopies of towering cottonwood trees during the summer.
There’s many areas in the park that are shallow and have access to the river. This beach may be more rocky than sandy, but it’s a prime spot to explore the river. If your kids get tired of being near the Bow, take them to the wading pool or playground.
Trout beach is a pretty little spot on St. Patrick’s Island, in the East Village. The beach is small but it sports a quiet inlet – which is perfect for children to play in along the river.
To find Trout Beach, simply cross the bridge to St. Patrick’s Island from the River Walk area in East Village. Enhance your visit with picnic provisions procured at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery inside the Simmons Building in the heart of the East Village.
Unfortunately, some of the best beaches in the city are private. These beaches are only available to people that reside in the community and their guests. We’ve still included these because if you know anyone living in these communities, you might want to organize a beach day! Wink.
Popular private beaches in Calgary are located in the communities of Sundance, Midnapore, Lake Bonavista, Auburn Bay, Arbour Lake, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, Chaparral, Coral Springs and Mahogany. Get organizing!
Note: Due to COVID-19, many community beaches are not offering access to resident’s guests.
Located in the southwest of the city, Sandy Beach isn’t the most noticeable beach in the city, but it’s one of the nicest. Sandy Beach is a beautiful park, with a beach along the Elbow River.
It offers good river access, lovely forested areas for strolling, paved paths for cyclists and strollers, plus picnic sites and playgrounds. Sandy Beach is also a popular launch off spot for tubing and rafting. In some spots, the water is quite shallow, which is great for wee ones, but you may need to hop out of your raft and walk it.
Note: Often in June or during extended rainy periods, there are water advisories for the Sandy Beach area. When those are in affect, you need to avoid swimming or wading in the Elbow River.
Beaches Near Calgary
Besides the city options, you’ll find several lake and river beaches near Calgary. Many are nestled in the Rocky Mountains, but not all are west of the city. There’s quite a few large lakes (in all directions) that also provide opportunities to hit the
waves errr ripples.
Big Hill Springs
Located less than a half hour drive outside of Calgary, Big Hill Springs is a capital spot for a hike or a wade in the water. The lake is shallow, making it perfect for playing near the water. Big Hill Springs also has refreshing waterfalls to enjoy. There’s lots of space for picnicking and there’s camping options in nearby campgrounds.
Note: Due to COVID-19, day use is permitted and campgrounds are at 50% capacity.
Sibbald Lake is a small lake with a both a sandy and rocky beach area less than an hour’s drive from Calgary. The lake is calm, making it ideal for wading in or rafting on. Around the lake are picnic tables, so pack a lunch, plus sand toys for the kids. There’s camping in the area, but be sure to reserve ahead to ensure space.
Note: Sibbald Lake campgrounds are currently at 50% and day use is permitted.
Barrier Lake is located in Kananaskis Country, about 85km outside of the city limits. It’s a calm lake, which makes it great for floating. It’s also nearby lots of hiking trails.
The lake was created by the hydroelectric dam on the Kananaskis River. Take a break from biking or hiking in the Kananaskis and sit on the small beach by the inlet situated away from the dam. It’s a lovely spot to cool off and sink your toes into the refreshing water.
Note: Due to COVID-19, the information center and other facilities in the area are closed.
A popular day trip from Calgary, Quarry Lake is minutes away from downtown Canmore. The lake has a good little nice beach with restroom facilities and stunning views of the Three Sisters Mountain Range.
You can walk around the entire lake in less than 10-minutes, and the trails link up with both a large off-leash dog park and the popular mountain biking routes.
This beach can be quite busy, so be prepared to go early or be around lots of people. Note: Quarry Lake is very cold and deep. It seems once a year someone drowns because of the cold, their body going into shock and not being able to get to shore. Anyone venturing beyond a few feet into the water ought to wear a lifejacket.
Johnson Lake is just outside of the town of Banff – a little over an hour’s drive away from Calgary. This area is super popular and rightfully so. Johnson Lake has a nice beach area and is framed by the Rockies. It’s a calm area, great for paddle boarding, row boating or just wading in the water.
Chestermere Lake may be the nicest beach near Calgary that isn’t private. A quick drive from Calgary off the TransCanada Highway heading east, Chestermere Lake sports a sandy beach, lots of green space and a gorgeous lakeside promenade.
Shorelines are marked for swimming, so there’s a good divide between the swimming and beach area from the boating area. The lake is open to boating, fishing and paddling.
Note: Boating is currently open but the beach and swimming is closed due to COVID-19.
Ghost Lake is a beautiful body of water with spectacular views about 45-minutes outside of Calgary. The beach can be rocky, but it has some spaces for sitting near the water.
The water here can be quite cold, as it flows directly from the mountains. It may not be the best beach for swimming, but if you’re looking to catch some rays beside the water or go boating, you’ll want to visit.
Note: Ghost Lake is open for day use only due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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Do you have a favourite beach in or near Calgary?
Hi Jody, thank you for taking the time to put this altogether, this is amazing! I just wanted to point out that when I was scrolling down on my phone, a menu popped up that took up about half of the screen space which made it take a little longer to read. Not a criticism at all, I just think your wonderful work deserves a full screen! Thank you for all that you do.
Appreciate the feedback!