Wolf Willow Ravine

I started my hike at the Wolf Willow community hall, located on Wolf Willow Road just east of 170th street. From the playground area, the trail quickly descended into Wolf Willow Ravine on a paved multi-use trail. The path was pleasant and Wolf Willow Creek, while not spectacular, at least provides a natural respite for the surrounding suburb dwellers. The trail was short, only 600m or so, and came up on Wolf Ride Way. I doubled back and took a different path out of the ravine to Wolf Willow Road. I then followed a street route to Westridge Road and entered Patricia Ravine. At this point in the ravine, near its northern boundary, it is accessible from both north and south via a granular trail and short-length staircases. I took both staircases for the sake of completion, and to step up my workout.

A few steps south of the small bridge, a distinct pathway climbed steeply up the bank and into the trees. This “non-canonical” path proved to be a delightful way to travel through the ravine. Cutting through dense forest over exposed roots and beside small pockets of water, the trail was short on views but tall on getting close to the plants and trees. Eventually it rose steeply and rejoined the multi-use trail that begins on Wolf Willow Road and eventually leads to the Fort Edmonton Footbridge (about 2km from this point). I wouldn’t recommend this path for everyone – lots of exposed roots, steep sections, and narrow, sharply-cut trail segments. As stated, it’s not an official trail so it isn’t groomed or cleared. Nonetheless, eagle-eyed mappers will notice that it appears on Google Maps.

I joined and followed the multi use trail for a few hundred meters, taking a brief detour up and down the 76th avenue access path, which is steep, granular, and rutted – cyclists should be cautious.

The trail continues pleasantly through the forest, fairly flat in grade. That is until the 158th street access path, which rose up at a decent grade from the main path and delivered me to a long, steep staircase. I made the trip up and it was well worth it. As a reward, a spectacular view of the valley sprawled southward with the Fort Edmonton footbridge a kilometer in the distance. It was majestic and well worth the sore legs.

Patricial Ravine
Patricia Ravine, July 2014

Trundling down the staircase is rather anticlimactic, and feels even moreso as the main trail begins to climb relentlessly – a couple of easy switchbacks at first, then a serious uphill climb for 50 meters or more, topped off with a trip up a non-trivial staircase. When combined with the trip up the 158th street staircase, this portion of the trail is not for the faint of heart. It made me realize that portions of the valley are difficult to access. Here’s a link from EDA Collaborative regarding the redevelopment of the Ravine.

At the top of the staircase, a side/access trail goes off to Wolf Willow Crescent and, a ways beyond, my starting point for this hike. The main trail continues a short distance to one of the steepest staircases in the Edmonton trail system – possibly (?) besting the stairs near the Royal Glenora Club. Despite this, legions of fitness seekers regularly engage in the masochistic pleasure of plying up and down this monster, some gleefully, others with hatred and powerful fatigue written all over their faces. Fortunately, I was going down and enjoyed every step of the way1.

The trail continues but becomes dangerous quickly due to a slumping bank. This portion of the trail is half-heartedly fenced off – similar to other supposedly “closed” trails throughout the system. Those less agile may find this portion difficult, but it’s relatively easy to traverse if you’re careful. The trail winds pleasantly along the banks of the river until it intersects with the trail to the Ft Edmonton footbridge. Those who have not enjoyed the bridge should – it’s a beautiful piece.

Instead of crossing the best footbridge in Edmonton2, I decided to take the long, strenuous path up to Woodward Crescent. This heart-pounding climb rewards you with tree-blocked non-views of the valley, and mediocre views of some of Edmonton’s richest housing. While you’re catching your breath, admire the stonecut streets, massive brick houses, four-car garages, and 1200-square-foot patios. There is a top-of-the-bank trail that winds behind these monstrosities, allowing casual schlubs like me a chance to think about how lazy we are, and how we should do something with our lives.

At this point, after three staircases and some monster uphill work, I decided to head back to my car using the streets. I took Wanyandi Way and Wanyandi Road, admiring the tall stone walls that surround some properties, and the beautiful stone laid into the intersections. I noticed many people sporting expensive running gear – special hats, nouveau fanny packs with funky little water bottles, and silk-like “running jerseys”. I thought I was being smart in my $15 Drywear shirt from Mark’s. It didn’t take long to wind back to Wolf Ride Way, where, for the third time on this traverse, I took in the small but beauteous Wolf Willow Ravine. I passed two young families, each with a single child, and in an oft-ignored nod to standard trail etiquette, both children said hello to me. I arrived back at my car a mere 2 hours later, out of water and glad to be sitting down.


1 I HAVE climbed up this staircase previously. That’s pre heart surgery, too.

2 I look forward to the Terwillegar Park footbridge. I’ve seen the design, and if it holds, it’ll be awesome.