Chickakoo Trail Run.

There is running, and then there is trail running. I have been super curious about trail running for a while. So many people talk about it. Runners that come by the Running Room, other fitness bloggers, people in my local running community – everyone raves about trail running. There aren’t too many actual trails close to where I live so I have to drive to get to them. One of the closest places to run trails is about a twenty minute drive away, called Chickakoo Lake. 

It is a little area just southwest of St. Albert that has about 10 km of dirt trails. I managed to convince my mom that she should join me on the trails and even though we left at about 7:30 am it was already 20 degrees out and pretty humid. There are various loops and you can run/hike/bike around the entire outer loop or pick a shorter distance. The trails are VERY well marked and there are signs and maps all over the area. We only ran around the 1 km loop three times before we figured out how to get to the bigger outer loop. That is actually quite the accomplishment for two people who are significantly directionally challenged. 

We just started to run without a real plan, pace, or intended distance. Trail runners must be tough. The distance of these loops is far from intimidating even for a beginner runner but once we got onto the larger loop that goes around the whole Chickakoo lake area, it was nothing but hills. Straight up, heart stopping, walking-faster-than-running, cliff-like hills. I don’t know how they fit such elevation in a tiny place but they did. We walked up most of the STEEP hills because I am pretty sure it was impossible to keep up a running pace that would have been faster than walking. SUCH a good workout. My legs and lungs were burning. I can really see how trail running, especially hilly trail running, would benefit your training or fitness routine. The trails were the perfect way to switch things up, prepare for the unexpected, and get a great leg workout that doesn’t involve dumbbells or a million lunges. 

The weather was pretty good. Most of the trails were still covered in shade and man did we need it. It was really humid, especially in the trees, but without the sun directly on us, we survived. I’m sure once the sun came up over the trees it would be scorching in there. The trails were dirt and mostly single track or slightly wider than that. We were running single file about 50% of the time. The closer/shorter loops had wider trails that could accommodate 2-3 people running beside each other. 

We got in just over 6 miles (10 km). With our walking up hills and attempting to run up cliffs, our pace was far from stellar but this is totally another case of the pace not telling the whole story. One of the reasons I love wearing a heart rate monitor is so that I can see how hard I was working, not necessarily by pace, but by effort. In a typical 6 mile run, on flat pavement, I would probably burn between 500 and 600 calories. In this 6 mile hilly trail run I burned 750 according to my Garmin. It’s all about the effort. There were also two snakes on the trail that scared the bajeezus out of my mom and I, so that may account for two instances of a spike heart rate. My mom screamed so loud I thought she had been shot.

I asked my mom if she regretted joining me and she said, “NO! It was a good change of pace!” Not only literally, but the dirt felt great on my feet, I had to think more about the technical parts of the run, and I challenged myself. I can definitely see why trail running would make faster and stronger runners! We were exhausted after an hour out there!

This is the photo I actually knew was being taken.

Such a fun run. I mean I was cursing those hills at the time, but I am glad we went there. Now that I know those trails (and hills) are there, I will be back again for sure. I wish I didn’t have to drive to get to them but I am the girl who would gladly drive to run on a treadmill so what do I know? 😉 I was testing out some Champion gear today and I can’t wait to talk about it on the blog tomorrow!

My mom wouldn’t let me into the car until I took my shoes off. We put our shoes in the back of the car and now they are drying in the sun because they were caked in mud and dirt. I couldn’t imagine what those trails would have been like after a big thunderstorm with lots of rain! I guess I was kicking myself when I ran because my legs were a tad filthy. 

After our hot and sticky trail run, I hopped on my bike for an hour. I took it easy and biked on the local paved paths. You can’t really bike for speed on those paths because there are lots of curves and lots of people. I would have taken my bike on the highways for a good cycling workout but I just wanted to be in the sun a little bit more and get my sweat on more before I showered. There were approximately 67,834 kids at the water park when I rode past it. I was kind of jealous.

Trail runners have been right all along. It is a different sport out there. You really have to think about the technical parts of running, where to place your foot, how to NOT roll your ankle, and how you are going to pace yourself and make it up the hill. I loved not being on the roads and running through the trees and near the lakes and nature in general was awesome. Except those pesky snakes… not so awesome. We plan to go back! It WILL make us stronger runners!

Are YOU a trail running enthusiast?

What is the craziest thing you have seen on a trail run?!


  1. We need to meet up and I need to take you around the River Valley! We have a great 8K loop that we love. All trails, off-leash for dogs & a lot of fun!

    1. YES! I’d love to! I’ll be working at the U of A on my Masters starting in september so I will be near the river valley every day! Email me and we can set up a meet-up!

  2. I’ll get you out for one of my tempo interval trail runs one of these days 😉
    – Shawn

  3. Sounds awesome! There are trails literally a five minute walk/run from where I live and I love heading off into them, just need to do it a little more often!

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