New Trails Focus on Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

Just in time for Mental Health Week (May 6-12, 2024), Mount St Francis Retreat Centre is excited to announce the opening of their Brother Sun and Sister Moon walking and biking trails.  Taking advantage of 2400 hours of sunshine a year, and placed on Cochrane’s iconic Big Hill, the two new trails are ideally located for reflection and contemplation, along with enjoyment of the natural landscape.

Funding support from Cochrane Home Treasures Community Grant program has allowed for an upgraded welcome area, along with user signage and maps, contemplation benches and interpretive panels installed later this year.  These panels will be focused on positive mental and spiritual health, the benefits of being active, and brain development.  “With our mission being one of peace, healing, and prayer, we believe a natural space to encourage thoughtful reflection will be useful not just for our retreatants, but also for the entire community who will benefit from this project.  Placing thoughtful interpretive panels along with benches at which to rest and meditate will make these new trails even better”, said Brother Michael Perras, OFM – Guardian of Mount St Francis Retreat Centre.

Through a formal Trail Stewardship Agreement established in 2022, Bike Cochrane has been volunteering hundreds of hours in building, upgrading and maintaining the new trails and assisting on other projects on behalf of the Retreat Centre.  Bike Cochrane’s Trail Director Paul Perrault commented, “We are so honoured to work with Mount St Francis on this project.  These trails access some of the most beautiful terrain in the Cochrane area, and we’re thrilled that the Friars have allowed public access to their private land.  We all have a responsibility for respectful use and Bike Cochrane is pleased to be a part of expanding trail access to all Cochranites.” Bike Cochrane’s Trail Steward for Mount St Francis Ryan Sheehan added, “The Mount St Francis land is special.  It is a privilege to work towards these common goals alongside the Retreat Centre and we look forward to continuing this relationship and the projects we are doing together.”

While much of the Mount St Francis Retreat Centre’s 500-acre property is closed for silent retreat activities and spiritual growth, they’ve graciously opened public trails on both the sunny southern bench of the Big Hill, along with a beautiful creekside trail along the Bighill Creek (see map).  One area of their ministry is Serenity Retreats which focus on the spiritual principles and practices of the 12 Step program in addictions recovery. The Friars have had a long-standing outreach to the 12 Step communities, and publicly opening their trails to celebrate mental health week seems fitting.

The new Brother Sun and Sister Moon trail names are tied to the St Francis of Assisi hymn Canticle of Creatures.  In this hymn, St Francis calls out all creatures, whether minerals, plants, or animals, as siblings to praise their Creator.  The beauty of this space allows all to enjoy this gift.

Although there isn’t a parking area that services these two trails, using the Cochrane Ranche or Cochrane Ranche House parking lot and trailhead allows access to this area along the Cochrane Ranche Trails and then up the new Sunterra Trail 1 trail to the Cochrane cemetery road.

Trail users are required to stay on marked trails and obey all trail signs.  Due to the friars’ silent retreats, well-behaved pets are permitted only ON leash, and both trail running, walking, and biking are permitted activities.  Any trail issues and fallen trees can be reported to

If your group is interested in booking a retreat, please contact Mount St Francis Retreat Centre at 403.932.2012 and review the Retreat Calendar at

If you are interested in supporting these trails, please consider supporting the Mount St Francis Retreat Centre through a charitable donation here: