Mountain Biking Banff

Open Trails: Mountain biking in Banff National Park is only permitted on the following trails: Sundance, Healy Creek, Brewster Creek, Spray River, Goat Creek, Rundle Riverside, Johnson Lake Loop, Lake Minnewanka, Cascade, Redearth, Temple Access Road, Pipestone, Saskatchewan, Alexandra and most of the trails in the vicinity of Banff Townsite except Tunnel Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, Cave and Basin Boardwalk and the Buffalo Paddock Loop.

Most trails in the vicinity of Lake Louise Village are also designated for mountain biking except the Lake Louise Creek Trail.

Safety: Please respect the restrictions for the safety of other park users and for the protection of the wildlife. Wildlife closures may occur on any trail at any time. Please check with park information centres for the latest updates.

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By Jeff Waugh

I love mountain biking. It is one of the fastest and easiest ways to get out of town and into the wilderness.

With long summer days it’s possible to cover a lot of ground from early morning to late evening if you’ve got a full day, or to go out for a great ride in the evenings when it’s cooler. Just remember to bring some eye protection to keep out the bugs.

bikegrizEarly or late in the day can be the best time to see wildlife, and I’ve been lucky enough to see a variety of wildlife while out mountain biking. For the same reasons, I’m also careful — you never know who or what you’ll run into on the trail (it could be a grizzly, a bull elk or a reckless cyclist). Let out a yell once in a while to warn animals and other cyclists of your whereabouts.

You never know when you might get a flat, either, so go out prepared for the worst.

Be alert for potential conflict with wildlife and other park users and always carry a repair kit and pump!

bikespraMy first mountain biking excursion in Banff was back in the fall of 1985 when I was younger and more reckless. A friend and I decided to go up the Spray Fire Road from the Town of Banff to the Spray Lakes and loop back to Banff via the Goat Trail. A journey of about 90 kilometres.

Believe me, it felt as long as it sounds. Our “short cut” left us off trail carrying our bikes through a mosquito invested swampland. By the time we were back on the Goat Trail and halfway down it, my body was screaming for nutrients. Unfortunately, I had eaten all of my food – fruit, gorp and candy bars…I should have put more gorp in that bag!

I was amazed at what my body could do those last 20 kilometres, and in the dark! Luckily, I was in fairly good shape from all the hiking I had been doing, but some of those muscles… It took me days to recover.

It’s important to know your route and your own limitations, have maps and a compass, carry a bike light or head lamp and carry plenty of high energy foods and water. Be prepared!

My next adventure on a bike was on the Brewster Creek Trail with my crazy 55 year old friend Sr. Habanero. We had cycled up to the Sundance Lodge and were excited to get back home for a “sake night in Canada”.

The main goal of our ride back to town was to try to get out in front of each other to splash the mud puddles back into the other guy’s face. I was out in front and saw a big puddle just waiting for me to make a whopper of a splash. I timed it perfectly and jumped the bike up and into the puddle just as Sr. Habanero was coming up alongside of me…”Whomp”…mud sprayed all over him, and “Whomp”, my front tire stopped dead in a big hole and I went flying right over my handle bars. As soon as I realized my hard hit hadn’t broken any bones, I burst out laughing!

It took me a few more hard falls and a knee made of mincemeat before I had enough sense knocked into me to slow me down.

Each year there are a lot of people seriously injured mountain biking in the Rockies. It can be a dangerous sport if you don’t concentrate on safety. I was lucky for the most part, and looking back, I count my blessings.

Safety first! Always wear a helmet and ride under control.

The things I did when I was young and foolish. Now I’m old and foolish and still having fun. The only difference is I’m better prepared and more careful these days.

bikemarOne of my favorite trails starts at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site at the end of Cave Avenue on the south side of the Bow River bridge. From the Cave and Basin there’s a paved cycling trail running parallel to the Bow River towards Sundance Canyon (3.7 km).

I have observed Pileated Woodpeckers in the vicinity of the Cave and Basin. This is also a great place to see a variety of waterfowl, especially once the trail begins to move away from the Bow and alongside a marsh. The Healy Creek Trail (an old dirt road) branches off the paved trail at about kilometre 3.0. and meanders through the aspen, spruce and pine montane. I have seen black bear, coyote, moose, deer, elk and wolf tracks from my bike through this part of the trail. I have also run into many horse parties…

Horses have the right-of-way. Yield to horses by slowing down or stopping and dismounting.

The Brewster Creek Trail (an old fire road) branches off this trail at about kilometre 4.0 just before it joins up with the Sunshine Road. It is possible to connect with the Sunshine Road and return to Banff along the Trans Canada Highway, but I do NOT recommend this. The Trans Canada is an extremely dangerous highway for cyclists. It is a much more enjoyable ride to return along the same trail.

The Brewster Trail climbs steeply for a few kilometres and then levels out until the Brewster Creek crossing. There are some fairly magnificent views back towards the Bow Valley if you can catch a glimpse through the trees. I have often seen wolf tracks and bear scat along portions of this trail.

From the stream crossing the trail becomes a horse trail and climbs towards Allenby Pass (48 km) where it connects with the Bryant Creek Trail. From Allenby Pass the trail connects to Trail Centre and the Spray Fire Road to form a 100 kilometre loop to and from the town of Banff.

Says Mike Hogan, director of the Arizona Bicycle Association (, “The trails in the Banff, Alberta (Canadian Rockies) never disappoints visitors from the US.”

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