Category Archives: Banff National Park

GPS Tours

Mountains, Elevation Can Wreak Havoc on GPS Tour Systems in the Canadian Rockies

By Blake Baily

gypsy1More and more GPS tours on handhelds and in rental cars are being offered all throughout the world.

Many vacationers are finding GPS tours and GPS systems to be highly problematic, however. Many Canadian Rockies visitors discover that GPS tours and GPS systems can go in and out because of the mountainous geography and elevation. This is especially true when touring British Columbia (BC), Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, Jasper and other alpine areas in the Rockies. Keeping and maintaining reception can be a huge issue.

Often GPS tours will require additional hardware hacking to make them usable in this terrain; this is also the case with satellite radio as well.

Your best bet: simply enjoy the grand scenery of the Canadian Rockies and then curl up with a good book!

Blake Baily is a tourism and travel editor who has written for Frommers, Trip Advisor and Moon Guides.

Lake Louise Drives and Walks

Drives and Attractions

A drive in the Rockies with stops along the way will leave visitors with lots of memories to take back home. Many of the scenic drives in and around the village of Lake Louise along with some of the attractions and sights of the area are described in this brochure. Jackets, insect repellent and litter bags are useful for stops along the way. Maps, guidebooks, binoculars, a camera and a full picnic hamper will help you enjoy your visit even more.

Lake Louise

With its blue-green water and dramatic mountain setting, this is the best known and most admired lake in the park. Lake Louise Drive, a paved 4.5 km road, and two trails, the Tramline and Louise Creek, provide access between Lake Louise Village on the valley floor and the lake itself. Pathways lead from the public parking lot to the lake. The magnificent snow-covered peak at the end of the lake is Mount Victoria, named for England’s renowned queen. The lake is named for after one of her five daughters. A stroll through the flower-filled grounds in front of the Chateau Lake Louise is a nice way to spend a half hour. Canoes can be rented from the boathouse at the lake or you can see the lake on foot by walking the Lakeshore Trail. At the Lake Louise ski area, on the opposite side of the valley, visitors can take a chairlift up Whitehorn Mountain in the summertime for panoramic views of Lake Louise and its surrounding peaks.

Moraine Lake: Valley of the Ten Peaks

The sister lake to Lake Louise, in its setting encircled by mountains, is a scene familiar to many from the back of the Canadian $20 bill. From the turnoff on Lake Louise Drive, a 12.5 km drive, closed in winter, takes you to the lake with a number of viewpoints along the way. The Great Divide runs across the tops of the jagged peaks behind the lake. Stoney Indian names were originally given to the 10 peaks by 19th century mountaineers. You can get an excellent view of these peaks and the lake by hiking the Rockpile Trail to the top of the large jumble of rocks at the outlet of the lake. The huge mountain to the north with the glacier on its summit is Mount Temple, third highest mountain in the park. You can also stroll to the far end of the lake on the well-built lakeshore trail, take a short walk to nearby Consolation Lakes or go canoeing.

1A Highway: The Great Divide

The 7.4 km drive from the junction on Lake Louise Drive to the Great Divide follows the original highway over the Kicking Horse Pass. A rustic timber arch marks the divide. A monument on the 1625 metre summit of the pass is near the railway tracks, a short walk from the picnic area. As well as being the major continental watershed, the Great Divide also forms the boundary line here between Alberta and British Columbia and between Banff and Yoho National Parks. This road, like the one to Moraine Lake, is not plowed in winter and then becomes a cross-country ski trail. From the divide, you can continue on to take in many of the scenic and historical attractions of Yoho National Park: the Spiral Tunnels exhibit and viewpoint, Takakkaw Falls in Yoho Valley and Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge. For information on Yoho National Park stop at the Information Centre located beside the highway at the town of Field.

The Bow Valley Parkway

The parkway is a low-speed scenic drive between Lake Louise and Banff on the side of the Bow River opposite the Trans-Canada. To reach the parkway, cross the highway overpass, drive uphill on Whitehorn Road and take the first right turn. Along the route there are interpretive signs, viewpoints and picnic sites.

The Icefields Parkway

This parkway ranks as one of the most scenic highways in the world and is also a good route for viewing wildlife. It starts at an overpass on the Trans-Canada Highway 2.5 km west of Lake Louise. From the overpass it runs for 230 km past Bow Lake, the Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Falls and other natural spectacles to end at the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park.

Self-Guiding Interpretive Trails

You can learn a lot by hiking an interpretive trail. They are short, well-built and easily accessible. Signs, displays, and brochures help you uncover some of the hidden layers of the park’s natural and human history.

Bow River Loop

This 7.1 km loop located on both banks of the Bow River is primarily a nature walk. Interpretive signs along the way will introduce you to the Bow River ecosystem and some of its animal friends. The river loop connects with the Tramline and Louise Creek trails. As this loop is easily accessible from the campgrounds, the railway station and hotels and shops in the village centre, it also serves pedestrians and bicyclists on errands.

Moraine Lake Rockpile

You don’t have to hike far or high to obtain one of the best views of Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. From the parking lot, a well-constructed trail runs to the top of the rockpile at the lake outlet. The round trip distance is less than 0.8 km and the elevation gain about 24 m. The panoramic view from the top may be familiar to you from the back of the Canadian $20 bill. It appears now that rockpile damming the lake is a result of a rockslide off Mount Babel rather than a glacial-formed moraine.

(assistance required) Bow Summit

This trail starts in the parking lot on the Icefields Parkway 44 km north of Lake Louise. You climb uphill (total elevation gain is only 32 m) through a forest at treeline to a viewpoint over brilliantly coloured Peyto Lake, the Peyto glacier and Mistaya Valley to the north. The Timberline Trail loops away from this viewpoint through a meadow where sub-alpine flowers bloom in late July or early August. Signs along the way tell you much about this amazing world at the upper reaches of the sub-alpine zone and how plants and animals have adapted and survived here in harsh, marginal conditions. The total round-trip distance is 2.1 km. The trail is well-constructed and paved and visitors are encouraged not to stray off it. (This trail is not shown on the map.)

Mistaya Canyon

A canyon as spectacular as Maligne or Marble Canyon, it is easily reached on a 300 metre trail. From the pulloff on the Icefields Parkway 75 km north of Lake Louise or 5 km south of Saskatchewan Crossing, the trail follows an old road downhill. You can look right into this deep, narrow and dangerous canyon from a bridge. The canyon has been carved in limestone by the Mistaya River which originates in Peyto Lake only 28 km away. You should stay well back from the unfenced edge of the canyon, especially if the rock is wet. (This trail is not shown on the map.)

Parker Ridge

Parker Ridge is at the same elevation as Sunshine Meadows, 2280 m. The 2.4 km long trail to this spectacular ridge starts from the pull-off on the Icefields Parkway 41 km north of Saskatchewan Crossing. A sweater, windbreaker and a thermos or water bottle are recommended on this hike. High and close to the Columbia Icefield, snow lingers on this ridge until June or later, the growing season is measured in weeks and there is no guarantee of any frost-free nights, yet on a clear calm summer day it can be desert-hot. Colourful alpine flowers bloom briefly in mid-summer, ptarmigan may be seen camouflaged against the rocky ground and mountain goat spotted on the surrounding mountains. Living conditions for vegetation here are harsh even without the trampling of feet on their way to and from the ridge so please stay on the trail. At the summit, (250 m above the parking lot) sweeping mountain vistas and an outstanding view of the Saskatchewan Glacier unfold before you. (This trail is not shown on the map.)

The Park Interpretive Program

The park interpretive program runs all summer long with a wide range of stimulating programs and activities. Evening slide shows and talks are put on in the interpretive theatres in the Lake Louise and Waterfowl campgrounds. You can go on a guided walk with an interpreter, join them for a campfire chat, or find out the answers to your questions about the park. Information on the park interpretive program is published in The Banff National Park Official Visitor’s Guide, the park’s free newsguide which is available at visitor centres.

Strolls and Walks

A stroll or short walk is an excellent way of experiencing the park at your own pace while stopping to take photographs, fish, picnic or just enjoy the scenery. Listed below are a number of trails in or near the Village of Lake Louise.

Louise Creek*

Experience the impressive force of an unchecked mountain stream on this 2.7 km path, the shortest route for hikers between the village on the valley floor and Lake Louise in a hanging valley 200 m higher. Walk across the Bow River highway bridge on Lake Louise Drive. The trail starts on the downstream side of the bridge and closely follows Louise Creek uphill. About halfway up the Tramline crosses this trail. To stay on the Louise Creek Trail cross the bridge at this intersection. The trail you are hiking follows much the same route taken in 1882 by Tom Wilson when, led by his Stoney Indian guide Edwin Hunter, he discovered Lake Louise. At its upper end the trail crosses a public parking lot just before it reaches the lake.


Where this trail now goes, a narrow gauge railway once ran. Starting at a footbridge over the Bow River behind the train station the Tramline runs uphill at a four per cent gradient for 4.5 km ending in the parking lot at the same place as the Louise Creek Trail. It is broad and easy to follow for the most part. Be sure to cross the creek at the bridge where the Tramline and Louise Creek trails intersect. Few signs are there to remind you of the train and its passengers that regularly used this route between 1913 and 1930. The Tramline and Louise Creek trails can be easily combined to form an interesting 7.2 km loop.

Louise Lakeshore*

Starting in front of the Chateau, this broad, level and popular trail follows the northwest shore of Lake Louise for 3 km. It can be a pleasant, relaxing lakeside stroll by day or a lovely moonlight walk. The trail skirts below the high cliffs visible at the far end of the lake (popular with rock climbers). This walk ends at the delta, the flat muddy plain just beyond the cliffs. The trail continues on to the Plain of Six Glaciers. Mountain goats are sometimes seen on the sides of Fairview Mountain across the lake.

Fairview Lookout*

A brisk stroll enjoyable any time of day, it starts at the viewpoint at the outlet of Lake Louise. A well-made trail climbs through a primeval spruce forest to a lookout 100 m above the lake. It branches right off the Saddleback Trail 0.3 km from the start and continues uphill for another 0.7 km to a wooden observation platform offering views across the lake and back to the hotel. Fairview Mountain towers over the lookout. You can return the same way or take the rough 1.3 km long trail that winds steeply down to the lakeshore and follows it through some wet spots back to the boathouse.

Moraine Lakeshore

For some close-up views of the Ten Peaks, walk down this popular trail to the far end of the lake. Just past Moraine Lake Lodge, the Larch Valley and Eiffel Lake trails lead off uphill. Like the Louise Lakeshore trail, only shorter and more secluded, this one follows the northwest lakeshore for 1.5 km to a rocky creek flowing into the lake.

Consolation Lakes

A short walk of 3 km will make you feel you are in the heart of the Rockies, with a sparkling lake at your feet, towering peaks with sheer cliffs surrounding you and glaciers high above. From the Moraine Lake parking lot, you pass the Rockpile Trail and travel most of the way through forest, gaining only 65 m elevation, to the rocky shore of Lower Consolation Lake. A generally wet trail runs around the northeast shore to Upper Consolation Lake about 1 km away but you must ford the creek to get on it. As you hike out you get good views first of Mount Temple and then of the Ten Peaks. * Trails within walking distance of the Chateau Lake Louise.

Day Hikes

Any hike long enough to require taking a pack with lunch and extra clothing is a day hike. Day hikes offer fresh air, exercise and sometimes bad weather, along with plenty to see. For more information on the hikes described here or on other day hikes in the Lake Louise area, consult a hiking guidebook and topographical maps.

Plain of Six Glaciers*

Plain of Six Glaciers and Louise Lakeshore are one and the same trail to the far end of Lake Louise. As you continue up this valley you see below you a turbulent rocky creek, moraines abandoned by receding glaciers, enormous gravel fields (sometimes concealing underlying glaciers) and finally, icy crevassed Victoria Glacier. Glaciated peaks encircle this area on whose slopes mountain goats may be seen. The Highline Trail joins the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail at 4.1 km. A teahouse, serving light lunches and refreshments during the summer, is located 5.5 km from the trailhead. The trail continues up the valley for another 1.3 km to a viewpoint of Abbot Pass and the Death Trap, the enormous glacier-filled gorge between Mounts Victoria and Lefroy. The elevation gain is 360 m at the teahouse and 405 m at the viewpoint.

Mirror Lake: Highline Trail*

The Highline Trail provides an interesting alternative start or finish to the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. The trail starts at Mirror Lake on the Lake Agnes Trail, 295 m above Lake Louise. The trail map here will help you get your bearings. From this lake, the Highline Trail follows a more or less level course. It emerges on top of the cliffs at the far end of Lake Louise with breathtaking views down to the lake and back to the Chateau Lake Louise. Further on, the glaciated mountains of the upper valley come into view. It joins the Plain of Six Glacier Trail 2.8 km from Mirror Lake. Hiking out on the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and back on the Highline is less strenuous than travelling in the opposite direction.

Lake Agnes: Beehives*

Lake Agnes is located in a hanging valley 365 m above Lake Louise with beehive-shaped mini-mountains on either side of it. Many people have found the sight of this lovely alpine lake and the incredible panoramic views from the Big or Little Beehive worth the strenuous hike. The well-made 3.6 km trail to the lake starts on the west side of the Chateau. About halfway up, a break in the trees offers a viewpoint over Lake Louise. At Mirror Lake (km 2.7) a map helps direct you through the maze of trails there. A teahouse at the lake serves light lunches and tea during the summer. Take a leisurely stroll to the far end of the lake if you don’t feel up to the 140-metre climb to the Little Beehive or the 170-metre climb to the Big Beehive. The lake is often ice-covered to mid-June; in the fall the area is golden with larches.

Paradise Valley: Giant Steps

The trail through this aptly named valley is a loop with a tail on it. From its start in the gravel parking lot 2.4 km down the Moraine Lake road, it climbs over a ridge to enter the valley and in 5 km comes to the start of the loop at the Lake Annette junction. This 8.1 km loop takes you across vast avalanche slopes to the start of the 0.7 km side trail to the Giant Steps cascade, below steep and rocky Sentinel Pass and under the towering northerly face of Mount Temple with placid Lake Annette beneath it. Standing guard around the Horseshoe Glacier, at the head of the valley, are Wenkchemna, Hungabee, Ringrose and Lefroy – all peaks over 3200 m (10,500 feet). The overall elevation gain from the trailhead is less than 400 m. The total distance is 18.1 km.


A short but demanding trail, it climbs steadily uphill gaining 600 m in elevation in 3.7 km. From the viewpoint at the outlet of Lake Louise it heads up the forested slope of Fairview Mountain. The final leg of the trail zig-zags through a forest of larches to a beautiful alpine meadow. The premier view here is of Mount Temple from the far side of the meadows. For those with mountaineering inclinations, they can follow indistinct trails to the summits of Saddle Peak (90 m higher) or Fairview (411 m). Take the same route back down however tempting other routes may look. The trail continues over Saddleback and drops down into Paradise Valley. It is over 11 km from the Saddleback Pass back to Lake Louise by the Paradise Valley route.

Larch Valley: Sentinel Pass

Just past Moraine Lodge, an uphill trail starts its 3 km climb through forest to Larch Valley and the Minnestimma Lakes (an Indian word for “sleeping water”). It helps to stay on the switchbacks on this trail as shortcuts cause erosion and trail damage. From this valley, 520 m above Moraine Lake and only 205 m below Sentinel Pass, you get wide encompassing views. In autumn, the needles of the larch trees turn golden, making the valley glorious. Many people prefer to end their hike at the valley, but quite a few continue on another 2.8 km to the top of the pass with its powerful views. At an elevation of 2611 m (8566 feet), Sentinel Pass is one of the highest in Banff National Park. Those planning on crossing the pass should be wearing sturdy hiking boots, be aware of the dangers of falling and rolling rock, and be prepared for a long hike. You’ll have to pick your way down a steep, rocky slope to a trail that shortly connects up with the Paradise Valley loop. From the top of the pass, it is 11 km to Moraine Lake Road, and another 10 km by road or trail back to Moraine Lake or another 4 km on to Lake Louise by trail.

Eiffel Lake

The first part of this trail is the same as the Larch Valley Trail. The left hand fork at the Larch Valley trail junction (km 2.4) leads to Eiffel Lake, 3.2 km away, by following the top of a lateral moraine well above the trees. A spur trail runs down to the lake. The main trail continues on to Wenkchemna Pass, about 3.2 km further on and some 350 m higher. Wenkchemna, an Indian word for ten, is the last of the ten peaks. While hiking this trail, all of the ten peaks as well as the debris-covered Wenkchemna Glacier are visible. From the top of the pass you are looking down at the Eagle’s Eyrie and Opabin Pass in Yoho National Park.

Boulder Pass

This trail of contrasts starts in the Lake Louise ski area and ends 8.8 km away on an alpine pass with stupendous views. Turn off the Whitehorn Road onto graveled Fish Creek Road. From the Fish Creek parking area hike or bike the first 4 km up a dirt road offering occasional views of distant peaks and Corral Creek. At the end of he road (and the bike trail) head uphill across a ski slope to the hiking and horse trail. From here on you are in real backcountry, travelling through forest to Halfway Hut in an alpine meadow 470 m higher than the parking lot. The hut, now used only as a day shelter, was once the halfway point and resting place when only a trail ran between the Lake Louise train station and Skoki Lodge. From the hut a separate 1.1 km trail leads to Hidden Lake. Rock-studded Boulder Pass is 1.5 km ahead and only 150 m higher. At the top of the pass, the mountain world unfolds. Behind you is glaciated Mount Temple and ahead is Ptarmigan Lake. Pikas, marmots and Columbian ground squirrels scurry among the rocks. The well camouflaged ptarmigan may be seen. Redoubt Lake is located a rocky 1.3 km and Baker Lake 3 km away from this pass. (The start of this trail is shown on the map.)

General Information

Other Outdoor Activities

Picnicking, sightseeing, and taking a tour are popular activities for people visiting the park. For parents with young children there are playgrounds and picnic areas in Banff and Lake Louise. Canoeing, going on a cruise and wind-surfing are enjoyable water sports. Fishing is permitted with a national parks licence. The adventurous can go backpacking, kayaking, mountaineering and ski touring. In winter, downhill and cross-country skiing are the major pastimes along with snow shoeing, skating and ice fishing. Photography and wildlife observations are year-round activities.

Horse Routes

If you want to experience the park from horseback, several commercial outfitters in Banff and Lake Louise offer guided trips from one hour to several days duration. If you own a horse, you can take it on most trails in Banff National Park. Horses are not permitted on Sunshine Meadows, Sentinel Pass or Healy Pass. The brochure Horse Users Guide provides more information.

Bicycle Routes

Bicycling is permitted on public roads and highways and on certain trails in the park. In good weather, many of the drives described in this pamphlet are more enjoyable to cycle than to drive. The Bow Valley Parkway and Icefields Parkway are marvelously scenic cycle routes suitable for full day trips as well as overnight trips with stops in the campgrounds, youth hostels or lodges along the way. Visit a park visitor centre for details on trails on which bicycles are permitted. Short trips, full day excursions and bicycle camping trips are all possible. Cycling off the trails is not allowed.

Disabled Facilities

Banff National Park has something to offer people with hearing, vision, mobility or mental impairments and plans to make more facilities accessible. An overview is given here; for more details or information on group services contact our Calgary office or one of the visitor centres in the park. (See “More Information” in this brochure for addresses). Information is also available from the Banff/Lake Louise Chamber of Commerce and Alberta Tourism Offices. The Banff Health Unit may be able to provide assistance and rent equipment (phone 762-2290, Monday-Friday).

The Cave and Basin Centre in Banff and the Lake Louise Visitor Centre are fully accessible. The Banff Visitor Centre has been upgraded to permit access by the disabled and a hearing impaired phone installed; the phone number is 762-4256. Assistance is required and available for disabled people wishing to use the Upper Hot Springs. The main floor of the Banff Park Museum is wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair accessible public washrooms are located within half a block of the Banff Visitor Centre and the Park Museum and in drive-in campgrounds and picnic sites in Banff, Lake Louise and along the Bow Valley and Icefields Parkways. The physically challenged can use and enjoy some trails throughout the park. Surface treatments range from asphalt, cinders, crushed gravel and dirt. Many shorter trails are level or have only gentle grades.

Rocky Mountain Destinations

Canadian Rockies Destinations is the premier on-line guide to the attractions, accommodations, services and recreational opportunities found in Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Kananaskis Country, Lake Louise and Canmore.

Fly into international airports in Calgary, Alberta (one hour east of Banff), Edmonton, Alberta (three hours east of Jasper) or Vancouver, British Columbia (ten hours west of Banff) and begin your journey into these shining mountains.

Banff Outdoor Recreation and Activities

Guided Tours and Activities | Backpacking in the Canadian Rockies | Day – Hikes | Stuff for kids | Mountain Biking | Camping | Fishing | Golfing | Skiing | Evening Entertainment | Sightseeing | Dogs In the Park | Organized Tours, Sightseeing and Transportation

Recreational opportunities abound in Banff National Park with over one-thousand kilometers of hiking and biking trails. You will also be ‘base-camped’ in the middle of one of the worlds most unparalleled outdoor recreation areas – for within a one hour driving circle you have five world-class ski hills, six world-class golf courses, thousands of miles of hiking and cross country ski trails and excellent fly-fishing rivers and lakes.

Each section has specifics or recommended items of interest

Golfing, Skiing, backpacking, drive-in campgrounds, hiking, biking, fishing, SIGHTSEEING (go to other section), Canoeing, Skating, Rental Store info, Kids Stuff (like waterslide), Movie

Activities which require specialized gear (rafts/horses/etc) can be found in our Guided Tour and Activities section

Banff also offers a variety of places to ice and rock climb, mountaineer, river raft, canoe and kayak.

If exploring on your own seems like a daunting task, join a guiding company like those described in our Guided Tours and Activities section for a recreational tour through the Rockies.

Mountain Biking in the Canadian Rockies

From the eastern slopes of Kananaskis Country to the northern ranges of Jasper National Park, the Canadian Rockies offer mountain bikers an extraordinary biking experience with unparalleled scenery.

Many of the mountain biking trails in the recreation areas and national parks of the Canadian Rockies run through fairly remote areas, so ride prepared for mechanical problems or medical emergencies. Riding with a partner and carrying a repair kit, a first aid kit and extra food and water are steps in the right direction.

Oro Valley/Tucson Loop Bike Path
Tucson’s Best Mountain Bike Rides
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Best Tucson Arizona Road Bike Rides
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Discover Oro Valley Tucson Loop Bike Path
Offical Oro Valley/Tucson Loop Bike Map

Also ride prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Weather in the mountains can change quickly and without warning, particularly if you’re riding on high elevation trails. Even in summer, dress in layers that allow you to take off and put on clothing to adjust to the fluctuating conditions.

July and August are usually the warmest months and provide snow-free access to all trails in Kananaskis Country, and Banff and Jasper National Parks. However, the months of September and October are often the best for mountain biking in the Canadian Rockies because of the cool weather, lack of mosquitos and spectacular fall colours (but be prepared for snow!).

Most mountain bike trails in the Rockies are designated as multi-use trails, meaning that hikers and horses will also be sharing the trail with you. In order to avoid conflicts and ensure everyone’s safety, please read and abide by the Rules Of the Trail as set by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (I.M.B.A.).

Bikes can be rented from a number of venues in Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis Village, Lake Louise and Jasper. If you do choose to rent while you’re here, keep these handy tips in mind.

Following are articles for and descriptions of select mountain biking trails in Banff and Jasper National Parks, and in Kananaskis Country:

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.

Oro Valley/Tucson Loop Bike Path
Tucson’s Best Mountain Bike Rides
Best Tucson Road Bike Rides
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Best Tucson Arizona Road Bike Rides
Best Cental Tucson Arizona Mountain Biking
Discover Oro Valley Tucson Loop Bike Path
Offical Oro Valley/Tucson Loop Bike Map
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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