Magazine article Sunset

Classic Alpine Biking in Canada's Rockies ... on Your Own or with a Group

Magazine article Sunset

Classic Alpine Biking in Canada's Rockies ... on Your Own or with a Group

Article excerpt

Classic alpine biking in Canada's Rockies . . . on your own or with a group Following the spine of the Canadian Rockies between Banff and Jasper, Alberta, a pair of parkways offer outstanding alpine biking for both long-distance and poke-along pedalers. These roads lead cyclists through world-famous scenery without the wearying steep ascents typical of many mountain highways.

Bow Valley Parkway (Alberta Highway 1A) runs 45 miles from Banff to Lake Louise, bypassing the congested Trans-Canada Highway. From Lake Louise, Icefield Parkway (Alberta 93) runs 144 miles northwest of Jasper, traversing Banff and Jasper national parks.

Because of road construction this year, the first 3 miles northwest of Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway may be posted to divert traffic; detours will be on paved roads. Continuing north, you ride on Bow Valley Parkway 15 miles to Castle-Eisenhower Junction, where more road construction puts you back on the Trans-Canada for 18 miles to Lake Louise. There you can rejoin the main route (Icefield Parkway, Provincial 93).

the route gradually ascends a series of rolling inclines. Average elevation is 5,500 feet or more, but only two major passes must be crossed: 6,786-foot Bow and 6,658-foot Sunwapta. with 6- and 9-percent grades respectively, both are easier to handle if you're pedaling north from Banff as most bikers do.

You can make the whole grand tour or sample shorter segments; bring your own bike or rent one there; go it alone or join a guided outing; pitch your tent in a camp-ground or stay at lodges or youth hostels.

On Icefield Parkway, cyclists ride to the right on a paved, marked shoulder that serves as a bike lane. Be prepared to contend with heavy auto traffic this month. Back roads around jasper and Banff offer quieter day-cycling routes.

mountain weather is moody. Expect temperatures from the 70s to the 40s (or lower); days may include cloudy mists, wind, rain, frost, or possibly a snow flurry on high passes. Pack warm clothes and rain gear along with cycling shorts and sunglasses. Campers need reliable tents.

Campgrounds, mountain lodges, hostels

Nearly a score of campgrounds are spotted along the route, and they'll be crowded during peak season. No reservations are accepted, so plan to arrive early; if you're traveling with a support vehicle, sent it ahead to locate campsites (about $6 a night). For details, write to Parks Canada, Box 900, Banff T0L 0C0, or call (403) 762-4256. …

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