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Calgary to Banff, maybe

Old 04-28-21, 07:02 PM
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2zweelabout
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Calgary to Banff, maybe

Providing Canada once again welcomes US cyclists I'd like to ride (with camping gear) from the Calgary airport to Banff and environs. I haven't thoroughly planned the route yet but have read that the road out of Calgary is a mess and the initial part of getting to Banff is not interesting (I'm sure the Banff scenery would more than make up for any initial blandness) and one contends with a lot of traffic shoulders only part of the way. Interested in information and suggestions from Bike Forum readers.
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Old 04-28-21, 07:35 PM
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We are planning a ride too near Banff. Are you hearing anything? We had one hotel operator suggest it will be around Labor Day that the border opens. We are beginning to think about alternatives.
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Old 04-28-21, 08:10 PM
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I have done this route a lot over the years.. going back to 1889. I rode the Banff corridor area twice last year.

The best road out of town is the Trans Can, Hwy #1. Look on Google maps to see a route from the airport to it. Calgary is blessed with many paved bike trails that you can hook up to. The only poor spot is just heading out of town by Canada Olympic Park because of constant construction. Just get through it.

The Hwy is busy but has good shoulders all the way. Rolling hills turn into a great mountain vista once over the Scott Hill. The alternative route is the 1a through Cochrane but this is a two lane road with narrow to no shoulders and with traffic will be more dangerous than Hwy 1 (because of the wide shoulder). Look on google maps at the 1a from Cochrane west. Click on various points and use street view to see if the shoulder is to your liking (everyone is different) but that road can get busy in the summer as it is the main alternative to the Trans Can.

It is 135 Km's approx to Banff, a long day with a head wind but doable. You will hit a head wind near the Kananaskis turnpike but it will ease once you get to Lac des Arcs (maybe). By then hopefully the scenery will compensate. You can also plan to camp at Dead Man Flats for a shorter day. You could camp at Canmore but that is a small cramped campground suited more for trailers than tents.

Once in Canmore connect onto the Legacy bike trail that starts at the visitors info center. It is a gem of a trail from Canmore to Banff. (about 20Km's).

Camping in Banff is either at Tunnel Mountain or Two Jacks, both National Park sites. There are no private campgrounds in Banff. Tunnel is on top of a mountain in town and Jacks is out of town by Lake Minnewanka. Both usually have bus service into town but Covid could change that up.

When in Banff plan to ride around the north side of Vermilion Lake and further afield if you wish. That links up to the 1a between Banff and Castle Junction which will be car free this summer again (unless they change their minds). I did it last year and it was cool to ride a 50km out and back two lane road with no cars.

Some pics

The 1a between Castle and Banff


Banff Ave


The Trans Can heading to Castle Mountain (note the shoulders)


Beaver dam along the Legacy trail


Legacy trail looking east to Canmore

Last edited by Happy Feet; 04-28-21 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 04-28-21, 08:24 PM
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A third option if you want a longer bike trip to Banff is to head south west out of Calgary to Longview and then along Hwys 541 / 40 up and over the Highwood Pass. This is the highest paved road in Canada and is only open in the summer (mid June I think but check as it depends on snow conditions). It's a real climb but beautiful quiet country. I rode up the Highwood from the other side last year. This comes out at the Kananaskis turnpike where you head to Banff again along Hwy 1.

Along Hwy 40


Heading up the pass.


Yay!

Last edited by Happy Feet; 04-28-21 at 08:31 PM.
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Old 04-29-21, 09:44 AM
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Im heading out of Edmonton May 12th to do a Tour of Alberta. Edmonton to Rowley to Drumheller to Dinosaur Provincial Park to Calgary to Banff to Jasper then home. Ive ridden Banff to Jasper twice now....cant wait to do it again. Any questions, just ask.
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Old 04-29-21, 11:46 AM
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OP, How much time do you have? Are you leaving Canada from Calgary? My wife and I have ridden the section from Banff to Calgary west to east twice as part of longer rides. The Bow Valley Parkway, Hyw 1A, from Banff to Lake Louise is a nice section of road. If you can manage the time the ride from Banff to Jasper on the Icefield Parkway, it is well worth the effort. It is one of the most beautiful rides I've ever done.

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Old 04-29-21, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
I have done this route a lot over the years.. going back to 1889. I rode the Banff corridor area twice last year.
Dang, I didn't realize you've been around that long!

Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
The best road out of town is the Trans Can, Hwy #1...The alternative route is the 1a through Cochrane but this is a two-lane road with narrow to no shoulders and with traffic will be more dangerous than Hwy 1 (because of the wide shoulder). Look on google maps at the 1a from Cochrane west. Click on various points and use street view to see if the shoulder is to your liking (everyone is different) but that road can get busy in the summer as it is the main alternative to the Trans Can.
I know that the conventional wisdom is 1 is better than 1a. When I was touring through the area as part of my big tour in 2011 (admittedly not as long ago as your first tour in the area) and needed to get from Calgary to Banff, that was the advice given to me and my partner. We decided to use 1a. The getting out of Calgary was a bit hairy for a while (then again, it seems like any route in and out of Prairie cities is), but after that it was okay. We didn't find the two-lane segment west of Cochrane to be bad. The traffic was fairly modest, even in July. Admittedly the pavement was a little rough, especially by Alberta standards, though that was ten years ago. I'm sure if there was an accident or construction on 1 that might change. But we didn't regret using 1a to get to Banff.
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Old 04-29-21, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
Dang, I didn't realize you've been around that long!



I know that the conventional wisdom is 1 is better than 1a. When I was touring through the area as part of my big tour in 2011 (admittedly not as long ago as your first tour in the area) and needed to get from Calgary to Banff, that was the advice given to me and my partner. We decided to use 1a. The getting out of Calgary was a bit hairy for a while (then again, it seems like any route in and out of Prairie cities is), but after that it was okay. We didn't find the two-lane segment west of Cochrane to be bad. The traffic was fairly modest, even in July. Admittedly the pavement was a little rough, especially by Alberta standards, though that was ten years ago. I'm sure if there was an accident or construction on 1 that might change. But we didn't regret using 1a to get to Banff.
Well... I haven't been around as long as Doug of course

My first "real" tour was in 1989 from Calgary to Vancouver on a converted 2x5 gaspipe mtb with marginally functional brakes.

As to the 1a. I would just say take a look at street view in some places and determine ones comfort level. Everyone's milage will vary.

Bu⁰t you did remind me of a variant to get around the mess at Canada Olympic Park. Take the road out to Cochrane and then the road south from there to the Trans Canada
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Old 04-29-21, 02:28 PM
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Happy on his first trip in the area
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Old 04-30-21, 06:40 PM
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Well, as a Calgarian, I have to weigh in.
#1 west from Calgary, the Trans Canada, is a big mess right now, due to construction, for about 5 km as you exit the city. Avoid if possible. There are a couple of ways around it, the shortest probably the old Banff Coach road, or Springbank road to #22 and then on to #1. Or 1A west to Cochrane and then south to #1. Or just ride 1A to Banff. Pretty narrow and twisty in parts and the added hazard of the boy racers in their BMWs west of Cochrane, especially on weekends. Any of these roads will be busy, especially in these covid times.
I really don't like the Trans Canada, too much traffic, but it does have decent shoulders.

There are other options, if you don't mind some gravel.

Right now it doesn't look like the border will open any time soon, I read today there isn't even a plan to open the border. They haven't thought about what parameters, infection rate, vaccinations, they would consider. That doesn't mean it won't open suddenly, without notice, without a plan, but who knows?

You don't want to come to Calgary right now anyway. In the midst of the third wave, with the highest covid new infection rate in North America. Stay at home, be safe.

Send me a message if you want to know more about routes in and out of Calgary.
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Old 05-01-21, 12:05 AM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
Well, as a Calgarian, I have to weigh in.
#1 west from Calgary, the Trans Canada, is a big mess right now, due to construction, for about 5 km as you exit the city. Avoid if possible. There are a couple of ways around it, the shortest probably the old Banff Coach road, or Springbank road to #22 and then on to #1. Or 1A west to Cochrane and then south to #1. Or just ride 1A to Banff. Pretty narrow and twisty in parts and the added hazard of the boy racers in their BMWs west of Cochrane, especially on weekends. Any of these roads will be busy, especially in these covid times.
I really don't like the Trans Canada, too much traffic, but it does have decent shoulders...
I have to agree about the mess on the outskirts of town. The 1a to Cochrane and then south would be much better. Plus, it passes through Bowness where there is a cycling shop for any last minute needs.

I am already worrying about the border in reverse direction for November. I've booked 2 weeks intending to hit Moab again but dont know if that will even happen. I did the same thing last year and had to rebook. No one wants a 2 week holiday in Canada in November
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Old 05-01-21, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
I am already worrying about the border in reverse direction for November. I've booked 2 weeks intending to hit Moab again but dont know if that will even happen. I did the same thing last year and had to rebook. No one wants a 2 week holiday in Canada in November
unfortunately I share your concerns.
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Old 05-01-21, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
I have to agree about the mess on the outskirts of town. The 1a to Cochrane and then south would be much better. Plus, it passes through Bowness where there is a cycling shop for any last minute needs.

I am already worrying about the border in reverse direction for November. I've booked 2 weeks intending to hit Moab again but dont know if that will even happen. I did the same thing last year and had to rebook. No one wants a 2 week holiday in Canada in November
1A to Cochrane and then south to #1 is a big detour. If you take Springbank Road or Old Banff Coach road, up on the hill behind COP and then reconnect to #1 west of the construction is quite a bit shorter. Some of it is by paved pathway. I'm not keen on riding #1 because of the traffic, it is reasonably safe because of the shoulder, but it isn't fun.

I'm not optimistic about the border. And I agree about holidaying in Canada in November
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Old 05-01-21, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
A third option if you want a longer bike trip to Banff is to head south west out of Calgary to Longview and then along Hwys 541 / 40 up and over the Highwood Pass. This is the highest paved road in Canada and is only open in the summer (mid June I think but check as it depends on snow conditions). It's a real climb but beautiful quiet country. I rode up the Highwood from the other side last year. This comes out at the Kananaskis turnpike where you head to Banff again along Hwy 1.
Highwood Pass opens to vehicular traffic June 15 8AM. They do plow it to get it open by that date.
Before that date it is a very popular bike ride between the gates as there is no car traffic at all! Of course that depends on snow conditions but usually by June 1 it is a go.
The south side is usually quiet, except for weekends, it is about 40 km from Highwood Junction to the pass. It is not a hard ride. The north side is steeper but again not a hard ride. The shoulders are decent although the road needs new pavement, so be aware. Also a good chance of seeing grizzly bears along the highway feeding on plants in the ditch.
Recommended.
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Old 05-11-21, 05:01 AM
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I have also ridden Calgary to Banff and back several times, but most recently it was likely in 2008. I lived in that area then but I've moved to another country since. So things could have changed.

While I would love to visit the area and find out what might have changed, my country won't let us out till mid-2022 at the earliest. And that's OK.
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Old 05-12-21, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I have also ridden Calgary to Banff and back several times, but most recently it was likely in 2008. I lived in that area then but I've moved to another country since. So things could have changed.

While I would love to visit the area and find out what might have changed, my country won't let us out till mid-2022 at the earliest. And that's OK.
Hi Machka, hope Rowan is well.

I'm not sure when the Legacy trail between Canmore and Banff was built but that's certainly a change. The Hwy ride was always nice through there regardless but it's a fun trail/mup.

I'm curious to go through the Icefield Parkway again as they were building a bike trail through part of it last time I was there. No idea how far or why but that would be an interesting proposition. Hopefully past the long stretch north of the Ice field summit where the buzz from frost cracks every 20 feet or so gave me a headache riding over

Anyone have any updates on that?
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Old 05-12-21, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
Hi Machka, hope Rowan is well.

I'm not sure when the Legacy trail between Canmore and Banff was built but that's certainly a change. The Hwy ride was always nice through there regardless but it's a fun trail/mup.

I'm curious to go through the Icefield Parkway again as they were building a bike trail through part of it last time I was there. No idea how far or why but that would be an interesting proposition. Hopefully past the long stretch north of the Ice field summit where the buzz from frost cracks every 20 feet or so gave me a headache riding over

Anyone have any updates on that?
I think Legacy was built around 2010.

Bike trail along the icefields parkway? I last rode it in 2019, don't remember any sign of it, but it wouldn't be the first time I missed something obvious.
I know there was a proposal for one around 2015 or so, but it was killed by the usual suspects.
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Old 05-12-21, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by skookum View Post
I think Legacy was built around 2010.

Bike trail along the icefields parkway? I last rode it in 2019, don't remember any sign of it, but it wouldn't be the first time I missed something obvious.
I know there was a proposal for one around 2015 or so, but it was killed by the usual suspects.
I see it was killed in 2019. Could have sworn I saw some construction but it may have been unrelated.
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Old 05-13-21, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
Hi Machka, hope Rowan is well.

I'm not sure when the Legacy trail between Canmore and Banff was built but that's certainly a change. The Hwy ride was always nice through there regardless but it's a fun trail/mup.

I'm curious to go through the Icefield Parkway again as they were building a bike trail through part of it last time I was there. No idea how far or why but that would be an interesting proposition. Hopefully past the long stretch north of the Ice field summit where the buzz from frost cracks every 20 feet or so gave me a headache riding over

Anyone have any updates on that?

Rowan is recovering from a mild heart attack he had last weekend while cycling. He was in hospital 3 days and came home on Tuesday afternoon.

I think they were building the Legacy Trail when I was there, but I'm not sure it was finished.
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Old 05-13-21, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Rowan is recovering from a mild heart attack he had last weekend while cycling. He was in hospital 3 days and came home on Tuesday afternoon.

I think they were building the Legacy Trail when I was there, but I'm not sure it was finished.
Mama mia. When it rains...

Glad to hear he is recovering.
One positive is that they are very good these days at fixing some of the things that cause them. I'm the senior F/A at work and about 6 months ago a co worker presented with heartburn/ tightness beneath the ribs. Wanted to brush it off but I convinced him to let me drive him to emerg just to be safe. That was at 11am and by 4pm he was in a different hospital getting stents put in. Turned out to be 70% blockage of the main coronary artery. Now he's back at work, commuting on a dirt bike.

Wish Rowan well from us.You two have been great ambassadors for bicycle touring/randonneuring.
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