Biking the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail

Banff Canmore Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail allows for views that can only otherwise be seen though the window of a fast-moving car. Photo by Bob Keelaghan

Canmore to Banff ride has scenic, alpine appeal

Serious bikers and casual cyclists alike will want to ride the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail when visiting Alberta’s southwest mountain parks. Adjacent to the Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 1), the 22 kilometre paved bike path connects the mountain towns of Canmore and Banff. It is open to riders from the time the snow melts in spring until it returns in the late fall. The trail’s views are spectacular and can otherwise only be viewed by car. If you start in Canmore, the fact you don’t have to pay the park toll for Banff National Park is another advantage of taking the trail.

Cycling from Canmore towards Banff, the rugged peaks of Rundle Mountain tower above the length of the trail on its south side, or over one’s left shoulder. To the right is forest partitioned by tall moose fencing meant to keep wildlife off the busy highway just a fathom away.

More notable sights include the embarrassingly named Squaw’s Tit, just east of the Banff park gate. There are also the fascinating eroded cliffs just outside Banff known as the hoodoos. These sights pass by in a blink when travelling by car, but can be admired at length when you’re making the trip by bike.

Banff Canmore Legacy Trail

This scenic trail is suitable for experienced cyclists or relative novices who may want to stay overnight in Banff and make the return trip the next day. Photo by Bob Keelaghan

 

The Valley View Day Use Area is a great resting spot on the trail’s halfway point. It offers a picnic area and a beautiful view of the Bow River Valley.

Since it is, essentially, a narrow road that parallels Hwy 1, cycling the trail is nowhere near as difficult as taking an off-road, mountain-bike path such as Rundle Riverside Trail. Most of the inclines are gradual and the straightaways leave room for plenty of acceleration.

Be warned, though, the 45- to 50-kilometre round trip (depending on your departure and conclusion points) isn’t for the weak of heart, or weak of legs for that matter. Plan an entire day for the trip so you can enjoy the sights. Alternately, if you aren’t an avid biker who enjoys three-to-four-hours of pedaling in a day, you can make the return trip after an overnight stay in Banff. There is also the ROAM transit bus that will take you and your bike back to Canmore from Banff if you’re just plain tapped out after riding one way.

Getting there

The Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail: Take Hwy 1 approximately 105 kilometres west from Calgary to Canmore.

All pathways in Canmore lead to the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail, but your best bet for starting out is to park at the Legacy Trail lot at the Canmore Visitor Information Centre located at the west end of town on Bow Valley Trail. Be warned, the lot is often filled to the limit as the trail is very popular. If that’s the case, there is another lot north of Hwy 1. Take Bow Valley Trail west, cross the bridge over Hwy 1, go left at the fork in the road, and drive towards Harvie Heights on Palliser Trail. The lot is approximately one kilometre west on the north side of the road.

Where to rent bikes in Canmore

Gear Up (1302 Bow Valley Trail; 403 678 1636)
Rebound Cycle (902 – 8 St; 1-866-312-1866)
Sports Experts (100 – 1080 Railway Avenue; 403 609-3030)

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