Wow, what a fall we are having! Perfect cycling weather, especially if you have a chance to get out mid day after it has warmed up but before that fall wind picks up later in the afternoon. Sunday, Oct 3rd was a perfect day to ride from downtown Calgary and then follow the Calgary to Chestermere route. This route is getting a bit bumpy in spots (needs some maintenance where tree roots are lifting up the paved cycle path), but other than that it is a very pleasant, car free, fall route to consider.
Estimated time: 4 hours based on cycling speed of 20 km/hr
Elevation Gain: 800 m
Maximum Elevation: 1347 m
Maximum Grade:8.7 % uphill at 58.7 km , 7.8 % downhill at 22.8 km
Best Parking Option: The strip mall at the corner of Hwy 1A and Horse Creek Road in Cochrane or along Horse Creek Road just as you turn north off of Hwy 1A onto Horse Creek Road. Note: Hwy 1A is ofter referred to as Bow Valley Trail on maps. If you park at the strip mall, park well away from the business entrances.
Points of Interest: At ~ 23 km you will cycle past the Dartique Lodge – currently used as a community hall this historic building was constructed in 1934. As of summer 2021 a new metal roof has been installed so the building is being well maintained.
Water Valley has some interesting spots including the General Store (open 7-7 daily and offers ice cream and coffee) and the Water Valley Saloon (popular with the motorcycle crowd but very welcoming of the lycra clad cyclists!).
Amenities: Washrooms at the Water Valley General Store (please support them with a purchase!)
Comments from our test riders:
Beginner Road Cyclist: A long ride!
Intermediate Road Cyclist: A great training ride with some varied terrain.
Expert Road Cyclist: Awesome!!! You can really get going on this ride as there are very few STOP signs and traffic to contend with.
What to expect from this ride
This fantastic route was made possible with the ~2017 paving of a short section of Horse Creek Road that now allows for a ride all the way from Cochrane to Water Valley on paved surfaces. This route has very low motor vehicle traffic and passes by lovely acreages and farm land. The occasional group of motor cyclists will pass you and usually give you lots of room. If you decide to stop for lunch, you may meet up with the motorcyclists at the Water Valley Saloon. There are some nice climbs but none are too long so this makes for a very pleasant cycle and would make a great route if you are planning a group ride with friends.
This area can be subject to winds so be prepared and plan to do this route on calmer days. For most of the route you will be on a variety of pavement surfaces, but generally very good and as of Sept, 2021 pot holes have recently been filled. Most roads have no lines or designated shoulders once you get past Twp Rd 280.
It is possible to connect from Canmore to Lake Louise through bike pathways, low volume side roads, and the Bow Valley Parkway to experience a variety of biking options that are pretty much limitless. The following are just a few of the possibilities.
2021 Biking Season: The Bow Valley Parkway will be closed to motorized traffic for a portion of this year. This is an amazing opportunity to cycle this historic route without having to worry about sharing the road with cars. Please check with Parks Canada to verify the timing of the closure.
Canmore through to Lake Louise : Two groups could leave from either end and then exchange keys as they pass on the Bow Valley Parkway. This avoids the downtime required for a car shuttle.
Note: As of June 3, 2021 the road surface is not as good as in past years. For the North gate to Summit route there are sections of rough pavement as well as a few herds of mountain sheep to contend with on your swift descent. Our current recommendation, is to do this route from the South gate to the Summit as the road is in better condition. On Sunday, June 12, 2021 there were cyclists reporting that it was snowing at the summit.
Update: until ~June 6, 2021 there is construction (repaving) of the road from Black Diamond to Longview so we would recommend avoiding this route for the next few days. But…after that, it will be a treat to cycle this section of new pavement. It does look like they are widening the shoulder so hopefully that will result in a safer cycling experience.
Ride Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
Distance: 101.7 km (or round it to 100 km! and call it a century ride)
Expected time: 5 hours based on 20 km / hour average cycling time
Summer/Fall 2021: Part of this route is closed to motor vehicle traffic this year which provides a unique opportunity to cycle the Bow Valley Parkway without any motor vehicle traffic. Check the Parks Canada website before heading out. As of June 25, 2021 there is some construction just where the road splits for the second time at ~km 36 past Castle Junction towards Lake Louise.
Ride Difficulty Rating – Beginner or Intermediate. The majority of this ride has grades less than 2%, and as an out and back you can always turn back at any point. It is a nice gradual uphill ride but just 5 km out from Lake Louise there is a steep uphill grade to the turn off to Lake Louise, then a steep downhill grade into town.
Distance – 111 km out and back
Estimated cycling time – 5.5 hours assuming 20 km/hr
Note: as of July 23, 2021 the Big Hill Springs park is still closed. I believe this may be temporary due to Covid…fingers crossed. Another development is that there is an active wellsite on Lochend Road as of July 23 which means that there is significantly more truck traffic on Lochend Road. I cycled part of Lochend Road ~7pm on a Tuesday evening recently and there was very heavy traffic. For this reason, use caution on this route for the next few weeks or choose another route for now.