Ride Difficulty Rating – Intermediate
Distance – 52.7 Km pan handle loop
Estimated Cycling time – 3.5 hours
Elevation Gain – 476 m
Maximum Elevation – 1298 m
Maximum Grade – Uphill 5.7% at km 14.1, Descent 3.1% at km 17.9 and again at km 43.5
Best Parking Option
We have revised the starting point of this route to be from the Red Deer Lake school 600 m south of the Spruce Meadows Trail on 112 St W (extension of 53 St SW Calgary). I would recommend using Google maps and Directions to guide you to the school as this is tricky. Park near the Red Deer Lake school parking lot or just up the hill from the Red Deer Lake school parking lot at the small gravelled area by the Canada Post boxes. Cycle up to the 112 St W and Spruce Meadows Green intersection, head east on Spruce Meadows Green and then proceed south on 96 St W (old 37 St SW Calgary). Confusing..yes, but once you have done it, you will see that this is the best option. Do not park at Tanbridge School (they have many signs up saying that this is private property!)
Second parking option: At the corner of 96 St W (old 37 St SW Calgary) and 226 Ave W (~ 5.1 km’s south of Spruce Meadows Green SW on 96 St W (old 37 St SW Calgary). There is room for a few cars on the north east corner of this intersection. Choosing this option cuts ~17 km’s off the total ride distance).
Third parking option: As the corner of 96 St W (old 37 St SW Calgary) and Spruce Meadows Green there is a cell tower access road with room for a few cars. Choosing this option cuts ~ 5 kms off the total ride distance.
Please note: Now that the Hwy 22X construction is complete there is no longer access via 37th Street which is now a dead end road. This area has changed so much over the past couple of years due to the construction of Spruce Meadows Trail SW. There is now a road that runs just south of and parallel to the Spruce Meadows Trail SW called Spruce Meadows Green SW. You will need access to Spruce Meadows Green SW to access this ride.
Points of Interest
At about 16.8 km enjoy a steep descent and look up and take in the peak the breathtaking mountain view.
At the Junction 549 and 112 St W there is a vehicle pullout ideal for taking a break and soaking in the view of the rolling foothills and farmland.
Please note that there are limited facilities along this route so come prepared with enough food and fluids and plan your bio break before you park.
Road Surface Condition:
Mainly smooth asphalt although there are some pot holes and patches of loose gravel. Hwy 549 is the only section that has a narrow 2-foot shoulder, painted lines and chip seal. Light traffic volumes on week days, slightly heavier on weekends.
Comments from our test riders:
Beginner Road Cyclist – ‘Wow, this was a tough ride but I really felt a sense of accomplishment when I was done.’
Intermediate Road Cyclist – ‘This was a very pleasant afternoon ride. I wish we would have done it in the morning when it was cooler!’
Expert Road Cyclist – ‘An easy 1 ½ hour early morning training ride, I was home in time to make breakfast for my family!’
What to expect from this ride
This delightful ride through the rolling foothills south of Calgary is a ‘must do’ ride on a calm day in spring, summer or fall. Generally, the traffic volume on these roads is light. We have cycled this route many times and only encountered a dozen or so vehicles. One does, however, need to be cautious because on one occasion we ran across a very irate driver of a large truck. Luckily he was only throwing insults, not anything tangible!
This ride is very popular with the bike club crowd and at just over 50 km’s it can be done in a morning so that you are back home for your afternoon lunch and coffee. There are some challenging hill climbs and thrilling descents on this route and thus we rate it as an intermediate ride. We recommend doing this ride in a counterclockwise direction, at least for your first kick at this route. That way the maximum uphill grade you encounter will be 5.7 % and will be in the first third of the ride. Then there is a thrilling descent with a scenic west mountain view , followed by a flat section to allow your legs to recover before hitting the next section of hill climbs and descents.
This is one of our favourite rides and we highly recommend it.