Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Route Combinations

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.

2022 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. According to the latest press release (May 3, 2022) ‘the section of the Bow Valley Parkway east of Johnston Canyon to Banff will remain open to public vehicles EXCEPT from May 1 to June 25 and from September 1 to 30 in 2022, 2023 and 2024 where public vehicles will not be allowed (as part of the 3 year cycling pilot on the Highway 1A).’

Start of the Bow Valley Parkway

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.

Ride Statistics

Ride Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Distance: 80 Km

Estimated time: Based on cycling speed of 20 Km per hour it would take roughly 4 hours

Elevation Gain: 923 m if headed West

Maximum Elevation: 1607 m

Maximum Grade: 7.8 percent

Best Parking Option: Park at the Travel Alberta Canmore Visitor Centre (2801 Bow Valley Tr.) or at the Samson Mall in Lake Louise. Don’t forget that you need a valid Parks Pass displayed or you will be fined.

Points of Interest: This route has 13 interpretative stops along the highway. Some interesting views include a prescribed burn 14 Km West of Banff. Here you can observe the natural recovery of the forest. Johnston Canyon is 25 Km from Banff and makes a great stop to stretch your legs and view the lower falls (1.1 Km). A stunning view of Castle Cliffs is 32 Km West of Banff. Morant’s Curve is 48 Km West of Banff where due to the bend in the road it is possible to see the the Bow Valley, Bow River, train tracks, and an impressive mountain backdrop.

Amenities: There are many options and facilities in Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise. It is recommended to bring enough food and drink for the day and then supplement your diet with energy treats at either end of the trip. Bathrooms are conveniently scattered along the way at trailheads just off the road.

Comments from our test riders:

Beginner Road Cyclist: I chose to do the Lake Louise to Canmore direction and found that I needed more time to complete the trip. It was a long day for me.

Intermediate Road Cyclist: The Canmore to Lake Louise direction gave me the confidence and training to try longer cycles.

Expert Road Cyclist: Canmore to Lake Louise was a great morning workout for me.

View of Morant’s Curve

What to expect from this ride

This is a classic Rocky Mountain ride which is enhanced by the fact that motorized traffic is limited to 60 Km/hr. on the Bow Valley Parkway. During peak season months (July, August, and September) cars are not allowed on the roadway. Please check with Parks Canada regarding the scheduling of traffic restrictions. No words can describe the enjoyment of cycling this roadway on a gorgeous day with no interference from vehicles. For trip planning purposes it is important to note that the Lake Louise to Canmore direction has an overall loss in elevation and, of course, there is an overall increase in elevation if you decide to start in Canmore and head to Lake Louise. The grade is less than 2% most of the way but be aware that there is a steep decline heading West as you descend into Lake Louise and there is a Texas Gate that can upset your balance before you enter the town proper. I witnessed my friend zip across unknowingly and it does shake a person up. It is recommended that you take the time to get off your bike and just walk the bike across the cattleguard to avoid potential injury (and embarrassment).

Not only is the scenery stunning but there are opportunities to view wildlife. We have seen a variety of bears along this roadway . It is recommended that you travel in a group and that you carry bear spray and know how to deploy it. Please remember not to stop and disturb animals as they are busy foraging and raising their young.

Banff to Lake Louise Out and Back: A Century Ride that can be one of the highlights of the season

Ride difficulty Rating: Intermediate to Expert

Distance: 111.5 Km

Estimated Time: Assuming a steady speed of 20 Km/hr. this ride would take 5.5 hours

Elevation Gain: 1264 m

Maximum Elevation: 1607 m

Maximum Grade: 11.2%

Best Parking Option: Parking in Banff can be difficult depending on the day so it is recommended to use the mobile site that has been designed for smartphones. Ideally, it is best to park as near to the access to the Fenland Trail or Norquay Rd so that you are close to the Vermillion Lakes Rd. which is the start to the bike route. Don’t forget to display your valid Parks Pass or you can be fined.

Points of Interest: As mentioned above there are many excellent viewpoints all along the route. One option is to stop for ice cream at Johnston Canyon on the way back to get an energy boost for the last half of the return trip.

Amenities: Fortunately, for this longer ride, there are facilities (bathrooms) available in Banff and Lake Louise and also at trailheads along the way. Bring enough food and water for the trip and then supplement your energy needs at either end.

What to expect from this ride

This is an all day adventure so it is wise to plan considering the weather and if possible to do this midweek to avoid crowds. Make sure that you have trained properly so that the distance is not onerous and plan to go when motorized traffic is restricted so that the journey is even more amazing. Once you are on the road here it is a Rocky Mountain classic and is mostly downhill on the way back to Banff. Please be aware that as you descend down to Lake Louise on the hill that there is a Texas Gate across the road that can rattle your teeth and could cause you to loose your balance. Dismount and walk across since you want to enjoy the trip back to Banff.

Please watch out for wildlife, carry bear spray, and travel with a group that is attired in colorful gear. It is recommended not to stop to view creatures of any type since they get habituated to humans and it inhibits their ability to survive.

Banff to Johnston Canyon: A nice beginner option or a great ride if you can’t spare the whole day.

Ride Difficulty: Beginner

Distance: 47.6 Km

Estimated time: Assuming a steady pace of 20 Km/ hr. it would take roughly 2.5 hours.

Elevation Gain: 570 m

Maximum Elevation: 1492m

Maximum Grade: 8.1 % (heading West)

Best Parking Option: It is best to use the mobile parking website to navigate this tourist location and don’t forget to display your parking pass. Try to locate a spot near to the Banff Fenlands trailhead or somewhere close to the Vermillion Lakes Road where the ride begins.

Points of Interest: The whole length of this route is packed with scenic views of the mountains. Of course Johnston Canyon is a great destination where you could go for a hike or grab some food (Ice Cream!)

Amenities: There are facilities (bathrooms) in Banff and Johnston canyon. Food and drink are available in both Banff and Johnston Canyon but you are assured of having the basics if you bring them yourself (especially if it is a busy day in the park) and then have the option of getting some treats at either end.

Comments from our test riders:

Beginner Road Cyclist: This was a better distance for me but I did require more time to complete the trip.

Intermediate Road Cyclist: A lovely ride when I had limited time.

Expert Road Cyclist: This distance was short for me but I just continued to Castle Junction and then turned around.

Johnston Canyon Ice Cream

What to expect from this ride:

This is a great beginner option where you could experiment with road biking on a less traveled highway. If you can go when motorized traffic is restricted (check with Parks Canada) then the journey is even more relaxing. Please chose a fair weather day and travel with at least one other cyclist for safety. There can be wildlife in abundance so carry bear spray and avoid close encounters. Respect the fact that these animals need lots of space to prosper and rear their young.

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