Ride Difficulty Rating: Beginner to Intermediate
Distance: 55.6 km
Estimated time: This ride takes approximately 3 hours Based on cycling speed of 20 km/hr
Elevation Gain: 521 m
Maximum Elevation: 1514 m
Maximum Grade: 6.7 %
Best Parking Options:
Park in Canmore at the Alberta Visitor Centre. From Calgary head west on the Trans Canada Highway, take exit 86 into Canmore. Just after you cross over the highway on the overpass, make a left turn directly into the Visitor Centre parking lot. The dedicated cyclist parking is adjacent to the Visitor Centre parking lot.
If the Legacy Trail dedicated parking lot is full, head into town and park at the Canmore Recreation Centre (hockey arenas/skate board park). Head south from the Visitor Centre on Hwy 1A, turn on 17 Street, keep right to stay on 17 Street, then turn towards the Canmore Collegiate High School onto 8 Ave. There is good signage directing you to the Recreation Centre. Just past the high school is a huge parking lot. Unload your bikes here, proceed back to the bike path that twins Hwy1A and head back to the start of the Legacy Trail. This adds about 300 m to your ride.
Points of Interest: Cascade Ponds, Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and the town of Banff
Amenities: Bathrooms can be accessed at the Canmore Visitor Centre or at Cascade Ponds to start. There are also facilities along the route depending on the time of year.
Comments from our test riders:
Beginner Road Cyclist: This was a long ride for me but to be able to do this on roads without traffic was a treat. I shortened the distance by not doing the extension to Johnson Lake.
Intermediate Road Cyclist: This was a perfect Spring ride without motorized traffic.
Expert Road Cyclist: This cycling route is great to do without traffic since there is more room on the road to zip past slower bikers. I did a few more laps around the loop to test my endurance.
What to expect from this ride
This ride is best done in the Spring when motorized traffic is restricted around the Lake Minnewanka Road. In general, the road is closed Monday to Thursday. Please check with Parks Canada to confirm the timing. If the road is not closed to cars then leave early in the day so that your trip is more enjoyable.
This ride is easy to negotiate. Simply park at the Alberta Visitor Centre on the West end of Canmore and cross Bow Valley Trail at the crosswalk and head West on the Legacy Trail bike path. The Google map route is not quite right because there is a tunnel that you can take to get to the Cascade Ponds which is not on Google maps. Watch for this underpass at (~ km 16) on your right as you start to get close to Banff and before you head South along Banff Avenue. This is much easier and safer than accessing the Minnewanka Road via the highway. Now you can choose to do the loop either clockwise or counterclockwise and do as many circles as you wish.
Load up on food and picnic at one of the lake sites or at Cascade Ponds. Once again start early to avoid the crowds and bring a friend and all of your layers and safety gear. Be mindful of wildlife and don’t forget your bear spray.