cycling Jasper to Canmore

On every list of the best cycling trips in the world is Jasper to Banff. (map Jasper to Louise)

To get started, recommended are the Brewster buses from Calgary to Jasper. And the Sundog buses from Edmonton to Jasper. Bikes are free luggage on Brewster.

Instead I caught the 10 hour Greyhound Calgary to Jasper because it was overnight. I wanted to save a day because the weather forecast was looking GREAT. Greyhound is cheaper than Brewster, but they charge extra for the bike.

first light in Jasper

I was terrified of unboxing my bike and finding it damaged.

I’m totally incompetent when it comes to bicycle maintenance and had never boxed a bike before.

I couldn’t mount one of the pedals. Very frustrating.

Finally I decided to hang out at Tim Horton’s until a bike shop opened. I’d pay to have the bike put back together and checked out.

Happily the guy at Source Sports charged only $10 — because any idiot could have done it — reminding me that bike pedals screw on in opposite directions. Doh!

I tinkered with the panniers and packing system for some time.

… and by 11:30am was finally off.

Jasper is wild and rugged. Far less developed than the Rockies near Banff.

Edith Cavell

Traffic is quite light compared to Banff.

Wildlife sightings are always a highlight for visitors here.

I’d checked the elevation profile and knew it was uphill from Jasper. But had no idea just how tough that first day would be. 😦


7 hours in the saddle uphill and I was exhausted. I quit at 7:30 pm pulling over to wild camp in the river valley.

Day 2

Days are long in the Rockies in June. There was no rush next morning.

AND it was more uphill to start.

I stopped for every wildlife photo op.


Of the attractions out of Jasper, I’d say waterfalls are the highlight.

I stopped at the Icefield Interpretive Centre. Swarming with tourists.  The Athabasca Glacier is the most visited in North America. This highway is called the Icefields Parkway.

Originally planning to day hike en route, I’d retreated to survival mode. All my energy dedicated to completing the cycling to Calgary.

Big smile here. Finally I topped Sunwapta Pass, the boundary between Banff and Jasper National Parks. Only 108 km of my 400 route. But by far the most difficult section was behind me.

I enjoyed a long, fast downhill section back to the new river bottom.

More wildlife attracted by the salt on the road.

Weather had been excellent so far. But I’d heard it was going to deteriorate.

My plan was to get to Waterfowl Lakes campground. But I had no GPS and could not be sure exactly how far away it was.

A giant black wall approached rapidly. So rapidly that I didn’t even have time to duck off into the next service road and set up my tent before being hit by extreme hail. My bike helmet and thick coats protected me.

It rained all night. Power went out in Lake Louise village. But I stayed warm and dry.

Day 3

Still raining but less, in the morning I found Waterfowl Lakes to be only 5km away.

I took this photo in memory of Rob and Mark Glaser who were killed by avalanche. This was their favourite campsite.

A tourist couple asked me the best place to see Grizzly. I informed that their chances were almost zero.

The other high point is Bow Pass. It seemed an easy climb compared with Sunwapta Pass.

Weather was improving so I made my first side trip to nearby Peyto Lake.

During the summer, significant amounts of glacial rock flour flow into the lake, and these suspended rock particles give the lake a bright, turquoise colour.

Next I pulled into pretty Num-Ti-Jah Lodge for coffee and a rest. When I get rich I’ll tour the great National Park hotels including this one.

Bow Lakes still mostly frozen

Exiting the parking lot was a … grizzly. One of the few I’d seen in the wild in my life.

When Rangers arrived I asked if this was a rare occurrence, a Griz so close to people. He said it happens all the time these days.

Grizzly bear population is way up in recent years.

I finally stopped worrying about completing this trip … about here.

I could coast home.

I thought I might get a hostel bed in Banff. Then take the bus up for a soak in the Hot Springs.

But the cost of a crappy dorm bed in Banff was $66 + tax in this high season. Absurd, in my opinion.

So I climbed on to the bike for another 25km to Canmore. Weather now perfect.

I surprised my friend Kelly by cycling up to his open garage. He was tinkering with his new bike rack.

Wife Lexi arrived home soon after. I’d warned her I might be showing up that evening. We had a catch-up and planned some adventures for later in the summer. I slept on the basement couch.

Day 4

No rush again this morning. It’s an easy 100km downhill to where I was headed in west Calgary.

Unfortunately a freezing horizontal rain developed quickly. My hands and feet were soaked and cold. On the bright side the howling wind was mostly at my back, pushing me towards Calgary.

I’d make it.

About 20km out of Canmore I got a rear wheel puncture. Merde.

Try to repair it in the gail? Or prop the bike upside down and start hitchhiking?

What would you do? 


Lessons learned?

• If I were to go again I’d take the bus to Icefield Interpretive Centre and cycle back to Calgary. That’s the best route.

• I truly need to practice boxing and unboxing a bike.

Next cycle touring trips?

I’m hoping to do a multi-day tour of the Canadian Gulf islands this summer. I did most of the American San Juan islands last year.

And possibly the Kettle Valley Rail Trail in B.C.


Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

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