Biking the Parkway: The Ultimate Itinerary

Travel to Canada - What to Expect

Biking the Parkway: The Ultimate Itinerary

Words by Sarah Magyar

A Bow Valley local favourite summer activity is biking the 1A highway, also known as the Bow Valley Parkway. With the road closed east of Castle Junction and freshly paved, it’s one of the smoothest, most enjoyable, vehicle-free road rides in Banff National Park. Plus, there are some incredible sights along the way!

Choosing Which Bike to Ride: E-bike or Regular Bike?

Stop by the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub on Banff Ave (114 Banff Avenue) to rent an e-bike for a full day of exploration. Don’t worry if you’ve never ridden an e-bike before, the team at the Adventure Hub is happy to help and get you set up and going on one of several e-bike models. E-bikes are great if you are looking to travel a shorter distance along the 1A, such as to Johnston Canyon and back.

SkiBig3 Adventure Hub - Photo by Sarah Magyar
SkiBig3 Adventure Hub – Photo by Sarah Magyar

Depending on how much you rely on the e-bike throttle, battery life is limited. Focus on your peddle-power and go easy on the juice when going longer distances. If you’re looking to bike all the way to Lake Louise and back, we suggest using a road bike. It’s a great way to get those legs working and the blood pumping!

WHERE TO STOP ALONG THE WAY

Vermilion Lakes

Pascal Marcotte
Vermilion Lakes – Photo by Pascal Marcotte

Starting from the town of Banff,  head down Vermilion Lakes Road to access the Legacy Trail which will connect you with the Bow Valley Parkway (1A). It is a short but scenic section that you don’t want to miss. If you’re lucky you might even catch the lakes on a calm day or morning and be rewarded with a beautiful reflection of Mount Rundle.

Bow Valley Parkway (1A) Entrance

As you enter the parkway you ride under a rustic, log welcome sign. Don’t forget to look over to your right and enjoy the beautiful artwork by Fraser McGurk!

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Cafe
Johnston Canyon Cafe – Photo by Sarah Magyar

After riding for approximately 18km you’ll reach your next scenic destination, Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon is a very popular hike in the summer. Things are a little different this year since the road is closed – the trails are quieter and the parking lot is closed to vehicles. If there has ever been a time to enjoy the beauty of Johnston Canyon without the crowds it’s now! There is also a little cafe if you’re looking for a snack, ice cream or cappuccino.

This is where most people stop and turn around, and where we recommend turning around if you’ve rented an e-bike and don’t want to be left without a charge to help you get back!

Baker Creek

Baker Creek - Photo by Sarah Magyar
Baker Creek – Photo by Sarah Magyar

Ride another 20 km and you’ve reached the beautiful Baker Creek. Whether you’re looking to sit by the water, have a quick bite, or grab lunch, Baker Creek has it all! Take in the beauty of their log cabins and soak up the sun in their classic red Adirondack chairs by the Bow River. With a selection of local products, it’s a stop you won’t want to miss.

Morant’s Curve

Morrats Curve
Morant’s Curve – Photo by Sarah Magyar

Morant’s Curve is about 7 km west of Baker Creek and 6 km east of Lake Louise Ski Resort. It is a classic Canadian Rockies viewpoint where the Canadian Pacific Railway passes along the Bow River. If you’re lucky you might even catch a train going by.

Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

The last stop on your great adventure is Lake Louise Summer Gondola. The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola is located on the same side of the highway as the Bow Valley Parkway which means you don’t have to go into the village and dodge all the traffic and crowds.

If you’re feeling hungry, they have a great patio right in the Base Area. In the summer it is called Bear’s Den Smokehouse but the snow enthusiasts are probably more familiar with its winter name, Banded Peak Base Camp (formerly Kokanee Kabin). You can pair your slope side views with some tasty smoked BBQ bites and a refreshing beverage. Grab and go items are also available.

Bears Den Smokehouse
Photo by Pascal Marcotte

Feeling extra adventurous? Hop on the gondola and experience epic views of Lake Louise across the valley, you might even spot a grizzly bear from the lift!

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • Make sure you bring bear spray! The Bow Valley Parkway can be a great way to see some wildlife, which also includes bears, so make sure you are prepared. Bear spray is also available for rent at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub.
  • If you are riding an e-bike we recommend turning around at Johnston Canyon. If you plan on riding to Lake Louise Ski Resort on a rented e-bike, make sure you organize an alternative ride back.
  • If you are planning on catching the Roam Bus back to Banff from Lake Louise, be prepared to anticipate the limited space for bikes and wait times for a bus that can take you and your bike. Only certain e-bike rentals from the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub can go on the Roam bus racks, be sure to verify with an Adventure Hub Specialist before heading out.
  • Bring lots of water! SkiBig3 e-bikes have a holder for your water to be easily accessible.
  • Some parts of the Bow Valley Parkway does not have cell service.

With so much to do in Banff National Park, you will need more than a day or a weekend to fit it all in. Try visiting midweek when it is quieter, and you can find better prices and value-add offers on accommodation packages.

Talk to our in-destination Reservations Team today to plan a personalized trip, or book your lodging, rentals and experiences online. With a flexible change policy and no risk cancellation options, this might be the coveted safe summer escape you crave.

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