By Heather Pardon
I love hills. I love climbing. I enjoy the challenge of an invigorating ascent by bicycle, the stunning views and sense of satisfaction you are gifted with when you reach the top. And, of course, you also get to enjoy a nice downhill descent as your reward too.
And so, it was with great excitement that I departed from Canmore the other day and headed to Banff National Park for a few nights stayover in Lake Louise and Jasper.
Just past Banff, a little to the west, I decided to stop off at the Johnston Canyon exit and park Miss Daisy while I ventured off for a ride. You have a couple of riding options in the area. The Bow Valley Parkway follows the Trans Canada and offers less, slower moving traffic, making for a nice quiet ride. You will see many other cyclists out enjoying the Parkway. The Trans Canada offers a wide, paved shoulder but much more traffic, especially in the summer months. For my inaugural ride, I did a mix of routes. Either way, you’ll be treated to stunning views, challenging cycling and, if you’re fortunate, some interesting wildlife viewing.
I stopped off for lunch just off the Trans Canada, at the halfway point of my out and back route, and was able to enjoy watching the comings and goings of an osprey family that had made its home atop a bridge. On the way back to my RV, I too flew like a bird, enjoying the benefits of a nice tailwind, easily hitting speeds of 32 kph on my hybrid. A good rule of thumb to riding here – either ride in the direction of the prevailing winds (which are westerly) or, when doing an out and back route as I did, plan your route so that you finish with the wind at your back.
The next day I awoke and decided to venture from my campsite and visit Lake Louise and nearby Moraine Lake. This is where a fondness of climbing (and a solid base of training) comes in handy. From the village, it’s a stiff 4 km climb to Lake Louise however, you are treated with gorgeous views along the way.
Like the other 1,000s of tourist I had to stop for the requisite shot in front of Lake Louise but am proud to say that I didn’t see another cyclist while I was there. It is not the preferred way up for most it would seem. If you’re not tired after the climb to Lake Louise, continue on to Moraine Lake.
As you leave Lake Louise, you’ll descend about 2 kms and then turn towards Moraine Lake, which is a longer climb, at 11 kms. However it is a much quieter spot and arguably the colour of the water is an even more impressive shade of blue-green than Lake Louise. It is well worth the aerobic price you’ll pay in effort to get there. The lake and surrounding environs are gorgeous. You can relax lakeside, rent a canoe or venture off for a hike. There are a few trails of varying lengths and levels of difficulty for those whose legs aren’t worn out from the ride up.
The descent is fun. You’ll again be treated to stunning views, at slightly higher speeds than when climbing, so take your photos during the ascent. Some sections of the road are quite steep. I hit speeds of 55 kph, even while applying my brakes frequently. Have fun with it but also be careful.
The beauty of the cycling in the Banff – Lake Louise area is undeniable. From the quality of roads to the breathtaking scenery you’ll enjoy at every turn of your wheels, it is a cyclists’ paradise. And if you’re up for it, you will have no trouble finding some climbs that will take your breath away too.
Heather’s Cross-Canada Cycling Adventure
Join Ottawa author, personal trainer and life coach Heather Pardon who recently sold and packed up her home, downsized her life, bought an RV and is taking her belongings and bicycle for an adventure across Canada this summer. Each week, Heather will be sharing photos and stories from her cycling adventures en route. You may also visit her personal blog at http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/ for more frequent updates from the road.