Happy trails: Bring your bike to the mountains

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Written by Patrick J. Smith posted on Monday, September 28th, 2009

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Gear up and take to your bike on the beautiful trails of the Canadian Rockies.

Gear up and take to your bike on the beautiful trails of the Canadian Rockies.

Tammy from Florida writes: “Hello. I’m a biker – not a motorcyclist, but a mountain biker. I’ve ridden on every mountain trial I could find here in the eastern U.S. Unfortunately, I don’t live in the most mountainous area in the world! But I’ll be taking some trips to Canada here soon, and that put me in mind of the Canadian Rockies. Mountains! So … what are the trails like?”

Tammy, I think you called it already: “Mountains!” pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? I get the idea from what you said that you’re experienced and fit, but for anyone else who’s interested, the Rockies offer trails for everyone’s ability and background.

Banff National Park is a good place to start, especially for the novice rider. There are several roads you can ride, and most of them are fairly easy. And more than fairly rewarding! You can bike in town or head out through some lovely wilderness.

I mention it first largely because I was out on my bike the other day. Hey, I get tired of walking here, there and everywhere. Not that there’s anything wrong with hiking! But the nice thing about mountain biking, as I’m sure you’ve found, Tammy, is that you get the same rewards as hiking – being out in the air, able to get to places a car won’t go, etc. – but you can cover a lot more ground.

On this occasion I happened to be riding along the Sundance Canyon. I wanted to get back to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, because I hadn’t been there in a little while, and though it’s not too far to walk I just didn’t feel like hoofing it. It’s a gorgeous ride. If you like forests then this one is definitely for you!

Besides, I’d just met a young couple from Vancouver who liked to bike. They were a little down because it turned out the wife had twisted her ankle that morning and wasn’t up to the ride. Her husband was more than willing to stay with her, but she insisted that he take the ride they’d come out here to do. She just wanted to make sure he had a partner. Well, how could a mountain man leave someone like that in need? I was happy to partner him for the ride.

That, my friends, is the number one rule of mountain biking up here – and in general. Do not ride alone. Accidents happen to even the best riders, and there are some fairly isolated areas up here. And that’s not to mention the wildlife! Most critters will want to avoid you, so be sure to ride at a safe speed and stay alert, and you’ll be fine. But even one that might be interested in you will think twice about it if you’re with someone else. It’s safer all around, believe me.

For you experienced riders out there, I know I’m preaching to the choir here. But I don’t think you can ever overemphasize safety.

By the way, Tammy, I’ve got one recommendation for you. As I said, you’ll find trails all over the place, some easy, some just for the experts, and many somewhere in between. But one trail I urge everyone to ride is the Great Divide Trail.

The trail follows the divide between the Alberta and British Columbia. The whole thing covers about 1,200 kilometers (700 miles), so obviously I’m not saying you can ride it in a day! I’ll give you at least two. Ha. I’m kidding, of course. But along those 1,200 kilometers, literally everything that makes the Canadian Rockies what they are can be found.

The trail begins in Waterton Lakes National Park, just north of the U.S. Border, and ends in Kakwa Provincial Park, right above Jasper National Park. In between it also travels through Banff, Kootenay and Yoho, not to mention seven provincial parks and a whole host of other places. It crosses the actual divide at least 30 times.

So if you want a look at everything the Rockies have to offer, get yourself out on this trail wherever you can. And happy biking!

Alberta Adventure Guide

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