Designated Bike Trails: Jasper National Park
Adventures in Banff National Park Guide
Banff N.P., Camping & Townsite Map, (242K)
East Access Route, Great Falls, Mt Edmonton Regional Camping Map (143K)
East Access Route, Edmonton – Dawson Creek Regional Camping Map (233K)
Jasper, Biking, Camping &Townsite Map (75K)
Jasper, Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, Banff, Regional Camping and Trails Map, [Northern]
Jasper, Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, Banff, Regional Camping and Trails Map, [Southern]
Mackenzie Route, Edmonton – Steen, River Regional Camping Map (202K)
Mackenzie Route, Meander River Ab Yellowknife N.W.T., Regional Camping Map (214K)
Waterton Peace Park, Camping Areas Map, (14K)
This guide will help you plan a bike outing that is rewarding and has the least impact on the park’s natural habitat and wilderness areas. Check at a park information center or warden office for current information on trail conditions, weather forecasts, special hazards and, if staying overnight, a mandatory park use permit.
Be alert for wildlife. Stop and wait for the animal to move off. All animals in the park are wild and can behave unpredictably. Be especially wary of elk in spring when they are calving and in fall when they are mating.
Cyclists are very susceptible to sudden bear encounters. Use bear bells on your bike and make noise when biking through shrubby areas or approaching corners. Read the park publication YOU ARE IN BEAR COUNTRY to find out what to do should you encounter a bear.
Only trails #8 (Mina-Riley Lake Loop) and #3 (Saturday Night Lake Loop) are open to mountain bicyclists.
#3 Saturday Night Loop, (27.4 km)
The trailhead is at the west end of town just before The Cabin Creek West subdivision. Take the left trail leading from the parking lot. The trail starts off uphill and then follows a low ridge with occasional views of the Miette and Athabasca Valleys. Past Caledonia Lake the grade is gentle as it winds through a dense forest. The trail gets steeper as it heads up to High Lakes. From here to Saturday Night Lake are some swampy sections, but beyond that to Cabin Lake is easy travelling through open forest. From Cabin Lake, continue along the fire road to the junction with Pyramid Lake Road and turn right to return to Jasper. This trail can also be done in reverse.
#8 Mina-Riley Lake Loop, (9 km)
Start at the parking lot opposite the Aquatic Center. The trail climbs fairly steeply to the left until it intersects Cabin Lake fire road. Cross the road and continue past a large pond to Mina Lake. 3.5 km from the lake a marked spur trail leads down a very steep hill to Riley Lake. Turn around at the intersection with trail #6 where bikes are not allowed. Return via the main trail turning left onto the fire road at km 7. A right turn onto the paved Pyramid Lake Road will lead you back down to town.
#7 Athabasca River Trail, (23 km)
Starting at Old Fort Point the trail goes behind the golf course at Jasper Park Lodge. The first 12 km have some uphill sections, especially as you near Maligne Canyon. Bicycles are not allowed between the first and fifth bridges on the self-guided trail at Maligne Canyon.
Instead, ride down Maligne Road and take the Fifth Bridge turnoff 3 km below. Cross the bridge and pick up Trail #7 on the far side.
Turn left to Sixth Bridge and continue along the road to where the # 7 reappears. From here the trail runs beside the Athabasca River back to Old Fort Point, or you can return to Jasper along Highway 16.
#1, 1A, 9 – Old Fort Point to Valley of the Five Lakes, (11.2 km) to Wabasso Lake, (19.3 km)
This combination of trails follows rolling terrain from Old Fort Point trailhead to the first lake in the Valley of the Five Lakes. There are some rocky and rootbound sections. There are two junctions in the trail at either end of the first lake. Go left for scenic views of the lakes, or right to bypass the lakes.
All trails join together at the Wabasso Lake trail junction, before the slough. Cross the boardwalk to continue on to the Icefields Parkway (Highway #93). To continue to Wabasso Lake on trail #9; follow the trail to the left of the slough. The trail becomes rootbound and rocky near Wabasso Lake.
Return to Jasper via the lcefields Parkway.
The Overlander Trail, (14 km)
The trailhead is 20 km east of Jasper townsite on Hwy 16. Look for the marked trailhead at the second parking lot where the highway crosses the Athabasca River. The trail parallels the Athabasca River offering excellent views and a nice lunch spot at the ruins of the historic Moberly buildings. This area often floods in the spring resulting in sandy sections. Some tricky sidehill riding is required near the northern starting point. Near the end of the trail take the right-hand fork which crosses a small bridged creek. Continue along the edge of the river to the junction of the Maligne and Athabasca rivers at Sixth Bridge picnic area. Bears frequent this area, particularly in the spring. Signs of forest burning along the
trail are where a fire guard was burnt in preparation for a prescribed bum by Park Wardens.
Fortress Lake Trail, (25 km)
Start at Sunwapta Falls and follow an old fire road.
Travel is excellent as far as the Athabasca Crossing suspension bridge, 16 km along, though views are limited. Biking beyond the suspension bridge is not recommended but you can hike the remaining 9 km to Fortress Lake.
Fording the Chaba River to get to the lake is best in spring and fall when water levels are low.
Camping is available at designated campsites along this trail.
Summit Lakes Trail, (5 km) / Jacques Lake, (13 km)
The trail starts at the south end of Medicine Lake, at the Beaver Lake picnic area and follows a lushly vegetated valley 5 km to the first Summit Lake. To Beaver Lake there is virtually no elevation gain so the trail is suitable for family groups. Beyond Summit Lakes to Jacques Lake the trail can be very muddy if there’s been a lot of rain. Hardy bikers can take the South Boundary Trail to the Rocky Pass exit. Camping is available at designated campsites.
Geraldine Fire Road, (5.5 km) Geraldine Lookout, (8 km)
Start just off Highway 93A on the road to Geraldine Lakes trailhead.
This rough road is open to cars.
Those looking for a longer day trip can continue past the gate 2.5 km farther along the old fire road to the Geraldine look-out and get good views of the lower Whirlpool and Athabasca Valleys.
Or you can continue by foot along the marked trail to the first Geraldine Lake.
Fryatt Trail , (11.4 km)
Start 2 km up the Geraldine Fire Road at the parking lot for the Fryatt Valley. The trail passes through a moderately dense forest with very little elevation gain for the first 8 km. Some small creek crossings must be negotiated. From the lower Fryatt campsite you can continue another 1 0 km to the upper Fryatt Valley on foot.
Snake Indian Falls (North Boundary Trail to Rock Lake Exit), (48 km)
Drive along the restricted Celestine Lake Road to the Celestine Lake parking lot and the beginning of the North Boundary Trail.
A well-‘ graded gravel road leads 22 km to Snake Indian Falls.
One km beyond the falls, the road becomes a well-traveled trail to the Willow Creek area and the Rock Lake exit.
Palisades Lookout, (10.8 km) Pyramid Mountain Fire Road, (11 km)
Start at the very end of Pyramid Lake Road. This is a gruelling ride for the hardier mountain biker. To go to the Palisade Lookout (10.8 km), take the junction to the right. The left junction leads to the base of Pyramid Mountain. Bring water.
Whirlpool Fire Road , (11.5 km)
From Hwy. 93A take Moab Lake turnoff and drive to Moab Lake parking area. From here it is 8.5 km to the end of the fire road. You can hike or bike another 3 km from here to Tie Camp on foot.
Signal Mountain Fire Road: Signal Campsite, (8.5 km) Signal Lookout, (10.0 km)
The marked trailhead for Signal Mountain is 1 0 km up the Maligne Lake Road. Like the Palisades Fire Road, this is a gruelling ride for the more energetic mountain biker. The road switchbacks continuously over an elevation gain of 980 m. Bring water. Biking is allowed on the fire road only.
The mountains of Banff National Park exist as part of a greater region referred to as the Central Rockies Ecosystem which consist of the Western Ranges, the Main Ranges, the Front Ranges and the Foothills. It is primarily the Front and Main Ranges that are found in Banff. The mountains of the Front Ranges extend from BNP’s most eastern border until just east of Castle Mountain, they are typically characterized by jagged and broken rocks forming a
shingle-like appearance as in the case of the Sawback Range. The Main Ranges, the highest in the Canadian Rockies, straddle the continental divide and extend from (and including) Castle Mountain from the east to the provincial border with British Columbia to the West. It is amongst these mountains typically, where most of the glaciers in the park are located.
The wildlife and vegetation carpeting this foundation is just as rich and varied. The three main ecozones that exist in the park are the montane, subalpine and alpine. The montane zone (smallest of the three) is found at lower elevations in valley bottoms or on dry southwest facing slopes at slightly higher elevations. Because of it’s abundance in vegetation an wildlife, it plays a crucial role in survival of many species. The subalpine zone (largest of the three) exists from valley bottoms to timberline. The alpine zone is found at higher elevations above timberline.
The Trail System
Although BNP covers a vast area, some parts of the park are more heavily used than others, including the backcountry. That is why the park is subdivided internally to better manage areas in terms of visitor use, and wildlife conservation. The trail system in this respect, varies from region to region within the park. For instance; in areas more heavily used, campers are required to stay at designated campgrounds, trails are better maintained, contain bridged river crossings, campgrounds contain; food storage cables, tables, privies, and fire rings (where fires are permitted). In remote regions, random camping is permitted (certain restrictions apply), no facilities are provided, and expert route finding skills are required.
Hiking and camping can normally be undertaken from mid-May to mid-October. From mid-May to late-June many passes are still snow-bound with most trails being accessible only at lower elevations. Water levels are also at their highest due to spring run-off. Beware of ticks in dry slopes where ungulates congregate. Trails generally tend to be muddier at this time with spring melt, and June being the month to receive the greatest volume of precipitation. Towards the middle of July passes should be open. Watch out for berry patches during August, particularly buffalo berry which is a major food source for bears. Extreme caution should be used when traveling through these areas. From September to mid-October although dryer, temperatures are lower with greater chances of snowfall occurring, particularly at higher elevation. Regardless of what time of year, prepare for all-season travel. You may just wake up to find yourself under a carpet of snow in mid-August!
Your safety is your personal responsibility. Caution and self-reliance are essential, along with a knowledge of natural hazards, experience in avoiding them and successfully dealing with them when they happen. Pick trips that reflect your level of ability, working towards more challenging expeditions gradually.
Although no one can completely know what to expect in the backcountry, following is a list of circumstances or hazards one should prepare for. It is meant as a guideline and further research into them and backcountry travel is strongly advised.
Preparation from Home
1) Research – Knowing what to expect while travelling in the backcountry will help you deal with situations calmly and intelligently. Choose several trails or routes in case you need to change your plans because of adverse trail conditions or closures. There are several guides specific to hiking in Banff National Park that are excellent resources for planning your trip.
2) Permits – You are required to have a Personal Use Permit, Wilderness Pass and any other permits required BEFORE you travel into the backcountry. The funds collected from the Wilderness Pass and other permits are crucial to the continued maintenance and provision of services associated with them.
3) Backcountry – Regulations & Minimum Impact Camping – Regulations applying to backcountry use are designed to protect the park visitor as well as the park. Onus is placed upon the visitor to be familiar with these regulations.
4) Reservations – Although few in numbers, some backcountry campgrounds as well as the Egypt and Bryant Huts, operate on a quota system to help reduce the human impact on an area. Check to make sure if your route contains one so as to make appropriate arrangements and avoid disappointment.
5) Topographic Maps & Compass – Learn how to use these before arriving. Trail conditions can vary greatly from one area of the park to another. In more remote areas of the park trails are much less defined demanding expert route finding skills. Adverse weather conditions can also alter the landscape unexpectedly, requiring you to find your own way to safety, regardless of where you are in the backcountry. Purchase maps now from the Friends of Banff to give yourself plenty of time to plan your route.
6) Equipment – Having proper equipment is essential for comfort and safety. Be diligent with research for this list. If you don’t have all the gear or don’t want to bring all of it out, rentals are available in town for a number of items. Contact the Tourism Bureau for rental details.
7) Getting to Trailheads – Although the town of Banff is abundant with services, do not rely on having easy access to trailheads. Many visitors to the Information Centres have to delay departure because they have no readily available and/or affordable access to trailheads. Inquire with visitor centre staff as well as researching through guide books to help you make arrangements for this, and/or to work in extra costs.
8) Groceries – There are several large grocery shops in Banff to purchase supplies, a smaller shop in the town of Canmore (30 kms east of Banff) also sells bulk dry-goods.
9) Physical & Mental Conditioning – Get into shape, and build your endurance. If you’ve never carried a heavy pack before, you may want to look at short trips to build up experience and strength. Differences in elevation and climate can alter your performance, you may wish to take a day or two to acclimatize before heading out on the trail.
Once You Arrive
Upon arrival you will need to purchase your permits, adjust to elevation changes, pick-up any supplies, go over your plan, and update yourself on the latest conditions for backcountry travel.
1) Visitor Centre – There are two in Banff National Park, one in the townsite of Banff and the other in the village of Lake Louise. Check to find out hours of operation and exact location.
2) Weather Forecast – In the mountainous region of Banff National Park, weather changes quickly and is difficult to predict. Snow and freezing temperatures occur even in midsummer, particularly at higher elevations. Heavy rainfalls may make river crossings difficult etc. The forecast may severely alter your plans, make sure you get the latest update.
3) Trail Conditions – This factor will also influence your decision on whether to forge ahead with your current itinerary.
4) Warnings & Closures – Some trails are closed due to wildlife conservation, animal activity, or natural hazards like fire. Some trails may not be closed but have warnings placed upon them for similar reasons that require extra caution when traveling on them. Where Warnings are in effect, we strongly recommend choosing an alternate route.
5) Safety Registrations – If you do not have anyone to check-in with in the immediate area, you may want to make use of this service. The registration is voluntary and is available at no extra charge. What is required: Route plan and itinerary of campsites (and potential campsites), alternative routes, colour & style of tent and packs, colour/make & license plate number of vehicle at trailhead (if using one), departure & return dates, contact person(s) in case of emergency
Camping Banff National Park
Campgrounds in Banff National Park are on a first come, first serve basis. Check out time is 11 a.m., so drop by then and you will have a good chance at getting a site.
Tunnel Mountain Campground
2.4 km from Banff. Situated close to Banff on Tunnel Mountain, within walking distance (or trolly distance) of downtown Banff. Services, such as food, laundry and a waterslide are close by. There are 321 full service sites in the Trailer Court, 188 power only, sites in Village II, plus 618 non-serviced sites in Village I (4km from Banff). There is an unbelievable view of the valley, hoodoos, and the Banff Springs Golf course. Tunnel Mtn. Village II is open year
=Two Jack Main Campground
12 km from Banff. Camp in the
wilderness, beautiful wooded area, secluded campsites (381), lots of wildlife. Situated on the scenic Minnewanka Lake loop drive. Explore the ruins of Bankhead, sheep in the area may be on the roadways, so drive with care. Flush toilets, no showers. Kitchen shelters available.
Two Jack Lakeside Campground
Right across the road is a small (74) site campground. Awake to the sound of water flowing and birds cooing. Showers available.
Castle Mountain Campground
34 km from Banff. 43 sites in a beautifully wooded area. Close to a small store, gas bar and restaurant. Flush toilets, no showers, kitchen shelters.
Protection Mountain Campground
48 km from Banff. 89 sites, great area for hiking, lots of wildlife. No showers. Flush toilets.
Johnston’s Canyon Campground
25 km from Banff. Across from Johnston’s Canyon is a picturesque campground of 132 sites. A creek flows nearby and the scenery is awesome. Take a walk up Johnston Canyon, and view the two waterfalls. Lots of wildlife in the area. Take the scenic route from Banff for wildlife sightings. Showers available.
Lake Louise Campground
58 km. from Banff. 189 drive-thru
R.V. sites with electric hook-up and 216 unserviced sites in the jewel of the Rockies. Try the scenic route from Banff, past Johnston Canyon on the Bow Valley Parkway. The Campground is 1 km. from Lake Louise village and 4 km. from the Lake. NO showers.
Mosquito Creek Campground
24 km North of Lake Louise. 32 sites, see the sandstone cliffs of Bow Peak. The rugged cliffs of Mount Hector dominate
the southeast skyline. Pit toilets, no showers. Open all year.
Waterfowl Lake Campground
57 kn North of Lake Louise. 116 sites, the bubbling Mistaya River enters Waterfowl Lake. A trail leads to Cirque and
Chephren lakes for great hiking. Flush toilets, no showers.
88 km North of Lake Louise. A small campground with 50 sites on the way to the Columbia Icefield. Great area for viewing
wildlife, scenic grandeur. Pit toilets, no showers.
Mountain Trailer Court
Mountain Village I
Mountain Village II