I was just doing one of my favourite bike rides the other day – the Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff – when I realized this would be such a great thing to share with some of my readers!
This amazing paved route is a mainstay for Canmore and Banff locals and visitors alike. It offers plenty of space to ride on your own or with a family, as well as a great space to run, walk, or even cross-country ski!
Whether its your first time visiting Canmore & Banff, or you’re a seasoned veteran of the trail, its always helpful to know what to expect and what you might want to bring on the Legacy Trail.
Check out my Youtube Video riding the trail from Canmore to Banff below!
In this article, we will cover:
What is the Canmore Banff Legacy Trail Distance? The total distance described by Parks Canada is 26.8KM. Note, this is the “full” distance that includes Vermillion Lakes Road and out to the Bow Valley Parkway (1A). For most cyclists doing a day trip between Canmore and Banff, you may find the below distances more suitable for a day-trip into Banff (or into Canmore from Banff).
Which direction is easier to ride on the Legacy Trail? In my opinion, and after dozens and dozens of rides, I think going from Banff to Canmore is easier. This is because much of our wind & weather come from the West, and you can encounter stronger winds coming into Banff.
For most rides however, you will do a round trip, ending up where you start. So even if its harder heading West, you’ll make up for it with the wind at your back heading East. You can also opt to take local ROAM transit one way, however – saving your legs a bit!
On the Canmore end of things, you can park at the Alberta Visitors Centre, just off the TransCanada Highway. There is plenty of parking here, a campground nearby, plus lots of options for snacks and food for before or after your ride. Maybe avoid McDonalds if you’re trying to get out and do something healthy though!
In Banff, park at the Cascade Ponds lot, Fenlands Recreation Centre, Banff Train Station lots or Fenland picnic area. Note: If you park in Banff, you will need to pay for the National Park Pass. Visitors who ride or walk into Banff National Park do not require a pass.
What time of year is best for riding the Legacy Trail? Here in the Canadian Rockies, we can almost always expect to see at least three (if not four) seasons in a day! If you’re planning to cycle and aren’t a fan of gravel, plan to ride from mid-May to mid-October. This can vary from year to year, as Parks may be slower to get the trail cleared if we have later snows.
We are also known to get a good winter storm as early as mid-September and likely by October. This will melt though, leaving sometimes weeks more of great riding.
Regardless of when you choose to take the trail, make sure you check the weather before heading out. There are no restaurants, shops or shelters between Canmore and Banff. Pack a few warm layers, including a waterproof rain jacket. Weather can change fast in the mountains!
Is the Canmore Banff Legacy Trail Family Friendly? Absolutely! While you will likely be sharing the trail with Olympic athletes and seasoned veteran riders, the trail is great for families and people of all abilities.
As lots of folks will be sharing the trail, its always important to be aware of your surroundings and keep your head up. Try and ride single file where you can, and yield to those going faster than you. Always keep to the right and announce when passing to let those ahead of you know you’re coming. Wear a helmet, and always give wildlife space!
If you’re riding a bike, make sure you have a spare tube and the tools you need to change a tire. There will be lots of helpful cyclists on the trail with you, but its important to be prepared with a spare!
Make sure you pack enough food and water to be adequately nourished for the ride to your destination, whether that’s Canmore or Banff. At either end, you will be able to get snacks and additional water from service stations. But only if you have a way to pay for it! Make sure to bring a credit card, debit card, or cash if you plan on resupplying.
While most of the trail is on the outside of the wildlife fence, some sections will be within the fence or in unfenced areas near Canmore. You should always have bear spray handy, and should check for wildlife notices before heading out. I’ve seen many bears through the fence on the Legacy Trail. I’ve also seen a Grizzly Bear up close and personal right on Vermillion Lakes Road!
Depending on your fitness level, you may find the trail a light and relaxing ride, or a difficult journey. If you haven’t cycled distances like this before (especially with children), consider doing just a one-way trip. Remember – you will only be as strong as the weakest rider in your group. While there is some elevation gain, this is a steady trail that is rewarding to ride.
If you’re a big cyclist, you might enjoy taking the party further down Vermillion Lakes Road and connecting to the Bow Valley Parkway. This amazing route is now closed to car traffic most of the time, and opens up great distances for extended adventures. You can ride to Castle Junction, Lake Louise, and even beyond into BC and Jasper!
It always helps to do you research before heading out on any adventure. Even though this trail runs beside a busy highway, you will still be substantially distance from services if on foot or bike. Make sure you’re prepared, and you’ll have one of the best adventures you can here in Canmore & Banff!
As always, if you’re curious to learn more about moving to our area or purchasing property here, let’s connect. I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have, no matter how small. I’m also happy to chat about cycling routes in the area!
Cheers and happy riding!