Earlier this month, I rode my bike from Banff, Alberta to Jasper, Alberta. As many of my clients and friends will attest from getting to know me, taking on big adventures like this is something I love to do!
When I moved to Banff after graduating University over 10 years ago, I had the pleasure of working with a group of strong cyclists and adventure enthusiasts at the Banff Springs Hotel. I’ve done various back country trips, multi-day backpacking trips like the West Coast Trail, 180km rides and tons of mountain peaks. Many of the old-timers had spoken of doing this ride and even longer, more arduous trips on their bikes.
I’ve always had a strong connection to the town of Jasper: my aunt and uncle have lived there for over 40 years, and in my corporate sales career, it was one of the locations I would showcase to clients and share the magic of. Of course Banff is an eternally special place for me; not only did I meet my wife there, but we also were married in the Park and spend time there very often today with our son.
From all of these experiences, my dream of riding my bike from Banff to Jasper materialized!
This was truly a bucket list adventure for me, and a serious personal goal I’ve had for a long time. I learned a lot about where my physical limits are and how hard they can be pushed. Couldn’t be happier or more proud of how the trip went.
I hope you enjoy my YouTube video about my journey. I’ve tried my best to answer some questions about travelling from Banff to Jasper below, but as always, feel free to reach out to me directly if you’re curious about anything in our area at all. I’m happy to help as best I can!
146KM / 1,370M climbing / moving time 6.5hrs (total time about 8hrs)
My first day was mainly familiar territory. Starting from the trailhead at the Fenlands, I travelled down Vermillion Lakes road. Immediately I was reminded of running in the Banff Marathon just in June! Quickly I was on the Highway 1A, or Bow Valley Parkway, a scenic two-lane road that is unfenced and where it isn’t uncommon to see wildlife like bears. This route passes Johnston Canyon, Castle Junction & Mountain, and Morant’s Curve.
Feeling strong, I made a last-minute decision to make the climb up to Lake Louise. It was a busy long-weekend, and later I even read that Parks closed the lake due to visitor volumes. But it was worth it. Having lunch by the lake and enjoying the majesty of this special place was amazing. No trip from Banff to Jasper would be complete without a stop at Lake Louise! The climb was extremely difficult however.
From Lake Louise, I carried on to the Highway 93N towards Jasper. This road is deceiving: it is essentially pure climbing until the top of Bow Summit. My hot afternoon in the sun took me past Hector Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake (plus many more). There is more traffic but the shoulders are wide and safe. Bow Summit (or pass) is the highest public road in Canada at 6,850 feet. This was definitely the “peak” of the day, and I was glad for the gentle downhill for the rest of the day towards Waterfowl Lakes and Saskatchewan River Crossing.
I split up the ride into two days, staying at the Saskatchewan River Crossing Resort halfway through. This charming resort was a bit dated in terms of the room, but overall such a fantastic place to stay! I had always driven past or just visited the store, not realizing they had a great motel and fabulous restaurant patio. The veggie burger and hot shower were very welcome after a long day of riding!
153KM / 1,172M climbing / moving time 6.25hrs (total time about 8hrs)
The second day was always going to be my biggest challenge, as rarely would I do two large rides like this back-to-back. After some strong coffee, I set off towards the Columbia Icefields. This highway is very high altitude and even in the hot days of August, morning temperatures are only just above freezing. A 40km spin past more stunning Glaciers and lakes, as well as Rampart mountain and other beautiful peaks, and I was at the largest climb of the day already.
At the bottom of Sunwapta Pass the climb to the Columbia Icefield begins. I have always known this area as the “toilet bowl”, because of how the road coils around before beginning the massive ascent up. This was a major effort and I was glad to have my father-in-law for support driving along near me on this morning! Sunwapta Pass is the second highest public road in Canada, climbing to 6,788 feet above sea level and culminating at the home of ice and glaciers.
The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies, covering 230 square kilometres with solid ice and snow year round. If you have never visited this special place, be prepared to be wow-ed. This is always a highlight of the journey – very rarely can you get up close and personal with glaciers in such a wild location. Also a great spot for an early lunch as the big climb of the day is done!
From the icefield, the road is a gradual slope down with various smaller climbs to Jasper. The road can feel like it goes on forever, as you still have nearly 100km to ride from the ice. Beautiful glaciers, mountain vistas, lakes and the Athabasca river are there to keep you company. Unfortunately when I was just 37km from Jasper I was hit with a massive torrential downpour of rain. After hiding in some trees I was able to push on to be greeted by sunny skies as I entered the town of Jasper, Alberta!
The drive from Banff, Alberta to Jasper, Alberta is 288km and 3.5 hours. Riding it on my bike, and including the detour to Lake Louise, I rode 300km with a total active cycling time of 13 hours across two days.
From Banff, you can take the Highway 1 (TransCanada) to Lake Louise. This is the main/faster highway. If you can, try to take the Highway 1A (Bow Valley Parkway). This was the original or “old” highway through the park, and is unfenced and very scenic. From Lake Louise, take the turn for the Highway 93 North towards Jasper. At Saskatchewan Crossing, where the road crosses Highway 11, stay on the 93 North towards Jasper.
Take your time and enjoy this amazing journey! Explore around Banff, then head past Vermillion Lakes for amazing views. The Highway 1A takes you past Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, and Morant’s Curve. Lake Louise is of course amazing, and visit Moraine Lake if you can. Along Highway 93N, you’ll see tons of glaciers, lakes and mountain views. You’ll pass Hector Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Glacier & Lake, Peyto Lake, Bow Summit, Waterfowl Lakes, Saskatchewan Crossing, Columbia Icefields, the Glacier SkyWalk, Athabasca Falls and so much more.
Absolutely! This place is truly magical. If you’re visiting our area, and taking your bike or a car, this drive is an absolute must. Riding it on a bike can only really be done from mid June to mid September as this is a high altitude road that can get snow in August (yes, you read that right). I’ve driven it in every season and it can be dicey in the Winter time, too. Whenever you choose to travel it though, you will certainly be met with an incredible experience.