We love biking in Banff, and you’ll often find us out on the mountain bike trails or zipping around the park on our road bikes. There are some fantastic bike rides to had around the town, exciting trails, and breathtaking scenic routes. In this post, we cover the best trails and roads as well as where to rent a bike.
I’ve broken the best routes and trails into three sections for the various kinds of riders that plan to bike in Banff. The first is for mountain bikers, then cyclists on road bikes or gravel bikes, and last those who are after a leisurely ride.
Banff Mountain Biking Trails
Star Wars is the closest thing to a proper mountain bike trail with some flow in Banff. It’s fast and loose with some decent berms and technical features that offer a nice challenge. Most notable of the features are several drops and a pretty impressive wallride.
It’s a great trail, but the loose trail makes it tough to gain too much speed. I wouldn’t advise hardcore mountain bikers to make a trip out of biking this trail, but it’s pretty enjoyable for a town not known for mountain biking.
This is a great little black that has a little bit of everything to offer bikers. Similar to Star Wars it features some nice technical features and a nice flow. However, here the trail has steeper sections, punchy climbs, interesting woodwork, and technical sections. This is my favorite Banff bike trail
The Upper Stoney and Lower Stoney loop are a great little circuit right by the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort. Upper Stoney is a tough climb up to the summit of Stoney Squaw Mountain. It’s a technical, tight, and rough climb with brief moments of exposure and some punchy steep climbs.
After the tough cardio workout up Upper Stoney you can enjoy the longest downhill in Banff it’s fast and flows well with minimal pedaling. Keep an eye out for wildlife and hikers on the downhill. Lower Stoney arrives at a wildlife gate and requires a short five-minute pedal along the highway back to Mt. Norquay Road.
If you’re looking for a great cross country trail follow the rocky route along the side of the largest lake in Banff National Park. It’s a short tough climb at the beginning, but then the trail goes up and down along the lakeshore.
There is a seasonal closure in effect during the peak summer months so you’ll have to time it early in the season. It’s popular to do this in the winter as well and you can bike on certain sections of the lake once it freezes over.
Bow Falls/Hoodoos Trail
Bike out to the Hoodoos Trail on singletrack the starts at Bow Falls and heads out to the second Tunnel Mountain Parking Lot. It’s an easy trail that feels appropriate for all skills levels.
This is a great journey if you’re after a backcountry adventure on a mountain bike. It’s an out and back trail that follows an old service road through the Cascade Valley. It’s a seldom-visited section of the park and it’s entirely possible to find no-one else on the road. Since this one is pretty remote bikers should be prepared for the wilderness and keep an eye for bears as it prime grizzly habitat.
Goat Creek/Spray Valley
This is an old service road that offers a double track up Goat Creek. It can be done both directions or as an out and back trail from Banff. However, the route up the creek from Banff is a continuous uphill climb, nothing steep but it does gain a fair amount of elevation.
I’ve found it most enjoyable from the Goat Creek Parking lot off the Smith Dorrien Highway as the route is downhill and ends at the Banff Springs Hotel. It makes for a great fat bike trail in the winter too! It ends at the Banff Springs so it’s another bike ride perfect for a post ride beer at the Waldhaus.
Roots, roots, and roots are the name of the game on the Rundle Riverside trail that connects Canmore and Banff. The trail starts at the Canmore Nordic Centre and ends at the Banff Springs Golf Course — of course, it can be done in either direction.
Best Biking Trails in Canmore
This is a classic trail in Canmore and one that is perfect for a solid cardio workout. A well maintained single-track trail that offers some nice technical challenges and follows along the lower slopes of Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling Peak.
It’s always been my go-to as we live at the start of one of the trailheads. You can climb the trail in any direction you see fit, but my personal favorite is from the Three Sister Neighborhood and descending down to Quarry Lake. It’s a pretty difficult to climb so fitness will be greatly appreciated.
Located on the sunny side of Canmore and starts along the Cougar Creek. It’s an easy cross country trail with plenty of roots and not much elevation gain. The extended root is the most popular option as it has a steep gully, a bit more technical terrain, and some nice views from a meadow of the Bow Valley.
This is about extreme as it gets in the Bow Valley and it’s a pro-worthy route with extremely technical sections, slabs, ridges, exposure, and steepness. It’s also a hard climb with about 600 meters of elevation gain to access the full route. Expect some stellar views of the Bow Valley and hair-raising thrills. This is a destination worthy mountain bike route!
This is the best downhill trail thanks to local trail associations. It’s fast and offers some decent flow with small jump features along the way. It’s certainly the most well made trail in the Bow Valley and is great fun for a wide variety of skill levels. The blue rated run is never too steep in sections, but is a solid pitch that even the more experienced will enjoy ripping down.
This is another flow trail that is rated black. It starts out steep and loose at the beginning before it mellows out and turns into more of a loose flowing trail that moves through a number of switchbacks. It’s a decent trail but requires a drop off as it is located off the Smith Dorrien Highway. It’s possible to bike up the road, but given traffic and the amount of dust, I wouldn’t advise that suffer-fest.
Riders of Rohan
Riders of Rohan is pretty steep and technical towards the top like Reclaimer. However as it descend it gets a little better more mellow, but the rocks get a lot looser near the bottom. There are a couple optional drops and a few big mandatory rolls but nothing too bad. The flow really opens up it reaches the Highline and you can interchange between either trail as they cross and run parallel.
This is a classic loop around the Canmore Nordic Center that is a nice mix of easy tech and cross country. A few wood bridges, punchy climbs, and rocky gullies. The trail moves through the forest and eventually opens up to a large meadow that has an astounding view over the Bow Valley to Cascade.
There are a ton of other trails at the Nordic Center that can be conjoined with EKG such as Killer Bees, Back Door, Nector Noodle, Long Road to Ruin, and FYI. I personally love the climb up Back Door to Nector Noodle as it’s one of the hardest climbs in the valley and Nector Noodle is a fast little root and root filled trail with some rolling terrain.
There’s not not much in terms of jump trails in the Bow Valley so if you’re after that you’ll need to go further afield. Soft Yoghurt is the best jump track for MTB in Canmore it’s short, sweet, and has a really nice flow. Located right out off the Nordic Center parking lot it’s easy to crank out a few quick laps.
This trail has the feel of a classic old school mountain bike trail. It has it all. A challenging climb, great switchbacks, and an amazing descent. There are some sweet wood features and great rock slabs. The trail moves in a large figure eight and is easy to follow. Altogether one of the best mountain bike trails around Banff and Canmore.
There are a number of other trails I’ve not included because they are dangerous, illegal, and kept as a local’s secret. That being said outside of the Razor’s Edge they offer some of the best biking in the valley. Good luck finding the booty if you’re after these trails.
Biking Beyond Banff and Canmore
The local ski resorts in Banff do not offer lift-assisted mountain biking so you’ll need to head B.C. to find a bike park. Kicking Horse in Golden is characterized by its large amount of vertical and steep rocky descents that ride fast. It’s around a two-hour drive away from Banff so it’s a feasible day trip from Banff for mountain bikers looking to get out on their downhill bikes.
If you’re after nice flow and jump tracks at a bike park in the region then Panorama delivers. The ski resort converts to a large bike park in the summer.
This is amazing mountain for flow and great for rides using a truck up service roads. A number of great downhill runs and some of the best woodwork and features in the area, certainly in Alberta.
Best Cycling Routes in Banff
Every year they plow the road to Moraine Lake about a week before opening it to cars during this window it’s a fantastic bike ride to visit the famous lake without the crowds. The ride up to Moraine Lake is only 13km long and gains around 250 meters. It’s pretty easy for the most part and you hardly have to pedal the whole ride back.
Bow Valley Parkway
The Bow Valley Parkway connects Banff with Lake Louise Village and the scenic road takes you past a number of scenic stops. Along the way, you cycle past Johnston Canyon, Moose Meadows, Morant’s Curve, and Castle Junction.
It’s the best cycle route in Banff and promises a long ride as the distance to Lake Louise from Banff is 61 km if you bike all the way to the lakeshore — you should! This makes the roundtrip journey around 120+ km a solid gran Fondo.
It’s possible to shorten the route in a few different ways by starting at Castle Junction or the gates to the Bow Valley Parkway off the TransCanada.
There is a lot to love about the efforts to make the Bow Valley more bike-friendly. A paved 26 km long walking and cycling path connect the town of Canmore and Banff. It’s a fantastic bike ridge on a sunny day or when you’re seeking to stretch your legs on the bike.
It is a pretty long journey that can be done by families one way. The easiest route is from Banff to Canmore as does loose elevation and a strong wind is at your back. That strong wind can also be a brutal headwind on a windy day from Canmore to Banff so be prepared if you’re not a strong cyclist.
We like to tack this on to our ride along the Legacy Trail as it is easy to connect via an underpass at Cascade Ponds. The road that goes from Banff to Minnewanka is a large loop that passes Two Jack Lake, Bankhead, and Cascade Ponds. It’s a gorgeous bike ride and very common place to spot wildlife.
Banff Springs Golf Course
The old road around the Banff Springs golf course makes for an excellent ride as it relatively car free and sees little traffic. It also offers some incredible views of Mt Rundle and the wonderfully manicured grounds of the golf course.
The Icefields Parkway is arguably one of the most scenic roads in the world. Naturally it would make for a great scenic cycle through the Canadian Rockies. However, in peak summer the road can see a lot of road traffic and it’s no small feat to bike the road as it deals with plenty of elevation, weather, distance.
A full-day ride from Banff to Jasper s a truly epic bike ride that is a notable accomplishment for even the fittest cyclists as it is nearly 300 km with 2,000 meters of elevation gain. Maybe one day!
Highwood Pass is the highest highway in Canada with some astounding views of the front range. Due to the elevation and high levels of snow, the road closes in the winter months due to avalanche risk.
However, at the start of summer, the snow often melts before the official opening date for the highway. It makes for an excellent route for cyclists and a pretty nice challenge if you bike the full route.
The climb up the pass from King Creek is a category one, one of the steepest climbs on the professional bike circuit. However, it’s possible to bike the pass from either end of the road to the top of the pass. The easier section would be from Longview, but it does cover a greater distance of 37 km one way.
My GPS clocked in the full circuit at 110 km and 1650 meters of elevation gain. It’s a pretty big day so be sure to pack plenty of fuel and water.
Best Bike Routes
If you have plans to visit the sites around the town of Banff consider a bike rental to get from point to point. In the summer months parking and traffic can be a pain as tens of thousands visitors visit the little town every day.
Take a scenic ride along the Tunnel Mountain road for a chance to spot some wildlife and catch some stellar views of Rundle Mountain.
For an easy bike ride around town consider a ride out to the Bow Falls. Afterwards continue on to the Iconic Banff Spring Hotel, the Banff Gondola, or The Banff Hot Springs.
Cave & Basin
Take a leisurely bike ride to the location that led to the creation of Banff National Park. The historic site is a great stop to learn more about the history of the park.
The Vermillion Lakes are one of the most scenic spots close to town. An easy road travels along the edge of the lake and leads to a bike path that connects the town of Banff with the Bow Valley Parkway.
Continue past Cave Basin along the Bow River to the Sundance Creek.
Our Bike Gear
Trek Checkpoint SL5
We spend a lot of time in the mountains and love exploring so we spend most our time out on a gravel bike. It’s not as conventional, but is like 90% a road bike with the ability to cruise on some the awesome forest service roads and trails around the region.
Giordana FR-C Pro Lyte Winter Jacket
Days can be cold in the shoulder months especially on some of the larger bike rides like Highwood Pass or the Icefields Parkway. Our performance wear makes a massive difference in our comfort and ability to remain comfortable on the bike for hours on end. Our bike kits come from the Giordana FR-C line. The warm line is a lifesaver in the Spring and Fall months. (Use code WORLDPURSUIT15 for 15% off!)
FR-C Pro Reflective Thermal Bib Tight
We wear bibs whenever we are on the road bikes and they come in especially handy on long rides. The best performance bibs we’ve found are made by Giordana. The thermal line is key for biking in Alberta when temperatures are colder. (Use code WORLDPURSUIT15 for 15% off!)