Biking The Legacy Trail from Canmore to Banff

Built in 2010 to celebrate Banff’s 125th birthday, The Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail is a 26.8 km paved pathway from the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff to the Travel Alberta Visitor Information Center in Canmore. Most of the Legacy Trail runs alongside Trans Canada. It is a unique multi-use recreation pathway that bikers love from mid-April to October, when the path is generally snow-free.

Riding the Legacy Trail is one of our favorite things to do in the Rockies. There’s nothing better on a beautiful summer day than getting active on the bike, and then celebrating at the end of the day with a beer at a local brewery. The Legacy Trail provides everyone a fun way to get active in Banff and Canmore.

What is the Legacy Trail?

Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail
Biking the Legacy Trail in May

The Legacy Trail is a scenic three metre wide, 26.8-kilometre commuter trail connecting Canmore and Banff. Most of the trail runs alongside Trans Canada, but it’s easy to distance yourself from it despite running nearly parallel to the highway.

It offers breathtaking views the whole way, with my favorite being the view of Cascade Mountain as you cycle from Canmore to Banff. The views of the Three Sisters are also fantastic when riding from Banff to Canmore. The Legacy Trail runs all the way to the Town of Banff, with an option to continue to Hwy 1A from Vermillion Lakes.

How Long Does it Take to Cycle?

Depending on pace, the ride from Canmore to Banff on the Legacy Trail can take anywhere between 1 and 3 hours one way. If you are on a cruiser or mountain bike, expect it to take longer, while road bikes and eBikes move much faster.

Is It Hard?

Cameron after tackling the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail
Having a treat in Banff before we turn around and head back to Canmore

The Legacy Trail is not a hard bike ride, but it is long. Officially, there is only 60 meters of elevation gain on the trail, so there is not a lot of up and down, and it is relatively flat for riding through the mountains. If you get on the trail and find it’s more than you wanted to bite off, remember you can always turn around.

Sometimes, when I’m just looking for a shorter bike ride that is still a good workout, I’ll turn around at the Valleyview Area or ride to Cascade Ponds and turn around. Riding all the way into Banff makes for a much longer day – though that just means there’s a nice treat waiting for you at a Banff brewery or coffee shop.

The Goat Creek Trail

If you want a harder bike ride, I recommend hopping on Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road or the Bow Valley Parkway. If you are looking for other Canmore to Banff bike trails, we recommend the Goat Creek Trail between Canmore and Banff. More experienced mountain bikers should look into the Rundle Riverside Trail.

Our Favorite Banff Bike Trails

The Official Trail

View of Cascade Mountain on the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail
Biking the Legacy Trail in July

The Official Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail runs 26.8 kilometers from the Travel Alberta Visitor Information Center in Canmore to the start of the Bow Valley Parkway after Vermilion Lakes Drive.

The Banff Legacy Trail (not the Canmore section) is officially 22.3 km one way. Most people will ride from Downtown Canmore to Downtown Banff or vice versa. If you ride from the Town of Canmore to the Town of Banff you can expect this to be a 25km ride one way. So if you ride any of these portions round trip you are looking at a 50km+ day in the saddle.

When Can You Cycle It?

Biking the Legacy Trail mid April – not quite ready yet in Banff (see the gravel)

You have to wait until the Legacy Trail is snow-free to enjoy it, which often happens around mid to late April. After the long winter, Parks Canada sweeps the trail free of all the lingering dust, gravel, and rocks. Often, by May, eager bikers are getting after it on the trail. July and August are the busiest times on the Legacy Trail, especially around midday on weekends.

During the summer I usually wait until after 6pm to ride the Legacy Trail to avoid the crowds, taking advantage of the long summer days. If you’re an early riser type of person (which I am not), it’s best to get on the trail before 8am. The first major snowfall often happens around mid October, which often marks the end of the biking season, and when you won’t find many bikers on the Legacy Trail.

Do You Have to Cycle It?

The Legacy Trail is a multipurpose trail, and you definitely don’t have to bike it, though this is the most common activity on it. We often see rollerbladers, skateboarders, runners, skate skiers, walkers, and even horses (though I have never seen a horse on the Legacy Trail).

Where is the Best Place to Access the Trail?

The beginning of the legacy trail
At the Travel Alberta Visitor Centre

Living in Canmore and leaving right from my house, the only way I ever access the Legacy Trail is by riding through town and hopping on at the corner of Railway Ave and the Bow Valley Trail near Sage Bistro. But it’s…awkward, to say the least, and definitely a bit sketchy if you’re not a confident bike rider. If you’re staying at a Canmore hotel on the Bow Valley Trail, it’s easier to access. I hope someday there’s a better way to connect Downtown Canmore to the Legacy Trail for visitors and locals.

From Canmore, the official way to access the Legacy Trail is at the Travel Alberta Visitor Centre (located on the south side of Hwy 1 on the west end of Canmore Service Road), where you can park. You can also hop on the Legacy Trail from your hotel in Banff. However, Parks Canada recommends parking at Cascade Ponds, the Town of Banff Fenlands Recreation Centre, the Banff Train Station parking lots, or the Valleyview Picnic Area.

Which Way is Better?

I ride the Legacy Trail probably 10+ times a summer and almost always hit a strong headwind when riding from Canmore to Banff. This makes the route from Canmore to Banff slightly longer, as you naturally move slower when you fight against the wind.

There is also a very steep uphill section right after the Banff Park East Gates, but before the Valleyview Picnic Area, it always gets my heart pumping. Because of this, I think the route from Banff to Canmore is an easier bike ride. Though both directions provide astonishing views.

Cycle One Way

Biking from Canmore to Banff on the Legacy Trail
Biking from Canmore to Banff on the Legacy Trail

Of course, cycling from Canmore to Banff or Banff to Canmore and returning will be an epic day and workout. However, you can cycle just one way if you utilize the Roam Transit Bus one way. Route 3 connects the two towns, and you can bring bikes on the bus. Keep in mind that you’ll be required to handle your own bike, and if it’s too heavy for you (like an eBike) this may not be the best option. You can read all about Roam Transits bike policies here.

Legacy Trail Extensions

Natasha at Lake Minnewanka
I love to ride from Canmore and then hop on the Minnewanka Scenic Road to Minnewanka

There are a few extensions if you want an extra-long bike ride.

Connect to Cascade Ponds: Take the Cascade Ponds connector, which goes under the Highway. Once at Cascade Ponds, you can connect to Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive and cycle to Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka. This one has quite a bit of elevation gain.

Take Vermilion Lakes Drive to the start of the Bow Valley Parkway and hop on the 1A. We love cycling the Bow Valley Parkway, especially when part of the road is closed to vehicles every summer.

Bike Rentals

Biking in Banff

To tackle the Legacy Trail, you can rent mountain, road, gravel, or pedal-assisted bikes. In Canmore, we recommend renting from Rebound Cycle and GearUp Mountain Sports. In Banff, you can rent bikes at Banff Cycle & Sport and Snowtips-Bactrax.

Biking with Kids

Biking the Legacy Trail is one of the best things to do in Banff with kids, though expect to move slower and take lots of breaks if needed. Snacks, of course, are the most important. There is one major place to stop for a break between Banff and Canmore, and that is the Valleyview Picnic Area. Here there are picnic tables, red Adirondack Parks Canada chairs, and toilet facilities.

Things to Note

  • There are a few rest areas along the way, but the main one is the Valleyview Picnic area. There are also drop toilets here.
  • Rubber Mats and Gates: A few are along the route to protect wildlife. Keep riding over the rubber mats, and if you have pets, it’s best to have them avoid the electrified mats.
  • Always stay to the right of the trail and in your lane. If you are riding slower, please do not take up the entire pathway, as there are faster cyclists who will struggle to get by. Faster cyclists should make it aware that they are passing. When passing, yell “on your left” or use a bike bell.
  • It’s best to ride with bear spray as, while unlikely, you could encounter bears on the trail.
  • Parks Canada has a super helpful Legacy Trail Map to assist you.
  • eBikes are allowed on the Legacy Trail

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About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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